Sunday, August 8, 2010

Critique Me, Please!

Unbiased feedback is invaluable for screenwriters (or any writer, really). So when I moved to Austin, I joined the local screenwriters’ group and volunteered to have my screenplay read aloud and critiqued.

I arrive at the History Center with my giant box of scripts and start setting up for our meeting. Meanwhile, I notice half a dozen blind people come in and sit down. I think to myself, “Wow, it’s great that all of these visually-impaired people have showed up to listen to my screenplay!” Then half a dozen becomes two dozen, and I realize something is amiss. To add to the confusion, the blind people obviously don't realize that some of us are not blind.

I speak to the woman who runs the center and find out that they’ve double-booked their only meeting room. I point out that the copies cost me $150 and that I had to highlight every part by hand. The president of the Federation of the Blind takes a more direct approach and says, “We should get the room, because we’re disabled.” I consider arguing that special treatment would only be demeaning to them, but I don't want to appear insensitive. I suggest that one group use the reading room, but the woman in charge is adamant that the reading room is reserved for those who want to spend Saturday morning brushing up on Austin’s history.

Our group ends up crammed into the hallway. Every five minutes, my script reading is interrupted by a blind person trying to find the restroom. I'm on the end, so the blind person inevitably runs right into me. They quickly become irritated and can't seem to understand why we are taking up the entire hallway, so someone from our group has to get up and guide them around us.

(Now might be a good time to mention that I completely support people with disabilities. My grandfather’s parents were both born deaf, so I owe my very existence to the hearing-impaired.)

Eventually, the Federation of the Blind ends its meeting, and the members stream into the hallway and stand around chatting. I have the urge to scream, “Excuse me! I know that you’re blind, but I’m pretty sure you can hear that we’re trying to have a meeting, so SHUT UP!” Instead, I sit there, gritting my teeth and missing most of my critique.

The critique seemed to be more negative than I would have liked, so perhaps I should thank the Federation of the Blind for distracting me. When I couldn’t hear over the chatter, I just assumed my fellow screenwriter was saying, “This is the best screenplay I've ever had the privilege of reading aloud!”

Bottom line: Being a writer is frustrating in ways I never could have imagined.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for being brave to share this story, you sure handle that situation with much more restraint than I would have.