Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Being a Difficult Writer

I talked about this in my Write the Shots article. I hammered it home with my post on M. Night Shyamalan. And in private, I tell friends who are landing their first sales/assignments that more important than getting your vision onto the big screen is establishing a good working relationship with your producer while also delivering a jaw-droppingly sensational script. A good working relationship is, of course, important on every project, but especially so with your first few. And like clockwork, here's an email from a friend (the names and titles have been changed to protect the innocent):

So I was talking to my producer yesterday and she was telling me about her former classmate in the Film School at [BIG SCHOOL]. I guess this person is a wunderkind and was producing this script from some writer. I guess the script was really good and was on the verge of lining up a deal for financing and this thing was going to get made. But the writer was a real pain in the ass. Stubborn, opinionated, rude. So long story short, this wunderkind is now the co-producer on [MY SCRIPT]. I guess he read the script and loved it. He talked to [JOSEPHINA] (the other producer) and was complaining about what a pain in the ass the writer was. [JOSEPHINA] said I was "a joy to work with". He said he wished he could work with people that were easier to get along with. [JOSEPHINA] then asked him to be a co producer on [MY SCRIPT], and he agreed. He terminated the agreement with the other writer and is now MY co-producer. So in the span of 2 days, we've got somebody at [BIG STUDIO] on board championing our project, have [BIG STAR'S] production company scheduling a pitch, and God knows what else. And the other project is dead in the water.


Jim Endecott said...

Awesome. Good Luck and kick some ass. Here's to hoping the strike will wind down and everyone can get back to work!


M. Alice said...

Hey, I went to [BIG SCHOOL], too! I'm looking forward to seeing [MY SCRIPT] at the local cineplex!

Seriously, on my first big studio project, I made sure I was cool with all the people I was developing it with. New kids have to be nice.

Of course, the writers strike hit and my whole career's derailed! HELL YEAH!

Elver said...

I'm not sure if I'm arrogant or not. Could someone briefly list the signs of an arrogant writer? So I could check.

Cause I'm opinionated, I speak my mind, I hate smalltalk, and I could probably find several gurus to back up my opinions -- and sometimes I have. But at the same time I'm not all that emotionally attached to the stuff I write. I do work hard on it, but the dude who pays gets to say what's in it and what's not.

Does being opinionated make a writer arrogant, even when he's readily willing to compromise?

Christina said...

Elver, if you're not sure if you're arrogant or not, you probably are... That being said, the rest of your comment makes you sound like you have it in perspective.

Elver said...

Thanks. I appreciate honesty.

Mystery Man said...

Jim - Yeah, my friend's excited.

m.alice - Amen, brother! Welcome, by the way.

Elver - I wrote a bit about this in my Write the Shots article: "Conflicts between screenwriters and directors have more to do with a screenwriter not thinking like a filmmaker (and wanting to tell instead of show) than it is about a director not recognizing how brilliant the dialogue is. Rules about not writing the shots so as to avoid offending directors are so absurd, because, like everything else in life, this business is about relationships. It's ALL about the relationships you build with people in the business. Period. If you walk into a room and say “this is the way it is and to hell with what you think - no one big or small can change one word or comma of my screenplay,” yeah, everyone will hate you. If, on the other hand, you walk into a room and you're capable of having a creative discourse and engaging people who have different ideas and calmly explaining how and why and what you were trying to accomplish with each moment of your screenplay, you’ll go far. Establishing good, working, creative relationships with people is, umm, a good thing for your career." Hope that helps. Just play nice with people.

Christina - I agree!


GimmeABreak said...

MM, if you haven't seen Overnight you must. It's the behind-the-scenes story of Boonbock Saints, Troy Duffy and Harvey Weinstein. Talk about difficult!!!

Mystery Man said...

Oh, good one. I'd have to recommend the DVD, "Moon Over Broadway." I would've never behaved like that guy.


Joshua James said...

Overnight is some piece of work, I gotta say.

Seriously, he shits on everyone, even close friends.

Though the guy is a director as well as writer, and his behavior seems to come from his idea on HOW DIRECTORS ACT rather than writers . . . he gets this idea that this is what superstar directors do.

I got a friend with William Friedkin stories that never made it into Biskind's book that win the contest against any arrogance / nastiness stories M. Knight or anyone . . .