Screenplay

How to give feedback on script ideas without making it awkward

 

Have you ever given feedback on a script or an idea which you thought was constructive criticsm but was then really really badly received by the writer? Giving someone feedback on their idea sometimes feels like the equivalent of asking an overweight person when the baby is due. A faux pa.

So I’d thought about writing an article about how one should go about giving feedback on other people’s ideas as this seems to be a skill in itself, however, often it feels that some people just don’t want to hear criticism and only how much you liked it.

Someone sent me an outline for a script which after I’d taken the time to read and give my thoughts had promptly thanked me before blocking me without further discussion.

I felt like my feedback was fair, although I don’t often do it and I’m not a professional scriptwriter, I do have some knowledge and experience. I was little irritated that they didn’t really give me a chance to discuss my points, afterall I had taken the trouble to read it and provide my opinion. In any case, if I had completely missed the point they should disregard anything I said and just write the script they want to make

I realise when giving feedback on something you don’t think is that good it’s always best to start with the things you thought did work. The difficult part is being honest, openminded and constructive without being judgmental, and being sensitive when asking to clarify anything you didn’t understand.

The first thing I’d commented on was that I thought it was good that they’d written the entire story and knew what they wanted to do, but although I didn’t want to be harsh, I thought there were a few problems which I’d decided to list:

  1. A synopsis tends to be 1 or 2 pages while treatments are 10-30 pages and without numbered paragraphs or headings like ACT 1 SCENE 1. But, since you have included this as a heading, you should include subsequent ACT headings to be consistent, unless ofcourse this was just ACT 1 and there was more to come,  I was confused.
  2. Was this an early draft, because some paragagraphs were in red and there were errors like ‘were’/’where’?
  3. I like horror movies, but most teen horrors tend to be comedies. I didn’t know if it was a comedy as you had characters playing a boardgame while others were killed by a mystery killer. Is this a homage to Friday the 13th? Some of the deaths are quite cliched, eg axe in head, throatslit, head twisted backwards etc. Also, b-movie slashers have a limited audience and it’s difficult to do something new or original with the genre. You don’t explain who the killer is, who the characters are, or if the boardgame is actually haunted.
  4. I think interesting characters are extremely important for horror movies as often it feels like characters are just waiting to be killed, they don’t have to be likeable, but a good plot is important.
  5. I don’t think watching characters playing a boardgame is interesting visually, and although you switch between this and the missing characters getting killed, wouldn’t someone notice that people were dissappearing?
  6. The female characters undressing is abit sexist, and I wasn’t sure if this was part of the humour.  I believe that one or two women are made to undress and stand outside after losing in the game, and in terms of genre this could work as being funny because it’s politically incorrect, or because you’d like the male characters to appear sexist. Regardless, both female characters are killed and so their nudity seems a bit pointless.

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