Bitter sweet symphony

One thing which annoys me when reading a review of a film is the phrase ‘lacklustre script’ – I mean, how do you know? You’re reviewing the finished production, not the script. You haven’t even read the fucking script, so how can you know it’s lacklustre?

It’s not like watching an orchestra perform a concerto where they (should) play exactly what was written down. Sometimes, film making is more like giving the orchestra the music … only to have some musicians decide they’d rather play different notes because they don’t understand the original ones and for some reason haven’t bothered to ask anyone what they mean.

Other musicians are quite happy to play the music as is … but can’t because they haven’t been practising – they thought they were going to be offered a different instrument and only said yes to the triangle as a safety net. Despite the triangle being an essential part of the concerto, they’ve decided it’s beneath them and only ting it half-heartedly thirty seconds or so after being prompted by the conductor.

For some reason, instead of violins, someone’s bought bass guitars because they’re cheaper and, let’s face it, they’re pretty much the same since they’ve both got four strings and are made of wood – no one will notice. Except the violinists who end up hospitalised twelve seconds into the performance.

The lead cellist can only be there for half the performance, so his part is just crossed out at the halfway mark and the kettle-drum-guy asked for a couple of minutes off in the middle and someone just said yes without bothering to check if he was needed.

The conductor has decided to change the ending, but hasn’t bothered to tell *all* the musicians so they’ll just have to improvise when they get there. Luckily, the money runs out three-quarters of the way through recording so the orchestra just rounds it off with a burst of ‘shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits’ instead of the thundering seventeen minute finale.

Afterwards, the sound engineer decides it would be ‘really’ cool’ if the entire middle section was played backwards and because no one really knows what ‘cool’ means … they agree.

The beginning has been lost because no one remembered to start the microphones and the end is unusable because the ‘concert hall’ was actually an open space at the side of a runway and no one realised the planes taking off would be an issue.

What started out as months of carefully plotted musical notation ends up sounding like someone’s pushed half an orchestra down the stairs while the other half hit their instruments with wet cats.

And then, the final insult, some fucking nob end decides the original score must have been ‘lacklustre’ because the resulting mess makes his eardrums bleed.

There is a difference between a script and a finished film and sometimes that difference is incompetence.

Not always, mind you. Sometimes, possibly even most times, the script is lacklustre … but the only way to find out is to actually read the fucking thing. Review the film you’ve watched, not the script you’ve never fucking seen.

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Categories: Random Witterings, Rants | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Bitter sweet symphony

  1. But surely “The Script” isn’t what you turned in back at the beginning, any more than “The Score” is what the film music composer was commissioned to write. It’s what’s left after everyone has taken it apart, reassembled it in some random order and thrown away all the good bits. When someone says “lacklustre script” they aren’t criticising your original, they’re criticising what they experienced.

  2. Possibly.

    Although, I frequently see “writer’s name’s lacklustre script” or some other reference linking the writer directly to the word script. If they were critiquing what they’ve experienced, they should be saying story or plot or something else which doesn’t imply the writer caused the problems.

    Again though, sometimes it is the writer’s fault; but still, I don’t think people should mention a script they haven’t read.

  3. This made me want to stand on my chair and shout “Huzzah!” but the kids are asleep, so I’ll Tweet it instead.

  4. Humbug

    Beautiful analogy. It happens in music too, y’know. Not necessarily classical (although you do get a fair few weird interpretations of the classics, no one goes blaming Tchaikovsky or whoever for a bad score, for obvious reasons). I recently sold a song to a pop act who will go unnamed*. It got released, and duly received more than it’s fair share of bad reviews (actually, to be honest, most of them were justly deserved).

    What stung though were the reviews that attacked the song, rather than its delivery or production. None of the reviews called me out by name, so I avoided that at least, but still, the implication that the source material was shit – and solely to blame for the resultant heap of aural puke – when the reviewers had not had any opportunity to listen to my original demo** was a little bit frustrating.

    It may well be that my original vision for the song was in fact a sweaty turd of awfulness, but since none of the reviewers heard it, how could they know? Still, I got paid, and I suppose its lack of success has in some ways done me a favour – at least people are less likely to spot it on my CV and assume I’m musically retarded.

    *No, not Rebecca Black.
    ** very, very different – lyrics (a whole verse, indeed) were changed, instrumentation was simplified and an ugly ‘hook’ was added by the producer, despite the fact it meant cutting out most of the chord changes to keep the blither in key, oh and they added a ham-fisted middle eight which just lurched in and out with no relation to the rest of the song…

    • It hadn’t occurred to me the same thing happens with songs. I guess though it’s hard to differentiate in a review between the song people listen to and the song you wrote/sold since they’re both called a ‘song’ – or are they? Are there any techincal terms to identify one from the other?

      I ask, because you may be able to take a small crumb of comfort in the fact a review slagging off a song is probably referring only to what the reviewer has heard with no real conception of how much it’s been changed from the initial idea.

      Still, I feel your pain and can imagine your expression when you sit down, excited to hear the recording of your song … only to be aurally assaulted for the next three minutes. Hopefully the next one will be better!

  5. Pingback: 2011 « The Jobbing Scriptwriter

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