When you make a film, there are two fights you will always have. One is before production, I guess you could call it “development”, when everyone from producers to financiers to friends will tell you what needs to be done to your screenplay to make it better. The other is when you hit production and you are faced with the reality of your budget, your schedule and the fact that the rest of the world doesn’t really care about that shot that you absolutely needed to get.
What’s alarming to me is that the things I fight for in the first fight – ideas that I can’t imagine being compromised without ruining the script, scenes that are necessary, etc – are often things that I’m quick to give up when facing production.
Sure, if I had more money or more time, I could do it all. But no one has enough time or money to make a movie (except David Fincher.)
As I’ve discussed before, “tight” screenplays aren’t always good screenplays. But when you’re are faced with a shrinking schedule, that stuff that added nuance and character to your screenplay, the stuff that wasn’t directly connected with the plot, that’s the first stuff to go. I’m not sure that’s the best way to make a film, but I know that every director has faced that loaded-up schedule and lost a little bit of their soul.
Personally, I love films that stray a bit, or have scenes that have nothing to do with the plot but everything to do with the film. Practically, as I’m not a producer, I haven’t figured out how to get there. Compromise is boiled into the process of filmmaking, but it is also the mother of invention and a lot of times it really does improve the film. It forces you to be creative in ways that can be very cinematic. Directors who know how to solve these problems are the ones who really know how to tell a story cinematically because they are the ones that have access to the cinematic language. In other words, if something can be said, if a story can be told, they have the vocabulary to say it differently, to tell their story in another way.
As I’m facing this problem myself, I am trying to look at it from another perspective. There comes a point in preproduction when you are given what you are given, and you have to make a film out of it. I’m finding that this is a much more positive way of looking at a schedule and at production in general. It opens you up to everything that’s there, instead of the stuff that is stuck in your head that isn’t there, that you wished was there. Take what you can and use it.