Image: Debark’s Doggy Etiquette by (c) Emma Topping. All rights reserved.
Maya Angelo once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”
That first call with a filmmaker, producer or studio interested in adapting an author’s work tends to play out in one of two ways: the “first date” approach where we cautiously, but politely, circle each other and take a sniff, leaving the bottom lines to the next call (or the lawyers); or the no-nonsense “straight-shoot” when I receive an impassioned pitch for the call’s duration that leaves me in no doubt of the speaker’s vision for the project – and his or her commercial terms.
Which works? Of course it depends on the work and the project, but really: it’s all about the delivery.
Dog lovers will tell you numerously (because it’s true), that you can learn a lot from our furry friends – and watching Koni interact with other dogs is indeed an education. Being an all white Japanese Akita with alert ears and a curled tail, although kind and loyal if approached correctly, Koni simultaneously exudes authority and a touch of haughtiness. Those that courteously greet her adhering to the rules of “Debark’s Doggy Etiquette” (© Emma Topping) are received well. Those that charge Koni at full pelt barking excitedly regardless of intent without giving her an opportunity to assess or engage, tend to be less successful.
So back to that initial call: whether it’s a first date, a straight-shoot or a first date straight-shoot (when you better have a few night hours dedicated to working on LA time): whilst attention should be paid to what is being said, it is the way that those words are delivered and the openness to receiving and hearing a counter point of view, that really reveals whether a successful collaboration is possible.
In a recent IndieWire article, Ben Travers recounts the following statement by Jack Bender, director of the critically acclaimed television adaptation of Stephen King’s “Mr Mercedes”: “Stephen’s very unobtrusive…When he trusts somebody, [he] lets them take his project.”
And it is genuine and mutually respectful collaboration between author, filmmaker, producer and studio that creates that trust.