Spotlight: A Must-See Film for Writers

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Have you ever seen a movie that made you proud to be a writer? For me, that movie is Spotlight, the movie that chronicles the real-life case of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigation into child sexual abuse by the district’s clergy members.

The screenwriters were determined to make the film as authentic as possible, and the cast spent a lot of time shadowing and interviewing the reporters who worked on the Spotlight team. They even went to great lengths to produce an exact replica of what the inside of the newspaper’s office looked like at the time of the investigation. The film also showed the tedious side of reporting, from the interviews, to data entry, to tracking down sources and double checking facts, but it never got boring. Knowing that what I was watched simply wasn’t a loosely based adaptation impressed me all the more.

I was worried that the movie, with it’s R-rating, would be gratuitous. I knew I didn’t want to see any scenes with actual abuse of children occurring. The filmmakers handled this tastefully, with the R-rating most likely coming from one particular scene where a grown victim describes how his abuse occurred slowly over time. The film was as fast-paced as any action movie, and I was still on the edge of my seat when it ended. How many films about a newspaper investigation can actually do that, save for “All the President’s Men?”

There are times when I worry that my own writing isn’t fantastical or impressive enough. But after watching "Spotlight," I came away with a sense of pride that comes from being a writer. I’ve worked as a journalist, and while I can’t say I’ve ever taken on any hard-hitting investigative stories, who’s to say I still can’t? I do have some darned good human-interest stories in my clips. And there is a high-profile missing persons case in my city that I’ve often considered writing about.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, do so. And then go home, take inspiration from the courageous journalists who covered this story, and use your voice to write something authentic, real, and true to you. I know I will.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor whose college advisor/mentor was a female professor who won a Pulitzer for her work in the 1970s Synanon cult investigation in California. Visit her website at


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I saw Spotlight and enjoyed it as well. Your take on it--your appreciation of the film as a writer--made me look at it with new eyes. (My mouth was too busy gaping open--aghast--to look at the movie through a writer's eyes.)

Thanks. Perhaps I need to watch it again...

Bookie said...

Your essay is wonderful and I agree the movie was extraordinary. Hard to believe that the newspaper as we know it is no longer as it was 13 years ago. I loved how the film captured the energy of the people once really worked stories in such depth. Sorry Facebook doesn't compare! Thanks for a great piece of work on your part as well.

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