Day 164: Workshop Discussions

February 12, 2016

 

Another great read at the Rewrites Writer's Workshop held at the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles. This is a fairly small group of writers with only about 7 - 9 people showing up each week. The group has about 40 people altogether - according to their Meetup Page - and there are new faces each week, so there seems to be a good turnover in writers each week. This allows for more varied opinions on your work. Unlike Tuesdays at 9, this group does offer feedback on each script read.

 

The trick with getting feedback is learning who to listen to and who to ignore. It's very easy to ignore the criticisms and only embrace those comments that love your work, but that may simply be reinforcing problems that exist in your script. I can't really offer any advice on how to pick the useful comments from the not so useful; it's just something you kind of have to learn. Until you have figured out who the commenters are, you have to take each comment individually and examine it within the context of your story. Also, if numerous people are making the same comment, it's probably an issue that needs to be looked at.

 

For example, several people were confused by Shep's desire to burn the money and get rid of the drugs. I think I've explained it well enough that there shouldn't be any confusion about Shep's motivations, and yet people were confused. If it were just one person, I might have let it slip by, but since several people commented on it, I need to re-examine that moment. I originally had a line where Shep comments that the cash is "blood money." In the rewrites, that line was eliminated. It might help to reinstate it to drive home that Shep wants nothing to do with the cash or the drugs. It also points to a larger issue that readers are fully understanding Shep's character. If they did, this wouldn't be a problem for them. Since they didn't get it, I haven't explained it well enough. I will have to find somewhere earlier in the script to expand on Shep's character and why he wouldn't take the money.

 

The other big moment of the night - or several moments - came when a new writer showed up and tried to impress us with his knowledge of script format. He has been in a Master Class for some six months and has had format drilled into his head. It's the new way of doing things, he said, something that we apparently all failed at. He was unable to really provide any feedback because he wasn't able to get past how awful our collective formatting was. And he didn't make this point just once. Or twice, but he stated it over and over again. To say he wasn't making any friends would be an understatement.

 

But to really alienate the group, he told us he wouldn't be bringing any pages in because he was far beyond us and the mere reading of 10 pages. What he wanted was for all of us to read his completed script and give him coverage.

 

Here's a bit of advice for all you aspiring writers. If you want someone to read your script, you need to read theirs. Don't try to impress people with your Master Class because some of those writers you are looking down on hold MFAs in writing or are produced writers with actual credits working in the business. Never assume you are the smartest person in the room, and never think your work can't benefit by working it 10 pages at a time. Yes, there does come a time when you want to have it read as one continuous unit, but for that, you either need to set up a reading to hear the whole thing aloud or submit it to people you have a working relationship with.

 

Walking into a room of strangers and declaring you are an expert because you took a master class, offering no feedback on the presented work because you couldn't see the story for all the terrible formatting and then demand people read your work in full because you can't be bothered with working only 10 pages isn't going to get you very far. And should someone offer to read your script, it damn sure better be all you say and more, or you're going to get slammed. Hard.

 

That's all I have for now. I have a script I have to read.

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