Friday, January 18, 2013
Why I don't do notes for strangers
At first, I was glad to do it. I was a teacher, after all, and doing notes is something I enjoyed. So I happily read and gave notes on anyone who seemed eager.
But then a few people neglected to thank me, or thanked me with a rant about how wrong I was in my criticisms. So I started telling people, "Look, I'm pretty harsh. I'm going to tell you exactly what I think is wrong with your script and I may not be super nice about it, because being nice takes effort, and I'm already expending all my effort on reading your script and figuring out ways to improve it."
To a man, every person I said this to agreed that they were cool with it - nay, that they demanded harsh notes! They are looking for nothing but honesty! They crave it!
And then a lot of those people were super pissed when they saw what I had to say about their precious script, if they responded at all. I'd say about two thirds of the times I've given notes - which usually takes me about two hours - I've gotten no reply at all from the person whose script I read. Not even a "Thanks," although I've gotten that lovely one-word reply frequently as well.
Now I'm no Josh Olson, but I think a lot of us can relate to his rant, even those of us without his impressive pedigree. There's an art to accepting criticism, and often the very people with the weakest screenplays are also the weakest at knowing how to respond to notes. It's a bad combination. eventually those people wear the note givers down.
I know, I know, you're not that asshole. Except that asshole always says he's not that asshole until he gets his notes back and turns into that asshole.
That's why I decided not to do notes for people unless I know them. I know a lot of people who have the same rule. I mean, why should anybody do notes for someone they don't know if they risk getting kicked in the proverbial nuts for it?
Some people are cool. Unfortunately the cool people aren't numerous enough to make up for the assholes.
So I guess, what I'm saying is, if you ask someone to give you notes, say thank you, and not sarcastically. Acknowledge that they gave you a lot to think about. Ask follow up questions if you like. But don't write back an angry rant or an explanation of why you're right. If you disagree with the notes, you can just go off and ignore them. You don't have to explain to the person who took two or three hours of their time why they wasted it because you think they are stupid. You asked for their help and they did you a favor. Don't be a dick about it.