Gore Verbinski Conundrum

December 8, 2013

That’s an unwieldy title but it’s because of his last name and not at all that I just like the word conundrum.

Gore Verbinski had an interview years ago, I think in Movieline, long before any of the Pirates movies. He talked about making The Mexican and Mousehunt and he said that if something was important to you in a movie, if there was a moment you loved, make it so necessary to the story that the movie doesn’t make sense without it.

Because then the studio can’t cut it. Movies can be pulled apart and put back together in all sorts of different ways but if an actor is giving information to the audience, if a moment propels the story forward than you either have to keep it or reshoot it. And reshoots are expensive. So, it was Gore’s way of manipulating the studio – of making sure he didn’t lose the things he loved.

THE MEXICAN Brad Pitt as Jerry Welbach Julia Roberts as Samantha Barzel DreamWorks
THE MEXICAN | Brad Pitt as Jerry Welbach, Julia Roberts as Samantha Barzel (DreamWorks)

I always really enjoyed that. I loved the idea of the power it gave him over the studio; that he was smart enough to seize it. I loved the safety of getting to keep the things you loved because the story couldn’t live without them.

And now I’m editing Tattered Heart and I think of this in a whole new way. Because it doesn’t cost anything to change a novel. There are no facilities to book or unions to deal with or day out of days to print. But just because editing a novel is free, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Especially when Gore’s method comes into play.

Plot and I are still working our way toward an amicable relationship so poor Tattered Heart was put through the ringer. But every scene I created I made sure was relevant to the story somehow; revealed something we needed to know about a character or involved the plot or said something that created the world a little more fully. Gore would have been proud.

But I’m self publishing which means – I am the studio. And I want to clean things up and slim the story down and focus on the best, most vibrant parts. Some scenes seem really easy to cut until I run into the line… the section… the Gore Verbinski piece that makes that scene necessary. It’s infuriating. Cutting a scene is easy. Writing a new scene is more manageable with each draft. Taking information from one scene and weaving it seamlessly into another or constructing a new scene around old information or trying to work with the pieces you have and need but not in any form you had them before – that’s tough.

So, as much as I appreciate Gore’s theory, I love it a little less now. Or maybe, I love it for movies and only like it when I’m writing and not so much when I’m editing. And, if we’re being honest, as much as it’s a really good theory (and probably could be properly employed by a talented director working in tandem with a talented producer) it hasn’t served Gore that well either. I mean, The Mexican is kind of a wandering plot mess. And Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End… love them but they could have survived the loss of more than a few scenes Gore loved (cannibals and multiple Jacks for starters).

Which is why I think editors and producers are such a great part of the creative process. They help the writers and directors keep the parts they love (unlike the heartless studio). But they also show you when you need to let go of the things you love for the sake of the story.

Or if you really, really love them then find a way to do it better.

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Posted in: Craft, Tattered Heart ~

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