The ability to keep an open mind is a unique and rare skill, especially in our industry. Many filmmakers, writers and actors fail to see opportunities beyond the vision they have for their own careers. For example, how many aspiring writer/directors do you know who won’t sell their script unless they’re tied to direct? And how many actors do you know who arrest their career’s progress in the same manner? Don’t get me wrong; sticking to your guns does pay off on rare occasion. For example, Sylvester Stallone demanded to be cast in “Rocky,” (1975), and Frank Darabont turned down $3 million for his script, “The Shawshank Redemption,” (1994), in exchange for taking far less money and being allowed to direct. However, more often then not, closing your eyes to opportunities outside of your self-planned career hemisphere creates a galaxy full of deals that disintegrate rather than materialize. To quote The Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” Thus, today we’re going to discuss how keeping an open mind will get your career into orbit faster.
Consider How Big Your Film Could Be If You Unlocked (Or At Least Loosened) Its Handcuffs
New actors, directors and writers often times don’t see how small their film looks with themselves attached. Time and time again I see people who can’t imagine anyone else doing their film. However, while they plant a death grip on their script, most everyone on the planet sees their film differently. The masses want to see it made with larger than life actors, so the studios need to hire A-list writer(s) to get a script that attracts an A-List director strong enough who to reel in A-list actors. In order to give you a better understanding, here is an example of how attaching yourself affects each role:
For starters, the second an up-and-coming actor ties himself or herself to a really hot script, the entire scope of the picture is severely reduced. (By “actor” I mean a male or female. I don’t call female actors “actresses,” just like I don’t call female doctors doctresses). Regardless of how good of an actor you are, if you’re not a name brand, your film will be perceived as being small and insignificant. There are exceptions, as some indie films make stars out of unknown actors, but unless that rare, twice in a decade occurrence happens, your film won’t only be “small,” it will be tagged as being “unsellable.”
If your script is seen as being “studio-worthy,” the powers-that-be will want to plant the biggest actors they can find in your film. But those actors won’t work with a first time director, and they’ll only work with indie directors who have been showered with critical praise and festival wins from places like Sundance, Toronto, Cannes and Berlin.
Writers have the best chance of breaking in, because if A-listers can’t live without your words, then they’ll make you “one of them.” But, if the concept of your script is better than its execution, then seasoned scribes will replace you.
Should the above three scenarios make you cringe, just remember a) they involve you selling your creative work, so they shouldn’t make you cringe, and b) the ultimate goal here is to turn yourself into an entity that has control of his or her career decisions. Since such a goal requires enduring a long and painful career path, there will be casualties along the way. Yes, you may have to give up a script you wanted to star in or direct, but if doing so launches you to the A-list, it places you on a higher level than you could have reached alone.
Giving Notes Is Not Attempted Murder!
Whether it’s script notes or editing notes on a film in post, it always amuses me how offended new writers and filmmakers get when people suggest any changes – much less major changes to their cinematic baby. As a general rule of thumb, seasoned writers and filmmakers welcome constructive and well thought out notes, but soon-to-be-film-professionals tend to ignore such suggestions. Thus, don’t be “that guy” or “that gal.” Listen to what people have to say about your project, and take their advice if it makes your film better. Remember, it’s your name on your script or film, so you’re still going to get credit for its contents. Thus, take whatever can make it better.
Treat Your Script Or Film Like It’s Your Newborn Baby
If you treat your script or film like it’s your living, breathing child, your career will blossom into something magical. Every time you’re presented with a problem regarding your film or script, ask yourself, “What is best for my baby?” Surely there will be times when what’s best for your baby isn’t what’s best for your ego. However, for those of you fellow parents out there, you know the sacrifices you’ve made and will continue to make for your children are worth it. Thus, treat your creative project the same way, and you will reap the benefits!
I’d like to thank you once more for lending me your eyes and I’d be honored to borrow them again next Tuesday. Have a wonderful week! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.
Posted on August 28, 2012 in Features, Going Bionic by Hammad Zaidi
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