There’s a famous scene in the 1992 movie, The Player, in which a young Hollywood executive played by Peter Gallagher tells the veteran executive, Tim Robbins, “Who needs writers, this thing writes itself.”And honestly, there’s a segment of the entertainment industry who still subscribe to that theory. We’ve all been to those movies too. The ones that follow a familiar formula with familiar punchlines and familiar dialogue. Battlefield Earth anyone? But whenever there’s a hit, there’s good writing. A great example is this year’s critically acclaimed drama, Manchester by the Sea. This is by far the most depressing movie I’ve ever witnessed. I wanted to go see Schindler’s List just to lighten my mood after this one. However, the dialogue was so moving and the acting so superb, you ignored the fact that you’ve seen this movie plenty of times before.
If you think about your favorite TV shows, the one which makes you laugh, the one which made you relate to the characters, it was almost purely the writing that got you there. I had this feeling leaving the movie Why Him? this past weekend. It was a plot that seemed so typical that it would be easy to pass up. However, the writing is done so well, that it’s almost impossible not to laugh.
Think about some of the most iconic movies in the past fifty years and you’ll almost always have a line that brings it all back to you:
“You can’t handle the truth!”
“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
“There’s no crying in baseball.”
“Go ahead, make my day.”
You get my point. The best actor in the world can’t deliver a crappy line and make it work. However, a good writer can make an average actor seem extraordinary.
So the next time you’re enjoying something on TV, your phone, or the big screen, remember who drew you in and got you to watch the next scene. It was that pimple-faced writer who spent his or her youth learning how to create a cogent passage with heart. Writing may seem to be dissipating with advent of digital media, but believe me, those words are just as potent in your book or on your screen. Writers make the world of fiction go around and I’m just glad to be a small part of that community who appreciates the effort.