13 January 2010

Making Things

by Tyler Weaver.  Follow me on Twitter.

I recently had a listen to Creative Screenwriting's podcast interview with Terry Gilliam, a director whom I admire a great deal.  Love (most of) his films, and as I grow as a filmmaker, I've come to appreciate him even more.  For anyone with an interest in making films, Lost in La Mancha, the documentary on the unmaking of his white whale, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, is required viewing - not for how to make a film, but for a realistic look at what happens when the shit hits the fan.

All of that aside, Gilliam said something that really stuck out to me, and gave a voice to something I've been feeling for a long time.  When asked if he had ever written a script for someone else to direct (or something to that effect), he replied (paraphrased), "I can't.  I just... I just make things.  It's all writing."

That's exactly how I feel about the craft of making films.  It's all writing.

I've often admired novelists (and yes, I've tried my hand at writing them - I can't do it), as their writings are the final product.  With filmmaking, it's a different beast altogether.  Perhaps I'm more selfish and egotistical than novelists - I have to see my words come to life (or the imitation thereof) and bring others along for the ride. Or I just can't handle that many words.

The scripts I write (and with my writing partner) as a whole are a blueprint for something larger.  It's the skeleton that the "movie bits" are added onto (and unless it's a solid skeleton, the film is nothing but a pile of goo). Every bit of set, every casting decision.  Every musical note, cut, hand motion.  Every planter added to a set.  Every choreographed look away.  Every action.  Every reaction.  It's all writing.  Every little bit of it.

I admire screenwriters a great deal.  I could never muster the discipline it takes to forge a dedication to that art.  I tried it.  But there's a part of me that just can't let go of the thing I've been type-type-typing - no matter how much I want to.  It certainly stems from my composing days.  I was of the compositional breed that believed that you must conduct your own pieces of music.  You must assemble the players - because the musicians completed the piece of music.  My notes were only 50% of the puzzle.  I found myself casting the musicians to my music much as a director casts actors to the parts.

And yet I admired those composers who could write the score and move on - and I'm well aware that it's not an easy thing to do.  I especially admire those songwriters from the early days of rock and pop, penning some of the most beautiful songs ever created, only to have them performed by others.

It takes a whole different level of discipline to write something to be completed by others.  And I respect that a great deal.  Should the time come when I get to work with a writer on developing their material into a film, I will honor that respect.  Because I would want the same paid to me.

I've often made it known that I loathe the process of writing.  I love storytelling, but I loathe writing.  However, until the day that I wake up with a script on my nightstand, I'll continue that hair-pulling activity.  Admittedly, working with Paul on our script has been amazing, and has actually made me enjoy the process - but that's because it becomes what filmmaking is all about - a collaboration. 

So, screenwriters, I salute you.  I'm just a crazy little guy off "making things," the subject of Tom Waits' "What's He Building in There?"  You guys have the discipline.

I like playing with action figures.  And a damn good story.


Joanna D'Angelo said...

I understand where you're coming from - making a film - well writing is part of it - but not all of it. I've been trying to work on a novel as well - and it is damn hard - I'm not used to having to explain so much in detail - I like dialogue more than anything though - takes practice - it's a different art form. Like the new blog look! ;)

Tyler Weaver said...

It's such a different discipline. I think extremely visually (novels are the same as directing, I think - you just leave the exact look up to the imaginations of the reader), so it's difficult for me to separate the writing of a film from the directing and all that other stuff.

What can I say? Directing appeals to my dilettante-esque nature. Get to play in all sorts of sandboxes.

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