When script editors, producers, commissioners, money-men or, as in one case I’d happily forget, the boyfriend of one of the business staff, responds to your work suggesting changes you always have choices. You can just do as they say and bend over (see Pirates and Mermaids below). You can dig your heels in, refuse to change a comma, and end up looking like a complete prat. Or you can do a whole lot of other things in between. A great deal depends on your opinion of the people making suggestions. In 20 years I’ve only once walked from a project – a film currently in production. And I didn’t do it lightly. Drama is always a collaborative exercise and if you go in expecting people to go along with your every creative whim then you’re going to have a short career. Particularly if the project in question wasn’t yours in the first place. But even as a hired hand you need to respect the opinion of the rest of the team and if you reach the point where this evaporates then it’s probably time to go.
So lets assume the person suggesting the changes knows what he’s doing but at the same time you feel that implementing them will fuck things up. The key here is to step back a bit. The question you need to ask is not, Am I going to make these changes? The question you need to ask is What is it that led this person to make the suggestion in the first place? What’s making him/her unhappy? If you can answer that question you can often find a solution that solves their problem and lets you hold on to your initial concept for the piece. Which is what I hope I’ve done for the radio play. The treatment has been redone as a result of the commissioners suggestion. I haven’t done what he suggested. But I think I’ve answered his reservations and what’s more I think the result is much stronger than the original pitch. So we all win. Or at least we will if he agrees and buys the thing.