Sandra Bullock reads the f***ing manual

Gravity-StillI saw Gravity in a nearly empty theater early on a Tuesday evening, so I doubt if I annoyed anyone by pumping my fist in triumph when Sandra Bullock desperately flipped the pages in a binder full of technical information, trying to figure out which buttons to push to avoid a fiery death.

The technical manual wasn’t meant to be the focus of the scene, but for me, it was super exciting. I’m a tech writer in real life, and I kept expecting her to fling the binder away in frustration. But the film maker didn’t go for the clichés. The information wasn’t wrong, or too hard to find, or incomprehensible. The drawings and text showed her exactly what to do, and they saved Sandra Bullock’s life in the pretend world of the movie. Twice.

Tech writers don’t get a byline. We’re often patronized by technical experts and cursed by end users. It’s generally a thankless, if pretty well-paid, task. Most of the time I have to find my motivation within myself.

So thank you, Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón, for writing a screenplay that allowed me a moment of external validation. It’s a real treat to see my kind of work woven into the fabric of a terrific story.

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