How to make the best of the feedback you receive

hands highlighting pages of writing post its

By Laurent Auclair

Getting feedback is something we all need on our work, because a/ we know there is little chance that any producer will put a first draft directly on screen and b/at first draft, or second or even third, deep down we know there is always room for improvement. But getting feedback is never easy to deal with because our projects are close to our souls and hearts. Is there a way out of this conundrum? I believe there is, and here are a few tips to help you make the most of the feedback you receive:

Choose your time to receive feedback
Whether you receive feedback on your project verbally or in writing, there is a time of day where getting the feedback is actually easier.  Researchers from the University of Toronto have shown that it is best to receive feedback in the morning, and that our ability to take on feedback decreases throughout the day. So when you book a feedback session with a script editor, or when you decide to read the coverage you’ve been waiting for, do it in the morning so your mind will be at its best to process it all.

Take the time to digest feedback
The worst thing you can do to your project when you receive or read feedback is to immediately act on it. It can do more damage to your project than you think. Whatever you do when you’re getting feedback, remember that you are on the defensive; you’re a parent protecting their baby from clear and present danger. You simply cannot be rational about it in this instant.

Just as you digest food and absorb from it all the nutrients, vitamins and strength while leaving out the crap, literally, you should do the same with feedback. So let your brain digest all the information and do its job highlighting the issues expressed in the feedback. Let it settle. Let yourself be detached from it, dispassionate about it. Only once this has been done can you think clearly about solutions, whether those are offered through the feedback or not.

Give feedback to help you receive it
As we all know, the wording of the feedback is very important in the way it is received. We all want tact and kindness when getting feedback. But spare a thought for the one doing the critiquing. Sometimes it can be hard, yet necessary, to call a spade a spade. And this can be as tough for the person who delivers the news as it is for the writer who receives it. But this is something you can clearly understand only if you have been on both ends of the stick. Which makes it very interesting to give feedback to others when you need to receive some yourself. By forcing yourself to put your point across in the clearest, sharpest way about someone else’s work without hurting or offending them, you start to speak the same language as the person who gives you feedback. And you’ll be more apt to make the most of the feedback given to you without taking it personally.

Embrace the rewrite

Screenwriting is rewriting. And every piece of feedback helps you improve your next draft, changes your perspective on one or two elements, opens new qualities to your characters, refines the choreography of some of your action. But you don’t have to change everything after you receive feedback. As we all know, It’s different when you’re working as a writer for hire on a show, and you have no option but to take the showrunner’s feedback, however when it is about your own personal project, never forget that whoever has given you feedback is an outsider. An outsider who is trying to help you improve your work and make it appealing to a wider audience, but still an outsider. You can’t ignore the questions they’ve raised –you needed feedback in the first place to raise those questions, but you know better than anyone what is at the heart of your project, what its main theme is, who your lead character is. Only this strong knowledge of the world you’ve developed can tell you how to interpret the issues raised and how to solve them.  Yet… a little humility never hurts. If it rankles, sleep on it. In a day or two it just might make more sense. Try taking it on board to embrace your rewrite. After all, it’s like a second (or third, or fifteenth) date with a loved one.