Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Only in Hollywood?

Tomorrow night sees the cast and crew screening of the short film Kanowna. I'm very much looking forward to the screening but it brings back painful memories of the premiere I was denied.

Yes, I've read Goldman and currently re-reading Hollywood Animal by Joe Eszterhas so I have a fair idea of the torment screenwriters experience in the film-making capital of the world. But surely not in the idyllic little backwater of Perth?

Not so fast.

I wrote a short film script a few years ago. About 9 drafts over the better part of a year.

It was funded by the local state agency. To the tune of $60,000.

The week after that happy news the director turned in his draft.

The only similarity to my script - the one that had been funded ... the one I had spent hours of meetings and rewrites trying to glean the director's vision - was the first name of the protagonist.

The director refused to direct my script - the one that had been funded.

At a meeting in a crowded pub with the two leads, the male actor expressed reservations to me about his character's voiceover in the script ... that I did not write. The voiceover was about masturbation.

At subsequent meetings with the director and script editor (assigned by the funding agency) it was clear this was all going to end in tears. I think I said as much. The producer asked me not to go to any more meetings.

The producer and director had previously worked together on commercials for a television network. The producer had approached me to write the script because she wanted the director to concentrate on directing.

The script grew out of a workshop scene the director had conceived. In hindsight, my first mistake as the short was based on a moment between two characters not an organic story. I tried to capture the spirit of that moment as I couldn't make it fly in a larger narrative no matter what I desperately conjured.

I think I wrote a bloody good script. It was funded. It was never made.

Even the title was changed.

I was paid in full from the budgeted writer's fee ... out of the $60,000 my work had garnered.

I declined a screenwriting credit. I, in all good conscience, whether the final film was good or bad, could not accept a credit for something I did not write. The character's first name wasn't even my idea.

It took the better part of a year and threats by the state agency to pull the funding before the director made his film from a script they finally accepted. That wasn't the one that had been funded.

I was invited to the premiere.

The director gave a nice speech at the start. He didn't even mention me.

The producer did for which I was grateful.

I hated the movie because he tried to make that moment work and it made no sense.

I am probably biased.

I had a "Thanks to" credit at the end of the film. After 9 drafts, one year, and a successful funding application and interview.

I am really happy for Chris and Michael that they will get to see their film on the big screen tomorrow night. The way they conceived and made it.

I wish I'd had that moment.


  1. My memory fails me - it would have been a budget of $60,000 (not $30,000) under the old Filmex scheme circa 2004.

  2. Goodness, what an experience! If you find a director you trust, hold on tight and never let go, I say. Any chance of reading your script?

  3. Yes, I lock the new one up in a trunk, Pulp Fiction style.

    Read the funded script? I think that's now consigned to history as a curio.

  4. This is one of my greatest fears. I'm sorry it happened to you :(

    Enjoy the Kanowna premiere! From what I've seen, it looks like a really interesting film.

  5. I suspect i remember what film this was. I remember overhearing how the director was all peeved about not getting a Marx and Venus episode to direct.

  6. Well, I have studiously avoided using names or titles, Pierce. What's done is done. But if it's the same person I didn't know about the Marx & Venus angle. Karma?