Friday, October 28, 2011

Inspiration from Film

After a hard day of writing, why not curl up on the sofa with a good documentary? Here are some of my favorites for inspiration as a writer:

Between the Folds (Exploring Origami)

Artists and scientists discuss the possibilities of what we can learn about the world by folding a single sheet of paper. The artists are continually challenging themselves to perfect different techniques for different effects. Some artists implement hundreds of precise folds. Others strive to create a moving piece of art with a single fold. Reminds me of poetry. What can be created by understanding the rules of a form more deeply? What universal truths can we better understand by focusing on a specific question?

A Man Named Pearl
This is the story of Pearl Fryar, the son of a sharecropper who has become a nationally known artist, working in the unusual medium of topiary. The film shows how Pearl’s garden and life as an artist developed. It also shows how Pearl inspires others and sends ripples through his entire community by pursuing his artistic passion with generosity and integrity. This movie always makes me want to get to work, dig a little deeper, and think about how to be more generous as a writer.

The Natural History of the Chicken
This one would be easy to overlook from the title, but once you start watching, it’s hard to stop. You’ll meet Cotton, whose pampered lifestyle includes having his feathers blow-dried and dining at McDonald’s. You’ll see Janet Bonney reenact how she saved a beloved chicken’s life with CPR. You’ll hear retired farmers Bud, Doc and Babe express their admiration for a rooster named Mike, whose claim to fame you'll have to watch the film to discover. A great reminder that the world around us is full of colorful characters, stories and meaningful details.

These films are all available instantly on Netflix, so watch one and let us know how it speaks to you as a writer. Heck, each film is only about an hour, so you could watch all three!

And what are your favorite films for inspiration as a writer?


  1. Oh WOW! A Man Named Pearl + Between the Folds + She Crab soup = An ideal Friday night! Love documentaries, Cheryl! Thanks for posting!

  2. Melinda, I've never met so many chicken-lovers as I've met at Hamline! If you love chickens, you should watch this flick.

    Melissa, I just googled recipes for She Crab soup, and I'll be checking that out. Mmmm.

  3. Oh, Cheryl, I'll send you a good ol' NC recipe. :0)

  4. Great list. I will add Marwencol. During her talk at the summer residency Sheila O'Connor suggested we watch this documentary for insights on the creative process.

    After a terrible beating left Mark Hogancamp brain damaged, he began creating models of a fictional town, Marwencol, to process the trauma. But he is an artist, too and the revelations about his process are fascinating and unsettling.

  5. I've had The Natural History of the Chicken on my DVD bookshelf for years. Hilarious! Cheryl told me about A Man Named Pearl last year when she visited Florida. My husband I watched it, loved it, and started recommending it to everyone we know.

  6. I always find myself moved by big old grandiose movies like Giant and Gone With The Wind. There's just something about the larger-than-life acting and the technicolor that gets me going. Same with A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden, and believe it or not, Tombstone --the one with Val Kilmer. Gotta love a good western.