Going From Movies to Novels, i.e. Was Film School A Big Waste of Time? [Video Blog]

I graduated from film school last May, so it’s been officially a year since I’ve been a MASTER OF FINE ART. Last year’s memories are hazy with exhaustion, but one thing I remember: I had decided to write the idea of my next screenplay as a novel instead.

No one around me really understood this, and I didn’t really, either, myself. Everyone around me was in a frenzy of lining up work, consolidating their contact lists and renewing any connection that could get them a job, a deal, a project. I did have a small web-based video project in the works, but here I was, embarking on writing a novel.

What was I doing? Did I really just spend five years and huge amounts of money….just to start writing a book instead? In this video, I go into some of the making-of for that decision…a few moments that set up my disenchantment with film, and the moment when it all opened up for me.

This is kind of a long video blog! (Think of it as making up for my last one being two weeks ago.) It’s a very personal question, actually, and well, if someone’s willing to listen to 12+ minutes of me talking about it, then I’ll be more than happy to give them a personal answer.

I actually shot this vblog a bit ago but held off on putting it out there because at first I was worried about sounding like a big whinging idiot. But it’s a pretty honest account of a few moments that connected together to bring me away from filmmaking into fiction writing. I think it’s also pretty honest about the difficulties and problems facing the film industry as a whole when it comes to gender. I do a bit of feminist irritant-ing about it, I guess, but it’s very true. You look at the participation of women at the leadership level in filmmaking and then compare that to the visibility that women have in literature, and I’m sorry, you actually just cannot compare.

I did cut some bits for time (!!!) — I went a little into my other building frustrations with narrative film as a medium, mostly because it takes so long to get a film from page to screen, especially contrasted to blogging, which I’ve been doing since 2003. Another thing I cut was my growing realization that I didn’t want to wait any longer to GET WORK OUT THERE. I wanted to produce work faster, get work out in the world faster. Vite, vite, vite! And finally: it costs thousands upon thousands up to millions of dollars to make a film. It costs me much less to write a novel!

And also: writing stories in novel form just feels great, and right, and true for me right now. You can’t discount that.

The unspoken question is whether or not I see myself going back into film. At this point, no, not in the conventional sense, although I think after this novel I’d like to shoot something small, personal and just very, very “for myself.” I think I will always work on screenplays, because I genuinely love the form and it keeps me in practice on the parts of storytelling that I find most difficult (economy, action, plot.) And also: I’m having too much fun with my books right now, and I think I have a few more novels left in me. I always follow the fun, so look forward to more and more stories coming here soon.

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I think I’m enjoying the video blogs a little more, now that I settled on the Q&A format to guide me a little. I get a few questions on screenwriting, film school and blogging, so I might tackle those in future video blog entries, but if anyone has a question they’d like me to talk through, please email me at kat (at) nogoodforme (dot) com.

4 thoughts on “Going From Movies to Novels, i.e. Was Film School A Big Waste of Time? [Video Blog]

  1. Damn girl, this was an amazing video post! I am currently slogging my way through a first draft of a novel and have a film school background so this really resonated. The key takeaways for me were: writing is never a waste. And your take on how film is beneficial for learning structure. I’m in the same boat – I love to waffle/scribble away but in the past my stories never went anywhere. However after embracing planning ahead and the seven point system (Dan Wells – hook/turn/pinch/midpoint/turn/point/resolve) I have a lot more momentum.

    Thanks for sharing so much here, I really enjoy all your posts!

    1. wow, thanks for taking the time to watch it! very cool you have a film school background, too…i’m definitely glad i am coming from that background. i don’t think i could have even attempted a novel without it! i think the intense but structured prep you learn for scripts is also a great help in writing fiction…

      we actually never delved into the seven-point system in my program — most of us learned sequences! i’d be curious to hear what you think its strengths/weaknesses were!

      good luck with your own novel! i’d love to hear more, so please keep me updated!
      xo k.

  2. I graduated from film school ten years ago and yes, for me it was a complete waste of time and money.

    A degree is not about following your ‘dreams’. It’s about return on investment. You invest 40,000 and four years into something you expect at least some results. In film, your degree does not mean much in the ‘business’ and many production companies I know, hire anyone BUT film students, even for jobs like PAing.

    The only 4 year degrees people should get are for Law, Business and hard sciences. Everything else is fluff. No one in the real world cares if you know semiotic theory or what your favourite Alexander Kluge film is. English is OK as a major provided you want to be a high school or grade school teacher, just understand that that job will require a Masters and teaching college and is underpaid and exceptionally challenging.

    If you love to make your own films and write your own novels you must understand that there is a possibility no one may ever see or read them. They are for your own sanity and if you love doing it, do it! Just remember though, the possible outcome is that you won’t be paid or paid very much, so if money is something that is important to you, think about putting your energies into something more lucrative, even if you consider it ‘boring’.

    I didn’t think about any of these things when I went to film school. Ten years later, I’m certainly thinking about them now.

    PS: I do hope your novel gets published and you make lots of cash though!

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