Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Lights, Camera, Action!
If you couldn't write, what would your creative outlet be?
by Rebecca Cantrell
As a writer, my business is telling stories with words. Taking that away would be very difficult for me. Assuming I had to do something else, I would tell stories with pictures and sounds. I would be a film director. I haven’t the skills or training, so no one in the Director’s Guild needs to worry, but if I’m dreaming, I might as well dream big.
Writers, by and large, labor alone. Directors have to assemble a team and call on the strengths of others. I love hiding in my little cave and writing (I know, Kelli, I probably love it too much), but back in my Silicon Valley days I also enjoyed working with a team of talented people who had a shared vision. Software development is not that different from directing: get the best people you can on board, motivate with the story you want to tell, and then help each team member to excel. Maybe I could even hire that famous film editor, CJ Lyons.
I envy the control that directors have over viewers. They control your gaze in a way that writers don’t. Readers can always skim over words, turn the page if they don’t like. But in a theater, the director can make you look. Viewers can walk out of the theater, but I’ll wager that many more readers skim than movie goers leave in the middle. Director control the pace at which the story unfolds. They can make you look at a muddy shoe until they’re sure you’ve seen it or cut to an eye and then away so quickly that you’re not even sure what you saw. For the duration of the film, they own your eyes.
Directors can also delegate things that writers can’t. If I have Hannah walk into a 1931 gay bar in Berlin, I have to research that bar, find pictures, maybe some eyewitness accounts. As a director, I can just hire a set designer and trust that they will get it right (I only hire the best, remember?).
But in the end, I love the research I do for my books too much to want to let it go. I love building the entire world of the story all by myself, knowing that each word, for better or worse, is the word that I chose. I love imagining that every reader is seeing a slightly different vision of my book.
All in all, I’d better hope that I get to keep writing. But I sure wouldn't mind having a personal assistant!