Going To War

ew years back I teamed up with another writer on a screenplay. (My policy is try anything once). Together we wrote a treatment. We submitted it to one of the Canadian government film financing agencies.

Per the bleak and ineffectual bureaucratic mandate of the agency, what came next was a conference call. On the call were; me and my buddy (the writers), an evaluator working for the agency and our would-be producer.

It should be said at this point that this evaluator is there to (you guessed it) evaluate our project then bring it before a panel of other evaluators. In this closed door meeting these evaluators are supposed to “fight” for the projects they’ve been given to fight for.

It’s worth noting that these evaluators are also usually out of work filmmakers on contract with the agency. In fact Canadian film agencies are generally populated with failed filmmakers. Arguably failed filmmaker smart enough to give up while still young in favour of real jobs.

So, the conference call. The conference call comes after our evaluator has read the treatment and before he’s due to fight for our project. An opportunity for him to ask questions. Make sure we’re on point. The objective being to strengthen the project.

My writing partner, our producer and I have a pre-meeting before the call. Ducks in a row. And the first thing this producer says to me is Are you ready to go to war!?

… Huh?

Isn’t this guy our guy? Isn’t he the guy going in to fight for our project?

So… Why exactly are we going to war against him?

If it was just this one crackpot producer I probably would’ve forgotten about it. But I’d seen this attitude before and since. It’s a systemic attitude of adversarialism. The filmmakers still in the trenches resent those who quit and got jobs in the bureaucracy and the bureaucrats resent the filmmakers who are still out there in the trenches.

That was years ago now.

And these days I’m frolicking in the harmonious world of Hollywood. Where things are obviously much different.

As you’ll recall, last week I got new notes from the producers who’ve optioned my script. Their notes took the project to the worst place that it could have gone.

So at Manager’s instructions I was told to prepare my thoughts on their notes. On this new (impossible) direction for the story. That we’d conference and I would be given a chance to explain why this is the worst idea anyone’s ever come up with in the history of the universe.

I made a list. In fact, I wrote comments for each of their notes. Many of those comments, I should say, were to agree with the note. To built on that particular idea. As I’ve said before, I’ll gladly sell out over the stuff that makes sense. I’m not hear to write my story, I’m here to write the one that facilitates the making of a film.

What I had to argue against was this one fundamental change that they seem hellbent on implementing that completely destroys the story itself. A wildly bizarre request that seems to have come out of nowhere.

As I told Wife, I’m amassing my arsenal. Storing up arguments like ammunition. And then, before I knew I’d said it, there it was:

I’m preparing to go to war.

The same adversarial words as that idiot producer years back.

I want to do the right thing. I’m trying really hard. But man, show business is like a sociopath who knows just what buttons to push.


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