Film Courage: How are you softening some of the screenwriters you’re working with who are either too defensive or too much of a namby-pamby “yes” person?
“Because you’re going to get notes that are outright offensive to you. But you learn to take the good with the bad. I always tell writers as they prepare for the industry, go find people who will hate your work, those are the people whose notes you want. You don’t want the people who will tell you how brilliant you are, how perfect it is. You’re not going to learn anything from that.”
Lee Jessup: It is a balancing act. I think once writers start getting notes and a lot of notes, they learn…they learn. Because you’re going to get notes that are outright offensive to you. But you learn to take the good with the bad. I always tell writers as they prepare for the industry, go find people who will hate your work, those are the people whose notes you want. You don’t want the people who will tell you how brilliant you are, how perfect it is. You’re not going to learn anything from that. You’re going to learn how to take notes from getting notes that are really offensive and finding something in there that you can use. What is the core of that? What is the little kernel inside that note that you can take and do something with and really move the material forward with? And listen, I remember this from my days from getting notes as a writer and getting infuriated and coming back and going “Okay, there was something there. What was that thing that was there? What is the note giver really saying?”
So you want really to teach writers to take notes, to be receptive to finding that kernel, that truth, that is in every note or in most notes. You also want to work with writers the way that I work with writers and that is in not giving them the answers when they are like “Okay, here is this note so I am going to execute it that way…Is that good?” No! Figure out your way to execute that note and I get writers coming back and going “There was one note that said this, how do I implement it?” You figure it out. You’re on your own. I’ll sit with you and I’ll brainstorm with you once you have the direction but it has to be your direction. And that is where you have to listen to your inner writer. You have to really foster your talent, your sensibilities. Of course it has to be malleable. You have to be able to work with other people’s sensibilities, but the key to being a great writer is taking other people’s ideas and making them your own. And falling just as in love with them and being just as invested in them as you would be had your idea or concept originated with you because the reality today is that 2014, 1,800 WGA members made income in the film industry. Roughly 132 scripts sold. What does that mean? That means that over 1,600 people made their money writing pages, doing writing assignments.
So how do you become that writer who does writing assignments and does it successfully? You’re able to take a kernel of an idea and make it your own and fall in love with it. And really take it and run with it in a way that makes other people want to work with you.
Question for the Viewers: Do you give your script to people who will tear it apart?
Watch all of Lee Jessup’s Film Courage video interviews on Youtube here
Getting it Write: An Insider’s Guide to a Screenwriting Career
by Lee Zahavi Jessup
CONNECT WITH LEE JESSUP
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