Today, let’s talk about good notes. Good notes don’t mean that your script was GOOD. Good notes are notes that are presented in such a way that you not only feel encouraged and validated in those areas that did work, but motivated and instructed about where to do better.
I like my clients to come away with a plan of action and the energy and inspiration to attack improving the script, rather than feeling downhearted and directionless.
Bad notes are vague, snarky, verbose, disorganized and ultimately disrespectful of the writer. A good reader HAS to respect what the writer was trying to do. Nobody sets out to write a bad script. Nobody. Doesn’t happen.
Now: there’s a very important distinction to be made here. Readers who work for production companies provide coverage that the writer will never see. The report is not for the writer, it is for the production company. So these notes will be quite a bit harsher and pretty unforgiving. Well, totally unforgiving.
Coverage versus Notes: Coverage is a brutal assessment. Notes are an instructive assessment.
A really great script consultant doesn’t care where a writer is on the curve, they worked hard on the script and deserve to be treated with respect because anyone who creates something where there was nothing and then asks for feedback is already a winner.
Readers who work for coverage services after having read for a production company have to take a moment to adjust to a new atmosphere; kind honesty and shrewd observations instead of brutal honesty and shrewd observations. Having made the transition myself, I know it is quite an adjustment. Some readers don’t quite make it. Believe me, it’s much, much easier to do notes for a production company. You just crank them out and the writer’s feelings are inconsequential. To produce notes that instruct and motivate takes more thought and time.
Good notes should leave you feeling inspired to do better, not crying in your soup. Even if you receive bad news, it should be given in such a way that you want to rise to a challenge, not jump off a bridge. What I try to do is to provide notes to my clients that will result in a great coverage from a production company down the line. So I’m honest alright, but I want the result to be a better script. And you know what I always say -a spoonful of sugar and all that. Beating a writer up never encourages anything positive.
If you offer to give someone notes and feedback, bear in mind that your job is to praise what is working, recognize what is not, and give general suggestions – ONLY. Give feedback to others as you would have it given to you.