Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Quote of the Day: Resolution

'Helmet Head No.1', Henry Moore OM, CH, 1950

‘Helmet Head No.1’ (1950) by Henry Moore (1898-1986)

“I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s.”

Henry Moore

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Quote of the Day: Resilience

Learn to deal with the valleys and the hills will take care of themselves.

– Count Basie

Sinatra with Count Basie

The Count & The Chairman of the Board (Basie & Sinatra)

Quote of the Day: the corner of the universe that matters

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”

― Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley writer

Best of 2018

 

Cold War pawel pawlikowski film movie

Cold War

Film:

Vice

Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody

Last year: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Florida Project

Foreign-Language Film:

The Square

Cold War

Last year: The Square (Sweden)

Documentary:

Faces Places

Three Identical Strangers, RBG, Bombshell, The Ballymurphy Precedent

Male Lead:

Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody

Christian Bale – Vice

Viggo Mortensen – Green Book, Robert Redford – The Old Man & The Gun, Steve Coogan – Stan & Ollie

Last year: Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread, Steve Carell – Battle of the Sexes

Female Lead:

Olivia Coleman – The Favourite

Last year: Frances McDormand – Three Billboards

Male Support:

Terry Notary – The Square

Steve Carell – Vice, Sam Rockwell – Vice

Last year: Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards, Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards

Female Support:

Amy Adams – Vice

Sissy Spacek – The Old Man & The Gun, Rachel Weisz – The Favourite, Emma Stone – The Favourite, Nina Arianda – Stan & Ollie

Last year: Brooklyn Prince – Florida Project, Mary J Blige – Mudbound

Director:

Adam McKay – Vice

Last year: Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards

Writer:

Adam McKay – Vice

Last year: Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards

Editing:

Vice

Last year: Dunkirk

Cinematography:

Lukasz Zal – Cold War

Last year: Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049 (went on to pick up his 1st Oscar for this, after numerous nominations)

Film Music:

Bohemian Rhapsody

Cold War

Last year: Three Billboards

Single/Song:

I Want You (Sam Reid & Claudia Jolly – The Girl from the North Country)

Last year: Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child

Album:

The Girl from the North Country (London cast)

The Prophet Speaks (Van)

Last year: undecided

Gig:

David Byrne – Hammersmith Odeon

The Midnight Special – White Album anniversary; Tom Robinson – Shepherds Bush Empire; Hothouse Flowers/Hot Press anniversary – Nells; Donal Lunny & Andy Irvine – Barbican

Last year: Hothouse Flowers – Electric Ballroom, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Millennium Dome, Avishai Cohen – Barbican

Play:

Girl from the North Country [2nd viewing]

Last year: Girl from the North Country, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Art Exhibition:

Picasso: 1932 (Tate Modern)

Collections Privees (Musee Marmottan)

Last year: Basquiat (Barbican)

Book:

The Leithen Stories – John Buchan

Last year: Everybody Lies – Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

TV:

Mrs Wilson (BBC)

13 Reasons Why (Netflix), Maltese (More 4)

Last year: Stranger Things S1

Sport:

Ireland beating the All-Blacks

The demeanour of the England team at the World Cup in Russia

Event:

50th anniversary of The Beatles’ White Album

Dearly departed:

  • Amos Oz
  • Philip Roth
  • Aretha Franklin
  • William Goldman
  • Chas (Hodges)
  • Burt Reynolds
  • Eric Bristow
  • Stephen Hawking
  • Ken Dodd
  • Roger Bannister
  • Dennis Edwards
  • Peter Wyngarde
  • Dolores O’Riordan

[Nov] Ireland beat world champions New Zealand for the first time ever on home soil - Jacob Stockdale scores the only try

[Nov] Ireland beat world champions New Zealand for the first time ever on home soil – Jacob Stockdale scores the only try of the match

Best of 2017 – with links to all previous years

Quote of the Day: New beginnings

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.     

Lucius Annaeus Seneca aka Seneca the Younger (c.4 BC – 65 AD)

Adam and Eve expelled from Paradise / Adam et Eve chassés du Paradis - Marc Chagall (1961)

Adam and Eve expelled from Paradise / Adam et Eve chassés du Paradis – Marc Chagall (1961)

Quote of the Day: Social Media

Comparison is the thief of joy.

 

 

Attributed to Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th President of the USA – but seems to be disputed.

facebook instagram snapchat logos on phones

 

Quote of the Day: Choose Life

Agatha Christie writer author novelist

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

― Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie writer author novelist

Quote of the Day: As the new year approaches

warhol andy johann wolfgang von goethe 1982

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe by Andy Warhol (1982)

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe by Andy Warhol (1982)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe by Andy Warhol (1982)

 

Goethe In The Roman Campagna by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (1787)

Goethe In The Roman Campagna by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (1787)

Quote of the Day: The birthday boy

Jeffrey Hunter in 'King of Kings' (1961) Directed by Nicholas Ray

Jeffrey Hunter in ‘King of Kings’ (1961) Directed by Nicholas Ray

 

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus

Christ And The Two Marys by William Holman Hunt (1847-97)

Christ And The Two Marys by William Holman Hunt (1847-97)

Story Structure

In recent years the word and concept of Story has become fetishised. Every dull brand has a story, every prostituted hack is a storyteller. But despite this cheapening, Story remains a fascinating aspect of human behaviour. I have been interested in the structures underlying Story for many years. A couple of landmarks were being sent, on my second job, at Melrose Film Productions by my boss and mentor the late Peter Cole (ex-BBC Panorama), on an early outing of Robert McKee’s Story course in London. And reading Into The Woods by my former Channel 4 colleague John Yorke (Head of Drama).

robert mckee story book and course

Also on the McKee course, which has since become something of a screen industry cliche, were John Cleese, Joanna Hogg and a famous British sci-fi writer, I think it was Brian Aldiss but I forget. It took place at the Liberal Club off Northumberland Avenue over a weekend and it was a profound experience. I remember writing to McKee after to thank him for a transformational couple of days.

into the woods book john yorke

Into The Woods I found a great synthesis of the various theories I’d heard over the years.

Another key experience was the first time I worked on a development with my Little Dot colleague Paul Woolf. I was a Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 at the time and he was a senior Development Producer at Maverick TV. He is now based in Philadelphia heading up Unscripted Development in the US for Little Dot Studios and we’ve been working together closely throughout 2019 – a lot of Skyping. I was struck by how Paul applied story archetypes to the factual entertainment programme we were developing at the time – not an obvious tactic but it worked really well.

I use concepts of Story Structure all the time in developing documentaries, even when derived from sources more focused on movie and drama scriptwriting. In the area I work in much of the time, short form online docs, there is a tendency to neglect narrative and default to what are in effect mini character portraits. I’m a real Story merchant, pushing all the time for narrative drive in documentaries.

violet vixen poster real stories original documentary

A good example is the recent Real Stories Original Violet Vixen. The young director, Leanne Rogers, brought me some lovely footage centred on Leo, a charismatic 11 year old exploring his gender identity. But there was little story in place. I gave her a commission for a 25-minute doc on the proviso that she add an element to up the narrative drive. I suggested she encouraged Leo (and his mum) to go see his hero. It turned out his hero was Courtney Act, drag queen graduate of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Leanne managed to pull off the encounter and the trip down to Brighton to meet Courtney (the charming Shane Jenek) gave the film a spine. Our timing was lucky too as Courtney won Celebrity Big Brother while we were in the edit – he has since been given his own show on Channel 4 this Christmas.

So I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last year thinking about Story Structure. My starting point was reflecting on Why Do Us Humans Love and Tell Stories?

Cavemen at camp fire telling stories cartoon

My conclusions in brief can be summarised thus:

* to distract us / entertain us
* to find meaning / patterns in our experiences
* to get a sense of there being order
* to think about what we would do in the circumstances / rehearse situations
* to get guidance on how to understand other people
* to connect to others through shared experience
* to pass on information
* to pass on values
* to define our identity/give us common ground/bind the group
* to feel better about our lives (by comparison)

All of these seem to me to grow out of our Human Condition and the imperatives of evolution.

* to distract us / entertain us – the world is a tough place
* to find meaning / patterns in our experiences – evolution has made us great pattern spotters
* to get a sense of there being order – we need a sense of meaning and purpose
* to think about what we would do in the circumstances / rehearse situations – we’re more likely to survive if we’re well prepared
* to get guidance on how to understand other people – we’re more likely to thrive if we have insight into how our fellow bald monkeys think
* to connect to others through shared experience – we have an inherent need to belong (to the family and tribe and race)
* to pass on information – e.g. to help our offspring survive & thrive
* to pass on values – to help our society run smoothly
* to define our identity/give us common ground/bind the group – we need the group to survive
* to feel better about our lives (by comparison) – the world is a tough place.

In the same way, archetypal stories grow directly out of the human condition. Let’s start at the beginning – Birth. One of the main story structures is Paradise Lost. We spend nine months floating around in a benign place, well fed, nicely muffled sound, a steady reliable rhythm of heartbeat. And then we get ejected. Into a tough place.

When I was doing some research on that second job at Melrose I went down to the old Docklands to meet a bloke whose big theory was that the trauma of Birth was the defining moment of our whole lives. I’ve reflected on that from time to time over the years and I buy it more and more.

So what I’m calling the Paradise Lost story is: I was in a perfect place. I got ejected. I need to get back there. I reckon this is reflected in all sorts of human behaviour from people tending to drift back in their later years to where they grew up (or a place similar to it) to men spending so much time and effort trying to get back up that little birth canal. This story is intimately linked to the concept of Home.

It’s the central human story of the Bible – the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It’s there in The Godfather – Michael gets sent off to Sicily after tasting the forbidden fruit of illegal killing (the murder of Sollozzo and McCluskey) and works his way back not just to the family kitchen but also to the desk in the background. It’s there in Where The Wild Things Are – Max gets sent to his room and from there finds himself in that wild place, it’s fun but he’s happy to sail back to the peace of his childhood bed.

al-pacino godfather murder of Sollozzo and McCluskey

Of course it also the story of both Trump and Brexit as highlighted in John Harris’ excellent 3-parter for BBC Radio 4, The Tyranny of Story, which has been repeated this week. “Make America Great Again” – America was a great place (e.g. in the post-war 50s boom); that disappeared; Trump is going to bring it back. “Take Back Control” – Britain was a great place (e.g. when we had an empire); that disappeared; Brexit is going to bring it back. Neither Hilary nor Remain came up with an effective counter-narrative.

where the wild things are maurice sendak book childrens

Over the holidays I’m going to reflect more on the connection between the human lifecycle (both as individuals and a species) and the core human stories.

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