Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Brief Affair with the Idea of Being a Director

Riding on my husband's new enthusiasm for a film career, I started flirting with the idea of getting into the film industry, too. I read What I Really Want to do On Set in Hollywood, and I found myself leaning toward two very different career options other than director. Then I found Camille E Landau and Tiare White's novel, What They Don't Teach You at Film School, and I thought maybe I hadn't given the idea of directing a chance.

Landau and White present film making from the eyes of a film student—someone with no budget, no big-name actors, and no marketing pull: basically, me. With equal parts eloquence and bald realism, they describe the creative energy and the business and managerial acumen necessary to make a film. And the stress. And the demands on your relationships with friends and family. And the personality conflicts to work around. And the sometimes questionable methods used to promote a film or to acquire a location.

I found myself nodding right along with them, agreeing to the necessary demands on writers and their lives. Everything through the screenplay chapter made perfect sense to me. Everything after that felt foreign, distant, and often distasteful. When I pictured myself dedicating the required amount of energy toward, say, feeding a crew of people who've already agreed to work for free or the perpetual scouting for the next great location or finding a casting assistant who might work for free on the film, my first thought every time was: This is seriously going to cut into my writing time.

As Landau and White say in the beginning, not everyone is cut out for the business. Some people want glamor (not found behind the scenes), some people want a steady paycheck that the freelancer lifestyle can't guarantee. I'm somewhere in between. I'd be happy to write for the movies. In fact, while reading this novel, it occurred to me that one of my troubled novel projects would be much better if adapted to the silver screen. I also came up with my first-ever TV series idea. I'm super excited about both.

There was one overriding theme to every piece of advice in the book, one that What I Really Want to Do also emphasized: Attitude is king. Your attitude is your responsibility. The better your attitude, the better every aspect of your project will go. Your attitude, more than your film, your genius, or your bank account, is what earns you respect. In an industry built on respect and word-of-mouth recommendations, attitude is often all you have to go on. It's a reminder that translates to any person in any occupation: You can't control the crap you get handed, the poor decisions management makes, or the fluctuation in your workload, but you can control the way you respond. When I finished reading, I wanted to be a better person, a better communicator, and more even-keeled in all my relationships, which made me both happy and admire Landau and White's inspiring writing.

Above all, I appreciate What They Don't Teach You at Film School for the simple fact it reaffirmed that I am a writer. At least for now, there's nothing more compelling for me. By their own calculations, Landau and White saved me anywhere from $500 to $100,000, and all it cost me was $15.


Geek Girl said...

With all the good writers moving to TV Screen writing... you should figure out how to get into Hollywood movie writing! There's absolutely NOTHING NEW anymore... They've got to be hurting for fresh new ideas in HOLLYWOOD...

they need you!

Rebecca Chastain said...

Geek Girl,

I feel the same! :) I've got some fun fantasy ideas that I think would be great to see visually. I'm doing a bunch of research on writing screenplays and teleplays. We'll see what comes of it.

And then, if my movies get made, they'll need a great storyboard artist...