Influences Part 3: At the Movies
Full disclosure: I studied screenwriting (UCLA) and therefore have watched a stupid number of movies while analyzing story structure and other details. This has probably made me a hard sell when it comes to movies later in life, heh heh. So before we even get to particular movies, one can say without question that screenwriting has influenced my writing. If you take a look at Eve of Snows, you will see very few instances of certain words, like “started” and “began”. Why? These two words are often used by a writer to describe an action, but what they instead do (in many cases) is create a freeze frame image instead of a motion picture. If I use these words outside of dialogue, they will in all likelihood be the start of an action interrupted by another action, which keeps the action flowing. In screenwriting, you don’t want to paint in static pictures, and I rather like that notion when translated to novels.
But anyhow, movies as influences. It might seem peculiar, but I can’t come up with an epic style “fantasy” movie which has influenced my writing. One could say HBO’s Game of Thrones, but! not really. Or maybe so, but in a way folks wouldn’t suspect. Eve of Snows gets a lot of Martin comparisons, but the story of Eve of Snows had zero influence directly from the Song of Ice and Fire series. If there is one thing that GoT on HBO does sort of influence… and it comes more from screenwriting experience than simply GoT… it is the focus on the big “set piece”. Those scenes that everyone is talking about the next day… Ned’s unfortunate end, the Red Wedding, Dragons igniting slavers… Yeah, those are the scenes writers and directors live for, and so I focus on creating big moments. This also happens to fit my writing methodology… but that’s a blog for another day.
One of my favorite movies of all time, and one which I have little doubt influenced the way I think of “story” is Miller’s Crossing. The twisting and conniving, the outstanding characters, the dialogue… it was a brilliant creation. There are several actors in that film that if I see them in anything else? It’s the character from Miller’s Crossing that I see.
The next you could call a “fantasy western”: High Plains Drifter. Clint Eastwood cowboy flicks are almost all good, but this one stands out as an influence because of its haunting elements… the avenging ghost, a universe much like our own, but with a tint of the surreal. I first watched this movie as a kid and it just stuck with me for the rest of my days.
Okay, I have to include Clint again, in what might be my all time favorite western: Unforgiven. Brilliant characters, English Bob! Damn, the whole cast was amazing. Its grit and realism, just a beautiful movie. If you pay attention, you will see a tint of the Old West in Eve of Snows, and more so in the upcoming Trail of Pyres.
Did I mention an avenging ghost? Ah, The Crow! This could be considered an Urban Fantasy, and it is still one of my favorite flicks. I won’t claim it was produced with the incredible art of oh… Citizen Kane (one of my all time favorites, a staggering achievement) but by the gods and hells! Does it entertain. It has a certain combination of Revenge! combined with heart wrenching sentiment that gets me every time. Liam Neeson’s Taken comes close in the revenge with heart movies, but The Crow has a mystic-spiritual element which sets it over the top for me.
Star Wars… back when people called it Star Wars and didn’t pay attention to the fact it was episode four! And Han Solo drew first! Damn straight. This is a sci-fantasy, in my opinion, and shock! has elements of Cowboy in it. (Did I mention I wrote a western screenplay? Even if I wasn’t happy with the ending… stupid ending, anyhow) In the end, I can blame Lord of the Rings (Tolkien) and Star Wars (Lucas) for much of the deformity of my brain which twisted me into a writer.
Okay, this list could go a while, so I am going to finish with… L.A. Confidential. Helluva movie and helluva script. Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce (two blokes with Aussie roots) lead a great cast, and it’s easily my favorite movie with Kim Bassinger in it. And James Cromwell, just love him. The grit and backstabbing, the classic twists and turns. Love it.
I think one could find influential elements from all of these movies in Eve of Snows.