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.
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.
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.
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.