I appreciate your question, Really Goin' Nuts (Your mother definitely has
an imaginative mind to have named you that -- Is she a writer, too?
But don't you get ribbed a lot for your middle name, "Goin'"?)
Your situation is a common one since, as the famous saying goes:
"Those that hold the purse strings do not always know what the hell
they're talking about." (Actually, it's not that famous of a
saying since I just made it up, but it could be if somebody had made it up
earlier, like way back in historical times when people really cared about
what people said and wrote it down for posterity). I agree, R.G.N.
It can be very frustrating to know what's best for your script and have to
defer to those who are in charge of it and think they know better than
you do. My overall advice is to go ahead and go nuts. Or really
go nuts. Hey, isn't it amazing? That's also your name!
Will wonders never cease?! What I'm referring to is to be real with
your feelings, and if "nuts" is on the day's menu, then, by all
means, order them. Let yourself feel your initial reaction.
I'm not saying go nuts forever, to dwell in any feeling or obsessive
thoughts (unless you're obsessing about finding the home address of the
producer in question because you're planning on picketing his place all by
yourself and brandishing a placard that reads: "I'm
Not Really A Stalker Because I'm Holding Up A Sign.
" I've heard that
The point I'm trying to get across is that you have to be honest about
how you feel. You're a writer, an artist, and your feelings about
your work are very valid. You want to honor them. But the key
here is to not let your feelings dictate your actions. (I
underline the previous words because I have very strong feelings about
them being very important. Although, that may change in the next
five minutes and I may feel strongly that I shouldn't have underlined
them. Thank God and the Holy word
processor.) If you and many
screenwriters in a similar situation did that, I'm not sure there would be
all that many lovely films to watch. Because so many of those
screenwriters would have quit and walked away from their projects. So,
then, studios would have to bring in scab writers, who would have to cross
the walk-away-from-the-project screenwriters' picket lines. And
where would that leave us screenwriters? It would leave us
struggling to answer a very important question: "Do I picket
the producer at his home or at the studio?" Not an easy one to
face, don't you agree? Not to say that you can't go ahead and up and
quit (I never did figure out what "up" had to do with
quitting.) Quitting is very dramatic and whose to say that as you
huff out the studio offices, a wandering producer won't spot you
immediately and say, "Say, you look like a talented screenwriter who
has been woefully wronged. Would you like a six-figure deal to write
my memoirs?" I'm not saying that couldn't happen. But,
just in case your Mercury might be in retrograde (or Pluto conjunct with
Goofy) or you're not assured of your next screenwriting job, you might want to
consider another option, regardless of how your feelings are adamantly
wanting you to self-righteously make a stand and tell that producer that
you will not allow him to degrade your inner artist and that he can go
hell: that place where producers go and are made to bring
breakfast every morning to their screenwriter masters.
So, if you don't quit, what to do? It begins with making a
choice. Or reaffirming an original one. Did you decide to see
this project through? And are you still committed to that
choice? It's essential at this juncture to look at the big
picture. What's waiting for you at the end of this rainbow, as
slippery or steep or just plain not as colorful as you want it?
Monetarily speaking, is there more possible treasure waiting there?
Do have any backend agreements? Points? Rewrite money if and
when your screenplay sells? Career-wise, is a credit waiting for
you, and possibly a gateway into WGA if you haven't been there yet?
You see, there's always a bigger picture. Will you gain more
confidence or ability to collaborate? (not a bad idea since
"collaborate" seems to be one of the main verbs you need to
master to ascend the ladder of screenwriting success. At least it
sounds better than "compromise," don't you think?) There
can be many payoffs to do your very best to see your original project
through, even though there are far too many hands (or just one
"stupid" one) in it for your satisfaction. But that's a
major key: Your satisfaction is not the concern of everybody else
involved with your screenplay. They're too busy singing their own
version of "I Can't Get No... Satis-fact-ion." You
have to take care of your own satisfaction. You have to live with
you on this and many more projects that will come up in your future.
And you want to be able to handle a similar circumstance with less trouble
and use your experience you gained from a previous one to see you through
it with much more ease and success.
Here's some pointers that have helped me, personally, to get through
difficulties when others in power want to tamper with my screenplays:
1. Don't let them and send them to Producers' Hell.
1. Be honest with your feelings.
2. Re-clarify your goals with the project. Remember to look at
the big picture.
3. Prepare and know your script forwards and backwards (although be
careful about the "backwards" part or you'll end up writing
"Fade Out" at the top of the first page) so that you can offer
the most astute and incisive suggestions in order to guide the producer to
accept your writing as is.
4. Don't overlook the possibility that the producer might have some
effective, and -- yes, I've got say it -- better ideas than particular
ones of yours.
5. Give as much room to the producer as you can.
Remember: Producers like to contribute. Many of them are
wannabe writers. Heck, some of them are writers.
6. Look forward to the possibility and marvel of synthesis, that
your fantastic script could actually be enhanced and you could have a
better chance for a major success because of the collaborative
efforts of others.
I know that these concepts may be a bit foreign to that right brain and
creative part of you, the same part that is a genuine genius when it comes
to imagining and writing a wonderful screenplay. But you need to let
your left brain in on the project, the reasoning, analytical aspect of
you. Hey, why don't the two of you do a lunch and see what you can
come up with?!
Just don't let Lefty push you around. If he does... just walk out