Defending The Writer’s Vision

I know what you're thinking:  "The writer?  Fuck that guy (or girl)!  I'm the director, I call the shots, therefore it's my vision or the highway."

There are some semblances of truth in there, chief among them that a director has to stick to their guns while they're making a cinematic masterpiece.  "Yeah, but, you're just contradicting yourself," you're now thinking.  Hold on, I promise this'll all make sense.

Put yourself, for a second, into the head of your typical screenwriter.  For months - even years! - on end  they give up their time and energy to craft the perfect story.  Every line is precious, every scene a gem.  They know the script so well, if they could plug their brain into a projector, you'd be sure to get an Oscar winning film on screen.  It's perfect, you think, nothing can make this any better.

Then some asshole with a camera and some actors shows up to screw everything up.  In some circles, that person is known as a director.

Like this handsome devil

But why should the director care about what the writer thinks?  He or she has done their part and now it's time for the real work to begin.  Here's where things get a little fuzzy.

To me, a director's job is to defend the writer's initial vision.  Not in a literal, "this exact thing and then this thing" kind of way, but in more of a thematic way.  As a director, you shouldn't be trying to force the script in a new direction, instead you should be pushing it to realize it's fullest potential.

Case in point, last week Mike mentioned that we had a brief disagreement about the opening shot of the movie.  Briefly, the first scene in the movie is a set in the past as our twin heroines' roughhousing unwittingly cause a replica of Paul Bunyan's axe to fall and kill their father (it's a horror movie, don't get squeamish).  "It'll be great," Mike told me on our way to the Trees of Mystery,"I got it all planned out.  The whole thing'll be shot as if it was an old home movie.  First person style.  It'll play super fast, be kind of arty; the perfect way to start our movie."

I agreed with him initially, mainly because I didn't see the space yet and his idea seemed like a good one.  Needless to say, things changed when I saw the location.


This was a place that demands to be shot (in a good way, like the vast majority of everything in that part of the country) and it'd be a damned shame to be restricted by the convention of a handi-cam.  Besides, once I saw the giant goofy smile of Mr. Bunyan, I knew it HAD to be the first shot of the movie.  Mike, of course, disagreed.

I totally understand where he was coming from and the fantastic idea that was this Handicam idea, but it wasn't right.  "For a movie about the hidden dangers of a roadside attraction," I explained while standing in the gift shop, "where a good chunk of our picture is based around the idea of these goofy icons turning deadly, we'd be doing ourselves and the movie as a whole a disservice to not make that abundantly clear within the first five minutes." (see my Baby Birds theory)

NOTE: That is not an undershirt.

I think, I hope at least, what won Mike over was that my vision for the movie, specifically the opening, while different from his, was still thematically similar.  My vision for the movie will be comes from what Mike committed to the page, and my interpretation of it.  More disagreements will come, but as long as my vision doesn't negate the overall feeling of Mike's script, hopefully he'll see that I'm just trying to do it justice.

If not, well, Mike knows where the highway is.

1 Response

  1. Matt vs. Mike – that’s a fight I’d pay to see!!

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