From the archives: My two cents on giving my two cents

Plus an extra cent to cover expenses

After the whirlwind of the last few weeks organizing the Maximum Z Summer ’22 Script Showcase, putting together Volume 2 of my book series Go Ahead and Ask! (officially published on July 21, and Volume 1 still available here and here), reading for a contest, and working on my own stuff, I think I’ve earned a brief respite.

But never fear. I wouldn’t want you to go without a post for this week.

During the occasional break between all that stuff I just mentioned, I’ve also been able to do enjoy some just-for-the-hell-of-it reading of friends’ scripts. Each one has been a great read, and even better – no notes necessary.

That, of course, reminded me of a post from Jul 26, 2019 that was all about giving and receiving notes.

Enjoy (and happy 4th of July weekend to my American chums).

After a brief hiatus, I’ve started giving notes again. It’s always helpful to step away from your own material and dive into somebody else’s. More often than not, it’s a win-win situation.

Sometimes there are exceptions to that rule, but more on that in a minute.

The quality of the writing has ranged from just-starting-out to seasoned professional, so my notes and comments are provided with the level of feedback most suitable to the writer’s level of expertise. One writer might still be learning about proper formatting, while another might want to consider strengthening up that second subplot.

One of my cardinal rules of giving notes is to not be mean about it. I never talk down to the writer, because I’ve been in their shoes. I do what I can to be supportive and offer some possible solutions, or at least hopefully guide them towards coming up with a new approach to what they’ve already got.

One writer responded by saying they were really upset about what I’d said, but then they went and re-read my notes, and couldn’t argue or disagree with any of them.

I’ve always been fascinated by the expression “This is a reflection on the script, not you (the writer).” In some ways, the script IS a reflection of the writer; it’s their skill, their storytelling, their grasp of what should and shouldn’t be on the page, that are all being analyzed. After spending so much time and effort on a script, of course a writer wants to hear “it’s great!”, but as we all know, that doesn’t always happen.

Sometimes I worry my comments are too harsh, but just about every writer has responded with “These are SO helpful!”

About a year ago, a writer I was connected to via social media asked to do a script swap. Some quick research showed they seemed to be experienced with writing and filmmaking, so it seemed like a good idea.

I read their script, and didn’t like it. I said so in my notes, and offered up what I considered valid reasons why, along with questions raised over the course of the story, along with some suggestions for potential fixes.

What I was most surprised about was that this person presented themselves as a professional, and maybe I was naive in taking all of that at face value and believing the quality of their writing would reflect that and meet my expectations.

It didn’t.

It also didn’t help that they opted to not give me any notes on my script. At all. Just some snarky retorts. Guess my lack of effusive gushing hurt their feelings, and this was their method of retribution.

Oh well.

Interesting follow-up to that: I later saw them refer to my notes in a quite negative way, along with “this script has even gotten a few RECOMMENDS”, which is always a great defense.

Follow-up #2: we’re no longer connected on social media.

Could I have phrased my comments in a more supportive way? I suppose, but I figured this person wanted honesty, not praise. And like I said, I assumed they had a thick skin from having done this for a while.

Guess I was mistaken.

And I’ve been on the receiving end of it as well. A filmmaker friend read one of my scripts and started with “Sorry, but I just didn’t like it,” and explained why. Did I pound my fists in rage and curse them for all eternity? Of course not. Their reasons were perfectly valid.

Or the time a writing colleague could barely muster some tepid words of support for one of my comedies. I was a little disappointed, but after having read some of their scripts,  realized that our senses of humor (sense of humors?) were very different, so something I considered funny they probably wouldn’t, and vice versa.

I’ve no intention of changing how I give notes. If I like something, I’ll say so. If I don’t, I’ll say so. You may not like what I have to say, but please understand that it’s all done with the best of intentions. My notes are there for the sole purpose of helping you make your script better.

Isn’t that why we seek out notes in the first place?

One week!

Just seven days to go until the Maximum Z Summer ’22 Script Showcase is up!

There’s still time to send in your spec screenplay or TV script to be included, preferably by Wednesday June 22nd at the very latest.

Send the following info here with the subject “Maximum Z Summer ’22 Script Showcase”:

Film or TV

Title

Author

Genre(s)

Logline

Awards (up to 5)

Your email

Two caveats:

DO NOT SEND THE SCRIPT

and

ONLY ONE SUBMISSION PER PERSON

Really looking forward to posting this and helping spread the word about so many great-sounding scripts.

Calling all writers of film & television!!

As has been written about many a time on this platform, I’m a huge supporter of helping writers out when I can, especially when it comes to promoting their own material.

Which is why a few years ago I created The Maximum Z Script Showcase; a twice-a-year post that lists film and television spec scripts writers have sent in with the intention of letting the rest of the world know about them. Each listing includes the basic information about each script (genre, logline, awards, etc.), as well as the writer’s email in case it piques your interest and you’d like to contact them about reading it.

So I’m proud to announce that the door is now open to submit your script to the Summer ’22 edition, slated to post on Friday, June 24th.

Interested in having yours included? Here’s all you need to do:

Email the following info about your script with the subject “Maximum Z Summer ’22 Script Showcase” here:

-Film or TV?

-Title

-Author(s)

-Genre(s)

-Logline

-Awards (if applicable) – 5 at the most

-your email

And that’s it.

Two VERY important details to keep in mind:

-DO NOT SEND THE SCRIPT!!!

Just the info listed above. Nothing else.

-and-

ONLY ONE SCRIPT PER PERSON. No exceptions.

New scripts are highly encouraged, but it’s still okay to send in one that’s been featured in a previous edition.

Submissions will be accepted until Thursday, June 23rd. After that and you’re out of luck.

Happy to help

A few of my writing colleagues got in touch with me this week, each seeking input on a few assorted topics.

One was asking for my thoughts on their short script.

Another asked for my advice regarding how to approach some business and legal issues of working with a director.

I offered what guidance I could for both, and both expressed their gratitude.

Similarly, I met with another writer friend who offered up some great suggestions and guidance for potential ideas regarding other avenues for my scripts.

I’m definitely not the type to go around saying “Got a problem? I’ve got the perfect solution!”; maybe more “Don’t know how much I can help, but I’m certainly willing to give it a try.” Most of the time it works out, along with the occasional totally unexpected but still positive results.

A lot of this wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t taken the time to establish and maintain a professional relationship with each of these writers. It’s how I operate overall, and a practice I heartily recommend every writer do.

Although writing is primarily a solitary activity, that doesn’t mean you have to stay isolated. Connecting and interacting with other writers is beneficial on several levels. Any help or boost you can offer another writer is always appreciated.

Same thing for when the situation is reversed and I ask another writer for help. Got time to read my latest draft? Could you look over this query letter? You’ve worked with this person before – how did that go?

A hashtag I frequently use in social media is #WritingCommunity, because that’s exactly what it is. I may not be the most active or vocal member, and sometimes it takes me a little longer to respond than I like, but I take part or help out when possible.

I’ve enjoyed it, look forward to continuing to do so, and hope you do too.

-A friendly reminder that my book GO AHEAD AND ASK!, INTERVIEWS ABOUT SCREENWRITING (AND PIE) VOLUME ONE is now available in both print and ebook formats.

From the archives: Lattes, lunches & kindred spirits

coffee
“And then he actually asked, “But what’s your Save the Cat moment?””

Had a really nice in-person get-to-know-you coffee chat with a writer this week, which are always a pleasant experience. I highly recommend doing them, whether you’re the inviter or the invitee. (Iced sugar-free vanilla latte with oat milk for me, please.)

I’ve written about these more than a few times, including this classic post from August 2016.

(And a friendly reminder that my book is now available)

It’s been a busy week around here, and not just in terms of writing.

I’ve had some great in-person meet-ups with three other local writers over the past couple of days. Two were first-timers, the third was someone I’ve known for a couple of years. Each one was great in its own way. This really is one of my favorite parts of networking – actually meeting somebody else and getting to know them.

Because of my work schedule, lunch or early afternoon coffee are ideal. I prefer a nice little cafe because it always makes for a better one-on-one environment: quiet, sociable, pleasant. Larger networking events, usually at bars, tend to be pretty crowded and noisy, which makes it tough to establish a solid rapport. I’m not too keen on having to continuously shout and not be entirely sure either of us can hear the other.

The first meeting usually involves the exchanging of “here’s my story” mini-bios, and then moves on to what’s going on for both parties. Over the course of about an hour, we’ll share and discuss our individual journeys as writers. Everybody’s journey is different, and I always find each one quite fascinating.

We often share many similarities: our constantly working in the hopes of eventually succeeding as a writer (or filmmaker), the noticeable excitement while discussing our latest project(s), wondering how it’ll go and how it’ll be received.

We are also allowed free rein to vent our frustration about whatever’s currently sticking in our respective craws. Bad experiences, lack of funds for a project, feeling stuck with developing a story, dealing with lousy notes, and so on. One of my new connections even stated, “It’s nice to know I’m not the only one this has happened to!”

That may be what’s at the heart of all of this: knowing you’re not the only one trying to do this, and that somebody else totally understands what it is you’re going through. Simply being able to chat about it in a casual social setting can do wonders; one might even call it therapeutic.

I also make a point of offering to help out in any capacity I can, which tends to usually be either giving script notes or suggesting potential contacts and strategies, and just about everybody is more than happy to reciprocate. Who can’t use a little help?

If you haven’t done so already, I heartily recommend reaching out and connecting with somebody in your area, especially if both of you are within close proximity to each other. Chances are they’re seeking to do the exact same thing.

You know the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Well, this not only applies to breaking in, but also to helping you work your way towards that. Building up your personal network of fellow creatives is easy, won’t cost you that much (just what you’d spend on a cup of coffee or a meal), and is a definite plus for all involved.