Reality of Film Development When funding reaches its later stages, the producer must obtain final approval and agreement from each funding source. Financiers will have to provide the go-ahead before shooting can begin. There are occasions where the producer will need to push the project into pre-production to force a commitment from the financiers to prevent it from stagnating or to avoid missing out on certain opportunities.

It usually at this point that any last-minute rewrites will be performed. The producer’s primary focal point will be to secure funding for the film, and it is at the stage that the director and financiers will have the greatest influence over the script. Any previous power held by the writer will be almost entirely gone by this point and he may even be replaced for any final tweaks to the dialogue.

There can often be somewhat of a struggle between the parties involved, with the writer wanting to stay as true to the original concept as possible, and the financiers demanding changes be made to make the project more commercially viable before they commit to funding it. It is the producer’s responsibility at the stage to act as a kind of mediator between the writer and financiers. Matters can also become  further complicated if the director wants to bring in a second writer to make final fixes.

Despite the potential for conflict at this stage, there is also the potential for a great deal of inspiration and creativity. Screenwriter Olivia Hetreed once mentioned that this is her favourite part of the development process, because; “you’re not working with the person who is actually going to make the film and is focusing intently on making the film work.”

Once shooting begins, this is when the largest number of people are involved with working on the project. This also happens to be when the director finds himself in a position of great power; his word is law at this point. If scenes need to be added, rewritten, or removed altogether, it will be because of the director’s say-so first and the actors’ contributions second.

Post-Production

Once shooting is complete and the film enters the post-production stage, the director will find himself in a similar position to that of the writer in the pre-production stage. During post-production, the power of the financiers and distributors will be at its peak, with edits being made predominantly according to their influence.

Remember, the director is himself under contract so he must humble himself enough to understand that his input is now just one part of the equation. The final cut will usually be a struggle between the director, producerand financiers.The writer has little, if any involvement at this stage.

Post-production will also see the entry of other creative elements, such as film and sound editors, musiciansand special effects artists.

Marketing and Release

This is the stage at which the financiers and distributor will have the greatest influence as they will be in direct control of any marketing of the film.

It is important to bear in mind that it is employees of the distribution company who will conduct the marketing campaigns, so they have limited resources and influence and are told what to do by the distributor’s chief executive. These employees will not be subject to the power of the producer, but it can be a useful political move to give the producer and director some level of involvement in marketing. Although this can prove useful, there is no power disparity here and the feedback of the producer and director can be explicitly rejected if so desired by the distributor.

The Next Project

Once marketing and screening of the film is finished, it is time to begin working on the next project. The producer must now return to the writer and begin discussing new ideas. After going from a position of high power to one of little influence, the writer is likely feeling quite disenfranchised and unhappy with how the final edit turned out relative to how he originally envisioned it.

Now is the time for the writer to return to a position of power and influence as discussions begin for the next film. The writer  can make or break his relationship with the writer at this stage depending on the amount of care and respect he shows for the writer’s abilities.If the relationship has not been an entirely fruitful one, the writer may choose to take his work elsewhere – to another producer.

The most successful producers will often forge solid relationships with writers and directors so that they may collaborate on multiple projects. This is a far more favourable situation to the producer who may otherwise lose treasured writers to those with greater financial backing, more contacts and more respect for the raw talent of writers.

Summarizing The Transfer of Influence

The dynamics and individual parties involved can vary dramatically from project to project. However, we can summarize the transference of influence that occurs as the balance of power shifts from the writer to the director and financiers, inevitably landing back in the hands of the writer at the beginning of the next project.

This transfer can be understood in several phases, like so:

Phase 1 – Initial Concept
The number of people involved in the project is at its smallest. The writer and producer will be the only ones influencing the film at this point, although a development executive may also be brought  in.

Phase 2 – First Draft
This is where we see the writer weilding the greatest amount of power. Feedback from the producer will be provided, however the writer is still in control at this stage.

Phase 3 – Redrafting and Developing Interest
The directors and financiers enter the equation in this phase. The writer still has some degree of influence but his power is waning and his opinion is now just one of several.

Phase 4 – Final Rewrites and Shooting
The writer is essentially expendable at this point and has lost all of his former power. Depending on the relationship between the writer and the director, the writer may be able to gain some degree of influence on the set, but this will be entirely at the discretion of the director.

Phase 5 – Post-Production
It is very rare that the writer will have any kind of involvement during the post-production phase.

Phase 6 – Marketing and Release
If the writer is famous then he may be involved in the marketing campaign in the form of interviews with the press. The vast majority of the time however, the writer will have no involvement at this stage.

Phase 7 – The Next Project
The producer is now subject to the ideas of the writer. The writer is now back in full control and can influence the next film greatly. He will inevitably lose this power again,but for now he will very likely want to take full advantage of his regained power after losing it in the early stages of the previous project.

Conclusion

So as we can see, the writer begins the creative process in full control of it, but as other’s with a largely financial influence enter the equation, his level of power dwindles to the point that he has no involvement whatsoever in a project that was originally conceived by him.

This concludes part one of this three-part series. In part two we are going to  further explore the changing power of the producer, as well as the different levels of influence that can be impacted when various kinds of financiers become involved in a project.

Part Two | Part Three