Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ted Dekker weighs in...

Do I love making movies? Yes.

And no.

As a young young author, naïve to the ways of Hollywood I remember arriving at the set of Thr3e with great eagerness. First movie, time to conquer the world. Then I learned what most authors who’ve done this sort of thing already know: Authors have NO power on the set. The director and the actors look at you as if you walked out [of] a UFO. Who’s this pipsqueak, the author? What’s he doing here? I watched them take apart my story and put it on screen the way they thought it should look.

When they began shooting on House I decided to visit the set in Poland for a couple weeks and subject myself to the same treatment for the grins. Call me a masochist. The filming is a blast, I must say, and the daily grind grows on you. But after two weeks on the ground I found I could no longer stomach what they were doing to my story. They were butchering the theme. They were turning it into a slasher without a clearly redemptive thread and no amount of noise on my part seemed to be getting their attention.

After all, I was only the author. And of the book, mind you, not the screen play.

I clearly remember the day this all boiled over. Michael Madsen was causing some sort of ruckus on the ‘bridge with chickens’ scene and lunch was running late. This was a problem because I’d finally secured a lunch appointment with the director, Robby Henson, after a solid week of yelling from the shadows. Some context: I was absolutely convinced that they had to make some changes to the Screen Play and I was willing to push my point at the risk of getting thrown off the set. The whole light in the darkness was missing! To keep me out of their hair, the powers-that-be had insisted that I rewrite what I thought needed rewriting. I’d done so several times but couldn’t get any of those powers-that-be to look at my changes. And when I tried to explain why we had to lengthen the climax by two pages, for example, or why we had to foreshadow Susan’s ultimate role in the story to lace the darkness with more light, they just nodded while staring off absently. To make matters worse, some of the scenes that needed changing to remotely approach my standards of acceptability were fast approaching.

Now I was getting pissed. I should have known, of course. I was, after all, only the author.

Okay, back to present: The crew finally broke for lunch and I huddled over a table across from the producer and the director. I watched their faces as I began laying out my changes, placing particular emphasis on the rational for each script alteration. The moment I completed one thought, the director began to dismiss it. This movie isn’t about Susan, he would say. She’s just another creepy monster type character. Movies aren’t about ideas, they’re about images. Yes, yes, I tried to patiently explained, I know, I know. But trust me, this movie has to be about an idea as well as visuals and Susan must ultimately deliver on that idea. Every time I tried to explain he interrupted me. Slowly, like the rising tide, my temper began to rise.

Perhaps it was more like a flash flood, now that I think about it. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, because I never lose my temper. Ever. But the dam broke and the frustration flowed. One moment I was sitting there [listening] to this man tell me how we had to lose the redemptive theme represented by Susan, and the next I had snatched away his pen, buried it clean through the thick script and was yelling at him. “This whole freaking movie is about Susan!” I thundered, and I was shaking with rage.

Needless to say, the whole set spun and stared at this ghost called the author who’d manifested right before their eyes. When all was said and done, half my changes were implemented. But when it came to the climax they simply weren’t listening. Unwilling to leave them to their ways, I postponed my flight back to [the] States for five days and determined to get it at least halfway right -- I didn’t care if I had to take a camera crew and shoot some of the scenes myself.

Which is exactly what I did. Working with a sympathetic Polish producer (Mark, may God bless his soul) who agreed to setup the shots, we got footage that proved to be a God-Send in the editing room. And I do mean God-Send, as in saved the picture.

Do I love making movies? Yes. But I would rather direct than write a movie any day. Maybe one of these days. In the mean time, enjoy House, knowing that it is mostly not [my] vision, but in some parts it is.

Ted (posted to the House Facebook group)

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