Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Two movies that nail the writing life...

The writer upon learning his novel will not be published
I suppose I'm a sucker for movies about writers and their lives. The romantic ones are especially cool. Movies dramatizing Hemingway's romantic and prodigious life. Another four-part series details the life and dangerous times of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming. And who can forget the very sexy Henry and June? I even cowrote a teleplay about Norman Mailer with author Lee Matthew Goldberg.

I guess lots of people think of writers lives as romantic. Days and nights filled with exotic travel, lots of booze, long dinners, lots of sex partners and divorces, and in between all that, getting some writing done. Sure, there's some of that, but in general the writer's life can be pretty dull and filled with more disappointments than successes (you only hear about the successes on FB and Twitter). Series get canceled, movie options dry up, editors leave their publishing houses making your books orphans, agents and editors hang onto books for far too long and by the time they go to make the sale, the marketing team isn't interested. And of course, there's the inevitable remaindering of titles that don't sell (which is why I love the indie publishing revolution because eBooks are forever...)

Two movies that demonstrate the more or less banal realities of the writing life are Sideways and Young Adult. Both films are labelled as comedies, but they both portray a realism about writing rarely seen in more romantic films. In the former, a down on his luck, very broke (he steals cash from his mom's underwear drawer), very divorced middle-aged writer is intent on taking his soon to be betrothed best friend to the California wine country for a week long bachelor party. Along the way we find out he's not only battling loneliness (and the torch he still carries for his remarried ex), he's got his fingers crossed that the book his agent is shopping to a small press is finally going to sell. In the latter, a newly divorced ghost writer of a canceled YA series moves back to her hometown with the intent to woo back her old boyfriend who, like in Sideways, is also remarried with a newborn kid.

Both movies portray the lonely writer's life, the excess drinking, the slovenly lifestyle and of course, the despair that can sometimes go hand in hand with this business (Yup, these are comedies, folks). At one point in YA, the main character walks into a Barnes and Nobles to buy one of her books. At first she thinks the table in the back that's devoted to the entire series is meant to promo the YA novels when in fact it's meant as a glorified clearance rack. Everything's got to go! Our protagonist is intent on signing a few copies anyway. But when the clerk insists she not sign any of the stock because then they can't return the books to the publisher, things get physical and desperate.

Welcome to the writer's reality. Isn't it hilarious?


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