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11/22/2004 - BOOK REVIEW - "Why We Write"

Why We Write - Book Review
Movie Books from the Writer's POV

By Matthew Terry

"Why We Write - Personal Statements and Photographic Portraits of 25 Top Screenwriters" (Copyright 1999, published by Silman-James Press), edited and photographed by Lorian Tamara Elbert, is a must have book for any frustrated, pissed-off screenwriter out there.

"Why We Write" has been out-of-print for a while, though you can find it on Amazon.com, and you may ask yourself why I'm writing about an out-of-print book. In short, this a book that inspires and gives hope to the writer.

As noted in the title, this is a collection of 25 personal statements by screenwriters as diverse as Kasi Lemmons ("Eve's Bayou") to Daniel Waters ("Batman Returns"). Some of these screenwriters have written that one script that got made, while others have written many screenplays, plays and novels. Each statement is unique and each statement is honest. Some go on for pages and pages (Pen Densham - Writer/Director of "Moll Flanders") while others can barely scrape together two pages (Michael Tolkin - "The Player").

Most books that I find about screenwriters and their craft are filled with the stories of their trials and tribulations ("The First Time I Got Paid For It" - which I'll review in the future - is one of those). This book doesn't deal with the climb to the top - no, this book deals with the desire to begin that climb. If every journey begins with a single step then every screenplay begins with two words: FADE IN.

But WHY do we write? What is it that pushes us to tell that story? Why do we feel we NEED to tell that story? Is it simply to entertain? Or is it to enlighten? These essays put into words what we ourselves may find hard to speak. I know that when I've been asked the question, "Why do you write." The first response that comes to my mind is: "I have to."

The reason this book is an inspiration is that within these pages, you'll find those words that speak to you. Maybe you won't relate to Patrick S. Duncan ("Mr. Holland's Opus") who doesn't find the pain in writing that so many other writers find. Or maybe you'll be able to relate to Dale Launer's ("Ruthless People") dismissal of the Auteur Theory because it dismisses the importance of the writer. Whatever you're looking for, you'll find it here.

For so many books that talk about the struggles of the screenwriter - it's finally nice to find a book that talks about the hopes and dreams and inspirations that other, successful, screenwriters have. If you're "down in the dumps", wondering why you keep typing away, this book may very well help you in your journey.

And, as Daniel Waters says, if you're surrounded by "People determined to reduce the magic of celluloid into mundane terms their small minds can understand. I call these people Helluloids. They must die. Soon. In agony." This book will help you determine who those people are and give you a chance to run away...QUICKLY!


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