Rule #2: Never Suggest “Fixes” for a Finished Film
One of the axioms peculiar to Hollywood is that the more you can afford to see movies, the less you have to pay for them.
Way back when I was a struggling artist, I was also a gigantic film buff. I wanted to see EVERYTHING! I went to film festivals, movie marathons, triple bills — you name it. Because I was relatively poor, however, I needed to be selective. I ended up missing out on a lot of movies because of my financial situation. As they say in the movies, CUT TO: Many years later.
Well-established in the film biz and making good dough, I could afford to see any film I wanted to view. The weird thing is that for the most part, I found myself living in a situation in which I rarely had to pay to see films anymore. I knew most everyone in the Film Biz by that point (or knew someone who knew someone) — the Film Biz is a really small world — so I was constantly being invited to screenings of their new movies.
Early on at these events I made a really rookie mistake. After the film was over and the lights went up I’d greet the director, writer, producer or whomever had invited me to the screening. They’d always ask “Well, what did you think?”
Stupidly, I would tell them the truth.
I’d tell them what I liked, what I didn’t like and how to fix it.
Big mistake. HUGE mistake.
By the time I saw the movie, it was finished. There was no going back and fixing anything. So, any criticism I had just ended up frustrating and pissing off my friend. “Where the fuck were you when I could have used that advice?” was a common response; sometimes spoken, sometimes spoken only with their eyes.
It’s a very quick way to lose friends — and, potentially, jobs — in the film business.
So, you might ask — what does one do?
If the film is good, there’s no problem. Ignore anything that might have bothered you and honestly praise it to the heavens.
If the film is just OK, remember everything that was right or good about the film and praise the filmmaker for those particular qualities.
If the film was a stinker, before it’s over check to see if there are any exits you can take to avoid the inevitable question. If there aren’t any (there usually aren’t), then find something, ANYTHING, to praise about the film. Make your goodbyes and congratulations brief and get the hell out of there.
And be very happy you didn’t work on it (unless you truly could have helped it in its early stages).
Sadly, I didn’t learn this Unwritten Rule until it had cost me some friends and jobs.