Friday, October 05, 2012

First draft is the best

Yeah right.

As was stated recently by my blogger good buddy Kid in the Front Row: it's great how independent movies can be made nowadays with no interference from the big studios through the use of crowdfunding.

But there's one major problem with that: No quality control.

I have been generous with my funding of projects on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo - I want to do some major crowdfunding in the future and I have a "what goes around comes around" attitude. As you give so shall you receive and all that.

This has had one unfortunate result. My name is now attached to a product which suffers from a script that clearly has had zero quality control. Honestly, I have the greatest admiration for someone getting off their backside and actually making something. But please put the work in with the script first, it's the most important part.

(On the positive side I've also helped produce some very good stuff as well.)

But if you want proof positive? I have two scripts as quarter-finalists in Philip Gladwin's Screenwriting Goldmine competition. Now I'm not saying this as a boast because I submitted four (or was it five?) scripts in a fit of crazy overspending. (This makes me only 20% as good as those who put in one script and got it through.)

Of those scripts the two that got through were the ones that had received a massive amount of feedback. I'm mean, seriously, a lot - over a two year period in both cases. The others had had minimal or none. First drafts.

Now I know I don't write totally crap first drafts, they're reasonable and they're readable. But they aren't great. Screenwriting is hard work, all art is 5% creativity and 95% hard slog.

There are those who will tell you that buying feedback from script readers is useless because they'll always tell you that more work needs to be done. Or they don't know what they're talking about. Or some other excuse.

It's bollocks. The only people who will say this are those not willing to put in the work needed to make their scripts great.  I have had a script reader tell me that a script is as good as it can get - until a director gets his hands on it, of course. And that is one of the scripts that got through and I haven't touched it since he told me.

If you're serious about being a screenwriter you need professional feedback. And you need to trust these guys and gals, because they know what they're talking about.

Are there any caveats? Yes, anyone can set themselves up as a reader - but I have yet to find one who was a fraud and I've used quite a lot of different ones. It is possible to come across one who doesn't quite have the same sensibilities as you. This does not mean they don't know what they're talking about but if you don't get on, it's not going to work so well. But that's just life.

If you can get two reports on the same draft that's good, but three is better. And rotate them, and try to get someone new on a draft because if a reader's seen it before their attitudes to the previous version will still be sitting there (though I know they try hard to read each draft as if they've never seen it before).

So what's the take-away? Scripts always need work. Get feedback so you know what to work on.

What's on the turntable? "The Light Dies Down on Broadway" by Genesis from "A Lamb Lies Down on Broadway"


The Kid In The Front Row said...

You know what intrigues me?

The myth is: your screenplay has to be incredible to get noticed, a page turner to get bought.

Yet, when we watch movies --- they're so RARELY page turners or incredible.

So all those GENIUS scripts that get bought, because they're the only ones that do get bought; who buys them and where do they go?

Phill Barron said...

They go into production. Nothing kills a good script faster than being produced.

Adaddinsane said...

Phil - your cynicism is showing.

Phill Barron said...

You call it cynicism, I call it experience!

Adaddinsane said...

I didn't say what your cynicism was based on... I do read your blog.

Phill Barron said...