Friday, April 25, 2014

Writers & Directors

"The reason why directors don't like writers on the set is 
because the writers know the director is faking it."

I really don't know who said that but I've heard it often enough to have my take on it. I have a friend who makes short films and who wants to make feature films and when we first met she asked me if "the writer" is allowed on set.

My answer was that, for her, it was pretty obvious that "the writer" wasn't allowed.

There is some truth to it but my own experiences relate to this; the more confident the director is, the more they use the writer as much as needed; the less confident the director is, the less they want to see the writer on set.

The other expression about these two people is that; in film, the director is king and on TV the writer is king.


The easy answer is that a movie is a one-of, a single movie although sequels might happen. But in TV episodic, every episode is written by writers and the director comes in after the screenplay is finished for most of the time. Directors are known to be "hired hands", they come in a few days before their show, they direct it and they leave. They can get a "first look" at the final edit and maybe ask for some changes.

But it's the writers who control the show totally, in fact all those credits that you see at the beginning of a series episode, and whom are called producers, are writers. And the reason they rule is because they have to turn out a new screenplay every week.

But what about movies;

I've done a bunch of TV movies and except for a handful, I was on set for all the others of which some were done in Canada, some in Luxembourg and one in Mexico and except for the Mexico job, I worked with the director. 

In Mexico I worked with a director who really didn't know what he was doing and fought me almost every day until I finally decided to leave. But I did have the producer on my side and he managed to mediate the two of us until we came out with a compromise.

For a dozen of those movies I was rewriting other writers work but even if it was originally someone else's writing, I fought to keep the other writer's work. When it came to mine, I fought harder.

So what does "fight" mean?

It means that the director or producer or executive producer wants changes in the screenplay. If you're working for a good director, chances are they will be minimal, but if you're working with a "hack" as the term is used, they are going to try to show they have power over you for no other reason but insecurity. 

If you really want to see how writers and directors fight on a TV series I did then go back to March 2010 by clicking on the tabs on March 2010 called Heaven & Hell.

Other than that, have a good week-end.

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