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Notes…and more notes

“There are three primal urges in human beings: food, sex, and rewriting somebody else’s play.” Romulus Linney

I enjoy rewrites. I enjoy taking the puzzle apart and putting it back together to make a different and hopefully better image. At this stage of the game it’s good to get another perspective, or in my case, multiple perspectives. Scripts percolate so long in my own brain that I have learned to ignore flaws (all babies are beautiful, especially mine) and take leaps in logic that might not read to an outsider. Or every outsider.

This week I turned in one script, and like a revolving door in a farce, notes came in regarding my other script that I completed last week. These notes came from trustworthy sources: generally when I finish a script, there are usually a handful of people who I trust to give feedback at this early stage. Also, and possibly of more importance, these are people who I don’t feel are bothered by reading an early draft. They don’t feel put upon, and they are also close enough to tell me that they can’t get to it right now. You need honesty. But kind, gentle honesty.

So, after sending the script to the director for his notes, I also sent it to three people for feedback: one is an actor, one is a director/writer, and the other is an editor/director. A good balance, each with a different perspective on how they look at scripts. They took their time reading it, and each sat down with me, either in person or on the phone, and spent 30 precious minutes out of their own lives going over their thoughts. I am grateful for their feedback. Much of it was very helpful. Well, it was ALL helpful, but I will not utilize all of the notes.

But how to choose what works and what doesn’t? Due to my improv background, I’m a very “yes and” person. Someone takes the time to read my work, I want to assume their suggestions will make the piece better. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes the feedback comes in the form of a suggestion that stems from the reader’s own artistic sensibility and skill set. These notes can be rewritten so they can start with “if this was my script, I’d…” Recognize these notes, and file them away.

Here is the best advice I received on taking notes: if one person offers a note, it is a suggestion. If three people give the same note, then something needs to change. This is why I seek the counsel of three or more people. Sure enough, there were a slew of notes that each reader had in common. And so I listened. And now I rewrite.

Of course, none of this has to do with the notes of the director. If he wants a change, and it fits with the world of the story, then he shall have it. Because unless I am directing the script myself (and hopefully this blog will detail that process down the road) at some point I have to give up this baby and let someone else raise it.

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