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Old 10-14-2015, 03:43 PM   #1
WhiteTiger
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Managing Difficult Writer

I wanted to ask fellow Directors if you've ever had a difficult situation with a writer who is married to his own vision of the script? He has shown a 'his way or the highway' type attitude and has had many blow ups with other writing collaborators over the script development, which has caused people to walk off the project.

Unfortunately I don't feel I can call the shots (apart from on set obviously) as it's a creative collaboration (and we are all mutual investors). It's very much give him an inch, he takes a mile. Which is a difficult situation for me, I've been undermined a few times and disrespected publically which as crossed boundaries, I let shit slide in the interests of the bigger goal of getting the film made.

Any tips for asserting my role without alienating him? I know you can't manage how other people act, only how you react. To be honest I am sick of bending over backwards to placate a difficult character. Now the script is finished he needs to hand over.

Any tips/advice/experience would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Last edited by WhiteTiger; 10-14-2015 at 03:45 PM.
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Old 10-14-2015, 08:15 PM   #2
sfoster
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If the script is finished there is nothing left to manage, his role in this project is over. Take the script and film it.
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Old 10-14-2015, 09:17 PM   #3
mlesemann
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Quote:
Take the script and film it.
Agreed, but just make sure that your contract with him doesn't give him any input in the final product.
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Old 10-15-2015, 01:40 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by mlesemann View Post
Agreed, but just make sure that your contract with him doesn't give him any input in the final product.
Thanks guys, that may be difficult as mentioned he's also an investor. Knowing the guy he may still try and overrule. It is given that I am editing, so that's an area that I can also story tell without interference.

I'll be assertive but take him to the side for a word if my toes are being stepped on too much. Best way to handle I think. I'm hoping he knows the score now, and how the process should work.
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Old 10-15-2015, 08:14 AM   #5
mlesemann
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Good luck - it's always a challenge!
I'm the screenwriter & main producer; my director and I butted heads a few times on my just-completed feature ("Detours"), but we respect each other and made it through.
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Old 10-15-2015, 08:31 AM   #6
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Like sfoster said, IMO, get to the point where the script is "finished," and try to make a statement that things should no longer be changed at that point. His role as a writer should be over.

HOWEVER, as an investor, he unfortunately gains a new level of power. Though I guess it depends on how much of the budget he contributed to. So you may just have to deal with it.

I worked with a writer who was also a producer. The director had to cut some unnecessary things out which led to an unhappy producer, but we kind of just made him deal with it as what he was wanting was impractical.
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Old 10-15-2015, 10:04 AM   #7
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Refn showed everyone the final Drive script to secure investment... they agreed and set a date to shoot, on the shoot day he presented a very different script to shoot, it was stripped right down... it was too late for everyone to pull out.. best decision he ever made.
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Old 10-15-2015, 01:21 PM   #8
directorik
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I have (many times) been hired to direct a script written by the
"producer". In a few cases written by the producer (person who is
an investor) and lead actor. It's a challenge. In those cases I did not
have the final creative say. It was my job to make the movie the
writer/investor wants. Not to make MY movie.

I have also been in a partnership where I am also an investor. In
those cases I have made sure that we have a creative agreement
before we start shooting. As a director/investor I've had to give up
some of my creative freedom to the writer/investor.


Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteTiger View Post
It is given that I am editing, so that's an area that I can also story tell without interference.
I take it there is not a creative agreement in writing. If I were an
investor and it was my script I would want a lot of say in the editing.
Is it really "a given" that during editing your creative vision will not
be interfered with? After all, he has just as much invested in the final
product as you do - creative and financial.

I come to this with a very different attitude than most here. Directing
a movie is a job. I fully understand the "auteur" theory and what "the
score" should be, but I also know that unless it is spelled out IN WRITING
before the shoot starts there are going to be creative issues. The writer
typically wants their vision on the screen. So when a writer invests
their own money that means they want to insure that creative vision.
In my experience a director working with a writer/investor takes a back
seat creatively.

I always wanted the next job more than I wanted to be the "auteur" so
I wanted to be known as the director who would stay true to the vision
of the writer/producer. I actually enjoy the challenge of working with
the writer/investor.

To your question; yes, I have had a difficult situation with a writer who is
married to his own vision of the script - several times. Given the his way
or the highway I take his way. I respect writers.
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Old 10-15-2015, 01:49 PM   #9
Filman
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Yep. You can't say it better than directorik. "Enjoy the challenge".

A film is supposed to be the director's vision, but it's not, because in this case you don't have final cut. Means you must decide together how the movie will come out. If these other producers don't trust you 100% they will be in your face all the time. So, see it as if you were hired by them to to be their boss.

Meaning, they need you and they need you to need them. They need you to come up with the solutions that they would be proud of to have thought of.
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Old 10-15-2015, 03:11 PM   #10
directorik
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Filman View Post
A film is supposed to be the director's vision,
Not always. Very few directors have that clout. Most films are
the producers vision. And when it's a writer/producer/investor
that director is usually a hired hand.
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Old 10-15-2015, 04:10 PM   #11
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Yes. Correction: "Directors wish it was that way."
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Old 10-24-2015, 02:10 AM   #12
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The nature of every production is so different you can't possibly believe these blanket statements about wishing vs. actually being a certain way.

You are a filmmaker, and you only have so much time on this planet to make films. I hate to get all cosmic and weird, but do you want to do work for someone you are already clashing with and are unhappy enough to seek out anonymous advice on the internet?

Get the screenwriter in line (because it sounds like a lot of people are working together) or get out. This sounds less like a partnership than I would tolerate.
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Old 10-24-2015, 02:09 PM   #13
directorik
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Some of my greatest partnerships have started with clashes. I'm glad
I didn't “get out” when things got challenging. We still butt heads and
we still have creative differences but because I didn't get him “in line”
and he didn't get me “in line”; we manage to work it out.
Quote:
Originally Posted by pictureplanet View Post
Get the screenwriter in line (because it sounds like a lot of people are working together) or get out. This sounds less like a partnership than I would tolerate.
Why does WhiteTiger need to get the screenwriter in line. Perhaps the
screenwriter needs to get the director in line. Is it always the
screenwriter/producer who needs to get in line and never the
director/producer? Something attracted the director to the script. Maybe
the screenwriter is “married to the script” for a reason. Now the director
wants to change the script. And YOU say he needs to get the screenwriter
in line or leave the project.

Perhaps collaborating and respecting the writers vision is an option.
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Old 10-24-2015, 04:21 PM   #14
pictureplanet
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I said what I would do. I gave advice based on personal experiences and things that I have learned. I stand by the notion that if it is such an issue, sometimes it is best to step away. Does that bother you? I made it pretty clear that every situation is different. I firmly stand behind the reality that life is finite and you are best served making things in positive situations. If you'd rather argue your way through production, that is your prerogative.
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Old 10-24-2015, 04:34 PM   #15
directorik
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pictureplanet View Post
I said what I would do. I gave advice based on personal experiences and things that I have learned. I stand by the notion that if it is such an issue, sometimes it is best to step away. Does that bother you?
Not at all. I offered MY opinion based on my experiences. Isn't that what
a discussion is?

I firmly stand behind the reality that respecting the talent and vision of
fellow filmmaker (writers included) best serves not only the film but life.
You would walk away from an argument. I would work with the writer to
build an understand on a professional and personal basis. You would either
get the other person "in line" or leave the project. Now we understand each
other. The point of discussion.

You and I have no issue. I am not bothered by what you say. We have
a different point of view. That is what discussion is all about. Is it not?

The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress. - Joseph Joubert, essayist (1754-1824)

Last edited by directorik; 10-24-2015 at 04:37 PM.
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