Wednesday, February 20, 2013


One of the first lessons I learnt when I started out as a screenwriter was to take constructive criticism from feedback notes, to analyse what others had to say about my work, identify the weak areas of my screenplay and correct them. I've known people who can't do that and have to argue against every criticism, or give long explanations for something that isn't clearly evident in their screenplay.

Criticism doesn't hurt! In fact criticism is a must for writers who want to improve. The first draft of anything is always shit. The second draft too. And the third. But by the fourth the screenplay might actually start to resemble something half reasonable. My optioned screenplay FAITH has had at least twenty full, start to finish rewrites, and that's not including the little tweaks to dialogue or action. So here's my advice for taking criticism in feedback notes well.

  1. If the criticism hurts and makes you angry, put the notes down and walk away for a few days. When you come back to them you'll find the criticism wasn't actually that bad and some of the notes were actually quite insightful.
  2. Always get notes form more than one source so you can compare and identify where the common issues crop up. It's these issues you definitely need to work on and can't afford to ignore. The other suggested changes are for you to decide on. Some you'll implement and some you won't.
  3. Read the feedback notes again and again and ask yourself why the reader has highlighted those particular issues. They may have noticed something you missed.
  4. Don't be afraid to throw away your script and start again.
  5. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite...
  6. Your final draft will barley resemble your first. The story and characters will change and it will almost be like they are two entirely different screenplays.
  7. Always thank the people who have given you feedback, even if you think they are idiots.
Criticism isn't personal and is something you're going to have to get used to if you want to improve and have a long and successful career.

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