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When you've spent months and even years developing a story, it's not easy to listen to others tell you it needs rewriting. In reality, it takes hundreds of professionals to make a movie. You're working with other creative people, and you have to let them bring their talents and vision to the final product, too.
"Creative friction is necessary," says director Randa Haines (Children of a Lesser God, The Ron Clark Story). "It stretches you, it pushes you. It's what enables two people to build something greater than each of them could have done individually."
Rewrites, studio notes, development hell, and actor and director involvement are a fact of a screenwriter's life. How does a writer step out from behind her computer screen and navigate collaboration?
"It's important to know how flexible you are," says Haines. "You need to feel confident that you and the director or producer you're working with are in agreement about the movie you're trying to make. If not, if you're making two different movies, the resulting script will be diluted to nothing."
Your collaborator's suggestions may not always be ideal, but they could potentially reveal underlying problems. It's your job to define these problems and search for creative ways of solving them. As you gain experience, you'll learn which battles are worth waging. If you choose to argue a particular point, speak your piece with confidence, but don't be insulting or dismissive of other ideas. Stick to the essential points and avoid quarrelling over trivial matters. If you find yourself getting worked up, stop talking and start listening. Take notes, thank everyone for their input, and tell them you'll get back to them with some fresh ideas. When you look at your notes again in private, you may start to see things from a different perspective. Away from the pressure, you just might come up with some great solutions.
Bemoaning the screenwriter's lowly status in Hollywood is never the best use of a writer's time or energy. In the end, the only things you have control over are your attitude and the quality of the work you deliver. If your heart is set on screenwriting, pick your battles and your assignments wisely, keep honing your craft, and work on your team player skills.