Notes and rewrites can be tricky business. How can you tell when your script is done, and what can you do to prepare for feedback that may not align with your creative vision? We’re looking back on our past conversations with past AFF panelists and seasoned writers for their advice on tackling the rewrite process and learning to take critical notes and use them to your advantage.
Here are five tips for mastering the notes and rewrites process from today’s leading writers:
- GET COMFORTABLE WITH FEEDBACK
My advice for starting out to young writers is the same for men and women…find a community of people who you trust to exchange your scripts with, because I think it’s really important to have a writing group. I think it’s really important to have people you give notes to as well. I think it helps, once you break in, to already have the experience of giving and getting notes, and have it not be a big deal, because 90% of the job—at least on the film side—is getting notes and taking notes, and I think if you are already very good at that and flexible and able to come up with other solutions and not take it personally, it’s really helpful.
-Nicole Perlman (writer Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, Detective Pikachu) at AFF 2015
2. TAKE SOME TIME BEFORE YOU EDIT
I think that the best writer advice that I ever read was that if you write something…put it in a drawer for six months and take it out and look at it again, because it’s amazing how much you can improve things after a while at the craft level…being able to distance yourself a bit from the work is very helpful.
-Walter Hill (writer/director 48 Hrs., The Warriors, The Driver) at AFF 2017
3. BE OPEN TO STUDIO NOTES
Ultimately, you have to understand what other people want and get on board with that. It’s kind of a whole dance where you sometimes have to say “Alright, not how I would do it, but I am going to do my best to do the best version of that idea even though I may think this one is better.”
-Glenn Berger (writer/producer King of the Hill, Kung Fu Panda, Trolls) at AFF 2011
4. LEARN TO BOUNCE BACK
You’ve got to be really great at taking notes…Your feelings can be hurt. You can be human. It’s just, you’ve got to work through it and approach things with professionalism, and if your first great idea is shot down, be able to bounce back from that, because sometimes, your 20 first great ideas are going to be shot down, and you still have to come up with the 21st.
-Angela Kang (writer/co-executive producer The Walking Dead; writer Terriers) at AFF 2015
5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE CHANGES
The whole process of making a movie was realizing the things that work really well on the page sometimes don’t work on the screen, and it’s not because your words on the page were wrong. It’s just that sh*t happens, and you have to be able to go back and pick yourself up and do it and try it a different way.
-John August (co-host Scriptnotes; writer Frankenweenie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels, Go) at AFF 2004
Visit onstory.tv for a closer look inside the creative process from today’s leading writers and filmmakers.
Want to hear these tips first hand? Join us at this year’s Writers Conference (Oct. 24 – 27, 2019) for a weekend of insider tips and writing advice from the leading voices of film and television. For more information on how to attend, click here.