All About Iain Smith
With a resumé that includes movie classics I love like THE FIFTH ELEMENT and CHILDREN OF MEN, producer Iain Smith was already on my list of top UK creative professionals already … but then he only goes and gets MAD MAX FURY ROAD made, too!
So I was delighted to chaperone the LondonSWF Talent Campers to an exclusive half-hour session with Iain this weekend. Iain offered up some brilliant nuggets of advice and writing wisdom, so make sure you strap yourself in … Ready? Let’s go!
1) It all STARTS with the writing …
Production is frequently something screenwriters misunderstand, so it was great to see Iain demonstrate that he cares every bit as much as us about STORY. Iain clearly loves the creative process and puts major stock in storytelling as a whole. He talked of ‘going on an adventure’ via the story and said that “writers have to remember it starts with them”.
2) … But don’t forget it’s filmMAKING!
MAD MAX FURY ROAD is now one of my all-time favourite movies (so I’ve read lots about it) … But even I was surprised to hear that there was NO SCRIPT.
But wait! There was a script in the sense that the movie was mapped out via a humongous four thousand, five hundred storyboards. Smith made the argument that George Miller is a filmmaker and it was his way of telling the story just as well as words on a page (and who are we to argue?? Whether you enjoyed MAD MAX FURY ROAD or not, it told the story it set out to).
But of course the studio didn’t like this idea. This meant Smith had to hire ‘some poor guy’ to trawl through the storyboards and piece together a script to send The Money Men. Apparently it was just 61 pages and ‘unreadable‘! But it kept those moguls happy!!!
Smith was unrepentant. He said that if they”d done it the studio’s way, ‘They would have fucked it up‘!
So, moral of THIS story? Like William Nicholson said, be brave and bold to get the results you want.
3) Don’t forget FUNCTIONALITY
Iain Smith is a producer, not a writer. His job is to make the creative stuff HAPPEN by taking it *from* the page and *into the real world* (whatever that means).
So if a screenwriter has to show us WHY we need this storytelling, then a producer like Smith has to work out HOW it will be done.
This means writers have to be FLEXIBLE with their storytelling as Smith asks, ‘How do we protect the creative vision WITHIN the realities of filmmaking?’ MORE: 6 Ways To Make Your Screenplay More Likely To Get Made
4) BUT it’s not about costs, but VALUE
Smith said that when a director says ‘I’ll make it work’ his blood runs cold. He said that too many directors cut too readily and lose magical moments and key scenes, by throwing the baby out with the bathwater. This adversely affects the story, which he is so passionate about.
This is a great lesson for screenwriters, especially when writers now edit more readily on the page. Sometimes it can really work, especially in terms of character, structure and more realistic budgets, especially when starting out.
BUT knee-jerk script edits however hardly ever work. Giving yourself time to breathe after notes and reconnect with the story means youre less likely to chop willy-nilly!
5) Everyone sees their OWN story
Whether you’re reading the screenplay or making the actual project, it’s worth remembering the director, producer, crew members and even actors are seeing a DIFFERENT version of it.
That’s why Tom Hardy’s public apology at Cannes to George Miller is so compelling – until Hardy saw the finished film, he admits he hadn’t seen the same vision, yet he had been in just about every scene!
This is so important for writers to remember. It helps us because we realise that if someone sees our writing differently that’s okay … BUT ALSO, through this, we discover those parts that are non-negotiable as in point 4 on this list!
So, be brave and bold … but realise there are other great people out there who want the same as you!
B2W’s book, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays will be TEN YEARS OLD in 2023!
I’ve added a whopping extra 100 pages!! This includes new case studies, plus information on television pilots as well as movie screenplays. Here’s the blurb:
Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays has the lowdown on how to get your thriller feature script on to the page, and how to get it in front of producers and investors.
“First published in 2013, this new edition offers an all-new resources section and a host of new case studies that map the considerable changes of the past decade.
With marketplace disruptors such as Netflix and the first phases of The Marvel Cinematic Universe leaving their mark, new opportunities have been created for screenwriters and filmmakers who are keen to get their stories in front of industry professionals.
This time around, Lucy V Hay doesn’t just guide you through the writing of movies, but spec TV pilots too. Putting iconic, mixed-genre projects under the microscope -such as Stranger Things (horror thriller), Brooklyn 99 (comedy thriller) and Lost (sci fi thriller) – she considers what writers can learn from these shows.
She also argues that the lone protagonist in a thriller has had its day and looks at how the genre is moving into a space beyond ‘The Hero’s Journey’. Case studies to support this include The Hunger Games, Captain Marvel, Iron Man and many more.
Finally, the book considers how the screenplay might be sold to investors, exploring high concept ideas, pitching, packaging and the realities of film finance – all updated for the 2020s – and lays out alternative routes to sales and production, including transmedia such as novels and adaptation, and immersive storytelling online.” BUY IT HERE.