Greenlight Script Coverage

Greenlight Script Coverage
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American Gem Short Script and Literary Festival


The film will take on many versions during the post production process. It will go through the editing room where the editor will make his cut and the director will make his cut, both leaving the scenes that they believe will create the best picture. Differing viewpoints are common, and when the studio gets involved it may even become quite hectic. The producer may work with the director on the editing and some of the composing of the final picture, but in general the director, editor and composer work together on the final cut.

The best way to describe the director-composer relationship during the editing process is summed up perfectly by Abraham Polonsky. He states, "Although I don't tell the composer what to do, because I'm not a composer, I tell him where the music should go, and I tell him what it should be like. And ten I treat him like an actor or a cameraman, even though music is an independent art. So is acting. So is editing. So is writing. So is photography. They're all independent arts subject to the director or the script. So I treat music the same way. I try and get the musician to respond to my sense of what the picture means, and then hope his talent, which I don't have, will invent something that will make my idea even better that it is."

The importance or unimportance of editing is all dependent on the particular director. Alfred Hitchcock left little room for editing. It was his concern that you spend millions of dollars creating a picture and then place it in the hands of someone who may be indifferent to the film and may leave you with a less than satisfying result. Brian De Palma once said, "When I shoot a film, I know exactly what's going to end up on the screen. There are few surprises in the editing room." There are those that do believe that editing is a crucial part of the filmmaking process, such as Franklin Schaffner, "Some of the most stunning moments occur when you are in the editing room."

Because the film Born on the Fourth of July took such a long time to develop (the initial talk for the film began in 1978 and was supposed to star Al Pacino), along with the story hitting so close to home, director Oliver Stone took a very different approach to the editing process for this picture. Stone himself was an ex Vietnam war vet, and had been in close contact with Ron Kovic for a number of years before the picture was finally produced in 1989 (staring Tom Cruise). Most directors normally have their editors prepare what is known as a "rough cut," the dropped sequences, or outtakes. Instead, for this film, Stone had his editors choose "selects," which were camera takes that they put in sequential order (according to the script) for further consideration.

For example, for any particular scene, fourteen thousand feet of film might be printed, then five thousand feet of "selects" chosen, including two to five takes of that scene. When they had finally finished the first cut of the entire film, it was eleven hours long. The material was then discussed between the directors and the editors; what they felt were the more important scenes in the picture. Stone and the editors decided upon what they felt was the best of the takes and stored the others as "alternates." The first version of the final cut suffered from technical mistakes and an excess of material, which made it tiring. Version two lacked emotional impact. The next version was done documentary style with no reaction shots. Finally after weeks of deliberation a version was settled upon, which is essentially what you will see today.
Once a film is complete, the time for an audience to view the picture begins. Studios will typically have a sneak preview for a film, in which they can gauge audience reception to the picture. Unfortunately, there have been instances where a studio has hindered a great picture because they felt the audience reaction was not what was to be expected. They then go back and interject unnecessary sex or action scenes to try and compensate, essentially butchering the film.

The reception of the previewing audience is, however, a good device to estimate the overall reception of the film. These audiences are often given a form to fill out, stating what parts of the picture they liked, disliked, what made sense, what was confusing, which parts dragged and were unimportant, etc. Through this, the directors and editors can go back and make any revisions needed before releasing the film nation (and eventually world) wide.

Having finally received the approval needed from the studio, a film will finally be scheduled for release. Depending on how the studio feels the film will fare on the market, it may be released in anywhere from a dozen to thousands of theaters across the U.S. Predicting how well a film will do is never foolproof however. Some small budget films have gone above and beyond all expectations, for example, the multimillion-dollar success of the independently directed and produced film The Blair Witch Project. Other big-budget films such as Waterworld, even with big name stars, studio support and directing, lost a great deal of money.

There are mixed feelings amongst directors as to whether the concern for the audience will effect the final product in which he produces. Samuel Fuller (House of Bamboo) stated that he is "positive that every director or artist, painter, whether he says 'I don't care whether the people like it,' instinctively does. Otherwise he wouldn't be doing it for public acceptance." There are others whom say they are indifferent as to whether an audience will affect the final outcome of a picture. One such director is John Huston, who explains, "I can't do anymore than make a picture that I believe in and hope that there are enough like me that want to see the picture too."

There are of course, those directors whom emphatically deny that the audience has anything to do with the pictures they make. Stanley Kramer (Guess who's coming to Dinner?) said making his pictures has nothing to do with the audience. Jacques Demy (Lola) says he never considers the audience. Both Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini have admitted that they have never seen any of their own pictures and therefore cannot even comment on audience reactions to their pictures.

Reviews from Critics
Many directors take what critics have to say very personally, and therefore find it better not to read reviews of their films. There will be some critics that dislike a film very much, while others find the exact same film very enduring and delightful. From a critical standpoint a film may not possess all the qualities of an Oscar-caliber picture, although the film will still bring in millions of dollars at the box office due to audience appeal. It is important for the director to take constructive criticism well but with a grain of salt.

The director cannot allow one bad remark about their film to alter their thoughts and beliefs about that film. If a director truly believes in the quality of their work than reviews should account very little to them. As Paul Mazursky once stated, "I don't take most of the critics seriously. I don't see how you can see ten pictures a week and do a legitimate job day to day." Robert Altman has mentioned that the only thing that he has really learned from critics is that there are people that look at film from a different point of view then his own.
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