I give developmental notes with a focus based on these typical story elements: clarity, character, structure, theme, tone, voice, plot, engine, pace/length, etc. I never judge on subject matter and keep my personal bias in check at all times. That being said, I might comment about current market trends if it is pertinent or helpful. My note giving style is tough but fair and I believe in pointing out what is working not just what isn't. I also do my best to offer helpful suggestions on how to fix issues rather than merely flagging them. I’m a firm believer in having a strong first 10-15 pages and emphasize telling a complete and cohesive story. I don’t have a set number of pages of feedback I guarantee because each script is different. I'll give you the notes I think are warranted; I won't ever stretch out my notes to meet a page count. I like to start out with macro notes regarding big mechanical issues like plot holes, structural issues, character development, etc and work my way to more micro issues that could include minor mistakes or grammar. I give very comprehensive notes and tend to average 5-8 pages of single-spaced feedback. Below is an excerpt from some actual notes I have given:
"The writer has a clear vision with this script and a story that feels mostly original or fresh. The writer has also taken on the monumental task of not only juggling different time lines within this script but multiple time lines in multiple universes. There are a good number of characters and the story is never overwhelmed with too many new characters being introduced at the same time. Each character feels authentic and their relationships with each other feel real, especially Dee and Ben and Jennifer and Mac. The writer has also left the door open for this to be more of an ensemble cast as no one character has more focused screen time than any of the others.
What needs work?
The writing style is very choppy, especially at the beginning, which actually hinders the story telling. Being efficient and trying to stick to the white of the page is a great instinct when it comes to writing a script but this script could be greatly improved with a bit more in the description rather than less. When the writing is fragmented like it is in this script, the story is also fragmented and confusing. When dealing with a subject matter like time travel AND alternate universes, the writing has to be absolutely clear. The characters are going to be jumping around in time and space so the audience needs to know exactly where and when they are. They also need to know what is happening on screen, which is murky at points in this script because the writing is so clipped. Expand some of the descriptions for clarity. This script is actually too short right now so the expansion isn’t going to harm the page count. While it may be clear what is happening in the writer’s head, it’s not yet clear on the page.
The structure needs a second look. While the ending is a good cliffhanger, it does not provide the audience with a complete pilot story yet. With the way this script ends, one can only assume that the rest of the season is going to be about getting the crew back to the space station. But this trip to see the dinosaurs seems to only be there to prove to Ben and Dee that the others are in fact time travelers. The series long goal is stated that they have to basically fix the original world but unless the whole first season is going to be spent with them trying to get back from prehistoric times then it can’t end that way. There needs to be more clarity throughout this script as to what the story and series is actually about. Too much time is spent in the beginning setting everything up. Get Jennifer, Mac, and crew onto the space station much sooner and develop the story from there. Half the script is spent setting up things that the audience is never going to see again, which is a waste of page space. The opening sort of teaser with Hitler is fun and entertaining but ultimately leads to more confusion since it doesn’t really relate to the story that is trying to be told after that. If this had more of a traditional four or five act structure that might work as a teaser but since there is so much information that needs to be established it might be worth cutting so the actual pilot story at hand can be gotten to. That, or perhaps make things a little bit less complicated and contrived. Juggling different time lines but also multiple universes and their respective timelines is a tall order. Can it be simplified or streamlined?
Be mindful of what information is included throughout this script that is not filmable. There are a lot of little asides or parts of description that only serve to be helpful to the reader and cannot be seen by an audience. Keep in mind that this is a visual format and that the script is the blueprint for the show. How can an audience physically see “an unseen time wave”? A reader might understand what is happening but the audience won’t. Comb through the script and cut down on the unnecessary asides or parentheticals and make the important ones moments of scene."
”In the last five years of my professional career, I have not sent a single script to my reps, producers, or executives without first sending it to Vanessa for her approval. From the smallest grammatical edits to the biggest story elements, Vanessa has been invaluable in taking my work to the next level and making it industry ready. Her notes are insightful, constructive, honest, and thorough. I can’t reccommend her highly enough.” - Derek Asaff, 2019 Universal Writers Program
"Having been in a writing workshop with Vanessa for several years, her notes are invaluable. She has a wonderful ability to constructively cut right to the heart of any issues my scripts have and deliver feedback that helps on both macro and micro scales, bettering both the individual scene and the work as a whole. My characters are more three dimensional and my stories streamlined as a direct result of her involvement." - Joseph O’Driscoll - 2015 BlueCat Feature Finalist
"Vanessa gives detailed feedback which is very encouraging as a Writer. I've received feedback from other professionals in the industry that all seemed pretty vague. She's very complex andgives you essential key descriptions that challenge you and brings the best out of your material.” - Kedrick Parham No N Productions
"Vanessa has an expert ability to analyze a script and hone in on problem areas. She has impeccable taste and instincts and gives thoughtful notes, which are always spot on. I fully trust her opinions and greatly value her feedback on my writing. I highly recommend her to anyone looking to improve their craft and reach a professional standard of screenwriting." - Alexandra Weir