18 July 2012

No Apologies

I used to be very apologetic about how much TV/movies I watch. Sometimes, admittedly, it's a way to procrastinate. A way to just sort of let my mind be led along a path, instead of trying to drive it along the path of my own stories. And yeah, that's not a good thing. To mix my metaphors, writers need quiet time to let their brains get bored enough to start spinning stories out of wholecloth. And when the TV is being used to fill that space, it's bad.

However.

I see no personal advantage in being pop-culture illiterate*, and TV and movies are a great way to stay tapped in to the Collective.

I use a few tricks to justify the sheer volume of story I pump into my brain from the (small) screen.

Movies and television are all kinds of awesome for writers. Especially after listening to Michael Hauge, who has managed to divvy up the classic rom-com into easily recognizable parts. It's great fun to watch and analyze the story structure based on his lessons.

TV shows, too, have their own structure. CSI, for example, is an incredibly clear breakdown of structure: each commercial is a turning point in the story. (the first commercial is inevitably: all the evidence pointed to this guy, but it isn't him!. The second is often: we know it's him but can't prove it. And the third is: we're totally going to get him; which comes right before the final 5-10 minutes of the show where we see the bad guy get arrested.) CSI also has core characters who carry the show from episode to episode by remaining true to character while revealing little bits of themselves along the way. It's not a perfect show, of course, but from the standpoint of analyzing structure, it's pretty amazing.

Bad movies are AMAZING learning tools. When something doesn't quite pull together, I can spend hours figuring out why, or how I (or another writer) would do it better. (I watch one movie regularly, every time thinking how much better it would've been if my CP had written it.) I love spinning the 'what if's.

Good movies are typically too absorbing for me to learn anything. I'm too busy watching, too immersed in what's going on to do anything but hold on tight and go for the ride.

Some of my favorite movies are (in no particular order): Pan's Labyrinth, Snatch, The Usual Suspects, Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, and i Hate luv Storys.

Fearless readers, what are some of your favorite movies?


*I am mostly music-illiterate, with the exception of some band or another that my sister or children will foist upon me. But my favorite listens are already some...er...fifteen years old or more. (I still think you can't go wrong with The Beatles, either, which are at least old enough to be "retro" and huge enough to be "classics". However, punk/emo/grunge from when I was a teenager aren't exactly either.) 

(And are there some bands from the past two decades I should check out? Anyone who suggests Bieber might get a virtual pie-to-the-face, though...)
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