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Friday, November 28, 2008

Why the Classics Matter

Hello, Wavers, and happy inexplicably named "black Friday" - the day when shoppers rush in hordes to shopping malls for day-after-Thanksgiving-bargains. I read that a man was trampled by a crowd at a Walmart in Long Island. What must the aliens looking down upon us think...

I had a great meeting the other day, as I mentioned, and my writing partner and I are doing a quick rewrite of a thriller so we can get it out on the market as soon as possible. So mama is busy and a bit overwhelmed which is why I am cutting and pasting my reply on the Rouge Wave II, about a question regarding whether watching the classics helps a writer's skill set. Short answer: It doesn't. If you haven't joined the RWII, I urge you to, since it is a fun and informative forum where you can have more and more detailed conversations between yourselves, without silly old me having to approve each comment.


..."I'm just curious what you think the classics adds to the writing skills?"

Seeing the classics doesn't add to your writing skills. It adds to your breadth of knowledge about the medium itself. The history, trends and politics of film. The careers of iconic stars and directors. If you haven't seen Psycho, then you haven't seen what was at that time a seminal thriller.

Everything is ultimately repeated; you need to know what has come before you so that you don't unwittingly write something derivative. Conversely, if you've seen the classics you are able to write something that is in part an homage to another film, borrowing from and updating the thematic or dramatic gist of it.

Seeing the classics and being articulate about them has other advantages: When you take meetings with people in the industry, you'll quickly find that they HAVE seen the classics, and an inability to reference these cultural touchstones within this specific industry will be a handicap on many levels, the most obvious of which is that you will come off as a dilettante with only a surface interest in film.

In meetings, other films, past and present, usually come up in conversation. Do you want to come off as a person who just doesn't care and who hasn't bothered to do your homework? Or do you want to come off as a person with a knowledge, respect and love of the medium? The answer is obvious.

And lastly, the classics offer GREAT performances, GREAT stories and GREAT entertainment. There's so much more at the video store than the new releases.

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E.C. Henry said...

I hear you, Julie. I just can't seam to bring myself to watch what other people claim are classics, only to watch them and think to myself, "Gosh, today's filmmakers are doing it SO MUCH better than they did. BUT as I've read, "(I) We see farther because (I) we stand on shoulders of giants."

Biggest classic letdown for me has been "Cassablanca." I remember watching this moive EXPECTING to see the best romance story ever, and it totally disappointed me. So if you can, please explain why "Cassablanca" is considered a classic, 'cuz I totally don't get it.
Your point about the classics being a point-of-reference for creative to rally behind DOES register with me. I would HATE to someday get my much coveted meeting with Steven Speilberg and have him go on and on about some classic that moved him, and having not seen it just dully nod along.
And in all honest I have seen that scenario play out right in front of me.

Guess I'm just a bit hard headed. Especially since I know I can rent most of the "classics" from the library for free too.

Julie, sometimes you are like a serogate mother imploring this stubborn child to eat his perverbial broccolli. I know it's good for me, but...

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

JJ said...

It's tough to get people interested in "classics" when their perspective on life and history started last Tuesday at 4 pm.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. This is marginally tangential, but "black Friday" does have a simple explanation. It's the first day that retailers expect to be "in the black," operating profitably, for the calendar year.