Writer and film buff Matthew Baldwin analyzed The NeverEnding Story and its lessons on imagination for Writing Off Script. Here’s an excerpt for you:
The film’s villain, the Nothing, is exactly that: the all-consuming void generated when people fail to imagine, to engage their ability to dream. It is the death and destruction of all that is fantastic within the mind, and one character explicitly states that it is born when people cease to read.
Films, for all of their craft and quality, for all the joy and delight they can provoke, are entirely the product of someone else’s imagination. Watching one is a closed-circuit experience that at best offers a superficial level of participation, most frequently on an emotional level, and once they end, that’s it for the viewer’s involvement. The lights come on, the curtain drops, and it’s time to go home. We’re passive observers to the dreams of others.
This is not true of books.
To read Baldwin’s “The Best Dreams” in its entirety, please purchase your copy of Writing Off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema here for just $4.99. Proceeds benefit the Joplin High School film and video production program through the Joplin Schools Tornado Relief Fund.
Here’s an excerpt for you from @elizabetheslami’s gorgeous essay “All the Moon Men We Have Loved” in Writing Off Script:
After my grandmother’s death, we went to work cleaning out her house. One by one, we wrapped the glass vases no one wanted in newspaper. We rolled up miles of plastic covers, revealing the spotless sofa and the white carpet, as if the house was finally ready for a long-awaited guest of honor.
But no one was coming. My grandfather had already died years before, of a heart sick and lovesick, in a hospital in a warm city in California far away from his unhappy wife and her legendary tantrums, far from his beloved Washington Redskins.
My mother and I carried out bags of my grandmother’s Harlequin romances, torrid novels the size of my hand that she bought and sold at St. Bernard’s book swaps to other old women, all of them connoisseurs of stories of love. My grandmother had never really stopped looking for some way out from under the heavy branches.
After the books, we sat on the floor and began boxing up her movies. Once the world switched to DVDs, St. Bernard’s no longer had any use for the videos, and my grandmother took home most of them. An Affair to Remember. The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. Roman Holiday. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? In an hour, we were out of boxes. Some of the videos were so worn they’d lost their labels, and my grandmother had scrawled the titles on stickers affixed to their spines. Her handwriting is what I think of when anyone mentions these movies. Gaslight, with Ingrid Bergman.
I didn’t want her jewelry, but I kept a few of her videos, long after her stickers peeled off. I still have them, though they smell more of dust and wood than of White Diamonds.
To read “All the Moon Men We Have Loved” in its entirety, please purchase your copy of Writing Off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema here for just $4.99. Proceeds benefit the Joplin High School film and video production program through the Joplin Schools Tornado Relief Fund.
Presenting the Writing Off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema book trailer created by @MorrisHillPics
To be sure we have a little something for all of you — readers, writers, movie fans, and educators alike — we’ve asked Associate Director of First-Year Writing at Binghamton University Dr. Kristi Murray Costello, Director of Writing and Literature at the Borough of Manhattan Community College Dr. Geoff Klock, and Assistant Professor of English and North American Review Associate Editor Dr. J. D. Schraffenberger to contribute essays on using film to inspire students in the literature, writing, and creative writing classrooms (respectively) for a special section in Writing Off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema. For now, you can check out this piece at eLearn Magazine by Geoff Klock on how to seamlessly incorporate film clips in class: ”Using Media to Pace Your Class.”
Our film-inspired writing activity of the day comes from something we spotted on screenwriter John August’s blog.
“Before you start writing any screenplay,” August says, “make a playlist of music that feels like the movie. It’s a fundamental part of my process.” You can read the rest of August’s entry, “Step One: Make a Playlist,” here.
Substitute “writing any screenplay” with “writing anything” and “movie” with “atmosphere of your story” and you have your writing activity of the day. Of course, we recommend you include a track by Writing Off Script contributor, novelist, and film composer Nathan Larson.
Many thanks to everyone who submitted to the Writers on the Influence of Cinema writing contest and congratulations to Claude Clayton Smith, Nathaniel Missildine, and Matthew Baldwin, our first, second, and third place winners, respectively.
We couldn’t be more excited to share their equally fantastic essays on film and writing with you this fall in the Writing Off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema ebook anthology along with those by Thelma Adams, Robin Antalek, Sean Beaudoin, Ernessa T. Carter, Richard Cox, Elizabeth Eslami, Nathan Larson, Vernon Lott, Greg Olear, Neal Pollack, and interviews with Patrick deWitt, David Small, and Teddy Wayne.
And of course it’s all for a good cause.
Our film-inspired creative writing prompt of the day comes from Dr. Kristi Murray Costello, Associate Director of First-Year Writing at the Binghamton University Writing Initiative:
Andrew Largeman: You know that point in your life when you realize that the house that you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of the sudden even though you have some place where you can put your stuff that idea of home is gone.
Sam: I still feel at home in my house.
Andrew Largeman: You’ll see when you move out it just sort of happens one day one day and it’s just gone. And you can never get it back. It’s like you get homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. I mean it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for you kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it.
The previous is an excerpt from the movie Garden State starring Natalie Portman and Zak Braff. This dialogue represents two people who have varied perspectives of home. Did you agree or disagree with either of their perspectives? Why or why not?
Either choose one of these perceptions on which to respond and elaborate OR use the passage above to spark your individual concept of home.
What does home mean to you? How have you revised the concept as you have gotten older? What elements contribute to your perception of home? People, places, objects, pictures, furniture? Have you ever lived somewhere that you did not consider home? Or do you not currently live at the place you consider home? Is your home where your stuff is or (cringe and pause for awful cliché) where your heart is? Why do you feel this way?
Take any overused Hollywood plotline and shake it up. This one, for example: girl passionately hates guy, girl longs for a different guy (lets call him Mr. Unobtainable), circumstances throw girl and the guy she passionately hates together, girl discovers Mr. Unobtainable isn’t all that, girl passionately falls in love with guy she passionately hates (that’s pretty much every Katherine Heigl film). Turn one character into a box of matches. Make the setting a wrecked spaceship on an uninhabited planet. Do anything you can, in other words, to twist the story in new directions and then see where it takes you.
Send your made-over Hollywood plot or your own film-inspired creative writing activities to firstname.lastname@example.org.
the final and official title will be (drum-roll please) Writing Off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema. As the publisher put it, “Movie-Schooled” sounds like the not-so-attractive half sister of *name we can’t use because it’s trademarked*. Either way, it’s going to be a fantastic collection with proceeds benefitting the Joplin Schools Tornado Relief Fund. While you wait for its fall release, get to writing an essay of your own on how film inspires your craft and enter it in the contest for a chance at having it included and more. Submit here.