1Well, look who it is!  It’s my good buddy and former co-worker: uber-talented/super-successful actress Jennifer Finnigan.  She’s in town shooting a movie (with my other pal, Cas) and dropped by the other night to say hi, eat some rotisserie chicken and, of course, check out the Dark Matter comic book (soon to be television?) series.  Turns out she’s looking for an SF project and this could be the one!


I worked with Jen way back when we were both first getting started, on a teen sitcom called Student Bodies (Student Bodies (TV series) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).  Once the show ended, she moved to Hollywood where she landed the part of Bridget Forrester on The Bold and the Beautiful, playing the role for 3+ years and winning three consecutive Daytime Emmy Awards along the way.  From there, it was on to Crossing Jordan were she recurred as pathologist Dr. Devan Maguire, then to her own series, Committed, and, eventually, on to CBS’s Close To Home where she headlined as deputy DA Annabeth Chase.  She recently wrapped production on David E. Kelley’s Monday Mornings and, after finishing up this latest Lifetime movie (which will take her to Brazil and India), she’ll be producing her first feature alongside hubby, Jonathan Silverman – provided she finds the time between work, travel, and games night at her pal Nathan Fillion’s place.

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Anyway, it was great catching up with her these last couple of days and here’s hoping we do get the opportunity to work together again sooner than later.

Meanwhile, Jen’s castmate on the Lifetime movie (and my house guest) Cas left today for a con appearance in Detroit.  Detroit!  Yeesh.  You’d think he could come up with a better cover story than that.  He’ll be gone until Monday and, in that time, he has asked me to read a pitch document and the first ten pages of a script he wrote for a personal project.  Over lunch today, I made it clear to him that if he really wanted me to read his stuff – REALLY wanted me to read it – then, I certainly would…with the understanding that I would NOT be critiquing it as his good buddy Joe but as former Executive Producer/professional writer Joseph Mallozzi.  It’s the same fair warning I give everyone who asks me to read something they’ve written.  I don’t want to waste their time and, more importantly, MY time reading something simply for form’s sake.  If you really want my opinion, I’ll give it to you – but be prepared for the worst.  I would consider it disrespectful of me to pull my punches.  The whole point of the exercise is to identify the flaws and weaknesses of a concept or script and maybe offer suggestions as to how they can be addressed.  It is certainly NOT to offer blanket congratulations on a job well done.

Cas apparently understands this and has given me the go ahead.  So I’ll start reading it tomorrow – AFTER I finally sit down to read my friend Trevor’s outline which has been sitting in my inbox far too long.

Again, I assume this sort of thing isn’t limited to show business.  I’m certain you’ve all found yourself in situations where friends or family members have requested honest input on some thing or other.  So how did you respond in situations where, quite clearly, tough love was required?  Were you painfully honest or was discretion the better part of valor?  Do tell.

25 thoughts on “May 16, 2013: Jennifer Finnigan drops by! You sure you want me to read that?

  1. Well, I had a situation where honest input wasn’t necessarily requested, but was *required* (in my opinion). It certainly wasn’t welcome. It involved family, which always seems to be more complicated than with friends.

    Anyway, I generally find that it’s a pretty special person that actually WANTS honest feedback, even if they’re requesting it. It is pretty hard to have something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into (or in the case of most superhero movies, at least a few minutes) heavily critiqued. However, it’s that exact process that yields the better wrought story. It’s clear that way too many scripts get to the production stage that never should have.

    Off to NH this weekend for some volunteer training, but I’ll do my best to keep up with the blog!

  2. I will be critical of…saaaaay…how the writers of a tv series handle a certain alien species 😉 , but I find it VERY hard to be critical on a more personal level. For instance, if someone asks me how something looks (art, a new pair of jeans, a new haircut, etc) I find it very hard to anything but nice, even if it’s not my cuppa. Why? Because everyone’s different, and what I like shouldn’t be the end of to be all of a matter. If I hate your new haircut that doesn’t mean other people won’t love it, and so on and so forth.

    I’m a bit more willing to give my opinion on other matters…like ethical and moral decisions, especially if someone’s being a dumbass. For instance, I have this friend (well, more like acquaintance) who’s about 56 years old, with a grown son and grandkids, and she let this guy move in who doesn’t do anything but sit around the house all day smoking and watching tv (and even after he did get a job he still did nothing to help her with the house). He’s found a comfy situation and she’s a damn fool. And I can say that because every time I see her the first thing she does is starts complaining about how he doesn’t help with anything, how he’s a freeloader, yadda, yadda, yadda, and after all her lamenting and such she still lets him live there. And I know why she’s putting up with him – for the sex. She’s told me that…and I told her she’s an idiot.

    Sometimes tact just doesn’t cut it.


  3. Ohhhh quite some time ago I had gone to a business writing class that my company offers, b/c I’m very self conscious of my writing and all of its shortcomings. So even though we work for the same company I didn’t know anyone in the class and for this one exercise we were to go from person to person and read/critique each other’s assignment. As we revolved around the room, I came to this guy and we exchanged papers. Now you have to understand I was the third or fourth person to read his work, and everyone else had told him how wonderful it was.

    It wasn’t.

    It was so full of errors and the flow was bad, there was just so much wrong with it, you didn’t even know where to start, plus the exercise was wrapping up. So I’m looking at him (deer in headlights) and he’s looking at me with this hopeful vulnerable puppy dog look on his face…

    …but like I said before I’m not that confident in my own writing (which is why I was in the damn class to begin with, not crush someone else’s dream). So I tried to give him some tips but I totally wussed out because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. *hangs head*

    I’ve seen Jennifer in lots of stuff I really like her work!!


  4. Depending on the situation, I think the best thing you can do, is just be brutally honest with him. Tell it to him straight, offer some suggestions even if need be. If it ultimately sucks, then perhaps your help will lead him down the right path.

    It’d be better him hearing it from you, someone he does know, as compared to a complete stranger judging his work.

    Sometimes you need to be cruel to be nice.

  5. I’ve done a lot of critiquing of friends poetry. As long as it’s not some common rhyme, I usually preface an analyses with “Well, if I was writing this, I would do such and so…” It makes the critique impersonal, which helps a lot with ego problems.

  6. “… I would NOT be critiquing it as his good buddy Joe but as former Executive Producer/professional writer Joseph Mallozzi.”

    Don’t you mean his good buddy Jey?

    If I ask you to “tell me the truth”, I would expect an honest answer to my question, not a glossy version designed to keep my friendship intact and make me feel better. I want the truth. That is why I am asking YOU. I value YOUR opinion. Just anybody’s won’t do. I need YOURS. But if it’s crap, don’t just write “F” on the paper and hand it back to him. Give them some good feedback on what is wrong and how it can be improved. Like your buddy Robert C. Cooper. He wouldn’t say, “Joe it sucks.” He’d say it ain’t gonna work because…. That’s what friends are for. I’d want the truth. And I would be very disappointed if you wouldn’t give it to me.

  7. Any time I’ve tried playing the gentle card with my critiques of any of my close friends’ works, be it writing or editing a short video, they always give me hell for it and tell me to not baby them, so I’ll generally give it to them from the shoulder. Unless, of course, it’s someone who I know thinks they already know everything (which they don’t, lol) in which case I simply don’t give an opinion. I’m thinking of a galpal of mine who loves making hockey music videos, and she tinted the whole thing GREEN, and the audio edits were horrid. She asked me for my honest opinion, and so I told her making her favorite hockey player look like a malnourished version of the Hulk amid staticky music wasn’t her best work, and that it did need improvement. At this point, she informed me “I AM THE MASTER!” (she really isn’t as she’s never taken formal training while I am a filmmaker and have been doing it for years), and she wouldn’t speak to me for a week. Which I didn’t mind because it meant I could get some real research work done for my next project, lol….

    Hope that helps!!!

  8. Just found out that Warehouse 13 will be coming back for a 5th and final season…but only for 6 episodes. And SciFi kills yet another great show.

  9. To be honest, I am probably more likely to offer advice – positive – than I am asked for it, but I am the one friend that a lot of my non-married friends will come to give advice or opinions on relationships. I’m pretty blunt because I am very ~rational about it, but I think that’s why they come to me. As for my family, no one asks and I don’t tell. I just ignore that whole thing.

  10. I’ve been lucky in that the things that I’ve written seriously have been received well by people-friends/acquaintances I’ve asked to read.

    And then I was a member of TriggerStreet.com for a long time, and had some incredible, and overall positive, feedback on three screenplays I put on there – one screenplay which was very polarizing in how people felt about it.

    The only time I’ve ever gotten totally trashed on a screenplay was for a screenplay that was basically meant to get trashed. It was written as a dare between me and a fellow Triggerstreeter on who could write a script the fastest. I based mine on an old radio show I had written, and it was called “The Happening Adventures of the Cosmic Cruiser!!!” You can totally tell it wasn’t meant to be anything serious.

    Funny thing happened after that. The person I had done this dare with got me in touch with a producer looking to shoot something cheap for a student project that someone else was funding. So I did two more drafts, which the producer finally liked. Then the financier bailed (as did the directing student, since it was his dad), and the producer decided he wanted to do the project himself. We spent a couple of more months honing my story, the humor, etc., and it grew into a full on sci-fi with comedy. I got paid for this, which was… well… awesome. Then with a week left before the deadline for the shooting script, he decided that he wanted to tell a different story with these characters. So in the space of a week, we scrapped the story, came up with a second one, then I wrote a 98 page first draft in 16 hours. (Which I would never, ever, ever recommend doing). Draft turned out great, and everyone was happy until another draft had to be done because 98 pages was too long for a 90 minute film…

    So it’s amazing what someone’s critical or off-the-wall comments can do. 🙂

    As for giving critical comments, hopefully I’ve given the feedback in a way that helps it grow.

  11. Critique is different from criticism. I critique a lot of artwork. I don’t pull any punches, but at the same time, I make certain to mention what was done *well*. Critique also implies offering suggestions for improvements.

  12. I do beta work for a couple of writers, and for me constructive criticism is the way to go. It’s important to tell someone what they’re doing wrong, or if the story just doesn’t work – that’s what I expect from my own beta. I also give suggestions on how to improve the flow, however I like to think I do it in a way that encourages, not de-motivates.

    In your circumstances, and given the reason for the request I think it’s only right to tell the author the stark truth. You more than anyone know how hard it is to succeed and to hold back the punches would be doing your friend a disservice. If it’s bad news its better coming from you than suffering the humiliation of presenting a much loved project to someone who doesn’t care about hurting their feelings. Your friend is very lucky. I would be honoured for someone with your talent to view my work.

    BTW, I just love Nathan Fillion! He is wonderful on Castle and seems to be a genuinely nice and funny guy in real life. You have a nice group of friends Joe.

  13. I think writing ends up in a special category of confusion over how to get honest criticism because it so often gets put unbidden in front of the eyes of people who don’t have a stake in it, with widely varying levels of expertise and varying stakes in other parts of the relationship. Other kinds of work and writing among colleagues have more in common since the reviewer has a stake in making the work use-able.

  14. Oh I recognize Jennifer Finnigan. There is something special about her. I can’t put my finger on it but she’s watchable. I look forward to any new project she is in.

    Were you painfully honest or was discretion the better part of valor? There are ways of saying things that build people up instead of tearing them down. It’s a fine line. I’m sure whatever flaws you find in Cas’s work, you will find a way to be constructive. You are not Simon Cowell.

    I don’t pull punches when it comes to my “correcting” my brothers but it mostly rolls off their backs anyway. My dad always said they have hard heads but I prefer to think of them as a bunch of idiots. I try to sugar coat the truth when it comes to friends. Although, I did lose it once with one of my friend’s (my hubby calls her “Crazy Deb”). Deb and her ex-boyfriend share a son. She would call her ex and get extremely nasty. It’s really sad to see parents talk to each other that way. I know there are hard feelings but the kids hear this stuff going on. Plus, some parents take it out on their kids. “You do realize that you send your son over to your ex’s house for visitation. Do you want your attitude to affect how he treats your son?” I realize it’s his son too but there are some crazy parents out there. She didn’t talk to me for a year. It was a restful year 😉 .

    I can relate to Das’s story. Watching other people with their relationships…sometimes it’s like watching a train collide with a car.

  15. I always tell everyone, “Never ask me a question if you aren’t prepared to get a answer you potentially wont like.”

  16. People just don’t tag anything they say to me with “and be brutally honest”. Go figure.

    I was perusing the interwebs today and I realized that everyone makes popcorn wrong but me. I think we need to get why I’m right sorted out.

  17. Remember use the exec. debrief standar procedure this imply the use of your Goa’uld Pain Stick with Cas. This will hurt me more than you, etc… you know. 😆

  18. I love Jennifer Finnigan. She comes by her talent honestly. I remember her late father Jack Finnigan on Montreal radio, CJAD, commenting on what a little showboat his daughter Jennifer was. She took any chance available to perform for the family. So pleased to see where Jennifer is now and the journey she has taken since her father first spoke about her. Her father was a talented communicator and I miss him too. Best of luck to Jennifer – I too, watch anything that Jennifer is in…. and yes, I first saw that there was something special about her when I saw her as Bridget Forrester. Can’t wait to see her on SciFi…. perhaps another Samantha Carter? – She would totally nail it!

  19. @ Tam D – – Yup, saw it! It’s been all over the news because it’s relatively local. It doesn’t surprise me – the guy is adorable, but pretty sure he’s crazy, too. (Why doesn’t hot & crazy work as well when it’s a guy as it does when it’s a girl?)


  20. I more often stick my nose in where and when it’s not wanted. 🙁

    Making an effort these days to listen more than advise.

  21. I was incredibly disappointed that TNT chose not to renew Monday Mornings. It was a GREAT show.

    As far as honesty, for the most part I will give it to you. How it is delivered depends on the situation. I expect honesty (with accompanying documentation of my misdeeds, etc.) from others. After Jeff and I were in counseling, she told us radical honesty was the only way to go if we wanted to save this marriage.

    1. Case: “Do I look fat in these?”. If I do, I expect an honest answer from anyone. If I try on two things and ask which looks better, and you don’t like either, then tell me neither flatters me and try on some more things.

    2. Honesty with myself. After cooking a meal for our book club rotation at my house, I tasted my main course and exclaimed, “This sucks.”. And then trying to figure out what ingredient I forgot, like garlic.

    3. Honesty with family. My sister–“am I a good mother? Me: No you are failing at that at the moment and you need some outside counseling to help you guys. Honesty with a solution. She has. It talked to me in two months now, but it takes her time to digest my dose of reality. I will give her space.

    4. A friend whose boyfriend was treating her like crap, definitely at the point of emotional abuse and I suspected more. One day after telling her more than 2 dozen times she needs to leave him and she was welcome to stay with me until she got it all sorted out, I said,”I can’t have these conversations any more. I know it’s hard but you are only person who can make this change because they are not. If she chose that route, I would be 100% behind her, but if not, I could no longer speak of this individual in our conversations. Putting up boundaries is a good thing.

    5. If I am with anybody that is influential in my husband’s career, and they ask me direct questions, I will tell the truth in a nice way. If they are speaking politics and their opinion varies from mine, I will tell them I don’t have all the information I need yet to form a decision on the matter and I will ask them thoughtful questions to allowing them to share their POV without threat from my thoughts.

    6. Just a few weeks ago, Patrick’s school informed me that for his annual meeting, Allison would be on the phone while I was at the public school physically. I have no idea if Allison has the qualifications I need in order to effectively advocate for him. I know the director does. I said, “I do not feel comfortable about this at all and all my reasons. Going back in the next week was not uncomfortable at all. She’s a great teacher, but I needed the director to physically be there. My alternative was to hire an advocate, which may wind up not beng a good thing because he will want to do some posturing and will cause everyone to be on edge. One thing for sure was I was not walking into that meeting alone. They needed to let me know if Jennifer could or could not be there. They conceded to my wishes.

    7. Sometimes ranting off like a crazy person has a place as well if the result is getting you what you need–a truth revealed, a harassment to stop, my end-game (like for Patrick) to happen if being honest and calm got me nowhere.

    Lots of more examples. Honesty really is the best policy. I can take a criticism if it comes with tips on how to make it better, or what it is the person was expecting that did not meet expectation so maybe we can find a middle ground.

    People who engage in lies are always caught. People who are frauds are always revealed for what they are. And the written or spoken word will always bite you in the ass because there is a paper trail (thinking again to my run-ins with Patrick’s old school.

    So ask me what you want and I will answer truthfully.

  22. I try to deliver critiques with as much diplomacy as possible to people I don’t know well and when I do so, I focus on the positive stuff first then throw in what was wrong and then finish up with a positive ending. Now as for people I know well, they know I can be brutally honest when they ask me to be. I am probably harder on their work than I am on those I don’t know because I know them better, I know what they are intending, I know how they do things and how they could do them better. I also know they won’t be devastated by anything I say and they know I’m not just being mean. I would consider myself a bad friend if one of my friends asked me to review and critique something and I didn’t offer helpful insights, corrections, or point out flaws and then they showed it to someone else and were ridiculed for their work.

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