Let's Get Ahead of Ourselves

I'd like to think that the art of filmmaking has some sort of structure to it, and some sort of order to things: A writer has an idea, and turns it into a treatment or outline, which turns into a rough draft, first draft, second draft, followed by financing, then assembling key actors and crew, pre-production, and ultimately filming the thing. In general, that's the order of thing from concept to product in the film industry.

Yet, whenever I tell someone about my designs to make a feature, I am always surprised by the immediate questions I get. One would expect questions like, "What's it about?" or "What's the story?" But, for some reason, I seldom get those queries. Instead, they tend to ask what interests them the most about the process, and not the product. Usually this is determined by their varying relationships to movies. But the most absurd "first questions" seem to be born either out of innocent ignorance or out of too much insight into how movies are made. So much or so little insight, that they have completely forgotten why anyone goes and sits in a dark theatre for two and a half hours watching a screen.

Common First Questions  (When I say I'm making a movie)

  • What's your budget and/or where will you get the money for it?
  • What camera are you shooting on?
  • Who's going to be in it? aka Are there any stars attached? aka Is there a role in it for me?
  • What's your target audience?
  • What's the title?
  • Why make a movie? This movie?

Surprisingly (or not) people don't seem very concerned with story. I also take some of these questions as signs of lacking faith. It's strange, if a painter says he wants to paint something, no one would ever say, "Where are you going to buy your paint? Where will you show it? Why are you painting in the first place?" People would say, "What are you going to paint?"

This is Seth being oversensitive to nay-sayers. I hate nay-sayers. I'll have to do a separate post on them and their nayfarious ways.

The truth is, these are all fair questions and every one of them needs to be answered. I do have answers to most. I think. The difficult part is to maintain focus on the content of the film and not get ahead of myself. But, to be fair, it is difficult not to consider many of these questions early on. It is especially important to consider some of them during the writing process, as filmmaking is largely dependent on logistics. While I would like to write a scene that takes place in a beautiful penthouse apartment, I have to consider the expense and logistics of actually executing that, which leads me to consider the amount of money I will need, which leads me to consider what compromises I have to make on the quality of camera I use, which leads me to consider which actors will perform so perfectly well it won't matter what camera we use, which leads me to reconsider my whole story that I now have to compromise, which leads to ask why the hell anyone, let alone me , would make a movie at all. Maybe just write "Manhattan Apartment" for now.

Admittedly, it always fun to get ahead of oneself and scheme about large budgets, elusive actors, and shooting on 35mm Anamorphic lenses. But, I have to remind myself, that they are all secondary.

I think the only way to handle these important, but not pressing, questions, is to keep the questions alive throughout the remainder of the re-writing process. I just have to prioritize the script and story over all else. That is the only way to ensure it will even be worth worrying about all these other questions.