Movies/Television · Writing

Has Film & Television Influenced Your Writing?

Over the years, I have heard many writers discuss certain authors they grew up with and what their favourite book was during childhood and there was one or two books in particular that stands out for me. Mainly, though, I was one of those kids who had a tendency to spend a great deal of their time out of doors and involved in imaginative play, rather than keep their nose in a book. Evenings were a time spent indoors in front of the television and it was this medium that would eventually influence my writing.

My family and I would also spend a lot of time going out to the movies and the drive-in (remember them?). Once, during one of these family outings to the movies, I saw a film that would play a large part in my writing. When I was about eight years old, we saw Picnic at Hanging Rock, and because it remained a mystery, I was hooked. People don’t just disappear; there had to be an answer. This was the first time I had seen a story that did not have a clean ending. Questions remained, leaving the audience to fill in the blanks for themselves. My father bought a copy of the novel for me, which became one of my favourite books; I began to crave the unexpected plot twists and unhappy endings, knowing this was all a part of the suspense.

It wasn’t until I was about twelve years old I began reading in earnest and read just about anything I could possibly get my hands on. Because of Picnic and enjoying such television shows as The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone, as well as such films as Psycho, Rebecca and The Birds from Alfred Hitchcock, I naturally steered towards stories that scared me. Stories full of suspense which kept me guessing with what might happen next, continued to hold the greatest appeal.

It was film and television that made me a reader. And who did I start reading? Why, Stephen King, of-course! 😉

Years later, when I completed my first short story, I gave it to my husband to read, who called it ‘macabre’. When in consultation with the Director of Varuna Writer’s Centre at the time, after having read the first three chapters of a work in progress, I was told that my story reminded him of Alfred Hitchcock. Having myself compared to one of the influences of my childhood, naturally I considered this to be high praise. This, together with the ‘macabre’ label, I knew I was onto something.

After having studied film and television at University, I have learned more about the importance of genre tropes, characters and settings. The knowledge I have gained from this has been invaluable to my stories. These days, with people having shorter attention spans, film and television appears to have become even more popular (hello, Netflix).

It was the influence of film and television that helped made me both a reader and a writer; my imagination was there, all it needed was the spark.

*Side Note: Ron Howard is currently running the #20MovieChallenge on Twitter. Twenty films that have had an impact on you for twenty days – only post a pic, no film title or comment. I’m participating and also posting them onto my Instagram feed, so if you’re on Twitter or Instagram, you can check out my choices there. If you are also participating, I’d love to see your choices, so drop a link in the comments. 🙂

Has film and television ever influenced your writing? Does watching film and television help you with your chosen genre? Has watching certain movies and/or television shows influenced your choice of reading?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

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Back to the 80s · Movies/Television

Back to the 80s: The Breakfast Club.

I have a confession to make. Until recently I have never seen The Breakfast Club (yes, cue surprise). To be perfectly honest with you, this movie back in the day never even made it on my radar (I guess living the reality may have had something to do with it). Even though I watched plenty of movies at that time, well, yeah, I missed it.

Watching it for the first time, now that I’m older, I know I see this movie in a different light than what I would have done had I watched it all those years ago. It was a fun movie and as an adult I did enjoy it and I would have liked it as a teen, however, back then I probably would have laughed more.

There were a couple of scenes that did disturb me, like that one where John Bender was under the desk where Claire (Molly Ringwald) was sitting as he hid from the principal. As a teen I might have laughed at that situation, but these days as a mother with a teenage daughter and during the age of the #MeToo movement, not so much (and as a mother herself, Molly Ringwald agrees). The other scenes that disturbed me were the ones between John Bender and Claire, where he was constantly harassing her. This only made me feel uneasy. These scenes, had I watched the movie in the 80s, would have had the same reactions from me, as anyone else who has been harassed and/or bullied would know and can therefore relate to Claire.

All that aside, it was otherwise a good, fun movie, delving into the issues of teenage life. Before watching it, I could easily pick out who each character represented, so they fitted their stereotypical roles very well. Despite their differences, throughout their short time together, they discover that in reality, they’re not so different after all. The principal, an adult bully with an axe to grind (and I’m being nice here), representing those ‘boring’ adults where life doesn’t live up to their expectations, makes the adult audience question their own lives. At the end of the day, the audience is left to wonder if these characters would go on to follow in their parent’s footsteps or ultimately break free. The ending at least, gives the audience some hope. I understand this movie is a cult classic for some people, but for me personally, I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t go that far.

I found the music to be a bit of a disappointment except for ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’, by Simple Minds which I guess explains one of the reasons why it stands out so much (or maybe that’s just me). This is a great song to listen to live in concert and I finally have a reason to put the video on my blog. 😉

Have you seen The Breakfast Club? Did you first watch it as a teen? As an adult, has your opinion of the movie changed at all?

Movies/Television

Picnic at Hanging Rock: Re-adapting a Classic.

When it comes to movies, I’m pretty much a stickler to the originals (so, I’m old-fashioned 😉 ). I tend to go by the rule ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t bother fixing it’. I believe that if a movie was originally well made, then why bother tampering with it? There are a lot of movies out there with the label ‘classics’ for good reason.

When I first heard they were making Picnic at Hanging Rock into a six part series for television, of-course my initial reaction was ‘Why?’ The movie made back in 1975, is one of my all-time favourite films and is a classic in Australian cinema history. I began to wonder if suddenly, like Hollywood, television was out of ideas.

Then came the how? How could it be stretched to six hours? Sure they could show parts of the book that weren’t in the film, and would that also include the ‘missing chapter’? I didn’t see how that could all be done to justify six hours of television.

It was then that I discovered that it’s not actually a remake, but a re-adaptation.

Seriously?

Again, why?

Personally, I don’t see the point. However, part of the reasoning behind it is that it offers a ‘fresh take’. In an effort to attract viewers, it would appear that some of the familiar characters have been ‘fleshed out’, so to speak. There is more emphasis on Mrs Appleyard and her background, and from what I’ve seen, it would appear that there is also more to other characters, including Miranda. Both within the film and the book, we are told all we need to know about these characters. The mystery, its domino effect and the rock itself is the focus and the appeal of the entire story. An article about the re-adaptation understands that ‘the enduring appeal may now lie in the unanswered question it poses’.

I have read many comments regarding this re-adaptation and it would appear that many people agree with my sentiments. People are very sceptical, believe that originals can’t be bettered and that there is a lack of creativity as this is the era of remakes. There were some points made about Peter Weir’s version that resonated. It is believed that in Weir’s version, much was left to the imagination; that the original had a spell-binding feeling that cannot be replicated.

There is no harm in younger audiences appreciating such films for what they are and it wasn’t all that long ago that I sat with my kids and watched the movie. Both my children are teenagers, so perhaps well within the age bracket this re-adaptation is aimed for. My children sat through the whole thing, and with the short attention span people have these days, it managed to hold their attention and neither one found it ‘boring’. At the end of the movie, my son said ‘that rock is evil’. Somehow, I don’t think the idea of the story being re-adapted will hold any appeal to either of them.

I saw Picnic at Hanging Rock when it first came out (yes, showing my age here) and as a young child it captured my imagination. This movie, above all others, made me the writer I am today (Alfred Hitchcock’s work a close second). Will I still watch it? I may sneak a peek at the first episode to get some sense of it, mainly because my curiosity usually gets the better of me. Whether it will hold my attention completely though, remains to be seen*.

The re-adaptation will have its world television premiere 6 May on Foxtel.

*Update: I did happen to watch the first episode and I stick by the opinions I have stated above. You can also read a review from The Guardian, which gives this re-adaptation 2 out of 5 stars.

What are your thoughts on re-adaptations? Do you believe that some films should be respected and left alone? Do you know of a film or television series that is better than the original? Will you be watching this re-adaptation?

Horror · Movies/Television

Revisiting Halloween.

Recently I viewed the original Halloween movie, which is timed perfectly for this year’s Halloween (even though we don’t celebrate it here in Australia). It’s one of those films that I enjoy watching every now and again and I just love the theme music. Totally!

After having done some film studies at University, I’ve become a bit more aware of the tropes within horror movies. It seems to be the stock in trade, which is why it was so good to see successful spoof films such as Scream and Cabin in the Woods. Totally!

I found it quite remarkable that for such a suburban setting, the streets seem deserted and people just ignore Jamie Lee’s cries for help (isolation – check). You also have to have the sexually active young girls getting the chop, because in the end it always comes down to the ‘final girl’. And like all good ‘boogie-men’, Michael Myers can’t be stopped no matter how many times you may injure him and bring him down (even to be shot at and fall out a window), the guy just keeps on coming. I mean, how else are we supposed to have sequels?

And yes, who could ever forget the theme music, because like Jaws, it just sticks in your mind? To me it sounds like the approach of impending doom while you race against the clock, because after all, the boogie man strikes at Halloween. And as a writer, I like to listen to it every now and again to help build up some atmosphere in my own writing. 😉

Maybe I’ll sit and watch it with my kids over the coming weekend. They’ve sat through Aliens, so surely, they can handle Michael! But then, ‘boogie-men’ never really die, do they?

To those of you who celebrate it – Happy Halloween!

Have you been watching some old movie favourites lately? What horror movies do you watch at this time of year? Have you watched any of the Halloween sequels?

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Horror · Movies/Television

The Slow Horror of The Orphanage.

When I was younger I used to watch a lot of horror movies, but I soon tired of the slasher films and stopped watching altogether. Recently, though, I’ve gone back to watching some more horror movies and one of those included The Orphanage.

The plot involves a couple and their adopted son, who move into the mother’s childhood home, which was once an orphanage. The mother, Laura, plans to turn it into a home for disabled children, but at a party for the opening of the home, their son goes missing.

I was pleasantly surprised with this movie and I’m glad it is an old-fashioned ghost story in that the horror is revealed by the building up of suspense. As I grew up on Hitchcock, this type of horror appeals to me more. To be perfectly honest, one thing that I did find disturbing was the young boy, Tomas. The way he followed the mother around was rather creepy; however, his story is drip-fed to the audience that one eventually feels sympathy for him.

The film is in Spanish and I didn’t have an issue with having to read sub-titles, as I’ve watched quite a few foreign films and television shows over the years. I enjoyed the cinematography, which helped create the atmosphere of isolation, darkness and abandonment. The only problem I had with the movie was self-inflicted in that I didn’t see the ending earlier that I may have done otherwise. I was clearly taken along with the ride and when the resolution was revealed it all made perfect sense. The ending was satisfying and rather poignant.

Even if you are not a fan of the horror genre, this film is still worth watching. It portrays a message of love between a mother and her child and for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Have you watched The Orphanage? Do you prefer the slow build of suspense or slasher flicks? Do you like to guess the ending or prefer to just go along for the ride? Do you have problems with watching foreign films?

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Movies/Television

Feud: Bette & Joan.

I love old movies, especially those around the time of what’s known to be the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’. Call me old fashioned, but stories really mattered back then. It may sound strange, but thanks to such films, it was these that made me a writer in the first place. Because of such an upbringing, I recently watched the television show Feud: Bette & Joan.

I was fortunate enough to have seen the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane before the show began. It was one of those films that I had always heard about, but never actually took the time to watch. I was glad I did because not only was it a good movie, but it played an important part in Bette & Joan.

I had known of an existing feud between these two actresses, but never understood the reasoning behind it all. Naturally, this show went into that, as well as the personal lives behind the two of them, and what goes on behind the screens within the movie studios. The show also acted as part documentary, where other actresses were questioned regarding the Bette & Joan relationship. One actress questioned included Olivia de Havilland (played by Catherine Zeta Jones), which also hinted at the feud between her and her sister Joan Fontaine. I became interested in that relationship and began to wonder if a show would be made regarding their own feud.

This is a great production; the sets, the fashion, the makeup. I can’t fault the detail that went into it. And above all, of–course was the acting. Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon were brilliant in their roles as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. It was certainly creepy watching Susan Sarandon play Bette Davis in her role in Baby Jane – between her performance and the talents of the makeup artists it was truly frightening (and I mean that in good way). Despite their tough exteriors, Bette & Joan explored the vulnerabilities of both actresses, thus putting a more human face on both of these icons.

Throughout the show, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Mamacita, Joan Crawford’s housekeeper (played by Jackie Hoffman), who is a great character and very loyal. I was also surprised to see Judy Davis and I had to look twice (sorry, but I still picture her as Sybylla in My Brilliant Career), but it just goes to show how versatile an actress she truly is.

With shows like Feud: Bette & Joan, I’d like to think that we are now facing the ‘Golden Age’ of television.

Did you watch Feud: Bette & Joan? Were you impressed with it as much as I was? Do you think we are currently facing the ‘Golden Age’ of television? What show/s have you watched recently that impressed you? Did you grow up watching old movies?

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Back to the 80s · Horror · Movies/Television

Child’s Play: When Horror’s Not So Scary.

Back in the 1980s, I had never seen the movie Child’s Play and recently when it aired on television, I thought I’d have a look. Sure I knew of Chucky, but the film itself I had no interest in.

I watched the movie with my teenage son. Years earlier, he had been at a friend’s place and they had a Chucky doll in their bedroom. When my son pointed it out to me I shuddered.

‘Eww, Chucky’, I said.

‘Told you’, he said to his friend.

I guess creepy looking dolls rate high up on the list with clowns for me. Hate clowns, hate creepy looking dolls. My mum has a creepy looking puppet in her house and one day I told her what I thought of it. Of-course she thought I was mad. Maybe, but I can’t stand looking at it. So when I began to watch Chucky, it met my expectations.

Just looking at the doll even before it was taken over by the guy gave me the horrors. How that kid desperately wanted one was beyond me. It’s horrible! That kid looked like he had a struggle walking around with it too; they were pretty much the same size. Then there was the horror element. Hardly scary; in fact I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In the end, I did laugh. What made me laugh more than anything was watching Chucky run. I loved that!

‘This is supposed to be a horror movie?’ my son said at one point, but I was too busy laughing. Well, it was the 80s!

I know there have been other Chucky movies since then, but one was enough for me. I don’t think I could tolerate anymore. After watching it at long last, I think it’s hardly scary. When I look at Chucky now, I just think of those little legs running and his arms swinging by his side (even if he does have a knife in his hand).

Chucky just might have made creepy looking dolls appear somehow less creepy. Well, almost. 😉

Have you watched Child’s Play? Did it scare you or make you laugh? Have you watched all the Chucky movies? Do you hate creepy looking dolls too? What’s a horror movie you’ve seen that actually made you laugh instead?

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