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SWAP YOUR WRITING

WHY SWAP?

You already know that your Aunt Mildred loves your work, but what about an objective third party? This new, exciting IndieClub feature helps you get connected with other members, so you can swap feedback, ideas, thoughts, criticism, etc. This is a wonderful way to get objective feedback on your script, trailer, rough cut, demo reel, movie, etc. It is also a wonderful way to garner outside reviews for your movie on websites where users are able to post reviews (e.g. IMDB, Netflix, Amazon).

Does the following scenario sound familiar? You have a friend or family member look at your script or movie... You say, “Please, please, please feel free to give me criticism! I need to make it better.” But your friend or family member’s criticism is incredibly vague: “I got kind of bored in the middle part,” to which you ask, “Okay, why were you bored?” to which he/she replies, “I don’t know. I just was.”

People within the industry will often be able to give you more useful feedback than non-industry friends. Industry people speak the same language and are more likely to have a sound understanding of story structure, character development, pacing, visual elements, and technical elements.

Even worse than vague notes are no notes at all... your friends and family members absolutely loves everything! They think your movie or script is oh-so-amazing, and they have no suggestions at all for revision.

And don’t even get us started on the woes of actors trying to obtain feedback. It’s possibly hardest of all for actors to get objective feedback from friends or family. If you’ve ever seen your friend in a movie, TV show, or commercial, you understand that it is difficult to separate yourself from the person you know and just see the character. The swap is very useful for actors to use when they are trying to choose the best clips for their demo reel or select the best scene reading to send in for a video audition.

And if you’ve ever had friends or family members post their reviews of your movie online, we’re sure you’ve experienced some over-the-top ridiculousness. Sure, you’re trying to increase the number of positive reviews, but it’s a little much when your brother puts the headline, “Best Movie of the Year! For Sure!!!” I mean, unless you’re Kathryn Bigelow.


HOW IT WORKS

For security reasons, only Pro Members are allowed to participate in swaps to ensure that you are not swapping your stuff with an anonymous email address. If you are swapping a script, we recommend that you register it with the WGA before engaging in a swap (actually, we recommend that you register your script before giving it to anyone, within or outside our swap system).

In exchange, YOU will provide feedback to someone else on his/her own work. To keep the system fair, neither you nor the other member will be able to view the written feedback until both members' have submitted feedback into the IndieClub system. This is a 1-on-1 exchange. Feedback is not posted publicly for all members to see - it is sent to your IndieClub profile. You will use our already-created Q & A form to receive general feedback, and you will also have the opportunity to ask specific questions to your reader.

You are able to cross-swap, meaning that if you create a SWAP SCRIPT post, you can answer somebody’s SWAP ROUGH CUT post. The exchange does not have to be a script for script or a trailer for a trailer, etc. Some swappers may prefer a like exchange, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t apply or accept a swap with someone whose material is different than yours.

STEP BY STEP:

  1. Go to the Posting Board and add your SWAP. Wait for it to be approved.
    (Once IndieClub Admin has approved your swap, you are able to request a swap with another person, and you also will begin to receive requests from other people who are asking to swap with you).
  2. Go to the posting board and find a SWAP that you would like to swap with. Click REQUEST SWAP and send the member a short message on why you’d like to swap.
  3. Go to your MYPAGE and check your MY SWAPS page. 
    1. You may get an ACCEPTANCE message from the member you requested to swap with and if so, then you will follow the steps to complete the swap.
    2. You may see a REQUEST TO SWAP from another member who wants to swap with you.  In this case, you’ll need to ACCEPT or DENY the member request.
  4. Entering feedback – you can type your feedback, click save and then come back later to complete your feedback. The feedback will not be made available to the other member until you have marked it as complete and the other member has finished his/her feedback for you.
  5. Once the swap is complete, you can read the feedback sent to you. Also, you can view that feedback at anytime by visiting your MYPAGE/SWAPS section.

NOTE: You can accept multiple swaps on the same posting, but make sure you can handle doing more than one swap at a time. We suggest accepting one swap, denying the rest, and closing your swap.  You can always open it up again later. DO NOT delete your swap!  This will cause issues with your current swap. Get in the habit of CLOSING your postings and not deleting them.


GIVING HELPFUL FEEDBACK

Be specific, detailed, and kind. After you input your feedback into the Questionnaire Form, reread it for clarity and errors before final submission. In addition to giving suggestions, tell the person what you liked. This isn’t simply to be nice (though it is nice), it is also helpful. Positives help your swap partner know what areas you think they do not need to focus on for revision.

Remember you are voicing your own opinion.
When giving suggestions or criticism, explain to them why you felt a certain way, rather than simply making a blanket statement.

BAD EXAMPLE:
“The middle sequence in the tunnels made no sense. There was absolutely no way to follow it. You couldn’t tell whose voice was talking in the dark because the whole first half of the script made it seem like Kevin was part of the secret team.”

GOOD EXAMPLE:
“I felt confused in the middle of the script during the sequence in the tunnel, because I thought Kevin was part of the secret underground team. The conversation with Giles near the beginning of the movie led me to think this, so during the entire sequence in the tunnels, I wasn’t sure whose voice it was in the dark. Maybe if the reveal came prior to them entering the tunnel, I would have been able to follow that scene.”

Acknowledge preconceived notions, biases, or preferences.
For example, if you are giving feedback on a rough cut movie, and your swap partner asks, “What did you think of the handheld shooting style I used?” and you don’t care for the hand-held, bumpy shooting style in general, you would want to acknowledge that as a preference for all movies (not just theirs).

BAD EXAMPLE:
“I hated the hand-held bumpy style. I was motion sick during the train sequence. I couldn’t even tell what was happening. Why bother to hire a D.P. when anybody could pick up a camera and shake it all around at the actors?”

GOOD EXAMPLE:
“While I know it is popular with some people, I’m personally not a fan of the hand-held, bumpy camera style. For example, I like the look of The Bourne Identity over The Bourne Ultimatum, and I’ve never seen Cloverfield on the basis that moving shots make me motion sick. So the style you went with isn’t my personal favorite. That said, it did remind me of The Bourne Ultimatum. I don’t watch a ton of movies in this style but I have seen snippets here and there (like Friday Night Lights), and your camera work did seem to be the same vein, so I think you probably captured this style well. The one sequence where I felt like the cuts got too fast was the train sequence. It was hard for me to tell what was happening when Jack jumped. At other times, the fast style worked well in the action sequences – like when Mary ran from the CIA operatives.”

Be Specific.
If you aren’t specific and don’t explain why you hold a certain opinion, it is more difficult for a writer, filmmaker, or actor to make a decision as to whether or not they plan to use your idea or not.

BAD EXAMPLE:
“In your actor’s demo reel, I would cut the segment where you are wearing the red shirt and crying. It didn’t work for me.”

GOOD EXAMPLE:
“In your actor’s demo reel, I would cut the segment where you are wearing the red shirt and crying. The reason is because when that scene opens up, you are already at the height of emotion – crying and screaming at the other actor. Sometimes I feel like when I jump into the middle of an extremely emotional scene with absolutely no build-up or context, it can be hard to process the performance as authentic or not. In fact, I don’t seem to notice full-on crying scenes very often in trailers even, unless if the music and scene segments build to that. So in your demo reel, it felt jarring to me when it jumped from the cafe conversation to you screaming that first line. Another idea – if you like the stuff leading up to the crying part, you might consider including more of the scene so there is build-up to the crying.”

 

SWAPPING REVIEWS

If you loved the movie your swap partner sent to you for review, then your job is easy. Go to the website they designated for your review, and write a rave one. Give it a ranking, and point out all the strong points (without giving away major plot spoilers).

One word of caution though – you should probably avoid statements that are so massively positive that others are going to disregard your review as “written by the filmmaker’s mom.” Don’t put headlines or statements like, BETTER CGI THAN AVATAR, or BEST MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN (unless of course, it truly is the best movie you’ve ever seen, in which case, we’re sure your uber-positive review will fit in with all the other rave reviews).

Also, with SWAP REVIEWS, be aware that you may have to have access to the place where you post your review. On some web sites, it is easy and free to sign up for an account (e.g. IMDB, Amazon). Other sites require paid subscriptions (e.g. Netflix). So make sure you have an account or are able to easily create an account before you answer a swap request for a review. If you are the person posting the swap, please give pertinent information about the site where you would like the review posted.

Additional note – the IMDB reviews/score system uses a “secret formula” to tabulate the voting scores (voting system is on a scale from 1 – 10). We are under the impression that an ‘8’ or ‘9’ score affects your movie’s overall rating more positively than a ‘10’ score, as the system appears to disregard a certain number of 10’s (and also 1’s) in weighing the average score.

But what if you really didn’t like your swap partner’s movie? Well, it is not a requirement to write a positive review if you are doing a Review Swap. However, it is highly recommended to emphasize positives within the review. There are already plenty of anonymous people who love to surf the internet and say nasty things behind the protection of their computer, and you don’t want to be one of those people. So be honest, but be kind. You may have never met your swap partner, so pretend you are writing this for someone you care about. And remember, they are writing a review on your movie too. Or if you are doing a cross-swap, they are taking significantly more time to fill out the Questionnaire questions than you are probably taking to write a one or two paragraph review.

BAD EXAMPLE – A CRITICAL REVIEW:
*1 star out of 5
“This movie was about a group of geeky college accounting majors that plan a heist in a casino. First, I hate heist movies. They’re all the same. This was so unoriginal. Second, this movie was so slow. The middle half of it could have been cut down by a good 30 minutes. Third, the action sequences were obviously low-budget. Fourth, the acting was weak. The only actor I didn’t hate was the lead female. The best part was the last 15 minutes, but by that point, I was about ready to hurl my popcorn.”

GOOD EXAMPLE - A CRITICAL REVIEW:
***3 stars out of 5
“This movie was about a group of geeky college accounting majors that plan a heist in a casino. Fans of heist movies will recognize many of the traditional elements seen in movies like this – gathering conspirators; learning about the layout of the casino; learning about the security system; revealing innovative technologies to be used; the big heist itself; and the take-charge, sexy female love interest (my favorite character). Sometimes it was clear that the action sequences in the movie were done on a lower budget, but it was also a nice break from the overblown CGI you see these days in all the studio blockbusters. The middle half of the movie was a little slow for me, but if you hang on for the last section of the movie, you will see a very exciting end sequence. Overall, a good effort from a new filmmaker.”

 

RECEIVING CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM

Read through the feedback and take some time to think about it before you make any changes to your work.

For some people, it might be a natural reaction to get defensive if you don’t like some of the ideas or critiques on your work. However, try to stay open-minded and truly let yourself consider each and every suggestion. Remember that your swap partner put time and energy into reviewing your work, and even if you don’t agree with all their comments, he or she did it in good faith.

In the end, even if the feedback is stellar, you will probably choose to not use some of the suggestions. After all, you are simply hearing one person’s opinion. And there are a lot of people out there with different opinions! This is one reason why it is a great idea to engage in more than one swap with each piece of work (so you can compare feedback!).

If you feel that someone has sent you inappropriate or rude feedback, or you feel they have abused the system in some way, do not send them an angry message. Rather, please Contact Us and we will look into the matter.

However, if you appreciate your swap partner’s feedback (and 99% of the time, we think you will), we recommend that you send them a thank you message to their profile.



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