Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tweaking script, finalizing contract

It never ceases to amaze me how long everything takes when making a film. I simply refuse to never give a timeline again, it's always wrong. We verbally agreed with Pure Flix to make some films back in September, and now it's March, and we're just finishing up all the contract stuff. It's no one's fault in particular, but lawyers always go back and forth and can never get their schedules together, the producers get interrupted by other projects, holidays come in, etc.. It's remarkable.

Our screenwriters for the project we're about to do, title still in the air, are Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman. They're terrific to work with and delivered a great draft. In the past month or so, I've been tweaking it to fit my specific vision and personality. At this stage, I usually work with a friend of mine from college, Wes Halula (he wrote Midnight Clear), who's exceptional with dialogue whenever I tell him, "I want to say this in this scene, help me." The key is always to maintain the overall vision that you agreed on with the original writers, and to protect their work, because usually there are good reasons why choices were made. But at the same time, it's ultimately the director's job to incorporate all the elements (writing, acting, photography, editing, music, etc.) into a coherent theme that fits their specific vision, and that always involves some tweaking.

Most of it's dialogue tweaks, but sometimes it might be a scene or a character choice that the writers feel strongly about but the director doesn't. It's always important for the director to believe passionately in every line and scene, so if he or she wants the writers to change something, and the writers don't agree or can't see it, then the director needs to go ahead and make the adjustment. A director should never ask a writer or actor to do something that the director can't articulate well himself.

But at long last, I feel strongly about the script, including all the minor stuff. The timing is right because we're finally at a point in our contract discussions with Pure Flix where all the major stuff seems to have been worked out, and we have clarity with each other. We'll be meeting with them this week to finalize it all, and hopefully we should have everything signed within a week. In the future, whenever we're working with another group, we're going to have everyone get together, including the lawyers, to talk about the general issues. Then I'm going to demand that the lawyers spend an afternoon together hashing everything out, and then if there's anything remaining, we're all getting together again to finalize it.

This script has been fun to work on. This time around, we're going straight for a particular market, and it's actually somewhat freeing. I've always maintained that I was making films that were for everyone, which often ended with me making a film that was tough to market to any one group. Someday, I'll hopefully get back to the place where I can make any film I want without having to be obsessed with marketing, but I don't have the clout for that yet. For now, we're making a film for the Christian market, we're making no apologies for it, and now that we've fit within the parameters of that kind of film, my sole focus now is on simply making the best film I can. And realizing that you have a specific market in mind makes a lot of your decisions easier.

Hopefully we'll wrap this all up this week, and we can get into the fun part, and I'll be doing several blogs a week.