“Think of this movie as a sausage … “
I was in a production meeting at Warner Bros. for the second Steven Seagal movie, Hard to Kill. It was called Seven Year Storm at that time. The director was Bruce Malmuth, a good guy who sadly died way too soon.
The screenplay had a car chase in it. The movie was low-budget and the sequence was scripted very tightly. Bruce however, lying awake the night before this meeting, had come up with a way to make the chase different and special. But he needed more money from the studio and an extra day of shooting. I remember Bruce rising from his chair and making an impassioned plea for just a few more bucks and a little extra time.
The Warners executive listened calmly with no change of expression. Bruce resumed his seat. He was actually out of breath from making his fervent plea. The exec thanked Bruce for his commitment and his creativity. He saluted him as a dedicated filmmaker and a true artist. Then he said:
“Bruce, think of this movie as a sausage. It’s just another link and you’re grinding it out.”
Everyone around the table, including Bruce, burst into laughter. But we all felt a chill too, at hearing stated in such stark, unvarnished terms the reality of the marketplace.
I remember thinking at the time,
I agree with the executive. This movie IS a sausage. And we ARE grinding it out.
But my attitude toward the grinding, I said to myself, does not have to be cynical or condescending. In fact,
I am grateful as hell to be here working on this sausage and to have a chance to grind it out.
And furthermore …
Nobody, including the studio and the studio executive, can stop me from giving my all to make it the best possible sausage.
In the end I got fired off the picture. You won’t find my name in the credits. But I still agree with what I thought then.
Every project doesn’t have to be Citizen Kane. It’s okay to work on “B” movies and “C” movies or to write trade ads for Preparation H. As long as we do our absolute best and keep our eyes on the prize of producing, in the end, our own best material, as truly as we can to our own lights.