How Does A Screenwriter Balance Criticism Against Personal Conviction? by West Liang

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: Just to go back quickly [to what we were talking about ] so you didn’t enter the script into any screenplay competitions, but did you try to take it up the Hollywood food chain with an agent or a manager?

West Liang: No. I know that Melissa sent the script out right before production or maybe pre-production? Just to maybe just to sort of see what the feedback was and we had various comments about the script and I was able to weigh what comments helped us and what didn’t.


I think again going back to what a real, realistic kind of road map for this trip that we would be taking, it was really about that. Because a lot of people came back with notes about well that thing should really be happening on page 12 not 7. “Hey, that thing there doesn’t make sense.” And I think a lot of the comments like that are well-meaning because I’ve written for many, many years and I think I understand all of that stuff. But the conversation that I had with Melissa that I had to really negotiate was this project is really about a certain location, a certain budget, a certain kind of vision in terms of scheduling. And so we really had to be wise in terms of what feedback we wanted to take and what feedback we wanted to dismiss. So we didn’t take it up the Hollywood food chain (so to speak). They probably won’t be interested because there is no car chase or no aliens or anything like that. It was really kind of a personal thing that we wanted to embark on.

Film Courage: Did you implement any changes into the script though? When they said, “This is confusing here” or maybe they didn’t say that. Did the two of you say “Well, if we’re getting feedback from an outside source, maybe we’re so close to it?”

West Liang: Absolutely. I mean Melissa and I worked on outlining this story from the very beginning, really trying to talk about the characters, talk about the relationship, talk about the plots, the narrative (all of that stuff), and themes and everything. And then once we had a pretty fair idea of what story we wanted to tell, I went away and wrote the script because I was going to end up directing it and I felt that it was really important to be intimately involved with the nuts and bolts of it.

And then once we got people kind of looking at the script, we absolutely took in advice and comments about it. If that button is not funny enough or that is an extra scene that you really don’t need, we absolutely did that.

And also (like with all films), you essentially rewrite the script in editing, you’re writing your final draft in editing. And we had an amazing editor on board who really works on bigger budgeted movies but he liked the story (he believed in it). And so me, Melissa and Derek during editing really kind of tried to reshape the story in some ways to match what we wanted to do because there were still scenes that we ended up not getting to even with the intention of shooting a short script, we still missed scenes.

Film Courage: Why? (Sorry to interrupt.)

West Liang: Well, because of budget, because of time, because of schedule. It’s an ensemble film so you’re working with the schedules of so many people. And there’s the budget part of it which is like running out of time (that’s going to take an extra day). So that put us in…I mean it wasn’t a horrible situation, it ended up being even better. But I do think that all of the feedback that you have to take all the way from the beginning to the very end, even in editing we went through three or four different cuts before we arrived at the final cut. And throughout the process we had a very private kind of screening for about ten people on the big screen and we did kind of a Q&A (feedback). We gave them questionnaires and we said what part of the movie did you enjoy? What do you think about when you’re done watching this movie? And this questions and the answers to those questions really helped us gauge how far off we were about our movie.


 Watch the trailer to ALL I WANT here on Vimeo


Film Courage: Going back to what you said earlier, the best solution or answer usually wins in your opinion (something like that), do you think a lot of people are that open?

West Liang: I mean…no. I don’t think so. I think even in some ways, I missed a mark because with art, you have to have an ego in your story. I don’t think the ego should get in the way but I do think you have to have an idea of what your personal conviction is, what your vision is.

So I think being mindful of it is healthier than I think a lot of people are. And I’d like to believe that I can always take a good note. It doesn’t always happen and I think it’s true for everyone who is working in this industry, you have to walk that line of what do you personally feel like is right and what the feedback is from different people. So it’s a tough thing to kind of negotiate. I think you have to look at it in the context of where the person is coming from.

I’m coming from another project that is very similar so I have a certain perspective and someone else is coming from something else and so you have to measure all of that.

Film Courage: And have a filter in terms of what is exactly constructive criticism and what is someone just me  and what is someone trying to squash me.

West Liang: Right.

Film Courage: And I think that’s a tough thing because in LA or anything creative, there are all of those things coming at you.

West Liang: Right.

Film Courage: And I think anybody who does something creative has a fairly strong ego and you can’t a be mouse either. You can’t be like “Oh, okay? Let me change that for you.” You have to fight back a little bit.

West Liang: Absolutely.

Question for the Viewers: What is your process for getting feedback on your projects?

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Story Instincts Of A Writer Who Doesn’t Write Mainstream Movies With West Liang








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