I was very flattered to read that I’m both ace and adept at taking notes. I blushed a bit and felt the warm fuzzies of a job well done.
The giving and receiving of notes is the process by which a script grows into a film. I’ve enjoyed that experience with a fair few folk now and it’s completely different every time.
I don’t think there’s necessarily a right way to do it. With my friends I’ve know for over a decade, I know I can be brutally honest. And they have the same freedom with me. With a director I’m working with for the first time, we have to learn how to talk with each other – particularly when a lot of our correspondence is by e-mail.
However, I think there are some general “good practice” rules:
1) Thank the note giver before you read the notes. Your thanks should be genuine.
2) Read the notes through once and allow yourself to react. Be angry that they hated your favourite character. Grin at the fact they loved your best scene. Get your emotional, gut reactions out of the way.
3) Set the notes aside. Take a breath. Then go through them again coolly and logically.
4) Always consider the note in context. There is always a reason the note-giver is giving the note. It may be a naff reason from your perspective – e.g. “this character should be a man because girls can’t shoot” – but they believe in what they’re telling you.
5) You must address every note, even if your response is “I acknowledge this but I’m not changing anything”.
6) Sometimes, the perceived problem with your script is not where the note-giver thinks it is. This was the case as described by Phill in his post about our notes exchange. Phill thought the characters were absent from the plot. I had failed to make it obvious what they were up to. So, instead of taking Phill’s suggestion of what they could be doing, I made what I thought was happening more explicit.
Tony Jordan says the difference between a good writer and a great writer is how to take notes (so says Rob Thorogood). How do you handle your notes? What’s the method in the madness?