Archive for April, 2007

Movies about writers: Down with Love

Down with Love starring Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger was recently shown on a local television station here in South Australia. The short review in the television guide attracted my attention. Here was another movie about writers; in fact, both of the main characters are writers.

McGregor plays the part of a popular journalist while Zellweger’s character is a popular writer for women. Set in the 1960s she writes a blockbuster pre-feminism book encouraging women to put career before love. This popularity makes her the target of journalist “Catch” Block (McGregor) who is determined to bring her down. Block is a compulsive womaniser and pursues her relentlessly, all in the cause of writing about her in a scathing way.

The movie contains very little about the process of writing nor comments much about the life of a writer. It focusses almost entirely on the relationship between the two main characters and the two supporting roles.

This is billed as a romantic comedy. I found it to be nothing but a pointless piece of fluff with a few mildly humourous moments. My wife enjoyed it and my daughter said it was hilarious, but I’m not about to rush out and buy the DVD for my collection.

You are never too old to become a writer

Far too many people reach their retirement or their mature years and regret not having followed their dreams of being a writer. Life tends to get in the way. The pressures of making a living, caring for the family, building up a business or whatever often prevent people from realising the joy of writing and of having that writing published.

It is against this background then to read of the man who recently had his first book published at the age of 96. And he is working on a second book. How wonderful. I applaud him for his perseverance and for never letting his dream die.

Into his 90s, decimated by the loss of his beloved wife, and alone at night with the memories of a rough and sad childhood spent battling an alcoholic father and vicious anti-Semitism, Harry Bernstein decided to write.

What started out as almost a form of therapy eventually turned into a book called ”The Invisible Wall” that chronicles his childhood in a northern England mill town and _ considering that it wasn’t published until he was 96 _ serves as an inspiration for aspiring authors.

Bernstein began writing ”The Invisible Wall” when he was 93 as a way to deal with his memories and the loneliness he felt after his wife of almost seven decades, Ruby, passed away from leukemia in 2002.

Read the whole story here.

His story reminded me of a recent interview I heard on Australian National radio. During the interview the obvious joy of being alive came through so strongly. This man learned to fly a plane at age 71. He took up stunt flying at age 75 and won aerobatics championships in his 80s and is still flying stunt planes at age 92. Again, I applaud his proactive view of life.

It is never too late to start your writing career.

Movies about writers: Paris when it sizzles

A few days ago I watched the movie “Paris when it sizzles” starring William Holden and Audrey Hepburn. Amazing as it may seem, I cannot recall ever seeing this well known movie before. Why – I cannot explain. If I have seen it, it must have been a long time ago because it was like coming to a movie for the first time.

What a romp.

I haven’t laughed at a movie as much since first seeing “The Gods Must be Crazy.” (I still laugh every time I see that movie and its sequel.) The makers of this movie must have had a ball making it; how the actors kept straight faces using all those cliches that screen writers and directors love so much. Just about every type of movie gets the treatment; from horror through to romance and everything in between. The improbable plot is a tour de farce of moviedom.


William Holden plays the part of a screenwriter. He has had months to write the script of a new movie but has frittered away both his time and the advance he was paid. The script is due in two days. So, in desperation, he employs a secretary (and wannabe writer) played by Audrey Hepburn to help type the manuscript.

Unlikely plot:

Between them they concoct a series of preposterously unlikely plots. As the film cuts to each scene they think up, the pace increases until they are finally satisfied with the movie. It is interesting that the act of creating a story is shown vividly in this movie – more so than any other I can remember.

Storyboard Technique:

At the very beginning Holden paces around the room laying out sheet after sheet of paper, each sheet representing another scene, another twist in the story, another problem to be solved. Trouble is – he has absolutely nothing written or drawn on any of the sheets of paper. This storyboard technique is well used in movie production and is increasingly employed by writers.

In this method, the writer adds minimal text or draws quick sketches on each sheet, each piece of paper representing a scene, or chapter or other section of the story. In this way the writer can see a visual representation of the story line, possible problem areas and places where the plot deviates unnecessarily. It is a very valuable technique to use when helping children to write, and is also employed by illustrators of children’s picture books. These days, many authors use sticky labels instead of sheets of paper, rearranging them as they sort out their thoughts and plot ideas.

Movies about writers: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I recently watched the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” for the first time in many years. In fact, it has been so long since I last saw it, I’d forgotten most of the story line. It was like coming to an old friend and meeting for the first time – or something like that.

Until pointed out by my daughter, I did not realise that the character played by George Peppard was a writer. This seems somewhat incidental to the plot, however. We certainly hear very little about the writing process in the movie, and rarely see him actually writing. Early in the movie, Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) observes that he does not even have a ribbon in his typewriter, so he mustn’t be much of a writer. When he does sit at his typewriter I was amused to see him using basically only two fingers. Some writer.

Still, despite the drawbacks, he does have some limited writing success, receiving a cheque for fifty dollars as part of the story. I guess he never felt the urge to take his writing seriously. His wealthy sponsor ensured he rarely had time for actual writing anyway.

Related articles:

Just a thought – about words, ideas and pegs

“All words are pegs to hang ideas on.”~ Henry Ward Beecher


Words are the tools of trade for the writer. There are so many words and so many ways to combine them. Everyone can put a few words together; sometimes they even make sense. (Have you ever received those spam emails made up of words at random? Why do people bother?)

The skill in making sense with words is how you combine them, throwing them together until they make some kind of sense. That makes a sentence. A few sentences glued together make a paragraph. Several paragraphs strung together can make an article, or a story or a letter. Put together enough and you might make a book.


We all have ideas. When we take those ideas and write about them, others can understand what we are thinking. Those ideas can amuse, entertain, horrify, persuade, encourage, offend or inspire us. But ideas without words to hang them on are just that: ideas. They remain within us, unexpressed, untouched and unloved.

Ideas are everywhere, in the simple, common, everyday things of life. Hang those ideas on the pegs called words and everyone can see your ideas hanging out there in the sunshine.

That is why I am a writer.