Thursday, 11 November 2010

Why writers should direct #147

At one point I considered doing a series of short posts all about my reasons for making the short film and why writers should consider having a go at directing. I then decided against it due to the fact that most of the reasons I wanted to talk about (and there were a lot) were centred around the more negative aspects of being a writer in my position (i.e. unpaid, unrepresented and probably a little desperate). I didn't want to turn this into an ongoing rant so decided instead to focus on the positive reasons for doing it, which I hope have come across in the diary. If you want a really good summary of reasons writers should try directing, Danny Stack and Tim Clague cover it quite extensively in their most recent podcast.

However, something came up recently which I had to talk about as it kind of sums up my a lot of my biggest concerns. So I decided to go ahead and rant anyway. You have been warned.

The background to this is that a production company I'm working with on a couple of projects right now occasionally ask for my opinion on scripts they're looking to develop. So I read them, send back some notes and will occasionally get involved in a rewrite (although the only time this actually happened it ended badly). If the scripts are good I'll say so, if the scripts are bad I'll write pages of notes that generally come to nothing as the writers don't want to hear it. And that's okay - you can learn a lot from reading bad scripts so it's all useful experience. But recently I was sent a script that was so bad I wasn't quite sure what to say about it.

Here's an example, not from the actual script itself but of me writing in the style of that script. It's only exaggerated in that I've grouped all the biggest problems together in one scene. I say 'scene' but the script didn't have scene headings and that was the least of the format problems. So here's the scene:

Jack walks to the door. He turns to Jill and says "I'm going to open this door".

I'm going to open this door.

Yes, I think you should do that.

A man walks out of the door. Jack fights the man and kills him.

This place is dangerous.

Yes, I agree that it is dangerous. Let's go through the door.

Jack looks at Jill romantically. They go through the door.

End scene (this is me writing 'end scene' - in the actual script there was no way of telling).

I don't like being mean about other people's work. For the most part I'm not and obviously it's not helpful to anyone. I would hate to think that someone was parodying my worst efforts on a blog somewhere. But there's a bigger point to make here.

Somehow this script got into the hands of a production company who appear to be taking it seriously. And yet I know for a fact there are so many better scripts out there; so many writers who can do better than this. All the writers could do better than this. Never before have I read a script and had nothing good to say about it. Normally I can at least pick out some element of promise, however small, that I can suggest working on. Not with this one.

So how did it get to the point where it's with an actual production company? There are two possible reasons -

1) Money - Someone somewhere has already invested in this project for whatever reason meaning people will continue to take it seriously and it will probably get made regardless, possibly even as it is. I have seen this happen.

2) Connections. Someone was at the right party at the right time and passed it to the right person.

Or both.

Should this film get made I can guarantee it will be of no value to anyone - not the people working on it (although I suppose they'll get paid so maybe they'll do okay), not the filmmakers, and certainly not the people who watch it. The script is so bad you couldn't possibly pull a decent film out of it. And yet it may still happen. This is the problem with an industry that is now funded primarily through private investment. And this makes me depressed.

These projects are being championed by directors, producers and sometimes even actors who are operating outside the system. This is fine, good on them for getting their projects made. But what sickens me time and time again (and yes this may be the worst but it's not the first time I've come across a project like this) is the constant lack of good writing. More than that, there's a lack of understanding of what good writing is and why it's important. There's this attitude of 'well money's in the bank, the script is written insomuch as it has some pages with writing on, so let's go make a film!'

No, don't go make a film. Use some of that money to pay a decent writer. That way you may just avoid wasting
everybodys' time.


craighallam said...


Good blog! I've always been intrigued about the makings of films. I reckon I'll be trawling bacward through this blog for some time to come!


Penny Lane said...

That make-shift scene was almost unbearable, I can't imagine what a wholllle script like that would feel like. And there were formatting problems? Ouch!

I am sorry, deeply.

peace and love,

Chris Regan said...

Craig - thanks for checking out the blog and hope you enjoy the rest of it. It's not all complaining about the state of teh film industry, I promise!

Penny - It was actually funny for the first ten pages, then quickly stopped being funny when I realised the whole thing was the same! Thanks for reading.

Penny Lane said...

No problemo!

hels said...

I go with this option - the script was picked up as Uwe Boll's next project?

Chris Regan said...

I would hope Dr Boll would turn this one down, but the tragedy is the guy who wrote it is planning to direct it so they don't even have to face that hurdle. If you've got the money you don't need to listen to anyone and you don't need to deal with any kind of rejection. Which is why it's so frustrating.

hels said...

Agreed, some people are just delusional, total shame when they have the money to throw away on some piece of crap no one will like. Then so often they'll spend the rest of their lives claiming nobody understood how great it was, acting like the unappreciated genuis. I like to take comfort in the fantasy that the barrage of ridicule might make them feel a little bit silly at some point. But I'm really spiteful :p