Writers and producers can get along better, but it’s a daunting task for both sides.
That was the consensus Monday among panelists at AFM seminar “Merging Creativity and Business: the Writer/Producer Collaboration.” Event, programmed by the WGA West and moderated by Robin Swicord, drew about 100 attendees.
Key theme to emerge was the necessity of shared passion for a project.
“Don’t choose a producer who thinks of your script as a little film,” noted writer-director Rodrigo Garcia (“Nine Lives,” “Fathers and Sons”). “In my head, my $100,000 movie is better than ‘Spider-Man,’ ” he said.
“I have to know I’m willing to beat my head against the wall, that when people say no, I think they’re wrong,” said producer Julie Lynn (“Wit,” “Fathers and Sons”).
The solution, according to producer Jay Shapiro (“The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys,” “Thumbsucker”), is to select writing with emotional resonance. “You want people to be talking about the movie weeks later,” he added.
Yet another script note
Panel participants admitted that the process of giving script notes could be especially tough on the producer/writer relationship, contending it’s particularly crucial not to overwhelm scribes.
“If you get a lot of studio notes, then revising the script becomes like a slalom course because of the edicts,” said writer Jeff Stockwell (“Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys,” “Wilder Days”).
Writer-director Michael Petroni (“Till Human Voices Awake Us,” “Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys”) said he hands in several versions of the script in response to conflicting instructions from notes. The best solution, he added, is to solve each script problem separately rather than attempt to address multiple pages of notes.
Hunger for roles
But participants also offered an upbeat assessment of prospects for attracting top thesp talent to the unpredictable world of independent film. “There’s an absolute hunger among actors for good roles,” said producer Julia Chasman (“25th Hour,” “Quills”).
“Actors are completely omnivorous, and they’ll do whatever’s good,” Garcia declared. “I write thinking that the greatest actors will want to do the part — that Anthony Hopkins will kill to do this.”
Stockwell noted that scribes are willing to work for comparatively little money on indie films due to the perception that they’ll have more of a say in the filmmaking process. “I’m taking less money for more voice,” he added.
Swicord (“Memoirs of a Geisha”) asked participants to recall their best and worst moments in the writer/producer collaborative process.
“My worst was when a producer fell asleep during my pitch,” Petroni said. “But then he bought the pitch.”