Sunday 30 May 2021

2am with a song you love

2am with a song you love changes you, it transforms you. 

It's hard to get to that place where you're.... transformable. Most likely, you're asleep. Or if you're awake, you're on Instagram, looking at some person you don't know or some person you used to know. Or you're flicking through the TV, looking for an answer to something even though you're not quite sure of the question.

But the right song changes you. 

It's hard to say what that song is. It might be your all time favourite song, or it might be something brand new. Most likely, it's something in-between. An alt-cut of something that feels familiar. 

That's how it got me tonight. Tom Petty, who was very much the soundtrack to everything for me. Turns out, there's a lot more of him in the vault. I'm listening to 'Wildflowers and all the Rest' and 'Finding Wildflowers'. Two separate albums, revisiting the sessions and materials from 'Wildflowers'.

And my attention, somehow, was not being pulled to anywhere other than these recordings. 

It's transformative to REALLY listen, to really be taken away, because it's such a rarity to really sit in a moment with a song. Used to be common, now it's practically a superpower. To truly give yourself over to the sound of a guitar and a voice is a true rarity. Your brain, so caught up in wanting more value, more money, more content, continually chases.... something.

Somehow, we believe that listening to recordings of old songs is not crucial. 

But it's absolutely crucial. Not so you can 'be inspired' and not so you can write a blog called '10 Great Tom Petty songs', but crucial because in these moments of listening and letting go, you become truly yourself. You find a part of you you've been letting drift for years. 

It's not like you listen to a song at 2am and suddenly solve past traumas and figure out how to become rich, but something DOES happen. Something big enough to pay attention to but small enough to be something imperceptible enough that I can't really put it into words. 

And this is not me saying you should go listen to Tom Petty. Likely it's someone different for you.

But Tom Petty, to me, is everything. He captures something that no-one else does. And here I am listening to this dead genius and there's something about these alt-cuts and home recordings that feels so..... so personal.

I can't imagine Tom Petty tweeting all night about his song-writing. Don't imagine him Instagramming non-stop. Instead, I imagine him in his home, working on songs. In the modern day, we do a draft or two of something creative, and then we tell the world. But I can just see Tom Petty sitting there, at home, obsessing over a lyric or playing something on his guitar repeatedly trying to get it right. He took the music making seriously, I can feel it as I listen. 

It reminds me that it's okay to care deeply. It's okay to know your art is the most important thing you can be doing. 

The music you listen to can transform your thinking and feeling. It won't suddenly give you a profound life lesson, but it will shift something inside you - and that's important. This is how you lived life when you were fifteen. You'd play a song and just listen, taking it in. You'd sit with it and you'd feel more complete. It wasn't a big thing you shouted from the rooftops, it was just a subtle experience you'd have in your bedroom, listening to something that was meaningful to you.

The same experiences are still available. The only problem is you're busy, and have responsibilities. But if sometime soon you find yourself awake at 2am, maybe it's just your body's way of saying: you need to find the right song.

Care to share?

Monday 24 May 2021

Little Creative You

You spend your youth trying to get some place. You start a band, you write a novel, you shoot some movies. 

You're not entirely sure you know where you're going you just know you must record the demo, paint the picture, film the horror flick.

You do it on instinct, making magic in the middle of the night with your best friends and by best friends I mean those guys you met the previous week.

You're making mini-masterpieces that no-one will ever see but you make them because one day they'll lead you to Hollywood or Glastonbury or wherever that place is you know you need to get to.

And then your youth is gone and adulthood arrives. 

You're still searching, only you don't have the fire anymore. You're just a lost vehicle on a long road trying to find your way to somewhere. 

You have this vague idea in your head about a big tour or a three picture deal but even as the words come out of your mouth you realise you no longer know what you're looking for.

But you remember making magic in the middle of the night with your best friends and by best friends I mean those guys you met the previous week.

You told yourself that was the beginning, the thing you do to get to where you're going.

But at some point you realise, that's exactly what you're missing.

'Making it' isn't Hollywood. It's not being on the Joe Rogan podcast. It's being in a cold field at 3am recording bad sound for a horror film nobody is ever going to see. It's rehearsing the same song fifteen times in two hours with a guitarist you met the night before. 

To be creative you have to be creative. It's not magic, it's just a decision. It's a thing you do with people you meet. 

It's easy to lose that spark, as we drift into adulthood. It happens to all of us. But somewhere deep inside of you is this little creative you, some kid in the front row, and she's ready to join a new band. 

Care to share?

Friday 9 October 2015

What Was This Place?

I'm a little in awe of the me that used to write this site. I was posting almost daily. Full of ideas and, not to sound egotistical, but insights (sometimes). I had so much to say. And looking at the comments, so did all of you. We had a real debate going. We were in something together.

But as with so much of the internet, eventually it becomes an abandoned wasteland. Over a thousand blog posts and they hardly ever get read. How many of the readers forgot this existed? How many of the comments that fascinated me have dropped from my mind?

Everything is impermanent, including this blog. I mean, it still exists here as a relic, but what does it all mean?

Years ago, I had great aspirations for it. I wanted to be a real voice when it came to talking about creativity and independent film. I went out of my way to interview some great people.

Then I don't know what happened. I lost my passion for it, I guess. Hard to say that because so much of what I wrote about here was how to find and nurture your passion. But if you were to follow all my advice maybe you'd have ended up just as burned out as me, which is good for no-one.

Another aspect is that this blog dried up around the time my professional life stepped up a gear. I just don't have the time to write here in the way I used to. My plan was just to step back when the inspiration came. It just never really did. And when a thought did come up, it wasn't exciting enough to write.

I don't know where everyone went. These types of personal blogs died years ago - a few top names survived but generally the total mindfuck of social media and hyper-prolific gossip blogs trashed people's attention spans. Sure, you might like to read a blog like this, but you're unlikely to even be able to find it. Especially as the lifeblood of blogging was the community -- we'd read each other's blogs, comment, and share. But after Twitter, it became a crapshoot. Sure I may have over a thousand followers but if I share your post or mine, maybe two people will follow the link. Twitter promises much but often delivers little.

The audience went and so did my creativity. I look back on all this fondly, and am nostalgic for the day I was a little more naive and yes, a little more freely creative. I'd just open up the page and words would come out.

If any of you find this post, I hope you're doing well - in your creativity but most importantly, in your life.

Care to share?

Friday 14 August 2015

Where You Are

Outside of expectation, of notions of what matters - away from the idea of who you think you should be and what that person should say -- somewhere there is where you reside and that's where you're playful fanciful crazy alive anything goes you. 

Like a mixture of sad songs that only you know, a pick n' mix of feelings you didn't know you had and places you didn't know you wanted to see. You exist as a blank canvas, and the world can paint you any way it wants and vice versa. 

Let go of what could should might maybe be and you're left with what is. And what is has never been the is before, so who cares how you paint it. It's brand new and it's you. 

You're that live gig no-one recorded, you just had to be there. You're that in-joke between friends. You're the play performed in front on nine people. You're the mix tape that only one person heard. You're the short story some kid wrote and stashed in the draw. You're anything and anything and anything and if you forget, for a second, the idea of being judged, reviewed or approved, then what would come out of you? If the likes and comments didn't matter, you'd go back to being the you you started out being, where all that mattered were the things that mattered. 

What matters isn't the reviews. What you think of what I'm writing isn't what's important, what's important is that I wrote it.

Care to share?

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Embrace The New Entertainment Landscape or Die

I grew up wanting to write and direct films. I'd hide away in my bedroom night after night watching every film I could find. Hollywood films, European films, anything and everything. I found what I loved and I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and it's informed everything I've done since.

But if that sounds like an inspiring sentence, it isn't, because I did the wrong thing. I fell in love with a concept; with the two hour movie being king.

But it's nearly 2015. People like YouTube. They like interactivity. They like games. They like multi-tasking. They like short bursts of six second Vines and they like thirteen hour Netflix seasons.

It's not that nobody likes movies anymore, it's just that they don't shape or inform our society like they used to. The marketers pretend that 'Gone Girl' is a cultural phenomenon, but it doesn't even make a dent.

The generation that came before me gets to continue making movies. Spielberg doesn't need to change. Tom Hanks can keep being Tom Hanks.

"You got here just in time for the death rattle, last gasp, last grope."
-Lester Bangs in 'Almost Famous' 

And the teenagers coming up now, they have an instinct me and my peers just don't have. They're plugged right into the social media paradigm and they have millions of subscribers. They know what they're doing.

And the ones in the middle only make it when they admit to themselves that the game has changed! There's new rules now. You can't be static. You can't just make a lump of a project and expect eyes to land on it.

But technology is only half the battle.

"You're coming along at a very dangerous time for rock n' roll. The war is over, they won."
-Lester Bangs in 'Almost Famous'. 

Hollywood became an industry that champions the dollar. Sure, it was always a business, but somehow art still crept through. But now you find that even an upcoming independent director in LA is more than likely to want to make a film by committee, to give 'notes' and to try to develop something 'marketable'.

And when everyone is chasing marketable, art dies.

Reminds me of a blog I wrote about Ben Stiller's 'The Watch' back in 2012. It was called 'Most Movies Are Made Just To Give People Something To Do'.

And this is what Hollywood does. Makes broadly generic films to appeal to pre-determined demographics. If Star A guarantees pre-sales in India and Star B guarantees huge press in China, then Star A and Star B get cast. And if the entire continent of Europe keeps going to see action movies, then that same action movie will keep getting made, and it'll star A and B.

The best writers bled to TV. And the next Spielberg is probably making Christmas adverts for Honda and McDonalds because that's where the work is.

And for those who stood their ground and stayed with the two hour movies, they're beginning to wake up and realise, there's no-one here. The audiences upped and left and so did most of the creative talent. There is more innovation in some kid from Detroit's 6 second Vine than there is on our movie screens.

My domain was always feature films. But in recent years, I've felt my passion dwindling. Not my passion to create, it's always been there and I hope always will be. But instead of looking around and embracing the great opportunities that technology bring, I've been clinging on to that me that hid away as a kid, watching movie after movie in my room.

Well that kid needs to go outside and learn how to Vine, otherwise I'll be forever left behind.

Care to share?