Repeat Business: Feature Film Producers are Your Lifeline

feature film, producer, producer notes, screenplay notes, screenwriting tips -

Repeat Business: Feature Film Producers are Your Lifeline

Screenwriters and film producers are a marriage of necessity. Producers need scripts. Writers need producers to get their scripts made. Industry lore is littered with examples of screenwriters feeling jerked around by producers, and there’s a combative relationship often implied between these two parties.

But to the feature screenwriter, the feature film producer is a lifeline for a meaningful career. That producer could hire you again, bring you on for a polish on every movie he or she gets made for a decade, and refer you over for other jobs.

In other words, one should endeavor to be the producer’s best friend. What’s preventing this? Notes – notes are the fly in the ointment that can quickly get ugly. But this doesn't have to be the case.

Part of the issue is that most writers have never produced anything. They haven’t walked a mile in a producer's shoes. So, when they hear a “stupid note”, like, “Can we lose the bell tower?” they might respond with, “The script’s set entirely in the bell tower.”

With rare exceptions, a producer’s notes are usually based on their best guess about how to get the movie made. If a producer asks for your twelve-year-old lead character to be aged up to late twenties or mid-thirties, they aren’t doing it just to be a jerk, they’re probably doing it because they know it’s going to help them cast a bankable lead.

Once a writer accepts the cold hard facts of producing, a lot of the pain of notes can go away. Ultimately, screenwriters and producers have the same goal: get the movie made. This being the case, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be united in purpose creatively. The creative notes are in service of the overall note: get the movie made.

Are there problem producers who give destructive notes out of pure ego? Of course. But they’re the exception, not the norm. Screenwriters who empathize with producers are the ones who get hired and re-hired, and become the “pet writer” of a prolific producer, and so on. Genuinely bonding with producers is one of the best ways to sustain a career in screenwriting.

Leave a comment