#screenwriting #film #screenplay
“It’s been wisely coined nobody ever endeavors to make a bad movie. It’s also been said as much or more effort goes into making a bad movie as does a good movie. Not long ago, I wrote a screen adaptation of Carsten Stroud’s novel Black Water Transit. To this day it remains one of the best screenplays I’ve ever written. In Hollywood-development-speak, it’s a sort of Traffic meets Crash. Despite the heat on the script, because of its dark crime genre, it seemed destined for independent financing. The studio put the project in turnaround (movie parlance for when they allow the producers to shop it to other buyers). The property eventually landed at an indie company with big money backing.
A side note. Most business people in the indie world are obsessed with the title of producer. The sound of calling oneself a producer is probably easier on the ears of the actress he’s trying to bed. Despite serving no actual producer function on a picture, since they control a portion of the cash, a particular tax break, or represent a foreign territory with funding guarantees, a producer credit is their exalted expectation. In motion picture history never had so many who contributed so little demanded credit equal to that of the movie’s actual producer.
Back to subject du jour. Before we’d rolled a foot of film on Black Water Transit, a picture property that started with only one producer, we were already over-bloated with eight producers. And we weren’t finished yet.
Fast forward through two years, a freight train of cast changes, a super-hot commercial-shooter-slash first-time-movie-director, the shifting of filming locales from New York to Los Angeles back to New York and finally to New Orleans, the bankruptcy of the indie-company, the addition of even more damned producers, and last but not least, my eventual dismissal as sole writer. But hell. At that point? Why not sack the writer? The big-shot commercial director’s ego needed some semi-plausible denial for his constant casting snafus. Truthfully? I wasn’t that unhappy to hit the exit. I’d grown annoyed with the late night conversations, placating the insecure boob with crap dialogue like “Oh, no. It’s not you. You’re awesome. You’re gonna direct a great movie.”
Three months later I get a phone call from Black Water Transit producer number… I forget. Was it fifteen?
“Remember me?” he asked seconds after he repeated his name.
“Of course I remember.” My tone was polite. But I recalled this guy too well from my last movie. He worked for the company financing the picture. His title of “Executive in Charge of Production” was astonishing to many on the picture because of his considerable lack of production knowledge. Go figure.
As the new-and-improved producer of Black Water Transit, he explained the following: that the financing honchos behind the defunct indie company had decided to take over the production chores. That they were nine million in the hole without having shot a frame of film. Oh. And they’d just fired the hot-shot commercial director eight weeks shy of the start of principal photography and the entire crew was in New Orleans, awaiting new marching orders.
“Please come back on board,” the producer pleaded. “We’re going back to your original script. We just need to get you and our new director on the same page.
You’ve heard of music to a writer’s ears? This was an Italian aria piped-in from heaven. Writers never, ever get this good of news. Maybe this……..”