How writing is like filmmaking?

Film-making is something I have more experience of or I should say low budget film-making. But I thought about this the other day and compared how writing and film-making seemed alike in many ways for me. Starting out as a novice novelist is like starting out as a budding film-maker. Let’s say you want to be a director, if you have no experience, the way to do it is usually to make a low budget film to showcase your directing talent.

Not only wannabe directors and screenwriters but also most cast and crew at the beginning of their career would most likely be providing their services for free hoping that they’d be provided with food and reimbursement of travel expenses. Everyone is there to make a film and in turn build on their skills, getting them the experience, the film credit and a show-reel to show off their talents.

When you’re starting out, sometimes it’s not unusual for film-makers to direct, write and produce their short films. I know many who have taught themselves to design their own websites, work with sound tracks, edit on Final Cut and do post-production as well.

Because when someone starts out from scratch, they just can’t afford to pay for these services where you could be paying an editor hundreds of pounds an hour. And to attract people who want to work on a film with you, unless they’re your friend or a family member, you have to at least show that you have some experience, no matter how meagre, behind you.

This is why film-makers learn to be a bit of everything – a Jack-of-all-trades and in many ways this is what is expected of a director. He or she should know how all the other cogs in the wheel work. The writer’s first novel is like the film-maker’s first short film. Usually they have to do everything themselves.

For my first short film, I wrote the screenplay, produced and directed it. I enjoyed the writing, naturally. The producing and organization was easy – I learnt how to organise doing office work – but the directing, I wasn’t too good at. I was lucky enough to get help from David Crossman, a director, who allowed me to watch how he directed actors and mark off the shots on a script to ensure that the whole scene was covered. When people are passionate about what they do, they love talking about it and I was lucky to meet a lot of passionate people who wanted to share their expertise and knowledge.

The actual shooting of my first film was like free writing, just typing and not stopping to worry about typos and having the perfect word or sentence. Free writing is a bit like sweeping that colour to create the mood of a painting at the beginning and sketching in the outline of the objects and subjects. Because I was inexperienced, I shot every scene in close up (face and eyes), medium shot (face to chest) and long shot (body and landscape) from beginning to end so I captured all angles and all possible shots. An experienced director would know which moments to get the close up so we’d see the reaction and which moments for the middle shot and the long shot. So instead of 9 hours of footage to edit, an experienced director would only have an hour or so of footage.

This is the same for an inexperienced novelist, free writing is like shooting all angles, puffing it up. That’s why my novel is at 119,000 words and counting. I know I will cut at least one third of it. The aim is capture everything and do the major editing in post production. The difference between writing and film-making is, if you didn’t capture the footage then and there at the location with the actors, it’ll be harder to capture it again. A common thing post production people hate hearing from directors, producers and even actors is ‘we’ll deal with it in post’ because with compositors and animators, people think they’re miracle workers able to add trees and tigers where there were none before. I think for writers, it is possible to add new footage and get rid of footage that doesn’t work. The hard part is getting rid of great scenes that don’t work with the story. Directors loathe to get rid of a beautiful scene or shot that probably took all day to shoot and a lot of manpower but somehow it doesn’t work with the rest of the story. Editing is similar for both professions. It’s cut, cut and cut some more.

Aspiring film-makers or wannabe directors are there from beginning to end of the project. Low budget film-makers have to do everything and be everyone; a whole corporation of one when they’re starting out. They’re the screenwriter, casting director, producer, costume artist, caterer, cameraman, director of photography, sound person (if you’re lucky you can rope a family member in to hold the boom), editor, marketer, web designer, sales person and distributor. It is only once they’re known or being paid to make a film that they can hire the crew and cast to help them.

This is what a writer, author or novelist has to do when they start out. There is a process from beginning to end and as they progress, they have to put many different hats on. They are writer, editor, marketeer, sales person, admin assistant, accountant, researcher, internet expert, speaker, performer etc and sometimes some roles do not mix well and you must keep them separate. The roles are different for writer and film-maker but you get what I’m saying. It is only when you’re paid that you get the professional help from outside. But you have to be all the roles above before you have something to show the professionals and that’s not always easy. As a writer, I feel you have to be always aware of which hat you have on to create the right balance.

Before you get the support from agent, editor, publisher and attract people who take your work seriously you have to help yourself. You’ve got to invest time, effort and money into actually writing, writing workshops, conferences, business cards, the Internet etc. It is like that for every artist.

[pic taken from here]

Similar Posts~

What is the Writer’s Platform? – You are a Corporation of One.

Is writing like football? – Both are skills that require planning, practising and producing the goods.

Social media slowdown – Don’t get caught up in social media too much. You need time to write that book.

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.” Oprah Winfrey – Television Host, Producer and Philanthropist

CURRENT STATUS: (Reminder, Motivator and Daily Review Meeting (Read on if you want to join me)

What l learnt today:

  • Online presence means online reputation – what to reveal and not to reveal about yourself. From I was advised to install Google Webmaster tools. What people look for in a blog or writer’s website, why you need one and how to go about building one, and what to have on the website in terms of content.
  • I did join another writers’ forum before joining Nathan Bransford’s but it had about 3 posts. I learnt that you can only tell once you’ve joined and it helps if the forum is attached to a blog like Nathan’s which is very popular and full of people participating via comments.
  • Book trailers seem to be more common than I thought even for writers who are published many times over. I thought it was just the realm of the unpublished to get attention.
  • Realized I want to have a personal Facebook account for friends and family and another just for writing.
  • Realized I may have to rethink website design as I’ve read it should be themed toward the genre I’m writing. I’m working on 2 novels that are totally different. Mmh, me thinks me need to think about this.
  • Write posts and leave them for 24 hours before publishing by using the rule of 24.
  • To subscribe to your own RSS feed so that you can see what other readers see either on the computer or mobile.

What I have done today:

  • I joined Nathan Bransford’s forum – it’s an amazing forum with people who are happy to participate and give good advice.
  • Set up Google Webtools.
  • Contacted an author who was requesting for blogs to review his book or set up an interview about writing in general with him saying I’d be happy to. I can only try.
  • Created a writer’s Facebook account.
  • Added email address on the front page of the blog.

WORD COUNT: 119,000 in total; 26 June – weekend – a rest, read and research day.

Things for me to do: (This is a list for me as a reminder  – and for any other budding writers who happen to stumble here and are just a step behind me. I have the same notes from the post before if I’ve not done it yet and cross things off once I’ve done it and next day it disappears – and the red bits are stuff I’ve added in this post but will be black tomorrow. I’ll stop before I confuse you more):

What I plan to do that can be done:

  • Add to my blog. Add an ‘about me’ page; a ‘supporters’ page; a ‘guest bloggers’ page inviting guest bloggers to write on my blog or a Q&A session; a guest blogger request on the front page of the blog; a links page; a page about the two books I’m finalizing and a writing samples page. Must rethink. Add separate pages to blog or a new theme for a main website.
  • Contact some authors direct for an interview? Contact another.
  • Participate in writing forums and other blogs.(and Twitter)
  • Create a marketing plan.
  • Add email address to front page
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10 Responses to How writing is like filmmaking?

  1. dandellion says:

    It’s so nice to hear the story of aspiring writer that was in the film. I like switching professions and industries too. :)

    And they are quite similar. And have you noticed that experience in film making is so valuable in writing. Sometimes I just think it’s all the same film making, sound designing, writing… I should write a post about that one day.

  2. jessie says:

    Good to see you, Dandellion ; ) This online thing; it’s like you’ve popped into a local bar of mine to say hello and have a drink with me; like writers would usually – thanks mate.

    Yeah, I think you’re right. Film-making is very similar to writing except with writing you have to create the sound, lighting, characters etc with just words. I’m not sure which is harder.

    See you around.

  3. dandellion says:

    I don’t know which one is harder either,but I like the possibility in film-making to switch from one type of work to the other. Yeah, I need diversity :)

  4. Jessie Mac says:

    Hey dandellion – got your tweet – talking about an overhaul of blog name – I see you’ve added new name on your blog already – I think it’s cool. You are a freethinker. Anyway, I like people who are not afraid to speak their mind. Talking about change, I’ve changed blog theme yet again as you can see after getting some feedback about the crappy image pixelation. Gotta change the header – it’s plain ugly right now – but leaving that til later. Also, going to create a website so it looks like the blog.

    Filmmaking is great if you want to be part of a team – it’s great, you’re always motivated because you’re not the only person who drives it – everyone has their bit to do whereas writing is solitary and no one is there to tell you to keep going because it’s just you. I do love film-making and films.

    It’s 535, going to try and sleep – see you around – night.

  5. Marla Reppell says:

    In my opinion absolutely nothing is as good as enjoying a quality movie anytime I wan’t to chill out. Main issue is that many streams are usually slow or even busted this was until finally I discovered All I had to do was fill in a brief survey and I could watch any movie I want to to. You will discover over 10,000 movies to look at I was not short of choice either.

  6. This is truly wonderful :D Thankyou for putting this online!

  7. I never in a million years would’ve had the idea to look at things that way. This will make my day so much easier.

  8. Jessie Mac says:

    Glad it made your day Carolyn.

  9. Many thanks for spending some time to posting this for us

  10. Ethan Coen Interview says:

    You actually make it seem so easy together with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something which I think I would by no means understand. It kind of feels too complicated and very wide for me. I’m taking a look forward for your subsequent publish, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

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