Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reps: How to Take Notes

Weeks ago, I had the great fortune to meet a rep who agreed to read my script and I filled you in on how best to follow up with a rep.

As promised, I'm now giving you the skinny on How to Take Notes from a Rep:

1) The Phone Call -- After a few pleasantly persistent emails checking in on the script, the rep responded: He read the script and he would call me later this week.

When a rep is going to call you, have your phone on, fully-charged, and stick to areas with good signal. You can't afford to miss a call from a rep. And when he/she does call, there's...

2) A Brief Exchange of Pleasantries. How are you? Congrats on that thing in the trades. Why thank you, etc. You need to show you care. If you want this guy to be your rep, care enough to start building a professional relationship with that person.

3) The Trick Question. After the chit-chat, the rep will inevitably start by saying a few nice things about your script and then ask very carefully:
"Now, if you don't mind, I have a few notes on your script, but only if you want to hear them, because if you think your script is in a good place and you're not looking for any notes, then I totally understand and support your decision..."
This is a test! The rep here is trying to gauge how well you take notes as a professional screenwriter. Hollywood is a collaborative industry where you will be writing for not just an audience but agents, managers, development executives, studio executives, producers, actors, etc., and if you want a long career as a writer, you will have to write and rewrite scripts that will excite all of those people to sign on to your script and make it into a movie.

In short, the answer is: "Yes, I'd love to hear your notes. Hold on, let me get a pen and paper."

4) Write Everything Down -- For me, the rep had a lot of page-by-page notes. For example, "On page 34, Tiffany beats up the bad guys with karate-like punches and kicks... since she's a runaway, wouldn't she fight in a more street brawler style?"

This guy talked fast, so I wrote down as much as I could, jotting down the appropriate page numbers by each note so I could go over them later. Also, it's good to have a copy of the script open so you can follow along and know exactly what scene the rep's talking about.

5) Respond With Courtesy -- This rep has put his/her personal time into reading your script, coming up with notes, writing them down, and preparing for this call. Do the right thing and show your appreciation for each and every note with professional courtesy.

If the rep gives you a good note, say that, and thank them. I lucked into only getting good notes and said so with every note.

If it's a bad note, DO NOT disagree with the rep. Prepare an appropriately neutral response, such as "Interesting. I hadn't thought of that before. Let me take another look at that."

5) Have Questions Ready -- If you don't understand a note, then ask! "So you didn't think this was a credible character decision?" "Is that because you think that subplot was unclear?" Asking these questions also shows you hear and appreciate the rep's feedback.

Also, look for the notes that the rep didn't give you. For example, the rep only gave me page-by-page notes, so I asked if he had any general notes -- and he gave me some good pointers on the overall character arcs for the script.

6) The Next Draft -- Wrap up the call with thanking the rep for all the notes and when would the rep like to see another pass on the script reflecting his/her notes.

The rep told me, "Whenever you can get it to me. Whenever you feel like it. Take your time."

This is also a trick! Another test! The rep here is gauging your professionalism to see how long it takes you to do a solid, typos-free, industry-ready rewrite. So how long should that take?

Two weeks. No more. Suck it up, lose sleep, and put all your time and effort into rewriting your script and emailing it back to the rep in two weeks or less. If you want to impress this rep, prove you're worthy to sign as a client, then you better show that you are ready to work.

But the most important lesson from this call is...

7) Take the Damn Notes -- As you rewrite your script in those two weeks, you must take every single note the rep gave you and incorporate it into your next draft. Even if you don't fully understand the note. Even if you disagree. Just do it.

Put these notes into perspective: this rep has read hundreds of scripts, scripts that have made millions at the box office and scripts that never got made... not all reps can articulate their notes clearly, but every good rep has a gut instinct for what makes a saleable script work.

Again, this is a collaborative industry, and if you want to prove to this rep that you are a professional, then it's your job to prove that you can take notes and improve your script.

In short, your job as a writer is to look at every note and ask, "What if it's brilliant?" and work at it until you find the note underneath the note that will genuinely improve your screenplay.

That's all for now, folks! And speaking of rewrites, time to crawl back into my writer-cave.

1 comment:

  1. Great comments! And congrats on getting agent-interest!