Double vision hits DGA

Co-helming rule jeopardizes Par's mission to 'Mars'

HOLLYWOOD — There are dozens of hurdles that can derail a film. But Paramount’s sci-fi tentpole “A Princess of Mars” is in danger of being knocked off its tracks by one of the most arcane: the DGA’s credits rules.

The pic, budgeted at around $100 million, was being eyed as the first in a series of fantasy pics on the scale of “The Lord of the Rings.”

But helmer Robert Rodriguez resigned from the Directors Guild last month because he wanted to give co-directing credit on Dimension’s “Sin City” to Frank Miller (creator and illustrator of the graphic novels) and list Quentin Tarantino as “special guest director.”

That’s no problem for Dimension because the Miramax genre arm isn’t a DGA signatory.

But Paramount is, so it’s obliged to employ only guild directors.

Rodriguez is unwilling to rejoin the DGA just to direct “Mars,” which is scheduled to start early in 2005. Par is still hoping it can convince him otherwise, but the iconoclastic helmer’s move renews the debate over the DGA’s longstanding credits policy.

DGA rules dictate only one helmer be assigned to direct a film. But it occasionally grants waivers, as with the Coen, Farrelly, Hughes and Wachowski brothers.

So why not accommodate Rodriguez?

“I think what the DGA fears is that the credit is going to be diluted like the producers credit, which can be so amorphous that it doesn’t really mean anything,” notes Jeff Schaffer, who planned to share a directing credit on DreamWorks’ “Eurotrip” with co-creators Alec Berg and David Mandel until the DGA refused to grant a waiver.

Schaffer was ultimately designated as the pic’s named helmer, but all three sat in the director’s chair.

“We just wanted to get the picture made, so we agreed to do it the DGA’s way,” Schaffer says.

“They don’t want directors in a situation where all of a sudden they are having to share a directing credit with a powerful actor. I am totally for keeping the integrity of the credit, but it needs to be accurate.”

A DGA spokesman defends the guild stance.

“When it comes to creative judgment, vision, leadership and decisionmaking, it is true in filmmaking — and many other endeavors, whether conducting an orchestra or running a major enterprise — that co-directing generally does not work.

“Having said this, there are exceptional circumstances where two individuals have demonstrated an ability to reflect a singular vision through previous directing experience.”

This is the second DGA exit for Rodriguez. He also quit so he could take part in the Tarantino-orchestrated film with four helmers, “Four Rooms,” released in 1995.

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