Reel Writers: Finding Inspiration to Write Through Film

Writing is tough. It sounds easy, but the practice of it makes even the best writers sweat. No one really knows if they have what it takes and the ones that think they are in the process of writing the next big bestseller are just kidding themselves. That being said, I think that movies are a great way to put aside the writing and watch the lives of other writers as they experience the emotional peaks and valleys of being a writer. If you just can’t get those ideas spilled on paper, I would suggest a trip to your local video store to round up some of these gems.

Shakespeare in Love is one of the most beautiful illustrations on film of the writing process. When the film begins, we meet a struggling playwright by the name of William Shakespeare. He is working on something called “Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter.” The work gradually evolves into something to behold as he meets and falls in love with his muse. The result is “Romeo and Juliet”, one of his greatest masterpieces.

Romancing the Stone is the tale of a romance writer whose life starts to resemble one of her novels. When her sister is kidnapped by a Columbian drug lord, the heroine sets out on an adventure that pairs her up with a handsome mercenary and puts her in danger at every turn. The film is a lot of fun to watch, especially if you are a writer that dreams of becoming one of the characters in your story.

If you are more attracted to the dark side of writing, there are some creepy adaptations of Stephen King novels to watch. The Shining is a terrifying portrayal of writer’s block gone awry. Of course, Misery loves company if you are a famous novelist trapped by your number one fan.

Have you ever tried to write a novel that never seems to end? You could probably relate to the protagonist of the novel film Wonder Boys, which is based on the book written by Michael Chabon. It chronicles the weekend in the life of a once famous novelist who can’t seem to finish the novel he is working on. His wife leaves him and his mistress informs him that she is pregnant, which is only the beginning. Eccentric characters like literary agent Terry Crabtree and Grady’s writing student James Leer populate a truly unique tale involving a dead dog and a jacket once owned by Marilyn Monroe.

If you want to see how a self absorbed writer handles the collapse of his marriage, The Squid and the Whale is worth a look. Jeff Daniels plays a once great novelist who can’t get anything published. His jealousy builds when his estranged wife enjoys some success as a published author. A hilariously out of touch portrayal by Jeff Daniels and an excellent supporting cast are only two of the many reasons to watch this movie.

Capturing the lives of writers on film has always been an intriguing concept. After all, by its very design, writing is an internal process. Films can flesh out the life scenes of writers that play out when they are not sitting down with their pen, paper, laptop, or typewriter. Don’t laugh at the idea of using a typewriter. Larry McMurtry thanked his while accepting an award for adapting Brokeback Mountain.

The trend is likely to continue indefinitely because writers are fascinating subjects. They walk a fine line between brilliance and madness. When that line gets crossed, the result is spellbinding. Philip Seymour Hoffman won his first Oscar for his uncanny depiction of Truman Capote. Biographical films chronicling the lives of Jane Austin and Beatrix Potter are currently in progress. As long as Hollywood is in need of good ideas, writers will be there to supply them in one form or another.

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