29 Oct

Mike Leigh: real, gritty, true to life

I remember being told – if you want to learn to write better, write for different audiences, and scrape good ideas, don’t just get into films; get into film directors.
So off I toddled, and watched back to back films from certain directors.

One of these directors was Mike Leigh. I watched Secrets & Lies, High Hopes, Life is Sweet, Naked, and Career Girls. I’ve watched each of these films quite a few times now.

What I love about Mike Leigh films is how real, gritty, and – in many cases – grim they are.
His films don’t pull any punches. They’re not dressed up. Some of them might even be described as ‘a bit depressing’, but what he’s portraying is real life; broken down relationships, odd family members, debt, poverty, depravity, fear and grief.
I relate to them more than glossy, tarted up images of life, because they’re true. They’re honest.
Life – in parts – can be crap, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting than when it’s good. Why hide the crap and only show the happy-go-lucky good stuff?

Watching his films is a good exercise in learning how to write in a very real, emotive way, for an equally real, vulnerable, and human audience.

I mention Mike Leigh specifically, as there’s a fantastic interview with him in the Metro today (see full interview by clicking here, then clicking on today’s issue of the paper and going to page 22).

The two parts that stood out for me, were;

Have you always been fascinated by people?
‘I’ve been clocking people from the age of nought’

 Do you people-watch?
‘Absolutely. Don’t invite me to your house and leave letters lying around!’

I’ve gone on about this before, but if you want to learn about real life, and write to audiences in a way that resonates with them, then study what those around you do.
People are fascinating, they do and say all sorts of weird and wonderful things (particularly when they’re not aware that you’re paying attention to them). Learn from people – they’re a great resource.

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