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Feedback Loop

August 25, 2012

As a scriptwriter, I’m tired of the feedback loop.  Like any art, scriptwriting is subjective, but the feedback loop (when it’s truly a loop) can be frustrating, mind-boggling and downright unhelpful.  A very important part of successful scriptwriting, therefore, is getting the right feedback from the right people; at the very least, it’s important to know when to ignore feedback that needs to be ignored.  Figuring this out, however, can take time in the career of a scriptwriter.

Personally, I’ve written some ensemble scripts.  I’ve received feedback saying my ensemble script had too many names, making it confusing to follow; this script reader suggested I change some names to job titles to make it less confusing to keep track of the characters.  Simultaneously, I’ve utilized the above suggestion and used job titles instead of names to differentiate characters.  Subsequently, I’ve been told that the usage of job titles, as opposed to names, was dehumanizing.  I received the suggestion that I give the characters names so it feels more personal.  This is what I mean by the feedback loop – feedback that contradicts each other, leading a scriptwriter in circles, because the art of scriptwriting is subjective.

Where does this leave a Scriptwriter?

I think it forces a scriptwriter to hone their own intuition regarding their scripts, which is great.  So, in a strange way, the feedback loop can be helpful in that it teaches me to know when to listen to feedback, when to think about feedback and when to piss on it.  Sometimes, the best use for feedback is pissing on it.  In order to navigate one’s scriptwriting career, one needs to find one’s own path.  On occasion, the best way to do this is to receive two polar-opposite pieces of feedback.  It doesn’t alleviate the situation in the short-term, but it forces the scriptwriter to struggle with important questions, which seems helpful in the long-term.

For more on this and similar concepts, check out John August’s section on So-Called Experts, which inspired this post.

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