Lessons learned – the “in development” phase

I never tried writing a screenplay with someone before. It’s not that I’m not into collaboration, I just never knew anyone who would want to write something with me (or, like, at all). I’ve never been a part of an artistic group before, but this changed. Now I’m working with four people plus the director – but let’s start from the beginning.

Three months ago I started to work on a short film with the group that I’m a member of (it’s a “student group” at the university). The crew includes four students who’ll work on the story, then I’ll write the screenplay based on their story (I’m also producing it). Last week we had a meeting where we finished half of the story (I’m just there to help them in the process) but it took us three months.

Our first “meeting” (on Facebook), was at the end of December, where we agreed to come up with what we want to tell with the story for the next meeting. But the next occasion didn’t happen until the end of January and they still had nothing. I shared my idea – which ended up being our message. Then we agreed to come up with the goal of the main character. They had another 3-4 weeks but at the end, my idea was the one we chose – again.

At this point, I started to feel like I got too involved with the story – but I convinced myself that’s not the case – plus that they don’t really want to participate. They wasn’t responsive either, only one or two of them replied to my messages.

I also kept suggesting that we should meet in person because that way we could be more effective than on Facebook. But we just couldn’t find the right time. Once we were close to an actual meeting but we ended up doing it on Skype – which was better than Facebook but still not what we needed.

Then came March, a couple of new guys joined the group and suddenly we were able to meet in person and actually get things done.

We came up with the plot points, two obstacles, the solution and the closing scene (the opening scene was described in the previous meetings so I was able to write it), plus we have the list of the scenes for the half of the movie.

So, what did I learn from all of this? Well, for starters, being determined is important. In the beginning, I tried to be nice, I tried not to force anything and always wanted a collective decision, but this slowed down everything. You can’t wait for everyone to agree, because that (usually) takes too much time and you can easily miss the deadline (fortunately – or unfortunately – we have no such thing). You have to be the boss, especially when you’re the producer of the movie. You have to be tough and determined and deal with the fact that your writers (or other crew members) might won’t like you for this. But in this case, during production, they are employees and you’re their boss.

So, I really hope that this little post will help anyone who’s (also) a first time producer working with friends and having a hard time achieving anything. Be firm, be tough, don’t let them dictate the tempo – and if they leave the project, they just weren’t meant to be part of your team.

There might be a second part to this post, because we’re still developing the story, but if not, then see you guys next time in:

Lessons learned: during production

mtj

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