Template Manifesto

Aspects of this might have been mentioned in other posts, but it is something I turn over in my head excessively, like a crazy person, either for past meetings that could have been more efficient or future projects.  Of course, each creative person will approach a project in whatever way allows them to function and thrive and finally be satisfied somewhat and feel ownership for the results.  The following is just what seems to work for me, but feel free to copy and use or revise to suit yourself:

FOUNDATION PRINCIPLE OF PROJECTS:

It is better to have no movie than to have the wrong movie. Whether the story was broken with a group or written by an individual, once it is read and the tires are kicked in terms of story continuity and it suits the taste of the team leader or director, this is where the project is defined. The more general a goal, the easier it is to attract collaborators. The more specific it becomes, usually that weeds people out so that only those most appropriate for it are involved. So this is all about making sure nobody feels misled and needless upset on location under a time crunch is reduced.  No sense fixing something that is not broken. There is what John Cleese calls open system and closed system of working, the latter being the point where choices have been made and you get on with it.

Every investor, crew member, and actor – anyone involved – has to have one thing in common: They all must be willing to make the same movie as the director.  If the director has to – as part of a written agreement with an investor – initial every page of the screenplay to indicate he or she will indeed make the movie as described, that is a workable condition.  To initial the ether for the sake of promising improvisation would not be possible.

To be involved has to be an INFORMED choice, which requires reading the script so that all concerned know about anything controversial in the planned content.  Though my own politics may be left of the middle, I show no respect for the extreme right nor the extreme left.  Reading 100 pages of screenplay may be work, but nothing compared to the efforts of making a movie. Anyone interested is welcome to look at storyboard sketches also.   Exceptions to the rule might be background performers who only have t know the parameters of the event where they are needed to gather and none should be admitted (even friends who just want to get a message to someone and go) without signing in as part of the waiver / release for their image; It is too easy for someone to decide to hang around, be lost in the shuffle, and end up on screen without release which could compromise the production.  If you can reconcile yourself to the material, any rude jokes for example, triggering content, ideology or lack thereof, that is when to move forward and embrace the experience.

Conversely, should somebody not like the screenplay, my writing, my storyboarding approach to directing and have no confidence in the work or myself, then I would not have a leg to stand on with such a person who why would I walk into the burning house of working with him/her? So this brings us back to the primary principle of wanting to or being willing to make the same movie the director wants to make.

*** END OF MANIFESTO ***

Some people thrive on chaos.  That is NOT what this project will be about, nor will it be a repository for random shtick.  The fiscally responsible Roger Corman approach for low budget is to lock the script and storyboard everything so that the crew can anticipate in advance of a shoot what equipment is needed to achieve the shots and how much time is needed so that we can make the day.

Should the bulk of casting or crewing come from the same person, it is especially vital that this individual meet the above criteria and want to make the same movie. Otherwise the project can deteriorate into a popularity contest or an unstable democracy.  The one nod to democracy should be the informed choice made at the outset whether or not to participate. “You have to follow your own gut.  No hard feelings if you don’t want to be part of this.”

That is a sincere response to those who opt out or attempt to coerce a script change or omission to suit his or her personal peccadillo. I consider it a polite lie, but have said it myself. Many people I know lean so far to the left they would ban and erase every performance of “Baby, it’s Cold Outside.”  So there would be a natural clash with me.

My policy is this:  John Cleese, a co-founder of Monty Python, perhaps put it best quoting his friend and a co-author Robin Snynner of Life and How to Survive It:

“If people can’t control their own emotions, then they have to start trying to control other people’s behaviors.”

This applies to trying to block or erase anything that may set off anxiety for those who have survived trauma. Good intentions or not.  Survivors have suffered loss of control, so they may act out in one form or another by exerting whatever control over others – if only on social media or campaigning to have something banned, censored or pulled from the airwaves or public spaces. For this reason, the sensibility of outrage culture is suspect and needs to be resisted.  This is a big part of the joy and satisfaction of my own writing, which may not apply if you are not burdened by my style or quirks.  The story and plot of a movie just a container for specific lines or shots I am passionate about putting into the world. I don’t especially embrace the “kill your darlings” credo because so much of my writing is JUST little darlings.

If they are delivered “fast and flat” as Barry Sonnenfeld like his comedy dialogue, that is usually best for anything I write.  Like a pebble skimming the surface of the water. When people read, they may come to a dead stop after a risky quip, but the movie doesn’t. If a table reading is organized it has to be without anyone checking their phone for texts and everyone engaged and energized so it isn’t just an intellectual recitation of content but we are selling ourselves on the potential fun tone (or whatever tone you prefer). A cold read may be a challenge some actors like, but it doesn’t serve to make the table read engaging.  You want to catch any words tough to pronounce or any speed bumps. But even saying that, coordinating a table read can be exhausting. But at least it can get across a version of the proposed content so that anyone attending or hearing a recording of the audio at least can get an idea of the music of the pacing in various runs of dialogue and what it really is they are making an informed choice to join.