ITOL Anniversary: Why I Write About Film

By Joan Amenn

Fun fact not many people know about me; my brother closely resembles Rick Moranis from “Ghostbusters” (1984).  One year we decided we would surprise our mother with a family portrait and the photographer peered through his lens, paused a moment and said, “Did anyone ever tell you you look just like…?” We cut him off from finishing that sentence because we all knew what he would ask.

Films, we have been reliably and repeatedly told, give us all a uniting cultural context in which we can share our feelings and experiences. This is basic Film Class 101 and it’s not wrong, even if it has become cliché. Recently, the Pacific Northwest has experienced an eerie foreshadowing of what a nuclear winter would be like due to smoke from wildfires. If I told you I fully expected to see Viggo Mortenson trudging down my street pushing a shopping cart I’m sure you would know exactly what the sky over my head looked like for about a week. That’s the power of film. That mental image that I can share through a cinematic reference gives context to what I experienced and enables me to explain it quite vividly to others.

“A film writer must be willing to learn as well as tell about their subject and there is always more to learn. I write about film to learn about it, its past, present and future.”

And that is why I write about film. I write in general because of an early fixation with words that I blame on being an awkward, introverted young bookworm who preferred speed reading through the “Lord of the Rings” to going out for cheerleading. Writing is just something I have always enjoyed doing but I have also always loved the movies. Who doesn’t?

Rainy Sunday afternoons are perfect for movie watching, but so are late nights and Saturday morning matinees. The shared experience of being part of a theater audience is greatly missed nowadays but there is something to be said for viewing a film at home, preferably with snacks and a furry companion. Writing about film is just a natural extension of sharing it with others who maybe were not in the cinema with you or might be allergic to the muse of your home theater.

Although I now write for a much larger audience than I ever dreamed I would have, I still focus my thoughts as if I am talking to friends and family. It helps to have a taste for history when writing about film because it is, after all, about one hundred years old. That’s many years of effort just to make people laugh, cry, scream or even sing along. So, a film writer must be willing to learn as well as tell about their subject and there is always more to learn. I write about film to learn about it, its past, present and future.

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