As a screenwriter, it can be difficult to know when it’s time to seek feedback on your script. You’ve toiled over it for a long time, presumably, and sometimes feedback can send you right back to the drawing board. So, is it better to show your rough draft to someone early to catch problems before you spend more time writing, or wait until you’ve refined your screenplay?
Strategies vary. Oscar-winning screenwriter Nick Vallelonga told me he NEVER shows a script to anyone until it’s complete because it’s his story to tell, the way he wants to tell it. But filmmaker Thiago Dadalt has a different take, which he explains below. I’d recommend trying a little of both to find out what works for you. As with anything in this business, there is no right way to get to a finished script (although plenty of people may try to convince you otherwise).
Dadalt is from Brazil, and until recently, wrote his screenplays in Portuguese. He’s currently working on his first English language feature-length film, which may entail an entirely different draft review strategy because as Dadalt explained, “translating languages is not just about translating words,” but also meaning. For current projects, such as his short ‘Duke’ about an autistic teenager who never had real communication with his family until he started to type, Dadalt relies on people he trusts to read his draft scripts. He wrote 12 drafts before until he finalized ‘Duke.’
‘Duke’ was particularly challenging, Dadalt explained, because of the personal nature of a true story. Dadalt wrote the screenplay after studying deeply the family dynamic and therapist’s interviews. “Real stories are really complicated,” he said. “It’s the hardest; it’s like walking on eggshells.”
He knew the family would need to see the script before he proceeded to production, so he shared it with them early on.
Despite the family’s reaction, Dadalt said he didn’t completely start over.
By following his heart on the project, Dadalt said he created a short film that the family was ultimately proud of. “When I showed the first cut to them, they cried. They love it,” he said.
From draft one to 100, you’re changing lives, screenwriter!