Creative Writing Movies

Are they at, say, the same party a few minutes later?Let’s show one of San Francisco’s famous streetcars traversing the city in broad daylight.I can show my students stories I love by O’Connor, by Donald Barthelme, by Denis Johnson, by Lydia Davis—but I can only introduce them to a limited range of possible approaches, if only because the class lasts a single semester.

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Tommy Wiseau—the film’s writer, director, producer, and faux-Brandoesque leading man—is to interminably sluggish shots panning across the Golden Gate Bridge as John Woo is to balletic slow-motion gunfights.

And this is leaving aside the movie’s more obvious deficiencies: the dialogue, the woefully disjointed plot (which reads like a space alien’s attempt at splicing Tennessee Williams with an ABC Afterschool Special about infidelity), the bizarre tonal shifts, etc., etc. The main reason I’ve been thinking about a few weeks ago—that examples of poor storytelling can occasionally prove instructive in ways that good stories can’t.

It’s great art, obviously, but it’s occasionally hard to extract clear practical lessons from great art. I’m not seeing the draft upon draft upon draft that she, if she was anything like most writers, almost certainly would have needed to work through before ending up with the version of “Good Country People” I’ve read.

When I watch , on the other hand, I feel like I’m watching a documentary about an aspiring filmmaker making mistakes.

But the real point is that ineptitude can occasionally be not only instructive but also weirdly inspiring. But when I hear the Shaggs, each botched drum beat and off-key guitar chord tells me something practical about how songs are constructed, arranged, and played.

When I listen to the Shaggs, for instance, I learn more about the craft of rock music than I ever could from listening to, say, , by most traditional definitions of the word—to really teach me much about how to make music. Similarly, when I watch Wong Kar-Wai films or read Flannery O’Connor, I see something to strive for, sure.

I don't have a lot of time to write, working two jobs, but I am doing the ten-minute exercise with each lesson, and each evening, trying to get in the habit of sitting myself down to write...

Ah, yes, 2009: I was twenty-one years old, we were only a few months into the recession, President Obama had just been inaugurated, Kanye had only recently embraced vocal Auto-Tune, the Academy Awards were starting to experiment with expanded lists of Best Picture nominees, and I was growing increasingly confused and terrified about what I might be able to do with a Film B. Are the characters at a party in the protagonist’s apartment?

The legendarily inept movie has had a large cult following for years, and I developed a minor obsession with it in early 2009, when I was a junior in college. I say this not because it’s at all relevant or necessary, but because it seems appropriate to waste time with extraneous scene-setting when talking about , a film that never misses an opportunity to deploy an establishing shot of San Francisco’s most well-known landmarks, no matter where or when a scene is taking place.

Let’s use an establishing shot of Alcatraz at dusk.


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