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 – March 2020: The Absolute Wrong Time And Place For Screenwriters To Seek Feedback

Producers, creative executives, managers and agents all give feedback on screenplays at different times.  

The “business people” will eventually be a big part of any screenwriter’s success.  They are essential allies in getting a screenplay made.  But:

You don’t ever want them to give you feedback on an early draft.

Here are three reasons why:

One:  A lot of new writers seek coverage from the business side for the wrong reason.  

They’re secretly hoping their scripts will be discovered.  

But if you’re seeking feedback, then that means your script isn’t ready to be discovered. 

But -- you’re thinking -- my script already has a great hook and lots of potential.  
Lots of screenplays have that.  Seriously. It’s not that rare.  

What is rare is a fully executed (aka complete) script.  That’s what you need to send to the business side.  That’s the only kind of script that will get you “discovered”.

Two: Executives aren’t writers.  

Some of them are creative thinkers, sure.  And many are highly intelligent and great at what they do.  But the large majority of them haven’t spent the years necessary to learn the craft of screenwriting.  

There’s nothing wrong with that.  Understanding the many nuances of writing and rewriting isn’t their job.  Their real job is to champion scripts that are already working (a task that is much harder than you think).  

For this reason, feedback from business types tends to be a vague yes/no kind of thing: “This works. That doesn’t work.”  

Fellow writers, on the other hand, are much more likely to give you specific reasons why an element isn’t working along with actionable advice on how to proceed.

You might think I’m taking a chance here by ticking off the business-side people I work with as a writer.  But I’m not. I’m actually serving their interests. They don’t want to read your early drafts. They want your absolute best.

Three: You may end up with the wrong producer attached to your script.

To give yourself the best chance at success, you need to work with the best possible producer. 

Let me explain what I mean by “best.”  For writers, the “best” producer doesn’t mean the smartest or most creative. If your work isn’t already smart and creative, you won’t be working with any producers.  For a writer, “best” means the producer with the most high-level connections.  

If you send out a less-than-finished draft, you might attract the attention of some young and hungry producers.  And those producers might well be smart and creative.  But they won’t necessarily be the producers with the high-level connections necessary to give you the best chance of selling your work.  

The producers who can do that will only read your work under a few circumstances: Either you win a contest or you build word of mouth about your writing in other ways. 

And to do that, you need: A complete working-on-all-fours screenplay – not a draft you send out to the business side for feedback.

But what about feedback from my own agent or manager or a producer I’m working with on assignment?

If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations!  And here’s my advice:  Don’t send them your early drafts!  

They’re working with you because they think you’re great.  Don’t send them anything but greatness.