Independent screen writing: A Single Man, by Tom Ford and David Scearce

Tom Ford and David Scearce’s A Single Man screenplay exploits the added creative freedom of independent film by writing descriptions of other film making principles and their decisions, which wouldn’t normally be accepted in the studio system; a system of corporate diplomacy and division of creative talent in a production line progression toward the released film, as opposed to an independent film that is instead about the people involved working on their own project. The studio system only becomes involved once the film is completed, often purchasing distribution rights at festivals. Indeed, The Weinstein Company in this case discovered A Single Man at the Toronto International Film Festival. Thus, with the screenplay being irrelevant in this context, any directing instructions would be expected – there were no executive producers to omit this. Plus, Ford is directing his own screenplay, making the description of directing choices perfectly understandable. For example, scene one – Ext. Underwater – begins with

From the top of our screen drifts the nude body of a man

Were A Single Man a studio film, an executive producer may have considered that a description of directing, that is to say, that the director may have wanted to begin with the body floating away from the camera downwards, or shooting from below to silhouette the body in the water using the light from above in an homage to Sunset Boulevard. But A Single Man isn’t a studio film; there was no executive producer to veto this. And with that knowledge, Ford and Scearce have used this freedom to their advantage by including directorial choices. In the studio system, screenplays are written to propose a story to a studio in the form of a genre, whereas independent films are created in the minds of the screenwriter, who are considered the true “creator” (often, the screen writing process can involve resistance against the urge to describe shot types). And once an independent film is “created”, a mainstream distributor can only purchase the distribution rights to the film that already exists. In the case of A Single Man, Ford and Scearce envisioned the opening scene as being framed in the style as

From the top of our screen

so any potential distribution-purchasers will have been unable to change the form of the final, finished film. At no point did The Weinstein Company request to read the screenplay – A Single Man already existed. It was too late to change. Therefore, The Weinstein Company won’t have cared about the screenplay, which is why it wasn’t unacceptable to describe a framing like

From the top of our screen

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Author: alexsigsworth

Basically... run.

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