Many, many years ago, when I was just starting out in radio, I’d put together a demo tape of some of my on-air material and asked some of the veteran DJs at the station if they’d give it a listen.
One guy had several positive things to say, but also pointed out ways of how I was demonstrating my still-green abilities. He made some suggestions about how to fix that, which would, in theory, help me get better. They did.
The second guy started with “It’s good, but here’s how I would do it.” I honestly don’t remember anything he said after that because I simply didn’t care how he would do it.
There’s a very similar approach to how one gives notes on a screenplay.
When I give notes, I read what’s on the page and offer up my opinions of how it could be potentially be improved (from my perspective). A lot of the time it involves questions like “Why is this happening?” or “How do we know that?”
Or if something doesn’t work, but I understand what the writer’s trying to do, I’ll ask “What if you tried THIS (different approach) that yields the same results?” They may not take that suggestion, but it might trigger something new and unexpected.
I totally get that this is their story, and my only interest is in helping them make it better. By asking questions that only the writer can answer, the responsibility of coming up with and applying any fixes falls squarely on their shoulders.
I also make a point of trying to be objective. I may not be a fan of your story’s genre, but that doesn’t mean I’ll automatically be negative in my notes. What I will do is approach it from a “does it tell a good story populated with interesting characters and situations?” perspective.
And then there are the notes that want to take your story in an entirely new direction. The ones that take it upon themselves to change your story because “that’s not how they would do it.” I’ve gotten quite a few of those.
But what if how you would do it is different than how I would?
Sometimes it’s a suggestion that runs counter to the story you’re trying to tell, or it might have absolutely nothing do with the story at all. I’ve even received the always-appealing “This was great, except for this one small thing I disagree with/don’t like, which ruined the rest of it for me.”
Everybody’s going to have their own opinion, but the one that counts the most is yours. Even if it doesn’t feel that way now, only you know what the script really needs, and you’re going to get all kinds of responses when you seek out feedback.
Some of it will be very helpful and insightful, some definitely won’t be, and in the end it’s really up to you to decide which notes you think provide the most guidance to helping make your script better, which will in turn help you become a better writer.