If you are a follower of You've GOTTA Read This, then you know I am a lover of more than books...I also love my movies. I don't claim to be an expert (like my film critic sister, who has seen more movies than just about anyone I know), but I like them and I watch them. I have opinions. I pay attention to plot, dialogue, soundtracks, setting, and I hate predictability. You can't win me over with car chases and explosions, or when the guy gets the girl in the end. It really isn't so different from books, is it?
So anyway, I was thrilled when I won a giveaway from the lovely Trisha (eclectic/eccentric) entitled "101 Things I Learned in Film School". It is possible that someone like my sister would know all of this already, but I might just learn something! I found the book on my doorstep when arrived home from my trip out west, and even though it was close to midnight, I had to start reading it that very moment.
It is one of those books you could keep in the bathroom (truly no offense) because you can easily pick it up and read a few pages at a time. It provides all kinds of insight to movies, from the development of plot, casting, budgeting, etc. I found it truly fascinating, to the point where during the next movie I watched (Disturbia), I was viewing with a whole new perspective. But more than that, it also dawned on me that many of the insights also applied to novels as well. Here are some things that caught my eye:
* A flawed protagonist is more compelling than a perfect protagonist. Absolutely! Perfect is not realistic. I want to see moral struggles, the fighting of demons, and bad decisions.
* Practice perfect pitch. There is a whole list of things to keep in mind if you pitching a movie to a director (how to get to the point quickly and succinctly). I suppose this would come in handy if you have a movie idea you are trying to sell. But what about book reviews? Seems these tips would work there as well.
* Act 2 is where poorly structured film goes to die. I bet we all could come up with a nice, healthy list of books that died somewhere in the middle.
* Make setting a character. I've always said that using setting in a book is an opportunity to make a good book great. Those are the books you don't forget.
* Make the conflict existential. In other words, midpoint through the story, an unexpected curve or reversal of fortune deepens the conflict and provokes a dilemma, causing the protagonist to evolve. Fingersmith, anyone?
* Dig deeper. Good movies are about simple things explored with depth, nuance, and attention to detail and meaning. Clutter confuses. Do fewer things, but do them better. Hallelujah! This was exactly my frustration with the last Harlan Coban book I read.
* Film, novel, television or stage? How often have we talked about books that worked on film, and ones that fell flat. This page offers advice on what works where.
* A movie is a novel turned inside out. Cool idea, huh? Novels describe inner motives and emotions and leaves it to the reader to formulate a mental picture of the physical world. Movies depict the visible and implies the unseen. Thereby making an adapted screenplay a tricky inversion.
* If you want to write, read. If you want to make films, see films. Makes all kind of sense. I believe this was the sage advice given by Stephen King to a group of writers.
* Deus ex machina. Literally, "god from the machine", refers to any plot contrivance that miraculously emerges to resolve a dilemma. (Which disappoints viewers, and I daresay readers, every time.) We want our protagonists to solve their own problems and become empowered, not to have the answers plop in their laps. I see this all the time in books. Nice to know the official name!