5 Rules to Improving the Writer Director Relationship

by Jill Rememsnyder

Your persistence paid off! You’ve found the right director who’s eager to take your script and share their vision with the world. That’s right, their vision. After all, they are the director, right? You just wrote the words and handed it over – what say do you have in any of this? While I wish you all smooth sailing, sometimes things don’t go as planned. It’s important to understand the director’s expectations of the writer as a project gets the green light and goes into production.

Directors & Writers Working Together…or not.

What the director needs and expects from you is to help maintain their vision for the scope of the film. The director’s vision may not be the same as yours. Don’t fret if you don’t see everything eye to eye – they might just surprise you. After all, they love your script and taking it on as a project is a huge commitment. No one is setting out to intentionally destroy your story!

writers directors working together

Know your level of involvement going into the project. Will you be the director’s right hand throughout the project or will you be handing off your script with no strings attached? Remember- your script is all grown up and has legs. It can stand on its own. (Take a hike and start writing your next script.)

The only thing you should be concerned about is seeing to it the film is made. More likekly than not, compromises will have to be made. If the director needs you to rewrite a scene based on a location change or a budget restriction (or even a budget bigger than what you wrote for) don’t fight or argue the change. If you can collaborate on set in pinch moments without any drama your stock is going to go up.

5 Rules to Improving the Writer/Director Relationship

1. Take everyone’s input and notes into consideration. You may not like them, may not use them, but smile and be polite. Just say you’ll think about it. This keeps you from committing to any changes but also buys some time to think of a better solution.

2. Speak up early or suffer the consequences. If everyone wants to turn your drama into a slapstick comedy and you don’t speak up, you only have yourself to blame. Waiting until the first day of filming is not going to get you very far. Don’t be the jerk holding up the shoot.

3. Don’t sulk and pout by the craft service table when your funny line is cut or the art department doesn’t dress the set exactly as you wrote it. You did your job – let everyone else do theirs.

4. Know when to compromise. Some battles aren’t worth fighting. The script calls for rain pounding on the windshield of the hero’s sports car but the director wants to use an SUV and take advantage of the sunny weather. Let it go. Besides, no one likes shooting in the rain.

5. NO DRAMA. Making a film is no easy task regardless of what stage of production you’re in. Don’t make it more difficult. Be professional, be respectful, and be ready to work! Word-of-mouth travels fast and you want a reputation as someone who’s enjoyable to work with.

And here’s an extra one for free…yes, it’s important to get along and work together, but you do have power as the writer. If &@it starts to hit the fan, wield your power carefully and smartly. Because at the end of the day…

writes and directors clint eastwood quote

Read more from Jill…

11 Invaluable Screenwriting Tips Worth Repeating
Putting Your Best Script Forward
How to Write Compelling Characters
Screenwriting Structure
Your First Draft: The Easiest Hardest Draft You’ll Ever Write
How to Get Script Feedback That is Actually Helpful
How to Write Dialogue
Writers + Directors: A Working Relationship
Writing What You Know (when you know nothing at all)


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About the Author

My name’s Jill Remensnyder and I’m a freelance writer and producer based in Portland, Oregon. I dove into film production headfirst in 1998. One term shy of earning my BA in Theater Arts, it seemed logical to put everything on hold in order to write, direct and produce a feature film. The following year I took my finished film to the Cannes Marketplace and doors started to open for future writing and production opportunities.


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