“When there’s emotional testimony, I assume that eighty-five percent of it is exaggeration.”
– The Social Network
You may recognize Sandy Schklair as the Script Supervisor / 1st A.D. on The Room, as portrayed by Seth Rogen in December’s The Disaster Artist. For years, Sandy has claimed to be the actual director of The Room, and has vocally expressed his frustration with Tommy Wiseau. Despite all his hard work, Tommy left Sandy out of the film’s credits entirely. Sandy was undoubtedly a major influence on the set of the film, often re-writing Tommy Wiseau’s script to create some semblance of cohesion in the dialogue (that’s right – the bad dialogue was WORSE before Sandy got his hands on it!). Sandy coached the actors, including Tommy, and worked with cinematographer Raphael Smadja to stage some of the shots. Now does that make Sandy the rightful director? And if so, why does he even want that credit? Sandy’s book, ‘Yes, I Directed The Room,’ attempts to answer these questions, and more.
Now, I say ‘attempts’ here because throughout this angry tirade of unfocused anecdotes, Sandy fails to truly convince me he ‘directed’ the film. While I don’t doubt he played a big part during production, he openly admits that he had nothing to do with pre-production or post-production for the film. A director usually oversees a film from start to finish: from the planning stages, to shooting, to supervising the edit, and the final sound mix. Sandy, at best, directed the production of the film. Does he still deserve credit for his work? Absolutely. Is he the director of the film? I don’t think so.
Neither do Denny or Peter, evidently.
Sandy begins his book with a bold statement: everything that’s ever been published about The Room (including Greg Sestero’s book, The Disaster Artist) is not accurate. Liberties have been taken in every memoir, and every interview, from everyone involved in the production of The Room. But his book is different. Yes, I Directed the Room is the one TRUE manifesto about the making of the film. Everything else that’s been written before cannot ever compare.
I have to doubt this. Before reading this book, I thought quite highly of Sandy. In Rick Harper’s documentary Room Full of Spoons, Sandy comes across as a laid-back, slightly cynical guy who got a real kick out of Tommy on the set of The Room. In both the book and the film versions of The Disaster Artist, Sandy’s portrayed as a logical guy who speaks his mind. Greg Sestero gives him a lot of credit for his influence on the film in his book. That reputation is ruined by his angry ranting in Yes, I Directed The Room. The man is passionate beyond reason. He claims his book is the only published work that offers the true, authentic facts about what happened – that everything else that’s been said before is irrelevant. I take issue with that. Sandy’s book is unfocused and meandering, with long asides about his career that have no relevance to The Room. Every ‘fact’ is his memory from over 14 years ago, and we all know memory can be unreliable. With that in mind, the details of The Disaster Artist shouldn’t be dismissed so nonchalantly. Greg Sestero wrote his book with a lot more references at his disposal, including the entire library of behind the scenes footage Tommy had shot during production. Most importantly, the book was written with Tom Bissell, a journalist who likely influenced the quality of the writing a great deal. While I don’t doubt some narrative licence was taken in The Disaster Artist, I still trust the words in that book a little more. A journalist’s job is literally to present the truth, and I’d like to think that’s what Tom Bissell aimed for.
Interestingly, Yes I Directed the Room directly contradicts The Disaster Artist quite a few times. In both books, for example, the authors claim ‘throwing the water bottle’ during the rooftop scene was their idea. In Greg’s narrative, however, there are pages upon pages of set-up to back this up. Having attended acting classes with Tommy for years, Greg knew using props would help him focus and perform. He handed Tommy the bottle so he could get through his lines. There’s even a joke about Tommy immediately peeling the label off the bottle to avoid being sued. In Sandy’s version, Sandy just gives the guy a water bottle on a whim. Greg’s account is more detailed and, to me, seems more likely.
With a typo on the first page, Schklair’s credibility is thrown into further question. The book is chalk-full of formatting errors, with spelling and grammar mistakes on almost every page. Sandy constantly refers to himself as a film professional, but he couldn’t bother editing his words? The man prides himself on his attention to detail, having expertly worked continuity on film sets for over 30 years. But then he somehow manages to spell Janusz Kaminski’s (renowned cinematographer and his personal colleague) name wrong in two consecutive sentences (‘Kaminsky?‘ Seriously?). I suspect these mistakes can be attributed to Schklair, who likely rushed the book to ensure it was released around the same time The Disaster Artist hit theatres. This way, he’s published while The Room is still on everyone’s minds.
Janusz Kaminsky [sic]: Cinematographer, Shindell’s List
Despite these assumptions, Sandy insists he’s not writing the book to cash in on the popularity of The Room. For him, it’s about getting the credit that’s due to him. And why does his contribution matter so much to Schklair? Well, according to the author, he was more than just the director. Everything funny about The Room was his contribution. He’s the reason the film is so popular. He realized right away that he was working on a cinematic turd, and set out to make it as funny as possible. He inserted intentional continuity errors, bizarre art direction, and encouraged quirky performances from the actors. He framed the spoons front-and-centre intentionally. He doesn’t just want credit for directing The Room – he wants credit as the reason it’s funny.
I have some problems with that. Primarily, Sandy is not the reason The Room is funny, and he never will be. The film would not exist without Tommy Wiseau; it’s his sincerity, passion and his complete and utter failure that makes the movie so god-damned hilarious. Any Script Supervisor could have worked on The Room, and it would still be funny. It may not have had Sandy’s influence, but Wiseau would still have been entertaining. Hypothetically, Wiseau would have been fine without Sandy. But if Sandy made this movie without Wiseau, it would quickly become a forgotten melodrama. Tommy’s chauvinistic ethics, his overbearing ego, and his mysterious allure are what define the film. The Room without Tommy would be like a Neil Breen film without broken laptops.
Try it – insert any actor into this scene. No one will ever compare to Tommy.
And if Sandy did make the film funny intentionally, he’s contradicting his constant assertion that he is a film professional; a phrase he repeats frequently throughout the book. If he is so professional, why would he intentionally sabotage Tommy’s project by inserting continuity errors and shrugging off missed focus pulls? This seems hypocritical, right? By all accounts Tommy was difficult to work with, but there’s no professional justification for ruining a film you were paid to work on, on purpose. Now, I do believe Schklair directed a portion of the film. But these mistakes are just that: mistakes. And that’s okay. Just don’t try to take ownership of them. In doing so, Sandy eliminates everything people love about The Room. It may sound cruel, but the appeal of this film is laughing at Tommy’s failure. If the filmmakers are in on the joke, the film loses its relentless sincerity.
What’s most offensive about this book is that Sandy doesn’t seem to understand fans of The Room or bad movie culture at all. Sandy just doesn’t get why the film is appealing to so many people. For example, Sandy reacts with anger to some of the claims Tommy Wiseau has made in interviews over the years. When Tommy says the spoons are an artistic metaphor, Sandy expresses unhindered FURY with this claim. He’s beyond pissed that anyone would say the spoons have a deeper meaning. To Sandy, he’s being denied credit for picking out the spoon photo (another contradiction from The Disaster Artist) when Tommy says things like this. He hates Tommy for lying about the spoons. But Sandy, here’s the thing: we KNOW he’s lying, and that’s what we love about Tommy. We all know the spoons meant nothing. It’s Tommy’s back-pedalling that makes him so fascinating, and so much fun to watch. For 14 years he’s been defending and offering false justifications for everything wrong with The Room, and it’s hilarious. We all know it’s a lie. There’s nothing to be mad about, no one believes Tommy Wiseau word’s except…. well, Tommy. That is why we love this movie.
The book ends on a strange note, with Sandy commenting on comedic YouTube reviews about The Room. He shames CinemaSins, among other channels, for taking The Room too seriously. That’s right. He thinks the joke videos on YouTube are sincere analysis and film criticism. Is the man a master troll, or can he seriously not detect the sarcasm in their voices? The Room is a joke, so lighten up and have fun with it.
Schklair claims this video takes The Room too seriously.
To me, there was never any doubt that Sandy Schklair had a huge influence on The Room during its production phase. He was snubbed in the credits of the film, denied the Script Supervisor credit he deserved – at minimum. This book makes some passionate claims, and Sandy’s absolutely right for doing so. I can imagine how frustrating working with Tommy Wiseau can be. In that sense, I completely understand why this book was written. However, the content itself doesn’t really reveal anything we didn’t already know about the film. The conversational tone Schklair uses makes for a fast read, but the nonexistent editing will quickly become distracting for most readers. The book also lacks the laugh-out-loud humor The Disaster Artist had. If you’re curious, it’s an interesting read for any Room fan, but probably not worth the $19 they’re currently charging for it.