Posted by: Pinar Tarhan | August 22, 2009

Whose movie is it?

I am ashamed to admit it, but until recently I wasn’t all that familiar with the term director’s cut. But I ran into more and more such versions of movies. At first the term sounded a little off. I mean aren’t movies the director’s vision? As a person who writes screenplays, I was a little jealous of the directors. Let me explain:

Screenplay formats advice you not to spend precious lines describing camera angles, suggesting  it would make it slower and harder to read and it would ultimately be the director’s decision anyway. Oh, and we-the writers- are not supposed to give too detailed information about the facial expressions of characters and stuff, since it is the actor’s expertise: He will portray the character. Don’t interfere. So the screenwriter needs to produce something to satisfy the agent,and eventually the producer.
So after your baby (this is how most writers see their work: after all it takes such hard labor to come up with something that makes them happy) has been cut and edited, the director and the casting people decide who will play the characters you created. Then the director will direct. But after the movie is finished, the producers will have the final say about the length of the movie, the scenes to be involved and the ending. OK-I know the producers are finding the money and everything but it seems unfair that that the person who wrote it, directed it and acted in it have not  much to say in the end. Of course multi-tasking has its benefits here. If you are Edwards Burns and writing/directing/acting/producing at the same time, you are the one in charge in all areas. Often actors produce/or co-produce, directors produce/co-produce and/or  write the story. In that sense as hard as it must be, it makes sense to take risks and responsibilities so that you can launch your project and compromise as little as possible. Because movie-making is personal. Story-telling is personal. It is Your Baby. Sure sometimes you can go wrong. Remember Kevin Costner in the Water World? He produced the movie. It cost $175 million and it flopped at the box office. I really didn’t like the movie so I can’t say that I’m surprised but I can only imagine how disappointed he must have been. Yet on the other hand, you have the multiple awarded- Braveheart; it has been directed and co-produced by Mel Gibson. He is the leading actor. As for the producing part, the studio granted a budget of $10,000,000. Braveheart cost $70,000,000. The extra 60  came from his pocke. Wow! He made a movie, had his say about everything and the results were nothing less than glorious.

But it is all very complicated, isn’t it? As an actor, when you are just starting out and going to as many auditions as you can and barely making the rent, you can’t afford to be selective. But after you have made your name and fortune as an actor, you can take risks. You can tell your own story. Kevin Costner did it with Dances of the Wolves. His directing and producing won him two Oscars. He also starred in it. Clint Eastwood did it with Unforgiven. He has kept on directing and I prefer him as a director/actor than only as an actor who plays in other people’s films.

And as a screenwriter, you have to prepare yourself for rejection. Even when you establish your name, you will have the studios to deal with. Yet, it is no reason to give up trying. After all, if you have put your sweat and blood and tears into it,  it is YOUR MOVIE.

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