View Full Version : First time writer/director?

07-06-2004, 01:43 AM
Here's a question that's been bothering me lately. Whenever you hear in the trades, "first time writer/director". Is it really his first time? Has he ever directed anything in the past such as student films or such? I'm wondering if that phrase is really true. Or is it just a clever term that is used by the industry to get more publicity to a film.


07-06-2004, 02:19 AM
Frequently it's the big PR machine.

Frank Darabont's first writing credit?
Frank Darabont's first directing credit?

Neither is SHAWSHANK.

QT's first writing credit?
QT's first directing gig?


And usually when you read about someone both writing *and* directing a movie, they either have lots of experience doing one or the other (David Koepp, SECRET WINDOW, is a big name screenwriter who got a chance to direct with TRIGGER EFFECT) (though rare that a director jumps in and starts writing - it happens) - but people who start as writer-directors are almost always PRODUCERS, too... they funded their own film out of pocket (Kevin Smith, Spike Lee, Robert Rodriguez, etc). So no one *hired them* as a writer-director, they gambled their own money on their film. For every success there are a whole bunch of failures - according to an LA Times article a few years back 98% of independently funed films get no distribution at all - not on video, not on DVD, not door-to-door.... nothing!

There really are no overnight success stories. Prepare to dig in and do a lot of work.

- Bill

07-06-2004, 03:10 AM
Here's a few questions related to this topic. If someone were to write some really good scripts, ones that get made and then make a lot of money at theaters (lets say three, and each one makes at least $100 million).

If they were to write another script with the intention of directing it, would the studios let them even if you don't have much directing skills (for this scenario, lets say Joe Schmo wrote three killer scripts for one studio, and his 4th one is for the same studio. Another scenario/question would be say it was for three different studios that the scripts were bought from. Would any of them let them direct a script they write if they wanted to?). Would they let him do it considering his past successes? Or would that writer be better off just going to film school/making their own movies (I know this gives them more "clout", but couldn't they also learn from asking questions and watching others while a movie is being made)?

Next question is, if the writer is unknown, but has written at least 2 good scripts (and lets say both go into a bidding war because they just happen to be that good), would that give them any clout if they wanted to direct the script as well? Or would studios just say no/try to pay them more to detach themselves from the project?

Also, is it normal for writers to request staying on their script as at least a producer, or is that "frowned" upon (lets say their unknown in one scenario, unknown in the next too but they write a really, really good script that ends up in a fierce bidding war, and they will only sell it if they can stay on as at least a producer, and last scenario is that its an established writer who's had their share of good/bad movies made. Also, they are open and willing to listen to changes to their stories as well. What if they listen and make reasonable changes to the script to make the story better too, and aren't "hard" people to work with). What would the response to this be?

I realize this is a lot of "what-if" scenarios, and most are probably "expect worst case scenario", but it would still be nice to get some idea of how this works out should it ever occur. Like they say, stranger things have happened in Hollywood.

07-06-2004, 03:17 AM
David Koepp has written a bunch of huge films - JURASIC PARK, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, etc - and when he wanted to direct, they gave him something like $8 million to make TRIGGER EFFRECT (average film costed about $78 million back then). So if you're a big time writer and want to direct, be prepared to do something small to start out with.

- Bill

07-06-2004, 07:55 AM
QT created the dream, but "Boondock Saints" killed it again.

07-06-2004, 11:33 AM
Whenever you hear "first time" anything take it with a big pinch of salt. People have usually been going at it for a long time prior to their big break. So for directors that means a killer short. For a new feature writer it may mean a lot of close calls and/or previous experience. As a major casting agent once told me, "In this town (LA, Hollywood) ten years is overnight success".

07-06-2004, 09:13 PM
What dream did QT create?

07-06-2004, 09:50 PM
This guy comes about as close as I've seen:

www.imdb.com/name/nm1098493/ (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1098493/)

Winter in New York
07-07-2004, 04:38 AM
Every 'Overnight Success' has been plugging away for 10 - 15 years.

It's called paying your dues. Like it or hate it, it's just the way it is.

Winter in New York

07-07-2004, 04:16 PM
I've seen many instances where a studio would offer major money for a desired script, is willing to bid, is even willing to give the writer his producing credit, but would absolutely and flatly refuse to let said screenwriter direct. Scripts can be rewritten, there will be other more experienced producers to help him along the way, but a poorly shot movie is a fatal mistake. It can't be reshot.

07-07-2004, 07:05 PM
check out the book
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp
Breaking in: How 20 Film Directors Got Their Start
by Nicholas Jarecki

Folks like Ben Younger (BOILER ROOM) and Kris Isaacson (DOWN TO YOU) made studio films after getting attention off of one short and a having a well written script they insisted on directing. It can happen.