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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions (often with a humorous eye) about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

I just got a coverage back on my screenplay and, even though the reader was right, I have to say that criticism is hard to take. Do you have any kind words, Dch?

Margaret C. from parts unknown


This week's Answer: 

It's Critical to Have a Little Criticism Now and Then (Although We Usually Want it More Then than Now)

Margaret, youíre a gem to write to me and touch on the volatile subject of criticism. (Are those words kind enough for you?) Youíre absolutely right: criticism is not easy to embrace. Wouldnít it be much more pleasant to have a producer contact you with glowing accolades regarding your script, and an offer to buy it for a million dollars, which is, at that very moment while youíre being praised, being transferred to your Swiss Script bank account? (You say you donít have a Swiss Script bank account? Well, that, right there, may be your problem.  All screenwriters have a Swiss Script bank account.)

But, instead, we have to trudge through the Land of Critique (and hopefully youíve taken the right road and youíre in North Land of Critique, which is part of the state of Constructive Criticism, and not in the southern part where the jealous and envious have congregated as the Untalented Ones, their only mission to denigrate the Talented Ones. The epic battle between the dark forces of the Untalented Ones and the all-that-is-good forces of the Talented Ones is unavoidable. (Iím so mythical sometimes I surprise myself  Maybe Iíll write a trilogy called, "The Script," wherein a tiny screenwriter is entrusted with the Golden Script that he must carry across many lands to find the Primary Producer who is the only one who can fathom the depth of the writing and attract the riches necessary to project it throughout the land. But to reach the Primary Producer with his script, the tiny screenwriter must pass through many territories inhabited by evil creatures, the worst of them being the dreaded Underpaid Readers. That really does have possibilities for a high concept sell. Iíll get on that one right away.  Over half the film will entail people asking the tiny screenwriter, "Do you have the Script?" -- much like present day producers do now -- and "Don't let the Script take you over." -- much like present day therapists say now to their screenwriter patients.)

If you can try to have an open mind and approach a critique of your script as a means to help you improve it, then youíre on the right track. The trick is to not take one word of a critique personally. Try to read the critique or coverage as though itís about someone elseís screenplay (although you might want to check the title page and make sure that your name is still on it). Do all you can to have what they call the "studentís mind." (I donít know who "they" is. Maybe theyíre just students.) Or you could call it the "screenwriterís open mind." Ask yourself, "What in this critique could help me write a better script?  Then, as they say at AA (an anonymous group who canít afford the third "A" and are thus unable to have their cars towed), take what you need and leave the rest.

Which is much better than "take the rest and leave what you need."

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