Don't Ask, Tell - Complications Ensue
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Q. So we're getting notes from the producers. There are a few ways to address them, both with narrative pluses and minuses. Should I present the options and let them give their input or should I just figure it out myself?
Producers and execs hire you to bring your passion and intelligence to the material you're working on. When you have a creative question, do your best to solve it the way that feels right to you. If the producer doesn't like it, you can come back with, "I have another way to do it."

It's generally better to actually do the fix and then get feedback, than to ask a producer's opinion. What they think you're going to do and what you're going to do may be different things.

You may also find out as you try option A that it really isn't as good as option B. If you didn't ask your producer's opinion, you can now merrily go to option B without a fuss.

Execs, in particular, don't have time to babysit you.

I ask questions only when there's a marketing or budget issue. "I want to do X, is that doable on the budget you have in mind?" is a legitimate producer question. So is, "I want to make the hero a woman." Anything that changes the marketing profile of what you're working on is a producer or exec question. If it's purely creative -- how do I get the hero out of this corner I've painted him into? -- go with your craft and your gut.

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1 Comments:

For notes in general, I usually address about 75% of them. It's usually things I had a problem with in the script too.

Often fixing other problems will fix the specific problem an exec has in a diff section.

More often than not, execs will forget what their previous notes were. And if they remember -- those are the notes that can be the biggest nuisance.

Also, sometimes they just plain misread a section. It may seem insulting that their note is non-existent, but don't correct them -- because they you'll often get praise for your "fix" in the next draft. The easiest fix ever.

It's also somewhat interesting to try and make their notes work, even if my gut reaction is that they won't work at all. Sometimes I'm surprised.

I saw a recent interview with Frank Darabont, where he said they did something similar with The Walking Dead. They'd address all notes, even the bad ones, so they can say they gave it a fair shot, before doing what they think is best for the story.

Exec notes can be intimidating, but remember, they're just an opinion.

Always make your own mistakes.

I more often than not regret mistakes I made putting in someone else's ideas instead of my own.

By Blogger James, at 4:46 PM  

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