I'm an on-and-off listener to The Rewatchables, a podcast offering an irreverent and amusing dissection of an old movie each week.
Recently I was enjoying an episode exploring Tony Scott's final movie, Unstoppable. I love the film. It did OK business at the box office and garnered its fair share of critical praise but it was a runaway train disaster movie and as such, didn't much trouble the end-of-year lists back in 2010. So if you've never heard of it don't feel bad.
The episode's special guest was Quentin Tarantino, a huge fan of Unstoppable and of Tony Scott. Tarantino speaks at 100 miles an hour about most things film-related but he's operating at top-speed for much of the show, scattergunning stories, observations and analyses.
Here's what struck me. Tarantino described himself and Scott as polar opposites when it came to directing movies. I'm paraphrasing, but the gist was this: Tarantino described himself as a director. I shoot using a single camera, he explained. Every scene you see was composed by me. I framed and arranged it, I organised it and I shot it. Tony Scott, he goes on the say, is a selector. He shoots with five, six... nine cameras at once. Other people are shooting the footage. Scott is the genius who selects the results and cuts them together.
Director versus selector. An interesting distinction.
It made me think about fiction writing. Much as I'd like to be a director - much as I'd love to have everything staged and rehearsed scene-by-scene before the first keystroke - I just don't seem to be able to do it. I write tens of thousands of words that I don't use; scene after scene that might end up in a book but might not. My current project is 120,000 words' worth of prose so far. I still don't think I've got it anywhere near right yet.
It's exhausting, infuriating and discouraging. But I think it's about all I can do. I'm a selector, not a director. And I've gotta say, most days I wish it was different.