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09/28/2005 - Larry Turman's Thoughts (No. 7)

I talk in my book "So You Want To Be A Producer" about working with writers. Otto Preminger, a journeyman director but a great producer (Man With The Golden Arm, etc) felt he should always accommodate himself to the writer's way of working. That's an enlightened method, but, rightly or wrongly, I'm more controlling than that. After picking a writer whom I feel sees the material the same way I do, I ask for an outline. It can be just a couple of pages but I want to know who is doing what to whom, and why. Most people in Hollywood talk about script in terms of the classic three act play structure. (1) trouble/dilemma (2) complications (3) solution/ resolution....which is nearly always a new beginning (tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life), for example Midnight Cowboy and The Graduate; or finality, for example Easy Rider and A Man For All Seasons; and occasionally, but rarely, ambiguously, for example Rashomon and The 400 Blows. Sometimes an ending can have it both ways, with the finality of death but also a new beginning, if the protagonist's spirit lives on by passing the torch of his ethos, as in Braveheart or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The writer's outline tells me, I hope, that the writer and I see the story the same way. However, I don't want the writer to feel he must slavishly follow the outline.

Once he starts the script, if his characters, his imagination, take the story in some new, surprising direction that's okay with me. I want to encourage, not stifle, the writer's creativity. But I do like to see each act as the writer finishes, so any possible new script direction doesn't go too far down a road I don't want to travel. After all, I started the project...it's my baby.


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