Good friends and thick skins: The importance of thoughtful notes

The Northwest Screenwriters Guild Compendum program provides thoughtful feedback to improve you script

Posted on behalf of David Larson

One of the best things I ever did to improve my screenwriting was join a website called Trigger Street Labs. I discovered it somewhere around 2008 and spent a large amount of time and effort there for a couple of years. The concept was simple: give feedback on other people’s screenplays and other people would give feedback on yours. I learned the secret of the site’s real value pretty quickly: I got much more out of the reviews I completed for other people than I did from the feedback I received on my own work.

The key is giving good notes. They should be honest and helpful. You may give feedback on a script that is better than anything you’ll ever write. I did. It was called PURE, and it went on to win a Nichols Fellowship in 2009. Or you may find yourself slogging through a mess of words that can only charitably be called a screenplay. Either way, your job should be to provide whatever assistance you can with the sincere intent of improving the work.

Honest notes can feel like an attack to a writer. Trust me though, you need them. Reading through that feedback of your work can be so painful, especially early on. That is perfectly normal to feel when someone is critical of a thing into which you’ve poured your heart and soul. If your goal is to improve as a writer, you’ll want to thicken up your skin to the point that you can shrug off the pain and knee-jerk defensiveness and get down to the hard work of making your script the best it can be.

You also want people in your life who will be honest with you about your work. A good friend who will look you in the eye and tell you what doesn’t work about your script without fear of losing your friendship is a valuable thing. If you can be that friend for others, you will find the people you need in your life as a writer.

Trigger Street Labs is gone now, which is a shame. I have heard The Black List runs a similar program these days, but haven’t had the time to look into it for myself. Most of my recent script notes have gone out to members of the Northwest Screenwriters Guild who have submitted work to be considered for Compendium status.

If you are a member of the Guild with work you feel is ready to be seen by industry professionals, I encourage you to get a script in for review.

I look forward to seeing your work.

David Larson
NWSG Compendium Chair

New meetup for scene analysis

Long-time Northwest Screenwriter Guild member and former board member Wally Lane has started a scene analysis group that meets weekly in Seattle.  It’s free and open to all.

Here are the details from Wally:

Goal

First and foremost, to assist fellow screenwriters hone the craft of writing scenes—both action and dialogue—that are cinematic, engaging and correctly formatted.

And thus help our screenplays make it to “the top of the Reader’s pile.”

How it works

  1. Bring some scenes or a sequence (3-4 pages) from your screenplay.
  2. Together, we do a table read (aloud) of your material, then critique and offer suggestions.

Cost

Nothing (unless you care to purchase affordable food &/drinks on-site).

Benefits

  1. A chance to hear portions of your work read (by real people, not the Final Draft robot).
  2. Receive suggestions to improve the material, point out errors and/or problem areas, and how to correct them.

Group Schedule/Location

Every Wednesday
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Jan. 9: Microsoft store at University Village
2624 NE University Village St, Seattle, WA 98105
If interested, contact Wally: awallylane(at)gmail.com

This is a free event and it is open to all screenwriters… we welcome pros and tyros alike.

First Rule of the SSAG: Treat other screenwriters as you’d like to be treated.

Our mutual aim is to improve our skills (not hurt someone’s feelings).

We can be constructive and civil at the same time.

In other words, play nice and be friendly.