The other night I saw a great movie, While We’re Young. The story is about a child-free couple in their 40s who become fast friends with a couple in their 20s, then one person’s duplicity causes a mess of professional and personal problems for almost everyone involved.
The screenplay is fantastic. Some movies are just a pleasure to watch, some a waste, and others inspire you to make something just as a great. While We’re Young fell into the inspiring category for me. The narrative includes a few film en abyme moments as three of the characters are documentary filmmakers. I felt energized to create while watching and afterwards.
I chose my major in college with the intention of becoming a screenwriter. I got my degree in cinema, took the GRE, and wanted to apply to graduate programs in screenwriting. But I kept feeling like academics were getting in the way of what I wanted to do: Write. Why not just write? I took a non-writing job and expected to keep it for a year or two before transitioning to work in the film industry. Five years passed before I resigned to write full-time. (I considered graduate programs before resigning, but realized I had the same dilemma and I might as well finally do what I wanted to do.) My writing business rarely requires script writing, but screenplays are always in the back of my mind.
Just as the films I see influence my screenplay ideas, the authors I read influence my poetry and short stories. How else can you experience styles and devices? I’ve grown less tolerant with “bad” books and movies. I’ve started reading books in the past few months (several from self-published authors) and they were simply terrible. I couldn’t read more than two sentences without seeing an obvious grammatical error or cliche. I am quick to turn off a movie on Netflix if the story, directing, or acting irks me. I abandon books with poor editing or plot holes. I know it’s good to read pieces to learn what not to do, but I worry doing so will in a way pollute my perceptions and negatively influence the work I produce. A few writers have told me that when they are in the thick of producing their work they refuse to read other writers for fear their work will become an echo of another author.
I’ve been filling my TBR pile with award-winning classic and contemporary authors, reading The Best American Short Stories anthologies, and re-reading works that I not only enjoy–but make me want to create. I want to see more movies that inspire me in the way While We’re Young does. I want authentic literary inspiration—in film and literary forms—while I’m young.