What Do Writers Do When They’re Not Writing?

Movie Night

What Do Writers Do When They’re Not Writing

Originally written as a guest blog post for I smell Sheep

Someone recently asked me what I do when I’m not writing. Like most writers I write every day, but not always on my current story, TheCreatives Series. Sometimes I write essays for online platforms such as the Huffington Post, or book reviews for the New York Journal of Books. I enjoy writing non-fiction stories based on my own life, and satirical and political essays – although these days it’s difficult to separate the two – and posts on causes I feel strongly about, such as education, immigration, human rights, and animal rights.

Yes, but how do ewe unwind, Mandy?

I can see my family members rolling their eyes and whispering in the background, “She doesn’t know how!” I’m going to ignore them and say that once I’ve swept up the dust bunnies lurking in corners around the house, I’ll either research, read, paint, go for a hike with Cash the wonder dog, or curl up with my cat, Luna, and watch a movie (if she so chooses – cats are soooo fickle with their love). With this in mind, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite dark fantasy go-to movies. They’re not necessarily in order, and often my choice of movie depends if either the sun or moon is shining, or how my ‘freaked-out’ monitor is registering after writing.

The List Please, Mandy!

Okay, here it is…

Pan's LabyrinthPan’s Labyrinth

A brilliant story and script written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, and filled with spellbinding characters, fabulous art direction, makeup and costumes. The attention to detail throughout this piece is extraordinary, and the haunting music and historical references feed and nurture my creativity.



Penny Dreadful
Dark and delicious storytelling at its best! Excellent casting, with a stand-out performance by Timothy Dalton, followed closely by Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Harry Treadaway, Reeve Carney, Rory Kinnear, Patti LuPone, Billie Piper and quite frankly, the entire cast. Locations are stunning, made extraordinarily eerie and chilling with blue-tinged lighting, fog and mist. Attention to detail: bloody mucous, dirty fingernails and even dirtier teeth (Gross, but exquisite!). And of course the costume designer in me salivates over the immaculate wardrobe, hair, makeup, and set design.

Nosferatu the Vampyre
Directed by Werner Herzog, this 1979 depiction of the classic vampire tale, Dracula, is drenched with tension and dread. Apart from the dark and broody locations, Herzog created one of the sexiest scenes ever filmed, albeit played by an ugly bat-faced demon. Klaus Kinski as Dracula oozes with sexuality when he finally – with slow and sensual deliberation – plunges his fangs into the pale and luscious neck of Lucy Harker, played by the beautiful Isabelle Adjani.



The AwakeningThe Awakening
The era (1921), the location (creepy boy’s boarding school in England), the directing (Nick Murphy), actors, and script (Stephen Volk and Nick Murphy), all culminate to bring a chilling, hold-your-breath thriller of a story.




Only Lovers Left Alive

Tilda Swinton can bring anything to life, even a centuries old vampire! Team her with a moody rare-
guitar-collecting vampire played by Tom Hiddleston, John Hurt as an eclectic Christopher Marlow, and lines like “Little Jack White,” and this film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch is akin to watching poetry come alive on the screen.



Race With The Devil
This 1975 classic features a young motorcycle riding Peter Fonda. I saw this when it first came out (yeah, crazy, right?) and vowed never ever to open a cupboard on a winnabago!




Because Tilda Swinton plays an awesome fallen angel, and Keanu Reeves gives her hell! And let’s not forget the soothing voice of actress Rachel Weisz (times two).





What We Do in the Shadows

Purely because Jermaine Clement, Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi 🙂 “Werewolves, not swearwolves.”




The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
This 1920s silent horror film classic reminds me to keep pushing boundaries. A brilliant example of unique art direction, acting, and overall creativity, and one of my favorite pieces of cover art. Check out the opening shot of the somnambulist in the trailer – awesomeness! I recently reviewed James Morrow’s novella The Asylum of Dr. Caligarithat is loosely based on the film, and is a book I highly recommend.



On my TBW list:






I’m always eager to hear about dark fantasy visually stunning movies, so please let me know if you have any to add!

Pop on over to I Smell Sheep and check out their awesome site!

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About Mandy Jackson-Beverly

Mandy Jackson-Beverly studied flute in Sydney, worked couture fashion in London, and has been a successful costume designer in LA, working with artists such as Madonna and David Bowie. She’s danced the tango with Robert Duvall, sewn buttons on coats with John Galliano, and discussed the art of sobriety with Alice Cooper and Russell Brand.

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