Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I’m a movie guy

Over the last couple of posts, I’ve discussed and hinted at how I tend to keep a book separate from its movie adaptation in my head, as evidenced by both Conan and The Hobbit. I have long known and practiced this, and it allows me to enjoy both. However, what I didn’t realize until just recently is that I tend to favor the movie versions. Well, maybe not “favor”…but I am much more forgiving of movies than a lot of folks.

Many of my friends are readers. They love their books, and are always skeptical of adaptations. And honestly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Everyone should have passion about what they like. And apparently, I just happen to like movies.

I’m pretty sure it started with my first experience of owning a VCR. It was December of 1983 (my 13th birthday, actually), and I was in the 8th grade, when I moved to Okinawa to live with my mom (she had joined the Air Force, and I had spent the previous two and a half years with my grandparents). My mom and her boyfriend, Jim, had a membership to a video club of sorts where you could “check out” copies of new movies.

In Japan during the early 80’s, copyright laws on video recordings were very loose. So, this place would buy an original tape, and then make several copies of it. You would then join their club by paying a monthly fee, based on the number of movies you could have checked out at any given time. We could have 6. The cool thing was, once the movie stopped being so popular, they would sell most of the copies for $2-3 each. I had many in my collection after a while.

Anyways, for the first three weeks I was there, I had no friends, and no contact with anyone even close to my age. Mom and Jim worked all day, so I was home alone. I spent A LOT of time watching (and re-watching) movies on VHS. It was during this time that I discovered a love of fantasy films through Conan the Barbarian, The Beastmaster (my two favs), and various others. I also developed a greater love of Stallone movies that holds to this day.

The net result was that, I became a huge fan of movies. And for years, all I wanted to do was make movies. In front of the camera, behind the camera, at a writer’s desk; I didn’t care. I just wanted to be a filmmaker. But, I had no idea of how to do that, or how to even try. Although a friend’s dad had a camcorder, and we often tried making our own action movies…often with ridiculously funny results.

I honestly didn’t get into reading much until my junior year. Incidentally, it was because of a Science Fiction/Fantasy class my school offered. I had to read George Orwell’s 1984 (great book, btw), and then one of my own choosing. While at the library looking at the free book shelf, I saw a book called “Conan.” What I thought was the book that the movie was based on turned out to be the first volume of the Lancer/Ace collection. I had discovered Robert E. Howard. And the rest is history.

My first foray into writing fiction was also a result of this class. But, I never gave up the dream of making movies. Years later my dream would be slightly modified. When I got out of the Army in 1995, all I wanted to do was go to Hollywood, and become a professional extra for action movies. I wanted to be that guy that you see getting punched, kicked and shot by every action hero.

Well, that obviously never came to fruition. But, my love of movies has never diminished. And neither has my love of reading. So, I kind of get excited when a movie comes out based on a book. Especially a book I read. Remember back in the day when they would release a novelization for just about every movie? Yeah, I would devour those too.

So, what’s the point of all of this? I mean, besides my trip down memory lane. Well, the other day I commented on Facebook that I’m glad I rarely get that emotionally invested in books, because it makes being a movie fan easier. Scott Oden commented that that must make writing books difficult. I had to agree. To which he suggested that I write movies.

Holy shit.

I have given a go at screenwriting a few times, but never thought I could do it, or that it would ever amount to anything. I always figured selling a novel was easier than selling a screenplay. But, I’m not so sure. Maybe I need to step back and look into this idea a bit more.

Heck, it’s not like they have to be mutually exclusive. Lots of novelists write screenplays. I could do that, I think…


Scott Oden said...

You could. The mechanics are easy enough to learn, especially with a book like Robert McKee's STORY or Christopher Vogler's THE HERO'S JOURNEY FOR WRITERS, or the textbook-like works of the late Syd Field. The rest is practice. Selling is a bit harder, but it's good to have friends with even a few slender contacts in the movie business . . .

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm so very opposite. I've been asked a number of times why I don't try to write screenplays and it kind of floors me. I usually say because movies leave out all the good stuff that I read books for. I simply don't value movies, although I do enjoy some of them for the hour or two I'm watching them. This is witnessed by the fact that I've only bought 3 or 4 movies in my entire life. I've bought many thousands of books.