The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today we have a very special guest.
Craig: Very special. To me.
John: To you?
John: And why is she special to you, Craig?
Craig: Well, should she say hello first and then I’ll tell you why?
John: She can say hello. We haven’t even introduced her by name yet.
Craig: That’s true. Well, say hello, and then let’s see if they can guess.
Lindsay Doran: Hello.
Craig: Yeah, no way they would guess.
John: No, no.
Craig: It’s Lindsay Doran, producer extraordinaire. Former head of studio, among other things. And she is special to me because — well, I mean without getting too weird about it, because I don’t want it to get mushy, but — Lindsay is really, really good at her job. She is one of the few producers out there who really understands what producing is, and sadly that’s a shrinking, dying breed.
John: And particularly the story aspect of producing.
Craig: For sure. And she knows writers, and she knows good writers, and I really respect her. And she’s one of the few people I’ve met in Hollywood who know quality and who knows talent and who like me. I don’t know how else to put it.
Craig: She’s very validating to me, the fact that Lindsay likes me is really validating to me. And she’s a terrific person and really smart. And I think a terrific role model for all producers and a good person for writers to know.
John: And some extra context here. I’m reading out of the Austin Film Festival, the little bio pamphlet here, but it’s helpful if you don’t know who Lindsay Doran is. “As an executive she supervised movies like This is Spinal Tap, Ghost, five John Hughes films, two James Bond films. As a producer her credits include Dead Again, Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee, and Stranger than Fiction.” Those are some great movies.
Craig: Pretty stellar stuff?
Craig: Pretty stellar stuff.
Lindsay: Pretty stellar stuff. Okay.
John: So welcome. And my first time meeting you was I had written a treatment for a little movie called The Nines, which was not the movie The Nines I ended up shooting many, many years later. I ended up rewriting it as a short story many years later for Derek Haas’s Popcorn Fiction site. But you were one of the few people I sat down with who was like really excited about, and sort of like talked through the potential of the movie. And so I was like, “Oh, that’s a smart person I hope to cross paths with again.”
Lindsay: When was that?
John: You were at UA and you, god, maybe it was…’99?
Lindsay: Yeah. Sounds right.
John: Yes. Go had come out, or Go had at least shot. Maybe it didn’t come out. And it was another thing I was thinking about writing to make.
Lindsay: And I read Go, hadn’t I? Because I remember that.
John: Yeah. Most people had read Go. That was a thing that had gone around and, yeah, it was nice.
John: Welcome. And so let’s talk some.
John: What’s a good thing we should start talking about, Craig?
Craig: Well, you know, the traditional thing would be how did you start, and da-da-da, but I like to go out of order, so we’re going to get to how you started but I want to ask you a question that’s sort of teeing off of something I hinted at earlier. Because a lot of what we do with this podcast is try and do whatever we can to make screenwriters better, including ourselves.
Because I think you’re a very good producer and because I’m sure you are full of thoughts about your fellow producers…
Lindsay: Can they hear me blushing?
Craig: [laughs] Yes.
Lindsay: Okay, good. It’s audible.
Craig: It’s a really sensitive mic. Am I right, is there a paucity of — that’s a correct word, right?
Craig: Paucity. Is there a paucity of good producers out there? Are producers — Is the current generation of producers not quite where they used to be? And if so, what do we need to do about this, for us, and for you?
Lindsay: Well, to me, the most obvious thing is that studios used to support producers. It used to be that if you had any kind of traction at all as a producer, somebody would give you a deal. They would give you an office on the lot. They would give you an assistant. They might even give you money to live on. And they might even give you a little bit of money to develop scripts with. And consequently you could focus on what your job is supposed to be, which is getting a really good script right, even if it takes a long time.
You weren’t focused on — at least, you didn’t have to be focused on the start date, because as it is right now producers don’t get a dime until the movie starts. And therefore what they have to be most interested in — for completely sympathetic reasons like putting food on the table and keeping their kids in a good school and all the things that we want to have money for — they have to be focused on getting the movie made.
And I remember one of my very first experiences when I was at AVCO Embassy Pictures, I was the juniorest possible executive at AVCO Embassy, and I worked on a script there with a producer that we were both very proud of. And he went off to Canada to make the movie. And the next thing I heard was that the actor who had been cast in it wanted to rewrite the script. When the director refused he wanted to fire the director. And then I heard that the producer was backing the actor.
And I had so many horrible things to say about that. “How dare he sell his script down the river that way?” The movie was made with another director. They fired the director. They brought in somebody else who listened to the actor. The script was ruined. The movie was never released.
And when I saw him the next time, all full of the kind of high judgment that you have when you’re at the very bottom of your career, he said, “How dare you.” He said, “I was in the middle of a divorce. I had three daughters. My wife, who seemed great when I married her, turned out to be completely crazy, and I was trying to do what fathers hardly ever get to do, which is have sole custody of those three children. The only way I was going to get any kind of custody at all was to have money in the bank. The only way I was going to have money in the bank was to have that movie start shooting. The only way I was going to have that movie start shooting was with that actor. And the only way we’d have that actor was to back him, fire the director, sell out the movie.”
And I went, “Oh my gosh, I wonder if this has ever happened before?” And now I just see it all the time. When I was running United Artists, the first thing I began to notice was producers would say, “The script is coming in on Friday morning so we’ll send it out to agents on Friday afternoon.” And I’d say, “Why would you do that? You haven’t read it yet.” And they would say, “What are you talking about?” It was about the rush.
And then somebody would say, “You’re not going to believe this. I just got a call from CAA and they’re saying that such-and-such big movie start might be interested in this part.” And I would say, “Well yeah, except they’re completely wrong for the part, right?” And they would say, “What?!” And they would say, “But you don’t understand. They’re saying that they’ll get it to this actor for the weekend.”
Craig: “I said big movie star. What did you forget?”
Lindsay: And I would say, “But…” and then I’d finally say, “Well, aren’t we having this conversation backwards? Aren’t I supposed to be the jerk studio head who’s trying to ram the big movie star down your throat and you’re supposed to be the one standing up for the integrity of the screenplay and say, ‘But he’s not right for the part!'”
It was completely backwards. And I totally understood because they were trying to get to that start date and they thought with a big movie star of course they would get there.
The other thing is that producers, they don’t tell you if there’s a problem. The director could be completely on drugs and they will never tell you because they’ve got to get to the start date. There’s so many things that you rely on producers to do as a studio head. And they are absolutely disincentivized to do any…
Craig: By the system itself.
Lindsay: …by the system itself. And, of course, they are totally disincentivized from spending a long time developing a screenplay. The most — I usually spend like four years developing a screenplay. And that’s really hard.
Craig: Although what’s happened is that in some ways the development process has just shifted — they’ve shifted the burden onto the writer because a lot of producers now will just have the writer work for free over, and over, and over, and over, and over, because they only get one shot. And they feel like, “Well, if I turn it in and it’s not perfect then it won’t get made.”
But that wasn’t always the case. You used to get the second step, you know? [laughs]
Lindsay: You used to have the second. I tried, frankly, to never hand anything into a studio until I thought it was really shootable, because I didn’t want it to go into studio development. I wanted it to go right into… — So, I would always meet with writers and say, “Here’s the work I think we should do. It’s completely up to you. If you need the money, if you think it’s fine the way it is, if you think these notes are bad…”
It hardly ever happened that anybody ever said, “No, you’re right, let’s ignore those notes and just hand it in.” But it was always their choice. But now it’s a whole other thing and really it is terrifying. Do you think it’s the strike? Because people keep saying it’s the fault of the strike.
John: I don’t think it was the strike at all. I think it’s structural changes in the industry overall. To me it feels like as giant corporations took over all the studios, and all the studios are now aspects of giant corporations, they have reporting structures, and they’ll show like, “This is what we’re doing, this is what’s going through, and we have to be able to justify the money we’re spending because it’s coming out as this.”
So, development is just research and development, and it’s hard for them to show that the money they spent on scripts they didn’t shoot was money well spent. And it’s hard to justify like, “Well, we now have a relationship with this person after this.” That doesn’t show up on spreadsheets. And risk-taking is not generally rewarded. Risk-taking is rewarded if it’s a giant movie that just sort of should take all the boxes, so then they’ll spend $300 million. But it’s become incredibly hard to make the smaller movie that should be able to work, but if it’s too much of a risk.
Everyone’s afraid of risking their reputation and their time on the smaller thing.
Lindsay: Yeah. And failure. It’s a real thing. You know, I think, again, I think like a lot of people I used to think of people who ran studios as being totally focused on the bottom line and all that kind of stuff. But when I went to UA, and I was partnering, you know, MGM was its own studio and UA was its own studio, all within the same company. And MGM had a couple of movies in a row that didn’t work. And a lot of people got fired. Like 80 people lost their jobs. So, you suddenly realized, “Oh, it’s isn’t about me money-grubbing about my bonus; it’s about people literally coming to your office and saying, ‘Well, we’ve got to fire a bunch of people. Who do you want to fire, because that movie didn’t work?'” It’s the real stuff.
And usually they lose their job and you don’t lose your job, even if you green-lit the movie. So, the fear is not an un-admirable fear.
Craig: It’s not all impersonal and fat cat business stuff.
Lindsay: Not at all. With me it is, but I mean, with all other people…
Craig: Well, of course, you’ve always been a terror.
Craig: But it is — everyone is scared. You can feel the fear. And I don’t think, the strike was a bit of an accelerant on a fire that was already burning, but the real to me…
Lindsay: You’ve used the word “accelerant” and “paucity” and how long has this been going on? Like 15 minutes?
Craig: Well, Aline McKenna used “delectable” this morning, so she’s way ahead of me.
Lindsay: I like “ineluctable.” That’s my favorite.
Craig: Yes. Yes. “Ineluctable” and “electable.” Yes. Now we’ve got both.
Lindsay: Yeah, we’ll get to them.
Craig: I’m going to get to “unelectable.”
Lindsay: [laughs] And “electable.”
Craig: Like “Ron Paul is unelectable.”
But I think what’s happened to producers, the squeeze on them is that movie studios slash the output. It’s just they don’t make… — The Writers Guild collects statistics on how many feature films they do the credit arbitrations for, which are all of them, really, all the major ones. Even if there’s not an actual fight it still counts as a thing.
And they would always land around somewhere between 293 and 310 final credits a year. And then suddenly it went down, around the strike to be fair, it went down to 200 and it hasn’t come back. So, that’s a third gone. And it seems like the third, not only have they reduced the amount of movies they make but they also have lowered the ratio of developed-to-make as you were saying, so now you have fewer and fewer producers — they have no leverage over the studios anymore. The age of the big producer is over.
And from my perspective, and I guess this is sort of a follow up to the initial question is under the lens of all that, and under the pressure of all that on producers, do you feel that the action — were producers ever good at developing material? And are they now — Were they good and are they now much worse, or were they always bad? Because there are so few producers that frankly really do know how to work with a screenwriter, talk to a screenwriter, care about the work, and approach it from the script forward.
Lindsay: It’s hard to know because a writer might actually know the answer to that question better than I would. I’m a producer. I’m not sure that I know how other producers do their job. I hear about it from writers but I don’t really know.
Craig: I guess that’s true. You never have a chance to be unimpressed by them. [laughs]
Lindsay: I know for example when Sydney Pollack was talking to me about running his company, he talked to a lot of people. And he told me later, after he’d hired me, he said, “Every single one of those people I talked to said, ‘But what I’m really good at is development,’ every one of them, no matter what kind of background. They all thought they were the best at that.”
But, a few years ago, actually I guess while I was still at UA, so it’s more than a few years ago, UCLA started a producer’s program, and they decided to have a board that was going to consist of studio heads and big producers, and the studio heads were either former producers or about to be producers, maybe sooner than they thought. So, here was this big room full of really well-known people.
And the head of the program said, “Maybe one of the things we can do today is define what a producer is, because it’s one of the hardest things to define in the movie business.” So, she said that towards the beginning. And then later in her talk she said, “And of course one of the things we tell our producing students is that the most important thing they’re going to learn here is how to work with a writer.”
And somebody said, “Why would you tell them that?” And what we began to realize was that the room split right down the middle between people who completely agreed with that statement and said that is the basis of a producer’s job, and the other half of the room who said you can delegate that — “You can get some girl to do that,” you know, and made big long things about, “ou better know a lot of movie stars’ home phone numbers.” “You better know a lot about foreign distribution.” “You better know a lot about raising money.” “You better know a lot about talking to a marketing guy.”
And they’re not wrong, but the idea that development can be delegated and that they’re there for the big stuff… — And in the midst of that discussion I said something like, “I consider myself on the set to be the,” I’m trying to think what the phrase was I used, because I heard it back from a lot of people who said, “What was that hilarious thing you said?”
Lindsay: Oh, “– the guardian of the intentions of the screenplay.”
Lindsay: That’s what I said. That’s what I’m there for. If somebody starts changing a script on the set I want to be there to say, “Let me tell you why this is the way it was.” “Let me tell you why this line was here.” Or, “Let me tell you why it was set in a big room and not a small room.” “Let me tell you why this was an interior instead of an exterior.” “Let me tell you why she was supposed to be above the bridge instead of below the bridge.”
There’s a reason for that. Then if the director says, “No, I like it better this way,” and we’ve had the fight, then that’s the scene we’re going to shoot. But somebody should be there to say, “If you cut that line it’s really going to hurt you in the third act. Maybe you didn’t realize you were even cutting.” Oh my gosh, a lot of the time they’ll go, “Oh yeah, you’re absolutely right.”
So, I think that’s… — And I cannot tell you how people laughed at that.
Craig: Laughed derisively I hear?
Lindsay: Derisively at that.
Lindsay: Yeah. I like laughter, but not that kind.
Craig: Right. Bad laughter.
Lindsay: And later people would literally run into me saying, “Oh, what was that hilarious thing you said? The guardian, or the what, or the what? And we’re still laughing about that!”
Lindsay: So, for some people it’s the sacred duty of the producer and the other one it’s like, “How silly is that? That’s the least important thing that we do.”
Craig: “Where’s Chinese financing?” I don’t have time for that.
Lindsay: But they’re not wrong about Chinese financing.
Craig: They probably don’t also know the intention of the script, so they wouldn’t know what to guard anyway, even if they took it seriously.
John: Well, what it comes down to, is it realistic to expect all of those functions to fall on one person? Is it realistic that the creative producer who is the guardian of the script, or sort of the quality control to some degree of the creative vision of the script, is it realistic to assume that that person is also going to be excellent in all the other functions, which are really valid functions of a producer which is how to sort of browbeat people into getting the movie started, and how to talk the people out of their trailer, and to sort of yell at the marketing department.
Those are different functions. I often describe that most movies, even if the person isn’t called a producer, just different kind of roles you would perform. And there’s like the one person who sits at the monitor and sort of watches, makes sure that this actually the movie we’re trying to make. There is the peacemaker, the one who actually can sort of deal with all the stuff. And peacemaker is also sort of combined with a bodyguard, like the person who, like Dick Zanuck who recently passed away who I loved, his best function for Tim Burton was he would throw himself in front of any bullet aimed at Tim Burton to protect him from studio craziness.
So, that’s a crucial function.
Lindsay: A literal guardian.
John: Yeah, literally.
Lindsay: The hell with the intention to the screenplay.
John: Yeah. Wiry and strong. And the third person is you need sort of like the maniac. And sometimes you need the person who like, “You see this ball, you see this ball? Go get this ball.” And will knock down all the buildings in the way.
John: And I first encountered this, the first movie I got shot was Go. And we luckily had — those three people were actually all producers. And sometimes one of them is a line producer, one is this, but you know, Paul Rosenberg was the “go get this ball.” And amazing things could just happen because he would have no shame and would just knock everything down and we could lose all our financing and get all of our financing back the next day because he would call everyone to do that.
It may not be realistic that one person is always going to be able to do all those roles.
Lindsay: Yeah. I think that’s true. I mean, I’ve mostly been able to work on things where there was a sort of straight line. But, again, I was able to take the time to make sure that straight line existed.
I mean, Sense and Sensibility is the easiest one to talk about because that was my favorite book. I looked for ten years for the right writer. When I met Emma Thompson she’d never written a screenplay before. But I saw some television skits she’d written in England and there was the voice that I’d been looking for all that time. It was really funny, it was emotional, the period language stuff was fantastic and really accessible.
And we spent years doing that. Now, Sydney Pollack, I was running his company at the time. He was incredibly great at looking at the script and telling us the American point of view and all that kind of stuff. He’d never read Jane Austen, which was really, really useful.
But, when we got, you know, Amy Pascal was somebody that I knew and I knew that she actually cared about Jane Austen. So, setting it up there as a total straight development deal, there was nothing indie about that movie at all. It was a Columbia development deal. And of course she left, but Gareth Wigan, who was somebody else who really got it —
John: A gentleman, yeah.
Lindsay: And so eventually we got to the point where everybody loved the script, and then by the time Lisa Henson was running the company and she said, “Look, go get a director. Here’s all I ask for: An interesting announcement. That’s all I want. I don’t want you to come back with some English director who sounds you’re going to go right back into…”
And that’s exactly what I wanted because I didn’t want — we had spent all these years trying to make Sense and Sensibility kind of galloping entertainment that was really fun, and full-blooded, and hilarious, and really made people cry. And the last thing I wanted was to turn it back into a little English movie.
So, I started meeting with a lot of people and I kept meeting people who didn’t know what movie we were making. They’d never mentioned it was funny. You know, I would say, “What about the humor?” and they’d go, “What humor?”
It would go on, and on, and on, or they were talking about a completely different movie, and some of them were big, and some of them were little. And then I met Ang Lee, who was the weirdest choice in the world, but who talked immediately about how funny it was, and then said, “I want this movie to break people’s hearts so badly they’ll still be recovering from it three weeks later.”
Lindsay: That’s a direct quote. And I went, “Okay, this is it. This is the guy who wants to make the full…” — So, there was this straight line, even though it was a weird line as it was, it was the right line. So, we had the right studio, the right director, for the right script. I was very involved in the casting. You know what I mean?
And then the marketing people came up with a campaign that had nothing to do with the movie that we were talking about. “From the mind of Jane Austen.” It was like, “No, we’ve spent all these years getting out of the mind of Jane Austen. Why are you doing this?” And they went, “Oh, you know,” and saying “We want it to feel really, really fun and really entertaining.” It was like, “Oh, okay.”
So, it was that same sensibility — for lack of a better word — all the way through. But it was about choosing the right people to begin with so there wasn’t really that much of a need for the hammer and the ball thrower, and the yeller, and all of that stuff, because everybody was trying to do the same thing.
Craig: But then in that regard so much of good producing is matchmaking, you know?
Craig: I mean, I feel — And I haven’t worked with many producers. I’ve been doing it for a long time, but for whatever reason I’ve spent a lot of time working with studios directly. And I can’t quite figure out why.
Lindsay: Producers won’t work with you.
Craig: They literally will not sit in a room with me. [laughs]
Lindsay: We should talk about that later when the tape machine is off.
Craig: Yeah. Can you explain why?
Lindsay: Yeah. Do I need to? [laughs]
Craig: But on Identity Thief, Scott Stuber, match made. It was a lovely thing. He called me up and he said, “Here’s Jason Bateman, I’d like you to meet him. And here’s Melissa McCarthy. And the three of you get together.” And that really, that’s the biggest of all the stuff I’m sure he’s done on the movie, I mean, because I’m not there watching him do a lot of the stuff that he does, but that was the biggest thing was his matchmaking and picking the right people.
But even then I feel like producers — that agency has been taken away from them a little bit. That a lot of times now producers feel a little bit like the way we feel when you just get an assignment. “Here it is.” You know, sometimes we’re called and they’ll say, “It’s these two people in this movie starting now, two weeks. Fixed third act.”
Craig: And you go, “Oh, okay. Fine.”
Craig: “Got it. I mean, you’ve taken away all my choices, so this is a very simple thing. I’m now like a horse on a trail.” And I feel like that’s happening to producers, too. They don’t even have a chance to match make.
Lindsay: Yeah. It really is true. You want ideally to be able to have the time and the blessing to do that. But, and one of the things I notice right away, and you tell me if this is still true: When I had my deal at MGM after, you know, when I became a producer again. You know, agents call you up and they say, “Okay, we’re going out with this spec this week. And we’re going to send it to you for MGM and eight other people for all the other studios.” And you hand it in, mostly without reading it, is what you’re supposed to do. Everybody was, like, stunned. It was like, “What, you’re going to read it first and you might say no? Nobody’s ever done that before!”
And I would say, “But why would you want me producing your client’s script if I haven’t even read it, and loved it, and understood it? And, actually, shouldn’t I be meeting the writer?”
“No, that’s not how this works.” So, there would be an auction. The script would sell. And then you’d meet the producer who’s producing your movie and it could be someone who’s never…
Craig: That’s the worst possible.
Lindsay: And yet, I do understand. When I tried to do it a different way, when I was developing something with a writer and I said, “You know, I think we should hand pick our studio. We shouldn’t just do one of those auction things. We should say, ‘This is a Columbia Pictures — Amy Pascal will love this,'” or whoever it would be.
The hard thing was if you only give it to one studio, nobody will read it. There’s no competition. “I don’t get to screw somebody over the weekend,” and that’s a lot of it.
Once I understood agents saying, you know, “Producers call me on Monday whenever they’ve bought something and say, ‘Who did I screw this weekend?'” It’s like “What did I get…” — But that’s part of the fun; that competition really does fuel so much of it that only when things went out to a million places, or if they got hold of it, that’s when stuff started to happen.
So, it’s a feeding frenzy but it seems to me insane to be a writer, to meet the producer after it’s sold. That’s just nuts.
Craig: Crazy. It’s a shotgun wedding.
Lindsay: It’s a complete shotgun wedding. And, I don’t know. I don’t know.
John: A question: Now, you described the Sense and Sensibility development process, and if you wanted to do that now how would you do it? Here’s another book that you love, that you want to see made. As a producer what would you do now in 2012 to try to get it going?
Lindsay: I wouldn’t do anything differently than what I did then. I mean, that was a public domain book and it was at a moment when nobody had made a Jane Austen movie in 50 years. So, it wasn’t like anybody was hammering, “Where’s that Jane Austen project of yours?!”
I was able to spend all those years looking for the writer with the right…
John: My question though is: so you would have found the right writer, but who would you have gotten to pay them? Because you couldn’t go to a Columbia right now to try to do Sense and Sensibility.
Lindsay: I don’t know. I’m not really sure.
John: I mean, there’s still like the Fox 2000s. There are still little small slices…
Lindsay: Yeah. There’s Fox 2000. And I suppose I could go to Focus Features. And, I mean, the idea of doing that as a development deal at a major studio seems less likely, but Amy’s still there. And she does make movies every single year that are very, very close to her heart. So, I don’t think that it would necessarily be impossible.
But, yeah, I would probably be more focused on Focus.
John: But you described it as Sense and Sensibility was a mainstream Columbia Pictures release. And so it wasn’t like everyone has to take a pay cut to go do it. And I feel like now to try to do anything that’s not Transformers 9, they talk like, “Well, everyone’s going to have to take a little pay cut because it’s not a big movie, it’s a tiny movie.”
I feel like it’s very hard to do that — this is a movie for grownups in any way along. It’s hard to get the green light, but it’s hard to get even the start.
Lindsay: Yeah, it’s true. It really is true.
But, the thing is, I think what people don’t understand is that people are people. They love movies. You know what I mean? We love to go to the movies. I’ve really liked the last five movies in a row that I saw. That’s pretty great when you think about it.
And they all got made. And they’re all pretty grownup-y. And, you know, some of them are more youth-oriented than others, but I thought they were all good. And everybody felt that they were trying to make a quality movie all the way along. You don’t want to feel like you’re beating off people to try to hang on to your quality.
But, I think there are people at every studio who want to make quality movies. And they want to make sure that they’re going to have the right package to do that.
John: How do we fix things? How do we make things better? What are some options? Are we going to get back to those producers who can do that stuff? Do producers have to get their own money so they can develop things themselves?
Lindsay: Well, I don’t know. I wondered for awhile if there was a way, because I do understand. It does seem to be the case, or it did seem to be the case, when producers had deals at studios that you would inevitably make your biggest hit movies and the movies that won the most awards for a studio other than the one where you had your deal.
It was some sort of God’s joke on Hollywood, but it had partly to do with that competition thing. You know, I remember when I was working at Paramount for Dawn Steel and a producer on the lot would hand something in and weeks would go before she would read it. And finally she said to me one day, “I don’t have to read that. I own that.” [laughs] “What I have to read are the things that I’m competing with the whole town for. That can wait.”
And so somebody said, “Buying something from a producer on your own lot is like kissing your sister.” It’s like, where’s the excitement in that?
— I guess that means a guy kissing his sister. I guess there would be more excitement if it was a girl kissing her sister.
Craig: See, this is why you’re a good producer. You get that.
Lindsay: [laughs] I get that. I really do get that.
Craig: You just know in your bones that that’s better.
Lindsay: So, that lack of competition actually weirdly ends up that, I mean, when I was at Universal, that’s when I decided I wanted to hire Emma to do that. And the head of the studio at the time, I was in his office for something else and he was turning us down because he said, “Really what I need right now are just straight out commercial movies. I don’t need things like this.”
So, as I was leaving the office I said, “So, I guess you don’t like a Jane Austen project, ha-ha.” I got back to the office and he called and he said, “Do you really have a Jane Austen project?” And I said yeah. He said, “Jane Austen is my favorite author of all time.” I said I would never have known that. He said, “What do you have?”
And I told him and I said, “Have you ever heard of Emma Thompson?” And he said, “No,” because nobody had at that point. And I said, “Well, she’s got five lines in Henry V.” And he said, “You know, she’s going to want to be in it.”
Lindsay: That’s the problem, you know. It’s like, “We’re going to do this whole thing, and then she’s going to want to star in it.” So, cut to by the time we hand it in…
John: She’s a movie star.
Lindsay: …it’s like, “We’re only making this movie if Emma Thompson plays the lead.” She’s, you know, 35 and the character is 19 or whatever it was, but even Emma by that point realized that she’d written it for her own voice. But she said all the way along this is totally up to the director. “If the director wants me, I’ll do it. If the director doesn’t want me, I won’t do it.” And Ang said, “Only if it’s Emma Thompson. That’s the only way I’ll do it.”
So, what was the question?
John: We were talking about, is there a way to fix this? Is there a way to go back?
Lindsay: Okay. So there’s that problem. Where I have a deal at Universal and it gets made at Columbia and it wins an Academy Award for Best Screenplay and all that kind of stuff. And it happened all the time with Sydney’s movies and we had a deal at Universal, making The Firm at Paramount, then we moved to Paramount and he makes…
So, I was wondering at one point if there could be a revolving fund, where every studio puts so much money into a fund. That you could get young producers, middle level producers, older producers, and let them have an office, and an assistant, and a little bit of money, and then teach people how to develop screenplays. There’s none of that going on.
Craig: Who’s going to teach them?
Lindsay: I would. I would be happy to do that. And I bet other people would be happy to do that. They come all the way to Austin. Don’t you think they’d go to North Hollywood to do that?
John: There was some conversation about: could the Writers Guild and Producers Guild get together and set up sort of a certificate program for young development executives saying, “This is what development is,” and sort of best practices and these are things you can focus on — like how to talk to writers?
I worry that people move up so fast or they sort of come into a culture that’s already so toxic that they never learn how things could be, how things used to be. How, you know, you could actually not screw people over in one-step situations. There might be some good way to tweak it to motivate the young generation going through to get a little stamp in their book saying they went through this program and got it.
Craig: I have to say that one of the things that works against all of this, works against hope, you know, because I like to work against hope —
Lindsay: That’s nice. That’s touching.
Craig: What I’m always concerned about is that Hollywood is very much about popularity and heat and competition, which all of that is homogenizing. And what I’ve always loved about you is that even in the beginning when you would say things like, “But I’m the guardian of the intention of the script…”
Craig: — and then everyone laughed at you, but you didn’t change your mind. It’s very rare. I’ve always felt alone. [laughs] You know what I mean? And maybe, I don’t know if you understand this, but I’ve always felt alone.
There have been so many times in my career where I thought, “Either I’m crazy or all of these people around me are wrong. Either way, I’m not changing. Right? I’m just going to stay doing this. And I’m going to keep thinking this way because I just feel like that’s the way, that’s important. This is what I value. And I don’t value all of the other things that people are telling me I should value.”
Lindsay: God. You’re like the hero of How to Train Your Dragon.
Craig: Always. I’ve always felt that.
Lindsay: It’s completely based on you.
Craig: [laughs] Yeah. Exactly. Well, also, I do have a fairly lucrative dragon-raising business on the side. It’s not technically legal.
But, I do feel like that’s what we’re always struggling against, that people coming in as development executives… — And I read this great article once where a guy was sort of wondering, “Why are car salesmen so gross? Why do car salesmen dress that way? Why do car salesmen smell that way with that cologne and have those ties and the ridiculous hair? What is that?”
So, he decided to go undercover and actually get a job as a car salesman. And he said — and this is it — in any group you’re in, after three weeks you just want to fit in.
Craig: That’s it. “And suddenly I kind of wanted to wear a wide tie and have that cologne on because everybody did. And it was just like they were looking at me like I’m the weirdo.”
Craig: And I worry that now in development everybody is just homogenizing down, too, you know.
Lindsay: Well, I had lunch with two agents awhile ago. It was right after, it was in January. And both of them had gone skiing over the holidays, a man and a woman. And they were talking about skiing and I don’t ski, so I was just listening.
And then one of them said, or the woman said, “You know, I’m so bummed because I’m going to Sundance next week and I hear that the powder is perfect and I’m not going to get to go skiing.” And the guy said, “Why not?” And she said, “Because I’m going to Sundance.” And he said, “So what?”
And she said, “I’m going to the film festival. I’m going to be seeing films all day.” And he said, “That’s funny. When I got to Sundance I go up to the top of the slopes in the morning. I meet a lot of people. I ski all day. I come down at night. I find somebody like you. I say, ‘What’s good?’ You tell me. I say, ‘Who made it?’ You tell me. I go to the party. I meet him. You know, I find him, I meet him, I schmooze him. I sign him. And then the next day I’m at the top of the mountain again.”
And I went, “Oh my gosh, there are two Hollywoods.” There are these distinct Hollywoods. There are the worker bees and the extractor bees. And really you can’t crossover, and you don’t really want to crossover. Those guys don’t want to be in all the screenings and reading the script three times. And she didn’t want to be that guy who was only kind of pretending to have seen the work and signing the people. “I can’t do what that guy does, and he can’t do what I do.”
And I think at a certain point people will fall into one camp or the other. And I think Hollywood does need both camps, but I do think that for people who are sort of natural worker bees, the ones who actually are going to do the work, it seems to me there should be a way to say to them, “All right. Let’s teach you how to do the work better.”
Craig: And that it’s okay to want to do the work.
Lindsay: That it’s okay to want to do the work.
Craig: That it’s okay to be a script nerd.
Lindsay: Yeah. Well, because, somebody has to call somebody and say, “What is the…”
I worked for one studio head once who before any meeting would say, “Um, tell me what we don’t like about this script again?” You know. [laughs] And that’s what I was there for was to say, “This, this, this, this, and this.” Right. And then they’d be brilliant in the meeting. You’d swear they’d been up all night coming up with those notes.
Craig: Well, it’s Broadcast News, right?
Lindsay: But it really is. And it was like, “I couldn’t do what that person was doing. That person is, you know, and has no — it isn’t even that they have no shame. That’s what they do. They don’t have any time.”
Craig: It’s Hollywood.
Lindsay: “It isn’t even about shame. They don’t have time to do what I’m doing.”
Craig: And then add the layer on that all of us are really working together to make a script that really beautiful people can read. [laughs]
Craig: You know? I mean, there are so many layers of this, and they’re spectacular and fascinating.
Lindsay: I know. It’s really, really true.
John: One of Craig’s solutions to this, or at least a possible way to make some things better would be for studios to look for, “These are writers we really want to work with, these are directors we really want to work with. Let’s get them together and say like, ‘You guys, we’re going to make our deal with you Writer A and Director A. You come to us with a movie you want to make. And if we say ‘no,’ we’ll say ‘no,’ and you have to come back to us with another one up to a certain number of tries.'”
But just to start the process with, you know, “Here are people who want to make a movie, have a vision for a what a movie is,” rather than sort of everything having to be based on the book that went out that week, or the spec script, or the new toy that can be licensed out to things.
But that equation didn’t include a producer, and a producer actually feels like an important part.
Craig: Oh, for sure. I mean, you need an adult in the room. I think that writers and directors, we are the filmmakers. I think of us combined as the filmmakers. And the producer is the producer — they’re producing it.
John: It’s like the CEO of the company and the product of that company is this one movie.
Craig: If you have those three people working like a team I just feel… — You know, my whole beef is that the way things work typically is that a producer and writer work together for a really long time, get it just the way they want. The studio says, “Great. Go get a director.” They get a director and now it’s the producer and the director doing another thing. And then the writer is just sort of done.
Lindsay: Yeah, no, I don’t like that.
Craig: And for instance when you say, “I’m on set as the caretaker of the intention,” it would be nice if the screenwriter were also on set as the caretaker of the…
Lindsay: Yeah. And sometimes they are. That’s the good thing about when you work with a writer-star, then they are definitely there.
Craig: Right. They’re definitely there.
Lindsay: But I always try to have the writer on set. I mean, Scott Frank was on the set of Dead Again every single day. And so, yeah, that is good.
But sometimes the writer is just becoming a director and they’re off someplace else.
Craig: I’m a huge, huge, huge advocate of being on set. I would much rather skip a job and just stay on set and be there every day. And even if I say one thing in a week that impacts what happens, that’s a week well-earned to me. The movie lives forever.
Lindsay: Yeah. I completely agree. And also writing, I remember somebody was saying they were working on something and there was a graveyard. What are we supposed to call it now? Cemetery.
Craig: You can still call it graveyard.
John: There’s no PC problem there.
Lindsay: And the production designer came to the director and said, “What do you want on these graves?” And she said, “Call the writer.” That’s writing. You know? And I went, “Yeah, that’s exactly right.” You want somebody who understands that any words is writing.
And actually a lot of production design is writing. What would be in this guy’s room is part of who that character is.
Craig: You know, it’s so funny you say that. Everybody feels an ownership of the screenplay when they make a movie, but the funny thing is sometimes there are those little things like, “Oh, we need a sign that guides people to the meeting in the movie.” And actually no one can write it. [laughs] Just simply writing a sentence is a very specific thing.
Lindsay: Yeah. Well, also, something that I really didn’t understand until I worked on Stranger than Fiction, finally somebody said this to me out loud, which is people whose background is in production design, and art direction, and props usually do not have a good grasp of the English language. That’s just actually not something they do.
Craig: It’s not their gig.
Lindsay: It’s not their gig. So, things are continually misspelled, mispunctuated, and, you know, when you have a movie like Stranger than Fiction that’s all about language, and you have a fake book in it that somebody has to read, and somebody has to start turning pages of this big manuscript, or you have a notebook that somebody is carrying around that’s got — if the conversation goes this way it’s tragedy, and if it goes this…
If there were “tragedies” misspelled in the close-ups, it really matters in that kind of a movie.
John: It does matter.
Craig: Kind of a bummer. Yeah, that’s not going to work.
Lindsay: It might matter in all of the movies. But it’s like it took me the longest time to understand that I had to look at every single thing. Or, even the readability of, you know, there’s a bunch of trucks and we know that our guy is in this truck. And the way we’re going to know that is it says Ace Tomatoes on the side. And you get the trucks and the sign is this big and you can’t possibly see from a helicopter shot.
That’s an awful lot of what you do as a producer is run around and say, “You know the whole point of this is that the handkerchief has to have initials on it because it’s going to start out in this person’s hands, but it’s going to end up in this person’s hands an hour from now and we’ve got to recognize it. And if you make the initials — well, first of all, you didn’t make the initials at all? Okay. So, we’re going to do something else now. Go make the initials,” and they come back and they’re this big. “No. Because the way the shot is going to be…”
It’s like, who is translating all of that? And sometimes a director is doing it. But it’s much nicer to be able to just hand the director a situation without even having to think about stuff like that.
John: Yeah. The director is focused on the day’s work, as he or she should be. But there’s a much bigger story that has to be told. And knowing that 80 pages down the road you have to do that, that’s the time where I’ve been really helpful on the set as a writer because if there’s not you, if there’s not a creative producer who actually really knows what’s there, it can be really damning.
I remember on Go there was one night we were shooting and script supervisor — it’s a thankless job, and some of them are fantastic — but there’s one thing she hadn’t caught that in doing the close-ups, one of the characters had changed the tense on a verb, and so as we went around to do the other actor’s close-up, like it wasn’t going to cut together. He was answering a question in a way you couldn’t actually answer the question — you couldn’t actually cut those shots together anymore.
So, I’m hearing on my — and like running back to set, like you know, “No! Don’t turn around because — that doesn’t actually — that won’t make sense anymore. You can’t actually cut that in.”
Craig: And then you feel embarrassed, like I have a tense, and they’re like, “Oh, the writer with his tense problems. It’s just words, man.”
John: Yeah. Exactly. Like I’m constraining you. It’s like, “Well, I’m constraining you so it can actually make sense. Do you want to sit in the editing room and see how this doesn’t work?”
Craig: We are the story experts. And it’s a sad thing in features that so often we just aren’t there. And we put clues and things into the script and they — you know, it’s good that you care. I mean, it really is good that you care.
I wrote a script, they were making this movie, and there was a scene where somebody shoots a hole through a door, and the characters inside see them through the hole in the door and run. And they don’t exchange any words. And then later on in the movie they encounter each other again in a public space and it’s tense because you’re the guy that shot a hole through my door.
And I got a call from the production. The director is like, “We got a real problem. You know, I realize there’s a huge hole in the script.” And I’m like, “Oh no, what?” “Well, when they see each other, they’ve never seen each other in that moment. How does he even know?” “Because he sees him when he shoots a hole in the door.” “No.” “Yeah.”
John: So, he didn’t shoot it that way.
Craig: Didn’t shoot it that way. And I’m like, “But it’s there.” He goes, “Really?” And now I’m a little panicked. So, I go back and I look. There it is. “They meet eyes through the hole in the door.” But, you know, on the day that’s just sides.
Craig: And if you don’t have somebody there…
Lindsay: Absolutely. Or even, you know, and this is actually something I was very aware of working for Sydney. In The Firm, for example, there’s a whole sequence that Tom Cruise and Jeanne Tripplehorn break up, man and wife, and they break up. And you sort of see them separately. — Oh, no, they don’t break up, but she knows that he’s cheated on her but they’re still trying to hold their marriage together.
And there’s a little dinner party or something. And the costume people brought Jeanne Tripplehorn out and she looked adorable with this cute little hat and this cute little…and Sydney went, “She’s trying to hold her marriage together with every muscle in her body. You really think she got up that morning and thought, ‘That’s the cutest little hat I’ve ever even seen.'” And they went, “But this is the only scene we can put her in that cute little hat.” She’s trying to hold her marriage together, don’t you understand?!
And then there’s a scene later when, I don’t know, something where it’s even worse what’s going on with the marriage, and they put her in this cute little pin, you know what I mean.
Craig: She took the time to put the pin on.
Lindsay: And they kind of came to me and they said, “Do you think he’s going to be mad? Because this pin was made for her by the kids who are playing her kids at school, you know, the ones she teaches. And they made this for Jeanne Tripplehorn and she promised she’d wear it in the movie. And the only scene she can wear it is this one.”
Craig: Oh boy.
Lindsay: I said, “Do you really want to hear what he’s going to say to you if you put her in that little…?”
John: Those kids can’t see the movie anyway. It’s The Firm.
Craig: Yeah, it’s rated R.
John: It will be years before they’re allowed to see that movie.
Lindsay: There’s always that kind of stuff. But, I mean, that’s story. That’s the whole thing. The pin is story. The hat is story. It’s all story.
Craig: Todd Phillips the other day, he said, it was a great definition of directing. It’s perfect — I want to crochet it on…well, if I knew how to crochet.
John: I can teach you.
Craig: How did I know? He said, “Here’s what directing is: You wake up, you have 38 fights, you go to sleep.”
Craig: And it’s true. Because you feel like all the people that are there, an army of people there to help you make a movie are, through no bad intentions, absolutely undermining you ever single moment. You turn around and it’s just something is absolutely wrong.
Lindsay: I remember Sydney said, “Why can’t they just read my mind? Why can’t they? Why can’t they just, every one of them, know what’s in my head 24 hours a day? Why is that so hard?”
Craig: But then if they did you wouldn’t need Sydney Pollack. You would just get one of them.
Lindsay: [laughs] But he would say, “It’s so clear on the page.” You know, just that kind of thing…
Craig: To him.
Lindsay: …the cute little hat. How could they not understand about the cute little hat?
Craig: Well, every department sees the movie through their lens. That’s it. The costume department sees moving — clothing moves through frame while there’s possibly sound. It’s remarkable. You see it all the time.
Lindsay: [laughs] Exactly. Art director, director of cinematography.
John: The best department heads I’ve worked with, though, they really do have a sense of, like, “This is what you’re trying to do in those moments.” The challenge is they had that idea and that instinct when they first started the project. But then, as in the case of wardrobe, everyone came in for the fittings and they have to deal with all of the politics and body issues and everything else that comes up when you have to actually try and put actors in clothes.
And so the Jeanne Tripplehorn situation comes up where like, well, that’s an adorable cute hat. Of course she wants to wear that outfit.
Craig: And she wants to look beautiful.
John: She wants to look beautiful.
Lindsay: She wants to look beautiful. And everybody when we were looking at the costume parade, everybody went, “Aw, that’s such a killer.” And then they realized that was the only place they could put it in. And then it’s not going to be in the movie because of some stupid story thing! But you see movies like that all the time where you just go, “That person didn’t get up that morning and put that on. Not in that frame of mind.” You just feel it.
And you may not be conscious of it, but it contributes to the whole thing. So, thinking about story on that deep a level, I think, is really important for a movie to work.
John: One thing I want to stress to listeners is that even if you’re writing and directing your own movie, sometimes the creative producer’s function is even sort of more vital because you want an extra set of eyes to remind you of the intention. This is what the scene is.
Lindsay: That’s exactly right.
John: And on The Nines I was lucky to have producers who could do that for me, because you just get so wrapped up in the thing you’re trying to shoot. That they can come up and whisper in your ear like, “Okay, I’m not trying to change what you’re trying to do. I just want to remind you that this is what I think we’re trying to do here and maybe this isn’t making sense the way…”
Lindsay: And somebody said to me, he said, “Here’s what I want. I want after nine takes, and we really do need to do another scene, I want somebody I can turn to and say, ‘Do I have it?'”
Lindsay: And you know that if they say, “You had it at take five, get going,” that you believe them. But you also know they’re going to say, “No, let me go move the schedule around. Let me see what I can do so we can do that shot at the end of the day tomorrow. Because this is this scene. You want to get this scene wrong?”
And I’ve never heard a better definition of that, of what somebody wants in a producer is somebody who knows the material as well as they do, that they really do trust their opinion. And at a moment like that, when they’re exhausted…
Craig: And afraid.
Lindsay: …and they just don’t — and afraid — and they want somebody who isn’t going to say, “What do you mean you don’t know? You’re the director. You call yourself the director and you don’t know if you have it yet?” You want somebody who is going to be there like the father —
John: Yeah. You also only have one set of eyes. And so if I’m looking at a shot, or I’m watching, I’m watching this very specific performance here, I have a really hard time with background action and sort of seeing what that is. So I can say like, “Please pay attention and if anything is crazy in the frame tell me, because I’m not going to see it. I’m only going to see these people’s mouths moving and saying these things.”
Lindsay: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny, because Sydney was a pilot. And he was a left seat pilot. He was like the guy flying the plane. There were the guys who flew for TWA for 25 years who were in the right seat, like he was the copilot. But a lot of the time Sydney would say, “Come up into the cockpit and look around, because you never know when a plane is going to hit us.” And I loved flying up there, but he was quite serious.
It’s like, it’s never a bad idea to have somebody around no matter who’s down there, and what their job is, I’d like somebody sitting here looking around going, “Ah, there’s a plane heading right towards us.” And it’s exactly what it was like. I had seen him act out all these because he was the greatest actor in the world, so I’d seen him act out all of these scenes.
And there was a scene, a tiny little scene where Tom Cruise is getting new clothes, and Gene Hackman is there as the older statesman of the business. And I had seen Sydney act this out in his office and there was this kind of proud papa look on his face that wasn’t there when we were — and I said, “You know, I remember how you did it. Does anyone…”
“Oh my gosh, I was looking at Tom. I wasn’t thinking.” And so he was able to make that correction. And it was the same thing. Being in that cockpit and being there was exactly the same. And he rarely needed it. It was once in a great while.
Craig: Everybody has a moment. Because people don’t understand, when you’re a director you’re watching, there’s two actors, oftentimes you’re shooting two cameras at once, so there’s two sizes or two angles, and then there’s background. And then, frankly, there’s the camera itself. “Is the camera moving? Is it moving too fast? Too slow? Is it in focus/out of focus? Are you on the right thing? Are you supposed to go down with the guy when he drops something?”
There are so many layers. And, frankly, the attention game starts to fail you. You will miss things for sure. And having somebody trust there next to you…
Lindsay: I remember, I think it was on, it was some movie that I was working on and it was about a working class family. And the first day of dailies came in and the director went, “Look at those sheets. They’re pristine. They’re like out of a luxury hotel. Who are these people who iron their pillow case?”
Craig: And that’s the thing that you never think about.
Lindsay: And all he was looking at was the actors, and why not, and everything else — and it was like, “Isn’t there some way I can go back and do it again and have different pillowcases?”
Craig: That’s a great lesson, because no one ever thinks to look at the sheets.
Craig: But, you know, this is why. The funny thing is — hair. Hair.
Lindsay: I mean, really. How many movies have been ruined just by hair? It’s just extraordinary.
Craig: There’s a director I know — I won’t say what and I won’t say what the film is, but I saw his movie and I said, “I think you did a great job. I have to say it, because it was a romantic comedy, her hair…”
And he said, “You know, every movie there are fights you have that you think to yourself, ‘Okay, I only can go to war this many times with this many things. I’m going to let some of these go.’ I should not have let that fight go. That was one — I took a fall and I shouldn’t have, because the hair is there in every scene.”
Lindsay: Yeah. And it’s there in the trailer.
John: Oh yeah.
Lindsay: That’s what people don’t understand. It’s in the TV spots.
Craig: It’s in everything.
Lindsay: And it dominates the TV spots. You can’t look at anything else.
Craig: Absolutely. Bad hair will kill a movie.
Lindsay: Bad hair will kill a movie faster than anything else alive.
Craig: Amazing, right?
Lindsay: And it’s amazing. But also, even knowing that I still make that mistake, you know what I mean?
Craig: Of course.
Lindsay: You can’t see it. There’s some anesthesia of the intellect, somebody called it, where you just — it all goes away.
Craig: It seems so inconsequential. You parted your hair all the time.
John: Part of it is accommodation. You become accustomed to it. So like, “Oh, well, you’ve seen that hair for three days so it doesn’t strike you as strange anymore.”
Lindsay: That’s where that Blink thing really matters. When I read Blink, I remember thinking, I remember when I saw that actor’s hair, where they sent me a photograph before we started shooting and my first Blink moment was, “This is all wrong.” But I thought, “It’s a period movie, this is what their hair looked like then, when am I supposed to do about that?” And it really affected the way that movie did because it was not how — you know, it was a good looking guy who had been a big star in another movie where he looked great. And now the hair had been changed and those very same girls who loved him weren’t interested at all because his hair looked weird.
And we probably lost $100 million on that movie just because of the wig.
Craig: The hair.
Lindsay: The hair.
Craig: I think we’ve actually really dug down. I mean, we peeled the onion down so many layers and finally at the heart of producing is hair!
John: It’s the hair.
Lindsay: It’s so true.
Craig: And, I mean, you guys can’t see Lindsay here, although we’re going to put a picture up, won’t we?
John: Oh, we have to.
Craig: I mean, Lindsay has the best hair. So it’s actually like it’s the greatest — it’s perfect that it should finally come down to hair.
Lindsay: [laughs] And yet it’s the opposite of that, too. Working on Ghost, for example, when I was at Paramount. Demi Moore just walked in with that hair cut. How much money did that add to the grosses of that movie? It was the most beautiful hair cut in the whole world.
Craig: That was one of those hair cuts that I just remember suddenly everyone looked like the person. It was like when Jennifer Aniston had the Friends hair.
John: Oh yeah.
Craig: Demi Moore had the Ghost hair. It was a thing. There hasn’t been one of those recently.
John: Yeah, what was the most recent hair sensation? I’m trying to think what that is.
Craig: I don’t think there has been, not like the Jennifer Aniston one and the Demi Moore one.
Lindsay: Yeah. And the Meg Ryan one. That one was one for awhile. She had a certain kind of shag that everybody wanted.
Craig: Oh, I remember that.
Lindsay: Again, we’re talking a pretty long time ago.
Craig: That was a long time ago. We need new hair.
Lindsay: It’s not quite the same thing.
Craig: We need somebody to really get out there and hair it up.
Lindsay: And do that kind of stuff.
John: Cool. Well, this has been a good podcast.
Lindsay: When do we start?
John: We solved Hollywood.
John: We figured out what’s wrong with producing.
Lindsay: Exactly. Not wrong with producing, we figured out what’s…
John: Yeah. We talked a little bit about hair.
Craig: Just a touch.
Lindsay: Mostly about hair.
Craig: Just a touch. And I feel like we did make the world better. I think that the great thing about you is — really, and I hope that producers listen to this — you set a great example. You know, just for us as writers, what we want from producers frankly. When you say what a director wants, they want to be able to turn and say…
What we want, really, is for somebody to make us better.
Lindsay: Yeah. Absolutely.
Craig. We don’t want somebody to say, “Great job. Good for you. A+. Ship it along.” And we don’t want somebody to rip it apart fruitlessly or cynically.
Lindsay: Or brutally. Yeah, I don’t want to be brutal.
Craig: I don’t mind brutal if it’s in the direction of quality. What I think we look for the most from producers is to care about what we care about. Because a lot of producers say, “Here’s the thing: I really like the script. I feel like we need to change this character to be African American to appeal to this audience. And I want this one to be a woman. And I also think we should set it in Brazil because of the foreign audience.”
And you think, “But now I’m not writing a movie anymore. I’m writing a plan.” And we want producers like you who actually do care about our intention.
Lindsay: Yeah. I think it’s important.
Craig: And hair.
Lindsay: And the idea is make it so good that nobody wants to change it. That’s the point. So, that’s what the goal of the writer-producer relationship is. That it just sings so beautifully on the page that nobody would even think to say something like that.
Craig: See, and when she says stuff like that you think, “That’s the way a producer should talk. Now that’s a producer.”
Craig: Lindsay Doran.
John: So, we need to find somebody, like a really, really rich person to give you a big fund to just develop movies. That would get some stuff.
Craig: Is that cool with you?
Craig: But you can’t have any of it. We’re going to need it for our movies.
Lindsay: [laughs] That’s worse than bad hair. You have it, it’s right there. It’s always right there but you can’t…
Craig: And the movie was always great but THE HAIR!
Lindsay: Oh, the hair. Oh, it’s so…
Craig: Thank you, Lindsay. That was fun.
John: Thank you very much, Lindsay. This was fun.
Lindsay: Thank you guys. This was really fun. Great.