film education · Films · Hitchcock · Reading skills · structure · Writing

Writing from the Moving Image


By now, you’ve probably worked out that I love to teach writing through moving images. Add that to my love of Hitchcock and it’s not a surprise that I will find any excuse to show a clip or two from his films to show how story-telling works. Last year, I taught a module on writing from moving image and used three film clips: a couple from The Birds (and used Daphne Du Maurier’s short story to illustrate differences between written text and adaptation) and the subway scene from An American Werewolf  in London.

I’m a visual reader. When I read novels, stories, I picture the mise-en-scene of a description of a setting for example and it helps me see the symbolism, to recognise little nuances in the text. I know that it’s not the same for all of us, but I find that thinking visually enables my students to make those little important inferences that a writer is trying to convey.

So, teaching creative writing always includes some moving image text. I’ve used the attic scene in The Exorcist to explore the power of silence; the bus shot in Cat People to get students the rhythms of building up to a crescendo (I wrote about this somewhere in an NATE magazine a thousand years ago I think). If you’ve had a look at my readers and writers unit (here:

then you will see that I’ve used The X-Files to explore the beauty of structure, The Haunting for characterisation, Jaws to build suspense or even The Lord of the Rings to think about adverbs!

What I like about teaching from moving image is the connections we can make between the art of film and the craft of storytelling. In the moving image PPT I’ve put on dropbox, you will see that I’ve broken down some sequences into individual images which allows me to talk about the importance of paragraphing, for example. I get students to think about how many ‘shots’ would make a paragraph; what happens if we have one paragraph for one shot?

The other thing about writing from ‘an existing property’ is it helps those students who find it difficult to get going with their narrative; the framework of seeing an extract or even having the individual shots laid out before them helps them to think sequentially. Once the framework is there, you can work with content, style, language. Some students go down the wrong path and start to write in a mechanical style which describes the picture (“there is a woman and she is sitting on a bench” etc) but some simple modelling (there’s an example of the PPT) can help overcome these cognitive hurdles.

Anyway, have a look at what I’ve put in dropbox – use and abuse at your leisure.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s