Friday, February 05, 2010

Books and Films

Last night at an author event at the George Eastman House, Jared Case, Head of Cataloging for the museum, asked a good question that I can’t get out of my head: Is your writing more influenced by the films you’ve seen or the books you’ve read? I had an answer of course, but the more I’ve thought about the question, the more I’ve wondered just how film has shaped the way I approach writing my books.

I’ve seen far more movies than I’ve seen books. As a teen, my best friend Rick and I would see up to four films in a single weekend. I was reading a lot at that time as well, and while I probably spent as much time reading as I did watching movies, my book count didn’t even come close to my movie count. Novels and films are both temporal arts—you’ve got to put in the time to experience them—and it takes a lot less time for me to experience a film in it’s entirety than it takes to experience a full book. Add to that the reality that I read to myself about as fast as I read aloud to someone else and my low book to film ratio makes even more sense.

I’ve re-watched my favorite moves far more often than I’ve re-read my favorite books. I’ve seen Goldfinger around 20 times but I’ve read the book just once. After last night’s screening at the Eastman House’s Dryden Theater, I’ve now seen Dark Passage 4 times but only read the book twice. I doubt that I’ll read the book again, but I’m sure that some late night I’ll spot Dark Passage on AMC and get pulled in yet again.

When it comes to which activity I enjoy more, watching films or reading, reading wins by a landslide. Yes, they’re two different art forms and it’s really an apple/orange choice, but given that choice, I’ll take a book every time. Rose and I spend many nights sitting on both ends of the couch, silently reading or respective books, but we are just as likely to end up watching a film before the night is over, enjoying the shared experience, one of the things films (in general) have over books (in general).

So how has film changed/shaped my writing? I had an answer last night and it was good at the time, but the more I think about it, the more I’m surprised by the answer.

Speaking of surprises – Congratulations to filmmaker and screenwriter Johannes Bockwoldt, whose short Special Delivery, won first place at the 360 | 365 Film Festival. I posted Johannes’ film last week and then it went on to win the gold. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but it is a great little film. Way to go, sir!


Jared said...

But I bet your narrative "sense" was set by your reading experience as a youngster, before you started watching films passionately. Mine was as well, but I may be the last of a generation of writers that was weened on words before images.

Dana King said...

I'm affected by films for ideas and touches here and there, like how to choreograph some action scenes or character reactions. Voice has been solely influenced by my reading, and is, to me, far more important.

Rick Blechta said...

Boy, Dana, could we start a lively discussion on voice vs. action in crime novels! Both have their very successful (financially) proponents.

Anybody want to pick this one up? I'm sort of busy on my own blog project at the moment.

Thanks for the comment, Dana.

And as for you, Charles, interesting post. Lots of food for thought here, too.

And for those of you wondering, I'm not that Rick. Having grown up in Rochester is something I cannot contemplate. Leave that to someone made of sterner stuff than I. ;)

Charles Benoit said...

The Rick I mention is Rick Roth, my best pal since 4th grade. And yes, he's made of stern stuff. In fact, I believe he's bending steel girders as I type.

Rick Blechta said...

In the same room?!

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