There are milestones in the development process. Finishing a first draft: check. Having a reading: check (I’ve now had two, if you are keeping track). And once you put the script out there in the world, the next step is getting feedback.
As mentioned in my last post, after the reading I handed out a short questionnaire with targeted questions. Without structure, feedback can be very unhelpful. My least favorite type of feedback is when people try to get you to tell a different story. “What if the girl was a robot and she could fly?” That might be a great idea, but not for my script. Basically, if a note can start with the phrase “if this was my story, I’d…” I don’t want to hear it. If it’s your story, tell your story. This is my story, dammit.
Some writers disagree with me. Some writers find those type of notes helpful. Those writers can hear all kinds of feedback and sift through the dirty water for the gold nuggets. Not me. There are times when I need help for specific scenes or story developments, but only when I solicit for it. Otherwise, I don’t have time to sift through the silt.
This is why I don’t necessarily like an open discussion. The questions I asked were crafted to this story, although some of the questions were based on questionnaires at many screenings and readings in the film industry, so I am certainly not breaking any new ground here.
Since you don’t know the story, some of the answers may not make sense. So without further ado, here are the results:
What was your favorite part of the script?
The scene between Nina and the Superior (40%)
Odd scenes (20%)
The rooftop attempt at Nina’s life (20%)
What did you like least about the script?
(Everyone wrote a different answer)
Was anything confusing?
Nothing was confusing (40%)
Anything relating to the club (20%)
Who was your favorite character other than Nina (the lead)?
Franklin (the gay cop) (50%)
Jack (the desperate writer upstairs) (40%)
Does the script feel too expositional, like a Law and Order episode?
Was the amount you learned about Nina’s past too much, not enough, or just right?
Just right (80%)
Not enough (20%)
Would you see this movie if you didn’t know anyone involved in making it?
Yes (100%) (although one person said it would depend on the cost of the ticket)
A lot can be gleaned from this small sample size. I haven’t overwritten the exposition. I’m not putting in too much of Nina’s back story. There is nothing in particular that multiple people dislike, so I can ignore the results of that question since I can’t take every note.
Which brings up an excellent bit of advice given to me years ago about feedback. If one person gives you a note and you disagree with it, it’s only their opinion. However, if THREE people give you the exact same note, then you should give it some serious consideration.
There were other readers who could not make it to the reading itself, but volunteered to read the script and give me notes. I did not ask these people the above questions, but rather let them give any notes they want. Using the rule of three people, here are the notes that I am keeping:
* Since Nina is a stranger in a strange land, I can go further with the oddness and idiosyncrasies of all the supporting characters. Think more Coen Brothers and more David Lynch, but in my style, not theirs.
* Nina needs to be more active in finding out information about her sister. Much of the information is handed to her.
* Hugo should be a darker character.
There were other notes to consider, but since they were isolated notes I shouldn’t take them as seriously as the others. Not that they aren’t serious suggestions, but if I’m on the fence about a note, and I only hear that note from one person, I need to trust my instincts.
So now it’s time to dive back into the script. I am confident that what I heard in the reading and the insightful notes given by a variety of people will no doubt guide this script to a better and stronger place.