I think we can all agree that the writer is the most important person to your movie. The reasoning is obvious or at least should be. The script is the back bone to the movie. It is the writer's words that are transformed into a visual representation of an idea or a collection of ideas and visions that everyone has to work with.
The next person to make sure you have is someone to read the script and tell the writer no. You can call this person the Script Advisor, Script Supervisor, Script editor or what ever you want but you better make sure you have some one that can look the writer in the eye and not only tell the writer no but also tell the writer why.
I am not a screen writer. I have tried to write a script. Hell I have tried to write a novel and both times I failed miserably not because I lacked the knowledge but my brain never gives me a complete story. I admire those that can get all the way through the process and produce a complete story. Let's just say I know some people. No I am not dropping any names.
Now then, on to this mythical person that can help make a bad script good and a good script great. Let me be clear on one thing first. Not all writers need this extra help. Some writers are damn good all on their own but some need a helping hand.
Let me give you an example. I am not giving names or calling anyone out. That would be tasteless. Yes a man that calls himself The Movie Whore just said he does not want to be seen as tasteless. I know an oxymoron if I ever heard one but I am writing this so I get to make the rules. On to the example.
From time to time I have some small film makers ask me for a little private feedback and I sit down with pad and pencil and take notes while I watch. I look for certain things. I look for good dialog, I look for pacing, I look for entertainment. To be quite honest I nitpick. I do this because I have have had a few too many discussions about movies in which we sit and nitpick. Over the years it is one of the things that really has shown me that it is all in the details, little things that are going to stick out to the audience and are going to be judged by the audience. You don't make a movie for the critics, you make it for your audience.
In the films I have given feedback on it was the little things that detracted from the story. A misplaced joked, a gun fight with some one hiding behind a card table, a little over acting, a compromising pose for the shock factor. Yes I know I am being vague. Be patient it's coming.
The last production company I did feedback for had a couple of shorts and I went over each one separately. The first one was painful. I saw a great idea but no idea what to do with it. This is in no way telling of what future work is going to look like. With a first film you expect there to be growing pains and you hope the film maker learns. This script definitely needed some one to tell the writer no. It also needed some one to tell the director no. It needed someone with no emotional involvement with the material. It needed someone whose passion is not for the material but for the process. I refuse to publicly pan anything. I would much rather give my notes to the film maker for something to build on for their next project and if they improve then I will give them a nice push and encourage you to give it a chance.
When I moved on to the second short I saw marked improvement in dialog, pacing, and overall story telling. However the writer and the director still wanted to hang on to a crude joke that did not fit the context. When you are looking over a script you should never have to ask why something is going on unless it is intentional. The Script supervisor needs to pay attention to this kind of stuff and work with the writer to fix these little things. The scene in question put one of the characters in what could be considered a homo-erotic pose and it just did not fit. But like I said, the film makers showed major improvement from the first film.
The last piece is definitely the best of the three. They did a great job at setting a dark mood and did a great job of providing back story for the current situation. Again, the writer thinks he's funny and that humor can go in anywhere. A joke got thrown in that just about ruined all the work they had done to create this intense dark mood. This is where someone should have been reading over the script and when they hit that joke should have said, "No writer, that's a bad writer."
I gave feedback on each separately. The guys took it well and even thanked me for my brutal honesty. I am still not saying a word as of yet about what the 3 shorts are called or even who made them. Why?
Simple. I don't pan indy film makers. These men and women have enough trouble just getting their films made with no budget and don't need some asshole telling the world they suck. In fact I hate those people. They need someone to tell them one on one where they need improvement. They need to go and get someone that can help them make sure they are putting their best work out there each and every time. When you screw up making a movie you screw yourself. Do you want to be that person that has people signing a petition to get you stop making movies or do you want to be that person that people scour the web to find out more about you?
Take the time to have a fresh set of eyes look at what you are writing. Have that person there when you are shooting. If your script is weak, your movie is weak. I have seen good movies that had great scripts and I have seen great actors try like hell to work with a terrible script and I don't care if you're Michael Caine (One of the greatest actors alive), if the script your working with is weak then no matter how well you perform, the movie is going suck.
I could probably go on and on with this topic. It is the one area where I see so many fail. I would rather see some one succeed or help them succeed then dice them up and feed them to the sharks. Alright kids it is time for The Movie Whore to go do something interesting. OK not really. Have fun and let me know what you think. This is no fun for me without you.