A friend of mine, who has a film production company, but is predominately a director, called me yesterday. He is in New York getting ready to premiere the conclusion to his documentary, In The Land Of The Free, with its brilliant follow-up, Cruel And Unusual – The Angola Three Story. I urge you to see it, utterly heart wrenching. Back to the call.
He told he had read my script – I sent him a script for a sitcom – on the flight over and really liked it. I have a real ear for dialogue he told me. I thanked him, really grateful that he had found the time to read it. Not at all, he had really liked it. He then said I should make it. Really? Yes. It’s easy. It’s a sitcom so the locations will be easy, it’s mostly set in one place. Um…okay…
Understand, this is a man who has just come off the back of directing two successful sitcoms, both of which got second season renewals. I have directed, a bit…okay, three shorts. Three! I wrote and edited them as well, but that hardly qualifies me to direct and, in essence, produce a half-hour sitcom! Don’t get me wrong, I like directing, really enjoy it, but I see myself as a writer first, editor way, way second and a Director third, at a push.
Still, the challenge has been uttered and I must decide what to do. Having written the script I, obviously, know the material quite well. I know what the characters are supposed to do, how they’re supposed to act, what they’re meant to feel. That is why, perhaps, I don’t want to direct it. I have never been a fan of omnipresence in film or television production. I understand that someone has to have the overall vision, but I just feel that comedy especially, works better when many find it funny, in terms of production and vision.
Of course, there is just the plain brain frying, pants wetting, stomach churning, finger pointing, it’s-all-on-me, fear of it all. I had always thought the writing was difficult enough. The thought of pulling an entire project together, a project that could pretty much become my industry calling card, curriculum vitae if you like, is mildly terrifying.
After the elation, at a creditable source thinking the work is viable, then the panic; where the hell do I start? That was quickly followed by lucid thought, quickly followed by panic once more. I need to get a producer. Yes, a producer is what I need, someone to raise the finance. Wait a minute, do I have to pay the producer? Does the producer get paid through the producing? I don’t even know. What about the rest? Location person/manager? Catering? Get the right actors – I’ve miscast before, so I know how important it is to get the cast right – shooting schedule, makeup, camera, lighting, crew, sound? This is just the bare bones. I want it to be better than a good YouTube video!
It could all be pointless of course, regardless of whether I direct, write, produce or not.
There is no guarantee that it would be of any interest to anyone beyond the friends and family of those involved in the production. After all, there are countless programme produced, year after year, that do not find an audience.
Still, what choice do I have? I could send it out to production companies in the hope that someone else likes it and pays to have it made. It would probably turn out a lot different than I imagined it, but that is the lot of being a screenwriter. I could also just keep writing. Just keep honing the craft, looking for that perfect script, the perfect calling card. That would be the way of cowardice, telling myself I need to work on ‘it’ more, that it could be better. Of course, it could. That is the same for anything; it can always be better. That does not matter. Anyone can be brilliant in their basement, they can stubbornly believe that they are great writers, actors, artist, but no one ever sees it, it does not matter.
So, it looks as though I am about to embark on another filmmaking adventure. Wish me luck.