Notes from afar: Tim tackles Los Angeles

Robert Rodriguez (the brains behind Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and Sin City) is an anomaly in Hollywood: he does a lot of the work by himself. It’s not uncommon for Rodriguez to be credited as writer, director, cinematographer, editor and composer for even his larger budget films.

Especially on large budget films that can afford it, these roles would be delegated to other people. The bigger the film’s budget, the more people collaborate. Directors may have assistant directors, 2nd assistant directors and 2nd 2nd assistant directors. Cinematographers would be helped by the camera operators, the light crews and the grips.

Making films in Hollywood is very much an act of collaboration, something that I’m learning to appreciate more and more.

I can think of two main reasons why collaborating is a great idea for film making.

First of all, it makes things easier. It lightens the load, keeping any one person from having too much to think about. Every person listed in a movie’s credits did something so the film making process would run a little more smoothly, doing tasks so someone else would not have to.

In fact, going further back in the process, even more people are involved than those listed. Even I, an intern at a management and production company, play a small role in the film production.

Besides basic office tasks, I am sometimes given the responsibility of reading scripts submitted to the company so that the producers don’t have to.

I read a script, summarize it and make a few comments. If I say the script is awful and has no potential, the producer may not even read it.

If it weren’t for interns and other lower members of the hierarchy, producers would have to take two or three hours to read terrible scripts that they will just throw out anyway. Since they would rather do other things, they give that task to us.

The second main reason for collaboration is that it makes for a better movie. The more people working on a film, the more input that goes into the process. The more input that goes into a film, the better the chance becomes for brilliant ideas.

I am seriously considering going into screenwriting, but I used to be worried about writing a script only to turn it over to a director who may have a very different vision than mine. I thought that only I would be able to direct my writing.

There certainly is a risk in giving someone else my work, but I’m starting to make peace with that. I’ve realized that there are people out there with more directing talent than I have, and these people could probably direct my screenplay better than I could.

We’re learning to collaborate in our Hollywood production workshop class, in which we’re working in groups to produce a short film by the end of the semester. The groups have their own producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, editors and sound editors, all of whom have to work together to create the best short film possible.

Hollywood is not a one-person show. Some overblown Hollywood egos might disagree, but these people are deluded.

It’s a lesson not unlike the lesson of humility I was learning earlier in the semester.

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