Part Two – Getting Feedback
At the beginning of this series, we discussed writer promotion basics; how to establish you (and your work) as an active on-line commodity. Assuming you’ve been a busy marketing beaver, you’ve now got your new website all set up and ready to go. And you’re all over Facebook and Twitter like ants at the proverbial picnic table…
So what’s next on your journey towards screenwriting world domination?
Well, you could use some of the great resources out there to get coverage (aka, feedback, notes etc) of your cinematic baby. Rewriting and polishing it until it shines, for that day when you get that oh so precious email: “send us a copy of your script…”
As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression. So you want that script to be perfect.
Okay, so you’re not going to get professional coverage without paying for it. (Though when you’re ready, don’t forget to take a look at STS’s very own talented and detailed script consultant, Danny Manus, of NoBullscript Consulting!
But there are some great places to get your screenplays read without shelling out your limited dough, complete with feedback and notes.
Below you’ll find a list of sites where gifted amateur screenwriters – and the occasional pro – congregate and provide useful recommendations.
A few words of caution before we dive in: it’s worth pointing out that you’re putting your work (your baby!) online for others to see and comment on.
1) Make sure it’s copyrighted – either through the Library of Congress or at least WGA. And no, not everyone’s out to steal your script or idea. But there are always some bad apples lurking around. Somewhere.
2) Bear in mind: on the net, free expression reigns supreme. Barring any board limits and moderations, people can and will voice their opinions as they see fit. Feedback is usually respectful, but inevitably some trolling and flaming occurs. Following are a few helpful ideas to keep it to a minimum:
3) Check your grammar and spellen. (Um, “spelling”) And then check it again! Readers quickly get distracted with error strewn scripts… and often leave choice comments before they move onto other things. Besides, if you can’t be bothered to run an easy spell check and read through the pages, why in the world would you expect a stranger to do so. For free?!? (An extra tip, if grammar isn’t your thing, there’s some online help… check out Ginger for example.)
4) Make sure the screenplay’s formatted correctly, using screenwriting software to ensure the basics are right. Final Draft is the standard for pros, but a bit pricey. For the cash strapped, CeltX is free, as is the web version of WritersDuet. Making sure your formatting’s up to snuff removes another reader distraction.
5) Save or upload your docs as PDFs. People don’t like seeing screenplays written in Word. It screams amateur.
6) The vast majority of these sites work on – and appreciate – reciprocity. So if you ask for a read, make darned well sure you give thoughtful ones in return.
7) Consider all comments and feedback. No script is so perfect that it can’t be improved on. That said, don’t forget it’s your script. So use the recommendations to improve and polish your work. Not change it into something else.
8) Don’t limit yourself to asking for script feedback. These sites are the online homes of tons of helpful fellow writers. Reach out to them with other questions as well. How to get through a tricky piece of writing, logline reviews, etc. You name it. People will have thought about it, and will be willing to share.
Now for the online resources themselves:
Simply Scripts – http://www.simplyscripts.com/
Kind of an obvious choice, given you’re reading this off the homepage. But it’s a fact that bears repeating: the SimplyScripts discussion board is populated by a bunch of talented writers, most of whom are happy to help fellow scribes out. The site has two primary sections for getting script exposure: 1) A general discussion board for unproduced works – divided by features/shorts and genres, 2) The script Showcase “Shootin’ the Shorts” (STS), where selected short scripts (and one feature a month) get fantastic exposure through in-depth reviews. Please note: STS is for shorts ready to shoot, not first draft works in progress!
Reddit has a few different areas (fondly known as sub-reddits) for writing, and two or three that focus on screenwriting in particular. I’ve found that the link provided above is the most suitable one for your needs. The feedback is usually decent. Not as good or in depth as SS – and there’s the occasional troll or flame war. But you’re on-line. You should be used to that!
IndieTalk – http://www.indietalk.com/forumdisplay.php?f=43
A movie making Forum with a relatively healthy screenwriting section. If you ask for script feedback, you’ll generally get 5-10 responses. Not to the same depth as SS, but pretty decent all the same.
AbsoluteWrite – http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=12
A broader forum that contains a wealth of info on a number of writing specialties (including Screenwriting, of course.) It’s worth a look – but less detailed than some of the other options here.
The Black Board – http://theblackboard.blcklst.com/forums/forum/screenwriting/
This is the Forum site for the Blacklist. Yes, the Blacklist. As such, it’s pretty active with five screenwriting boards. But it’s more business related – less on the “how-to” of the craft, and more on the “getting things made” end of things.
Stage 32 – http://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting
A great resource for connecting people involved in film making, in all the various disciplines. Acting. Directing. Cinematography. Producing. And, yes, Screenwriting. It’s a little like Facebook or LinkedIn, but specifically for film makers. Each discipline has it’s own “Lounge” for discussion and online interaction. There, you’ll find a variety of exchanges: requests for feedback on scripts, loglines and more. As is true everywhere, there’s a ton of opinions on S32… so please remember Rule #5. It’s your script. Take constructive criticism and value it. But remain true to your vision.
Screenwritinggoldmine Forum – http://www.screenwritinggoldmine.com/forum/forums/screenwriting.14/
There are extensive sections on screenwriting in this active site. Definitely worth looking at for advice and reads.
MoviePoet – http://www.moviepoet.com
This one shares several members with SS – and has generated some serious talent. Scripts are limited to five pages or less. They’ve got a great monthly competition, where everyone gets to vote and comment on your script. The only downside: that you don’t see anything until the results are announced, then you get all the feedback at once. More on Movie Poet in the Competitions article.
Zoetrope – http://www.zoetrope.com
Yep, Copolla’s site! You need to join officially. But then you can post scripts and get them read. And you do need to read scripts in return. This is one site that I’ve limited experience with. More notes on it at a later date…
Screenwriter’s Utopia – http://www.screenwritersutopia.com/
Has a Script Swapping Forum for people to exchange scripts, get notes etc. The forum doesn’t seem very active, but the site has other resources worth checking out, too.
Well, that’s enough sites to start with (search on-line and you’re sure to find even more!) If you do find a gem, please let us know.
In the meantime, start digging around in these sites – they’re all essential tools to improve your script, your craft… and provide valuable networking opportunities too!
Next up: Where to publicize your scripts, once you’re good and ready…
About Anthony: Anthony Cawood is a new(ish) screenwriter from the UK with two produced short films, two in post production and another seven sold/optioned. His script, A Certain Romance, recently won in the Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition (short script category), and two other scripts have recently placed 2nd and 3rd in the FilmQuest Screenwriting Competition and Reel Writers Screenwriting Competition respectively. Links to his films and details of all his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk