Things I’ve Learned As A Moviemaker


On page count

Never,
ever, give anyone-friend, foe,and especially a professional-a script
whose three digit page count has the middle numeral of "three."
"One" is preferable. "Two" only if necessary.
"Four" or higher means you should not quit your day job.

Who you should give your script to

When soliciting script comments from friends/colleagues,
there are two categories. The first are those who identify the movie
you’re trying to write and give you notes to help you toward your
goal, even if it’s not "their kind of movie". These are
good people to give your work to.

Who you shouldn’t give your script to

The second category are those who read your script
and give you notes about the movie THEY would write and/or prefer
to see. These people should be taken off your distribution list
because they will only screw you up.

Get written notes

Don’t try to scribble notes down on the phone and
don’t try to retain them in your head. Get your friends to write
them down. If they balk, remind them that 20 minutes at the word
processor is better than a stressful two hour phone conversation.
Once you get notes, put them aside and revisit them alongside other
notes.

No repeat costumers

Once someone reads a draft, they’re worthless to you
because each subsequent draft will be commented on IN COMPARISON
to the previous draft. Strategize who will give you first draft
notes and then give the second draft to an entirely new round of
people. Often just two or three people will give you more than enough
to think about.

Be a pleasure to work with

Remember, the writer can be replaced, uninvited, and
removed from the set, let alone the entire process. Have a brain
and an opinion and a passion, but have a personality and a smile
and a sense of humor, too.

Actors rule

I don’t care who’s watching your movie-a film professional
or a cineaste or my mother- EVERYONE looks at the actors first.
You can finesse that train sound in the distance on the soundtrack
and be very proud of yourself for your use of irony, but if the
audience doesn’t like your actors, you’re screwed. Cast well.

Eternal dilemmas

Scripts that read well on paper often make bad movies.
Scripts that are difficult to read often make good movies. Development
executives, agents, and script readers cast the worst actors in
their head when they read your script. Actors cast the best actors.

College philiosophy that remains unchanged

When I made my student film I remember telling someone
that I’d rather make a film that if 10 people watch it, three love
it, three hate it, and four think it’s ok, than have a movie that
all 10 people think is ok. That’s still my philosophy.

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