A few words about final cut before summer holidays

Posted by Elina Pohjola - 29/06/2012

A question about who should have final cut has been now on producers’ and directors’ lips more than before. Department of Motion Picture, Television and Production Design organized a seminar about final cut in co-operation with The Finnish Film Foundation in April, and it took place in Kino K-13. There were both producers’ and directors’ representatives present. Content of arguments summarized well the prevailing situation in Finland. Representatives of producers seemed to think that producer should definitely have final cut, whereas directors thought they should have it.

Since there is no established practice about final cut in Finland, it feels it can be kind of a barrier between a director and a producer. In worst case it can turn into a some kind of authority battle: which one manages to get final cut, which one arguments better, which one’s going to win. Sometimes contracts define final cut as a shared final cut between director and producer. The idea is good on the other hand, but at the same time lawyers are shaking their heads with it. Shared final cut doesn’t mean juridically anything.

I just got back from California from Palm Springs International ShortFest festival, where Mikko Kuparinen’s short film Sirocco (produced by Pohjola-filmi) got its international premiere. One of the festival’s highlights was a master class with Gus Van Sant. One of the audience questions to Gus Van Sant was what does he thinks about final cut. The answer was something like this: “To me final cut has never been a key issue, to a way or another. If you’d ask from Steven Spielberg, he’d say he’s never had final cut. I think he has had sometimes. The most important thing is to make the same project from the beginning. If you ever have to go that far that you turn to fact “I have final cut” then the doors are already slamming and it’s gone too far. In that case the film has certainly not become successful. The project and how I want it to be must be pitched and sold to a huge number of parties during the process, in spite of who has final cut, and make each party to fully understand what kind of film we are doing.”

Although I realize that the movie culture is different in the other side of the big sea, I think the answer itself sums up the most important: we all are in the same boat. We all are together in creating that story, we have chosen to spend time with it for the next years, and this is the story we want to tell. We are not opposing parties who are fighting for whose vision wins and who’s gonna draw the longest straw. The base for everything is a trust, a word that came up more than once also in seminar in Helsinki. As a producer I have to trust in director and his vision and that we are making this film together from the beginning to the end. The director, for his part, has to trust in the producer, and be aware that he/she will have the support in every kind of discussions, both in content-related and productional ones. We are doing this film together.

How this stalemate could be solved then? That’s a good question, where both producers’ and directors’ representatives are trying to find a solution. This writing is more of an open thinking than declaration providing answers. Final cut issue has to be discussed at the agreement stage. It has to be dealt with and after that there should be no need to go back to it, at least from my opinion. But if you need to, then something has gone terribly wrong. And on the other hand, that’s why contracts have to be defined very accurately, in cases if something goes wrong. Anyway, a question about final cut has to be always considered case by case. Sometimes it’s a very easy question, who should have final cut, but not always.

But now it’s time to retreat to a summer vacation. Pohjola-filmi’s spring has been in all its hecticness a productive. Our short film Sirocco has been completed and it has started its world journey. Wille Hyvönen’s direction, a documentary film My Godfather, His Thai Bride and Me enjoys it’s stay in home base for a while. The fall will bring preparations for the premiere and the development of new films.

Have a great July!

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