It would be a lot easier if I gave these things names, but people tend to get upset if I refer to specific projects by name until late in the day. So, in the interests of professional harmony, ‘the treatment which had the big bastard hole’ will have to do.
Basically, the producer thinks it’s great and wants to go straight to script.
Hmm, so far this has been remarkably easy. The producer is a guy I’ve worked with before and we keep in touch. He’s a nice guy who seems to know what he’s doing and so far has delivered on everything he’s set out to do; so I have no compunctions about working with him again.
This has been the process so far:
He emailed me at the arse end of August and told me he wanted to do another film. In that email were the rough parameters of what he wanted, but no story to speak of – just: number of actors, locations, rough budget etc. We batted vague ideas back and forth until we hit on one we both liked and I knocked up a one-pager. It took five attempts over a couple of days to get that logline and synopsis to a point where the story was clear and it made enough sense for him to show it to his partners.
In September he rang me up and told me the one-pager went down a storm; they want to shoot it in January and my fee will be xxxxxx. When can I start the treatment? This was great, I hadn’t had to sell myself or the idea at all. I had a load of other stuff to get out of the way first, including the PITA treatment, so I said it would be October. Which it was and I finally finished it last Monday.
Normally, I’d expect notes and discussions about the treatment and probably another couple of drafts before moving onto the script; but that hasn’t happened. Apart from the opening scene, he just wants me to write it up as is.
The only sticking point was this opening scene. When I write a treatment, or indeed a script, I have this kind of weird synethesia going on where the through-line of the story has a feel, look and sound. It’s hard to describe but it’s like a continuous line for me that runs through all the scenes, encompassing all the senses. When someone suggests a new scene which doesn’t fit the line at that point it jars and I find it difficult to comprehend.
It’s a bit like when you have graphic equalisers set to follow a sine wave – you can’t just move one of them without adjusting the others either side. Otherwise, to me, that scene sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s a discordant note or a colour from the wrong palette. It’s just wrong.
That’s partly why I hate the last minute rewrites which happen after some scenes have been filmed. There’s always something which doesn’t quite work on location or in the edit which needs fixing elsewhere, and without the ability to subtly alter what comes before or after I find it’s like nails on a chalkboard to my sense of story.
In this case, I couldn’t see how the new scene he proposed would fit with the rest of the film. It’s starting from a slightly different place so the next few scenes need to be altered too. I was convinced my idea was better so I sent him a long email arguing my case. He sent me an equally long email back arguing his case. In fact, his argument was considerably better than mine; so I did a complete u-turn and agreed with him*.
He was instantly on the phone, and this is why I enjoy working with him – instead of being happy or smug because I’d come round to his way of thinking, he was concerned I’d just given in for the sake of not arguing.
I hadn’t, I genuinely agree with him. I wouldn’t just give in that easily and I love the fact he wouldn’t want me to. It shows an interest and valuation of my opinions, even when they clash with his own. It’s how the producer/writer relationship should work and it’s great when it happens.
Sometimes I end up in arguments with the producer or the director and all I can think is:
“You’re wrong, you’re just fucking wrong. Listen to me, for fuck’s sake!”
It’s a horrible position to be in because you know ultimately it’s their film and they’re going to do it their way with or without you. It’s not nice when you’re hired to do something by people who think they can do the job better than you. Why don’t they just do it themselves in the first fucking place?
This guy doesn’t work like that (or at least, not with me) and I really enjoy the working relationship. It’s still his project so the final decisions rest with him; but if I’m adamant he’s wrong, he wants me to convince him – just in case he is. And I feel the same way. Film making is a collaborative process and part of that process is respecting other people’s opinions.
So here I am, two months after the initial idea, sitting down to write the first draft for someone who likes my work and trusts me to do a good job, with a provisional shooting date of early next year.
I love working like this. It’s rare, but it’s how films should be made.
Mind you, if he thinks the first draft is a pile of shit, I’m deleting this post.
*This, by the way, is a great way to win an unwinnable argument:
“It fucking is.”
“It’s fucking … you know what? You’re right. It is.” He says, smirking to himself.
“What do you mean?” He asks nervously.
“Nothing, you’re right. Let’s do it your way.” He says, barely able to contain his secret smile.
“It’s not my way …”
“Look, if that’s the way you want to do it. Let’s just do it that way. Really. I don’t mind.” He turns away and sniggers.
“No, I don’t want to.”
“Hey, it’s your choice.”