Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Joy of Dictatorship

If I ever want to write an excruciatingly awkward conversation, I'm just going to get a copy of the Academy Awards presentation. Is it just me, or is that thing almost painful to watch? Fluttery interviewers, small-talking stars, fumbling handshakes and well-wishes... ouch. Just ouch.

And then awkward repartee from speakers, cameras zooming in for a combination of dull or nervous close-ups, everyone uber-stiff because they don't know when the camera is going to be on them...

It's funny, because if this were a book or a movie the script would be awful. Is it just me? Am I the only one who wanted to get out a red pen and start editing?

I did think it was very interesting, though, how they revealed the nominees for the best original and adapted screenplay categories, offering up a bit of the actual script dialogue and direction while the movie scenes played in the background. Any of you other fiction writers out there get struck by the disparity between a script and a book (or finished film, for that matter)? So stark. And some of the writing seemed kind of lame on the page. Empty. Maybe it's good I'm a prose guy. What would I do with all those metaphors bouncing around my brain?

Anyone here write screenplays at all? What's the approach? How's it different from writing fiction?

It's odd, really, being the huge movie buff that I am, I've never really felt a desire to write a screenplay. Just... no. Maybe it's the sense of control in writing fiction. A story is mine. I own it, I control it. I shape everything about it. I have divinity at my fingertips.

But, in some senses, a screenplay is just a guideline. It's the director who ends up shaping the story, and even that is a hugely collaborative process. Cameramen, actors, editors, designers... film is about group. When it comes to the creative process, it seems that I, sadly, am not.

Anyone else like me? Horribly selfish and grasping? Revelling in the joys of dictatorship?


Nathan Bransford said...

Oh man, the awkwardness of these awards shows and especially the red carpet interviews make them almost impossible for me to watch. I can hardly bear it.

Ben Carroll said...

I've recently started working on a film with someone. Writing, but in tandem with his thoughts for it.
Before it's even got tp the latter stages of collaboration, where I'd really start to lose control of it, I'm already resenting not being able to write it *exactly* how I want it.

Dictatorship is the thing. Back to the novels.

Susan Quinn said...

I avoid the award shows, mainly because I don't find them entertaining. Which is either hilarious or painfully ironic, depending on how you look at it.

I'm all for dictatorship. I'm a mom, after all.


Bane of Anubis said...

Um, I didn't read this post -- I just came here to ask: did you see Kobe's shot last night? :p

Ink said...


Luckily I was asleep, or I'd feel much more ill today. I suppose Kobe had to make up for the last game against the Raptors, where his potential game winner went CLANK off the rim...

And a good set up for the NBA finals. :)

Ink said...

And I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds the Awards excruciating, and the only would-be dictator.

I think if I were to write a screenplay I'd approach it in a very mercenary fashion. Not because I think that's the best way to do it, but rather because it's the only way I could. Not that I wouldn't care about doing a good job, but I think I'd try to have the mindset that I'd be writing the script sort of on commission with the idea that it wouldn't be mine afterward. You craft a chair, and then you give it to somebody. What they want to do with it is up to them, whether using it for a fine dining experience or substitute kindling.

L. T. Host said...

I, too, am a huge movie buff that's never wanted to write a screenplay. I wonder why?

It's quite a bit different from a novel, I know that much. For one thing, you mostly are responsible for plot and dialogue, that's it. Someone else comes up with just about everything else, unless it's crucial to the plot. I think I like being able to build my own whole world and have ultimate control over all the elements.

And yeah, you'd think a group of people who make their living pretending to be other people wouldn't be so awkward being themselves. There's something profound in there.

Bane of Anubis said...

Yeah, I had to have something good to feel about, given their 3 game losing streak and the fact that Cleveland looks like they'll own them (if LA can make it past Denver).

And I hate the Oscars -- it's like High School all over again, only w/ rich people (who still can't dress).

Nick said...

I used to ghost write scripts for audio drama, which was pretty much screenplay format. It's not too terribly different from prose. Actually scripts are really fun to write. In some respects I prefer it. In most respects, I do prefer prose, but there is a part of me that would much rather write a script. You can't be as poetic, because it's not in the writing. It's the sound mixing and performances, as per audio, or in the direction and the performances, as per screen. But there are certain flourishes you can still bring to your writing. Particularly when you've been working with the group for a while, like I had been with the drama. You get to know the strengths and weaknesses of the performers and can tailor things to suit, and you get to be friends with them, so you can discuss things with them that a director or actor you've never worked for before might just say "sod it" to.

Mira said...

I've often wanted to write a screenplay - it would be fun to see someone on the screen saying my words. :)

But it requires a particular talent, and I'm not sure I have that one.

In terms of dictatorship, hmmmm. Well, Bryan, what do you think of the issue of creative control? After all, pulishers pick your title, your cover and dictate changes to you.

That's giving up quite a bit of control there. Not really a dictator sort of model. :)

Ink said...

Lol, Mira.

What Nick says really makes me think that screenwriting requires a bit of that collaborative bone I'm not sure I possess. If I do, I'm guessing it's sort of degenerative.

Yup, I'm totalitarian. :) Or almost. Titles... I admit to being attached to my titles for stories at times. But I think the key is coming up with a great title! Then the publisher won't have to change it. And even so, I think the title thing is still partly in a writer's hands. I don't think the publisher just slaps something on. I think they ask for some other options if they think the current one doesn't work. Then they get some feedback on the best ones.

As for the cover... I think it would be fun to do (or at least direct) my own (especially considering my delusions of artistic talent and taste :]), but I don't mind leaving it to the professionals. I'd love a little say in the matter, a little influence on the direction of the cover... that would be nice. I sometimes have ideas for the stories, and it would be nice to put it across. But, really, I'm okay with whatever as long as it captures the feel and tone. As long as it's an honest cover. I'd hate to write something dark, and gritty and character driven... and then have a shiny barbarian slapped on the cover. So tone and honesty would be important, but the actual art... I think it's important to trust the artists and designers and marketers. That's what they do. My expertise is writing. Theirs is covers.

And editorial changes... I don't see that as losing dictatorial power. It's your story. You don't have to accept anything. Now, there might be consequences to that (same as with anything), but that's still the writer's prerogative. As a writer I certainly don't mind feedback. But feedback is not co-opting my control, but rather inspiring and deepening it. No one is gonna step in and change it for me... it's my job to take feedback and re-envision and reshape the story. Still all in my hands. See, it's a benevolent dictatorship! I can take advice, listen to criticism. Only rarely do I have anyone beheaded.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.