Screenwriting : Do some movie industry people share this vision? by Victor Titimas

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Victor Titimas

Do some movie industry people share this vision?

I read in a screenwriting book a quote from a famous producer, I can't recall it exactly, I'm writing from memory:" The writer is the most important person in a movie, and we must do everything in our power to hide this from him".

I don't know if that person actually said that, I apologize if he didn't and someone else said he did....

Anyway, do movie industry people agree with these ideas?:) What do you think it means? Thank you for taking your time to read this!:)

Donna M. Carbone

I don't know if anyone "important" voiced that information but my experience working with a well-known actor has been that it is a shark/remora relationship. A great script is nothing without a great actor and a great actor will bomb without a great script. As a writer (mostly stage plays), I do believe that the time and effort I put into a script deserves recognition. I am also adamant that actors not change my dialogue because "they think they know better." Ad lib, in the hands of a seasoned pro, can be beneficial (in comedies), but other than that, I want everything left as I wrote it. Hence, the reason I mostly write stage plays. Screenplays often look nothing like the story they were meant to portray once Hollywood gets its hands on them.

Owen Mowatt

Not sure I agree with that analogy. "Great" is too subjective to draw that conclusion.

Where do unknown actors who become "great" by being in a great film come into this? Also, Everyone knows the story behind Star Wars, and how virtually every actor involved thought the script sucked, but the rest is history.

I think however coined that phrase was just being facetious.

Donna M. Carbone

It's been my experience that "unknown" to the general public is not unknown to the Hollywood machine. Anyone cast in a lead role in a studio financed film will have plenty of worthy credits listed on his/her resume. For me, only the first three Star Wars movies are worthy of mention and the only major star born of those films is Harrison Ford. I believe only Sir Alec Guinness was a recognizable name at the time of casting. Can't think of any other actor associated with the movies (all of them) whose careers were greatly improved. But none of this has to do with the original question... Is the writer the most important person associated with a movie? As a writer, my answer is "Yes." Call me prejudiced!

Dan Guardino

I think writers are important but I don't think anyone is trying to hide that fact.

Erik A. Jacobson

While I agree that the script is the most important and foundational aspect of any film, I've never insisted that my own writing be directed word-for-word exactly as written. In fact, when I'm auditioning actors for a role I've written, I first ask them to read it as written, then ask that they put my script aside and improvise, giving me the gist of the scene in their own words. Not surprisingly, some of them come up with an interpretation much better than what I'd written. Actors who struggle with this don't get a callback; those who excel at it do.

Donna M. Carbone

I respect your comment, Erik. When auditioning for a film, it is important for an actor to be able to think on his/her feet. However, my experience has been that most actors have a difficult time intuiting what a script is about... many are unable to understand the deeper meaning in a script. I see this time and again in acting classes I teach/moderate. When I ask why a line or word was delivered in a particular manner, I am always surprised by the lack of insight on the part of the actor. For example, in one class a student performed a short scene in which the topic appeared to be a fetish for sucking toes. He did the scene as though it was a straightforward, humorous piece. But -- he was wrong. The scene was about oral sex and there were many not so hidden references to both the act and his psychological addiction to it. I'm always open to suggestions. I just expect them to be offered privately so that a conversation can ensue that "might" benefit both me and the actor. To be honest, I'm conceited enough to believe that no one knows my characters better than I do so no one can write a scene for them better than I can.

Erik A. Jacobson

Very true, Donna. That's why actors who first ask questions about a character's background, motivation, or what had occurred just prior to the scene they're reading are especially welcomed at auditions, as long as they don't overdo it.

Dan MaxXx

Victor

This is my theory. At one time, Writers were Kings of the movie business. The turn of century, 1900s, beginning of talking movies. There were no film schools. Folks were experimenting with film narrative. Movie writers came from book and playwright world. Live theater was a training ground for pictures. After the 1950s, when the US govt stopped Studios from owning movie theaters, a shift of power to Producers and Directors. The Writers Union got weaker, lots of concessions to Producers. DGA & SAG unions got stronger and they captain the ship now

Regina Lee

This is not a perfect metaphor nor does it represent the complexity of dozens if not hundreds of people coming together to make a movie on time and on budget. Moviemaking is like a team sport. On a basketball team, sometimes the star player is the Point Guard. Sometimes the star player is the Center. Sometimes it's the Power Forward. Sometimes a team has 3 star players. Etc. In moviemaking, sometimes the star player is the script. Sometimes the financier is more excited about the director than the script. Sometimes the financier is more excited about the star than the script or the director. Sometimes the financier loves all 3. Thus, the movie will be managed differently, depending on who the star player(s) is/are. People have to defer to whoever the star player(s) is/are. And this huge team of people who are making the movie have to get along to some extent (just like a basketball team full of big personalities), or the movie is going to go over budget, suffer creatively, etc.

Donna M. Carbone

In the movie business, the biggest star is always the person with the production money. While actually making a movie requires a team, few of those team members have decision making power. In fact the majority of those people can be replaced with the blink of an eye. The foundation of every successful movie is a good script. Then, a good director. Once you have that, the rest depends on who and what you can afford to buy with the money available to you. Of course, I'm talking about indie movies because studio movies have only one star... profit.

Regina Lee

Not true, Donna. I promise you that the studio/financier defers to directors, producers, and actors when they need to do so in order to maintain a relationship which they value. For example, final cut would not be given to a director, to a producer, or to a star, if the financier felt that the financier or potential profit were king. Financiers will honor precedent and they honor relationships. The fact that financiers give out final cut is merely one piece of evidence that your post isn't universally true. We don't live in a one size fits all world, right?

Regina Lee

Donna, I really believe that your use of "always" is inaccurate, and I think that using that word can confuse people with less experience than yours - people who read your post, take it as the universal truth, jump to conclusions, and shoot themselves in the foot thinking that "always" means "always."

Doug Nelson

I think Regina pretty well covered it - movie making is a team project wherein one person may outshine the others - no matter; it's still a team. I like to think that EVERY person in the cast/crew is THE most important person (an I treat 'em as such). It only takes one monkey to screw up the project! There was a feeling, years back, that went like this: Writers are the most important people on set - but don't tell 'em; it'll go to their heads.

Donna M. Carbone

I think you misinterpreted my comments. When I said that the money man was the star, I meant at the beginning. Without funding there is no movie. I did acknowledge the importance of the director. He/she is vital at every stage of development but they don't necessarily have final say. Now, if Steven Spielberg is the director or Tom Cruise is the star, everyone will be kowtowing to them Why? Because they are money in the bank so we are right back to profit "always" being king. No one on this site has Spielberg or Cruise et al on speed dial. If they did, they wouldn't be here asking questions. I don't like to give people false hope. There is little chance of an unknown getting a studio backed movie made. On indie non-studio backed movies, actors and directors have little to no voice unless they are also the producer/director/star. That's the most common scenario in Florida. One person - lots of hats. Maybe it's different in Hollywood but I don't think so. Green is still the color of choice. I'm a jersey girl. Maybe I'm just too jaded.

Regina Lee

Without a script that a financier believes in, there is nothing to finance. That said, thank you, Donna, for taking the time to clarify your position. Sincerely.

Dan Guardino

Without a script you can't get attachments and without attachments it is very difficult to get funding so everything and everyone is just as important. I think most producers realize how important screenwriters are and personally I've never had one say I wasn't important.

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