Take Your Screenplay All The Way -- Constructive Coverage From A Nicholl Fellow

I've gotten to know dozens of writers who've achieved success.  Major contest wins.  Options. Paid writing assignments.  One thing these writers have in common is this:

They’ve all revised their screenplays based on constructive feedback. 

The key word here is “constructive”.  The feedback you get from the industry is often harsh and unreasoned.  You hear things like, “It just doesn’t work.”  

That’s not helpful.   You need the kind of feedback that recognizes potential.  The kind of feedback that usually comes from other writers.

In 2004, I won a Nicholl Fellowship.  Since then I’ve worked with numerous Hollywood producers and executives, including the Oscar-winning producer of the film Crash.

I will tell you this:  Before I got quality feedback from experienced writers, I got nowhere.  After I sought out that feedback, everything changed.

Unfortunately, not everybody has access to writers who know what they’re doing.  Free coverage-swapping websites usually get you the random suggestions of anonymous newbies.  And most pay-for-coverage sites rely on undisclosed readers with unknown credentials.

I'm not anonymous.  I will personally read your script and thoroughly respond to it.  I won’t tick boxes on a formulaic coverage sheet.  I’ll offer my supportive and constructive ideas, to help you write what you set out to create – the kind of story that wins contests and gets you paid.  

Sincerely,

Doug Davidson
todoug@optonline.net


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Script Coverage Chronicles – November 2017: Never Do This When Working With Producers

A producer wants to develop a new project with you.  It could be on spec.  It could be a paid assignment.  Either way, my advice remains the same.  There is one thing you should never ever do. 

It’s something I’ve learned the hard way.

And it’s something that will very likely end your business relationship with the producer in question.

You should never.

Ever.

Ever.

Send a producer a rough draft.

Never send a rough draft of a script.  Never send a rough draft of a pitch.  Never send a rough draft of anything.

Don’t sketch in the storyline so the producer can get a general sense of where you’re going. 

Don’t plan on filling in the funny parts later when you’ve had more time to think.

Don’t do anything half way in this business.

Don’t do this even if the producer says that’s how he or she likes to work.  It will still backfire on you. 

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but it will almost always be the case that when a producer reads an “assignment draft” of any kind, that producer expects to see greatness.  And rough drafts are by definition “not great”.

A very successful writer I had a chance to have a conversation with – a writer with multiple produced movies that you would know – once gave me this advice:  Polish your script as much as you can, work your butt off on it, and then tell the producer it’s a “very rough draft”. 

But what if the producer has read your prior work and is a big fan of your writing -- isn’t a rough draft okay in that case?

No.  Even in that case – which is pretty much always the case when a producer is working with you to develop a story –- don’t do it.  Don’t send a remotely “rough” draft of anything if you want to stay on the project. If you do so, you’ll hear things like “you may not be the right voice for this one.” 

When producers become fans of your work, they expect the world of your writing, and you have to deliver. 

And the way writers deliver the world is to spend the necessary time to dig in and write multiple drafts and polish those drafts and add to those drafts and wake up in the middle of the night and add more.

As a screenplay consultant, I read many rough drafts, and I can see the potential in so many of them – the extraordinary places these stories could go. Producers won’t give you that benefit of the doubt.  They want to see you somewhere near the finish line even in the first draft.

So before you send anything to that producer, take the extra time you need, write multiple drafts, get feedback and polish and polish and polish.

And then tell the producer you threw it together.