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Filmarket Hub

Accepting critique — when and from whom?

Don’t be afraid of getting feedback

By Karol Griffiths, development producer, consultant and script editor. The winning script of our 2021 Screenwriting Contest for English language TV pilots will be read and assessed by her, followed by a one to one script development and career session.

Making the transition from unknown writer to paid professional can be tough. Even with an agent representing you — it’s competitive. Scripts aren’t going to get optioned or produced unless they’re outstanding. That takes time, patience and loads of hard (hopefully enjoyable) work.

Being a professional creative of any kind requires a serious commitment; a focused practice which enables steady progress. For a writer, it’s also about digging deep inside to where your personal form of expression lives — tapping into and cultivating your unique voice.

The key is to do it consciously. Not self-consciously — but mindfully. Consciously giving yourself permission. Permission to explore, to feel, to connect, to succeed, and even to fail.

You can do loads of research, read books, take classes but the only way you’ll really know what works for you is by trying things. Then once you’ve found something that works, keeping it in your toolbox and trying something else. The more you practice, the more tools you’ll collect and the easier the process will become.

Enjoy this time — because once you’re hired professionally you won’t necessarily have the luxury; you’ll be writing towards paid deadlines with producers and production teams waiting for pages.

During your training — it’s important to allow yourself the time and space to work as best suits you — to build your strength, to explore, and to establish a working practice that you can build upon.

The best time for feedback varies for every writer

Then eventually, you’ll need someone to read your script to give you feedback. But when and from whom?

The best time for feedback varies for every writer. Some find it extremely useful to start off at the inception of an idea — discussing it, organising thoughts, story, themes and character arcs even before an outline or first draft is written.

Other writers prefer not to interrupt the early stages of the creative process by having another voice inside their head — for them, it’s best if they just hammer out the idea themselves at first. Then when they’ve taken the project as far as they can on their own, they’ll seek an outside perspective.

The timing may also vary from project to project; it’s a personal choice. But when you are ready, it’s essential you share your work with someone you trust.

At that point, decide what your needs are and seek out the appropriate kind of help. Consider what kind of comments you are looking for.

Do you want a reader who will simply tell you their gut reaction to your story? Or do you need more detailed feedback; help with structure, characterisation or some other aspect of the script?

Feedback can come from various sources; a friend, a writers’ group, a professional colleague, an agent, or a paid consultant. All of these options have value.

Chances are you’ll want to hear from more than one source. Ultimately, you’ll need to hear from a trained professional who knows the industry. Ideally, someone you can speak with directly, someone you feel safe to explore ideas and methods with, someone you can ask questions of, who will give you honest and productive observations. Not ‘brutally honest’ OR ‘sugar-coated’ extremes — but well thought through, constructive, workable feedback. Someone who is in your corner and understands what you are trying to accomplish.

With that in mind, I recommend not sending your writing to an unspecified reader. Know who is assessing your work and what their credentials are. There are enough times when things are out of our control, but if you are paying for feedback you have the right to know who is evaluating your work.

I say this because unfortunately, there are many untrained, inexperienced readers out there offering assessments both independently and through companies. If you are investing in this kind of support, I urge you to choose a credible professional and make sure to know who they are.

Advice from a professional who understands what the industry is looking for and how to achieve a higher level of writing can be extremely valuable. Ideally, you find someone with those qualifications who loves how you write. Someone who cares about your career that will push you, work with you — and for you.

If you are lucky you may find an agent willing to take on that role. Or perhaps you have other professional resources. If not, consider working with a script consultant or writing mentor — not only for writing support but also for career guidance. It is an investment, but one that will probably save you a great deal of time in the long run while also easing the transition.

As a script consultant and writing mentor — I know first-hand what finding a writer whose work I admire means to me. It’s what makes my job completely worthwhile. Our industry is largely dependent on relationships. Developing and endorsing talent is not only a consultant’s passion, but our success depends on it. It’s a mutually beneficial connection.

Above all, don’t be afraid of getting feedback — the more people who read your script, the more you will learn and the better your chances of making the leap to a professional writing career.

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