On my second night at the farm, I hit the country-dweller’s major source of entertainment – a video vending machine. After sorting through a very skewed array of films featuring men with huge biceps and even huger guns, I came upon Midnight in Paris. I remembered seeing the previews and thinking, Looks okay, but Owen Wilson as a writer . . . eh. Still, of my choices, this seemed the best option.
And it was great! Owen Wilson totally surprised me, and I loved the story, the point, the setting . . . all of it.
Most, though, I loved the way the film reminded me of a few things that are crucial to my life as a writer. Here’s what the film helped me remember:
1. Surround yourself with people who support your writing. Seriously, four or five times during the film I wanted to punch Inez or rebreak Gil’s nose because he was with such a nimrod. As a writer, we need people who believe in our writing almost as much we do. We don’t need people who question our ability or our desires; we do that enough on our own. We need champions.
2. Pay attention to those writers you’ve overlooked. This film made me want to read every single thing that Zelda Fitzgerald ever wrote. Until I saw this movie, I had never given Zelda a second thought, not because of any contempt I had for her but simply because, well, she hadn’t “ranked” high enough for me to notice. This happens all the time with writers – we overlook them because we haven’t “heard” of them. The film reminded me that I need to be better about that. After all, Hemingway was unpublished at some point, right?
3. Give a writer a second, third, or fourth chance. I am not a “silly” comedy fan at all, so Owen Wilson, well, he doesn’t usually rank high for me either. So I almost wrote off a great film because of my stereotype about his acting. I’ve done the same thing with writers – I would have missed out on some amazing short stories if I didn’t give Stephen King a shot after reading his horror stories (which are great, but not my preference).
4. Don’t oversell the unusual. This film could easily have become a time-travel movie, but the writers chose to present a scenario and trust us to go along with it. They didn’t make a big deal about the shifts in time, and so we didn’t need to either. Instead, we could focus on the characters and the storyline and, thus, experience the shifts as Gil did, as something that just happened.
5. Employ the cameo. Almost everyone loves when someone they recognize shows up. Toulouse Lautrec, Gertrude Stein, or Stephen King in every single one of his films – we just love seeing someone we feel like we “know.” It works the same way with a general pop culture reference. Manage to throw in a mention of Blaine and his brother doing Gotye under spotlights, and you suddenly have a whole group of people “Glee”-ful. (Note – do this sparingly. You don’t want to alienate folks.)
I didn’t get swept up with nostalgia for the 20s in Paris (guess that was kind of the point, huh?) but Midnight in Paris is one of those films that reminds me that writing is important and real . . . very, very real.
What films inspire you to write?