So aside from giving notes on other people's scripts, I also take them on mine.
In theory, it's something of a paradox. If I'm such a great note-giver, then how come I can't immediately see the flaws in my own scripts?
The answer is that I can see some, but not all of them. Even I need a fresh eye, or lots of eyes, to tell me what's not working.
Monday night, I brought the third act of my thriller into my screenwriting group. The rules there are simple: the actors read the pages, and afterward the other writers throw out thoughts.
It's something of an iffy process, especially with third acts, because the other writers aren't as familiar with what has come before. Even though I included a recap, there's a lot of new stuff in act 2 that no one has seen.
Like everyone, on some level I went in Monday night hoping that all the writers would be so mesmerized by my climax that they'd have no notes. That they'd just look at each other, admit it all worked, and go on to the next thing.
Didn't happen. At all. They tore it apart. Which is course is really what I'm glad happened.
Though Monday night was tough in that I got a slew of notes that conflicted with each other. You see, the thriller ends with a pair of quick reversals and then a huge twist.
Some of the people didn't like the twist, because they think it invalidates too much of the script that came before it.
Some people like the twist, but thought more characters needed to die off before the third act. There was a lot of disagreement over which characters should be around at the end.
Most hated the way I handled the reversals. Too out of the blue, not enough motivation for things that were happening.
The rule in the group is that the writer doesn't talk during all these notes. He doesn't defend, or argue. He just sits there, and writes everything down, whether he agrees with it or not.
It's a great rule.
Because even though I didn't agree with all the notes -- I knew I'd set things up that writers were complaining hadn't been, because they hadn't seen those pages -- I wrote every one of them down.
Because every note has value. Every note reflects something that isn't clicking with someone. And even if the person giving you the note has misunderstood something, that could be a problem too.
So over the last few days, I've distilled the notes, and run them through my brain. Tried to figure out what it was that people weren't responding too, where my intentions were falling short, and whether maybe indeed the climax would work better if I did C and D rather than A and B.
I filtered the notes through what I wanted to do with the script. Not following them blindly, or ignoring them blindly, but taking everything into consideration.
The rewrite is going well.
It's nice being on both sides of the process. I think it has improved my writing immensely.
My string of consecutive days screenwriting for at least an hour a day is up to 52, through yesterday.
I also caught up with special edition DVDs for two older films, through my DVD reviewing gig.
THE GRADUATE, which I hadn't seen in a while, still holds up extremely well. Though it's amazing how little real plot the film has (and the original trailer, included on the DVD, gives away every single major plot beat), every single scene has memorable touches, while Mike Nichols' visual sense adds so much. It's also amusing how many memorable things in the movie (detailed by Dustin Hoffman in the extras) were just accidents or things randomly discovered along the way, rather than being planned out.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Al Pacino movie CRUISING, which was lambasted when it came out for its superficial treatment of the gay leather bar lifestyle. But the bigger problem is that the murder mystery at the heart of it isn't interesting, Pacino's undercover investigation into it really doesn't contain any detective work on his part, while it is completely unclear what is going on in Pacino's head at any time during the film.
It's awful -- and William Friedkin, who wrote and directed it, really could have used some notes.