What separates truly gifted poets and other writers from talentless hacks who harbor dreams of literary glory? This tongue-in-cheek documentary from director Vernon Lott uses his own failed writing ambitions to explore this question. As Margaret Atwood, Nick Flynn, David Sedaris, Lynn Emanuel and other noted authors explain what makes Lott's admittedly bad writing so awful, they also share insights into the opposite: what makes good writing good.
When Vernon Lott was a teenager, he had a dream: to be a poet extraordinaire, the likes of Rimbaud, from the Romantic time writing about romantically tragic things. But Lott was delusional; he wrote pages upon pages and even filmed himself reading them, only to discard the dream. Until 2006, when Lott and his wife discovered his teenage poetry and realized, geez, that’s ‘Bad Writing’ there.
‘Bad Writing’ is a documentary on writing misfires not only from film maker Vernon Lott but from distinguished and best-selling authors such as David Sedaris and Margaret Atwood. Instead of burning Lott’s humiliatingly bad writing, he makes a documentary out of it and interviews literati’s luminaries. Because if there’s one thing all great writers have in common, is that they were bad writers too once in their lives.
Vernon Lott and company are not exactly film school graduates, not even rejects, but they try to make the most of the filmic skills that they acquired. At first glance, ‘Bad Writing’ looks like a school project, what with the quality of the cameras used and even the botched interview with David Sedaris (his entire interview only has his hands filmed and you can only hear him speak all throughout), but the low quality work makes it endearing. Lott more than makes up for it with a star-studded writing cast of interviewees: besides Sedaris and Atwood, he has Nick Flynn, George Saunders, Steve Almond, Daniel Orosco, and more. Not bad for someone who is an admitted bad writer to get that stellar of a network of writers.
‘Bad Writing’ takes the curtain down on the glamour of writing. Ideas and stories do live in writers’ heads but it’s the jotting everything down on paper or typing it to see on the monitor that becomes problematic. Writing is a struggle; there’s madness at sentence construction, the flow, and even the plot that you would want to share. The dilemma whether you write for yourself or for others will always be at war within you. Best thing a writer should learn is not to believe your own hype.
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Melissa Orcine - Cinema Paradiso
Classification is to be confirmed by the British Board of Film Classification