In these two years since I got out of college, a lot has happened in my professional life to give me pause over which career would be best for me, film or books.
When I was a young boy of around six years old, I saw Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom. The movie was so rich with imagination, action and creative imagery, I fell in love with it right away. Looking at what was playing out on the screen, I asked a question that changed my life forever.
“How did they do that?”
I had never considered the question before when watching a movie. I had always assumed these wonderful things just winked themselves into existence. After that question, I watched documentary after documentary on how these works of art were created, and made the declaration when I was 10 years old.
“That’s what I want to do.” So I went to college for it, aced my grades, and learned everything I could about the elaborate and complex craft of filmmaking, from conception to the screen. I was going to be the greatest director ever. Now 27, I have only made a few short films, no features, and have a small job in a film company. They are good achievements to be sure, but not my greatest. My greatest was that I wrote a book.
Over one hundred thousand words, over three hundred pages. I sooner saw myself directing a massive budget epic then I did writing so much as a short story, but here it is. Locked away in my external hard drive is a book, and I had the time of my life doing it. It has made me wonder which art form is more right for me as a career path.
Two questions go into choosing books or film, how each works as an art form, and what goes into making either one.
Movies are an art for that interest me a lot more than books, because they are every art form rolled into one. They have writing, acting, music, digital and painted art, architecture, everything. Whenever a new art or technology comes along, movies absorb it, growing as humanity grows. They are in many ways the universal art form. Not everyone has the time or the patience to read a book or play a video game, but with a movie all you need to do is sit back and take it all in.
Books by contrast only deal in writing. There is no music, no acting, no effects work of any kind. They are just words on a page. Unlike movies, books ask a lot of their readers. They ask for time, concentration, but greatest of all, they ask for imagination. That is the one thing books will always win at. A book is different for each person, and on each reading. The words change and grow with you, and you are in control of it all. How the sunset looks, how the birds sing, how the couple kiss under the moonlight. Movies have the personality of their makers, while books have a lot more of their readers in them.
Movies and books are both wonderful, beautiful things. Thing is, I know much more about movies than books as I’m a very visual thinker. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about the great authors of our time, but you ask me one question about any film from a Hollywood blockbuster to an 80s slasher film and I can spew out more trivia than your average google search.
As for reading books, I’ll freely admit my guilt in not reading some of the best ever written. The Great Gatsby, Gone With the Wind, Slaughterhouse Five, 1984, the list goes on and on of great books which never graced my unfortunate eyes. Perhaps it’s because I better process the auditory and visual information in movies. I like seeing and hearing all these things, looking at a good piece of cinematography or hearing a great score to go along with it. With books however, you get to make your own. Chose your own actors, write your own music. You could have Dumbledore played by everyone from Gregory Peck to Harrison Ford.
Harrison Ford as Dumbledore. How kickass is that?
What about what goes into making either one? That perhaps is where the two differ the most. Though I always dreamed of being a film maker, the actual making part always filled me with dread.
Movies require many things. They require money, untold numbers of man hours, crew, safety regulations, you name it. These are all things one must consider when making a motion picture, because movies do have limitations. A first time director isn’t going to get a job directing a megabucks movie.
Also, as much as this pains me to admit, you don’t have that much creative freedom in movies, especially a big studio film. Studios give you the money, and they want a product they can sell. I suppose this does make sense. If I shoveled that amount of cash at someone, I would want them to follow certain rules also. Studios won’t give you that kind of money to see your dreams come true. Movies are art, but they’re expensive art, and expensive art has to sell.
With a book though, there is no crew, there is no limit on budget, and there is no person looking over your shoulder whispering yay or nay. You just set your fingers loose on a keyboard and watch them dance. You can do this anywhere you want. On a lake, in the few hours before work, on a vacation to Universal Studios, wherever your fingers can meet those keys. If something goes wrong, just erase it and start over. No time to reset the effects and actors. It’s ready to go as soon as you are.
Best part about a book though, is there is no waiting. No waiting for someone to green-light a passion project you’ve been wanting to make for the last twenty years. No waiting for a bigwig to take a passing interest in that baby that means so much to you. Whatever project you want to do, whichever one is most in your heart at that moment, that’s the one you make.
You can do whatever you want, whenever you want when writing a book, and that’s the dream of any artist. You want to sink an entire continent into the sea? Have an entire city fly to the moon? Whatever you can imagine, it only costs the ink to print it and the paper to put it on, available at any fine retailer. It takes only two things, your patience, and your time.
Still, making a movie is an experience. It’s collaborative. You meet and work with a lot of people. You make memories while making a movie, of late nights and early mornings, hanging out and trying the catering, all the things that have gone wrong and all the things that went right. It may be stressful, but it’s the stuff memories are made of. When all is said and done, it’s a mountainous achievement.
Making a movie is much more challenging than writing a book, but in the end, both are just as rewarding for the artist and their audience. Honestly, I’m not sure which is better for me now. Film has made a much greater impact on me. They were my focus on college and in my dreams for almost twenty years. But the writing of a book was such an enjoyable and free process, it was the first time in my life where I felt free of any limitations. Whatever story I wished to tell, I could just get started.
I’m still working on both careers. I have a meeting with someone who’s wanting to work together on shorts and features, and you better believe I’m completing my fantasy/adventure book series. The question now is which one I find more fulfilling, the challenge of filmmaking, or the freedom of book writing.
It has given me a lot to think about.