I'm a sucker for writer documentaries and I'll be the first to admit that I can't get enough of them.
I'm compelled to watch them because as a wannabe scribe, I know first hand how hard this craft can be. Anyone who says it comes easy, is full of horseshit.
Applying our craft, throwing ourselves into a project (both physically and metaphorically), is something that only other scribes can identify with. We don't just sit in front of a computer ... and type. These films usually explore the creative process and what goes on inside an author's brain... That's prolly why I find solace in these films.
Some favorites include:
- "Gonzo" (Hunter S. Thompson)
- "Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride"
- "Dominick Dunne: After the Party"
- Ken Burns' "Mark Twain"
- "Trumbo" (the prolific Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted scribe of many Hollywood classics)
- "Tales from the Script" (various screenwriters - recommended)
- "Harlan Ellison: Dream With Sharp Teeth"
- F. Scott Fitzgerald: Winter Dreams)
- "Hubert Selby, Jr.: It'll Be Better Tomorrow"
- "Rod Serling: Submitted for Your Approval" (in my top five)
- "To Write and Keep Kind" (a Raymond Carver PBS documentary, included on the Criterion edition of "Short Cuts"
- Born Into This (Charles Bukowski)
# # #I stumbled across "My Life on Spec" on the blog of "Sideways" novelist Rex Pickett. While the video is just a conceptual promo, (shot by Marco Mannone and his brother Al), it hits every note. If you're a writer, you need to watch. If you're a fan of "Sideways," even more so... Check it out:
Says Rex on his blog: "I had an idea last December to do a kind of quasi-documentary on my writing life — my life on spec, as it were — and the promo uses footage from what would end up being the going-back-to Sideways-turf segment. Then, things just got so busy we had to put it on hold. ... We shot for three days up in Sideways country, visiting many of the locations in the movie, and some that were only in the book. It’s well-edited and moves, I think, pretty quickly. Saying anything more about a documentary on me would be too self-aggrandizing, and I’m not that guy."
He's not... But I am!
After roughly 13 minutes, I must say that I'm jonesing for more. "Sideways" was an important book and film for me and the story of Miles and Jack transcends that of "Oh, isn't that the wine movie." Pickett's book (and subsequent film adaptation) is about friendship, loss, pain, yearning, love and yes, writing... In fact, the tale has spawned a forthcoming play (staged at the end of the year at the Ruskin Group Theater) as well as an interesting 9and gorgeously bizarre) foreign language Japanese adaptation -- "Saidoweizu."
Pickett's road-novel sequel "Vertical," published earlier this year, follows Miles and Jack once again. It flashes-forward seven years after "Sideways" and Miles has written a novel that has been made into a wildly successful movie (sound familiar?) Jack is divorced (no shock there), has a child and is on the skids. Miles's mom has suffered a stroke that's left her wheelchair-bound and wasting away in assisted-living. She desperately wants to live with her sister in Wisconsin. When Miles gets invited to be master of ceremonies at a Pinot Noir festival in Oregon, he hatches a road trip. Needless to say, hi-jinks ensue.
While the novel started out at Alfred A. Knopf (a lit division of Random House), there were creative differences when Pickett decided he wanted to write a sequel. As a result, Pickett said 'sayonara' and found equity funding from private investor Tim Moore to go the intrepid self-imprint route.
The guy keeps busy -- currently he's writing an HBO wine-themed show and there's even a fun new Facebook page 'Miles and Jack' that's dedicated to the interaction of the beloved characters. Definitely check it out.
For even more Pickett, the fine folks at Mahalo have shot several quick vignettes where the scribe fields questions from fans. It's chock full of great stuff... Here's the PLAYLIST.