Now that I’m actually getting somewhere with the sequel, my focus is almost entirely on finishing a first draft that’s within sight. So that this blog isn’t entirely dormant, I’m going to take a page from one of my favourite websites by “Exploiting the Archives.”

This piece was a surplus guest post that I wrote for my original blog tour. It’s about some of the movies that I watched for inspiration as I was writing Sparrow Squadron. You can see why it wasn’t picked up, as there isn’t much in the way of bookish content. Still, if you can’t get enough of the first novel, which probably means you’re my mom, then you can take these as movie recommendations!

5 Movies I Watched When Writing Sparrow Squadron

I’m a very visual person. My writing process is visually oriented. I think that comes from writing short screenplays in the past. I imagine how things look for my novel as if I were watching it as a movie. It’s no surprise that movies formed a major part of my inspiration in the process of writing Sparrow Squadron.

Some movies I watched for research. I watched many Soviet films of the era, and I hope that comes through in dialogue between the characters. I also watched other, less obscure movies, not so much for what they had to say about the setting, but to absorb their overall look and feel. Here are five movies that I watched for inspiration.

The Right Stuff (1983)

Aelya, the protagonist of Sparrow Squadron, is a dreamer. What she dreams of is space flight. There are few movies that capture the romance of flying and the possibilities of flight as well as The Right Stuff. The film, based on the Tom Wolfe non-fiction book of the same name, is about the early US space program. Watching this allowed me to get inside Aelya’s head, to get inspired by the possibilities the same way she does. It also depicted the camaraderie and tensions among a small group of elite pilots who probably thought of themselves the same way that Sparrow Squadron thinks of themselves.

Brazil (1985)

Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python and 12 Monkeys fame) applied his boundless imagination to an authoritarian dystopia in this science-fiction classic. The regime that hounds the protagonist is marked not only by its brutality, but by its bureaucratic ridiculousness. Although the film can be seen as anti-fascist, many of its ideas could also poke fun at the Stalinist Soviet Union. It’s a memorable depiction of the type of paranoia and oppression that many people had to live through every day of their lives.

Come and See (1985)

I saw many films set on the Eastern Front, but this was the one I just had to include in this list. It’s an absolutely harrowing, gut punch depiction of the horror of war. There is simply no way it can adequately be described in words. Ostensibly, it’s about a teenage boy who joins the partisans against the Nazi occupation. But it’s a grim statement of what war does to people. Director Elim Klimov survived the Battle of Stalingrad as a child. Steven Spielberg reportedly screened this film before making both Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.

A League of their Own (1992)

This one is kind of obvious. In fact, in some of my earliest notes, I wrote down “An Air Force of Their Own.” The film, also set in WWII, is about a women’s professional baseball league started up while the demands of the war threatened Major League Baseball. The story holds up well thanks to its endearing characters, who weren’t portrayed as noble pioneers and activists. They were just normal flawed human beings. The end credits scene, with a reunion baseball game played by the actual women of the league packed an emotional wallop. The friendship they’d built up and what the opportunity had meant for them really hit home.

Land and Freedom (1995)

The idea of answering a call to action when no one is expecting you to is very strong. To fight for what you think is right. To be shattered by the ugliness of reality. All of these things happen to the protagonist of Ken Loach’s film. He is an idealistic anti-fascist volunteer who leaves Ireland to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The protagonist and his comrades fight against both fascist enemies and betrayal by the Stalinists on their own side, which is something the characters of Sparrow Squadron can relate to.