Whether you are an up-and-coming director with some clout, or a first-time director looking to make a name for yourself, it is quite possible that you may face a situation where you honestly don’t like the script you will be shooting. If you encounter this situation, it’s important to know how to handle yourself like a professional so that you can work through to create something you’re truly proud of.
What’s your perspective?
Where do you start when encountering a script you don’t like? Start with yourself. Do a little self-assessment to see where this dislike is coming from. Maybe the script isn’t all that bad, but at this point in your career, you don’t want to waste the time and effort on a suspect script that may prove detrimental to your directing status. Feelings like this may be clouding your judgment into thinking the script is worse than it really is because you are dealing with your own fear of failure. This is a psychological issue that according to Heidi Grant Halverson, PhD., can be combated by taking a “Prevention focused mindset” which she talks about in her book “Focus.” Use all of those thoughts of failure and of screwing-up to your advantage—and let them scare and or motivate you into making the best damn film yet.
...focusing on the positives to show the negatives is a great strategy for getting the best out of something because it propels all involved into looking to find ways to make the script better rather than just looking for the negatives to tear it down.
On another spectrum, past your own biases and deep-seated fears— maybe the script, in your opinion, needs work, but you wonder why others like it so much. At this point it wouldn’t hurt to get some feedback from those that like the script to find out why. This will give you some perspective on how to fairly give a critique and request some changes to the script as you have now opened up a dialogue to what is good about it, which in turn shows what is not working. Taking this approach by focusing on the positives to show the negatives is a great strategy for getting the best out of something because it propels all involved into looking to find ways to make the script better rather than just looking for the negatives to tear it down.
Making the Best of It
Let’s say at this point you’ve received the opportunity to make some rewrites to the script, but overall you’re still not fully satisfied with how things are looking. Remember that you are a professional, and professionals get the job done. What follows are a few strategies you could use to work with the script just the way it is to wrap the project with results you’re happy with.
Find ways within the script to showcase your expertise. For example, let's say in the script there is a car chase scene, which is right up your alley. Take that scene and make it the best car chase scene anyone has ever seen.
Work on your weakness. As another example, maybe you’re not the best director of heavy, dialogue-laden scripts, but you're faced with directing a short with lots of conversation. Use this opportunity to work on that weaker part of your skill set to take your mind off of what you don’t like about the script and refocus that energy on bettering yourself.
Challenge your first impressions. To be honest and even more self-aware, continue to challenge your notions of the script. Doing this will help you to realize that as a director you influence greatly what and how things end up on the screen. Look for ways to make this script shine, no matter how you felt initially.
Remember, you are a professional. Reminding yourself that you are a professional allows you to understand that sometimes you are put into situations you are not fully on board with. As a professional, you are still expected to get the job done — so do it.
Stay positive. If you’ve gotten this far and shooting is underway, keep calm and keep your spirits up. Believe in your skill and the talents of all those involved to create a project worth viewing. This will help maintain a positive atmosphere on set, making for a more pleasant environment and, ultimately, better results.
At the end of the day, you are the director. Taking into account all of these elements that may cause you to feel the script is unworthy and digging deeper to find at all the positives is your duty. Be prepared to work on the project whether or not you get the rewrites, and do it with a positive mindset so that in the end you can feel confident that you gave the project you once doubted your best possible effort. You may be surprised by how much you enjoy watching the finished video.
Marc Johnson is a University of Chico graduate, a lover of the creative arts, and an avid photographer, with an undying entrepreneurial spirit.