This is an edited version of a comment I originally posted on the Passive Voice blog.
Writers get far less respect in the movie world than written fiction. Yet many are happy to work for free to get any kind of credit, and hope they actually do get their credit at the end.
There’s a big difference between novel writing and screen writing. If you have an unpublished novel, you can at least show it to your family and friends, whereas if you have an unproduced screenplay they probably won’t even know how to read it. The only way for a writer to prove they can write a movie is to write a movie that’s actually produced.
The other issue is that the screenplay is only the beginning of the work. Once it leaves the writer’s hands, the actors will improvise and the director will change lines or rewrite whole scenes. When the shoot is complete and the movie is just a bunch of files on a computer, the editor will cut lines, move shots around or even cut entire scenes which don’t work. The director may record new off-screen dialogue or some extra shots to fill in plot holes.
So by the end of the movie, it may bear little resemblance to the original screenplay. After many other people have interpreted it and revised it, the writer may justifiably be unable to take much credit for what finally reached the screen. In my case I take no credit for the ending of the one feature-length movie I wrote which was actually produced because the director threw out my wonderful ending and replaced it with his own.
By the time the premiere rolls around the writer thinks the director is a dick for rewriting their screenplay, the director thinks the writer is a hack because they had to change so much to make it work and the editor thinks the writer is self-indulgent because he had to cut out half the dialogue and the director is clueless because he had to spend six hours looking for any two shots he could cut together to make the final scene work.
Which has given me a good idea for Horror Movie. Damn, got to rewrite part of it again.
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
Apparently da Vinci said that, but I thought I’d stolen it from a movie director; I guess they read da Vinci too.
Either way, it’s true. Every one of the movies I’ve edited has been sent out the door when we were truly sick of the thing and couldn’t imagine improving it any more.
In almost every case I’ve watched the movie since and noticed a number of things I could have improved or fixed up if I’d had the time. One particularly memorable instance was two members of the crew standing in the background in different shots; I’d spent months editing, sound mixing and grading the movie, must have watched it a hundred times, and not once had I noticed them standing there. Of course the good news is that no-one else has ever seen them either, so ultimately it didn’t matter.
I’m starting to feel this way about Uncle Howard’s House, so that should bode well for my chances of getting it out in a month or two. If I can ever come up with a good title.
Hi! This is largely a test message to ensure that all this magic works. I’d be very embarrassed if I flew out of here before discovering that my software had some bugs. Consequently some of you may already have heard some of this. Oh and while I remember, some of you got the wrong instructions on how to unsubscribe – due to a Dumb Programmer Error the sign-on message said to send ‘subscribe’ to the list to unsubscribe… oops. The real instructions will be appended to the end of this message when you receive it.
Well, organisation is going OK but I’m having big problems selling my car. I had one person arrange to come to look at it on Saturday but not turn up and several more called while I was out and didn’t leave messages or call back. Oh well, my parents have offered to sell it for me if I can’t get rid of it by the weekend. I must say, I’ll be glad to get out of here and recover from all the stress of arranging to leave.
Directing My First Movie
Last night I saw the rushes of the movie (well, if you can call it that, it will only be about a minute long when edited) that I shot last weekend as part of the film course I’ve been taking. It was fine except for the police car siren in the background during one important piece of dialogue. I’m amazed that I didn’t notice the sound at the time, I must have been concentrating so hard on everything else that I missed it.
Sixty-four of us were taking the course and we made one film per pair. One member of each pair directed, the other operated the camera and the rest of the group rotated between the other jobs on the crew. I think ours was actually one of the better ones (he says modestly). It got quite a few laughs, and afterwards a few people told me that they liked it. At least it was in focus, unlike some.
We then returned to the studio for champagne and moved on to a Salsa club for an hour or so. I talked to a girl who works at the studio and wants to make the English equivalent of `El Mariachi’. She reckons we could do better for less, which with cheap or free equipment hire might be possible. Hmm, I wonder…
With all the movies and music videos being made over here this summer I wish I’d waited a few more weeks before leaving. Whatever happens I’ll be here for a few months in the New Year so I’ll have time to edit that movie and see if I can work on some others.
Whew, better get back to the organisation. I haven’t even worked out how I’m getting to the airport this weekend…