January 27, 2015

The Real Reality Stars

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Cracking codes, rather than jokes, in The Imitation Game
The countdown to the Academy Awards has begun, and with it comes lively discussion about who should win, who got snubbed, etc.  From a writer's point of view, one of the more interesting sidenotes comes from the fact that exactly half of the Best Film nominees are inspired by real life stories.

Math genius Alan Turing is recruited by the British Intelligence Agency to crack codes intercepted from the Germans during World War II.

A biography of physicist Stephen Hawking, whose rare disease can't keep him from breaking new ground in the fields of medicine, science and space.

A chronicle of Martin Luther King Jr's march from Selma to Montgomery, leading to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

U.S. Navy Seal sharpshooter Chris Kyle serves four tours of duty in Iraq and discovers upon returning home to his family that he cannot leave the war behind. Based on Kyle's autobiography.

The other four nominees are entirely works of fiction.  (Worth noting is that with the exception of the comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel, all eight films in this Oscar fieldwhich also include Birdman, Boyhood, and Whiplashare full-fledged dramas.)

I remember a chilling horror thriller a few years ago that involved strangers who came to the door asking for someone who didn't live there, later coming back to kill everybody. At the end of the movie was the ominous message "Based on a True Story."  I would later learn that the "true story" it was based on was simply that somebody once came to the writer's door and had the wrong address.

Recreating Stephen and Jane Hawking for The Theory of Everything
Most stories lie somewhere within the extremes of complete fantasy and historic accuracy, and the wide range between them invites infinite possibilities for a writer's personal expression.  Identifying and detailing the dramatic moments of a real-life incident takes as much creativity as crafting a scene of fiction.  The genre known as creative nonfiction is enjoying a resurgence as an outlet for many writers.

Since truth is stranger than fiction, it could be added that real life has a compelling appeal all its own, since it has actually happened and has passed the supreme test of truth.

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