Filmmaking is the business of miracles, so it’s not surprising that most movies fall short of greatness. Having so many moving parts makes filmmaking much like a kitchen where a head chef and his team have to draw disparate elements together to function as a unified whole. This process is about synthesis, finding a way for a variety of artistic elements to co-exist harmoniously enough to create new meaning. A level of intuition is required in order to glue all of these things together in such a way as to be original and yet represent something recognisable enough for an audience to understand based on the language of film. Pushing boundaries just enough to diverge from what’s come before, it’s said that everything has been done and said before… but not by you.
One of the classic errors in filmmaking is entering into a state of disarray before the actual filmmaking even commences. This is why it’s so crucially important for the film to be mapped out in a way that everyone understands. Getting the entire cast and crew on the same page is so fundamentally important that the industry has created a blueprint to do this… a way to ensure the vision is translated in a way to make it easy to understand, follow and imagine on screen. Yes, that blueprint is a film’s script.
While this statement is obvious, that doesn’t stop it from being overlooked. Being in such an image-obsessed culture nowadays, it’s not surprising that the basic building blocks of character and story are often lost in translation. Scripts are chopped and changed. Filmmakers are under pressure to deliver. Pacing is critical. Decisions are made that can alter or adjust the carefully calibrated storytelling at play. There are a myriad of reasons as to why a film can change to the point of being unrecognisable from its final draft script.
What filmmakers can do to ensure some likeness, is iron out the script in the pre-production. Having a meeting of minds. While a screenwriter typically cedes over many rights to their final script, it’s worth retaining the story’s integrity and structure. It’s clear when the characters and story are lost in the handover, turning from character texture to stock characters and from compelling narratives to safe to boring rehashes. Tipping the balance to the visual component is a classic pitfall in the modern age, which is why establishing and committing to outlines and scripts from the get-go is paramount.
Being a political arena where the story is told and retold several times from writing, shooting and editing… there obviously have to be allowances and a degree of creative problem-solving when it comes to getting from point A over the finish line. As much as we’d like to adhere to a degree of purity for the original storyteller’s vision, something that gives the writer-director a clear advantage over the director, it seems more honest for the essence and hopefully bones of the original script to survive the process. In an ideal situation, the screenwriter has enough power to ensure a recognisable outcome to bypass the too-many-chefs-in-the-kitchen effect.