Friday, May 12, 2006

Credit due?

I received a nice email today from a former film student I taught last year - he was on a semester exchange from Australia to Canada so it was a fluke that he ended up in my class - but nevertheless I thought I'd share:

Hi Will, how's it going? I hope you are well. I still think of your classes from time to time. Thanks for what you taught us. I have a portfolio DVD that I am interested in sending you. I did go on to produce 'Sacred Space' with the script virtually as it was in your class. It's 10 minutes and was actually selected for a film festival that screened in the heart of Sydney. I also produced a documentary while I was traveling through Africa which will go to air in Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia in July. And I am a finalist in Australian Story - probably our most respected documentary series featuring the tales Australian people, lifestyles and values. I'm working for Channel 7 in Sydney at the moment.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what you have been up to and the productions you have been working on.

Best wishes,

David **** - Producer/Director

Now let's first off acknowledge this 'kid' (I think he was 22, so a baby in my world) was good...blew away most of the local students in terms of his maturity, biz awareness, and story sense. And he welcomed criticism and took notes and applied solutions. But it got me thinking about the notion of 'credit due'. One teaches/advises a student on his or her film..and they follow your suggestions and your notes, and guess turns out to be an award winner, or better yet, helps get them work or another film. And after much contemplation, I've concluded that there is no 'real' credit due...if the gig is teaching, then that's your job...and if students you've taught have some success, then that's the reward.

And furthermore, we all get breaks throughout our careers, but you still have to deliver once given that opportunity from the break. Stand on your own two feet as it were...without your teacher/professor/mentor holding your hand. And I'm sure the 'kid' delivered on that front as well.

Same goes to an even greater extent when working in the story department on a tv series. A screenplay isn't writing...its rewriting - and nowhere is that more true than in the writers room. And those of us who've been there know that feeling of taking a freelance story/script that has some good things but just isn't quite working, doing the all night rewrite to fix it and make it jive with the voice/style/tone of the series, hand delievering it down the hall the next morning to the AD's because it begins prep that week...and then seeing it win a script award a year later at the Gemini's or WGC Awards...believe me, it happens...

And don't get me wrong - I am not slagging or pointing fingers or condemning...just talking reality. credit due? Again - if your title is Story Editor or Executive Story Editor or any one of the Producer titles they designate to story department types in the US, then it's the gig...those in the story department are paid to write some scripts and paid more to rewrite all the others, because the showrunner rules, and the series is king, not the individuals...and the worst WORST thing you can do is take over full credit from the freelancer because you had to do a major rewrite (99% of the time has little to do with story writer pitched and wrote and more to do with production changes, cast requests, network demands - all of which the freelancer has little or no awareness of) and thereby screw him/her out of the production fee. But believe me, it happens... don't sweat about 'getting enough credit' - eventually good work and good people will be recognized...just cash the check and be happy to be working, and hopefully that freelance writer you rewrote at least says thanks and buys you a drink...or better yet, hires you onto their show the next year...or even best, invites you to come work with them in Australia.


ARTIST & SONG? - "There's more to the picture,
than meets the eye.
Hey hey, my my"


Callaghan said...

Neil Young "Hey Hey, My My"

Keep up the's interesting so far. And any blog that might be named after something from a Mamet book is okay by me...

wcdixon said...

thanks for the note - never really know if anyone is visiting or reading unless a comment is made...and not to nitpick, but complete answer looking for was Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)

Callaghan said...

I still want my prize.

Systemaddict said...

Neil Young- The man all Canadians know and love as, perhaps, the greatest Canadian ever...and many Americans don't even know is Canadian (40 years he's lived South and hasn't even applied for citizenship...)

credit is a validation point for people...but so is getting paid. Some strive for both, some settle for one or the other, but it's always nice when someone calls a former instructor or person of inspiration just to say "hey, thanks."

Good stuff man,