Friday, November 05, 2010

Green curtains or blue?

Peter here.  I have now been discussing a film script - an adaptation of one of my China books - with some French producers in Paris for seven months. And guess what? I haven’t even got to the stage of writing it yet.

It has been a series of meetings, then notes on notes. A short synopsis. A long synopsis. A revised long synopsis. A scene-by-scene breakdown. More notes, another draft of the scene-by-scene. Another meeting...

They have difficulty visualising how a scene will be written, and therefore don’t see how it can be. Well, no, because they’re not writers. But what they do want is for me to describe how I am going to write it, without actually writing it. When what I want to agree on is the structure, and whether or not that is working.

And then write the bloody thing!

Here is an analogy of how the discussion might go if I were designing a house for them...

Producer
We like this house you built very much. We'd like to build one just like it.
Writer
No problem. I can design one for you just like this one here, with three levels, six bedrooms…
Producer
Just one thing… we only want one level, and one bedroom.
Writer
No problem. Kitchen. Living room. Bedroom. Dining room. Here's a sketch…
Producer
That's very rough. Is that the dining room? How do we know that's a dining room? It hasn't got a table.
Writer
No problem. Let us draw a table and four chairs in it for you.
Producer
A table and 4 chairs? But I need a table big enough for twelve.
Writer
That's exactly what we need to discuss. As long as we know, we can make the dining room any size you like. Let's make the dining room much bigger.
Producer
Okay. We can move forward, can you draw up the plans?
Writer
We usually start with a blueprint of the foundations, showing details of the size of the rooms, the plumbing, the electricity feeds.
Producer
We don't need to know about the plumbing. The important thing is, we need see it with some furniture in it, so that we can imagine what it will look like.
Writer
Okay, we can do that. Here's the living room, with some armchairs. The bedroom with a bed. The big dining room with its big table to seat twelve people…
Producer
It seems very bare. Normally a home would have lamps and carpets and curtains on the windows…
Writer
Well, at this stage, we are trying to draw up the plans for the house. It's important we agree on whether you want the kitchen at the back, or at the side, do you want the garage attached, or separate. But of course, if you like, we can draw some lamps, and carpet, and curtains, to give you a better idea of the picture… There you go. How does that look to you?
Producer
I don't know. I'm not sure. Wait a minute. Let me show this to my wife, to see what she thinks…
Producers Wife
BLUE curtains? What are you thinking of! We need green ones.
Writer
Of course you can have green curtains if you like. But what do you think of the plans?
Producer
Okay, I like the carpet in the living room, and those armchairs look very comfortable. I'm not sure about the bed, though, perhaps we should put it against the other wall. And those bedside lamps won't do at all. I like to read at night. I need a much stronger bedside light. In fact no. The bedroom doesn't work at all for me. No the bedroom's no good.
Writer
But these are all decorative decisions. First we have to agree the plans! We have to get the bedroom the right size! Make sure it's in the right place! The colour of the curtains can be decided much later!
Producer
No, no you heard my wife. It's very important - we want green curtains.
Producer's Wife
Or maybe blinds…

2 comments:

Rick Blechta said...

I would go to the nearest wall and pound my head against it if I had to work with dough-heads like this.

You're a better man than I.

However, you've more than adequately explained something that's bugged me for a long time. It can be summed up as "How could someone have made a movie this dumb?"

Hannah Dennison said...

I just LOVE LOVE this! It is SOOOOO Hollywood - and I could completely relate to all of it. Wonderful post-which made me hoot with laughter but of course, not exactly hilarious for you .... you have my sympathies!