It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged and I’ve missed it terribly.
As it does, life got pretty busy because I was making spreadsheets. Lots and lots of them actually. I was hired to be Production Manager and Line Producer for @AriRossen ‘s short film “Sound/Vision.” I was hired in the beginning of May for all the pre-production goodness and we shot the first week of June. What a whirlwind! I learned SO MUCH about how to pull all the details of a movie shoot together and I’m really grateful that I got the opportunity.
While I was immersed in budget lines, a lot of kooky stuff was happening in the theatre world and has set fire to an issue that quite frankly seems like a non issue, to me at least.
The big problem with both of these productions is that they made changes to the shows without getting permission from the authors.
Now, there has been a lot of conversation about this and I wonder, WHY? Some people are arguing about the bad personality of the authors, others are saying that they cast the most talented actors with no regard to gender, others say that it’s the director’s prerogative to envision the show as they wish, etc. etc.
And honestly I think it’s all hogwash. Unless you’re performing a play that is in the public domain, you have to adhere to the wishes of the playwright’s vision. Or at least ask them if you can make changes (maybe because of financial constraints, or casting issues, etc.)
I have limited experience with these kinds of contracts, but I do know that the last play I produced had terms that were very specific. They said that the play couldn’t be altered in any way from the author’s original design without specific consent. And I was producing an Equity Showcase. Imagine the contract that was in place for the above shows. I guarantee that their contract had similar stipulations.
It’s total arrogance on the Producer’s part to think that they could override these details and not get in trouble for it. All the money they spent on the casting, design, rehearsals, marketing and ticket sales? Down the toilet. Not to mention that all the hard work that the actors, crew and administrative staff put in to the show is now a total waste.
I can think of two big reasons.
Publicity and Greed.
They may have planned all along for this to happen so that they could attain a headline. Certainly, many theatrical publications are writing about this (including me and this little blog) and probably will for the forseable future, as it’s now sparked a big conversation about creative license. Their company names have been splashed everywhere and I certainly know who they are now. There’s no such thing as bad publicity right?
And hey, it’s tough out there. Successfully producing theatre is an uphill gig and not a very lucrative one. If you can obtain a longstanding, popular or new play and get it to your audience before the next guy, you might make it another year.
But here’s the thing. You have to have RESPECT.
Everyone’s job is hard. As they say, if everyone could do it, they would.
Just because the writer usually isn’t seen, doesn’t mean that some celestial fairy just happened to appear out of the stardust, sprinkled golden sand and words appeared on paper. Those words that you want the rights to? Those words that you want actors to bring to life? Those words that you want to hire a set and lighting designer for?
They came from the brain of a person who one day had the kernel of an idea. So they wrote some thoughts down. Then they started creating some dialogue. They shaped some scenes. They erased all of those ideas and scenes and started over again. And again. The story took shape. The character is now not a man, it’s a woman. The town is not in the country, it’s in a city. They write in coffee shops, on the train, in their house, in a room, with the door shut, on the toilet, WHEREVER THEY CAN GAIN INSPIRATION into the world of the story they are trying to tell.
It’s not easy. It’s really frickin’ hard. I myself am trying to write my very first screenplay and yeah, if someone tried to take what I’d cried about, obsessed about, second-guessed my talent about, re-evaluated my relationships and myself about, searched my heart and soul and true feelings about and decided to turn it upside down and have the audacity not to even ask my permission? I would cease and desist too.
Art is personal. We create projects because something inside of us can’t let it go. If you love what another person creates, and you want to make a part of it your own, then you have to respect the process that person went through. They own it. You can have a piece of it, that’s why they allow the rights to be attained. But you can’t take their art, think you can make it better without asking, make money off their backs, and expect any good to come of it.
Circling back to “Sound/Vision”, I know how hard Ari worked on that script. It was a very emotional and personal process. I can imagine how devastating it would be to have anyone condescend to change it without his input. I remember on set, how respectful the Director and DP were about capturing his vision.
To close, I think a rallying cry needs to be made in our community. We need to stick up for each other and our creative leaders. Protect each other. What we do is important. We cast an eye on our society and comment through entertainment. We can’t turn on each other, because when we do, it weakens us and the value we bring to our communities and the world.
That’s my 2 cents. Heck, I think that was maybe 25.
Glad to be back everyone!
Live long and Create!