5 Movies that inspired me to write

Do you have a passion for movies? I do. There is some of it that inspired me heavily to want to pursue screenwriting. First, let me warn you, I’m not a snobbish movie watcher, neither Am I a Rotten Tomatoes evaluator. I know what I like and I’m super ok with my movie choices.

I have been obsessed with movies for as long as I can remember, some of the movies I watched multiple times, learn the lines and repeat it often. What is the first line in your mind when you think about your favorite movie? Tell me in the comments! It would be fun to talk about it!

It took me a few days to write another blog post because I’m a very indecisive person, so I wrote down a list of movies that inspired me actually to write movies, and I ended up with a list of the movies I like, not movies that actually made me want to write.

It’s been a few weeks that all I have been talking about its social issues, rights, and ways of making life better to most of us (respect to the diversity folks!).

In this post, I decided to go a little lighter and talk about movies that inspired me pursue the screenwriter path. I made a small list, as I can talk about this for days, I had to narrow it down. Here are the movies I picked:

1- (500) days of Summer

The plot of the movie got me. The story of the boy being hurt and the girl being extremely independent was refreshing. I’m the queen of romantic comedies, I probably watched dozens of them, usually, the hero always gets hurt or chases the love interest during the entire movie, just to be together at the end. Its the so-called “Happily ever after”.

Spoiler alert, 500 days of Summer takes a different route and makes us think that female characters can be the cause of heartbreaking too.

In the story, Tom is a very normal guy, boring, if I dare to say until he meets Summer at his workplace. Summer is fun, refreshing, outgoing, and doesn’t care about what people think about her. She is also not interested in a serious relationship, at least not with Tom.

It’s almost like she shakes the tree, for someone else to pick up the fruits falling from it.

Tom creates the image of the perfect girl, and ends up destroyed by the fantasies he created in his mind about her.
Everything in this movie it’s perfectly executed, from the characters to the cinematography to the songs and dialogue.

2- Coyote Ugly

I love stories about people that live their old boring life to find their dreams somewhere else. My current working project is about an immigrant girl, who was adopted as a child, and as soon as she graduates high school, she leaves her southern small town and moves to Hollywood.

In Coyote Ugly, we have Violet/Jersey, who left her small town to be a music writer in New York. She is shy, sweet, and determined to win, she ends up working in a super cool underground bar, with a bunch of badass bartenders. It was the first movie I’ve seen that made me want to go to New York City to work in a bar and make it happen.

I worked in a bar indeed, but in a Georgia suburb, and the only I time danced was Cupid Shuffle during New years Eve, on the floor, close to the computer. I guess a coming-of-age movie, about finding yourself and your dreams, it’s always a very interesting concept to write.

It’s a formula that always works and has been working for years. Girl leaves small town, goes to the big city, gets run over by all the possible situations, and makes it in the end. She usually has a love interest and sidekick. How many movies have you seen like that? I’ve seen plenty

3- Spirited away

I’m not a big fan of Japanese animation, I’m not much into anime or manga. This movie hits me differently because of the time in life I’ve seen it. In 2003, I was working at the movie theater, it was my first job. Every first Sunday of the month, we had a meeting, and after the meeting, my coworkers and I stayed over instead of going back home, before our shifts. I remember watching Spirited Away in the morning, right after the meeting.

Over and over. Also, at night, before I go home, I stepped into the movie screening, just to listen to the original dialogues in Japanese.

The movie talks about Chihiro and it’s a coming of age tale. In a similar outcome like The Wizard of Oz, the hero has to grow and overcome her fears in order to save her parents and go back to her normal life. Chihiro has the hero’s journey very well rounded and the story has a lot of intakes of Japan after WW2, where growing society and social impact move the country forward.

Spirited Away is a production of Studio Ghibli with the creator and director Hayao Miyazaki.

There is a lot of hidden meaning behind the story, some videos on YouTube associates some of the characters with some of the cultural aspects of the country. It’s a great screenwriting study source, quite different and somewhat complex to the American public.

4- Devil Wears Prada

Miranda Priestly. That’s all. I have to be honest, I bought the book but I never read it. Instead, I watched the movie about a million times and as I said before, I can quote these lines from my heart. Andrea aka Andy is the definition of the Hustle.

She is the type of character we cheer for and in the hope to have the same courage she exudes on the screen. Right after being shamed by Miranda at the way she dresses, Andy gets help from Nigel, which is like a fairy godmother, giving her a makeover.

Channel boots, a new haircut, tailored couture outfits, and a great boost of confidence. The montage scene of Andy going to work, with Vogue playing as the soundtrack it’s my dream scene to recreate to myself when New York. I tried, in 2007, but I was low maintenance Andy, from the very first scene, before she gets the job.

I also don’t think Miranda is a horrible boss. You want to know why? Because if you don’t behave like a shark, you will get eaten by all the tiny fishes around you. Makes sense? For me it does.

In one of the scenes, while Andy is having dinner with a guy who is not her boyfriend, she said and I quote “If Miranda was a guy, they would not be talking bad about her, they would be congratulating her for being a great boss.” We have seen horrible and demanding male bosses in plenty of movies, but when a woman does that, she is an evil witch.

5- Titanic

The crop the la crop. I could talk about this movie for days, but I will try to focus on how that inspired me to be where I’m today. Titanic was the first “grown-up” movie watched at the movie theater, also the first time I had to read subtitles, at 12 years old. As a child, I didn’t speak any English whatsoever.

My dad had just moved away, and I was living alone in a 1-bedroom apartment with my mom. Titanic took me out of the rut I found myself in, it gave me the chance to dream. I decided I wanted to move to Hollywood. Once again, I repeat, I was only 12 years old, living with my recently divorced mom.

After watching the movie, I had decided I was going to leave Brazil. ASAP. At first, I wanted to act, so the plan was to take some acting classes and make my way to America. I couldn’t afford any classes, I could barely afford to rent the VHS tapes to watch the movies.

Time passed and that dream of going to Hollywood to work remains alive and well, but now, I would be writing movies like Titanic, so I could give a chance to other kids to have dreams as I did. The movie was a much-needed crutch at that time in my life.

Everything in that movie worked to become the classic that it is. The plot, the romance of the poor guy and the rich girl, the “make each day count” state of mind of the main characters, Rose’s transformation from a quiet suffocated person into a strong woman, the decision making, and chances they took. Again, the Hero’s journey is all there. Looking back, Titanic has been my film school for the past 22 years.

I realized after writing about these movies is that all of them are centered in a female strong character. Woman who took decisions that would change their lives or careers and that makes a lot of sense for me now. During my research for this post, I found a term that I’m going to write about next week the so-called “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”.

What Summer, Claire, from Elizabethtown, Charlize Theron in Sweet November have in common? They are all living their own truth. They are the protagonist of their own story, even though they were not written with that purpose.

How the Tv broke the language barrier.

I didn’t speak any English until I was 19 years old. I started taking classes when I was 16. Before starting the classes in 2001, everything was a big blur. I was obsessed with Pop Music and American movies, that helped me out a lot with my vocabulary. When I was able to take classes, those random words I had in my mind, from movies and music, gave me confidence to lift up my hand in order to answer every question my teacher asked, even though she didn’t want me to.

Moving to the United States was my plan since I was 12 (when hell broke loose in my house), I knew the only way for me to get out of Brazil, was to learn English, therefore and I mimicked every word I could understand from shows on tv. Friends and Gilmore Girls were my favorite at that time, although I had an incredible difficulty time understanding what Lorelai was saying to Rory, because the dialogue was really fast. I still have problems with Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is from the same producer of Gilmore Girls, Amy Sherman Palladino. If you blink, you miss it. I had to pick up speed, but even after all these years, I am still comfortable watching the shows with English subtitles. Just in case I blink.

Friends was the show that gave me my first set of words that I could use and make jokes with “How you Doin?”. I didn’t understand the jokes, because they were related to situations happening here. I didn’t watch the show until 2001, because we didn’t have cable at home. The English Course would let me rent VHS tapes of some episodes, so I used to rent them when they were available, cracking my brain and pretending to understand what was going on, because the subtitles were, of course, in English. I can’t believe I have been watching the Re-run for almost 20 years now.

The show for me represented the part of a culture I wanted to be in. Living in New York, with friends in the most unreal situations. I mimicked it so much when I say “Coffee” comes out with a New York accent. I know that because the waitress at a Waffle House told me, and I would like to believe he was being honest with me. Music was another way I found to pronounce words, as I repeated the same word probably 200 times a day with Christina Aguilera and Backstreet Boys playing on my boombox while torturing the neighbors.

The songs came out perfectly pronounced, even though I had no idea of what I was singing. Thirteen-year-old me, deeply jamming to Spice Girls, “When 2 become one”, having no idea of what that actually meant. I can never get over the fact the words were saying “are you as good as I remember baby? Put it on, put it, because tonight is the night when two become one.” Wow Emma, Rated R! There were other songs, like Red Hot Chili Peppers – Scar Tissue, when I sang it came out like this “it’s per the shane is a long way view”, I had no idea of what I was saying. “Scrubs”, from TLC was one of my favorites.

The fact I was obsessed with tv and American music, helped me out greatly. I learned since the first time I did my summer college program here in North Carolina, I would have to work on my accent and make sure people would understand me, I understood this long before I moved to Georgia. I was so tired of being questioned and made fun of because of my accent, I decided to look up YouTube for some accent tone down lessons. I found a few videos of actor preparation to play parts with different accents and the exercise practice, and I started to once again mimicking those vocal sounds.

It’s sad how much of myself I had to change while I was in Georgia. Especially working in restaurants, people were more interested in knowing where I came from than the food itself, and then they wanted to blame it on me when they messed up the order. I was constantly told that all my mistakes were due to my language barrier. I was told to say the ingredients and preparation methods, without a margin of error towards my speech. Like I was born and raised here. So, after a lot of harassment at the restaurant, I decided to work on my accent. I only noticed the difference when I started creative writing school. The classes were all online and the teacher had to be able to understand all the students, and thank God she understood me.

I never wanted to lose my accent. I was forced into it, in order to blend in and get by. It still gets pretty rough when I talk to my family, in my native language, but most of the time, I’m paying attention to how I sound and let me tell you, it is exhausting. I worked hard for years to be fluent, but I never thought that I would actually have to sound like an American to be accepted. Let me also tell you, I’m done trying. Come as you are, I’m tired.

When you say you are from Brazil, people usually look at you and expect you have lived with a Cheetah by the river. Wearing only leaves to covering your body. We are exotic for sure, but some of us live in a population of 12 million people, and none of us have cheetahs. My whole point is, don’t judge anyone by their accent, you don’t know how hard they worked to speak another language. Don’t expect them to have a full clear pronunciation of words, they will, more likely, use the same tone of their native language, and it’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they don’t want to lose the only part that feels like home to them.

All I have to say is, hold tight to your culture, keep your accent and be proud of your accomplishments.

Have a great week!

J. G. Snelly

Quarantine Cooking shows and Writing.

How to remain creative while under pressure by life

This week I was looking for some food shows on Netflix and after browsing for about two hours, I decided to watch a food competition about cuisines around the world. One of my favorite things in life is learning about the culture behind each dish, as they usually have some really interesting stories about their family and why they decided to cook. What I don’t like about cooking competitions is the speed at which they have to cook. Of course, it is for a tv show, and they would not be allowed to show the entire process of cooking in real-time, in a real kitchen. Can you imagine a 14-hour straight show? I pass.

On this particular show, each episode is about 1 hour and it usually gives me a lot of anxiety while watching. The fact that the chefs have to plan which ingredients to use, prep, cook, and plate it, to be able to present it to the jury, just makes me want to scream. The jury is composed of master chefs, Food Critics, and a random person, either an actress or musician, to be the comic relief amidst the chaotic and deceiving judgment of the knowledgeable ones. This random guest is usually the nicest. “This is Maria Canedos, she is an actress and she loves food. She will also be judging you by how similar your food is to the ones her mom used to cook when she was 5, in her village”. The issue I find is the chefs supposed to be cooking fine dining food? Home cooked meals are usually comforting and tender, it gives a sense of familiarity, and my mom would never cook anything in one hour. Maybe in 4 or 5, but she would never cook anything fast. She would never let anyone rush her, she would hit them with a plate. My poor dad.

Everyone has a story about how food or a particular dish brings their childhood memories. Either good or bad memories about the food are instilled in the core of their souls. My connection with food was always about togetherness. The act of cooking for someone, until this day, for me, cooking shows how much a person cares about you and the way they relate to you through food. My mom never allowed me to sit on the couch while eating, because, for her, it represents a disrespect with the food and the person who cooked for you. To this day, she still sits at the table every meal. Even if it’s just herself eating. I don’t care about this anymore, in a rebellious way, but if I set up the table for lunch or dinner, I expect you to sit with me until I’m done eating. Get ready, I talk a lot, my food gets cold and it can take hours. I cook, but I also make you listen to my random thoughts.

My mom always worked with food. She was never a chef or went to culinary school, but she was always eager to learn about cooking methods and recipes she could cook for me. I grew up with her words “if you know how to cook, you will never be hungry” what she meant was people stop buying shoes, earrings, and clothes, but they never stop buying food to eat. Not only until my mid 20’s I got eager to learn more about cooking. I guess I was always intimidated by her, and the way she used to take over the kitchen, as she was always very rough when trying to teach me, therefore I was too afraid to try. When I moved away, it was like an awakening.

Working in a fine dining restaurant in Colorado, allowed me to meet some famous chefs, and even though I was only the hostess, I got to try the amazing food creations, listen to the staff talk about it, and what the selling points were. I also figured out that if I wanted to make it in the restaurant industry, I would have to go to Culinary School, even to be a manager. Skipping the Australia part of the story and going straight to Sao Paulo, I got a full scholarship to the Allain Ducasse foundation at Estacio University. It was very intimidating because some of the teachers and students had already been working in the industry for years. I had a huge problem manipulating the knives and making the cuts. Batonnet, Julienne, Brunoise, Ratatouille. I had to drop out because it got too expensive, due to the fact the scholarship dropped to half of what it was the first year. I was working way too much and still couldn’t afford to pay the school, in the end, it was not worth paying them only to get cut by the knives.

After years and years working in the restaurant industry, I realized what I liked to do was tell stories, about these places, about the establishments, and co-workers. I tried to create a blog about food, but I guess if you don’t live in a big city, like New York, LA, or Chicago, it is almost impossible. “Here are the 6 restaurants you must try while visiting Marietta Square, in Georgia.” The thing is there is only 7, what’s the problem with the one not on the list? DM me and I will tell you.

I believe that all this experience in restaurants gave me a lot of thick skin to deal with the writing industry. I have to come up with a story fast, based on the reason the chef doesn’t want to cook with modifications. I have to be very direct when writing, as my food orders could never be confusing, the chef, as the editor, would scream in my ear “What the hell does that mean????” I can take feedback very well, as sometimes you think you did a great job at the table, and they tip you very badly. Like your peers at school, sometimes they don’t know any better. I can also give great feedback, even if the modifications on the dish look delicious, I don’t think a wooden oven Clam Pizza would work. Your story’s great, but can you explain to me why the zombie lives with the werewolves?

Anyway, I love food and cooking, but not so much the service industry. I paid my dues with society, it seems like. The most important part is keeping the dreams and the creativity alive and don’t forget you are not only a working body, or a mom, or a caretaker. You are alive and your dreams and expectations are too!

Stay Safe!

J. Snell

Just Keep Swimming

Another year starts and we come up with a lot of resolutions we are most certainly can’t keep up. A few years ago, one of the most successful resolutions I made was to stop drinking so much Starbucks coffee, as I was spending more money than I would like to on it. I’m not a fan of corporations and after reading that it cost the establishment 45 cents to make a coffee and how much they were profiting from it, I was ok not having it. I much rather get my coffee at a local coffee shop. What all this have to do with Writing? I tell you. My resolutions for this year are big. Bigger than it has ever been. I came to the conclusion that I want to start working on my production channel for Youtube or Vimeo. Getting a writing job is being clearly impossible, as they want years of experience, even for freelancing articles.

During the holidays, after another fail attempt to get a regular job, because of the high risk that type of job involved, nonetheless being an Auto-Attendant. It is like a flight attendant, but serving food and snacks on a moving bus while on the highway to Dallas and back. I watched some videos and start reading about how some successful people started. Not the ones who have had financial help, the ones who started gambling with scratchy. As a result of watching these videos, I end up at Target buying a huge calendar, hung my whiteboards, yes, I have two, and map it out what I want this year to be like in terms of achievement.

Once you put out your projects on a paper, it starts to look real. I’m not a very technological person. I always have a notebook and a pencil with me, just in case. Some ideas are good and others just linger for no reason; During the holiday season, I found an old prompt book that gives you a few words and you have to create a story with it. I can’t have enough of these books. One of the prompts I choose was “Selling a childhood home” and the words were: Convince, Dreamscape, Pioneer. I end up writing a short story called “The white house by the lake”. The only word I used was dreamscape.

“The White House by the Lake” is about a problematic friendship in the ’60s, with a mentally unstable person and her loyal friend. The house represented the stability one of them never had. After reading a couple of times, I decided I want to rewrite as a Horror, due to the behavior of the crazy friend. I’m working on it to post it on the project session here soon. I hope having a calendar helps.

During this time I also decided that the story I’m writing for the past 3 years, should be a web series, so I have to write the scripts. I figure out that if I wait to write this as a book, it would take me a long time. People erroneously think that writing its an easy job, it is just sit down and write. What they don’t see is that it is time-consuming, you are always terrified that no one will like it, you have the rabbit hole of the research part, and writing with no distractions it is like finding money on your jacket. Let me tell you that the only tv that works with the Playstation is in the space I call my office and my husband just got two new games, so fights, monsters and explosions are literally the white noise I didn’t ask for. If you can work in the midst of chaos, I would give you a hug right now. I admire people who can thrive in the chaos.

Hooray for the Writer Moms! I cherish you and I envy you!

So far, having a designated place to write is working. Most of the time is not peaceful, but it works. As long as I have a noise cancelling earphones it works.

See you soon,

J. Snellenberger

Buckaroo Banzai.

“On the previous Writing For Comics Workshop, the teacher gave us a prompt, and we had to develop. We had two options The Moon Mall, with a lot of characters, and Pizza Pit. Mine was the first choice. I love malls and…”

I’m trying to keep up with the blog, and as you can see, I’m failing miserably. Working on my full time job, while finishing my full time online bachelor’s writing degree, while also planning my move to Austin,TX, I dont have the time I would like to devote myself to this blog.

I recently read on a book, of one of my favorite authors Mrs. Rachel Hollis, saying “You have to dedicate at least one hour of your days to your own projects”, I get it, and I keep trying, but this extra hour is usually going to my school projects. Does that count as one hour of my day to me? Or do I have to find another hour? Please, send help.

In this July class, we are having Portfolio VI, which is one of the classes you work to polish a previous content you wrote before. Guess what? I’m back with comics!! I do enjoy comics, I do not enjoy the pressure to make write it. Splash page, page by page, act 1, 2 and 3. But hey! I didn’t have to do any lettering (I hope I don’t get a surprise lettering assignment next week), because that was one of the hardest week of school, and I took physics and Math before.

On the previous Writing For Comics Workshop, the teacher gave us a prompt, and we had to develop. We had two options The Moon Mall, with a lot of characters, and Pizza Pit. Mine was the first choice. I love malls and the variety of things that can happen and what you can create if its a Mall placed in the Moon. On this class, we have to polish the previous script, and let me tell you, I rushed to write mine, because I wrote it in 2 hours, right before submit. I work much better under pressure!

I will have to rewrite the entire script, as the goal of this month is making it to 12 pages. A entire comic script will be ready by the end of this month. Heck! I’m proud of myself! Graduation is knocking on my door, and I’m opening.

Here is what I take from two and a half years of Creative Writing Classes, to quote Beyonce: “If my country ass can do it, you can do it!” Yes, I get back to those days, when I didn’t speak any English and I want to encourage people that thinks their english is not good, or they have an accent, or they were not born and raised in this country. I wasn’t either. I started learning english at 15, and only to start somewhat to talk when I was 19. Don’t be scared to say whatever you want to say in your second language. It only because of me babbling words, and making up phrases, I get to be where I’m today. And please, do never, ever, try lose your accent.

Ps: I’m back to write this post two week after. My Comic book Script got a lot of improvements, but still not ready.

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