Since I’ve yet to receive the fourth book in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series from Amazon, I’m reading the book The Devil’s Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco by Julie Salamon, which describes the production of the movie “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” and I have to tell you, the pinpoint accuracy is giving me the fucking creepy-crawlies.
I’m not sure if this is due to Salamon’s prowess as a writer, or my having ‘Nam-like flashbacks.
In the few chapters before now, Salamon describes the process of pre-production, also known as “prep” — and also my most, most, most unfavoritest part of this whole fucking business. For those not already in the know, prep is the seemingly-endless, unpretty slog from the initial idea… to the moment the Director first yells, “Action!”
And the number of things that can go wrong within this period is nearly infinite.
So, say you already have the idea — for example, the Tom Wolfe book, The Bonfire of the Vanities.
Whew! Check! That’s one thing down!
Now all that’s left to do is have approximately 1,207 meetings to accomplish the following:
Find a Director with a marketable vision.
Find Producer(s) to liaison between the Director and the studio.
Find a studio to front the money.
Find a Writer for the script.
Get the script approved by the studio, or, conversely, have it ripped apart by the studio. Have the Writer rewrite it. Have the Writer re-rewrite it. Possibly find a new Writer. (Repeat until studio finally approves script.) Have Writer re-re-rewrite script throughout the shoot.
Find an Art Director who understands and can execute the Director’s vision.
Find a Cinematographer who won’t try to be the Director.
Find a Costume Designer whose clothes won’t clash with the either the Art Director’s interpretation of the Director’s vision, or the Director’s vision itself.
Find the right lead Actors (or lead Actors who are close enough to being right while still landing within the budget dictated by the studio). Negotiate with their Agents about the size of the Actors’ trailers. Be accommodating, but don’t take it up the ass. If necessary, find new lead Actors who will accept the trailers the old Actors wouldn’t.
Find a Casting Director, Storyboard Artist, Production Office Coordinator, Script Supervisor, Assistant Directors, Camera Operators, a Gaffer, Grips, Electricians, Lighting Technicians, Transportation Teamsters, Sound Engineers, Boom Operators, Carpenters, Set Decorators, Wardrobe Dressers, Hair Stylists, Make-up Artists, Props Designers, possible FX Make-up Artists, possible Visual FX Artists, possible Stunt Coordinator, possible Stuntmen/women, Technical Advisors, Location Managers, Production Assistants and Caterers.
Find the right Extras, who could number in the hundreds.
God forbid you should need an Animal Wrangler, but you might.
Oh, and did I mention Second Unit, where the scenes not big enough to require the Director are shot? Scenes like POV’s, establishing shots, shots without the Actors, etc.? That takes all the other people I just mentioned, only slightly fewer of them.
(Later you will also need Editors, Editorial Assistants, Foley Artists, Sound Mixers, a Music Editor, a Composer, an Orchestrator, a Conductor, and Musicians to play the score.)
Find the locations needed. Negotiate with the locations over money. Cross off half the locations because their asking price is too high. Find new locations to replace the too-expensive ones. Cross off half of those locations because their asking price is too high. (Repeat until all locations have agreed to a price. Contemplate Zeno’s Paradox.)
Create a shooting schedule, dependent on studio’s budgeted shoot-length, Actor availability, location availability, soundstage availability, completion of soundstage sets, plus studio Executives’ whims and power plays.
Go on several Tech Scouts, where the Director, Producer(s), Writer, Cinematographer, Camera Operators, Art Director, Set Decorator, Gaffer, Grips, Electricians and various others visit the locations to plan ways to set up shots in praxis. Many locations will be rejected despite pre-approval, necessitating the finding of more locations, and the re-entry of Zeno’s Paradox.
And all this before ONE. FRAME. OF. FILM. IS. SHOT.
This is why I choose to be a Writer rather than a Director. ‘Cause I may be crazy…
…but I’m not fucking nuts.