As many of you know, I am about to go into my last semester at the University of Kansas. (I cannot wait to graduate!) School is a big part of my life right now, so that’s why I like to share my favorite books that we read during my classes. Since my summer semester just ended, I thought I’d do that again–except there’s one big difference: it was History of the International Sound to Film. Basically, we watched a lot of movies during the World War II era (before, during, and right after.)
Before I begin, you might be asking: what does this have to do with writing? I’m getting to that. I promise.
There were too many movies to post on one page (seriously) so I’m only sharing my favorites:
- Under the Roofs of Paris (Rene Clair, 1930, France)
- The Private Life of Henry VIII (Alexander Korda, 1933, Britain)
- Listen to Britain (Humphrey Jennings & Stewart McAllister, 1942)
- Alexander Nevsky (Sergei Eisenstein, 1938)
- Port of Shadows (Marcel Carne, 1938)
- The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)
I don’t think I would’ve ever seen these movies if it weren’t for that class, although I wish I could say I would’ve. They were very enlightening in the sense that I do love older movies, yet I’ve never really watched the ones that were used politically from other countries during the war. It puts a twist on things, and it made me think. So this is where I get into writing tips. I’m always trying to find new ways to look at writing, and, when I look at life a little differently, I decide to line it up with writing. In this case, I thought about two things:
1. Silent Films: Imagine how difficult getting a story across must be when you cannot even tell the story. It’s like playing charades. As writers, we don’t necessarily have to worry about this, because our job is to tell the story. But what if we took a step back? What if we had to make a silent film out of the story? Imagine what would come across the clearest, what would be the most difficult, and how you would set things up to describe everything. I tried this prompt myself, and I might share it in the future ;] But, for now, all I will say is that it forces more emotions to come to the surface (and it might even help you change those pesky scenes that didn’t quite feel right and/or cut them completely)
2. The Other Side: Like I said, most of these films were foreign, so it was interesting to see how the rest of the world artistically displayed the war. Even more interesting? They all had the basic concepts laid out the same. However, I thought you could try an interesting prompt: imagine your story is being told by the other side, (in this case, by the enemy, or someone near the enemy.) How would they see things? Maybe they aren’t so evil, after all.
Who knows? Maybe you can combine the two and come up with a silent expression from the other side. That would be something, even if it were only for you to see.
P.S. Please support these wonderful writers and readers who’ve interviewed me and read Minutes Before Sunset:
Urban fantasy and paranormal romance writer, S.L. Stacy, took a moment to interview me, and it was lovely. My favorite (and fun) question? “If you could be bffs (best friends forever) with any fictional character, who would it be?” Find out who I picked here.
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But I’m off to complete more edits of Seconds Before Sunrise! Can’t wait for the release this fall!
16 thoughts on “Writing Tips From My Film Class.”
“I don’t think I would’ve ever seen these movies if it weren’t for that class, although I wish I could say I would’ve.”
That’s the joy of university… discovering things you would never have come across otherwise.
Interesting ideas there, although a silent movie story would be very hard, like you said. Hope I’m up for the challenge!
I think it’s so difficult, because it’s a completely different medium, but it’s more about what you think about that might influence your focus in the story. Let me know if you enjoy the challenge!
awww what a such a cute cat 🙂 also great post and input friend.
Thank you. He’s pretty awesome :]
An interesting basic mix of films. Port of Shadows is a great favourite of mine and precursor of the film noir in the USA. Listen to Britain was very important in trying to change attitudes over there (in USA), it is well worth looking at the whole genre of wartime UK films how they promoted working together and working class communities and characters, then look at the 50’s war films which only highlighted the officer class, as if to bring the country back in line. The Bicycle Thieves changed film as much as any film has done, opening up the canvas. Under the Roofs of Paris is an odd one in this group as maybe the Korda is. Korda brought a European sensibility to the dire British cinema, Nevsky needs to be studied for its editing and use of symbolism to promote the regime, but Eisenstein was far more than a puppet of his pay-masters, Nevsky is high art of the highest level. If you’ve not seen it get a look at Les Enfants du Paradis Marcel Carne’s other masterpiece and his Le Jour Sur Leve, in fact it is hard to find a poor Marcel Carne film! Pleased you enjoyed the films they can add a lot to your writing.
I will definitely check out those other films. I actually decided to study Italian Neorealism for films (like The Bicycle Thief) for my final paper. All of the historical content and aftermath of the film industry during the time was very interesting.
Ingrid Bergman’s role is an interesting ‘subplot’, she was so knocked out by what she saw and the underlying politics, she left Hollywood to work with Rossellini on Stromboli (and they became lovers). Good luck with the degree.
As usual, very interesting! Thank you for sharing and your kind words. (I love Ingrid Bergman)
Those are some great prompts for really delving into storylines. I believe that it is important to understand the story and characters from all angles to ensure the thought process gets through to the readers.
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed them. I also believe that.
Great prompts 🙂 It’s always fun to be able to find inspiration for your writing in other areas, creative or not. I think I’ve stumbled onto something that could be advice on developing characters in an article on psychology… 🙂
O_O I absolutely love psychology. It was my original major. Are you going to share it? I’d love to blog about that as well, and I could link your blog for inspiration.
I’ve looked for the article but I can’t seem to find it again. Sorry, it was a while ago 😦
The gist of it was an exercise to improve your self esteem: you list some good qualities that you want, and then you list some concrete situations where you practised those qualities. For example, you want to be a good friend; you sent your friend a hand-written birthday card in the mail.
That’s what made sense to me in regard to describing your characters. You avoid stating that “Karen was a good friend”. Instead, you show the readers the concrete situations where Karen behaves like a good friend, and you let the readers come to the conclusion on their own.
I might blog about it later – but feel free to go ahead if you want to, too 🙂
Oh! I wrote about something similar to that. Ex/ Instead of saying someone is cute, describe them, and let the reader decide. Show, Don’t Tell. I might look into some of my psychology books and write a prompt off of something. I think that’d be a fun/interesting experience.