This post begins my new series, Writers on Writing, (or WOW!) — a collection of the kinds of articles I bring to the attention of my writing classes on a regular basis.
This piece on Philippa Boyens seems like a nice place to start since she discusses the ten year odyssey she’s been on since agreeing to help adapt the world of J.R.R. Tolkien with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. She is particularly interesting when analyzing how writing The Hobbitt is different from Lord of the Rings.
Read on McGuff – and watch this spot for more WOW in the future. Feel free to send me good things you read about writing and I’ll post those as well. — Rosanne
Philippa Boyens: Del Toro’s ‘Hobbit’ would have been ‘amazing’
“There and Back Again” is the subtitle of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” and it would certainly serve handily for a biography of many of those involved in taking the book to film, though none perhaps as well as Philippa Boyens.
Asked one day in 1997 if, as a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, she might have any interest in helping out friends and fellow New Zealanders Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh adapt “The Lord of the Rings” for film, Boyens, a former teacher and then executive director of the New Zealand Writers Guild, shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?”
Read the entire article
Here are my Top 5 picks for the best books for film buffs.
Dunne, John Gregory. Monster: Living Off the Big Screen. New York: Random House, 1997.
Even though it’s about a film made in 1996 that even die hard Robert Redford fans have not likely seen (Up Close and Personal), this book about writing a blockbuster film by John Gregory Dunne discusses Hollywood honestly – especially as it deals with married screenwriters like he and his wife Joan Didion.
Harmetz, Aljean . The Making of Casablanca: Bogart, Bergman, and World War II. Hyperion, 2002.
You don’t need to love the film to like this book about how a classic came together. I like the way Harmetz gives backgrounds on all the supporting characters and we learn how many were refugees from Nazi regimes.
McGillligan, Patrick. Backstory: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.
McGillligan has 4 more books in this series – each one containing long, interesting interviews with screenwriters from a particular era from the 1920s to the 1990s. And as we all know, writers are highly entertaining conversationalists!
Messenger, Chris. The Godfather and American Culture: How the Corleones Became “Our Gang.” Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.
What’s to say except this is a great book if you love The Godfather – but even if you don’t it is a good reminder of how certain movies become entrenched in our national culture – and can do things like make us more comfortable with minorities so that they soon become majorities.
Norman, Marc. What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting. New York: Harmony Books, 2007.
This is the history of how screenwriters got screwed out of being considered the legal ‘authors’ of the works they write!
My latest article for Written By Magazine is an interview with several of the writers who began their career on the writing staff of The Monkees. You can read the entire article by clicking the page below or downloading the entire issue as a PDF.
Hey, Hey, They Wrote The Monkees
How a few writers changed the hair-length (and face) of television
Early 1960s television characters came in a one-size-fits-all, squeaky-clean-cut style, from Dr. Kildare in his white lab coat, to Hoss Cartwright in his white Stetson, to Sr. Bertrille in her white habit. That lasted until 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 12, 1966 when four long-haired teenagers began dancing a Monkeewalk while singing, “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees.”
Though it looked simple enough, the comedy was about more than four struggling musicians living in a beach house they couldn’t afford, without adult supervision, and hoping for success while engaging in Marx(Bros)ian humor. According to star Micky Dolenz, the only actor with previous television series experience: “It brought long hair into the living room and changed the way teenagers were portrayed on television.”
Dolenz’s opinion is backed up by psychologist and author Timothy Leary in The Politics of Ecstasy: “While it lasted, it was a classic Sufi[ism] put-on. An early-Christian electronic satire. A mystic magic show. A jolly Buddha laugh at hypocrisy. And woven into the fast-moving psychedelic stream of action were the prophetic, holy, challenging words. Micky was rapping quickly, dropping literary names, making scholarly references.”
Read the entire article
Download entire Written By issue as PDF
An essay I wrote called “When White Writers Write Black” is being published in a book called “Doctor Who and Race: An Anthology” edited by Dr. Lindy Orthia, lecturer at the Australian National University. Published by Intellect the collection is scheduled sometime in late 2012 or early 2013. It’s quite fun since I sat down one Saturday morning to write the 1,000 words and sent it off and she accepted it two days later!
When Written By editor Richard Stayton asked me if I would enjoy interviewing Russell T. Davies for an article in the magazine, well, I won’t say it was like all my dreams come true – but certainly one of my dreams coming true! Writing FOR one of his shows would be amazing but writing ABOUT Russell and his writing style was pretty fun. I took that opportunity to ask him several questions that will help me write my chapter on Torchwood for the upcoming book Torchwood Declassified: Investigating Mainstream Cult Television. I also used the opportunity to ask about certain plot twists from my favorite Who episodes and basked in the fun of debating them with the man who invented them. I must be turning into a true academic ’cause talking process was nearly as good as processing itself!
Read the full interview with Russell T. Davies – “The Doctor is in America”