Writing your life as a movie is a powerful self-discovery tool. In fact, looking at your life's major turning points in the way a screenwriter would turn a plot of a screenplay brings such crazy flashes of insight that we couldn't help but to drill down on this idea a little further this week.
Today, we're introducing the montage, a filmmakers technique, yes, but also one that deserves a place in the life writer's tool box, too. The montage works best for writing what's next in your life story, or your movie's "sequel," that is, the cool stuff that hasn't happened yet, but you'd like it to.
When it comes to manifesting your next chapter, there's nothing like a montage to focus your energy on all the steps that will help you get there and MAKE IT REAL.
But first, what exactly is a montage?
In screenwriter lingo, the montage is a collection of quick little scenes, often without dialogue, that show many different activities over a period of time.
In sports movies, montages show the athlete training with a coach over a period of weeks or months. Think of Ralph Macchio waxing those cars on and off in The Karate Kid.
In romantic comedies, the montage sequence lets us see many moments of Boy and Girl getting to know each other and falling in love.
In one of our favorite movies, Under the Tuscan Sun, there are quite a few memorable montages. Here's one that shows Frances Mayes' character (played by the lovely Diane Lane) developing an entirely new sense of family with the ONLY people in her life: a few Italian neighbors and the men working on the dilapidated Italian villa she impulsively buys while on a gay tour of Tuscany post-divorce. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHaY2YTYa5Y
And for anyone who's watched "Under the Tuscan Sun" (possibly 20 times or more like Court and me), you will see how valuable the montage sequences are in writing your life story, too, because all of these little scenes reveal what we often call "the process."
The process is the dues that are paid in life. The growth phase. Where work gets done and effort is put forth. If there is a goal or something we would like to manifest, then, the montage is a great technique to help you not only see yourself achieving whatever it is you desire—but doing the WORK required to get you there.
Dreams require doing and the montage is a great way to frame your effort and give it some juice. Sometimes the montage delivers some surprises, too, such as show you how a dream you may have thought just out of reach can actually sneak right up on you in ways you didn't expect.
Remember how early on in Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances confesses that she dreams of one day having a family in her then-rundown country farmhouse? Well, the montage we linked above shows you how she gradually creates it—and without even realizing it at first. Interestingly, it's not a traditional family she attracts and that's probably because the Universe doesn't care much for convention. Her montage scenes deliver the frequency of a family, and it's masterful (and heart-warming) to watch in this movie!
When Frances cooks for her Polish contractors, and sits at the table with them, enjoying these amazing meals day after day, she nurtures these relationships. She loves these men, and they love her back. As her house is rebuilt, room by room, Frances also rebuilds her sense of belonging in the world. It's a beautiful sequence, especially memorable because there's a lot of delicious-looking food in it!
That's the beauty of a montage. It shows you what you have to do to get from point A to B or Z. In other words, to transform. The succession of many little scenes reveals your process, the work you have to put in. It's all the blood, sweat and tears that go into living a really GREAT STORY.
It also keeps you focused, and demonstrates how little actions every day can take you to amazing new places that you may have thought out of reach. But taking action is the important part.
Rocky wants to defeat the legendary powerhouse Ivan Drago. So, he goes to a winter cabin in Russia and trains harder than ever before. He's committed and we see it in this montage. Who didn't love watching a scrappy Italian guy go after his dream by hauling wood and pulling sleds in the snow! Yeah, it's a little corny as we look back on it now. But it was the 80s, and they were awesome. No wonder this was the most successful sports movie for 24 years, until the Blindside supplanted its spot!
Another great montage is Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde when she gets into Harvard Law School just to be with her boyfriend and he disses her. She says, "I'll show you how valuable Elle Woods can be!" and then, the ensuing montage shows her upping her game at college to prove to everyone that she's more than a pretty face. Remember watching her buy that pink MAC, working hard on her term paper, ignoring her boyfriend to go to the library where she buckles down and studies her butt off? Eventually, she's impressing everyone by answering her law professor's toughest questions right. So cool.
What is it that you'd like to make happen in your life? Do you want lose weight? Finish your novel or sell you screenplay? Create a soul-connecting circle of friends? Laugh more? Have a better relationship with your spouse? Discover a new, more creatively fulfilling career? Whatever it is, imagine your montage right now! The Garage Girls guarantee this exercise will get the creative juices flowing!
And one more tip: Think about the music that will be playing during YOUR MONTAGE. Is it "Eye of the Tiger?" "Maniac" like the dance training montage in Flashdance? Google it up and listen to it while you write this exercise. It'll be way more fun that way!