Nine Stupid Pieces of Filmmaking Advice I Was Given (and Didn’t Listen to)

Let’s turn Foreign Correspondents into a TV series!

While making my first feature Foreign Correspondents, I received lots of outrageous and inane suggestions from people who thought that the film needed improvement. I shouldn't dismiss all of these comments as stupid, necessarily, but they were all useless and/or inappropriate for this particular project. It does at least go to show you that a great many "experts" in Hollywood have no idea what they're talking about. Enjoy!

  1. Add some sex and violence. Believe it or not, somebody actually said this to me – and he meant it. In fact he even put it in the context of artistic integrity: "Your story would be so much stronger if your characters all had really intense, passionate sex. Kiss kiss, bang bang: All movies come down to that, you know." No, I guess I don't know.
  2. Have a minor character narrate the entire film. This suggestion came from the same genius who fed me the comment above. I have no idea how he came up with this gem, or what his justification was. (Other than the fact that the character he was referring to was an attractive woman.) This man has actually directed a feature, but he has thus far refused to let me see it. I won't reveal its name, but it stars Corey Feldman.
  3. Two stories not enough? Add one more! One of the important things you need to know about Foreign Correspondents is that it's split into two separate stories. Some viewers couldn't deal with that, and so – apparently convinced that everything has to be a "trilogy" – they told me that adding a third story would really bring a sense of closure to the film. Well, it might... but it would also make it over 2 1/2 hours long, and half again as expensive to make. Maybe next time.
  4. One story too many! A couple other people also felt that I should have taken one of the two stories – their favorite one, naturally – and turned it into an entire feature, throwing the other story into the trash. Well if I thought I could do that, I would have made two separate features in the first place. This advice didn't do much good after everything was already shot, anyway.
  5. Okay then, split it in half! The whole idea behind putting two stories together was so that I would have a feature-length movie. I knew then, as I know now, that it's nearly impossible to sell a 45-minute semi-short. Yet somebody had the bright idea that I could take the story they liked, and release it on its own. (????)
  6. Intercut the two stories! A few folks thought that I could just re-edit the whole thing a la Crimes and Misdemeanors or Sliding Doors, cutting back and forth between my two stories. Well, one big problem: one story takes place over 3 months, and the other takes place over a week. So any sense of time continuity would get thrown out the window. Not to mention that it would suck the dramatic energy out of both stories.
  7. Turn it into a TV series. Some guy thought two stories weren't enough. He wanted 30! No thanks!
  8. Use this rap and/or country music track. Then there were those who wanted to get their friends' songs on the soundtrack, without taking a moment to ask themselves, "Hmm, now where would this rap song fit in?" or "Which scene could be made better by this country tune?" Shameful thing is, these people had already seen the film.
  9. Split the film into little 5-minute segments, then show them on MTV. I loved this bit of advice just because it was so completely bizarre and random and insane.