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Monday, 31 October 2011

Matt and Sally The Paragraph Genre Hoppers

Matt and Sally were hit suddenly by the most important fact of life: that love is all that matters. They looked into each others eyes and felt a spark that resonated deeply in their souls. They had found what everyone longs to find, love. They kissed passionately and then made love for hours before finally falling asleep in each others arms.

Sally jolted upright in bed as she heard the sound of Melissa, her dead sister. Could it really be her? She listened again as a deathly squeal echoed through the room. "Go to sleep", said Matt, but she couldn't, because she feared they might take her away like they did when she was a child. It was a fear that never went away, and the haunting sound of her dead sister brought it all back again.

In the morning they set off on a glorious trek through the mountainside. The world opened up in front of them as they stormed through the unpredictable hills and violent rainstorms. Trees fell and winds blew hard but Matt was determined to continue on the great adventure.

The Ghuliau tribe were ready. Deep trenches surrounded the area. If Matt and Sally were to make it through, they'd have to take down the Ghuliaus. Matt stared through his binoculars and saw what was waiting. He signalled to Sally. There was only one thing left to do: battle.

Sally's experience as an undercover cop made her the perfect candidate to investigate her sister's death, but the higher ups at the NYPD refused to allow it. Sally didn't think this was in the NYPD's jurisdiction and she had a point considering they live in Liverpool, England. Sally was a tough cookie and determined to find her sister's killer. She also wanted to eat a cookie, which is why it's so coincidental that she was described as being as a tough cookie. She decided to take on the case against the advice of her buddies on the force.

Matt fired a shot which missed Sally's head by an inch. He dived behind the car and immediately stripped down to his vest. He'd killed the sister and he could kill Sally too. Sally was having none of it and immediately went searching for a ventilation shaft to crawl through. It was the only way to escape.

Matt stepped quietly across the road and climbed onto Elroy, his horse. This old boy had seen Matt through some tough days. Some might say the toughest darn days the folks round here had ever seen. He turned to look back at the town one last time. Sally sure was a great gal, but Matt knew he had to make a home in some place that was a little more friendly to his kind.

Sally longed for a return to Planet Snizenfort. Earth was fun for a while, but she missed the home-baked cookies. She looked desperately for the Fruden Disc Displacer which was the only thing that could fire her back home.

The End

Care to share?

My Top 5 Spike Lee Joints


1. When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts
2. Mo Better Blues
3. He Got Game
4. 25th Hour
5. Jungle Fever

What are yours?

Care to share?

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Thoughts From 3.43am

It was my phone network that set me off, limiting data usage so I have to spend more money to be able to check my emails. It used to be free and unlimited until they changed it to make more money.

And I guess that's how everything goes. Everything is packaged and sold. One moment you're a kid making movies and a minute later everyone wants to know how you'll monetize it. Are you making a living? Did they pay you? Have you sold a script yet?

I get it. I live in London, afterall. Here petrol prices are more, food costs more, houses cost more. No reason for it except that it does because that's how the UK is. And we need our iPads and Xbox's too.

Art is an attempt to bring meaning to all the greed and fraud we see around us and inside ourselves. People don't value things unless they've turned a profit. Everyone is being taught how to write a script that sells, or how to brand yourself as an actor. I got that question from an actress yesterday, "How should I brand myself?" What does it even mean? When did being yourself become not enough?

The banking crisis proves how insane the world is. But rather than delve into the heart of the corruption and power abuse, we just moan about how the protesters are making a mess and annoying the neighbours.

We can't blame 'them' though. It's us too. I watched 'Pearl Jam Twenty' today, reminded me how supportive and nurturing the Seattle music scene was. I think of the film industry and it's just a bunch of clueless people running around wondering where the opportunities are. And if you can't find them don't worry there's a £800 two day seminar in how to succeed in the industry.

I'm realising more and more that my favorite bits of art are the tiniest of things. Little accidental mistakes in songs and quiet subtle scenes in movies.

We've lost the ability to be small. We need not be afraid to go back there.

And 'X Factor' is so retarded it's unreal. Parading people around on TV promising fame as if it's a good thing. Turn these talented kids into free thinking artists, don't write them crappy radio songs then flush them down the toilet a year later.

Come the end of the road, money and fame mean very little. Maybe there's another way. Maybe we can do better at supporting each others work. Maybe we don't need the studios in order to distribute our movies. Maybe we can reconnect with the smaller things, the little mistakes and desperate attempts and taped up failures which make art art.

I can't make phone calls without the phone company. But I can control my art.

Create something without thinking of where it will lead your career. Work on a peace of art that isn't about forwarding your career. Focus on something that you've wanted to do but have deemed too worthless.

Care to share?

Cameron Crowe's PEARL JAM TWENTY: A Lesson In Artistic Integrity

The difference between a celebrity and an artist isn't always apparent straight away. Britney Spears and Adele might look like they're playing the same game, but twenty years from now we'll see the difference more clearly.

'Pearl Jam Twenty' is for Pearl Jam what 'The Promise' was for Springsteen, and what 'Senna' was for Ayrton Senna. The story of the artist is one of a long and intense struggle to keep a hold of your art in the midst of a world that pushes you to be something you're not.

At the beginning of the documentary you could be forgiven for thinking this is going to be a boring year by year biography of the band --- but of course, it becomes something more. The material was all there, of course, because of the band's distinguished career, but it's the fascinating insight and care of the director Cameron Crowe that helps shape it into something moving and essential for the audience.

Artists are often concerned by feelings of worthlessness. Why are we doing this? Why are we making meaningless movies? Why are we chasing high box office receipts? Here's the thing; the true artists aren't chasing box office receipts, that's not why they're in the game. Springsteen fought the record label and refused to put out any material for four years after his hit album 'Born To Run'. Chaplin fought the studios so much for control of his movies that in the end he built his own one. Pearl Jam fought with Ticketmaster when every other act in music turned a blind eye.

Pearl Jam are not just a band, it's not just music. True artists transcend. That's why I mentioned Ayrton Senna. When he was racing, it wasn't just a motorsport. I watched the Grand Prix today and couldn't stop myself from snoring, but back when Senna was racing, we were watching a gift from God. We were watching beauty and tragedy and magic and soul. It's the same with Pearl Jam. I'm not even saying I'm the biggest fan; but what I am saying is that when you look at their work over twenty years, it becomes about more than music. They stand for something.


The film is poignantly signposted by key incidents. The first of which is the death of the lead singer of MotherLove Bone, Andy Wood; who died before Pearl Jam existed and even before Eddie Vedder was in Seattle. He was a key part of the scene, and the band had Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament in it, who went on to form Pearl Jam with Eddie. The ghost of Andy lingers throughout the film, and it seems, throughout the history of the band -- he is hugely there in spirit throughout the journey of Pearl Jam. And this is what I'm talking about -- integrity. The band have always held onto themselves and where they're from. It sets them apart. How often do we see our favorite bands turn into something we hardly recognize? Too often, unfortunately.

We also get to see up close just how affected the band were by the death of Kurt Cobain. It's touching how they feel about him. They seem aware that, without Kurt, they probably wouldn't be where they are now. I would say more about it but I want you to watch the film.

This is a band who keep their Grammy Awards in their dusty basements because they don't care that much about them. They care about the fans. They care about playing a completely different setlist every night even though it's a logistical nightmare. They care about fighting the monopoly Ticketmaster have over ticket prices, they care about being truthful about their views on George Bush, or abortion, or human rights abuses, even though it risks alienating half of America. They're a band whose only goal is to be themselves and to do it as truthfully as possible.

At the Roskilde Festival in June, 2000, nine people in the crowd were crushed and suffocated to death during the band's set. Much like the death of Andy Wood which informed the first ten years of the band's history, the Roskilde tragedy has influenced everything that has come since. It's well documented that the band almost broke up and retired because of the affect it had on them, but what the documentary shows so beautifully is how it made the band closer, and deeper. If there was ever any hint that the band were in it for the money or fame, then it was truly extinguished after that fateful night in 2000. People change in profound ways. It's like how Ayrton Senna changed after his third championship title, or after Roland Ratzenburger's death the night before his own. When you do a thing for long enough, when it's your life's passion, it eventually gets influenced by all the profound things you face. It's unavoidable. Only years later when you look at it objectively, as Cameron Crowe does here, canyou see the beautiful and essential pattern that forms before you.

'Pearl Jam Twenty' is a film about what it takes to make art and keep making art. And it's made by the guy who made 'Almost Famous', so it's essential you watch it immediately.

Care to share?

Friday, 28 October 2011

Gone European Girl

It was some years ago. I entered my hostel room somewhere in Sicily, and the prettiest girl you've ever seen turned around and lit up my world instantly.

In an unusual moment of confidence I demanded we go for a walk. She agreed and we did one of those walks where you take a left over the hill and learn all about each others childhoods and dreams before you come down the other side.

She was fascinated by the film stuff. And she seemed to get it in the way you always hope someone will get it.  
So we're in the hostel and she introduces me to some other girl and they get all giggly and crazy about the fact I make films. So I offer to show them something. They get all excited and sit on the bed waiting patiently and I suddenly realise this is my scariest audience ever.

And they're both German. And I freak because someone told me Germans don't get English comedy. And what if they don't understand the dialogue? And what if I'm the worst director ever?

I sit against the wall watching these two girls watch my film on my phone and I begin to freak out.

But then they laugh. SHE gets it. She laughs big and she chuckles at the subtle bits. No-one ever gets the subtle bits. My heart flew up high into the European night and I went to sleep wondering like crazy how this little angelic thing was staying in the same room as me.

The next day I'm busy. The day after she's busy. And that night she's down in the bar talking to some dude with a beard and my brain and heart get strangled and murdered dead cold and it's silly o'clock in the morning and you realise that she's somewhere else with some other guy.

Great moments are like movies. They're illusions, brief moments of bliss in between the harsh realities.

She liked my film for fifteen minutes and liked my company for five hours in the beautiful Sicilian village.

But she was caught up in some guy from the bar and I was all strangled and sad.

She left one morning at 5am with a note saying she enjoyed my films and meeting me. She slipped out past the heavy metal door without keeping to 5am sound etiquette. Not that I cared, because I was already awake, watching her leave, knowing I'd never see her again.

Care to share?

FEEDBACK: Self-Sabotage

My blog post 'Self Sabotage' went a week without comments, until Bruce Wayne Brady left some feedback, perhaps explaining why. 

Bruce Wrote: I've read this post 3 times in the past few days. After reading it again and seeing a lack of comments, I had to say what I was afraid to. This post hit so close to home for me that I felt guily after reading it, like you'd reached into my personal memories and scolded me. I was embarrassed that I'd done all of these things. 

Then, I thought, you couldn't post this unless you knew what if felt like too. I realized that many of us read but few of us comment, because sometime we don't know what to say. Other times, like with this post, you've said it all.

I must ask you Kid, did you write this, (as it seems with all of your posts,) from personal experience? If so, thanks for sharing so much of yourself in your writing. I think that's why I connect to this blog. You seem to put a piece of yourself into the work, which gives it heart.

Now, excuse me. I have some barriers to break through.

My Response: Thanks for the very useful feedback! So often, when things I write are met with dead silence, I worry that I've missed the mark; or worse, that I've offended people or talked absolute nonsense. So it's great to get this feedback!

I did write this from personal experience. It's pretty much the only way I know how to write! It's a common thing for me to get an opportunity or a phone call that is essential and exciting, yet I shy away from it and want to find all the excuses. The things I write as 'inspiration' are as much for me as anyone. I just feel it's good to know we're all in a similar boat -- which is why it was so comforting to see your thoughtful response. 

Care to share?

The 'Role' Of FILM DIRECTOR

I think everyone in the film industry has met directors who identify a little too heavily with the role. That's all a director is, a role, a function. People can get hypnotised by the role and become dictatorial or egotistical.

Let's be honest -- sometimes these directors get great results. But for me, the best directors are able to step in and out of the authoritative aspects of the role as and when necessary.

If a director is too strong, demanding, or Hitleristic, people suffer. The actors are less free, the crew are pressurized and the director himself is locked into a role. It's as if he's acting. Playing the role of director man.

Film directors are human beings too. They turn up to the film shoot crippled by family problems, headaches, insecurities. That's why the dictator style directing is so false, it oppresses the insecurity, the real life.

Directors have a vision. Sometimes the actors can't get there, sometimes the director of photography is adamant it should look different, sometimes you run out of daylight and everyone becomes an amateur again struggling to do anything to get the take.

There is a huge amount of psychology to directing. Are the actors feeling supported and valued? Do your crew respect you and believe in you? Great moments of artistic flow and magic are always balanced with moments of humble failure and confused insecurity.

Let's not forget: most films are terrible. Often the instincts of the director are flat out wrong. Sometimes it's a lack of talent, sometimes it's simply making a mistake in the room. You get asked "Should it be faster?", "Should the gun be in shot?" and you make a decision in the moment. You're a human being and sometimes you get it wrong.

Try as any filmmaker might, the fact remains that no director has total control. Films are living, breathing things. They're like the weather. You plan for sun but sometimes it pours. How can any director be in control when the secret to great art is so elusive?

Some of the best moments of cinema have been accidents, things that arrived in the moment. You have to be open to that. But you also have to know exactly what you want.

That's why practice is the key. In this day and age there is no excuse for upcoming directors to be sitting on their asses. Tarantino and Kevin Smith made it look like they just landed with a debut hit, but the truth is they both had previous projects which they stashed away.

Spielberg was making films at eight years old. That's a huge reason why he's one of the masters. But as we see, he doesn't always nail it. That's directing. That's art. Never stay too long with being discouraged.

The flip side is when you're precise and certain about something and no-one else gets it. The crew and cast doubt your judgement. Maybe you are certain of how to get the laugh in a scene, or how to have a chilling or tense moment. The job of the director is to catch these moments and nurture them into fruition. Sometimes; in fact, often, people will doubt your wisdom in the moment and be strong in resisting your direction.

These are usually the moments that make or break a film. If you're certain of something, if it's integral to your vision, insist on it. The director sees things others don't see. It's your job to confidently stride forth and bring it home. The best moments in my films are nearly always things that the actors resisted the most.

That's film directing.

Care to share?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Come Live With Me (1941)

This film is absolutely delightful!

Illegal immigrant Johnny Jones (Hedy Lamarr) needs to get married for a visa. The man she loves is already married, so when she meets down on his luck Bill Smith (Jimmy Stewart), she offers to settle all his bills each week, in return for a marriage.

He accepts.

But then Bill begins falling in love with this mystery woman who comes by on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, her heart is with another man who happens to be a wealthy book publisher. 



Our hero Johnny Jones happens to be a struggling author. Inspired by his mysterious wife, he pens a great novel about their bizarre relationship. It's so good that the publishers get interested. 


Of course, when book publisher Barton Kendrick reads the story of a Viennese woman who has married a man for a Visa, it strikes a chord, it's too coincidental to be fiction.

Here's where it gets hilarious. The publisher, Barton, wants to meet this author who is clearly writing about his woman. Bill comes to the office, excited about the prospect of being published. One problem, they disagree on the ending. Bill wants a happy ending, whereas Barton thinks she should run off with the other guy. Barton's wife Diane (Verree Teasdale) watches them argue in the meeting, wondering why they're both so passionate about these characters.


Barton pays Bill an advance for the story; and then asks his wife for a divorce. He's going after his true love Johnny Jones.

But of course; now the poor author Bill has a big advance! So he goes to see Johnny and demands she take a trip with him. Barton had unwittingly played a part in his own demise.

And on it goes and various other things happen to take the film to its ending. I'll hold back taking you directly to the finishing line, just in case you decide to watch it, which I think you should.

Don't you just love old movies? Give me some black, some white, a Jimmy Stewart and a beauty like Hedy Lamarr and I'm the happiest guy in the world. 

Care to share?

Tuesday Dialogue #2 - Joshua Lyman and Amy Gardner

Setting the scene: Joshua Lyman is Deputy Chief Of Staff in the Whitehouse. Amy Gardner is the Director of the Women's Leadership Coalition. Josh is good with politics, good with arguments. 

Being in a relationship with a woman is not a luxury he's allowed himself in a long time. He was able to ignore this problem until Amy Gardner came along. 


AMY
You owe me half a million dollars and a drink. 

JOSH
I paid for the drinks.

AMY
Alright, five hundred grand.

JOSH
What are you doing here?

AMY
I'm just hanging out. Why, do you live here?

JOSH
I do. I'm sorry I had to leave quickly before, I still can't tell you why.

AMY
Was it a matter of national security? 

JOSH
No. 

AMY
Would you tell me if it was a matter of national security?

JOSH
No.


AMY
Okay. You didn't talk to me much at school.

JOSH
You was having quite a lot of sex with Chris.

AMY
There were times I wasn't

JOSH
I studied a lot in school. I studied hard in high school, and at Harvard and in law school. My IQ doesn't break the bank and I wanted to do this, so I studied all the time. And -- I missed something, or it's like I skipped a year, Cause I never learned what you do after you think you like somebody, what you do next. And everyone did learn, a lot of other people anyway. I didn't walk out tonight. When my phone rings at eleven o'clock it's important. Not important to me, important-- and I'm not puffing myself so you that you're--

AMY
You know what? Maybe not so much for you with the talking. 

Care to share?

Monday, 24 October 2011

New Logo / Banner

Here is the newly designed logo for Kid In The Front Row. Many of you have asked in the past for a banner so that you can link to my site. If you want to do that, please use this image. I hope you like it.

You may also have noticed a modified header at the top of the blog, which I'm extremely happy with! Credit goes to my wonderful friend Elena.

Care to share?

Catching The Wave

A spark can come from anywhere. Being an artist is not just about producing the art, but learning how to catch it, bottle it, and release it. I would imagine there isn't a writer reading this who hasn't often had the experience of profound insight, followed by a horrific attempt at getting it down on the page. 

Art touches us the most when it captures a piece of who we are on the page, the screen, the stage, the canvas. But how does the artist get it there? This is perhaps the hardest thing of all. That's why artists aren't impressed when someone says "I have an idea". We all have ideas. The professional gets it down on the page. 

But I don't mean professional in a traditional sense. This isn't about the discipline of starting your masterpiece every morning at 9am. This is about catching the waves however they may come.

It's as if there are thousands of spirits floating up in the sky; some of them are beautiful and hazy, some are like fierce rockets. You have to be a martial artist, adept at attracting the falling stars.

The information is in the moment. Remember your first kiss? First job offer? Remember when someone you love died? Remember when your favorite team scored? Remember when you were fired? They carry the juice. But how to get into those feelings? How to indulge in them, enjoy them, and then turn them into your art? 

It doesn't have to be the signposted life moments that provide the juice. The quieter moments are often more profound. Ever been sitting in the garden staring up at the night time sky, and felt a big wave of the essence of yourself and life? That feeling is unique to you. That essence you need to get into your art. 

There are times when I write in a very purposeful and disciplined way, like my recent post about Bridesmaids. Sometimes I just catch a feeling and write from that place in me, like with new york gone. The feeling came without capital letters, without traditional sentencing, it was like a wave, a memory, a feeling. I tried to capture that.

and the last time i left new york i left all my favourite people. and the guy who showed me around queens moved to la and the guy from the plane could be anywhere now and me and the artist kinda fell out and the girl who waited for me that time in jfk packed up her bags and got gone across the world and now i could go back, and i will go back, but so much is gone.

Sometimes you need to be open to exploring the wilderness, to not block any thought that comes, to jump on the wave and see where it goes. Those moments are often the most truthful.

But the thing about my New York post is that it didn't resonate with many people, even though it did resonate with me. This is where you see your own limitations as an artist, or perhaps a lack of experience. It takes people ten, twenty or thirty years to be great. It's a balancing act -- matching your insights with skills and understanding. 

There's so much in those extremities. The misery. The hope. The excitement. The romance. The depression. The confusion. There's gold to be mined -- but you can't be too disciplined or writerly about it, because then you miss it! Or crush it! Or scare it away! You need to deeply experience things for them to be of any true use. 

That's the problem with blogs. The writers get addicted to their followers, addicted to the comments, comforted by their place on the interweb. The posts become by-the-numbers, shop-front-profound but never quite real. 

It's a thing we all struggle with, staying true, capturing the real essence of the life we're going through. That's why we admire the greats, they lived life and reflected it back to us. The geniuses did it again and again. 

Care to share?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Conversations With PETA

PETA recently wrote to Cameron Crowe about his new movie "We Bought A Zoo". They said:

"We Bought a Zoo conveys the misleading and downright dangerous message that no special knowledge--just a lot of heart--is needed to run a zoo."

Here is their email correspondence in full:

EMAIL 1
Dear Cameron Crowe,

Your film claims that all you need to run a zoo is "a big heart", whereas actually you need specialized training, as well as a place to store all of the food.

Please put a permanent subtitle across the lower part of the frame (around Matt Damon's chest area) reminding people not to start their own zoos.

Yours Sincerely,

Pam Bird
PETA

EMAIL 2
Dear Pam,

I totally understand where you are coming from (due to you providing your mailing address) but I feel the need to remind you that of course I would never mean to imply that ordinary people (or Europeans) should own animals traditionally found in a zoo. If we make a sequel, I would certainly like your advice, as the lions are particularly dangerous and have a tendency to flirt with the make-up artists.

We'll see you all again next year!

Cameron Crowe

EMAIL 3
Dear Cameron,

You don't seem to comprehend the importance of what I am saying. Help me, help you.

Regardless, I just want to check if you will indeed be carrying the subtitle reminding people not to own a zoo or a monkey without adequate training? This will need to appear towards the lower part of the screen, roughly near Matt Damon's stomach on a mid-shot.

Pam Bird

EMAIL 4
Dear Mrs Bird,

I have called Matt Damon's agent, but unfortunately she has been unable to get through to him. It would appear that ever since I gave Matt a giraffe, ostrich and wild panda he's been awfully busy. They cause a lot of hassle when he takes them to IHOP.

Despite leaving the ultimatum with his agent, whose identity I can't reveal, I don't feel I can commit to carrying your caption on my movie. I am not sure the general public needs to be warned against owning lions and tigers.

It's a slippery slope. If we start warning people about zoos,  we'd soon have to start warning them about drugs and guns, and frankly there'd be nothing fun left for us all to do.

By the way, what would you feed a poisonous python? Just curious.

It's all happening!

Cameron Crowe

EMAIL 5
Dear Cameron Crowe,

I am troubled by your casual approach to this issue. Maybe I should speak to Matt Damon personally. What's his number?

The treatment of animals in your film concerns me. Animals deserve equality, the same opportunities as humans. That's how I got my job.

I must demand you place a caption on your movie reminding people about the dangers of wild animals. I'd feel much more comfortable speaking to Matt Damon personally about this. I really enjoyed 'The Departed'.

I'm not letting you get rid of me. How about that?

Pam Bird

EMAIL 6
Dear Pam,

Sorry for my delay in responding. I was just out buying a boat packed with radar equipment and a cage. I knew I shouldn't have watched Jaws.

I would like to end correspondence with you. I would also like you to put a notice on your website reminding pet owners not to accept popcorn in a cinema if it is not provided in a box or bag, just in case they think its wise to carry the popcorn in their bare hands.

We'll see you all again on 1974,

Cameron

Care to share?

The Words She'd Written Took Me By Surprise


This has to be one of the most beautiful songs of all time -- and also one of the saddest.

The beginning of the song; he finds the girl's diary.
"I found your diary underneath the tree
And started reading about me
The words she'd written took me by surprise
You'd never read them in her eyes,
They said that she had found,
The love she'd waited for."
And wow; it's so beautiful. It really is. It's David Gates on vocals. An incredible voice - it just gets right into you. Hits you smack bang in the heart. It's not because of singing technique, it's not classes; it's soul and truth, right there; in a recording. He went there. Really went there.

It's the loveliest song about your one true love, of that moment when you realise she loves you.

But wait.
"I found your diary underneath the tree,
And started reading about me,
The words began to stick,
And tears to flow,
Her meaning now was clear to see,
The love she'd waited for was someone else not me."
"The love she'd waited for was someone else not me" -- isn't that the saddest line in the world?

Tragedy is awful. Makes the world stop. You don't leave your house for weeks. Anger is crazy; you go mad at the world. But the heartbreaks are different -- because nobody really sees them. You get up and go to work with a sunken heart. All the buildings carry the weight of a memory and all the people around you feel like ghosts. You're stuck inside the memory of a feeling you had and a person you loved -- and you think they loved you but it turns out it was someone else.

"The love she'd waited for was someone else not me" --- was there ever a sadder lyric? The way he sings it, too. In life you find love and then your life is figured out, but only if they love you back. Otherwise when they go off to the store for groceries or in their car on a road trip -- they're not thinking of you, not even close. They're thinking of that other guy. Ouch!
Bread captured that in a song.

Pure truth. Life. Heartache.

Reminds me of that Phil Collins line in 'One More Night';

"I've been sitting here so long wasting time, 
just staring at the phone. 
I was wondering should I call you,
And then I thought
Maybe you're not alone."

Ouch. You wanna call but then you realise, maybe they have someone else for company. Ouch ouch ouch isn't life just the most poignantly heartbreaking thing imaginable?

Nobody remembers Bread and nobody thinks Phil Collins is cool. But that's often the path for art when it's true. It misses out on the public consciousness or it gets adored secretly in the bedrooms of the broken-hearted.

That is art. That's the power we have. We can sit around coming up with ideas like "What if the baddie shoots the guy and then he steals all the money", but that's not what it's about. It's about the truth. About being brave enough to bleed all over the page. Put yourself out there. Of course, you need craft and you need a reason to do it -- but when it happens, woweeeee it's magic! And as depressing as it is talking about heartaches and breaks; I actually feel GOOD! Music is amazing like that. 

That's why I can't stop listening to 'Diary' at the moment. It's so real that you can't help but relate to it. Especially when it comes to matters of the heart; it's all to easy to repress anything that has feeling or fear and bury it when you're fifteen. Songs like 'Diary' take us back, even if only for three minutes. We remember what it is to be alive.

Care to share?

Emails From The Front Row

Here's an email I received. I have linked to the things that the writer quoted of mine. I had to share this because it made my heart get all excited and fulfilled and happy. 

Dear Kid,

I'm Val, one of the 2 film-makers cycling around the world - collecting, sharing and inspiring stories of people's dreams. My partner, Tay, wrote you a while back ("Shared Dreams"). I've been meaning to write you a personal note because something in your writing struck a chord so deep within, I am often left speechless and wouldn't know how to react, until at least a couple of days later.

Often I'd find myself spontaneously exclaiming to Tay, "You know what Kid said the other day? That Adventureland was a film that 'dared to be small...dared to have heart'. Doesn't that make your heart pound harder, knowing that our heartfelt works would matter to at least one more person - like him?" Tay would smile, and sometimes reply, "You realise this only now?"

I did. And it was only in the wee hours of last night when I was reading one of your entries, "When you allow yourself to be who you are", when I read and re-read what you wrote: 'Find a place; be it a physical place or a mental place inside yourself - and be who you are' ; that I realised that this is my place. I mean, Kid's blog is my playground to be me. Your matter-of-fact; sometimes even nonchalant prose, verse, scripts, outbursts...they all made me feel safe to be myself. More than that, they created and expanded a space for me to be myself. To be the actor I want to be.

On this journey, when things go crazy and "The Days Got Busy", I read about how you try to answer other people's interviews, how you, too, are only human, and I am reminded that 'everyone is learning how to get back to being who they are'; and I ground myself back to the center core of why I am even on this journey in the first place.

Almost everyone we meet on this journey have something to say about how we should be doing it, how we are not playing it big enough, how I should be enrolling into an acting school if acting is my dream etc etc etc. Sometimes, I say to them, "You know what? You're right." And they are left speechless. I felt like telling them, "You're right because we're not yet successful. We're working on it. And 'when we've mastered our work, mastered us, and showed everyone else who we (truly) are, you will see yourselves'...in us. And you will applaud us for Following Our Own Path."

Kid, I want to be a worldwide famous, internationally acclaimed actress. The kind that wins awards at Cannes and Oscars. I want to because I want as many people as possible to connect with themselves - by me being a mirror for their reflections, by my acting to struck hidden shords of songs tucked away in their hearts, in their bodies, in their beings.

I'm Asian, I'm small (barely 1.5m), I'm turning 27 this year yet I permanently look 15. And I never thought any of the above would be vaguely possible, I never had the guts to share any of this anywhere, until I read 'If you follow your vision, believe in it, and do it, who knows.. you might just end up with an academy award, and if you don't - at least you'll have been among the very few who had the tenacity to try.'

Until I realised that there are people like you out there, when watching films like Adventureland, notice. You notice that 'Watching Eisenberg and Stewart in this movie; we get to really see the characters, we get to really feel something real; and as a result, we get to see ourselves.' That is so precious.

The short film, "LISTEN" that Tay shared with you was a birthday present from both of us to me last year. This year, other than embarking on another short on this journey, I am also gifting myself this note to you. I figured, if it's films that tell a good story, films that provides mirrors for being to reflect on, films made with heart, with art, that I want to act in, it only make sense for me to connect with film-makers who want the same thing and ask them for opportunities.

Kid, you begin your blog with, 'When I watch a film the main thing I am looking for is a good story. I like it when I look up at the big screen and can see a part of me staring back at me.' I would like to be the actor on that screen who gives you a wink right at that moment when you discover who it is that you are really watching.

"I have a dream -
to show the world the beautiful colors of emotions on the big movie screen of life."

Warmly,
Val

Care to share?

Friday, 21 October 2011

You

How are you? What brings you here? What's going on in your life? What was an interesting conversation you had today? What is something new you've learned in the last week?

Care to share?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Self Sabotage

Everyone has their breaking point.

You think you want success but when opportunity knocks, you hide.

You don't return the call.
You convince yourself the job is too much.
You tell them you can't make it on time.
You remember what happened last time.

The rewards wait on the other side. You have to leap.

Break through the barrier.

Otherwise things cycle. You repeat the mistakes. You meet the same gatekeepers.

Care to share?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Writing Update

Dear Diary,

I recently had trouble remembering where to place, comma's but luckily I now, remember! I have been finding it, hard to write, material, properly as I'm always so excited!! I feel like everything should have exclamation marks!! What do! you think?!

reverse in sentences Writing? Good idea or not!? Hard to, tell. I am developing my own, style!!!! He was also considering writing in the third person. What about if I write in the fourth person? That's fine but how would we all fit in the room?

I've, also! been feeling constrained by the alphabet. I developed a 27th character, but can't find the key for it. Frustrating!!!,

He will be writing! soon more,

Kid

Care to share?

Monday, 17 October 2011

Final Scene From My New Screenplay

I was just about to put the finishing touches to my new screenplay, a heartfelt rom-com, when my lead male charcter, Eric, forgot he was in a rom-com and suddenly thought he was in the middle of an action film where he had to relieve the NYPD of their duties.

What follows is the dialogue from the final scene.

ABBY
I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. 

ERIC
Me too, you're my whole world. 

ABBY
Let's go and live in the mountains and have children together. 

ERIC
What's this? 

ABBY
What's what?

 ERIC
Why did you let them on the scene? Where's Maddox?

ABBY
What do you mean? I'm saying that we should start a family together. 

ERIC
You can go home now, we've got it from here. 

ABBY
Who's got what?

ERIC 
FBI. This is our jurisdiction. Get outta here. 

ABBY
Eric; you're confusing me. I love you -- 

ERIC 
Yeah yeah, I get it. Six murders in three weeks and you think I'm gonna leave you alone with the body? Give me a break, Jones. 

ABBY
Eric; you're scaring me. 

ERIC 
Scaring you, Jones?

ABBY
Ohhhh, I get it. You want to call our first kids Maddox and Jones. I could get used to that. 

ERIC
Two sugars. 

ABBY
What?

ERIC
In my coffee. Two sugars, thanks.

ABBY
But you don't drink coffee. 

ERIC 
Two sugars and call Maddox, Jones. 

ABBY
This is the final scene of a rom-com, what is wrong with you?

ERIC 
Do I look like someone who'd be in a rom-com to you? Would I be chewing gum like this if it was the final scene of a rom-com?  Would I be carrying a gun?

ABBY
You don't have a gun.

ERIC
Listen, Kid. You're a good cop, but I've been on this job for 36 years. 

ABBY
You're 23. 

ERIC 
What Jones? 

ABBY
You're 23.

ERIC
Don't mess with me.

Care to share?

KRISTEN WIIG in 'BRIDESMAIDS' - The WRITING and ACTING of 'ANNIE WALKER'

There was a lot of hype about 'Bridesmaids' when it came out. Article after article about how it was going to change the industry. But just because a few black men are in politics now, it doesn't mean hundreds of years of institutional racism vanish. Likewise, the fact that a few male producers enabled two women to write a movie and have a female cast; it doesn't mean it's suddenly an even playing field.

But I wish it was. Because women are great at making movies. They're great when they step out of the restrictive chick-flick genre; because when films like 'Sex & The City' get made, I'd rather keep male privilege rolling for another hundred years. But films like 'Bridesmaids' and 'Whip It' - to give two examples (albeit light-comedy examples) show that there is a whole voice missing from cinema, a whole gender's perspective to be truly explored. The history of cinema is, by and large, the history of male storytelling.

In June 2009 I wrote a blog called 'Men Only' in which I said, among other things, "I love women on screen, they're an important part of films; but it's very rare that I find them interesting enough to carry a film as the lead. What's that about?"

And I want you to know I fully retract everything I said in that article. I was wrong, and my views have changed considerably.

A perfect example of great acting is Kristen Wiig in 'Bridesmaids'.



When you're watching a comedy, you rarely think about its complexity. You just have a good time and wait for the next laugh to come. Wiig's character, Annie Walker, was amazingly written and acted; a stunning performance from the lead actress. Not only is it worth noting -- I think it's worth exploring further.

Annie Walker was vulnerable and fragile throughout the whole film. At the beginning we find out that her business attempt, opening a bakery during the recession, has failed. When it did, her boyfriend left. Her best friend is getting married and her love life consists of casual sex with a man who doesn't listen to her, doesn't care about her needs, and doesn't want her sticking around for the night.

You cling on to anything when you're down. Annie clings on to her best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph) who is also getting married. There's a touching scene when Lillian announces she's getting married and asks Annie to be the bridesmaid. Of course, she says yes -- but only seconds later, as Lillian chats on the phone to her fiance we see Annie sitting there trying to hide her loneliness.


The supporting characters in a film all give us information about the main character. It's done to maximum effect in this film when the gorgeous, rich, youthful and seemingly perfect Helen immediately makes Annie feel bad about herself. With just a look in her eyes we can see she feels old and under threat. We can all relate to it. We've all had a friend bring along a new friend and we feel all threatened and insecure about their in-jokes.

Wiig is noted for her comedic talents, which are undeniable. But the core of this movie is actually carried by her dramatic abilities. Those moments in between the laughs -- little snapshots of her character that lived outside of the writing.

A great example is the scene where she makes a cupcake in her apartment. She takes the time to make a perfect cake, which she bakes and decorates to perfection. She places it carefully on the table, on its own ---- before picking it up and scoffing it down herself. What a great, unique way to show loneliness! Lesser writers would have had her calling someone up and saying 'I'm lonely' or listening to 'All By Myself' -- here we just have her eating a cupcake, and it tells us everything.


I can't think of any other character in recent film history who shows the anxiety of insecurity and fear as well as Annie Walker does here. The writers really kept hitting this home, scene after scene. The airplane scene, renowned for her hilarious drunkenness and for Megan's (Melissa McCarthey's) conversation with the Air Marshall; also carries a lot of dramatic weight in that in cements the gap that is increasing between Annie and her best friend, which is being made worse by the fact Lillian and Helen are getting closer and closer as friends (due to her failings). They are in first class, while she is stuck in coach.



After Annie's mad, drunken behavior on the plane; Lillian suggests that maybe being the Bridesmaid is too much for her. Of course; this is the thing she'd always feared. Of not being enough, of not being able to do a good job, of not being able to be a great friend. That's what insecurity does, renders you ineffective and makes your worst fears come true. It's that vulnerability that Wiig manages to portray so truthfully. 


The sadness of the character is what makes it so compelling. It's what grips you. The funny situations she gets in have a weight to them because they're rooted in realism, no matter how absurd they are. We can relate. I can relate, and I'm a man. That's why all this men-only-in-leading-roles is bullshit, because we're all human beings, and our problems are universal.


The writing takes a great turn in that she begins to get what she needs: a good man (Chris O'Dowd as Officer Nathan Rhodes). Yet she runs from it. Can't handle it. Things have been going wrong for so long, what the hell do you do when something right comes along? There's a simple scene afterwards when she phones Lillian and says she doesn't have a clue what she's doing, it's the most truthful moment of the movie. Truthful because, in life, so often we don't know what we're doing. 


After all this -- she's lost. Lost her center, the thing that makes her herself. She loses her job in the jewelry store after calling a customer a cu*t, she's ignoring Nathan (without really knowing why), and she's asked to move out by her English roommates. What makes it so satisfying, dramatically, is that we feel for her -- she's a good woman, doing her best; yet again and again she's failing. We can all relate to it because that's how the world works.

Comedy is better when you relate to it, when it has reality as a basis. Or not even as a basis, it just needs something in there that's authentic. That's why 'The Other Guys' sucked. Absurd is fine, but you need a center; a place to jump off from. 'Bridesmaids' took care of these details and that's why it's superior to most of the comedies of recent years.

Then there's the bridal shower, which she's invited to despite being demoted from her Bridesmaid duties. She's a good friend and a proud person, so she makes sure she's there. She loves her friend. We see this when she gives her a present, a touchingly personal gift -- a collection of things from back home in Milwaukee, along with a photo montage from their younger days.

And then rich-and-perfect Helen buys Lillian a trip to Paris; an idea which stemmed from a conversation with Annie about how much Lillian likes Paris. Annie is heartbroken -- it's an extremely bitchy and manipulative move from Helen; which we the audience can see, and our hero Annie can see -- but the guests at the party can't. 



What follows is Annie going absolutely crazy; wrecking the garden and smashing things to pieces. It's a hilarious yet cringeworthy scene; but powerful because we feel her sense of injustice. Yet dramatically, she's ruining her best friend's wedding experience. The complex blend of comedy, sadness, and the righteousness of the other characters is brilliantly handled.





The Writing of the film, by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, with the watchful eye of Judd Apatow; is the core of what makes this film great. Each event, each scene, drives Annie further and further away from her best friend, and from herself. It's rooted in truth; we can relate to what's happening because we'd want to react just like she does. Even the parts of the film that are over the top and ridiculous, we're still there-- because the characters are so true. 


It's the acting of the film that brings it home. The best actors are able to do two opposite things on screen. It's why people pay Robert Downey Jr so much money, and it's why we all loved Jack Lemmon. Kristen Wiig has a touch of that magic. She knows how to get the laugh -- years at the Groundlings Theatre, and live SNL performances, and the multitude of ridiculous jobs before she 'made it' have helped shape the comedic talent that she is. What makes her performance in 'Bridesmaids' stand out, is how layered it is. We laugh at the comedy, but it's the heart and honesty we connect with. 

Care to share?

Tinker Tailor Soldier Blogs

The Critical Escapist has only written two posts so far. And they were both in September. It's risky for me to recommend this blog, because there's no guarantee the writer will still be posting articles a week or a year from now, but then I guess that's true of everyone. The Critical Escapist is, by her own definition, "an average teenage film lover who has to Wiki 90% of filmmaking terms and IMDb the names of 70% of French New Wave directors. Beware." -- This makes me like her already. I always get along best with people who are less concerned about the definitions and names of French directors, or more driven by what they're excited about. Her first post, 'In Defense Of The Blockbusters' is a spirited argument; full of truths and insight; along with a little wisdom from her Father: "if something was beloved by millions, there must be a reason". In her second post, 'All Hail Scorcese' she speaks of her love for Martin Scorcese's work. These are two great posts, from an interesting young voice, and I hope there'll be more. Maybe a few comments from you will help her see that people are paying attention. 

The problem with most film blogs, is that they're just people reviewing films. There's no style, no uniqueness; just a generation of internet people who want to get hired by newspapers, so they perfect their skills at writing mind-numbing reviews. Reviews are boring, critics are boring; that's why it's great when you find a real voice. Okinawa Assault  is a blog brimming with energy and passion. The writer also pens reviews for Anomalous Material, but his reviews there are rarely as interesting. He's best in his own domain, writing whatever random stuff comes to his attention.  His fascinating take on 'Super Size Me' is a wonderful read, even though I lost interest in that film eight years ago. Having the freedom to review a film in an unorthodox way, like with 'Drive', is also a common thing on Okinawa Assault, and it's what I love. When critics write for newspapers or big websites, they have to pretend they're in the mood, that they're always paying attention, that they have authority and know what is going on. Writers like Okinawa Assault are really freeing -- because they give it to you how it really is, based on how they are really feeing. It's refreshing. 


I'm not sure what I'm meant to call the next blog -- Screen Speak? Final Cut? Filmgeek? Either way -- check it out. Emma's blog isn't constantly as updated, like most; but when she does -- it's worth taking a lot. She's a very generous blogger, always championing other bloggers that she finds. Her posts often feel like a mish-mash of things, where she's sharing recent curiosities and fascinations. Here's her post from 3rd September where she shared some thoughts on the Toronto Film Festival 2011. 


I think I may have shared Robby Cress' Dear Old Hollywood before, but it's worth doing again. He visits locations from old movies and takes pictures of how they look now. He comes back and posts them together, giving us a fascinating insight into how things change, or perhaps how they stay the same. In February 2009, he revisited The Chaplin Film Studios and in July 2009, he hunted down filming locations from Chaplin's 'City Lights'. These posts are a great place to start.

Care to share?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Great Buck Howard

I'm going to tell you a secret. I like films that don't have a lot of conflict. The ones that swim on by, where the issues they face are subtle ones that require the complexity of human emotion to pull them through. Just like life. How often do we fly off the handle, get into fist fights, or blow shit up?

Hardly ever. 

Life is more subtle and I like it when films are too. I'm in a minority; because the box office shows that people want monkeys jumping off of bridges and big metal oversized toys knocking over buildings in Manhattan. I always liked Rom-Coms. Of course, society says that those films are for the women -- but so what if I like watching 'One Fine Day'. Relationships are fascinating, and I like the comedy. Even though things will work out, I like seeing what obstacles they'll get over to make it. But I like the obstacles to be about the characters -- it's takes real talent to create characters we care about.

'The Great Buck Howard' is one of those films where not a lot happens. A character called Buck Howard, played to perfection by John Malkovich, is a has-been entertainer -- a hypnotist and a 'mentalist', who refuses to acknowledge that his time is up, he's finished. His road manager, Troy Gable, is played by Colin Hanks. Most of the film is the two of them going from town to town as Buck Howard performs his show. Not a lot more happens. Yet a lot happens. I know that makes no sense but I'm sure you know what I mean.


Colin's role is one that his father, Tom, would have done in the 1980's. I saw a comment on IMDB where someone said "Tom, stop trying to make your son the next you!", and when you watch this, it's hard to deny, because they're so alike. Sadly, Colin isn't Tom. He doesn't have that magic. But that's fine -- Tom was the everyman loveable genius on the 80's and 90's. Colin is a fine actor but he'll be something different.




Tom Hanks was always my favorite actor. That's not true these days, I don't think; because I feel like he's lost himself a bit. Or maybe Hollywood has lost him, because once you get past forty-five it's harder to get the great roles. You have to reinvent yourself. That's okay for most actors, but not for Hanks -- because he's our everyman; we just want him to be himself. 

But there is a side of Tom Hanks I really love. It's the version of him we get in 'You've Got Mail' and on Letterman appearances. An all-round good guy, a laugh, a hoot - someone who enjoys the magic of life. I like that version of Hanks. We saw it with 'That Thing You Do' - a lightweight comedy that he wrote and directed; full of the playful equilibrium I enjoy in movies. And we see it here with 'The Great Buck Howard' - a film he produced and financed through his company, Playtone. It's directed by Sean McGinly, a director who caught the attention of Hanks with his film 'Two Days'. The film is packed with Hanks' friends and regular collaborators; including Steve Zahn (Actor: You've Got Mail, That Thing You Do, From The Earth To The Moon), Playtone Co-Founder Gary Goetzman (Producer: Larry Crowne, The Pacific, Charlie Wilson's War) and numerous others. 

It's one of those films that you just sink into. A fascinating title character in Buck Howard, coming to terms with his fading popularity; and Troy trying to figure his own life out -- with a little help from an unexpected love interest; Valerie Brennan (Emily Blunt). Predictable? In some ways. But most films are predictable. We can go one of two ways; make crazy films like 'Inception' or stylish nonsense like 'Donnie Darko', or we can go deeper in the small and personal stories that fascinate us. Most people will choose the former, but I'm going to stand up for the latter. 

'The Great Buck Howard' is not a great movie. You'll only watch it the once. But that's enough; it's one of those films with engaging characters and a well paced story that does just enough to allow you to fly away into its world for an hour and a half. That's more than enough for me -- and it's actually quite rare. It's also fun to see Tom Hanks in a small role (he has two scenes; as the Father of his real-and-fictional-son.)


This is a film you probably didn't know about, because there are a lot of films you don't know about because they don't get wide releases, because they're not a safe bet. They disappear into nothing unless we dig them out. But it's great they exist -- there are so many little gems out there, full of our favourite actors. There are people out there who like stories and interesting characters and relationships rather than high concept plots and car crashes. It's good to know they exist. 

Do you know the film 'The Moguls'? It was also called 'The Amateurs' for a while. It's a comedy about a small community who are fed up with their lot in life -- so they come together to make a porn film. Sounds tasteless and crude, right? But it's not. It's a heart-warming tale, full of great performances and big laughs. It stars Jeff Bridges, Ted Danson, Patrick Fugit, Jeanne Tripplehorn and many others. 


These films exist. It's good to remind ourselves of that. I tend to enjoy them more than the big budget FBI-world-ending things. And I know I'm not alone. Check these films out if what I say resonates with you at all!

Care to share?