"I write what I know."
- KD Amond, Writer/Director
Writing what you know. It's a concept that seems like common sense, but independent filmmakers don't always treat it like a golden rule. In the search for success, filmmakers often look to make what they think will attract audiences, all the while abandoning authenticity to create derivative works of their benchmarks for success. Time and time again, filmmakers attempt to make the next of the best, while blind to the fact that they are unqualified to tell that kind of story.
We asked KD if she'd ever make a coming of age story about dudes and she responded honestly by saying,"Probably not, but the only reason is because I'm not a dude." KD understands that her perspective on the world is not only the inspiration behind her work, but that it's what qualifies her to tell a certain kind of story.
We've seen indie filmmakers make horror movies because most indie unicorns are in that genre. Most of these movies are lost causes from day one because the writers don't even live in that world. Many of them don't even watch horror movies. Horror audiences have specific, tailored expectations and they can smell an imitation from a mile away. It's not enough to try and mimic something that's already been done nor is it appealing to niche audiences when a filmmaker does something so unique that it detracts from the audience's expectations. Writing outside of your wheelhouse isn't bold and courageous; to unforgiving audiences it's flat out disingenuous.
But writing what you know doesn't have to be a static state of affairs. What you know today doesn't dictate what you know, or who you'll be tomorrow. The point is that you need to know it before you write it. Here are a few ways that writer's can go to the well for inspiration and come out prepared to speak to it:
Knowing about something comes from information. Knowing something comes from experience. If there is a subject that you want to write about, it's important to get involved in the subject matter yourself so that you can create an authentic and genuine perspective. Reading, listening, watching, learning, and getting involved on a personal level is the only way to create a true understanding of any subject. If you're not in it, I mean truly in it, then you're nothing more than an outsider looking in and your would-be audiences will know.
Once you've spent time immersing yourself in a subject, you have to step away from it to give yourself space to think, to breathe, and to consider what you now know. Storytelling is the intersection between knowledge and imagination, and imagination flourishes in the absence of external stimuli. This is why we have our best ideas in the shower, or on a walk, or during a morning meditation. To think something that no one has thought before means separating yourself from what is and imagining what could be.
This is where you create. This is where you invent new characters, new problems, and new solutions all within the context of what you know. You give them names, backstories, families, friends, and foes. You invent challenges that mimic the environment you've been immersed in but that are unique to your characters' newly-invented experiences. This is where you intersect immersion and imagination and begin to tell your story in a way that feels genuine, real, and authentic.
We love KD for what she does because it's real to her; it's familiar and it's meaningful. We invite all filmmakers to take her personal mantra to heart and write what you know. Immersion and imagination will be the guides to your storytelling.
Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.