Why I Am (Not) A Filmmaker

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020-05-18 21:00:00 No comments

Some part of me always wanted to be a filmmaker. I ended up behind the keyboard instead -- or maybe better to say, I never got out from behind the keyboard, never traded it for a camera. Every time I sat down with a movie, I came away so intimidated by what others had done, by what was possible at levels I didn't have access to, that I could never properly begin. So I wrote instead.

Today, everyone who uploads to YouTube on a regular basis is a filmmaker of sorts, even if they're just documentarians of the trivia of their lives. Jonas Mekas was spot-on when he predicted how 8mm home movies would liberate filmmaking. (Trivial does not mean meaningless or insignificant.) But we still respond to a visual story that has the flair of visual storytelling, something that stands out from everyone else who just gets in front of a camera and mugs for a few seconds. YouTubers may make millions in ad money and have as many subscribers, but we still look to a big screen for something exciting that also tells us something about ourselves.

I wanted to be a scrappy indie filmmaker, but circumstances didn't permit it. I had too many mundane obligations to tear myself away for something that major. That and I'd already found a convenient substitute, writing fiction.

I liked that writing novels on my own time and terms meant fewer compromises. Filmmaking is collaborative, and with each additional degree of collaboration there's some dilution of the intent. Stanley Kubrick-level meticulousness is not always possible, whether because of one's constitution or because the budget and schedule doesn't permit it. But on paper, you can be as careful or careless as you want.

Actually, Kubrick comes to mind for several reasons. One of them being the way a close friend of mine, someone who's read my work in depth, compared me to him. I actually balked a little at the comparison, but his main reason for drawing it was a habit he saw in both of us. Not the meticulousness (I'm way too lazy for that), but the wide-ranging curiosity, the fact that each book tries to be its own thing as aggressively as possible. There, I agreed.

Even if I never get behind the camera, I always end up thinking about my work in parallels to film. Drafts beyond the first big one are "reshoots". Soundtracks come to mind. Hashing out the story and characters brings to mind the open-ended improvisations of a theater troupe, or maybe some of Mike Leigh productions. Characters sometimes get cast using real-world actors. And out of that comes a way to satisfy two urges at once -- my filmmaker's urge and my writer's urge -- by having them just be a storyteller's urge.

Tags: creativity film