Got memed by Lucy Vee yesterday. Here's the short version: What single film or TV programme at some point in your life made you a) understand the filmmaking process and b) influence your own style of writing? [Then tag three people and reprint these instructions]. Sigh. I always struggle to answer the influences question, but here goes. Spoilers ahead, I guess.
Unlike Lucy's experience with Se7en, I can't think of a single Damascene moment where a film or TV programme made me understand the creative process. There have been movies that chimed with me, like obscure Australian musical Starstruck or the siege-tastic Zulu starring Michael Caine. [Grud knows I've used the latter as inspiration for all manner of stories over the years.]
Perhaps the most influential film on me was the original Rocky, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. It's a movie that's been undermined by a slew of sequels and also gets a lot of stick for winning the Best Picture Oscar for 1976 ahead of more critically favourites like Taxi Driver, Network and All The President's Men. So citing Rocky as an influence is far from cool.
But people who slag it off or sneer at Stallone's subsequent career might consider actually watching the original Rocky if they've never seen it, or giving it another chance if they have. This is no flag-waving, commie-bashing, Mr T-smashing slug-fest. The 1976 film is remarkably downbeat. Rocky's a pug who breaks thumbs for a loanshark, an outsider, a nobody.
Rocky gets offered a chance to fight the world champ - and turns it down. Even when he accepts, Rocky knows he hasn't a chance of beating his opponent. Instead he sets himself one goal - going the distance. Do that and his life might have a meaning. the other thing people forget about Rocky - he loses the big fight. There is no fairytale ending [the sequels did that].
So how was that influential? I heart downbeat endings and Phyrric victories. Plucky underdogs and hopeless cases are my thing. My most creatively sucessful screenplays have focused on such stories. A lot of that stems from seeing Rocky at the early age, and embracing the idea you don't need to be the greatest to win. You can lose and still win on your own terms.
So that's the film I consider a key influence. Tomorrow I'll have a stab at identifying a TV programme that's shaped how I write. And, perhaps surprisingly, it's not Doctor Who. In the meantime I hereby tag Jason Arnopp, Miss Read and Robin Kelly.