Posted by: steveonfilm | November 4, 2009

Good Feedback

I sent out my first draft of “Served Cold” to a few friends of mine, who also write, to get some feedback. This can take some time, because asking someone to read a screenplay and then give you some feedback is basically asking for about three to four hours of their time. This is not a small deal. So it’s understandable that it can take a while for someone to get back to you, if at all.

I got some feedback from my friend “Dusty” yesterday. Dusty has read some of my stuff in the past, so he can provide me feedback not only on my story but on me as a writer, which is a HUGE benefit. He always gives great feedback, going above and beyond what I’m usually looking for, shooting me an e-mail with notes as well as marking up my screenplay with additional notes.

What I wanted to do with this post was share what Dusty wrote. Dusty is honest without being mean. If he doesn’t like something he says so, but he explains why. He gives the type of constructive criticism that is important for an aspiring writer to come across. While he enjoyed “Served Cold”, it was by no means a home run, and there are a lot of things that I’ll need to address, but that’s what a first draft is for.

If you’re ever asked to read a screenplay and provide feedback, but aren’t sure how, Dusty’s comments are a great example of how to do it the right way. The point isn’t to be mean, or vicious, the point is to help the screenplay become better, and the only way to do that is with constructive criticism… but don’t be afraid to call a spade a spade. Writing feedback is hard, especially if you’re not confident with your own writing, but as with writing your own screenplay sometimes you just need to dive in and let is all come out.

Without further adieu, here is Dusty’s feedback:

So I have attached Served Cold pdf with my notes, they’re just logistics overall, now for the real thoughts:

– There were a lot of twists and turns, a lot of interesting plot points. Double crossing, back stabbing, and even big reveals (Cipriani is Adele’s dad!) So overall, it was good in that sense.

– You developed tension in a lot of ways. Even though I felt the cards stack up against Fisher, I felt he was capable of getting himself out of the trouble he was up against – this is good

– The Biggs double crossing Fisher’s team was good, but the convo they have seemed a bit forced. What prevents Biggs from shooting Fisher and just getting it over with? I kept saying the whole time I was reading it…”just shoot Fisher, the fucking loud mouthed mofo, goddammit!”

– I did not like Shawn dying, and Manny? Come on, give the guy a break! Let the goons kill Manny, let them kill Cindy, but let the poor kid live. You’re gonna lose your audience if Shawn is killed, because that is the fiber of Fisher’s being…you can’t destroy that. I would even say you could go as far as Vasser kidnapping Shawn, but you don’t want it turning into Man On Fire, either…so something in between. But for godssake don’t kill the boy

– I liked the scene of Fisher at the lake then cutting to the charred van being pulled out of the water…good attention getter and really makes your audience wonder what just happened. Good lead into the next scenes and the unraveling of the whole situation

– With Koteric, not sure why there is a restraining order on Fisher and his mom’s house? Explain.

– Don’t understand why Koteric comes up to Fisher near the end and wants to arrest him. A reversal would be even better. Maybe Koteric gives Fisher his blessing because Koteric has been trying to legally put an end to the Detroit Partnership for years and has come up short. Maybe Koteric gives Fisher his blessing because they have Shawn, or because he was friends with Manny…but you get the idea

– Some of your plot points worked, some didn’t. I noted them in the script. But for example, I thought the whole Lim working from the inside was a bit overdone. No one has to know it was Lim, hell, all they know is its a setup without explaining it…was a bit too much, and really abrupt, and really unexpected and unnecessary. I marked some others both that I thought were good, and were a bit far-fetched.

– Its a bit long. You can shave some of this down and turn it into about 90-100 pages. Most revenge movies are short and sweet. Take Die Hard with a Vengeance, good movie, but the plot points were so crazy at the end, they could have cut out about half of them and still had a great movie.

– I’m not sure if Manny is a necessary character. He’s the only one that I really didn’t feel anything for, nor cared for him.

– Also on characters, I’m not sure the difference between Vasser and Garnier…they seemed the same person to me. This might help shave off some time too, figuring out how to combine them. If you keep them, definitely figure out a way to explain each of their differences and importance in the script.

Overall, solid writing. Much better than the last script of yours I read. Your writing is maturing, that is for certain. I enjoyed the read. It didn’t get bogged down or overbearing, and for a revenge movie, I liked the action. It fit well within its genre.

Clean it up a bit, but overall, very solid and promising writing.

Hope this helps.

Until next time, keep writing!


  1. Steve,

    Today I’m doing my first free-writing treatment of what will hopefully be my first screenplay. I check your blog often for inspiration. Sometimes it helps just knowing that I’m not the only guy out there who is writing. We only hear the stories of the guys who have already made it, its refreshing to follow someone who is still learning and perfecting his craft. Keep it up!

    Peace, Kevin.

    • I forgot to ask, any ideas on what you want to write about?

      • I’ve got a few. For my first screenplay I’m going to try a political crime drama from a reporter’s POV. Still working on characters and plot.

        I do have a question for you, maybe you could even do a post on it. What do you do when you watch movies? I’m still trying to get my head around structure and character development, and I was wondering if you had some kind of method for analyzing what worked and what didn’t in a movie you’ve seen in order to help you with your writing. Because I watch movies all the time, but I feel like I need to become better at critiquing them to become a better writer. Thanks again for your blog!

        • You know, that’s not a bad idea for a post. I think I’ll write something about that later this week.

          The political thriller sounds like fun. I’ve written one but it’s still rough around the edges. It’s called Marianas. There’s some old posts on the blog about it if you’re interested.

          As for watching movies… quick version….

          I pause it a lot to see at what time certain events occur. That goes a long way to help me with timing and pacing.

          I rarely take notes.

          I pay close attention to try and figure out when various acts start and end, again paying attention to when those occur.

          • Thanks Steve, keep writing! (both your blog and your screenplays…)

            • Will do. BTW, and I can’t stress this enough, the more time you spend planning your screenplay, the easier it will be to write. Don’t half-ass on the outlining, or note cards, or whatever method you choose. Put in the time up front, and the writing is all that much easier.

  2. That’s awesome Kevin! You know, that’s the whole reason I write on here. It’s to let other aspiring writers know that they’re not the only ones trying this out. And with enough work and determination, anyone can write a screenplay.

  3. Hey, thanks for the props. I appreciate it. I can’t reiterate how important it is to give constructive criticism. Let’s face it, its a hard enough industry for us to break into, so why not help out the next guy. Its only going to make us better writers in the long run. You never know, it could be YOU helping ME get a writing gig someday. But I digress. Notes are incredibly important, and you said it: a first draft is all about criticism. Because if we don’t get the crap ideas out of the way, well, then we will give birth to…a pile of crap.

    It looks like your blog has been inspirational, that is fantastic. Keep up the good work.

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