Thursday, March 15, 2007

Those who can, do

Those who can't........well they just can't. You know the one thing that REALLY ticks me off about writing scripts. It's not the fact that any episode I write might possibly be savaged by an editor wearing boxing gloves, or a director just going through the motions, or a producer giving crazed notes I have to try to incorporate.

Nope, none of the above. Those are just run of the mill occupational hazzards.

What brings the red mist down, especially as by that stage there is nothing I can do to remedy it, is when someone - script editor, director, whomever, decides that they'll add a couple of lines of dialogue here and there and that dialogue sucks farts from swans.

See, in the main, the audience in general doesn't really notice lazy direction or editing, but they definitely do notice teeth grating dialogue, and just a couple of lines of nail down a blackboard stuff can do a heck of a lot of harm, especially if the actors deliver it like Pinnochio on mogadon. It instantly takes them out of story. Pretty much the last thing you want to happen.

I don't have a standard PACT contract handy, but from memory it pretty much says that the writer has first dibs on any substantial revision to the script subject to any time constraints.

Two get-out clauses right there. Try arguing that a couple of lines of dialogue is substantial? You'll get blank stares. An entire strand? Sorry, time constraints.

The thing is some people can write good dialogue. That's one of the reasons why they're pro writers. It's actually one of the minor reasons, but still a whole hell of a lot more important than some Klutz with a tin ear sticking their two cents in.

But they have THE POWER to do that. And it's something you've pretty much got to live with. I'd say that if something I write ends up on screen as something like 70% of the way I wrote and envisaged it then I'm happy. So long as the none of the other 30% did actual harm. But it takes so little to do actual harm, and that is something a lot of non writers in the industry who are concentrating on line production aren't aware of.


Phillip Barron said...

Couldn't agree more - stick to your own discipline.

I was having a discussion with a friend about directors who change a few words and want a co-writing credit.

They come up with genius improvements like: I've changed it so she eats a tangerine instead of a satsuma; and I've changed the credits to reflect my input. The guy now says 'hi' instead of 'hey' and I've taken half of your fee.

Yeah, great. Thanks for the help. I've moved one of the extras an inch to the left - can I have a co-directing credit?

English Dave said...

Wasn't meaning credit Phil, though I feel your pain.

potdoll said...

Script editors are allowed to write dialogue??

Not in my world they're not. Nor should they be.

Phillip Barron said...

Sorry, I frequently ramble off topic when I'm commenting. I tend to just start writing massive amounts of crap and then edit it afterwards.

Looks like I deleted all the pertinent information and went into a random rant of my own.

I'd love to say it won't happen again, but ...