Good friends and thick skins: The importance of thoughtful notes
Posted on behalf of David Larson
January 12th, 2019
One of the best things I ever did to improve my screenwriting was join a website called Trigger Street Labs. I discovered it somewhere around 2008 and spent a large amount of time and effort there for a couple of years. The concept was simple: give feedback on other people’s screenplays and other people would give feedback on yours. I learned the secret of the site’s real value pretty quickly: I got much more out of the reviews I completed for other people than I did from the feedback I received on my own work.
The key is giving good notes. They should be honest and helpful. You may give feedback on a script that is better than anything you’ll ever write. I did. It was called PURE, and it went on to win a Nichols Fellowship in 2009. Or you may find yourself slogging through a mess of words that can only charitably be called a screenplay. Either way, your job should be to provide whatever assistance you can with the sincere intent of improving the work.
Honest notes can feel like an attack to a writer. Trust me though, you need them. Reading through that feedback of your work can be so painful, especially early on. That is perfectly normal to feel when someone is critical of a thing into which you’ve poured your heart and soul. If your goal is to improve as a writer, you’ll want to thicken up your skin to the point that you can shrug off the pain and knee-jerk defensiveness and get down to the hard work of making your script the best it can be.
You also want people in your life who will be honest with you about your work. A good friend who will look you in the eye and tell you what doesn’t work about your script without fear of losing your friendship is a valuable thing. If you can be that friend for others, you will find the people you need in your life as a writer.
Trigger Street Labs is gone now, which is a shame. I have heard The Black List runs a similar program these days, but haven’t had the time to look into it for myself. Most of my recent script notes have gone out to members of the Northwest Screenwriters Guild who have submitted work to be considered for Compendium status.
If you are a member of the Guild with work you feel is ready to be seen by industry professionals, I encourage you to get a script in for review.
I look forward to seeing your work.
NWSG Compendium Chair