How to Talk to a Film Director About a Script You've Written

Federico Fellini - Italian Film Director

Italian film director Federico Fellini
Italian film director Federico Fellini | Source

The Position of a Scriptwriter with a Film Director

If your script has reached a director who wants to talk with you about it, then the director could be interested in making a movie from it. Well done to get this far! You have come a long way through the doors of many 'tough' professional offices.

It is the beginning of a new phase in the life of the script. Notice that I didn't say your script. Even though you wrote it and rewrote it many times, it is a good idea to know that your script is a part of a narrative which the director will, ultimately, bend and twist and turn inside out, if necessary, to make into a film that he or she wants to make.

This article briefly describes the ways in which a scriptwriter will generally lose total control over their script in this film making process, not to put a dampener on their achievement but in order to advise them that when they speak with a film director they'll be aware that it's about collaboration from the moment they open, or don't even open that first page of the script - and it is the director who calls all the shots!

Your story must have a lot of appeal if it got this far. It can take interpretation. A badly worked out story can't. Your story is up for it - so hold on to that certainty and enjoy the merry go round you're about to board.

Did You Know?

John Milius wrote the original screenplay for 'Apocalypse Now' - a violent, gory war story pure and simple. But Francis Ford Coppola based his own movie on a radically altered script based on Joseph Conrad's story "The Heart of Darkness" which he never stopped writing and re-writing until the last day of shooting - as he himself got under the skin of the War in Vietnam.

What Artisitc and Dramatic Aspects a Film Director Controls

You will lose control over your script. It will become 'the script' and until the very last day of shooting it will be re-scripted (rewritten) many, many times. You may never even get a credit for it. You may not want a credit for it

When you're talking about the movie with a film director about a script you've written bear in mind the following very real notions the director may already have:

  • A desire to make a certain kind of film from before they read your script (loves Adventure, but yours is a Drama)
  • Might want to completely re write the script because the story's good but they want to interpret it differently. (Dialogue?)
  • Could want to change the genre of the screenplay (Western to Horror)
  • Could want to change the period (Sci Fi to Today)
  • Like Mike Leigh, Federico Fellini and other directors who prefer to let their actors improvise, this director likes the actors to improvise with the dialogue too.

Making a Movie is a Collaboration

The director is, as the title implies, the director. He or she is the god of the movie, interpreting the script, creating a movie out of all the materials, professional talents (production designer, camera man, actors etc) with the money at his or her disposition.

The studios producing this movie can fire the director, but usually the director, hell bent on making this movie, will bear in mind all the production constraints and tow the line where the studios and producer are concerned. Very often, on the other hand, a director could and does work very closely with a producer. (No two film making collaborations or movie teams or contracts between the parties are the same.)

  • The director will modify the script to meet his own artistic demands. Equally he will change the script to meet the producer's and the the film studio's expectations. (There are teams of lawyers and agents involved)

The director often modifies a script because of its costs.

  • A script might cost too much to shoot on location, or if it is a period piece, or sci fi. Sets might be too costly to build in studios. Directing children, animals, monsters is complicated. There are as many reasons why a director has to modify the script as there are scripts written.

No one director, or one script, or one story, or one narrative obey the same creative plan. No script begins its journey with a director and follows any path it could have foreseen, or be like any other script, or be a part of a collaboration like any other collaboration.

  • Making a movie is a totally creative process involving many highly creative and superbly talented artists, within a business structure. How to talk to a film director about a script you have written needs to indicate how aware of this you are!

How to Talk to A film Director About Your Script

Bearing all of the above in mind, the best way to prepare to talk to a film director about your script is to have learned as much as you can about the director ahead of time.

  • Do they prefer to direct as Fellini or Mike Leigh, or do they control every aspect of direction as do Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas?
  • What do their past collaborators say about working with them?
  • Watch all the films that director has made and worked on. Analyze them.
  • Read all about the director as well as anything they have written. Study their work and the scripts they've worked from - to get under their skin as much as you can.
  • Know what it is this director wants to say politically, about marriage, war, farce, women etc. as much as you can.
  • If this is a director's first film, the collaborative processes could be on a more friendly level but the director will still have very clear ideas about how they want to interpret your script.

Knowing all this and being ready to 'let go' of your script into the directors directorship will make how to talk to a film director about a script you have written much more intimate.

This professional creative intimacy makes for a good movie making experience. Good Luck.


© 2012 Penelope Hart

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Comments 8 comments

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK

I learn so much from your scriptwriting hubs. I've seen films where an unhappy scriptwriter finds his script is changed by the film bosses, but I didn't realise it actually happened - how extremely upsetting! As you say, you might end up not wanting a credit if they changed it too much.

Very interesting!


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

It is the toughest business. Someone I met in Hollywood, a famous producer's wife said "After a darn good script the next thing you need is a darn good lawyer". Many thanks for reading and commenting here. So appreciated.


HoneyBB profile image

HoneyBB 4 years ago from Illinois

Great way to give people a look into what happens after they submit a script. Knowing what to expect can go a long way in lightening the blow. Thanks for sharing.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

It's important for aspiring film makers to know just how very hard it is to work in the motion picture business. Grateful to you for your astute comment, thanks.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

I have written scripts, know some movie markers, but I have not still approached to them. I will remember your tips. Thanks for posting picture of Federico Fellini, he is one of my favorite directors.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

Good Luck with your scripts Vinaya. It's a tough market. Thank you so much for commenting here.

I do appreciate it.


LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

lol. I had the fun of suggesting changes to a script written by the director. Not huge changes, but slight 'enhancements'. It was an international feature film and already in production. I was surprised that my suggestions were taken on board.

Even more surprised when the credits rolled and I discovered I had cracked a mention. :)


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 3 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

That is surprising and so appreciative of that director. Thanks for dropping by to share.

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