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pre-pro Best way to handle it?: Director partner tells me he has a new movie idea and wants to work alone

A little background:
I'm a director that's about 20 years into the game. After doing so many shorts, bleeding in the post-production industry, winning awards for shorts, and helping so many people achieving their dreams, I decided I wanted to finally make a feature film.


How Would You Handle It?:
My best friend is also a director and we have worked together throughout the years. We've both done shorts, corporate work, written features, etc.

We decided two years we would focus on our feature that we mutually-created. Of course we had worked with other people, for smaller projects and also worked together on other projects besides the main project.

Surprise:
After we're close to securing funding, have more equipment than ever, solid crew, more funding investments than ever... he randomly tells me he came up with a new feature idea and wants to do that solo.

I was a little shocked at how easy he said it. It was like he didn't think it would bother me. You can't control a person and we have no contract to have to work together. I was just a little blindsided. Especially after the breakthroughs we made.

Part of me thinks he was traumatized by a bad experience l last year working with a mutual buddy of ours.

I feel a little blindsided but what can you do? It almost makes me want to just not work with him, but I know that would be childish.


Some Options?:
- Support him, be a good friend, let him know you understand and then work on my own material?

- Wait it out? (Mutual friends were shocked, but said he's the type of guy that starts projects himself but never finishes)

- A little drastic, but another idea: Let him know how much it bothered me and remind him of why we got into the project. Pretty much try my best to see if he wants to come back to the project.

- Show him 6 other concepts we could work on with the money we've raised and funded. See if he wants to work on those together. If not, let him be.


Any other ideas would be great.

I'm trying to get to the root of it. He kept mentioning his experience working a feature with another director was horrible last year. Either way, I think I'm overthinking this.
 
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indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
It's better that you found out now that he is selfish. It's obvious that he thinks this is a better idea and he wants the whole pie. Since you were not originally part of this new idea he does not want to include you. "Good riddance, and good luck!" Now, take the reins on the current project... hell, it's probably the better one! Or, you can make that happen.
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
Just to be clear -
He's not stealing any ideas or funding that you developed together, correct?

If that's the case, I'd wish him well and go on, but be sure that you stipulate who owns what from the joint project, and get all of that sorted & in writing.

Personally, I don't want to work with someone who doesn't want to work with me.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Like the posts before me say... If he wants to move on to a different project tell him you've made a commitment to the last one and you would like all of the resources that you two developed together for yourself to continue on the project he abandoned.
 
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I'd hazard a guess that the OP might need some of the resources (at least access to gear/people) to complete the project that would go with the friend.

But like what the others have said, talk with your friend and see how you can move forward with the project if it has good traction. I'm surprised you didn't ask, "So what does that mean to our project now?"
 
Sit down with him over a couple of drinks and discuss this with him. Ask him why he did this, and tell him how you feel about it. Get it all out in the open, and then both of you decide how to move forward.
 
Even one of the Cohen brothers had a project he felt he need to work alone.
If I understand you, this is his next project that he wants to work alone? If that's so, don't take it personally. It might not have anything to do with you.
Look at it as an opportunity.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
Hmm yeah if it's simply the case of the "band member wanting to go solo" or do a side project, that is normal. I read it differently. But yeah. Don't be offended if he doesn't want to work on every single project together. If he left you high and dry and ran away from your current project, that is a little different, and more like a break up, yeah.
 
It's better that you found out now that he is selfish. It's obvious that he thinks this is a better idea and he wants the whole pie. Since you were not originally part of this new idea he does not want to include you. "Good riddance, and good luck!" Now, take the reins on the current project... hell, it's probably the better one! Or, you can make that happen.

I needed to hear this. You never seem to notice the bad side of people when things are good. But when it's done, you realize how much time you wasted.

Im noticing a trend too. The idea that he left our big project for, he is now abandoning that one.
 
Just to be clear -
He's not stealing any ideas or funding that you developed together, correct?

If that's the case, I'd wish him well and go on, but be sure that you stipulate who owns what from the joint project, and get all of that sorted & in writing.

Personally, I don't want to work with someone who doesn't want to work with me.
He wouldn't by law be stealing, but he is already trying to take the investor from one of our mutual friends.

Our mutual friend is further ahead of us in the directing career, directed multiple features. On this particular one, he is not doing well. My friend is trying to take that investor and telling him how he would direct better.

Also on the big project, it's very vague who owns what. So in a way it does prevent me from continuing to direct and produce it on my own. (Story / script rights)
 
I'd hazard a guess that the OP might need some of the resources (at least access to gear/people) to complete the project that would go with the friend.

But like what the others have said, talk with your friend and see how you can move forward with the project if it has good traction. I'm surprised you didn't ask, "So what does that mean to our project now?"
Yes it's much easier if two people put up funding than just one. I did ask about the bigger project and he says he wants to do it later, after he makes this film. Which could take forever.

I had to accept it. I do believe he will find spending his time and money on this side film will be taxing on him.
 
As an update to anyone curious, we all recently met as friends for a dinner. Then said he wanted to make a movie with my wife and her sister as the leads. They are both actresses. He told me this like it was nothing.
 
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My friend is trying to take that investor and telling him how he would direct better.

Also on the big project, it's very vague who owns what. So in a way it does prevent me from continuing to direct and produce it on my own. (Story / script rights)

That doesn't sound much like a friend, but a competitor.

It also sounds like an example of why you should get a contract in writing. I like the idea of a partnership as I imagine the Cohen Brothers or the Wachowski Brothers to have. But this is starting to sound like an abusive relationship. It kind of sounds like he's domming or cucking you. Are you a sub? Not that that's a bad thing, depending.

What it sounds most like is the two of you need to have a heart-to-heart discussion of what you each want. Be honest with each other. Communicate exactly what you want from him, and require the same of him. Discuss expectations. Essentially you are business partners. What do business partners do? At heart this is a business enterprise, isn't it?
 
kind of sounds like he's domming or cucking you. Are you a sub? Not that that's a bad thing, depending.
Woah, dude. Woah.

I've made other mutual filmmaker friends aware of the behavior. In his head he's not trying to be malicious, but if he takes an investor, that's definitely a no-no.

I did have a talk and say stop focusing on giving random girls feature roles (he had met a girl who had never acted and wants make her lead in his film) and remember we're working together.

As a business partner hed be a great force for making our film, but as a friend I don't see him as a great friend. So it's business or bust. I made it clear and he agreed. I think we mentally damaged and is desperate to create any low budget film as the sole director because of an experience he had.

I'm not having my team go work with him if he's going to take contacts and yank investors away from actual meaningful, thought out films.
 
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In general, I see nothing wrong with partners wanting to do projects outside the partnership (I understand you don't have a legal partnership, but you have been operating as partners for years). However, there is a way that mature people go about this. Having read through your posts, I suspect if the shoe were on the other foot, you would be having a sit down with your friend to explain why you want to do this latest project solo.

So, with that...

I totally agree that you don't want to be making a film with someone who doesn't want to work with you -- for whatever reason. As many of have already said, it may have nothing to do with you. As you know, a feature is a tremendous amount of work for a long period of time. There will be tension even with the best of relationships. It makes no sense to force anything for this project.

However, there is the matter of your "partnership". It's hard to tell from written posts on a forum, but this guy does not sound like he understands how a friendship/partnership works or he's a person really afraid of conflict and is saying things "easily", because he can't deal with a heart to heart that could evoke bad feelings. It sounds like you don't see him as a friend really, so I'd probably let him go. However, if you do see value in his partnership, then you need to speak up and be clear: that it's okay for each of you to do your own thing, but that you need a little more than a casual farewell if you are working together on things that start with an implied intent to work together. Partnerships are only mutually beneficial if both partners' needs are met. You need communication that includes your partner's intents. To continue with this person, you need to demand that as part of the partnership.
 
Reminds me of a good old joke (with no disrespect to the OP here)...

Question: What do you call a friend in Hollywood? Answer: Someone that stabs you in the chest.
 
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