ASKING FOR SCRIPT FIXES: TIPS FOR THE TELEVISION DIRECTOR
Your first meeting with the showrunner will probably be a quick meet and greet, a chance for you to connect personally. He’ll ask what you think of the show and of the script you are assigned to direct. Both answers should be energetically positive. Remember, you need to make a good first impression, and this is how you play the game. If you can be authentic while you’re being enthusiastic, great. That means you got a good script. And we all know a director can make a good script great. But you can’t make a bad script good.
The showrunner has put a lot of time and energy into creating this show and your script, and it will not make a good impression if you waltz in and blithely criticize his work. Instead, say something specific and positive. So that you don’t sound like an inane cheerleader, you can mention that you “might have a couple of script notes, but they’re no big deal and we can get to them later.” Then it’s up to the showrunner. If he says, “Great, let’s hear them now,” you’d better be prepared. If he says, “Great, it was nice to meet you,” then smile, shake hands, and depart. Remember that you are dealing with the production draft. This script has already been through many incarnations, and a lot of careful thought went into it.
Moreover, it’s already been approved by the network. So at this point, you are no knight in shining armor, riding in to rescue the day. You are here to shoot this script in the best way possible. So if you have questions about things that don’t make sense, articulate that. If you have a suggestion that is easily implemented, mention it. If you think the intent of a scene can be achieved in a way that is more production-friendly, say so. Other than that, say what you did like, say you’re grateful for the job, and get out of his office.
If the showrunner dismissed you without hearing your notes, take them to the writer who is credited on the script. (If the showrunner wrote the script, mention your concerns to the line producer, and she will schedule a meeting if it’s needed.) Sit down with the writer, compliment him specifically on the well-written script, and then go over your notes. Propose your pitch, which is a potential solution for every criticism you have. These may not be accepted, but you’ve shown that you put thought into it and that you’re not a complainer, you are a constructive thinker.Remember that the script is basically in its final phase, and it’s not possible at this point (six days away from shooting) to overhaul story structure. We’re talking band-aid fixes here.
Excerpted from Directors Tell the Story: Master the Craft of Television and Film Directing by Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli © 2011 Elsevier, Inc. All rights Reserved.