Many years ago, when I was just a budding young screenwriter, my boss came into my office and demanded a total rewrite of a script I had written. It was, in her words “a mess”. I humbly complied, completing the rewrite in five days, and handed it in just before Friday lunch. But it was later that afternoon that I realized I had inadvertently given her the wrong script. She was, in fact, reading my original hopelessly flawed version. I hurried down the hall and poked my head into her office, expecting the worst. Instead, she glanced up at me and smiled, triumphantly waving the script she had just finished re-reading. “MUCH better,”she proclaimed.

Truth be told, the thing I hate second-most about writing is receiving script notes. That’s because the thing I hate most about writing is doing the script rewrite. I think I can speak for most writers when I say that after struggling through a script, there’s nothing more satisfying than giving it that one final read and declaring it “done“. And nothing more disheartening than having to revisit it days later. It’s not that I object to criticism of my work (You have to have a pretty thick skin to survive in this business). It’s just that, after weeks spent tightening each scene and agonizing over every damn word, making alterations, no matter how slight, can be akin to pulling the thread that causes the entire garment to unravel.

Still, good notes will not only make the script better, but they will make you a better writer. Bad notes, on the other hand, only serve to frustrate and occasionally cause you to question the intelligence of the person delivering them. For instance, while I may not agree with all of their notes, I respect the people I work with enough to value their input because, more often than not, they’re right. The same can be said for SciFi’s Nora O’Brien who always bring a sharp perspective to every script. In this respect, I am spoiled.

I wasn’t always so fortunate. I’ve worked with my share of idiots (and, in all fairness, my share of equally bright individuals as well). I remember working on a show where we were constantly receiving the most asinine notes from one of the studio executives, let’s call her Annette, notes that demonstrated an inability to grasp even the most basic of plot points, or offered confoundingly vague assessments like: “No wowee.” and “Funnier?”. Even though the notes would go largely ignored, they were always a welcome, highly entertaining break from the hectic production schedule. They also inadvertently served to undermine Annette’s credibility at the studio, culminating in one truly memorable production meeting that went something like this:
Second A.D.: I think the director wants to use a crane for this shot.
Herb, the Company President: Okay. But maybe we should run this by Annette.
Second A.D.: Herb, does Annette have pictures of you fucking a donkey or what?

Sometimes, if you don’t have any constructive criticism to offer, you’re best off not offering any criticism at all.

16 thoughts on “January 22, 2007

  1. Hi Mr. Mallozzi,

    Can you tell us anything more about Richard Dean Anderson being in the movies? I really hope you guys can get him. SG-1 has missed Jack for the past two seasons.

    On another note, do you think there’s any chance that Scifi will ask for more SG-1, especially if Dresden Files and Galactica continue to perform poorly?

  2. Oh, wow. First comment. (I think. Not quite sure.)

    This is a kinda story-related question for Stargate in general. Have any stories that involved series attempts at suicide for any of the characters ever come up? If so, how quickly were they shot down – or did it cause a great deal of debate and uncertainty? Or was there just never a desire to do a story like that? Are those the kinds of stories that no Stargate writer would touch with a ten foot pole?


  3. When criticism is not constructive, I typically consider the source (and in the world of psychiatry where I function, it usually means the source is someone quite clueless to how things are actually done in psych or is someone who rages against science without actually understanding it.)

    No food today, huh? Just as well here – I have no appetite. Lost one of my dogs today. Very sad here.

  4. lol, that’s seriously mean 😀 … i don’t know how i would survive all that, it’s… scary … and very frustrating… hm, i wanted to ask you something… hm… what… oh yeah, how do you in between all that work you succeed to write blog every day! and have something interesting to write! i come here almost every day, and there’s new post! seriously, i admire you!

  5. Where’s the food reference?

    And do you ever go vegetarian, or is that an insult to your culinary sensibilities?

  6. It is a completely true comment.

    The most constructive of criticisms are the one that (despite all politeness of delivery) sting the most because you know they’re true and speak to your insecurities as a writer. They are, for that matter, the hardest to address than assinine mud-slinging. That is what makes a writer a great writer, when they take this criticism on board and better their talent because of it.

  7. Hi Joe,
    It’s me again. I’m a Torri’s french fan and with others we want to know if Torri will be not in main cast and we want to know too if rumors are true.

  8. I can definitely empathise with your situation Joe being, as i am, in my last year of University. You struggle with your research and drafting of the assignment only to have some professor drunk on his own self importance to rubbish your findings/ideas.

    I anticipate being in your very shoes in about 7-8 weeks when i hand in the first draft of my university dissertation. I hope they’re gentle.

  9. This is to Craig.

    I’m in my dissertation year too but I’m lucky to have a great mentor (but unlucky to have to write/produce/direct a short film to pass). Oddly enough I also have to hand in my first draft in about five weeks time. Being in your shoes I wish you all the luck with your hand-in.

  10. LOL… I wish the meetings with my boss were like that.

    What kind of advice would you give a current ‘student who was interested in pursuing a career in screen writing? Would a degree that focuses on primarily producing scripts for television be better in the long run, or would a degree in English or theater be more valuable?

  11. Joe,

    You mentioned the other day that you have made friends in your days of supporting fandom, what type of friendships have you developed? is this people that you hang out with today? WOW that’s cool, you are a very approachable cool guy.

  12. When I started planning my trip to Vancouver in March, there were many ways I planned on saving money. Now, however, because of your blog – I might be planning to spend more on food than the hotel.

  13. Thanks Anhara, same to you. Sadly i’m not in the same enviable position you are with my mentor but if i can handle a Scottish winter than i can handle this i guess. lol

  14. To Craig,

    Hey, I’m in Scotland too, which University are you studying at? I’m at Paisley.

  15. Second A.D.: I think the director wants to use a crane for this shot.
    Herb, the Company President: Okay. But maybe we should run this by Annette.
    Second A.D.: Herb, does Annette have pictures of you fucking a donkey or what?

    Heh. I’ve been in that very production meeting. You just scratch your head wondering if you’re speaking in tongues or something.

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