Monday 14 February 2011

The FACEBOOK Uprising

There needs to be an uprising. We need democracy. We're being oppressed and having our freedoms curtailed; and we don't even realise it. We could be hanging out with great people, or having movie marathons, or staring at the stars. Instead we're on facebook.

Even when we do look up at the stars, the facebook button on our expensive gadgets compel us to interrupt the experience. We've been living this way for so long we don't even realise it. Ask anyone who has lived in an oppressive state. Pretty soon the voice becomes internalized; "my people are worthless," "I am failing God," "I must, must, must, check facebook!" 

It only takes a second to check your facebook, that's what they say, but it doesn't; it takes your freedom and your ability to be independent. You think Shakespeare would have been as good as he was if he was using up his best lines on other prople's profile walls? You think his books would flow as well if he wrote them whilst waiting for Natalie to respond on facebook chat?

I'm not saying you should leave facebook; I just mean it should be used consciously. We need to be able to decide "I will now waste three hours on facebook 'liking' statuses," rather than being under the illusion that you're still working or having a short break.

It'll start with discipline, military rule. You need to set the boundaries. Things are going to change and it won't happen over night. But the goal is democracy-- that you choose how you use your time. And when you're getting on with your life you're not missing your online friends.

Everyone will be protesting against it one day. How it sucked the life out of them and turned everything spontaneous and magical into one big facebook event. But for now, nobody sees it. It's just you and me, and we have work to do, projects to see through to completion. 

Care to share?

Friday 11 February 2011

10 For The Weekend

1. Alex Gibney is a great documentary filmmaker. "Client 9: The Rise And Fall Of Eliot Spitzer" is a telling documentary about politics, the banks, and how men throw away everything for high price call girls. The film will definitely get you thinking.

Today I watched "Taxi To The Dark Side," the film he won the Oscar for. It's a film about the brutality used by American forces towards terrorism suspects since the Iraq war. The more you watch things, or read things or investigate things; the harder it is to have any sense of who the good guys are in the world. Maybe that's always been the case. Remember in school? Nazi Germany was bad and everyone else was good. Now everybody's bad and nobody's good.

2. Mariah Carey has been irrelevant for years. Nobody listens to her music anymore. But in "Precious" she drops the big breasted diva act and does something incredibly human. Amazing.

3. I met Bill Nighy a few weeks back. I was sitting in the front row of the cinema and spotted him two seats away from me. At the end of the film we chatted for a bit. If you think I'm name dropping you should see the way he casually mentioned Judi Dench.

4. I still haven't seen "Black Swan."

5. When was the last time you watched a movie without a physical or psychological problem? Most of the time we're stressed because of our day, or worrying about tomorrow's meeting, or shifting awkwardly because of a back pain, or feeling restless because of hunger. When is it ever perfect?

6. Does your girlfriend/boyfriend understand your creativity and career choices? Can they support it? Do they know when to leave you alone? Or are you single because of these very difficulties?

7. Have you noticed how your favourite TV shows always have the best theme tunes? Its impossible to love a show and hate the music.

8. You ever been caught between creativity and laziness? You can't be lazy cause you wanna be creative.. But it's not there, not happening. So you don't create, and you don't chill, instead you aggressively log in and out of your emails and make five coffees an hour; the purpose being 'to get working as soon as the coffee is made.'

9. I won a bloggie award last year and It'd be incredible to win for the second year in a row. The realistic part of me says a blog is just a blog. But the ideological side of me says that this blog represents an idea. It represents and champions stories and independence and passion and pure enjoyment of the cinema. And when something represents those things, it needs support; because the other side are over-represented. They have money, advertising budgets, hundreds of staff; and they advertise brands; and they wipe outanyone with a unique voice. So these little awards and links from people, plus the positive word of mouth -- they really mean everything. You can vote for me in the best entertainment blog category here.

10. And point 9 matters and is worth believing in because things are changing. We're in control now, not the big corporate guys. Nobody knows how the future will play out. They're hoping 3D lasts forever, but it won't. The future is being decided by fifteen year olds with flipcams. We can hold on to old ideas of filmmaking and distribution, or we can reinvent things ourselves. The playing field is getting more even. If your video is genius; three million people on YouTube will see it. if you make a second one that's just as good, another two million will see that.

You created them videos. You own them. Some corporate guy will offer you a big cheque to make a commercial or to write a screenplay for the studios. But it's up to you now, not them. You're the kid with the camera. The corporate guy wants money, you want a career. You're in the driving seat. Don't forget that. Nobody knows anything. If you have the talent: keep making stuff until you're so brilliant that they'll be asking YOU how the future will look.

Do you have 10 for me?

Care to share?

Thursday 10 February 2011


"So leave us alone
So leave us alone
So leave us alone
We're busy being grown"
-Ryan Adams & Alanis Morissette - "1974" (live)

I first found this song in the middle of 2001. I loved music with all my heart. And I needed it too, because I was a miserable fuck back then. Music lets you know that other people are miserable too. Ryan Adams has a way of making misery an art. He makes it beautiful. When you feel the power of someone making misery into art, it's a big insight. It makes misery a good thing. You keep craving it, because it makes your writing better. It makes your singing real. It makes your movies profound.

This song was never recorded in a studio. It was only performed live, and only performed once. It's Ryan Adams, Alanis Morissette, and a piano. And it's luck that someone recorded it.

I was that geek who'd track down rare recordings. I was the kid getting old Springsteen obsessives to send me rare bootlegs in the post. It meant something back then. My friends were out drinking, I was sitting at home listening to Dylan rarities. It seemed sad at the time, or like I was deranged in some way. But it's me. It's those things that add up to make you who you are. I couldn't really say "I am the Kid In The Front Row, I go out drinking a lot and occasionally watch movies and sometimes like Springsteen." No, to be me, it was and is to love movies and music and creative things to the point of exhaustion. It's what I'm about.

This is the only recording of this song. I wonder if even Ryan Adams remembers it. Ryan is better at this than anyone -- at creating masterpieces in one evening and then moving on without ever looking back. The guy is the most prolific songwriter there is. He wrote a song called "Dear Anne" about Anne Frank; he recorded a demo, played it live about five times and broke everyone's hearts, and then he never played it again. Luckily the song survives on Youtube, too.

"1974" or whatever it was really called (not to be confused with another song he sang by the same name on an album); was about the two singers being born in the same year. They sing about themselves and they sing about each other. And I still don't totally get the song, but I love it. There's something remarkably simple, touching, meaningful, and beautiful about it. That's a lot of descriptive words, but it deserves them all.

It's amazing to me how they played it live, once, and that was it. Luckily it was recorded, and put on YouTube a while back for more people to love. It only has 12,000 hits. It'll never have more than 100,000. Music is great like that. Just like movies. What resonates resonates. How popular it is means nothing. I'll take my little Ryan Adams rarities over Lady Ga Ga or Black Eyed Peas any day.

A lot of screenwriters and directors have big ambitions; they wanna make Spiderman. They wanna make a billion dollars. I just want to make a Ryan Adams bootleg. Well, the equivalent. And don't get me wrong, Ryan Adams is successful and rich. But it's not because he's making radio hits -- he's just making his "1974" and "Dear Anne" - but people respond.

You find out who you are more and more by finding the things you love. And you lose a bit of yourself every time you pretend to love something more than you really do just to fit in and not seem different. There may only be nine people in the world who love these songs as much as I do -- but that's such a great and exciting thing! Imagine if one day I meet one!

"I want to thank you for your thoughts
Though they weren't mine to read
P.S. keep an eye on me."
-Ryan Adams - "DEAR ANNE"

Care to share?

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Advice From Screenwriter JOHN COLLEE - Guest Author MANDA DIAZ

Written By Manda Diaz. 

I started reading Kid’s blog about this time last year. It was the first blog I read regularly. (I don’t think he knows this. I wonder if it will frighten him?) Back then, I was just a uni student that loved writing and reading about movies. Two internships and a lot of volunteer hours later, I’m a film journalist.

I try to play it down when my friends make comments about it being the best job in the world, but the truth is, it’s awesome. Most days I stumble around feeling like the film geek equivalent of Cinderella. Shouldn’t I still be paying my dues behind the register at a supermarket or by folding clothes at a chainstore?

One of the best things about being a journalist is the chance to talk to some absurdly creative and talented people. From a 20 minute phone conversation with a composer, a producer, a screenwriter or a director, the feature I’m writing will only ever feature a few choice quotes and anecdotes. That means I have audio files on my computer and stacks of notebooks on my desk filled with gems that nobody but me will ever have access to. It feels selfish.

My favourite interview to date was with the charming Scottish screenwriter and former doctor, John Collee (Master and Commander, Happy Feet, Creation and the upcoming Walking with Dinosaurs.)

We spoke twice- because, mortifyingly enough, I couldn’t understand the recorded audio of our first, publicist-organised conversation. Luckily, John was kind enough to let me call his mobile that weekend. We spoke for more than half an hour and he had some wonderful things to say that didn’t make the final article. So you could say this is the journalist’s equivalent of a director’s cut. I hope you enjoy it.

John Collee On Structure
  • Don’t just start at the beginning and try to muddle through to the end. Actually structure the story. Start with a short synopsis and build up to a longer synopsis and then a longer and longer synopsis. Break it down into sequences and work out how you’re going to get to those sequences and really work on the skeleton of the film before you commit to dialogue and detail and description.

John Collee On story
  • Know the world of the story. So that’s all about research. If you’re adapting a book, it’s not just about reading the book, but it’s about getting to know the world and immersing yourself in the emotions of the people who you’re writing about. You have to put yourself in the head space of the people you’re writing about- you’re presenting it as a subjective experience.
  • Expose your writing to as many people as possible so talk about the story rather than working away on your own. Talk about the story as much as possible and get responses.
John Collee On Life, Writing & Creativity
  • I was once asked what's the best advice to give to a young writer and I said “Go out and get a life.” Go out and generate some life experience, it'll almost be better as a writer, rather than studying creative writing for three years, just go out and do wild stuff. A lot of the writers and novelists who I admire, like John Steinbeck and Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway, first and foremost lived a life of adventure. I think that's the thing to do. The truth is, style in writing is relatively unimportant. Experience of life is all important.
  • Having unique life experience is an extraordinary gift. Your wealth is your life experience- good and bad. Your real wealth is not money, it's the stuff you do. And the more extraordinary, the more engaged with the world- the better.
  • I definitely believe that we're defined by what we do for other people and we have an obligation to do something worthwhile. And if you do happen to be a filmmaker, you have an obligation to make good and meaningful films and not just garbage.
  • The best creative work generally comes out of being engaged with family, people and society. And if you're properly engaged, then great creative stuff comes out of that. Some of the best journalism I ever wrote was descriptions of the patients who I'd treated when I was working in the third world.
  • Write about something that’s important. By all means, find the stories that inspire you but then try and analyse why they’re important, what they’re about. What do you want your audience to feel differently upon leaving the movie theatre?
Writing and storytelling can be lonely. You spend so much time living in your own head, that you forget there are other people out there that can help you and guide you when you're stuck (which is just what Kid did when I emailed him, struggling to put together this post.) Magazine writing often feels very one sided. That's why communities like this blog are important- they encourage sharing and feedback, and most importantly, they remind you that you're not alone. Thanks to Kid for giving me this opportunity to spill these tips. Better they're out in the blogosphere than hidden in a notebook in my desk drawer.

You can read Manda's fantastic blog Memoirs Of A Word Nerd HERE.

Care to share?

Monday 7 February 2011


I'm going to have to insist you see it. It has the weight of a Holocaust movie. But then it would do because it's about people being sent somewhere against their will, and come the end of it they don't even know who they are anymore.

And it's all true. It's about the children who were deported from England to Australia from the end of the war up until as recent as 1970. They didn't want to go. They didn't get a choice. Apparently 130,000 children were deported from the UK. Can you believe that?

"you feel for us, 'cause we can't."

This is a story about identity. About being taken to another country and being made to work as a slave. To have one piece of clothing for your entire childhood as you work as a labourer. The English have blood on their hands. So do Australians. So does the Church. We're good at hiding this stuff.

It's directed by Jim Loach. You can't write about him without mentioning he's Ken Loach's son. But it's not important. This is Jim's film. He spent eight years working on it and developing it with screenwriter Rona Monro, and with Margaret Humphreys, who it's based on.

This film is why Emily Watson became an actor. She's never been better than in 'Oranges & Sunshine.' Not that she's ever been bad. Here she's at career best. You care for her because you care for her character, but also because she reminds you of you. So do the orphans as they try to face up to their history, try to face up to not knowing who their Mother's are. You relate to it because of how human they are. Some are broken hearted and weak, some put up huge walls and refuse to be emotional. It's just like me and you.

'Oranges & Sunshine' is gritty. Not in the graffiti-filled-council-estates kind of way, but in that it gets down to the nuts and bolts of life and corruption. The church was involved, the children's charities were involved, the governments were involved. This is why film is important. It teaches us what we don't know and it reminds us of what we do know. It's a mirror for our best and worst.

A lot of stories need to be told, but they get told badly and the meaning is lost. Not this one. It'll get you. It makes people cry and it makes people think and it makes people talk. That's what we want independent films to do.

The film comes out in the UK in April and in the USA some time after. Hopefully the film will get distribution in other territories too. We'll see in they do a deal in Berlin. The world needs to see this film. Keep it on your radar.

Care to share?