17 August 2008

The Producer's Breath

I’ve entered one of those dreaded, worst nightmare situations—well perhaps not worst nightmare, but definitely one of those situations I think we all fear as playwrights and scriptwriters. You’ve been commissioned, given what appears to be an open brief to decide story, characters, style, form, structure, blah, blah, blah, you write a first draft that you’re reasonably happy with, and send it off. So far so good. Until you get the producer’s response, and discover that they don’t like any of your choices. Although they don’t express it quite so bluntly, in essence they want a completely different script from the one you’ve written. Your day, which had started off so well, crashes.

My first thought—fortunately not acted on—is to dash off an email saying something along the lines of: Thank you for your email. We obviously have very different sensibilities and ideas, so let’s cut the crap and call it a day. My second, slightly calmer, thought is to remind myself to thank God I don’t work in film or TV where this sort of scenario would be commonplace. The third thought is that this is a paid gig, I’m a professional writer, sometimes this comes with the territory, so suck it up.

Two days later I arrive at thought number 4, which is a mash up of the above: I need to make this writer/producer relationship work. This will involve finding a way to accommodate (some of) the producer’s feedback and suggestions, whilst hanging onto as much of my original script as possible. Will the resulting script be better? Suffice it to say: it will have the producer’s breath all over it.

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