What’s a writer/producer to do?

NOTE: Tyler, the hater of blogging, had the brilliant idea that we should update this thing more frequently as we prepare to unveil our film this year. Not just frequently, but weekly. I know. He is insane. But, there are certain times you battle the crazy and certain times you give in.  So, you’ll get new Tyler posts on Mondays, and Dennis posts on Fridays. Should be fun. And hard. Damn you, Tyler.  Here is my first Friday post. 

The toil and questioning of writing are complete. The confusion and delusion of pre-production is finished. The chaos and magic of shooting is over. And now, for some time now, the anticipation and impatience of post-production is well underway. And that is where I have the most difficult time as a filmmaker.

I am primarily a writer. No matter what else I might do on a film (produce, direct, act, etc.), the writing is where the bulk of my time is put in. It is the most satisfying, and sometimes frustrating, part of the project for me. I’m privy to information no one else knows, to the origins of what we are about to do. I get to be with it first, to nurture vague thoughts and ideas, mere images in my head, and turn them into plot and structure and living, breathing characters. I create the blueprint, nay the flag that, if I do it well, others will follow into the year(s) long battle that will become our film.

Once I hand off the script, if I am not directing, I enter producer/writer mode, where I am trying to organize an actual film and work on numerous rewrites of the script until Tyler and I are both pleased. Once production begins, if I am primarily producer, making sure shit is getting done, that people know when and where to be, bitching when we’re off schedule, making sure Tyler is doing okay, etc. And if I am acting, as was the case in Grassman, I still have to do all of that and pretend to know my lines and trick everyone into thinking I’m all thespian-like. Pre-prod and production are extremely hectic, exhilarating, and stressful times that make me want to get to do this full-time.

Powerless producer mode.

Powerless producer mode.

Then the lights are turned off, the cameras packed up, and the cast and crew head their separate ways. Post-production has begun at Monkey Productions and is, for me, the most useless I feel during the entire project. You see, unlike big time productions with money and facilities, Monkey Prod consists of Tyler’s home office and my home office, which means that Tyler takes all of the film home with him to work on. I take home… well, nothing. Once post-production begins, I put my writing pants on again and look for the next project to compose.

And as far as the film goes, I am considerably in the dark, particularly the further along it gets. Because we are a self-financed indie production, all of our projects, including Grassman, have had open-ended deadlines. Because we have no investors or studio or business partners to answer to, we can take as long as we need to complete our project. In fact, the time when this is most apparent, because it is literally just Tyler and I, is during post-production. There are no actors schedules to work around, no locations being torn down, no snow storms coming to white out the project. The only pressure we find ourselves under come from ourselves and the various friends and family members that continue to ask “So, where’s the movie already?” and “Are you ever going to finish it?”

This independence is both good and bad. It’s good in that unlike many investor finance or distributor-advanced films, we don’t have to rush to meet unreasonable deadlines to make unsympathetic suits happy, putting out something that we aren’t 100% happy with. On the other hand, given the types of people that Tyler and I are with various levels of ADHD, OCD, depression, and numerous other therapy demanding issues hindering our effectiveness and progress, this lack of deadlines can become a crutch. It can be seen as an open excuse for delay, or as a rational for a level of perfectionism that could border on obsessive.

It is one of the things I struggle with as a writer: I have no deadline, therefore I have no reason to complete my novel just yet. I should take some time to perfect my outline, or to really nail this world-building I’ve only begun to sketch out. I can’t possible start yet, because I haven’t gotten into the heads of my sub-characters yet. The excuses and rationalizing can be endless.

It has, at times, also puts a strain on the relationship that Tyler and I have as creative and business partners. During post-production, I’m in powerless producer mode. This means I am producer in name, but with no real effective way to motivate the production. I have no purse strings to tighten, no jobs to threaten, no alternatives to offer. I am essentially neutered. All I can do is complain and whine and hope. I find myself going back and forth between bitching and motivating. And all from my virtual office, via texts and Facebook messages and Google Hangouts. I can’t even stand over his shoulder and do it.

Although I trust no other person with our film like I do him, Tyler has all the cards at the juncture. He has the entire film, all the files, the editing machine(s), and the backups. I often tell him that at this point in the game, he understand the characters and story better than I do, because he is working on the final version of which my script was only the framework. His edit is the true story now, the one that will be shared with you. And, unfortunately, he’s the only one that truly knows where that story is right now and what needs to be done to complete it.

The point is this: filmmaking is indeed a collaborative effort. But depending on the budget and size of your production, it may be less collaborative than you would like at times, to the point of frustration and helplessness. But you must drive on. Depending on your role, you need to do the hell out of your part and support the other when they are doing theirs. And if you are a producer in powerless mode, try your damnedest to keep communicating with whomever your creative, mad scientist is as they lock themselves away to edit your project. I choose to communicate via bitching and motivating, so Tyler knows 1) that people still give a shit about the film, and 2) that he’s still the guy to get it done right.

–Dennis

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6 responses to “What’s a writer/producer to do?

  1. Pingback: The Beginning: Part 1 of 2 – Let’s make us a movie | The Grassman – Movie Production Blog

  2. Pingback: The Beginning: Part 2 of 2 – That’s not a Bigfoot movie. THIS is a Bigfoot movie. | The Grassman – Movie Production Blog

  3. Pingback: Writing is writing again, and again, and again… | The Grassman – Movie Production Blog

  4. Pingback: Blogging is writing, too « Write, damn it.

  5. Pingback: Drafting (Part 2): The 2nd, Where Everything Almost Falls Apart | The Grassman – Movie Production Blog

  6. Pingback: Lights, Camera, Action! What have I gotten myself into? | The Grassman - Movie Production Blog

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