I was seven when I first watched the 1994 film adaptation of Little Women. Winona Ryder played the fiery Jo March, who stayed up late into the night writing stories by candlelight in her attic. I saw her passion for the craft and commitment and thought, I want to be like her- I want be a writer. That spark of inspiration stuck and here I am writing, twenty years later. Of course, I would eventually find that writing involves much less parchment and candles, and more banging my head against a computer screen. Regardless, there are many films that inspire the writer in us, the lover of words and beauty. Here are my favorites:
The Ghost Writer
This Roman Polanski film follows the ghostwriter for a form British Prime Minister’s memoirs. The Ghost (Ewan McGregor), as he’s credited, must tread carefully when he uncovers dangerous secrets about the man. This movie portrays a much more exciting life of a writer, filled with mystery and investigation. Also, the setting is a cold and rainy Martha’s Vinyard, which is basically the perfect writing locale.
Shakespeare in Love
The writer stereotype brought to film through a historical fiction of the world’s most famous writer. Living story to story, patrons nagging for a finished product, writer’s block, lack of inspiration…
in this film Shakespeare deals with problems that many writer’s face, all while getting mixed up in a forbidden love with Gwyneth. Still, the film inspires us writers to blaze through periods of uncertainty and open ourselves up to inspiration as it comes.
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Truman Capote is nothing short of amazing. Writing his novel In Cold Blood, Capote interviews the convicted killers of a Kansas family. He gets to know the inmate and sympathize with him during his research. This movie really shows the influence the subject can have on the writer. Capote relates to the inmates and finds their humanity, while questioning his own.
I cannot help but be inspired by a movie about Jane Austen, whose books I’ve been consuming for so many years, even if it is a wildly fictionalized account of her relationship with Tom Lefroy. This film focuses on a young, naive Jane, who aspires to be a writer, working on her manuscript First Impressions. The film shows us that even the most successful writers started somewhere, like all of us, and Jane was shaped by her experiences.
Another movie about the love life of a famous writer, in Bright Star poet John Keats looks for words to describe his love for Fanny Brawne. Keats spends a lot of time hanging out with his friend Mr. Brown and taking walks through lovely fields. He must also deal with his poverty as a writer and the challenges that brings into his personal life.
Midnight in Paris
In this Woody Allen film, a screenwriter (Owen Wilson) looks for inspiration in the city of love by traveling back to 1920’s Paris at midnight every day. We writers tend to be nostalgic, hopeful, and romantic in a variety of ways. Wilson’s character is able to remain optimistic about his future by looking at the past. He even meets a number of writers, including Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein.
Little Women, 1994
Little Women was my introduction to what writing is, the craft. I had read many books at that age, but didn’t really think about where they came from, how they come into existence. Jo March
showed me a romantic version of what writing can be, including a brief struggle trying to get published in a New York newspaper. This romanticism goes a little too far when Jo writes an entire novel inspired by her family in a night- if only. Still, I love this movie and will always adore Jo March as an inspiration.