Write and Wrong

Recently I've come to the conclusion that I'm a writer at heart.

I've actually known this for a quite a while, so it's not exactly a surprise. But by concluding that it has moved from the realm of possibility to fact.

What do I mean?

I've been writing things for as long I can remember. I attempted writing down stories before I had a good grasp of the form of the alphabet-- that's how long.

Some people work to develop their fiction writing muscles with conscious ambition, to improve their self-expression and creativity. Personally, I can't help it: I've had one writing project or another going continuously since 7th grade.

At some point, I assumed, I'd just "get over it" and settle down with a real goal for an occupation. I guess I thought I'd say "oh snap!" and suddenly realize that Public Health was where it was at. Or something.

My first major in college was Rhetoric. That was like, inverse writing. Whoa. Understanding how communication works. I loved it, and I still love it.

But it was just as impractical as majoring in Creative Writing, as Rhetoric tends to be a gateway for either marketing or PR. Around this time last year I realized that I have little interest for either.

So where did that leave me? Media.

Working on a film and at a television studio gave me a great amount of joy. I've always been attracted to the media, and the thought of making it happen always seemed to be too good to be true, like there was something standing in my way.

Turned out there wasn't.

When I directed my first little "serious" short, I felt the thrill of composing the visual presentation and working with the actors. It can be a pain, but in the end it's exhilarating.

But my stumbling block is that I've never been one to play with the toys for the toy's sake. I'm probably the last person on earth to get excited about a new piece of tech. I'm interested in things that can serve my creative needs.

So I'm not the dude who gets a thrill from setting up the dolly, or chatting about the latest piece of equipment.

I'm the dude who wants to sit down with the actors and chat about their characters. I'm the dude who goes off by himself and thinks, "what is the best way to show this?" then presents my vision to the DP, who figures out the nitty-gritty.

Turns out the former set of skills is more highly prized by the industry than the latter. Why? Because there can only be so many "creative" leads at one given time.

Most of the work has to be done by the creative grunts, the ones who know all the secrets of Final Cut and After Effects.

That's what I mean by saying that I'm a writer at heart. I want to create the story, not create the creation of the story.

I do have anxieties that my own technical skills are not "enough" in the cutthroat industry. I could even be right: I certainly have no interest in becoming a DP.

I quote from an interview with superb writer/director Joss Whedon, who somehow managed to not compromise artistic success with commercial success:

WHEDON: You get so many people out here with incredible technical expertise who have nothing to say, or no idea of the importance of having something to say, or the importance of understanding what they're saying.

IGNFF: Do you think, to some extent, those are the kind of filmmakers that the Hollywood executive tends to like – because they're malleable?

Yeah. Well, you want somebody who can make it pretty and make it work and give the executive what the executive thinks they want, and bring something to the party. Not just translate the words. If you're the writer, what you're looking for is somebody who can convey the actual meaning of the script... and quite frankly, people who are just schooled in production don't really have that. There's a lot of people out there who make a pretty frame, that has nothing to do with what is said.
I discovered this interview after I wrote the above paragraphs, and I'm glad that Mr. Whedon sees things in a similar light that I do. Nobody wants their film or TV show to look like crap-- but why bother making it pretty when there's nothing to stand behind it?

Heaven's Gate is an unbelievably gorgeous movie. It is also physically painful to watch.

Cassavettes didn't give a flip about how his movies looked: which makes them an ordeal to sit through when you're accustomed to Hollywood-ish aesthetics. A better model is my arch-hero Altman, who made movies that looked good, but wouldn't let the requirements of "correctness" diminish what he was trying to accomplish.

In conclusion: My goal, then is to do my best (with the help of others) to do as much of the "creation" as possible. And hope for the best.


  1. Have you seen Whedon's internet ventures? I think you'd probably like them.. check out Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

    Rolling Stone Article:
    What what was it about Internet series first appealed to you?
    I had been very interested in the idea of making things on the cheap with the people that I love and trust — low risk, medium yield kind of stuff where you can just do what you think is right and not have to worry.

    He's pretty awesome. And so is Firefly.