The imminent arrival of the new Harry Potter movie has me thinking about writing a screenplay versus writing a novel. I have to admit, I’ve never really gotten into the books, but I have liked the movies.
I tried my hand at screenwriting a few years ago. Between my wife and me, we have all requisite “how-to” books. Actually, I wasn’t half bad at it. I’m a visual thinker, so in a lot of ways, I’m really suited for the medium. When I write, I always start by envisioning the scene. A lot of times, I think of how a scene would look if it were being filmed, and I describe what I see and hear. However, after a time, I realized that screenwriting just wasn’t for me.
It’s partly a selfish motive. Making a movie is a collaborative effort that involves the creative input of a lot of people. Screenwriters get only a tiny sliver of the credit when a movie is a hit. Compared to the actors and directors, they get hardly any recognition at all. When a movie is a bomb, on the other hand, guess who gets blamed first? I know that a lot of different people also put a lot of effort into making a novel successful, but the writer is generally the star of the show.
In addition, having lived in Southern California for a while now, I’ve met people in the movie industry, and the only real way to describe the culture is “pathological.” It is about as far from glamorous as you can possibly be. The best analogy I can muster is Hollywood Boulevard itself. Everyone thinks of Hollywood as a wonderful, magical place. Everyone wants to see the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theatre. In reality, the Chinese Theatre is a giant tourist trap. Hollywood Boulevard, for most of its length, is nothing but tattoo parlors, “adult” stores, cheap souvenir shops, and abandoned buildings covered in graffiti. All it takes to get a star on the Walk of Fame is a $50,000 check to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Not so glamorous.
Again, I know that the book publishing world has its share of issues, but compared to the quagmire that is the movie industry, the obstacles to becoming a successful, published novelist seem pretty navigable to me. And there’s always movie rights.