John Eric Vining discusses influences on his writing.

               “I sometimes have trouble structuring and verbalizing the thought processes that go into doing some of the things I do. This is one of the reasons I began writing essays and articles years ago: to clarify my thoughts on certain subjects.

               “If there is one activity I enjoy nearly as much as reading books, it is watching movies. I love old action/adventure movies from the period of approximately 1969 (the end of the ‘studio system:’ think of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as the beginning point of the ‘independent’ era) to approximately 1983 (the beginning of the major commercialization of the movie industry, with the debut of movies like E.T.; think of High Road to China [noted by one commentator as “The last of a great breed.”1] as the end of this ‘independent’ era).

               “I probably have watched nearly as many movies as I have read books over my lifetime…and I’ve read A LOT of books!  I’ve come to find that certain screen writers and directors tend to think like I do.  For example, I’ve always had trouble communicating how I envision and actuate the storytelling process for both fiction and non-fiction books.  When I heard the following guys speak, I realized they think like I do.  While these guys are far more successful commercially than I probably will ever be, I think the following quotes encompass how I approach writing and storytelling as well:”

 

Richard Matheson, writer of Duel, interviewed on the making of this movie in 2001:

“I’m a visual writer.  When I wrote the story ‘Duel,’ I saw it happening in my head, like a movie, so I could transpose it to script form very easily.  When I write a novel, I see it in front of my mind’s eye, as though I were watching a movie and I’m just describing the movie.  So I’m a visual writer, and I never had difficulty from the very start.”2

 

Steven Spielberg, interviewed on making Duel (here talking about Raiders of the Lost Ark) in 2001: “A Conversation with Director Steven Spielberg”

“…I take all my movies seriously.  I took ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ seriously.  I had to.  I had to believe the story was really happening.  If I thought it’s a romp and a confection, then the film would have been a parody of the serials from the 1950s and ‘40s. But I took that story very, very seriously, and I wanted the audience to believe that Indiana Jones was actually going after the Lost Ark of the Covenant, and that when that Ark opened, the power of God was within, and was going to wreck [sic.; i.e.: “wreak”] havoc on the Nazis.  I mean…I believed that stuff…and I don’t think you can be a filmmaker…a serious filmmaker…making popcorn movies, unless you believe the stories you’re telling.”3

 

John continues:

               “I also faced literary criticism for some of the short stories I wrote earlier in my writing days. While I never doubted this criticism was constructively generated for my improvement and advancement, there were certain times where I felt that the critic ‘just didn’t get it.’ Robert Redford had some very good insights on this phenomenon:”

 

A 1994 interview with Robert Redford, discussing “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:” “The Reviews and the Aftermath”

“Clearly the critics missed the chord…and very often that happens with critics…you know…they are so busy looking at it from an intellectual or academic place, they…they miss what kind of chord is really being touched with the general public.  You know, if it doesn’t fit some scheme that they have in mind, they say ‘Ah, this is not good,’ but the fact is…that whole business about, ‘Who are those guys?’ just caught on, as the song did.  I remember the song got crucified… ’What’s that song?’  And I wondered what it was doing in the film myself; I said: ‘What’s that song got to do with anything?…Raindrops?…Falling on my head? Oh, come on…’ Well, I was wrong, and, ah, the critics were wrong.  Audiences loved it.”4

 

John continues:

               “I took this early criticism as a kind of ‘left-handed compliment,’ since at times the critic could not tell if a particular story was factual or fiction. The critic may have been relying on a formula for fictional short stories that I didn’t know, nor could have cared less, about. It was then that I realized I had a flare for a somewhat unique style of writing that a later critic would call ’imaginative realism,’ and I used that style to write the novel Cable of Fate and re-write the amended manuscript for Peace in the Valley.

               “Cable of Fate: The Zimmermann Affair and The Great Southwestern War of 1917 is a military fiction that is perhaps a little different from what either fiction readers or history readers are used to.  One reviewer called it ‘…highly unique and interesting…’ A second states an attribute of the book is ‘…a genuine flair for originality and storytelling…,’ while still another calls it ‘an original…novel.’  George Lucas had some pertinent points regarding the appeal that originality has on people seeking entertainment:”

 

George Lucas, Director of American Graffiti, interviewed on the making of this movie, circa 1998: “Final Comments”

“I think one of the reasons it was as successful as it was is because it was very different from the standard fare of the time… It’s because of the fact that they’re fresh, they’re different, and they’re experimental that I think that people like to watch them.”5   

  

Footnotes:

1 Internet Movie Database (IMDb) High Road to China (1983) Good old fashioned romantic adventure” Author: Blueghost from The San Francisco Bay Area
   25 August 2008, “The last of a great breed. This is truly one of the last of the great classic films…”   http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085678/

2 Special Bonus Features, Duel, Copyright 2001 by Universal Studios Home Video, Inc.

3 Ibid.

4 Special Bonus Features, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Copyright 2000 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

5 Special Bonus Features, American Graffiti, Copyright 1998 by Universal Studios Home Video, Inc.