Shane Black’s Cruel Wisdom

I am a fan of Shane Black and his films. Unlike many other writer-directors working today, Black always seems to straddle the line between cinematic acclaimed films and audience pleasing pictures very well–I could recommend a Shane Black film to a film friend of mine, as well as a family member who only goes to the movies once a month. The Nice Guys was one of my favorite films of 2016, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang introduced me to Robert Downey, Jr. even before I had seen a single Iron Man film. I admire Black’s dialogue, his directorial style, and especially his love for the Christmas holiday, a love which we deeply share. That being said, I do not think I would enjoy hanging out with Mr. Black, as an interview with Ben Blacker for his The Writer’s Panel podcast made painfully evident.

Recorded live in front of an audience before the release of The Nice Guys, Black’s interview with touched on a wide range of topics, including the production of his most recent film, his love of the Christmas season, his career trajectory, and his newest project The Predator, yet most of these topics circled back to how famous and wealthy Mr. Black is. This is not to say that he doesn’t have the right to talk about this–I’d probably also love to talk about how celebrated of a writer I was–yet the manner in which he did it felt inappropriate. Braggadocios, condescending, and frequently cruel, Black was not shy to talk about his success in front of others, and this oftentimes came at the expense of everyone else–at one point Black tells the audience, in less words, that they will all fail in their goal to become writers. Perhaps this is true. Black and the host of the podcast, Blacker, mention a statistic that states 93-94% of would-be-writers are unemployed in that field, a stat that did not surprise me. Still, the medium didn’t feel right, for me, to tear about the hopes and dreams of the audience who paid money to see Shane Black be interviewed. There was little hope and a lot of despair in the room, unless you were Shane Black, because, as he often reminded the audience, he is indeed a successful writer.

Although I was quickly turned off due to Black’s nature, I was able to glean one thing from his interview that I try to do myself–get in a routine. When pressed for advice for the writers listening to the interview, Black went on to describe a day in the life of someone who wants to have their work published/produced: wake up the same time everyday, eat the same breakfast, work for a certain amount of time, break for a certain amount of time, come back and edit, and then work again. This, at least, is an admirable quality that Black has, and one that I personally believe in as well. Routine is good, I think, and it gives one a sense of normalcy even if the world is metaphorical (or literally) falling down around them. I’ve found that it helps me plan out almost every little bit of my day to give myself time to write, or work on another project, homework, etc. By getting into a routine or schedule, Black says that inspiration and brilliance will come because you’re working on the same thing over and over and getting into the real groove of your story. Wholeheartedly, I agree with this, and appreciate the advice that I believe is easy to follow. Like the rest of the interview, Black says this nugget of advice in a callus way, yet I can dig through the subtext to appreciate the intent of his advice.

Will I still watch Shane Black films? Sure. Listening to the interview didn’t crush my soul or anything–I understand that not everyone is a nice guy, but I can still wish that everyone was. What did I learn from listening to Black’s interview? The best of advice can come from the most uncomfortable of places.


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