A big, fat puzzlement

So the director read my draft.  He liked it, but felt it wasn’t what he was looking for.  Not that this kicks me off the project, you understand.

He is sticking to his original version of the story, which I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around.  The more I look at his notes, the more I wonder “Does this guy have a grasp of screenwriting basics?”

For example:  the hero is not only a film student (natch), but a really good one. “No matter what he writes, it will be awesome.”  But his crisis is that he’s not inspired to write his final script before graduating.  As a writer, I can relate to it, but it’s a boring crisis.  Where’s the conflict?  Why not have it be about the ramifications of NOT writing it?  In my version, he was worried that the script wouldn’t be good, and he kept having these dreams about overcoming self-doubt, inspiration and so on.

But it wasn’t what he wanted.

This guy wants what sounds like ‘representation of concepts’, like one character to represent inspiration as arousal of the mind, and another to stand for the hero’s gratification.  What does that even mean?  And one character is a link between his motivation and his inspiration.  This is where the cartoony question mark appears over my head with a ‘boing’ sound effect.

I’m very concerned with how this is all supposed to fit together.  Some of the scenes and characters don’t have any basis.  It’s like he thought “I’d like to have this happen,” but FOR NO REASON.  I hate when that happens.

He wants this to be an action/thriller/fantasy.  As I told him last week, where’s the action?  Right now, it’s a whole bunch of talking heads.  The hero is passive, not active.  The thriller aspect means suspense, intrigue and mystery.  What he’s suggesting has none of these.  The fantasy refers to him wanting it to be all set in the hero’s mind; it’s all a dream.  I can make an exception for the fantasy aspect, but SOMETHING HAS TO HAPPEN!

He sent me the character descriptions today.  They were much more extensive than I expected.  As I mentioned above, the hero is a film student and his work is awesome, etc., etc.  Making the Golden Boy your hero is boring, unless something happens that conflicts with him.  The Girlfriend character is listed as angry; why is she angry?  I was told because she thinks he cheated on her.  But it was in a dream.  And she’s angry in the dream.  But is she angry in real life?  There’s a bossy call girl, who is supposed to be doing ‘naughty things’.  And her pimp, who is an orphan but was raised by the call girl’s mother and promised to take care of her.  SO NOW HE’S PIMPING OUT A WOMAN HE PROBABLY CONSIDERS HIS SISTER?  AND THEY WANT TO OPEN AN ‘EXOTIC CLUB’ TOGETHER?  This is creepy on so many levels.

Then there’s the wise pool player, which I guess is supposed to be a kind of Obi-Wan character.  I think.  I don’t even know what he’s supposed to do.

Like I said, this is what the director wants.

I’m meeting with him tomorrow, armed with a whole bunch of questions.  If it doesn’t work out, no hard feelings.  I gave it a shot, but if he’s dealing in abstracts, then I’m not the right guy for the job.

He said he’s moving to LA/H’wood early next year.  No matter what happens, I wish him all the best.  He’s gonna need it.

2 thoughts on “A big, fat puzzlement

  1. Paul,

    You aren’t alone, and if you must exit, I hope you do so gracefully.

    A pal from my acting class, who also directs, came to me with an idea for a movie about two brothers, both abuse victims, who take different paths in life. That may sound like a good set-up for a drama, but he then veered off into about the same sort of nonsense you’re experiencing. I tried to steer him toward the dramatic side, where the older brother, who took a corrupt path, ends up getting into some trouble, and the younger brother, who took the straight and narrow, has to get him out of it, but my ideas didn’t fit his “vision” so the project faded, which is too bad, because I think we had a winner. He was more interested in being weird than telling a story. His title was awful: “The Ties that Bind Them”. But he thought the title was so hot that he registered it!

    What is it about filmmakers and their movies about dreams? My friend’s first directorial effort, a short film, was about a character with both physical and emotional problems who wanted to reach a state of “wakeful unconsciousness” so he could “dream forever” and the movie was complete shit.

    And I can feel the rush of hot gas from your director as I read your post; he won’t last ten minutes in Hollywood, and will spend most of his time bemoaning the fact that nobody understands his greatness.

    • Yes, and yes. These projects raise all kinds of flags. Victims generally make lousy main characters; they’re people things happen to, not people who make things happen. Most viewers do not identify with characters they pity.

      Ask yourself re any project: what are the stakes? Unless the stakes are really big, the movie will be drivel. The ‘wise pool player’ sounds like a variant of the ‘magical negro,’ a total cliche. Do these directors want to run before they can walk?

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