[2/21/08 Note: In the weeks since I wrote this post, I submitted Supervillain and have seen only professionalism from these guys. As your personal guinea pig who came out alive, I recommend that writers submit their stuff and learn from the coverage.]
It has been about a week now since I received three sets of Aftershocks coverage from Abbot Management, and I’m still trying to figure out what to think about them. I am reminded of an earlier post which covered some of the same territory when I got coverage from BlueCat. But this coverage from Abbot was exponentially more… complicated.
The first reader loved the script – loved it. I wish I could just copy/paste his entire coverage here and walk away, but that would be less than classy. Let’s put it this way: on Abbot’s 5-point grading scale, I received perfect scores (5 out of 5) in Dialog, Character, and Pacing, with 4 out of 5 scores in Premise, Conflict, Originality, and Structure. Not only did this reader “get” the twist ending and grasp the solution to the puzzle perfectly, he found it profound and powerful. My favorite reader ever. My lowest score was 3 out of 5, and I only received that in one category: Clarity, which is understandable because Aftershocks is a time-jumping puzzle movie which is pretty demanding. Clarity has always been a concern of mine, because some people “get” the twist/puzzle and others don’t. His overall rating for the script was 4 out of 5 with a “Recommend,” or a recommendation that his company represent the script. Victory.
The second reader wasn’t quite as ecstatic (all 4s and 3s, no perfect 5s), but still gave it a 4 out of 5 overall, with his bottom line another “Recommend.” Hey, I can’t argue with that. At this point I got an appreciated email from the development manager notifying me that the script had made its way to his desk. He also noted that the two readers who had recommended my script were two of the more critical readers on his staff. Nice.
And then the love-fest fell apart. The third reader’s coverage (was this from the development manager himself? I inferred so but this was never made explicit) was professional and well-written, but it was breathtakingly different from the others – I received the lowest possible score (1 out of 5) in Pacing. Yes, Pacing, a category in which I received the highest possible score from the first reader. Other 1s out of 5 in Conflict, Originality, and Structure – the first reader gave me a 4 out of 5 in each of these. Heartbreakingly, it appears that the third reader didn’t “get” the twist/puzzle – he said the twist was completely unoriginal and was exactly like another movie, which he mentioned by name. But the thing is, it is not the same twist. This is not splitting hairs – it is a different twist – but a misunderstanding that some other readers have made as well. Bottom line: if people don’t “get” the twist, it is the writer’s fault. I received a “thanks but we’ll have to pass” email from the development manager, with some constructive and helpful notes, and it was over.
But… was this really constructive and helpful? Abbot’s individual coverages were each professional and constructive, don’t get me wrong, but when trying to learn from all 3, I am at a loss. Scratching my head. One guy loved it, one guy dug it, and another guy said it just flat didn’t work. One understood the twist/puzzle, another one didn’t. You are supposed to believe all your readers, but with highest scores here, lowest scores there… who am I supposed to listen to?
I am reminded of something a classmate told me years ago over pitchers of Shiner Bock in our weekly after-class pool-hall grad-school ritual, 8 or 10 of us sitting outside in the Austin nighttime heat, talking about our scripts and instructors and movies, movies, movies. He said, “Pick your favorite movie from last year. Best movie of the year. I guarantee you there will be somebody in this group who hated it. Guarantee you.” He was right – readers have different tastes… but you still have to please them all, don’t you?
So I found this whole round of feedback pretty frustrating. So frustrating I went ahead and uploaded Supervillain to Abbot also. So I still have that agony to look forward to.