Of Books And Filmmaking

Recently, I found myself locked in a minor debate with my friend The Scarlet Pimpernel. The question of which was: Whether it is harder to write a good book or direct a good movie.

I will here try to set forth the points of our debate. I'm afraid you'll have to take my word on them, because I don't remember precisely everything that was said.

As you may have guessed due to the nature of previous posts by either of us, I am in favor of books, and TSP is in favor of films. Without further ado, the points for your decision.

My view is that it is more difficult to write a good book for various reasons. I might as well state the easiest reasons first. Everyone must have heard that phrase, 'a picture is worth a thousand words'. What this means is exactly what it says: it is far easier to explain an incident with one picture than it is to do so with many words. Which leads to the next. Simply because the previous statement is true, a filmmaker has a much easier job because as much as 75% of their work is with images which convey meaning to the viewer (landscapes, facial expressions, general body language, even physical description) even without the dialogue every film has. In contrast, the writer must provide the original 'thousand words' which one image replaces. The writer must work carefully to provide the reader with every element of a character and a setting, which at the same time must be enough to provide them with a precise image, and flow swiftly enough to retain their interest. For the third time, a filmmaker has the benefit of images, which explain themselves to the average person.

This is not to push films to the edges and dismiss them. I understand that making films is a time-consuming task which is extremely complicated. But the question is not whether making a film is harder than writing a book. It is whether directing a film is harder than writing. Granted, though I have hoped to for years, I have never had the chance to direct a film, and so I do not fully understand all of what goes in to directing, but it is my view that the director, in comparison to his own crew (nearly all of whom are doing more strenuous work) is merely the one who decides, in accordance with his own views on the task, whether the job has been done well. Considering that, do not the actors, the camera crew, and even the costume artists have harder jobs than the director, for the simple reason that it is harder to do something well than to say that it has been done so? Alright, so perhaps directors are sometimes the ones who bring forward the plots they eventually direct. But directors do not write the story. Even that task is given to someone else. Neither do directors often promote their own work. That is nearly always done by someone else with deep pockets.

In response to the above statement, (this is generally true only of beginning writers) writers are their own promoters. Writers must promote themselves to agents and publishers, who generally do little more than distributing the work. Writers do not run full-page ads, or distribute three foot posters, to make their work known. In addition, solely with use of words, writers must be their own camera crew, set designers/directors, costume artists, and yes, directors. In a comparetively limited medium, writers must match everything a hundreds-strong production crew does to produce an admirable work.Yes, it is hard to make a good movie. But is it really harder to direct a good movie?

One point TSP brought up in his defense is the statement that directing is harder because the viewers see the film play out the way the director saw it when he approved it, whereas a writer's work is open to different interpretations. In response to that, I say 'Hold hard, my good man, an ambiguous book is not a good book. A writer's task is to convey precisely what is happening, why it is happening, what happened previously and why, what each character's reaction to the present incident is, and why they think as they do, and he must phrase all these statements in a way that allows you, the filmmaker, to provide the precise image that you see, which others eventually see on the screen. If a filmmaker sets out to convert a book, and does not translate the author's writing just as it sounds, than one or both of us is at fault. The point being that the images of well-written books are not really debateable. A strong description should mean the same to everyone; the readers actually should be seeing the book through the author's eyes. If they are able to do so, it means the images were well-written and so powerful.

A last minor point that I might mention is that a director always has the whole story before him already when the film is being worked out and has the benefit of prompt ordering of a revision to a mistaken scene, whereas writers generally find that they must write the whole story, and then check over all of it to see if 'another take' should be written. New takes in books often differ greatly from the original and modify the story that comes later, whereas directors' adjustments are often comparetively slight.

People think in pictures. Filmmakers build the picture. Writers must create the picture in your head out of nothing.

Alright, so I didn't actually do justice to TSP's opinion. And so I say to him, if you want to convince people, write your own post, just give my points at least as much consideration as I gave yours. Btw, due to his interest in the outcome of the question, TSP is respectfully expected not to use the comment box to rant against my statements. Again, that belongs on your own post.

And now the question to my other three followers: Which do you think is harder? Writing a good book or directing a good movie?


Movie Challenge Part 6

No. 26 A movie that is a guilty pleasure
Ok... 'movie you don't consider all that good but you enjoy it anyway...'

Cheesy and weird? Yes. Fun? Yes. I actually met one of my best friends over the 'this is a rock, this is a tree' scene in IG when I was 12...

No. 27 Your favorite classic movie
I don't care how old it is...

No. 28 Movie with the best soundtrack (score)
It's a 3-way tie between...

No. 29 A movie that changed your opinion about something
This is the one that doesn't apply to me. I don't have one.

No. 30. Your least favorite movie
I like the first one and the third one. But so many things about this movie were wrong, it almost makes me sick to think of them. The subplot, the invented sequence, the pointless stalling, Ben Barnes' accent, the sheer clicheness of the stupid parts...

There you have it: 30 questions about movies; 29 answered.


Movie Challenge Part 5

No. 21 The most overrated movie

No. 22 The most underrated movie

No. 23 Your favorite character from any movie
For the heroes:

For the villians:

No. 24. Favorite Documentary
The serialized show we found on Netflix recently: Searching for Shakespeare with Michael Wood.
If Shakespeare interests you, this show is really fun to watch. They show off plenty of things the history books don't say about his life and times.

No. 25 A movie no one would expect you to like
All right, so I've only seen it once and I didn't enjoy it then, but I might like it better if I sat through it again.


Movie Challenge Part 4

No. 16 The last movie you saw in theaters

Please don't ask about it. We might see one or two random movies a year. This was the second one. No comment.

No. 17 The best movie you saw in the last year

No. 18 The movie that disappointed you most
One of my friends kept asking me to see this one for months. So I did. Need I say it fell flat.

No. 19 Your favorite actor
I choose Mel Gibson because so far he's the only actor I've seen in two entirely different films.

No. 20. Your favorite actress
I have never given much thought to what I thought of the performers, be they men or women. I care more about whether the story is a drag. I fill this slot with Miranda Otto (Eowyn)*

*In case you're wondering why none of them made the list, it's been so long since I saw Star Wars movies, I'm not prepared to judge them against oones I remember better.


Movie Challenge Part 3

11. Favorite movie from your childhood

I haven't seen this movie in years, but I'm pretty sure I saw it as many as 8 times (more than any other movie ever except Monster's Inc and The Incredibles) before I was 12. 'Robin jumps on the table!' All the stunts were hilarious.

12. Favorite Animated Movie
In this spot, I would choose Monster's Inc or The Incredibles or Toy Story 3. We generally don't watch Dreamworks films.

13. A movie you used to love and now hate.
The only movies I ever watched that could possibly go here is any of those ridiculous 'Air Bud sports dog' movies. If you don't know about them, good.

14. Your favorite quote from any movie
This is a percentage-points tie between "Forth Eorlingas!", and  "Every man dies, but not every man really lives" (I had a third one which I can't remember at the moment so I guess it wasn't so memorable to me after all.) closely followed by most of the rest of the LOTR script, I guess.

15. First Movie You Saw in Theaters
I've been told that my parents saw Toy Story in theaters. I was probably there too. On my own account, I can not remember what the first movie I saw was.