Being a script editor is a huge privilege – you get to help a writer make their work as good as possible and this isn’t something to take lightly. Most writers write from the heart and as a result put a lot of themselves onto the page and understandably hearing criticism can’t be easy.

What follows are a number of clichés that most script editors will be guilty of using at some point when giving notes to a writer. Sometimes they can help you out of an awkward moment by allowing you to say something vaguely constructive rather than just telling them that their script needs a lot of work. More often than not though, it’s better to try and avoid them and be as clear as possibly. Script editing is a hugely collaborative process and it always works best when the writer and the editor completely understand what the other one is saying/meaning.

Here’s a humorous look at what can get lost in translation:

 

1 – Script Editor says: “You’ve given us a lot to work with.”

Script Editor means: “It’s an unholy mess, but there’s some semblance of a story.”

Writer hears: “Tear it up and start again.”

 

2 – Script Editor says: “We think it needs one last big push.”

Script Editor means: “I’ve got nothing left to give. Please, God, do your job.”

Writer hears: “Nail it in this draft or we’ll get you rewritten.”

 

3 – Script Editor says: “I especially loved the bit with the dog in scene 21.”

Script Editor means: “I especially loved the bit with the dog in scene 21.”

Writer hears: “This was literally the only thing I liked in your script.

 

4 – Script Editor says: “Could we dig a little deeper in the next draft?”

Script Editor means: “Could you write a little better in the next draft?”

Writer hears: “Make an effort, you lazy bastard.”

 

5 – Script Editor says: “This is just a suggestion. I’m sure you’ll think of something better.”

Script Editor means: “You’re being paid so much more than I am. I’m not doing your job for you.”

Writer hears: “I think you should write it exactly like this.”

 

6 – Script Editor says: “I wonder if this will read to an audience?”

Script Editor says: “I have no idea what you’re trying to do here.”

Writer hears: “Time to dumb down your intellectual vision for the lowest common denominator.”

 

7 – Script Editor says: “Feel free to ignore if you disagree.”

Script Editor means: “Take this note unless you want your script to suck.”

Writer hears: “Feel free to ignore if you disagree.”

 

8 – Script Editor says: “Some of the character voices are a bit off.”

Script Editor means: “Have you watched this show?”

Writer hears: “Time to bland out your dialogue.”

 

9 – Script Editor says: “We’re so nearly there now…”

Script Editor means: “Two more drafts should do it.”

Writer hears: “A couple of line tweaks should do it.”

 

10 – Script Editor says: “I’ve got a few scheduling notes. Nothing too bad.”

Script Editor means: “Please God, don’t throw your toys out of the pram at this stage.”

Writer hears: “Cancel your weekend plans. Time for a rewrite.”

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Caroline Young is a freelance script editor. She started her career working in development for BBC Drama Series, which included helping John Yorke set up the first BBC Writers Academy. Caroline then worked on EastEnders for five years before leaving the BBC for the world of freelancery. During that time she has developed new projects with individual writers including Matt Charman and script edited multiple projects including Eternal Law (Kudos for ITV), Fortitude (Fifty Fathoms for Sky Atlantic) and Hooten & The Lady (Red Planet for Sky 1). She tutors the Story for Script Development course alongside John Yorke.

Join Caroline and John on the next Story for Script Development course – few places still available.

Other courses here.

 

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