by Edward Reid
The best revenge is to not be like the one that hurt you ~ Marcus Aurelius
I produce films for targeted audiences. It’s my life and love.
The complexity of my peregrinations in film producing has altered my understanding of human relationships causing me to recount in part a particular film script’s journey. The entire process feels somewhat existential. I pinch myself wondering what happened. Clarity in communication is a lifelong endeavor.
I suppose we learn young about human nature – at an early age playing in a nursery environment and another child takes our toy and won’t give it back. So, what. Cry and go to the teacher, try to grab the toy back, fight, or let it go and get another toy. I would be more like the last child, avoiding confrontation, unless necessary, or perhaps consider fleeing from the place altogether. It hasn’t always worked out the best for me.
Conflict arrives in an array of formats as we negotiate with the people that enter our life and as we enter theirs. People have many faces and engage in games that involve needs, desires, wants and ego. I don’t know many altruistic people. In general, what are our expectations and our intent? How many people want something from you and how much do we want from them?
I guess it is a matter of trying to leverage our interest as opposed to theirs. A relationship offers an opportunity to give and take. If you are a healthy-minded and nurturing individual, you want to make this relationship one where you can both find contentment and hopefully some sort of reward. People behave within the framework of how they were raised, their education, family and peer values and experiences.
Working as a producer in the entertainment industry and coming from being an educator was in a sense entering an ego wanting, if not ego driven world. I was taken back by the level of competition that can develop between actors, producers, and directors. If you are an actor, you must love yourself and be able to promote yourself. I cannot say this for all, because indeed there are those that love playing a role and are experts in technique. Stereotyping is a tactic of diminishing returns. I prefer to work with the actors who relish a particular role to play. There are humble actors that love acting and these are the ones I try to cast and enjoy working with. Alas, actors are actors and they can fool you into believing their humility, as can anyone.
Each role within the film industry ultimately pieces together the production, and every person choose a position for their own personal reason. In the end, together, they create beautiful art. I have really watched it all from a background perspective because I was sitting in the background observing. I started as an extra, trying to study everyone and their positions.
From there, to make it a shorter story, I eventually became a writer, acting in and producing my own films. With that, I needed to bring on directors to work with because I never learned much about that area of film, camera work, much of what the director of photography does as well. I felt more secure to bring on a director that could help bring my vision to life. And within that decision is a potential conflict as a director may have their own vision. Personality, communication, adaptability, ego, and money are significant factors. Problems develop when the director’s vision is at odds with the producer, writer, and funding source. Visions collide when developed outside the original intent.
Film directors obviously can be a very different from each other – they direct and with that, I think comes the sense of entitlement and corresponding power. The Irish philosopher and economist Edmund Burke once observed “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.”
And therein lies the rub, as the idiom observes. To create a film, I hired a director and allowed him the space to direct without wanting to look over his shoulder. Details can make or break a relationship. Communication is core to a successful relationship. Competition interferes with mutual success. The director indeed helped me bring my story to life, but with that he slowly started to claim the film I created as his own. What should I have expected? Film making whether independent or corporate is about sharing power. The conflict arrives when the competitive ego arrives on stage.
I was a neophyte in explaining my vision. It started with the credits and his logo and name being more prominent than mine. His logo on the poster, the same as mine. I did not want to be confrontational, so I just let it go. The premier, he was the first up to speak loudly about “his” film. Was it symbolic of something more provocative? Should I have expected anything else given the nature of what one reads about in Hollywood?
This was my film, I hired him as a contractor to shoot and to edit the film, yet he disregarded my editing requests for the independent musicians I asked for. He was the director, what should I expect? He picked sound clips from online that we could not match for the cue sheet costing me an exorbitant amount. He did what he wanted and disregarded me. We were at odds contractually.
Looking back, I should have stopped right there, but I didn’t. Some people are very persuasive and manipulative and because I did not know much about editing, he told me how much better it would be to use his idea on the sound. I wanted to have the best film possible, so I agreed. I now realize looking at his portfolio, it was hot air. References have many configurations and characteristics. And even when things feel solidified the cost of poor communication and contracts in writing can find their way to a lawyer’s desk.
With the whole film, I wanted everyone to succeed. For me, it was not just my film (I have the copywrite and contract), but indeed I wanted all involved to be a part. I wanted the actors to have their reel material that for many is so very hard to get, but I never foresaw what was coming.
There is the quote by Anne Lamott that states “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” I would have to say I agree with that. I do not want to dwell on this, or the guy would win and get the best of me, so I work past this to like Marcus Aurelius says about getting back at someone, “best revenge is not to be like your enemy.” And that means moving on and being a good person.
When we try and accomplish great things in life, we will always encounter difficulty and challenges in some form. If we put ourselves out there, it is bound to happen.
Samuel Johnson writes that, “To strive with difficulties, and to conquer them, is the highest human felicity; the next is, to strive, and deserve to conquer: but he whose life has passed without a contest, and who can boast neither success nor merit, can survey himself only as a useless filler of existence; and if he is content with his own character, must owe his satisfaction to insensibility.”
We reap what we sow!