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THINGS THAT INSPIRE ME: "Under the Same Moon"

Hey, screenwriters—

So, I figure this is a screenwriting blog, right? Which means we should not only be discussing great screenwriting tips, advice, and opportunities, but we should be talking about—what else?!—great screenwriting, whenever we see it!

I mean, presumably, that’s why we’re all here, right? Because long ago, we saw a movie, TV show, or even a play that made us say, “I wanna do that.” And presumably, we’re still seeing those great things—movies, shows, plays, books, articles, essays, poems, songs, comedy routines—that remind us why we love writing and force us to raise our own bar even higher.

So I’m gonna kick it off today, because I saw a great movie last night, but feel free to send in your own thoughts about pieces of writing (on or off the screen) that move and inspire you. I always love hearing what inspires other writers… it helps me think differently about my own work, and it also allows me to see others’ work in new ways. And as writers and artists, I think we all love discussing other great pieces of art and writing, even if we don’t agree on them.

SO… last night my wife and I went to see Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna), written by Ligia Villalobos and directed by Patricia Riggen. Under the Same Moon tells the story of nine-year-old Mexican boy, Carlitos (Adrian Alonso), who sets off on his own to cross into America and find his mother, Rosario (Kate del Castillo), who has been working illegally in L.A. for the past four years.

This movie doesn’t necessarily break any new ground… it uses a formula we’ve seen a million times in everything from The Odyssey and The Incredible Journey to An American Tail and The Journey of Natty Gann (oh my God—I can’t believe I just referenced that—I used to loveMeredith Salenger). Yet what’s great about Under the Same Moon is that while it hits notes you’ve seen before… it hits them all perfectly. (It even has the obligatory characters-sing-together-in-an-obligatory-musical-number iscene, but it skirts just far enough away from corniness to keep you from rolling your eyes. Also, Adrian Alonso is so adorable you can forgive a couple quick moments of cheese.)

In fact, Ligia Villalobos’s script is almost flawlessly executed. It is storytelling at its simplest and most effective: an indomitable character desperately wants something (something both tangible and emotional)… and will stop at nothing to get it. It follows a pitch-perfect three-act structure, brilliantly setting up every storyline and character, and it deftly plucks every emotional chord necessary. (Also, the movie does a tremendous job of showing how its two main characters, Carlitos and Rosario, truly ache for each other, so the audience is as painfully invested in ther hero's quest as he is.) Screenwriting teachers should show this film as an example of how a movie should work… or, for that matter, how any story should work.

(To be fair, the one little story bump—and this won’t give anything away, but it’ll make sense once you see it—is: why didn’t they just use a phone book—or the Internet—to look up all the Domino’s pizza places?)

Also, to its credit, the film never becomes a statement or treatise on illegal immigration. While it certainly illustrates the plights of many illegals, it simply uses illegal immigration as the setting for Carlitos’s road trip. We certainly sympathize with the characters, but the movie never gets on a political soapbox.

Anyway, I don’t wanna say too much. But go see it. It opened last week, making $2.6 million at only 266 U.S. theaters, making it America’s biggest opening over for a Spanish-language film. I have a feeling it be around for a while. And for screenwriters, it’s a dead-on refresher course in what a brilliantly constructed script looks like.

In the mean time, please feel free to share movies, books, plays, TV series, albums-- anything!-- that inspire you, make you want to write, help you think about story, character, emotion. You can email me at, or simply post your thoughts in the comments section below!


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