Last week, I watched the new release Authors Anonymous, in which a writer’s group copes with the overnight success of one of its members. Only a bookworm and writer would connect with the writing communities, workshops, rejection, insecurities, agents, self-publishing, and writer’s block themes. The movie might have been dumb as hell, but it motivated me to pick at a short story after the credits—and that’s really all that matters, people.
The experience reminded me films about writers motivate writers like Rocky motivates athletes. Need some summer writing inspiration? Check out these movies for a shot in the arm. The best part is they’re cases in point of the power of what we do: stories.
Synopsis: This film explores the true authorship of the plays and sonnets credited to William Shakespeare.
Live vicariously: Hear a crowd chant “Playwright” after the performance of one of our plays.
- “Ten thousand souls all listening to the writings of one man, the ideas of one man—that’s power.”
- “Only when I put their words, their voices to parchment are they cast loose free. Only then is my mind quieted…I would go mad if I didn’t write down the voices.”
- “You, your family, even I, even Queen Elizabeth herself will be remembered solely because we had the honor to live whilst [he] put ink to paper.”
Themes: intellectual property, censorship, the political power of literature, the passion of writing, the timelessness of good literature (and apparently crowd surfing), and, you know, Shakespeare.
Synopsis: While writing his true-crime novel In Cold Blood, Truman Capote develops a relationship with one of the killers.
Live vicariously: Be famous; have fans; type on a typewriter; participate in a mass reading.
- “Researching this work has changed my life. It’s altered my point of view about almost everything. And I think those who read it will be similarly affected.”
- “Sometimes when I think about how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe.”
Themes: storytelling, fame, open minds, research, nonfiction, and commitment to a project.
Synopsis: A gifted, inner-city teenager is mentored by a reclusive author and transfers to a prestigious private high school.
Live vicariously: Write in notebooks and on typewriters; be a legend; have our books completely checked out more than fifty years later.
- “I know what [my book] is. The last thing I need is another person telling me what they think it is.”
- “The first key to writing is to write—not to think.”
- “Do you know what the absolute best moment is? It’s when you finish your first draft. You read it by yourself—before these assholes take something that they couldn’t do in a lifetime and tear it down in a single day.”
Themes: writing, reading, grammar, style, literature, and mentorship.
Synopsis: This movie follows Virginia Woolf and two other women and how they’re connected by Woolf’s last book, Mrs. Dalloway.
Live vicariously: Be a legend; write a masterpiece in an office with stacks of papers and manuscripts; receive awards; write with a quill.
- “She has two lives. She has the life she’s leading and also the book she’s writing.”
Themes: the writing process, connecting with all generations, a writer’s solitude, and depression.
Julie & Julia
Synopsis: The movie follows two stories: 1) Julia Childs begins her cooking career late in life and publishes her first cookbook. 2) Julie Powell, thirty and trapped in a mundane job, blogs about cooking through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. She later publishes the book Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (see—blogs can actually turn into books, which can turn into movies).
Live vicariously: Grow a readership; receive samples from fans; interest agents and publishers.
- “But I’ll probably need a deadline… Because otherwise it’ll be like everything else I do. Let’s face it: I never finish anything.”
- “[Blogging]’s sort of like being in AA…It gives you something you have to do every day, one day at a time.”
Themes: late bloomers, discouragement, publishing challenges, commitment to a project, blogging, establishing a readership, reviews, and achieving goals.
Saving Mr. Banks
Synopsis: Walt Disney struggles to secure the rights to Mary Poppins, but cantankerous author Pamela Travers proves a hard nut to crack and demands complete production approval.
Live vicariously: Be courted by a giant corporation for our books; control how our books are represented onscreen; attend our first movie première (“This is your night. None of this would be possible without you.”).
- “I know what he’s going to do to her. She’ll be cavorting and twinkling and careering toward a happy ending like a kamikaze.”
Themes: intellectual property, rights-selling, book-to-movie adaptations, collaborative brainstorming, scriptwriting, craft attachment, agents, and the cathartic nature of art.
Want more? Calm down. This is only part one.
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