Editing the Image of an Artist

One of my greatest pet peeves is the way artists are portrayed in movies. I’m not even talking about the consistent characterization of artists as bitter, emotionally distant, often abusive alcoholics. I’m talking about the way art is made in movies. In a spark of creative passion, the artist character, always with mad eyes and frizzy hair, stays up all night and completes a novel, painting or song.

I almost walked out of the theater during this scene of The Words when the character stays up all night writing his novel. One pack of cigarettes later, he comes up with a masterpiece that takes the literary world by storm and he never even picked up a bottle of White Out. Come on!

What these movies seem to forget is that art is work. Sometimes there is a spark of inspiration, but it is followed by long hours, weeks, months or years of hard work and self-doubt. Yes, there was one time I had a brilliant idea and stayed up all night writing it down, but that was two years ago, and since then I’ve written four versions of it and I’ve done countless edits (see the picture below). This part of the process would be too boring for a movie.

A random sample of the edits I make on a draft.

A random sample of the edits I made on that draft.

These movies do art a disservice. They marginalize the effort it takes to make great work. I wish just once, a movie would show an artist as someone who stares at her computer for hours on end, someone who takes classes to improve his craft, someone who reads over a sentence twenty times and then ends up deleting it. I know it wouldn’t be as interesting to watch, but I know a lot of artists who would enjoy it.

So now I leave you with a scene that helped me realize how ridiculous art scenes are in movies:

One comment

  1. Wow. Ain’t it the truth. An honest depiction of a writer’s life would be really boring to watch, but there sure would be a lot of writers out there who would appreciate it 🙂


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