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!


Unknown said...

Cool dreams, Rebecca!

Good directors do research, so if that's the only thing in your way... :)

They threatened to dismantle the Fox research library. I wanted to run over there and scoop it all up in my arms, but wiser heads prevailed, and I *think* it is still there.

Obviously Cameron didn't go there to find out about anything but the china for Titanic :)

Happy holidays to you and all the merry Criminal bloggers!!!

Coming in to work a little late, listening to tunes on a nearly empty car, the holiday spirit hit me like a, well, like a train.


Rebecca Cantrell said...

What was Fox thinking? Dismantling a library? I'm glad it didn't happen in the end.

I think the other thing standing in my way is film school. Between writing and being a mom, I don't have time for One More Thing. But maybe once I've done this for a bit and sort it out. Or when my son goes off to college.

Mele Kalikimaka!

Shane Gericke said...

Well-put, Rebecca. Directors have so many other senses with which to grab viewers' attention--music, dialogue, explosions, the delicate arch of an eyebrow--than we writers can only dream about. (And back when, 3-D glasses and Smell-o-Vision!) Maybe we should load our books with scratch-and-sniff packets ...

And a very happy holiday to you, Mysti and the rest of the gang!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I like the idea of scratch n' sniff packets! I would have sausage, beer, cake, and subway in my book. How about in yours?

Likewise, happy holidays!

Dorte H said...

If I couldn´t write ... I don´t think I would be creative at all. (I have tried painting - oh, horror, that is difficult). Films are very well, but I love reading because I decide the speed, I decide what to dwell on, which pages to rea-read.

And when I write, I can also decide what I want to highlight and I can decide exactly what I want to tell the reader about the character, the place, the weather etc. So reading and writing appeal to my imagination in a way a film very rarely does.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hi Dorte! I agree with you about much preferring writing. It was a tough question to answer, as I can't imagine life without writing. If I were director, I'd write my own scripts, I suspect.

Happy holidays!

Kelli Stanley said...

Beckster, that PA is coming ... and I hear he's very good looking. :)

With your eye for detail and capturing the essence of personality, you'd make a fantastic director. Just promise you won't make the rest of your CM buddies wait out in the bleachers on Hollywood Blvd, OK? ;)


P.S. Caves are indeed wonderful ... especially in winter. :)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

There are bleachers on Hollywood Blvd? I had no idea! No, I would never make you wait there...not too long anyway. :)

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Kelli! I'm working with a director on a short right now and his visual sense kinda blows mine out of the water.

Maybe I should start with photography and work my way up from there...

Shane Gericke said...

Mmmmmm, sausage and cake. Breakfast of champions :-)

My book would be redolent of gunpowder and whipped cream, with a fine bouquet of satin and hot steel.

Shane Gericke said...

Gee, Fox do something asinine? I would never have imagined :-)

Thanks for being with us this year, Mysti. It's great having you write to us. You too, Jen, and CM, and Kaye, and everyone else who graces us with their presence time after time.

Joshua Corin said...

I've never directed for film (but someday would like to). I have directed for theatre and it's very, very similar to writing. It's all about communicating an idea (whether it be to actors or to an audience).

On the other hand, film directors get to say action and cut. I've tried saying action and cut to my characters and they flip me the bird.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I like those smells, Shane! An interesting bouquet to be sure.

I also want to echo Shane's thanks to Mysti, Jen, Dorte, PopCultureNerd, Leslie McNeill and everyone else who comes here to hang out. I always have as much fun reading the comments as the post.

Josh: I suspect that movie directors get flipped the bird plenty too. The downside of collaboration (although I'm collaborating on this blog with all of you and none of you have ever flipped me the bird, or at least ot where I could see it).

Jen Forbus said...

Hey, can I apply for the job of gopher on this CM movie team?

I'm like you, Rebecca; I don't know that I could hand over responsibility to others. I know there's a ton involved, but I'd want to make sure it was all done exactly the way I envisioned. I'd want to make sure every detail was right..

And there's no need for scratch and sniff packets in books you guys. I've experienced smell from writers before. When it's written well...you're THERE 100%! ;)

Shane Gericke said...

We do flip you the bird, Rebecca. But we mean it respectfully and affectionately:-)

And Jen, I've experience smell from writers, too. Usually at 2 a.m. after they've been drinking all night ...