One of the many subtle ways we undermine ourselves as writers is by getting excited in the wrong places.
You frequently hear writers bleating on about not being respected in the industry or not being considered an essential part of the movie making process and they’re absolutely right; but really, we don’t help ourselves.
Weirdly, a lot of writers don’t consider the script to be their art form and try to take ownership of the finished film; which, let’s face it, stands little chance of bearing any resemblance to the initial script.
Okay, so sometimes you work with people who only want to film what’s on the page and work really hard to protect that vision; but there are multitudes of film makers who treat the script as an inconvenience used to get financing for their fickle whims. There are directors who don’t seem to have read, let alone understood the script; actors who treat dialogue as guidelines and improvise the script back to the place-holder dialogue you’d discarded before you’d finished the first draft; producers who genuinely thinks tits are a substitute for plot and editors who just seem to be fucking mental.
Add to that the damage that can be caused by bad lighting, pedestrian camera work, cheap CGI, bad sound design and the wrong incidental music and by the time the film’s finished you sometimes wonder if anyone read the script you sent them.
Maybe my email isn’t working, they got fed up of waiting and just went ahead without a script?
The point is, the finished film has been through so many hands with so much potential for being fucked up that the chances of actually feeling like the film belongs to you are quite slim.
But the beauty of being a writer is your art form, the bit you sweated over at four in the morning, is always there. If the resulting film is a pile of crap, it still doesn’t change the fact your script attracted enough interest and (lack of) talent to get made.
We really should be more excited about the script than the film because the script is OUR product. It’s what WE do. The film is what other people do with out work.
And yet, the biggest irony of all is we’re generally not allowed to be excited about the script stage of a project. One of the most exciting bits of any film, for me, is when I’m given the go ahead to write the script – someone likes my work and wants to pay me to write something for them. Sometimes I get paid to write one of my ideas which is even more exciting … and yet I’m rarely allowed to mention it.
Part of that is self-censorship since projects collapse so frequently that mentioning them would be completely pointless; but sometimes I’m banned from sharing my excitement because of … well, tricksy producery stuff.
“Don’t mention this on your blog.” being one of the most frequently uttered phrases at any meeting.
Generally, you’re only allowed to get publicly excited at a project when they start casting. Sometimes not even then – casting is, after all, no guarantee of production. I keep watching films and thinking I’ve worked with that actor … only to remember I haven’t, they were going to do one of my scripts but the producer stole all the money.
Basically, one of the annoying bits of the job is you’re not allowed to get publicly excited about doing your job until the bit you actually contribute is over and done with.
So we don’t.
We keep quiet during our bit and then shout with giddy excitement when everyone else is making the film … and then complain no one respects our contribution. You know, the bit we didn’t tell anyone about.
I have no solutions, just a degree of frustration … one of the few emotions I’m allowed to share.