Who’s the daddy?

Everyone knows a good film starts with a good script. The script is the single most important element in creating a good feature film. If the story makes no sense, it’s the first thing people will notice; therefore, scriptwriters should be considered the most important people in the process, right?

Erm, no. Not really.

I’ve heard a very similar justification used by every department on set:

“If the sound doesn’t synch, it’s the first thing people notice.”

“People will accept less than perfect sound quality, but if the performances are poor, it ruins the film.”

“It doesn’t matter how good the actors are; if the sets aren’t realistic, it destroys the illusion.”

“By and large, people won’t notice if you nail a bread tray to the wall to make a space ship interior; but if the lighting’s wrong it all turns to shit.”

“A bad editor can ruin any movie, no matter how well … ”

And so on.

It seems everyone has a high opinion of their own craft and little regard for anyone else’s. “This film couldn’t be made without me, this is my set/performance/script and everyone else should respect me for making this film a success.”

As an exception to this, I once met someone who was working on ‘White Noise’. He told me the concept and I thought it sounded quite good. He said:

“Yeah, you’d think so; but it’s shit; and everyone working on it, except the director, knows it’s shit.”

I wanted to know why no one spoke up. The answer:

“We’re all getting paid anyway, we just make sure our bits are the best we can.”

I’m prepared to bet he still thought his department was the one essential to making a film believable, it just so happened in this case he was trying to polish a turd.

I think everyone knows we’re all just one part of a huge movie-making machine; but the arrogance creeps into everyday language, no matter how hard you try to be open minded. No one likes to be thought of as replaceable, but I’ve enjoyed movies with appalling dialogue, or atrocious acting, or mind-numbingly bad set design.

I genuinely think you can get by with one or two of the ‘key elements’ missing; but the more shit you put into the mix, the harder it is to get a good cake at the end. Everyone involved has a vital role to play and the movie would probably suffer without them. Why does everyone have to be THE ONE who makes it all worthwhile? It’s nice that people take a proprietary view of the work they’re involved in, but why do they have to do so by ignoring the value of everyone else’s contribution?

To me, scriptwriters seem to be the worst for this: we wrote it, therefore it’s our film; but then I guess I don’t spend much time hanging around sound effects or lighting forums, listening to them carp on about how they can single-handedly save the film industry if only someone gave them a break.

Of course you should have a good script, but you should also have a good everything else. Film making is a co-operative business, so can’t we all just respect each other and try to get along?

Categories: Industry Musings | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Who’s the daddy?

  1. I think some of the time writers get proprietary because they feel directors claim too much of the credit. ‘A film by’, etc.

  2. Yeah, I think the ‘film by’ thing is silly when there are so many people who contribute to a film’s success.

    I find it mildly amusing though that some scriptwriters think it should be ‘a film by me’ when a script is not a film. An ‘it’s wrong for them to do it, but I should be allowed to’ argument.

    Mind you, calling it ‘a film by’ is just a selling tool; and you do see ‘from the writer of’ or ‘from the producer of’ if they’re the most successful person on the project. It’s just picking someone identified with the success of one film and trying to link them to the next.

  3. In old-school film and TV you’ll often see a possessive producers’ credit up-front.

    The Artful Writer has a lot of interesting (and sometimes heated) debate and information about the possessory credit here and here.

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