7/22/10

Bad Movies


During a discussion I had recently with a writer on Twitter, an age old screenwriting question was brought up:

"Why should we as screenwriters trust studio executives when they are the reason for so many bad movies?"

This one's a classic.

First, let's talk about the second half of the question: why they make bad movies.

There's a lot of them out there huh? Most of the movies you find in the theater today are horrible. How could something so horrible make it to the big screen? How could they mess up so badly?

Here's the bad news: they didn't mess up the movie.

You did.

The only reason that they changed something in your script is because you gave them the opportunity. They saw a hole in your through line and
jumped at the chance.

As writers we tend to blame the other guys. "It's not our fault, it's that damn producer!"

But look at it from their perspective. They're trying to sell a product. To the mass audience or to the independent crowd, it doesn't matter. No one is going to respect your original work if it doesn't
look like it will make them money.

And if it doesn't look like a money maker, trust me, they'll make it in to one. And there's nothing you can do about it. So you better do it on your terms and not theirs.

But here's the good news: If you nail the structure, your set. That's all you have to do. Structure is the skeleton of your script. If you have a well built skeleton, your story can never truly turn out bad.

Sure they can mess up the dialogue, delete your favorite characters, add stupid characters, create pointless "trailer moments" and horrible
set pieces. They can even take your name right of the script (most likely they will). But if you nail the structure, there's nothing they can do to ruin the core story.

This is where most writers make there biggest mistake. You must make sure that every event that happens in your script leads directly into the next. You must make it clear for anyone reading your script that if they pull or change one event in your screenplay, they will upset the balance of the entire screenplay and the audience will hate the
movie.

And that's why there are so many bad movies out there. Too many scripts floating with incomplete skeletons.

Scripts without act two and three breaks. Scripts without midpoints. Scripts without escalating roadblocks and obstacles. Scripts without aftermath and final images that endure the test of time.

That's the writer's fault, not the executives.

So let's tackle the first part of the question we started with: why should we trust executives?

Well, you probably shouldn't. No one messes up a script quite like an executive. An exec can spot a structure issue faster than anyone but at
the end of the day, they're not writers. They can find a problem, they just can't fix it.

And when they try to fix it... well we know what happens when they try.

It's best to let them worry about marketing your script rather than making the story better (so nail that structure).

However, don't write off all execs quite yet. Every once and a while they know what they're doing. Take "Date Night" for instance.

It's a fun movie that enjoyed a good amount of success. And it has a great structure. It's fair to say that "Date Night", is not a bad movie.

Now look at the original draft. It's nothing like what showed up screen! 90% of the draft got rewritten. All because the structure wasn't perfect.
Somewhere down the line, it was an executive who decided to have it rewritten.

It was a good call. If the original script was filmed, it would have been a bad movie.

--
It happens every day. Bad movies get made and stuffed down our throats.

But remember, you can't always blame the guy at the top. Story problems use originate at the bottom. The guys at the top try to fix them. They just don't know how.

So it's up to you.

Never forget that. Most writers do.

Only you can prevent bad movies.

3 comments:

  1. Here's my question. If an executive sees structure problems, why don't they just hire the writer to rewrite it. Or a better question, why would they make the movie in the first place if it has structure problems to begin with?

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