Friday, June 1, 2012

The lost Reservoir Dogs coverage and why creative notes are bullshit.


Reservoir Dogs is one of my favorite movies. If I can pin point a moment in time where I decided I wanted to make movies, it was probably around the time when Mr. White said “you shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize.” I didn’t realize that was a line lifted from something Muhammad Ali had said, but it’s still bad ass.

Anyhow, everyone who has ever tried doing anything creative knows it’s quite a ball buster. Sure some people make it look easy, much like Barry Bonds or A-Rod make hitting a baseball look easy but even they’d tell you it’s really fucking hard.

What I think is the hardest part about writing, especially creative writing is that there is no true answer.

In computer programming, if I write j = x + 1 and x = 5, then j = 6. Always. There is no different way of coming at it. If in code I wrote j = !!i, then = j = i. Or in English J = not not i thus equaling i. Okay I’ve probably lost you at this point.

So when it comes to screenwriting, there are several avenues to take when trying to get feedback on what you’ve done. Trigger Street lets you upload your material and have others review it. This is a good way to get free feedback. Done Deal Pro has a section which lets you upload script pages for others to comment on. They even have a section where professional writers can critique your opening three pages which is pretty cool.

One problem with this approach is that if you get ten people to comment, you’ll get about ten different notes. Obviously if you receive ten people who said “the beginning sucks” than most likely your beginning sucks. The problem really comes in when you have two people telling you how awful the ending is, three people talking about how amazing the ending is, and one person who says do not change a thing it’s perfect.

Well who the hell do you listen to?

Well if it’s someone offering you money to change it, list
en to them. Agree with them or not, if they are paying you – that’s kind of the point of all this.
If it’s some random person on the internet, should you just ignore them? They are part of your potential audience, so if they dislike it, maybe many others will too?

What about the guy who found it perfect? As a writer you never think it’s perfect, so do you trust him?

This got me thinking about, what if Quentin Tarantino had uploaded Reservoir Dogs to Trigger Street, or Done Deal Pro. What sort of response would his screenplay have gotten? I’ll take a shot in the dark to show you the dangers of “creative notes”:

First of all congratulations on completing a screenplay and I appreciate what you were going for. Your dialogue is quite entertaining at points and there are some memorable moments. Having said all that, you can’t make a heist movie and not show the heist. If you read any book on screenwriting you’ll know that you need to SHOW it and not TELL it. You spend the whole movie telling us what happened – WE NEED TO SEE IT. The audience needs to see it.
There’s also way too many characters to open the film with. Everyone’s name begins with Mr. so it’s next to impossible to follow who is who. Mr. Pink, Orange etc.. While interesting, seems pretty lame. Also while the talk about “Like a Virgin” is good, it has nothing to do with the movie, so why should we care? 

You also jump around a lot in the story as we start off before the heist, then after the heist, and then go slightly right after the heist, then way before the heist – it just gets confusing and since everyone’s name is so similar it gets really hard to follow.
Also, Mr. Orange, the reveal that he’s the undercover cop worked, but why did he decide to work undercover?  I want to know more about him and why he decided to do this which leads me to the overall biggest problem in this story.

There’s no main character.

We spend the most time with Mr. Pink, Mr. White and Mr. Orange. But who am I supposed to identify with? Mr. Orange is passed out half the movie. Mr. White is the most sympathetic, and Mr. Pink seems the most rational. But who do I identify with? Whose “journey” is this?

This is just me making fun of the creative notes process. The whole point of what I showed was in the wrong hands, someone could’ve changed everything that was good and cool about Reservoir Dogs. Now, am I Quentin Tarantino? Hardly. Are you? Hardly. Is anyone but him? Hardly. But he wasn’t Quentin Tarantino either when this script ended up in Harvey Keitel’s hands. He was going to shoot this movie for the $30,000 he got from selling True Romance. Imagine how much different that film would’ve been with bad acting and an amateur crew and without the soundtrack!

That movie turned out so well because while I’m sure some of the above notes may have made their way to him either after showing people the script or while he was writing it, he ignored them and made the movie he wanted to make. This isn’t to say that everyone who does this makes a good movie. The majority don’t. But it’s better to fail with your story, your idea, and your execution, than implement advice you don’t agree with or don’t think is valid.