I’ve been writing since early childhood. We all have multiple labels we put on ourselves. We’re parents, siblings, friends, employees, employers, you get it. Some labels are just there but we take great pride in others. I have always been happy to call myself a writer. In fact, I have always said I am first and foremost a writer.
As such, I tend to stick up for my fellow writers, understanding the unique skill we possess and our desire and necessity to get our thoughts, ideas and feelings on paper. When I was young, it bothered me that a film was said to be the director’s. I felt it should belong to the writer. As I grew more experienced and learned more about filmmaking, I understood more about the director’s role. But I still felt writers were being short changed. For example, one of my favorite movies, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY … (excellent use of punctuation by the way, an ellipsis!) begins with the words, “A Rob Reiner Film”. Yes, Rob Reiner directed it and he did a terrific job, but it was written by the late, great Nora Ephron, a genius of a writer. It still bothered me. Until now.
Now, I get it. I am less than four weeks from production on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? but I’ve been through enough that I clearly see, it’s the director’s film regardless of who wrote the script. Not to degrade what we do, screenwriters work hard. A screenplay is one of the most challenging pieces of writing there is. But directing is 1000 times more challenging. Because it takes place in reality.
When writing, I can put literally anything on the page. Words can create and describe whatever my imagination dreams up. Granted, while writing IIR, I did try to keep it simple so I could shoot it on a low budget. But I didn’t let it restrict me. I used whatever elements were necessary. I do envision what the film will look like while writing, but I don’t have to think about how to stage it or cover it with a camera. That burden now falls on the director in me.
Working on my shot list is proving difficult. I’ve got all of the shots planned except for a couple of scenes that involve my protagonist shooting a film. They’re complex with three speaking roles, several extras and furniture and film equipment. I’ve got floor plans of the set and lots of photographs, but it’s still tough. Blocking the actors and figuring out where to put the camera to compose the frames I need is tricky. I’m through with my stick figure storyboards. They just aggravate me and are so poorly drawn they’re confusing in more complex shots. Next movie I direct, I either hire a storyboard artist or I get photos of people on the set where the actors will be.
I know what I need to communicate to the audience and how I want to display it visually. Setting that up in three dimensional space with real people so that it photographs in a two dimensional image is quite a challenge. I have a whole new respect for directors.
It’s your movie, Rob Reiner. Nice work!