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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Be a Part of the KITFR Screenwriting Program!

The deadline for entry is TOMORROW! This is a free opportunity to work with me to help get your short screenplay written in ONE WEEK! Apply HERE.

Care to share?

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Note to Self

Focus.

Write. Or take things in.

Get inspired. Watch 'Inside the Actors Studio'. And Oscar speeches. Listen to podcasts.

Read screenplays. Watch movies. Find writers, directors and actors who resonate. Learn about their style, their journeys, their technique.

Learn more about how to write. Read writers and articles and books that challenge you. Discover new words.

Write down new ideas every day. Sometimes force ideas out, other times be content with having no ideas.

Dream. Sit in a room and do nothing. Ignore the urge to check your phone. See what the moment you're in has to offer.

Look at the sky, look at people, close your eyes.

Spend whole days writing. Spend whole days reading. Spend whole days in the cinema. Spend whole days discovering some place new.

Don't be a hack. Don't write within your comfort zone. Believe you can write whatever needs to be written. Don't be afraid that you can't be technical enough or funny enough or mainstream enough or artistic enough. You are enough. More than enough.

Have fun. Writing should be joyful, there are no rules.

Be in pain. Writing hurts because you care so much.

Write and read and discover people who are like you. Commit to doing better. To doing your best work.

Do your best work at every moment that you can.

Follow these steps, for they're what you really care about in regards to your art. The time for distraction is over.

Care to share?

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

APOLLO 13 - So long, Earth. Catch you on the flip side.

Some lives are really about something. It's not just about making money, it's about something else, discovery.

Strange how something so embedded in the history of humankind is so disregarded by modern society. Tell people you're going to walk rather than take the car and they think you're insane. Stop to watch an insect on its journey and people will think you've lost the plot. Discovery and curiosity are an awkward fit in the capitalism paradigm that we've all conformed to.



It's great to know that occasionally in human history, we've been places. We dared to look to the skies and live out our dreams, despite how insane they were.

And sure, it was about the space race. About Americans beating the Russians. But if you look past that, you see an immense human achievement.

Apollo 13 always resonates more with me than the moon landing. It's great to get to places, but it's even more meaningful when there's failure, when people say, "no matter what, we're bringing you home."

There are some beautiful scenes in the movie between Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) and his wife Marilyn (Kathleen Quinlan), like when they're in the garden, staring up at the moon and Lovell has named part of the moon after her. His love for her is huge, yet still he feels he must leave her behind to visit the great unknowns of the big dark nothing of the universe.


Is there anything better than a great adventure? Than exploration?

"It's not a miracle, we just decided to go."

A decision. That's all it is. You decide you want to do a thing and then you go to the moon. And you might have roadblocks, like Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise), who was grounded because of the measles (which he never got), but then it transpired that his expertise down on the ground was far more important.

"You never know what events are to transpire to bring you home."

There's magic in the journey. In exploring some place. In reaching high up into the sky.

Is this film about a bunch of astronauts or is it about you and me and all those journeys we never took?

Care to share?

Monday, 28 May 2012

Creative Disturbances: Exploring the Other Side

What disturbs you the most? What is the thing you think about when you can't sleep at night?

A good way to look at your creativity is to look at what is occupying your thoughts. Even if you can't put words to it, what is the energy behind it?

Maybe you can't write because you have a strong and powerful inner critic, or maybe it's because you're feeling vague and confused.

Rather than disown these feelings, take a closer look at them. Maybe you struggle with strong people in your life, maybe it's authority that troubles you. Maybe that's what you need to write about.

Or maybe you're vague and confused, but that troubles you because you look down on being vague and confused.

All too often we search for creativity as if it's just across the street, just out of our reach, as if it'll turn up if we keep holding on. If only we could get out of our heads.

Perhaps the ghosts of all the writers and artists who died painful drug and drink induced deaths were just trying to get to that magic place on the other side of the road. The place just outside of themselves.

Maybe we just need to look closer at ourselves. Whatever we think we're meant to be doing to be creative, so often it's the opposite.

Are you busy and productive but keep hitting a brick wall? Maybe you need to be lazy and quiet!

Keep splitting your mind between tiny projects that drive you insane? Maybe you need to focus on the delayed gratification of one larger project.

Find yourself exhausted due to your wild ambitions? Maybe you need to want for nothing and sit in a comfortable chair.

Whatever you think is right, I bet the opposite is equally valid. In fact, it may be the one ingredient you're missing.

Care to share?

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Kid In The Front Row ONE WEEK Screenwriting Program - APPLY NOW!

Just like gambling, or checking in and out of Twitter; screenwriting is a habit. It's something you either do, or don't do. The hardest part is sitting down and doing it. 

So I'm offering you a reason to do it.


This is open to amateur screenwriters, seasoned professionals, and anything in between. 


Here's the deal. 


For a one week period between
Sunday 3rd June-Sunday 10th June, I will support and mentor you in the creation of a short screenplay. 

Your task, should you choose to accept it; is to complete a screenplay in the one week period detailed above. 


The script must be no longer than 15 pages. 


I am particularly keen to help people who have been struggling to get their ideas down on to paper recently. Maybe you have been too busy, or lacking on confidence. This program is aimed at helping (hell, forcing) you to overcome these issues. 


At the end of the program, I will publish the Screenplays on Kid In The Front Row. 


You will retain sole authorship/writing credit, and you will completely own your material. I will simply support you in writing it, and will publish it here at the end (gaining you exposure).


This opportunity will
only be for SIX PEOPLE. You will have full email access to me for the week -- I will set you deadlines, and will also be on hand to help you with any creative issues/ideas you have. We will collaborate in any way you need to get the projects completed! 

To apply:


1. Please email me with your
name, location, and a little bit about who you are and why you would like this opportunity. 

2. Share with me an idea you have for a script. It may be a very strong idea, or it may be a seed of a feeling of an idea that's been floating around in your head somewhere out of reach for years. So I don't need a big treatment, I just need a paragraph or two to get a sense of it. 


I am hoping to support writers of all levels, from a variety of backgrounds.


DEADLINE for applying is FRIDAY 1st JUNE 2012. Please only apply if you are serious about writing. If you are too busy or will use your pets/children/health as an excuse for not completing your assignment, then please don't contact me. 

Care to share?

Saturday, 26 May 2012

You talkin' to me?

It really bugs me when my friends tell me I watch too many movies! My friend Tim actually thinks I'm getting badly influenced by gangster/cop movies, which is RIDICULOUS! Here's a conversation I had with him yesterday. 

TIM
You've been watching too many gangster movies recently.

THE KID 
Shut the fuck up you punk ass motherfucker. 

TIM 

That's my point.

THE KID 

What?

TIM 

You're watching too many. You need to get out more. You're obsessed.

THE KID
Tim, I don't know what you're talking about. 

TIM 

Seriously, you are! I was talking to Stephanie the other day and---

THE KID 

She ratted on me? She fucking ratted on me? 

TIM

Ratted on you?

THE KID

She don't know who she's dealing with. 

TIM

Um, okay? 

THE KID

What?

TIM 

Do you not realize how you're speaking?

THE KID

I'm just speaking normally. 

TIM 

Well no, you're not. 

THE KID 

Why are you talking to me like that?

TIM

I'm concerned about you.

THE KID

You're looking out for me, I respect that. Thing you gotta know brother; is there are two types of people in this world. And one day you've got to wake up and decide who you are, whether you're gonna live or die. 

TIM

What are you talking about?

THE KID

Who you working for?

TIM 

You're sounding schizophrenic.

THE KID 

WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR? Tell me or I'll----

TIM 

Why are you pointing a banana at my head?

THE KID 

Yeah yeah you just keep laughing. I'll be back, motherfucker. 

Care to share?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Stat

I started this blog 3 years, 2 months, and 12 days ago. 

That's 1169 days

In that time I have written 953 blog posts

I don't know what I think of that. I just wanted to share!

Care to share?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A Short Screenplay Inspired by KITFR Readers!

A couple of days ago I asked for your suggestions in the following criteria:

A character name: 
A location: 
A conflict: 
An object: 
A long, hard to pronounce word: 

And then I promised to make up a short screenplay on the spot, based on whatever you give me. I did this knowing that in all likelyhood the screenplay would be terrible and convince you all I can't write for shit. But then again, who cares! It seemed like a fun idea. Here were your ideas: 

STEVE SPATUCCI:

A character name: Maya
A location: an abandoned amusement park
A conflict: she gets in a fight with her best friend as they're exploring
An object: a custodian's key ring
A hard to pronounce word: Yreka Zzyzx

ANONYMOUS: 


A character name:
Chris P. Duck
A location: The long flat moving walkway that takes you between gates at an airport.
A conflict: Chris has dropped his passport on to the walkway travelling in the opposite direction.
An object: The passport (and boarding pass).
A hard to pronounce word: "Acesulfame K" (it's in the ingredients list on the drink I am currently enjoying).
HAPPY FROG: 

A character name:
Zed.
A location: Nature reserve as storm clouds threaten.
A conflict: Zed sees something unusual he can't quite make out in the lake.
An object: A mobile phone with low battery power.
A hard to pronounce word: Paraprosdokians
AINHOA:
A character name: Claude
A location: A photobooth at a subway station
A conflict: Claude keeps on taking pictures although there is a long queue outside the booth.
An object: A bleach bottle.
A hard to pronounce word: Paralipomena.


Read the script HERE!

Care to share?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

JOHN MAYER "Born and Raised" Album Review

"Don’t be scared to walk alone 
Don’t be scared to like it 
There’s no time that you must be home 
So sleep where darkness falls" 
-Mayer

 John Mayer miraculously managed the rare feat of courting the mainstream, yet staying true to himself. The country-tinged sounds of his latest album 'Born and Raised' wouldn't have been the idea of Columbia Records, but it's where he wanted to go; just like when he formed the 'John Mayer Trio' for some more bluesy fare.


This isn't John Mayer's best album. Half of it is mediocrity. But that happens - nobody can be great all the time. Rembrandt produced nearly 700 paintings, Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, they're not all genius.

But what Mayer never fails to deliver is those little, understated moments that you can't help but relate to. A little turn of phrase, a little pluck of the guitar; there's no-one like it. That's MASTERY! He toured the shit out of his early records; and those hours that new artists spend whoring themselves out on Facebook pages, he spent practicing guitar. That's why he deleted his Twitter account; it was a distraction from his art.

The highlight for me is 'Something Like Olivia' -- a wonderful track about finding the perfect woman who's exactly what you need; but she's caught up in another relationship.

"There's only one man in this world
Who gets to sleep with her by his side.
I'm thinking something like Olivia
Could keep me through the night."

And 'Speak For Me' is another great track. I don't know what it means yet, I'm still figuring it out. Same goes for 'Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967', which may be great, I'm not sure; it's too early to tell.

This guy's voice is incredible. The legend is that Mayer's a complete asshole. The music suggests the exact opposite. My opinion? He's both. Just like all of us.

PS: As I was writing this, I played the album again -- and feel my 'Half of it is mediocrity' comment may be a tad harsh. This record is a grower! 

Care to share?

The Random Screenplay

I'm going to write a short screenplay, just for you guys, based on your suggestions!

Please suggest;

A character name: 
A location: 
A conflict: 
An object: 
A long, hard to pronounce word: 

And at some point tonight, or tomorrow morning, I will close comments; and write a little screenplay based on your ideas, and then share it on the blog!

Care to share?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

10 Tips: Rediscovering Your Creativity On Projects That Are Lying Dormant

1. Open up the project file (this is the one we resist the most).


2. Go straight to the issue that is causing you the most stress. The nagging sound issue, the second act plot hole, the bad acting from that girl you should never have cast ----- go to it! WORK ON IT! Just do it! 


3. Turn your phone off. Close down your web-browser. Dedicate an hour to it. The problem is never the WORK, it's the resistance we feel BEFORE doing the work. 


4. Accept that less than perfect is okay (Perfection in art is rare, and even if it did exist, it should probably be avoided).


5. Show your work to a friend and ask for three POSITIVE pieces of feedback. Often we struggle because of how fragile we are when it's going wrong. Getting that rare burst of positivity can help us rediscover what's good about the project. 


6. Ignore the brain wave that rushes into your head and says "Actually, I have a great idea for that OTHER project!!". That's just avoidance, ignore it. The other project can wait. 


7. Read this poem


8. Fall in love. You'll complete your project in three days just to impress her/him.


9. Get dumped. You'll get ANGRY. You'll want to take over the WORLD! That burst of energy will ignite you to great heights! 


10. Focus. Once you're 12 minutes in and focused, you're fine -- the time will fly by. But you have to do the work to get past the initial few minutes where all the distractions come racing in. 

Care to share?

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Big Sea Of Nothing: A Rant About the Internet and Shiny Black Devices

What the hell are we all doing here on this internet thing? Smashing out blogs at an alarming rate, updating our statuses, poking and tweeting and retweeting and messaging and telling people where we are and how we feel.

And whatever we wrote last week is consigned to history. I mean, the data grabbing marketing people have it, but we have no use for it. I've seen the stats on my blog, my latest articles get read a lot but the old ones get about 4 hits a week.

Yet we keep churning it out. Is this the best use of our time? Do I blog for you or is it just my own ego trying to look like I know what I'm talking about? I've written nearly 1000 blog posts in three years! Should I have written a novel instead, or spent that time getting deeper into my screenplays?

Did you know I've been single this whole time? I'm good at writing statuses and making people laugh and inspiring people to maybe sort of start writing a script; but where's the intimacy? What am I doing in my life?

Is your productivity better this year than three years ago or worse? There are so many people online with advice, tips, help. How much of it is useful and how much of it is a pile of shit? Did Shakespeare need to read Seth Godin's blog every day, or did he just get on with it?

Social networking is useful in that I've met great people, shared my projects and even garnered some interesting work. But most of the time, it's wasteful! Every moment I log into Facebook is a moment I could have spent writing, or getting to know someone better face to face.

I'm not techno-phobic, I've always embraced it all. But I don't think this is it, I don't think that on our death beds we'll be wishing we spent more time on our MacBooks. All my friends sit around the dinner table with their phones out. Everyone in the cinema is texting. Are we capable of two hours without BBM'ing and tweeting, or is it too much for our wired up brains?

When iPads were first released, thousands of people lined up to buy them. Nobody even knew what they did, they just wanted them. And everyone wants the next iPhone. We're locked into this model of consumerism where we always want the next thing and then the next thing.

You can say it's healthy and I'm sure for many of you: it is. But far too many people are just spending all their money on devices which detach them further and further from their lives. And the next shiny black metal device isn't good enough, cause you'll get a newer one in six months.

But don't worry about me, I've finally decided to be in a committed relationship. With a Kindle.

Care to share?

Friday, 18 May 2012

(Real Life) Character Development

They say insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.

It's okay to fail, just don't keep failing in exactly the same way.

On the other side of your self-perceived limitations is where the river is flowing.  You have to adapt, change, learn, grow.

I can't sleep so I've been sitting here figuring out all the dumb ways I self-sabotage.

Not sleeping is one of them. Calling my self sabotage dumb is another, I am actually extremely sophisticated at self-sabotage! I can make a script problem seem like it was caused by the paper jams and I can convince myself a relationship problem was caused by international terrorism.

But it's when you see your same patterns repeating that you know you have to change.

It's like that moment in a movie when the main character has to decide whether to grow and save the world/get the girl, or to just curl up at home.

In life, even after you change and grow, you can still lose.

But if you don't at least make the leap, you might as well just throw in the towel.

Care to share?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

ANDIE MACDOWELL, CHAZZ PALMINTERI & RAINEY QUALLEY on ACTING

ANDIE: So you've paid your dues?
CHAZZ: Oh big time, big time I've paid my dues.


Chazz talks about the nine years before 'A Bronx Tale' and Andie talks about the seven years before 'Sex, Lies & Videotape'. These days we see Andie MacDowell as someone who sells hair products, but she's just like everyone else-- a human being who's worked damned hard. 

This interview is so unusual, they're actually
talking. You realise how much hard work they put into their careers, and the decisions they had to make. Did you know that Andie's agents didn't want her to do 'Sex, Lies & Videotape'? She made the decision, she took the risk - and it's things like that which turn a career around and spin it in a different direction. 

They discuss the breaking in stories. And they talk about doing jobs for money when the script stinks, and doing things for art when the money stinks. It's fascinating! How often do we get this kind of access to names like this? Not often. 


It's a great YouTube channel, worth checking out. But not every interview is golden. They talk to Sorkin, and he's fascinating, but it's while he was promoting 'The Social Network' and he's full of the same soundbites that he said in every other interview at the time. 


And the woman on the right is Rainey Qualley, Andie MacDowell's daughter. And they talk about that; being an actor whose parent is famous for the same thing. After fifteen minutes, they're talking about parenting -- what does this have to do with promoting the movie? Nothing. But now I care a lot more about these people and the flick they're in. It's refreshing. 


This video only has 252 views at the time of writing this; so I guess it won't appeal to everyone. When people see actors, they just want the soundbite, they wanna hear them say 'Oh it was great to work with Andie MacDowell' and then move on to the next thing. I understand that, because too often actors can be full of their own self-importance, as if their performances are going to save the world from extinction or something. 


But occasionally you get people like Chazz and Andie who are down to earth, who just tell it how it is. It's refreshing. You feel like you actually learn something. 


You don't have to watch the whole thing. Towards the end they start doing the promo schtick. But the first twenty minutes or so are an insight. 


As for the movie, it's called '
Mighty Fine', and I have no idea if it'll be any good. 

Care to share?

AMANDA PEET on ACTING



"There were so many low points, I can't even count them. You just have to perservere. I think work begets work. So even commercials, and small movies and NYU films, all that stuff--- I did all of it. That's how I became more comfortable. I never would have had some really quick overnight success 'cause I was too nervous, and not good enough."


-Amanda Peet

Care to share?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

NEW FAVOURITE SONG!

I have a new favourite song, but it's NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! You might not like it anyway -- I mean, not to the level I like it. Why? Because we're different people. You're you and I'm me and none of us are the same. 

But isn't that great? Makes you want to finish all those ideas you scrapped just because you realise somehow maybe in someway that it might
truly reach ONE person. Because THAT'S ENOUGH! We try reaching everyone. We write a script and worry about whether the studio or the audience or whoever will like it--- but if you take away the notion of the 'industry' and the need to earn a living, if you take it right down to that very thing you LOVE -- you realise, shit, it's just about creating and finding things that land

Like when you write a blog that makes someone say "YES YES YES YES!", that's far more powerful than someone saying "We enjoy your blog and would like to pay you to write an article for us." I mean, yeah; the latter is great, and you boast to your friends and share the news with the parents. But it's not what it's about. It's about doing something that is so personal and truthful that it connects with someone, somehow, somewhere. 


But enough about creating, because right now I'm talking about being on the receiving end. Of finding something that screams at you. And the scream says: YOU LOVE ME! YOU LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE ME!


How often do we find a song like that? It's not as often as you think! Last time for me was
when I discovered Pearl Jam's JUST BREATHE. And I remember how much I loved that song. It was intense! The best songs take us over; we have to keep listening, keep figuring them out. How weird that some man or woman can sit in their home and have an idea for something and then months or years later random people scattered around Earth hear it and say "YES YES YES THAT SONG IS ABOUT ME!"

That's the magic! Isn't it magic? I think it's magic. I just said magic three ---- oops, four times really quickly. Maybe that's too much. I'm going to start a new paragraph now. 


Forget the charts. Forget the polls. Music is about what matters to YOU. Those little bits of guitar; the tiny little mistakes and stutters and yells and drum beats and whatever else; they create sounds that just
do it for you. It's different for every person, every time. 

My new favourite song; I can't tell you why it's my new favourite song, because I haven't figured that out yet. And for once I'm not telling you what the song is, because it doesn't matter! You wouldn't like it the same anyway, because you're on your own journey. 


If I heard this song last year, or next month, for the first time; would I connect in the same way? I'm not sure. Because this song seems to speak to me HERE, NOW, as I am TODAY. The song arrived at the perfect time, I'm sure of it. 


You ever think you make decisions or take risks or change your point of view because of a piece of art? Well, I think I do. Or at least, they help nudge me along the way. That's exciting right? So don't go recommending me a song or a film, because it might end up changing the direction of my life, these things influence me! 


Go hunting for a new favourite song. There are so many, they're everywhere! Don't listen to that voice in your head that says they don't make great tunes anymore, because
of course they do. And even if they didn't, then go listen to some Marvin Gaye or something; because there's so much still left to be uncovered in the vast landscape of music history. 

I have a new favourite song, and I'm one step closing to knowing who the hell I am.

Care to share?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

SIMPLE TWIST OF FATE



Ever seen a great song on YouTube that has only 20,000 views; and there's a fan saying "How can this song only have 20k views, when the Bieber track has 30 million!"


We all buy into that at least a little bit. A sense of confusion and injustice, or worse-- we think maybe it's a sign the world is ending, because people don't recognise when something is amazing.


But it's a difficult position to take, because it's quite pretentious. After all, art is subjective. There are no facts.


But surely there ARE some facts. 'Shawshank Redemption' IS a near perfect film. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen is astounding, and 'My Girl' always sounds great on the radio.


The thing about Bob Dylan is that there are die-hards who see him, literally, as a GOD! And then there are those who respect him because of his amazing writing, and then there are those who just don't care.


But I think the thing about Bob Dylan is that eventually, if you're a music fan, you'll find your way to him some way or another. It's unavoidable. I mean, it might be avoidable if you like Trance music or Techo. But if you are interested in songwriting, or subtlety, where better to go than Dylan?



Sometimes his voice sounds truly horrific. Usually on record it's okay, but performing live, it's atrocious. Yet on so many of his records, it's his voice, and a clever turn of phrase, that absolutely cuts to my core. A poor writer or performer overcooks a line, much like a new comedian, or an over the top TV show. The masters go in a different direction. We see it in Aaron Sorkin's dialogue, or Woody Allen's delivery; or, yes, a Bob Dylan lyric.

They sat together in the park, 
As the evening sky grew dark, 
She looked at him and he felt a spark 
Tingle to his bones 
It was then he felt alone 
And wished that he'd gone straight 
And watched out for a simple twist of fate.

You can be influenced by the masters, you can learn a lot, but can you ever match it? I've heard so many covers of 'Simple Twist Of Fate' but none of them have ever nailed the subtleties. There's a really sweet and poignant moment when he sings 'She looked at him and he felt a spark tingle to his bones' -- and seconds later it's wiped away when he announces "It was then he felt alone". So simple, and you'd think anyone could write a line like this -- but Dylan is able to take us to big highs and then immediately to heartbreakingly truthful lows. To feel a connection and then feel alone is what it is to be a human being, and that's what Dylan nailed and that's why he is loved and adored -- because he cuts through the bullshit and gets to who we really are. And he makes it seem so SIMPLE! We all try so hard to be complicated, to  be deep and profound. But Bob Dylan just sings about feeling a spark followed by loneliness. 

The masters get to complexity through mind-boggling simplicity. They turn these dull words and phrases that the rest of us use to navigate through the day, and they make them into poetry. 


Here's another song where he contrasts the beauty of love with the lows of getting yourself in the way. This is 'Buckets of Rain'.


I like your smile and your fingertips 

I like the way that you move your hips 
I like the cool way that you look at me 
Everything about you is bringing me misery.

Don't you just love those lyrics? I like, I like, I like, I'm miserable. Ain't that life! You won't love every Bob Dylan song; but when you find the ones you love, you keep going back to them, just to find those tiny little scattered moments where you hear exactly who you are reflected back at you. 

And somehow his voice is perfect. If his voice was better, the songs wouldn't mean as much. I'd love to see the 'X Factor' and 'The Voice' people get their heads around that. Imagine this guy trying to get noticed through the reality TV paradigm, he'd have NO CHANCE, yet think of what the world would have lost. 


Yet somehow, in a world that values instant gratification above all else -- somehow Bob Dylan still got through. How? I blame it all on a simple twist of fate. 

Care to share?

AARON SORKIN'S WISDOM! MUST READDDD!!!!

This is from his commencement speech at Syracuse University. I have spent three years blogging about the film industry and being 'an artist' and what success is; constantly going on about the journey. About how you can't skip a step.

And I've never succeeded in explaining what I mean. Partly because I'm just not a good enough writer, and partly because I don't totally know what I'm talking about. And also, it's because I am on that journey,  somewhere in the middle of the road like most of you who read this.


Not only is Aaron Sorkin one of the all-time great screenwriters, but he knows about the journey. And a few days ago at Syracuse, he pinpointed and explained it exactly with this anecdote about the casting of 'A FEW GOOD MEN'.


Read it! And read it again!


"When we were casting my first movie, "A Few Good Men," we saw an actor just 10 months removed from the theater training program at UCLA. We liked him very much and we cast him in a small, but featured role as an endearingly dimwitted Marine corporal. The actor had been working as a Domino's Pizza delivery boy for 10 months, so the news that he'd just landed his first professional job and that it was in a new movie that Rob Reiner was directing, starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, was met with happiness. But as is often the case in show business, success begets success before you've even done anything, and a week later the actor's agent called. The actor had been offered the lead role in a new, as-yet-untitled Milos Forman film. He was beside himself. He felt loyalty to the first offer, but Forman after all was offering him the lead. We said we understood, no problem, good luck, we'll go with our second choice. Which, we did. And two weeks later, the Milos Forman film was scrapped. Our second choice, who was also making his professional debut, was an actor named Noah Wyle. Noah would go on to become one of the stars of the television series "ER" and hasn't stopped working since. I don't know what the first actor is doing, and I can't remember his name. Sometimes, just when you think you have the ball safely in the end zone, you're back to delivering pizzas for Domino's. Welcome to the NFL."
-Aaron Sorkin


And I also loved this: 


"For the class of 2012, I wish you joy. I wish you health and happiness and success, I wish you a roof, four walls, a floor and someone in your life that you care about more than you care about yourself. Someone who makes you start saying "we" where before you used to say "I" and "us" where you used to say "me." I wish you the quality of friends I have and the quality of colleagues I work with. Baseball players say they don't have to look to see if they hit a home run, they can feel it. So I wish for you a moment—a moment soon—when you really put the bat on the ball, when you really get a hold of one and drive it into the upper deck, when you feel it. When you aim high and hit your target, when just for a moment all else disappears, and you soar with wings as eagles. The moment will end as quickly as it came, and so you'll have to have it back, and so you'll get it back no matter what the obstacles. A lofty prediction, to be sure, but I flat out guarantee it."
-Aaron Sorkin
You can read the whole speech here

Care to share?

Every Picture Tells A Story

When the rain came,
I thought you'd leave,
'Cause I knew how much you loved the sun,
But you chose to stay,
Stay and keep me warm --
Through the darkest nights I've ever known.
If the Mandolin Wind,
Couldn't change a thing,
Then I know I love ya. 
-"Mandolin Wind"

Do we pick songs, or do they pick us? And how many songs out there are made for us but we never find them? Such an earth-shatteringly important question that I'm surprised anyone focuses on anything else. I'm exaggerating, slightly; but the fact remains that music is hugely important to nearly all of us.


This is a blog about Rod Stewart. More specifically, it's about his album 'Every Picture Tells A Story'.


More precisely, it's about a few particular tracks on the album. I've
written about 'Maggie May' before. Here's a snippet:

"I've been listening to this song since I was eight years old. Maybe it was before that. My parents had it on CD, and on Vinyl. On cassette too. It's the only song I never get tired of. Not even a little bit. I know every inch of the MTV unplugged version. I know all the moments when the crowd cheer or scream or breath.

The song means everything to me, but I don't even know what it means. Sometimes I think he loves Maggie. Sometimes I think he's bitter. What I know for sure is the guitar solo towards the end is magic."

But the magic doesn't end there. The album is full of it. If anyone can ever prove God exists, I think they'll prove it by a scientific experiment on one of the all time great albums. Because these things have a power over us like virtually nothing else. As I mentioned in my 'Maggie May' article, this song has had a hold on me since I was 8. EIGHT! That's insane. You listen to a song and think for a moment that it's just a song but then you realise over time that it plays a huge part in the narrative that is: you. 

What was it about Rod Stewart in 1971? Why did he decide to record an album separate from his band, The Faces? And why is this his greatest work? Why did it not improve afterwards? How is it that someone can, so precisely and for no particular reason at all -- provide their defining moment suddenly in 1971? 

And what's even more amazing is how some random film blogger over forty years later is still completely captivated by it. Is that because of the music, or because of me? What is it about certain albums that makes them sink into the deepest part of us and become part of our DNA?

I never cite it as my favourite album. I normally go for 'Born To Run' by The Boss, or 'August and Everything After' by Counting Crows, or 'Blue' by Joni Mitchell. 

But there's something about 'Every Picture Tells a Story'. 

I don't listen to it all the time, but when I do -- wow! It's like I rediscover who I am.

I think 'Mandolin Wind' is one of the most romantic songs ever made. But I just read the lyrics, and to be honest I don't really know what it's about and it's probably not romantic at all, but it is to me. He really loves who he's singing about. And I love how he says 'ya' instead of 'you' --- every time I listen to it, it doesn't sound like it's coming from 1971, it feels like it's coming from this present moment that I'm in.




The title track, 'Every Picture Tells a Story' - incredible. A few years ago I was in rehearsals with some actors -- and the energy sucked! My directing wasn't working at all, they just couldn't GET IT and I couldn't explain it. So I said "Just listen," and then played this song.  (It's not on YouTube, so I've provided a Spotify link but it'll only work for members).




And then they tried again, and they NAILED IT! That was amazing to me -- I couldn't express how I wanted something I had written to be acted, I couldn't communicate it, but one of my favourite songs could. 

I love the different levels to 'Every Picture...', how he brings it right down for the more vulnerable moments. Underneath the guitars and the drums is a hugely personal song -- I related to it somehow when I was 8, and I still do now.  How I related to it when I was 8, with lyrics like 'Shanghai Lil never used the pill' I don't know, but I did somehow.
I firmly believed that I 
Didn't need anyone but me
I sincerely thought 
I was so complete
Look how wrong you can be. 
"Every Picture Tells A Story"

Those lyrics don't really do it justice unless you listen to the song. And you let it build to that point. Masterful. 

I use these phrases like 'masterful' and 'great album' but to be honest I don't really know what I'm talking about. It's just about feeling, how these records sound to me. I'd love if everyone discovered or reconnected to the album the way I do, but it's not possible, because different things make us tick. But then again that's an amazing thing all in itself. 

Let's talk about 'Reason To Believe'. I remember being extremely moved by this song even when I was a child. It's a song about being cheated on,  about finding a way to believe all the lies purely because of how much you love someone. WHY DID I RELATE TO THIS? I was 8! But the song resonated.





If I listened long enough to you, 
I'd find a way to believe that it's all true, 
Knowing, 
That you lied,
Straight faced, 
While I cried, 
Still I look to find a reason to believe. 
-"Reason To Believe"


Rod didn't write 'Reason to Believe', but you wouldn't think it after hearing his performance. So raw, real and immediate. The whole album is that way. There's nothing like it. Give it a listen and sink into 1971, sink into the present moment; and find out who you really are. 

Care to share?

Scrapheap

Found a bunch of notes and half-written blogs on my phone. Thought I'd share with you the stuff that didn't make it over recent months! There's beginnings of stories, random tweet-like thoughts, blog ideas that didn't go anywhere. Enjoy! (or not as the case may be).


---
You ever have that moment when you're about 4 minutes from arriving at some place so you have to desperately scramble through your songs for the perfect track to end on?
---


Windows - Short Story

Darren could sense it hovering over him, somewhere close but out of reach. A message in the night which used to be a blur but now was so clear. The message was simple and it was as follows: 

You only get a brief moment of time in which an opportunity exists.

Michelle knew this rule only too well. She met Ricky on a cold November night and shared every secret she never even new she had. And then the next night he was killed. You might be surprised to hear it, but she felt a lot of happiness. Why? Because she'd caught the window. She'd met him, made the connection.

Darren had done everything right with Rebecca except tell her how he feels. She went home one night feeling all the energy and magic that life has to offer and it was all because of him. 

But three days after that, she had a new boyfriend called Mark.

No window stays open for very long. The things inside are too enormously valuable.



---


Sometimes you need to let your brain know that not achieving all your life's goals THIS WEEK is okay. 


---


It's not what you know, It's who you know

Yeah, and what? Sure, if Spielberg is your Uncle you have an upper hand over upcoming directors who aren't related to Spielberg. 

So we can moan about those privileged people and say "How can we get to make movies when the junior Coppola's, Loach's and Eastwood's get an upper hand?" But they're not the only one with privileges that make it possible to make movies, you have them too.

Did someone give you a camera to play around with when you were a kid? Are you parents still together? Do your legs function? So many things contribute to where we end up. 



---


Tips on Creating and Maintaining a Successful Blog

1. Find a topic that you're passionate about. 

2. When an insurance company offers you $200 to put an ad on your site, say no. It'll hurt you in the long run in a variety of ways. Your readers will distrust you and google will penalise you for irrelevant links.

3. Focus on good content.

4. Remember it's just a blog.

5. Interact with commenters.

6. Sometimes you'll feel like no-one's reading, don't worry about it.

7. Be yourself.

8. 


---


You've got to stay at it long enough until the doors open. What's worse, you can't even see the doors until you're that good. You think you're in a closed room, and then suddenly, there's a door and in the next room there's four more. You get great, you practice, you write to get ready for the possibilities. You learn how to act on inspiration. You learn how to leave in mistakes. You learn how to act without delay, you learn how to eliminate filters, all the voices in your head. You take chances. And since you've put in so many hours, you never suck, your stuff is never terrible, but it's only when you hang it out there that it's great. 


---


Newspapers are Dead


Everyone is holding on to the old way, pretending that nothing has changed, but how long can they hold on? Rupert Murdoch is the perfect metaphor for the whole industry. Once powerful and untouchable, now he's desperately scrambling for any scraps of credibility that he can find. I can't remember a multi-billionaire being so powerless.






Care to share?

Monday, 14 May 2012

FUN. At XOYO, London - REVIEW

So Charlotte dragged me to see a band called 'Fun.' at a place called XOYO, which is a stones throw from Old Street Station (although slightly more than a stone throw when you're us, because we got lost as we always do, so maybe more like a short plane ride away). I checked the band out on Spotify yesterday and tried to memorise all their songs -- but with only 20 mins to listen, it proved difficult. But the music was cool, and Charlotte's company isn't so bad.

But then we got to the gig. And immediately we were faced with the 'where to stand' argument. You see, she's mega small and I'm mega tall. So she wanted to find some very specific spot (where midgets and eleven year olds stand), whereas I wanted to stand somewhere middle centre, a few rows back. She also failed to grasp my Tall Man Guilt, whereby I feel bad for all the tinies standing behind me with blocked views.


She also said she disliked being called 'Charlotte' on my blog and wanted a different name. I told her Charlotte is a fantastic name and if she kept moaning I would change it to Ethel Mulberry Flathurst Jr. 


The support act were great. The singer's name was Yadi and her voice soared! I've just listened to her online since being home -- and I'm not as impressed -- but catch her live, her voice is something to witness!

Before the headliner, Fun., came on stage, I decided to work my magic get-us-to-the-front-row routine. By the way, the band's name has an unfortunate full stop after it, which is why my review seems grammatically retarded, but that's just how it is. Fun.

So anyway, I magically glided us towards the front row, and Ethel Mulberry Flathurst Jr was delighted.

The band came on stage and the energy was palpable. That's why great live music rules over movies, they make the immediate moment more important than anything. Fun. were captivating, and they can PLAY!

And we were right next to the keyboardist/trumpeter.


And these guys are one of Ethel's favourite bands and I can see why, because they capture a slice of life in their very own way and absolutely own it. It's refreshing. I'll have to go back to the records and see if they live up to it, but on stage in front of an intimate audience, they were in complete control. They played tightly, but seemed absolutely free. I didn't know any of the songs, but still loved it. And Ethel had this big crazy beautiful smile going on for the whole gig, which I kept noticing, it was impossible not to -- which I think creeped her out and made her wish she'd invited her friend Barry instead.


Fun. are great, but do they have to punctuate the end of their band name like that? Overall one of those great London nights, and then I realised it was 11.52pm and I was in desperate need of some food. I assume Ethel is at home, crying over how pathetic her name is.

Care to share?

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Internet and Social Media Addiction: Is This My Life?

I was on the train the other day, and everyone around me --everyone-- was on their phones. Emailing, texting, tweeting, gaming, Facebooking.

And I know that's what life is now. But I'm certain that's not what life is.

And I get it. Adapt or die. Talkies followed the silents. DVD replaced video. Medicine replaced chopping people's legs off.

But I am certain the way we currently handle the boom in technology is harming us.

Or to be more personal: it's harming me.

Checking Twitter once a day would be adequate. Responding to things on Facebook only of a morning would be fine. But I'm on these things all the time. And it's become chronic. Books are long and boring, I wanna finish the chapter quickly so I can send a quirky tweet. I deal with a script writing problem by texting Carl a joke about tea.

And sure, we all need distractions. But we need to choose to be distracted, rather having the devices dictate our actions. Is there anything worse than instant notifications? I can't resist the text message beep, or the tweet mention icon in the corner of my phone.

I want to dream. I want to stare at the sky and wonder what it's doing. I want to look my family in the eye when they're talking to me.

Technology is a great gift, but also a huge hindrance. I don't need to check blog comments every nine seconds, once every day or two is fine. Why do we treat every single beep and vibration as if it's an air raid siren? We immediately act, dropping what's around us to focus on these little tiny devices as if to not do so will end in punishment.

I'm losing the battle and I've had enough. I'd rather be writing, reading, jogging, getting to know the person in front of me. If you really need me, you'll ring. Or knock on my door. Social media pretends everything is urgent. Truth is, the only urgent thing is to lead a good life in what is a painfully short ride. I don't want mine dominated by Facebook.

Tweet me your thoughts.

Care to share?

Feedback: Email from a reader.


Hi there Kid,

I think I've already thanked you a couple of times in the comments under your inspirational posts. However, I've got an urge to send you a personal email of appreciation.

I had bookmarked your Erupt with Enthusiasm and Drive post, when you published it. I was going to read it later. And now when I was looking through my Favorites, I stumbled upon and finally read it. You totally understand those people who still haven't broken free from their insecurity, idleness, fear of commitment to what they love to do etc. We all have different situations but you know how to encourage us all. I guess it does work so, because reading the post, it felt that you were talking right to me. I can relate to heaps of things that you describe.

This email doesn't have another aim but to thank you. You already know it, but I want to stress on it again. You do a very good thing. maintaing the blog and Twitter account.

Best,

Lesya

Check out Lesya's blog HERE.

Care to share?