Here’s something I’ve always wondered about when it came to creative people using their own lives as inspiration for their work: how the hell do they get away with it?

Every time I hear a comedian joke in great detail about his wife, or watch a film clearly based off the screenwriter’s childhood experiences I can’t figure out how they can publicly air their personal drama without making the people involved upset. Does being a storyteller give me explicit permission to make art from my life experiences, no matter what the consequences? Where do I draw the line?

I’m currently in development with a film that is the dramatization of something absolutely bizarre that happened to me when I was young – an event that radically changing my perspective of a loved one. I’ve shared the story with several of my friends, and whenever they ask where I got the idea I hesitate to answer – because as strange as it is, it actually happened.

I’d say most writers find inspiration in their own experiences, and I know I’m no different. In the past most of my stories have been about criticizing myself, which has been right in my comfort zone of self-deprecation. Now I’m starting to branch out and look at my relationships, my shared experiences and the people who have profoundly impacted my life. I still have that same urge to tell these stories, but now I’m much more hesitant. I don’t want to overstep my boundaries, but at the same time I’m not going to start asking for permission every time I dip into my well of memory.

I know that within these personal fragments there are themes and ideas that others can honestly relate to. My film is about addiction and rituals and finding significance in meaningless events – and even though it came from my life, I know that it will hold meaning for a larger audience.

I don’t think being a good filmmaker, or a good artist means you always have to be kind – the truth isn’t always pleasant. I think as long as I maintain my work as dramatic fiction I can feel less conflicted about incorporating stories from my life into a narrative.


Sarah Hager script

Sarah: I don’t think being a good filmmaker, or a good artist, means that you always have to be kind.
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I have always been a storyteller – using my dolls as actors, writing in cramped cursive in my school notebooks and sometimes with a flashlight in the darkness to scare my sister before bedtime.
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