Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why can't they read the book in my mind?

Alfred Hitchcock, who began as an art director and had a famously visual approach to filmmaking, used to plan his movies and storyboard them elaborately well before production.  He didn't direct the actors, per se; most of them reported that he said nothing to them about their performances. When they'd ask him about it, he'd say something along the lines of "you're doing fine.  If you weren't doing it right, I'd tell you."

Indeed, on the set, according to Donald Spoto's The Dark Side of Genius, sometimes they'd look over after a take and see him with his eyes closed.  Sometimes it was clear that he had actually fallen asleep during the take, which can't have been reassuring for actors who wanted a little feedback.  Apparently Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and the others who worked with him more than a few times got used to it.

He wasn't bored by their performance. He was bored by the process, because he saw the film so clearly in his mind that it was as if he'd already seen it before.

If you have vivid dreams, you've probably had a similar experience: your brain has programmed the movements and voices of actors, scenes, and basic filmmaking shots, and sometimes you might dream a whole film as if you're watching it. Your brain's got the best CGI equipment around, and a dream is the ideal place to roll that film.

That's where this chapter I'm working on now is in my mind.  It's there in glorious Technicolor and stereophonic sound but buried in my mind. When I try to bring it out in actual words, though, I get overwhelmingly sleepy and disinclined to write.  And when I do write, the result is more like Roundhay Garden Scene than Vertigo. It would be great if I could just publish the book in my mind instead of writing it.
But Hitchcock had to go to the set every day and be paid fabulous amounts of money to create art. I have to get back to writing every day for no money to create something that might make a contribution in some way. The key denominator there is the "work on it every day" part, and that's what counts.


Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Oh, I SO hear you on this. I like doing research, but once I've figured out whatever I wanted to figure out, it feels like it's done, because it's done in my head. The process of writing it out in words for other people does NOT come easily to me, and it's hard to stay motivated. But it's nice to be able to think of that now as just being Hitchcockian. :)

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Shoot, why can't they publish the book in my mind?

undine said...

P/H--yes, we're Hitchcockian. Once we've done the puzzle, our brains say "why write it down?" It's the same problem I have with keeping a journal.

Dame Eleanor--In time they will, I'll bet.