Feedback On Your Film & Script

Learning how to accept feedback on your film or script and recognizing the value of others’ opinions is not incompatible with viewing yourself as an “auteur,” in the sense of being the principle creative force behind a particular film. The key is in learning to listen to and process feedback in ways that allow you to build your creativity and your vision. Accepting input doesn’t mean changing your vision or your authorial voice; it means helping you refine how you choose to convey it and to determine whether your messages come across as you intend.

Many are averse to feedback and maintain a guarded position with respect to their work, as if accepting suggestions from others makes their writing less theirs. It’s tough to open yourself up to others, possibly most of all early in your career, when you’re uncertain about how your work will hold up to scrutiny. New writers and filmmakers also may not be confident about where they see themselves headed. However, if you’re unable to manage feedback coming from people who want to help you succeed, then it will be much harder when it comes from people who don’t have your interests at heart.

When you hand your work over to someone for comments, first and foremost be mentally prepared to receive them. How you prepare is up to you. Perhaps it means anticipating the worst to ready yourself for disappointment or being selective about whom you solicit suggestions from. Be aware of defensive gut reactions before they take place. When those reactions do hit, resist the urge to argue. Listen to the criticisms for now; you will have plenty of time to respond later.

If you need to ask for clarification, do so; if you feel you’re being personally attacked, ignore it. When the critique is respectfully offered, however, and you merely disagree with it, listen first, process later, and respond (if necessary) after that. You might have specific concerns, and if so, ask for particular commentary on those areas. Provide whatever additional context you believe might help your readers understand your intent.

Bring your work to others when you have completed as much as you can on your own. Feedback given in the middle of a project is more likely to create unnecessary hurdles than to direct your flow. You will end up writing to please others, rather than revising to strengthen a mostly finished product. Share the version that you consider ready. When criticism is given, it’s all right to interpret it with respect to what you know about the person giving it.

This does not mean dismissing negative feedback with, “She’s just saying that because…” The feedback is still worthwhile; it might just carry a different meaning depending on where it comes from. When not just opinions but suggestions for change are offered, you don’t need to use every one. The fact that your reader felt that something was necessary in that particular spot is more informative than what he believes belongs in its place. Pay attention to the reaction; accept or reject the advice as you judge fit.

The latter applies, really, to any feedback you receive. Listening to feedback doesn’t mean exposing yourself to a set of revisions you disagree with; it means opening up to new sets of eyes. Readers can point out flaws you couldn’t see for yourself but that you recognize when they’re brought to your attention, or they can wrench your work into something that looks more like their own with their suggestions. You’re free to regard their views as you wish. Just be open to hearing them.

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