I've never felt any particular inclination to write a screenplay, but I still find film interesting as a writer (and viewer, of course). Because, while the medium is different, the basic task of storytelling is the same, or at least very similar. And I think if you look at the rise of film in the last century you'll see how film techniques have influenced fiction writing. The pre-eminence of "show" for one, not to mention things like jump cuts and changes in ideas about narrative pace (such as increased narrative focus on account of the short attention span of the modern reader/viewer - or the perceived short attention span, at least).
What got me thinking about this was seeing Slumdog Millionaire a couple days ago. A fine film, and interestingly constructed. How it handles time in relation to the construction of scene and story is quite fascinating, and something quite translatable to fiction I think. It's about creating a frame for a story that allows a unity between different times and storylines. The story could easily have been told in chronological order, and it would still have been fine. But much of its magic is in how the stories are braided together, how they're juxtaposed and interrelated. Tension and climax (and mystery) are heightened by the form of the narrative, by the storytelling choices. Its structure allows it a sort of integrity that it might lack otherwise, an interwined notion of the relationship between certain actions. The theme is reinforced (almost created, really) through narrative technique.
I like that about films, that I can immediately see a relation between a story's structure and its perception by a viewer. It's concrete and easily absorbed in a short movie. Flow and its relation to structure and form is quickly discerned, whereas in fiction the process is often longer, more subtle, lying a little more beneath the surface, and often you see it more clearly looking back than you do while immersed in it. Film offers (at least for me) an easier apprehension of narrative technique, and so it often spurs some interesting thoughts for my fiction writing. It's a sort of cross-pollination, really. I'm a very visual person, too, so that may be part of it. I'm stimulated by images, and so the manipulation of images through the narrative structures of film often inspires me, gets me thinking.
Perhaps I'm odd this way, I don't know, but I'm often quite creatively inspired by technique, by craft elements. I'll find something intriguing about a POV idea, or a narrative framework, or a chronological structure... and it will lead me to a character, an idea, a story. Oddly backward, perhaps, and yet this happens a lot with me. Film, with its sensory immediacy, is often a good spur. I like the idea of the camera... a director has to decide on camera angles and placement, about what might be the best way to "see" the story. These decisions thus shape the experience of that story. And the same goes for fiction. What are you going to show? And why show it? And how? These choices, these technical opportunities, often create stories for me.
One of my stories is from the POV of a television set. The simple technique of this viewpoint shaped the story for me. What, and how much, does the television see? The action, and the dramatic conflict of the story, is shaped by the nature of this viewpoint, of the angle of the "camera".
Film, to me, offers a sort of interesting visual shortcut to narrative techiniques for fiction. I like the mental cues to the framing of scene and story, as it helps me find a sort of visual identity for what I want to show the reader.
Does anyone else find this? What films or shows do you find interesting in a story sense, and how have they impacted you as a writer? Or is it other mediums, such as art or music? How do they translate into the process of story making?