This week's Answer:
Money Up Front,
Producer Over Shoulder
The answer to your problem is simple.
Just fling your hand over your shoulder while
crying out “Eureka!”, thereby bopping him in the head.
When the producer gets up from the floor, apologize
profusely, mumbling something about a war wound and an
automatic reflex. That
should do it.
Harold, I appreciate your question
because it definitely merits an answer that hopefully
could be helpful to other scribes who are in your same
don’t mean your exact same position.
I mean... you could be sitting or standing or
crouching -- which reminds me of that famous film,
“Crouching Writer, Hidden Agent.”)
In the long run, all of us
screenwriters are writing for money.
(Well, there actually could be exceptions.
Some screenwriter could spend a year on a piece de
resistance script; a producer could fall in love with it
and offer him or her 500,000 to 1,000,000 dollars, and the
noble screenwriter could gallantly push the check away,
declaring that he or she wrote the script for principle,
not money and wouldn’t touch a single dollar because it
would soil his or her artistic integrity.
Don’t look at me like that.
It could happen.... On another planet.... In
another galaxy.... Far, far away.)
But I understand your situation.
Chances are your muse is not amused.
Writers usually like to write from within, not
then again, if all they want to do is write, they’re
going to need to make that beloved occupation a beloved vocation
or they will be “without” eventually and need to find
another vocation in order to shelter and feed themselves
and pay for the paper that their work will need to
eventually end up on.) At first, it can be exciting to be contracted to write a
once, as B.B. King so aptly puts it, the “thrill is
gone,” and you have a producer patron who is involved
with creative choices in your script (“It’s
mine, I tell you, all mine!” ((shouted like Dr.
Frankenstein in the classic old film))
Actually, it isn’t.
And never will be. Oh, sure, you should be able to recognize your own writing by
the time it hits the big screen.
But don’t count on it.), you have a kind of
second job, and that is, along with writing your
magnificent, heartfelt, and involving opus, to get along
with him, even as he fires notes at you left and right,
mentioning how he likes this, but he doesn’t like that.
Or likes that, but can’t stand this. “And if you could just change the scene in the
cemetery to a beach with some hot babes.
Don’t forget the chase scene, the “essential”
sex scene, and the – on second thought, let’s have the
babes chasing each other in a cemetery.
And leave some room for a killer “babes chasing
each other in a cemetery” song.
That’s the ticket. Now get that in your script and I’ll call you in the
morning with more notes.”
(Hey, don’t look at me.
You took the job.) Somehow, if
you’re going to get through this kind of
writer-answers-to-the-producer situation (with some of
your hair still in your head), you’re going to have to
find a way to work with him.
By all means, cherish every feeling,
every thought, every vision of you hunting the producer
down and taking him out of your misery.
Process it all. Fill five or six journals; tape record yourself raging at him;
tell all your friends how much you despise how he is
trampling on your sacred artist’s ground.
But you’re still going to have to work with him.
If your name is on that contract and you want to
stick to your agreement, you must find a way to blend your
creativity with his opinion.
Think of it this way, as soon as you accept a
contracted writing assignment, as much as you may be
thinking words like “I’m in the money” and
“finally getting paid to write a screenplay,” I
suggest that you, instead, immediately think the word,
The challenge here stems from the
fact that the producer is not a collaborator (most
the writer; he or she’s the critic, editor, and
God-knows-what-else rolled into one wonderful person. He’s also the purse strings holder. Like it or not, your job is to manifest a script that will
please him. Make
no mistake about it:
it takes considerable flexibility, stamina, and
like a yoga class, doesn’t it?
Maybe you should take up the practice in order to
stay as calm and relaxed as possible for when you get that
next morning’s call, being told that the producer slept
on it and now thinks the movie would “sizzle” much
more if the babes were from another planet.
I’ve got the new title:
“Babes From Another Planet!”)
And you’re off and running on your
next day as a paid screenwriter.
Isn’t Hollywood grand?!