Monday, November 12, 2007


The overwhelming social ramifications of the WGA strike weighed on me this weekend and I started working out what I think it means to all of our futures.

I hope that post will turn out to be as insightful and informative as what's to be found or linked here and here this morning, for I'm getting the sense that all the disruptions that have shaken our industry for the last 10 years (including this strike) have been merely the pre-shocks to the "Big One" that will hit this summer.

For those two or three that hang on my every word, I won't keep you in suspense much longer. Point is, by last night, I was utterly depressed and being a guy who doesn't drink as much as he should, I turned to responding to a tag from Jill Gollick and in the "research" portion of that process, refound my spirit, which was at the core of her tag question...

Jill's directive was to reveal what music gives me story ideas, inspiration or the motivation to write. And since it was finding the video samples I was supposed to supply that got me out of my funk, the tag couldn't have been more timely.

I'm one of those writers who doesn't require quiet solitude to create. Maybe it's all those years in busy production offices. Phones ringing incessantly. Constant interruptions. One crisis or another. So my writing environment of preference includes continuous background chatter or distraction.

However, unlike professional athletes or those soldiers in Iraq who post their pre-patrol playlists on Facebook, I don't have a specific piece of music that gets me primed.

What I seem to do is begin trolling the collection as I'm focusing on a new story and winnowing that down to 2 or 3 albums which become the soundtrack for each individual writing assignment. Those albums then play continuously until my script is done. The music itself has nothing to do with the themes or moods of the material but is everything in resparking whatever creative cable was laid during the "thinking" stage.

I wrote one of my first features with Rush's "Moving Pictures" hammering away in the BG. To this day, hearing the first notes of "Red Barchetta" or "Tom Sawyer" immediately puts me back in that time, sitting in that room, pecking away on a Tandy computer.

My tastes are fairly eclectic. But about 10 years ago I reconnected with Country music and now I'm pretty much Hillybilly Hardcore.

Country is also primarily a story telling genre with almost every song having a definitive beginning, middle and end that covers the traditional 5 W's and repeats the theme in the choruses and coda. Generally two or three lines firmly set the scene and you're into the plot, a cogent reminder while writing that less is always more.

It's also precise storytelling as in Garth Brooks' "Papa Loved Mama" -- to wit -- "Papa loved Mama. Mama loved men. Mama's in the graveyard. Papa's in the Pen." You don't create story more economically than that.

I've actually developed a theory that like the story-breaking process or writing room discussions, Country music uses stories to tease new stories from its listeners and therefore puts you in instant writing mode.

What I like best in a good script is also at the heart of Country music. Honesty. As Rock and Pop have (for me) become more formulaic and niche focused; Country (which probably has the most precisely targeted demographics in the music industry) maintains the sense that its artists both believe and live the philosophies that permeate their music.

Yeah, I've written to Dave Grohl, Springsteen and Don Henley (both in and out of "The Eagles" -- great new album there BTW) as well as film composers like Mark Isham. But Country is what consistently stimulates and lubricates my creative flow.

For my required footnotes and examples, I've chosen three songs from three artists who are likely easier on those among you with non-Country ears. I hope they inspire you a little. And if they do -- TAG -- you're it, explain yourself.





blueglow said...

you need to get some Wayne "the train" hancock especially "that's what daddy wants". also the new Hank III album is really sweet.

Kelly J. Compeau said...

I love country music. Thanks for posting those videos, Jim. Yes, I was enlightened and inspired.

I suppose I should come up with my own list of music that helps inspire me as I write. It would give me something to blog about -- other than the strike.