Film Courage: How does a screenwriter know that their screenplay is ready for market?
Wendy Kram, Owner of LA4Hire: That is a very good question. I think the first thing is just really essential that a writer submit it to colleagues for feedback. And I mean I am a professional in this field. A lot of times even though I am not a writer, I write treatments, I work with writers on treatments and bibles and so on and at a certain point I’ll go through multiple drafts. I have a good built-in sense of editing. But at a certain point I might think this is great and and then I’ll send it to a trusted colleague whether it’s another executive at a production company or a writer whose opinion I respect and they come back and I don’t know if they’ll whip my a** (if I can say that), but they’ll come back with feedback and go “You know the treatment really isn’t getting interesting until page 2. So I would cut out the first page and a half.”
You know what? It makes it better. There also times where if it’s someone who’s opinion…you need to really stay centered and on point and something I definitely feel strongly about for writers is that especially in the note taking process because let’s say a writer sets up a project with a production company, studio or network and they give notes. One of the worst things to do is to constantly be defending your position.
Producers and executives will start to feel “You know what, life’s too short. This person isn’t receptive. They’re not fun to work with. They’re not getting it. They love everything they’re doing. You know what? I’m not going to renew or we’re going to replace the writer.”
The best way for a writer to be able to take notes is to be totally open and receptive and to try to hear, almost like with a second sense of what the executive is trying to say.
So let’s say they say (let me think of an example)…“I don’t think a character should say this line. They sound kind of mean right here and I don’t feel it.”
And if you’re listening rather than just defending it, you say “Oh, that wasn’t my intention. I meant that he was being defensive and a little bit sarcastic but he was kind of trying to say it in a charming way.”
So then the executive would say “Okay, I get it now, but that wasn’t coming through.” So then the writer can see that their intention wasn’t coming across so that they can go back and tweak it a bit.
Again, I think it is very important to stay true to your voice and not just roll over if someone says “Okay, well we have an 85-year-old protagonist and she has dementia. I’ve decided I like everything else about this story, but let’s turn her into a 13-year-old.” And believe it or not, I have heard from situations not too far away from that. As a writer, I think you need to defend your position and why it was essential to the story that the character was 85 with dementia. That might not be the best example but it’s basically a balance between maintaining the integrity of your vision because you can’t just roll over for everything because you wind up with nothing. You compromise artistry and any kind of creative vision that you have.
In terms of a writer knowing when a project is ready, I hear a lot of writers when I’m working with them they’ll say “Well, there is always going to be improvements to be made.” I think that when you are working with people whether it’s a strong script consultant, development executive, friend who’s maybe a writer whose opinion you respect, development executive, assistant to producer, assistant to a writer/director and so on, someone who’s really experienced with reading material and knowing what Studios want, that when it gets to a point where there’s less and less notes and the collective feeling is there might be some work that needs to be done because there always will be, but it’s good enough. For me the bar for what is good enough is the character that is well-developed, that is really coming through even if they are maybe irascible or somewhat unlikable, that we still can have empathy for that character.
If they’re a villain, it’s still good to have some empathy? Not always as important but for your protagonist there’s been a distinction between sympathy, what they might do doesn’t have to be sympathetic, but you should have a degree of empathy for them.
I think it’s when the feedback comes back pretty consistently, that this is good and you’re not just looking for validation, you have to be really open.
Question for the Viewers: How do you know when your screenplay is ready?
About Wendy Kram:
Seasoned Film and Television producer, Wendy Kram, owner of L.A. FOR HIRE, a consulting firm for production companies, writers, directors and anyone in media and PR seeking Hollywood connections and expertise on how to get their project to the next level.
With over fifteen years of experience in the entertainment industry, Wendy has supervised and produced a number of award-winning motion picture and television films for companies including: Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures, Hearst Entertainment, Sandollar Productions, Granada Entertainment, CBS, NBC, ABC, USA, HBO, Showtime and Lifetime Networks. Credits include “Mad Money” with Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, and Katie Holmes, the award-winning miniseries, “Sally Hemings: An American Scandal” with Sam Neill, and the romantic comedy, “Making Mr. Right” with Dean Caine for Lifetime Network. Wendy has a track record working with A-level talent, agents, filmmakers and executives.
As a native New Yorker who loves the city she grew up in, Wendy recognized a gap between many New York-based production companies and the Hollywood community. L.A. FOR HIRE was created to help fill this gap by providing a bridge between Hollywood’s key decision makers and companies in New York and other metropolitan cities around the globe.
Our clients come to us in order to help them navigate through the Hollywood system, where we provide insider knowledge and know-how that comes from our years of experience.