Wednesday 30 December 2015

Book review: "Rebel Without a Crew"

The best part of my recent holiday at Victor Harbor was the fact that I finally got to read Robert Rodriguez's book, Rebel Without a Crew. It's been around since 1995 and can be found on most recommended reading lists for filmmakers. 

These days, Rodriguez is best known for the four Spy Kids films, his relationship with Rose McGowan, the fact he still lives in Austin Texas, and his filmmaking association with Quentin Tarantino

Rebel Without a Crew is based on a journal Rodriguez kept from 1991 to 1993, the period during which he planned, made, sold, and publicised his first feature film, El Mariachi (1993). 

Although the book deals with his adventures as a filmmaker, it has a bit to say to writers.  
I was never big on writing scripts. I have read many times that the best way to learn to write scripts is to actually sit down and write two full scripts and after you're done you should throw them away. You'll learn a lot by doing those first two but they'll be awful, so after you write them you should throw them away and start writing your real script.
The idea didn't appeal to Rodriguez. He had made about thirty short films at that point, starting from when he was twelve. He was now twenty-three. He needed motivation to write a script and the idea of tossing his work away afterward didn't fill him with enthusiasm.
It suddenly hit me: Instead of writing two scripts and throwing them away afterwards, why not just take the scripts and make them for really low budgets? That way while you're practicing your writing skills you can also practice your filmmaking skills. That's what I decided to do with El Mariachi. I would write two scripts, both about the same character, but I would film them on a low, low budget all by myself. Then I would sell them to the Spanish video market where no one in the movie business would see them if they were no good, so it was almost like throwing them away, only I would get paid for them.
He was inventing a film school with just one pupil, himself. His teachers would be his own experiences, mistakes, problems and solutions, and the burgeoning Spanish-language video market would return him his investment. 
I went on to write the first Mariachi in three weeks. It's amazing how quickly ideas come to you for a script when you're going to be actually making the movie in a few months, not just writing for writing's sake.

Where this story gets interesting is with his fund-raising methods. Robert Rodriguez has been a human lab rat four times. Which is to say, he voluntarily submitted to being locked up in a pharmaceutical drug testing facility and experimented on, in return for hard cash.
When it came time for me to make El Mariachi, I needed someplace quiet to write and earn money at the same time. Naturally the research hospital fit the bill. I knew that if I checked in for a monthlong drug study I could clear about $3,000, with room and board paid for, and have plenty of time to kick back and write my script. ...  In my mind I simply imagined that I was getting paid to write a script.
The reality wasn't that simple, but I'll leave it for you to read for yourself. The next stage, the story of how he filmed a feature film, with minimal assistance, makes the book worth reading on its own, but I will skip over that as well. 

Once the film was finished, Rodriguez went to Los Angeles in the hope of selling El Mariachi to one of the Spanish language film distributors. It is difficult to believe, but after making thirty short films and his first feature film, Rodriguez had still never seen a professional screenplay.
On our way back to the apartment we stopped by the Hollywood Book Store and I bought the script to Road Warrior [better known to Australians as Mad Max 2] so I can have something to read. My script for El Mariachi was completely mis-formatted, which is why my thirty-five-page script ended up being a ninety-minute movie.
The section of the book covering his dealings with various agents and Hollywood studios is a real eye-opener as well. That is followed by his triumphant tour of the Film Festivals, a section called 'The Robert Rodriguez Ten-Minute Film Course,' and a copy of the original script for El Mariachi.

Rebel Without a Crew is a highly readable, informative and inspiring book. Take a look at it sometime.

First posted:  21 April 2012

Monday 28 December 2015

Star Wars Minus Star Wars

It’s impossible to overstate the impact of Star Wars. Its arrival in theaters on May 25th 1977 marked the end of one chapter in film history and the beginning of another. It’s a hinge on which film history swings. Upon its release, critic Pauline Kael derided the film as “an assemblage of spare parts—it has no emotional grip… an epic without a dream” 

Twenty years after its release critic Roger Ebert remarked that the film “colonized our imaginations, and it is hard to stand back and see it simply as a motion picture, because it has so completely become part of our memories.”

They’re both right. Star Wars succeeded because of its roots in film history and mythology, and its influence over generations of filmmakers can be felt in countless works that came after it. For better or worse, Star Wars engulfs the past and future of moviemaking. To prove that point, here’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope ... told without using a single image or sound from Star Wars.

Sunday 27 December 2015

Buster Keaton - The Art of the Gag

Tony Zhou is back with some visual wisdom.
Before Edgar Wright and Wes Anderson, before Chuck Jones and Jackie Chan, there was Buster Keaton, one of the founding fathers of visual comedy. And nearly 100 years after he first appeared onscreen, we’re still learning from him. Today, I’d like to talk about the artistry (and the thinking) behind his gags. Press the CC button to see the names of the films.

Saturday 26 December 2015

Intro - Martin Scorsese - A Personal Journey Through American Movies

Using clips from more than 300 of the greatest movies ever made, this series explores film history and American culture through the eyes of over 150 Hollywood insiders, including Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Sydney Pollack, Jim Jarmusch, Julie Dash, the Coen brothers, Steven Spielberg, John Milius, Jane Russell, Errol Morris, Walter Murch, Nora Ephron, and Quentin Tarantino.

This series is a survey of the American film industry as an art form, as an industry, and as a system of representation and communication. It explores how Hollywood films work technically, aesthetically, and culturally to reinforce and challenge America’s national self-image.

Produced by the New York Center for Visual History in association with KCET/Los Angeles and the BBC, 1995.

Movie clips included in this video are as follows:
The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) - Vincente Minnelli
Duel in the Sun (1946) - King Vidor
The Naked Kiss (1964) - Samuel Fuller
Murder By Contract (1958) - Irving Lerner
The Red House (1947) - Delmer Daves
The Phenix City Story (1955) - Phil Karlson
Sullivan's Travels (1945) - Preston Sturges

Friday 25 December 2015

If Santa Chilled With Two Jews On Xmas Eve

The funny Xmas pickings on YouTube are low-to-nonexistent this year, apart from blokes dressing up as Santa and screaming at their kids (but you get enough of that at home...) Here's one that is, at least, an interesting idea.

Then, of course, there's this one.

Thursday 24 December 2015

The Naughty List

Ever wonder what happens to the intel Santa Claus collects when deciding if you’ve been good or bad? Who has access to all your secrets? All that data? Santa has become too powerful, so a young elf decides to risk his life by leaking the Naughty List to the world. Alisha Brophy & Scott Miles have the inside story. 

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Interview with Diane Drake

Diane Drake is a screenwriter based in Los Angeles, who also teaches screenwriting at the UCLA Extension Writers' program. She is best known for writing Only You (1994) and What Women Want (2000).
   I first came across her name a few years ago when a friend sent me a copy of her UCLA screenwriting Course Outline that he’d found online. I read it and immediately wanted to do that course, but couldn’t afford the travel costs. Years later, when I got the chance to ask her a few questions, I jumped at the opportunity.

Where were you born, and grow up?

I was born and grew up in Los Angelesthe San Fernando Valley, to be specific, but will confess I have done my best to lose the accent. I think I may have succeeded as I was recently traveling in New Zealand and Australia (which I loved, btw), and was told I sounded Canadian, somission accomplished. 
   My parents were musicians, (mom was a singer and dad was a saxophone player), and my brother was a professional drummer for a long time. Alas, I didn’t inherit the musical gene, so had to go another way.  

What school did you go to

I went to the University of California, San Diego. My plan was to study either Marine Biology or Communications/Visual Arts. Once I got there, I found out the Marine Biology program was for grad students onlyhence, Communications/Visual Arts. 

*  When did you first take an interest in films/stories?

Like most everybody, I had some interest in films and stories growing up. As a kid, I specifically remember watching and being fascinated by the film Hud and also Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, (hm, perhaps I had more of an interest in Paul Newman?). But I didn’t, and honestly still don’t, have the great penchant for old movies that many of my peers did and do. I was generally more interested in being active, out doing things rather than being inside watching movies. 
   After graduating from college, though, I suddenly became  interested in literature. I graduated and didn’t know what to do with my Communications degree, so like a lot of people at the time, for lack of anything better and in an effort to be “practical”, I went to graduate school to get an MBA. I managed one tortuous semester. I had an epiphany one day in my accounting class where it suddenly struck me that not only did I hate this, but that if I somehow stuck with it, my degree would qualify me to do it for the rest of my life. That was that. I quit grad school (and spent years paying off just one semester’s worth of loans), but it was definitely the right decision. 
   The other thing that happened while I was ostensibly getting my MBA, and trying to avoid any and all classwork associated with it, was that I decided I needed to know more about classic literature and art. When people referred to For Whom the Bell Tolls, or The Grapes of Wrath, or any number of other classic novels I’d missed in school, I felt ignorant and wanted to know what they were talking about. 
   After I quit grad school, I got a job working as a secretary for the Warner Cable Company. At the same time, I enrolled in a night class in Art History, and started my own sort of self- directed “course” in the classics, reading maybe around a hundred of the books you always hear aboutDickens, Tolstoy, Austen, Melville, Hemingway, etc., etc. It was incredibly eye-opening for me, richly rewarding, and ultimately proved quite valuable.

What was your first paying job?

While I was still in high school, I sold hot dogs at Magic Mountain (an amusement park). I worked in the “Mini-Bar” and while the job had its drawbacks (I still shudder at the memory of cleaning the grill), the man who hired me suggested that particular job because the other girls working there happened to be really funny and fun. He was right. I wish I knew where they are now, a couple of them were hilarious. Maybe one is now Tina Fey?

What was your first job in the movie business?

Technically, it wasn’t really the movie business, but close enough. While I was in grad school the only thing that really interested me was a report I’d done on the Warner Co., which at the time also owned Ralph Lauren and a number of other brands, including what was then called “Warner/Amex Cable” which had MTV, Nickelodeon and The Movie Channel. I thought the company sounded interesting, so I sent them a letter expressing my interest in working for them. A woman in marketing was looking for a secretary and I got the job. It wasn’t a studio, but the building was basically on the Universal Studios lot (we could eat at the commissary, etc.) and got me that much closer to the business. Not long thereafter my boss was fired and I was fired (this was to happen to me a number of timesit’s showbiz), but it was a start.

*  How did you get to be a Vice President of Creative Affairs for Sydney Pollack?

After the Warner Cable job, I managed to get a job as an assistant in the Legal department at Columbia Pictures. It was my first job actually on a studio lot, and it was while working there that I discovered there existed such a job as a “reader”, people who are paid to read scripts all day long. Also, on that job I met a number of other people working as secretaries, one of whom a few years later went on to work for Sydney Pollack.
   Anyway, this reader position sounded like a dream job to me at the time, and while I wasn’t able to land that job at Columbia, after a stint working for a producer at Fox, I managed to get a job as a reader/assistant to a Vice President working at an independent production and financing company called Producers Sales Organization (PSO). Not too long thereafter, my boss was fired, but this time I was promoted. Thus I had my first executive job as Acquisitions Director, until someone else was brought in over me, and I was fired again. 

Only You: And the slipper fits...
   After that, I read for a number of different companies and producers including PBS/American Playhouse. It paid little, but it was great training, both in terms of what to do and what not to do. And then one day I got a call from a friend of the friend I’d mentioned earlier from Columbia Pictures, who’d gone on to work for Sydney, telling me she’d heard he was looking for a story editor. This was the dream job of all dream jobs. 
   I had to do sample coverage (an evaluation like a book report) on five or so scripts, and later heard that Sydney had picked out three candidates from those samples, and I was one of the three. My friend who was then his secretary had not yet told him she knew me, but at that point, I believe she did. Anyway, I wound up being hired by the president of his company at that time, a great guy named Mark Rosenberg. I was the happiest girl in the world to get that job. It was an extraordinary experience. 
   Later, I was promoted to Vice President of Creative Affairs.

*  What did you learn from working with Sydney Pollack?

I learned so much from Sydney, and truly don’t think I’d have ever been able to succeed as a writer without that experience. He was just such an incredibly bright, talented and driven man. He was a perfectionist and had an amazing work ethic, and was pretty much always the smartest guy in the room. He was also, as you can imagine, demanding and intense. The job was a challenge, but most of the time in a terrific and exciting way.  
* You’ve had an unusual career in that you were a movie executive before you took up writing. Most people go the other way. What impelled you to take on the precarious life of a writer

I guess I was feeling burned out on reading other people’s material at the time, and feeling like, if I knew so much, why didn’t I put my money where my mouth was? The job of a creative executive and the hours involved can be quite grueling. And yet I’d look around at some of the writers who were working on projects for Sydney, and this one was off on a cruise to South America, and another was on location with a filmit just seemed like a much more free and potentially rewarding life. Plus, this was back in the heyday of spec scripts selling for boatloads of money, and Sydneygreat a guy as he waswas, shall we say, frugal. Despite my title, I really wasn’t making much money there, and was kind of struggling, so having already spent quite a number of years analyzing material, I figured I owed myself a shot.
   That said, let me just state the obviousit’s a whole heck of a lot easier to sit on the sidelines and “critique” the work of others than it is to face the blank page yourself. A LOT easier.

Only You: You're going to let a few little letters keep us apart?
*  What was your first spec script about?

It was called Dog Meets Catabout a dog and a cat who are forced to live together and don’t want to. It didn’t sell, but it did get me an agent, and a small assignment job to write a treatment, which got me into the Writers Guild. So, looking back, that little script, written in a few months time, at night, when I was still working for Sydney, served me well. 

* That script was never produced, but it helped you get a writing assignment from Hanna-Barbera. What came out of your time with them?

Not a lot in terms of a movie. It was an assignment to adapt The Prince and the Pauper with dogs. I don’t think the project was ever made, but for me it was a great deal in that it got me into the writers guild, got me health insurance, and (as it paid $25,000) it bought me the time to write my second script, Only You

* Only You was the first script you sold. How did the success of that movie change your life and career?

Basically, it gave me a career (and a lot of money). I went from being a struggling writer, a few thousand dollars in debt, to having a career. It was an extraordinary, almost out-of-body, experience. After my agent and lawyer told me the news that they’d closed the deal for $1 million, I remember waking up the following morning and walking in something of a daze to the local 7/11 to buy the trade papers. And there it was, in black and white, on the front cover of The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety, and I remember thinking two things: First, “Thank goodness I hadn’t just dreamed it all, and second, “Well, they’re going to have to pay me now. Now that it’s been printed in the paper.” 

Only You: Mr Wright, in his socks...
* You worked with the director, Norman Jewison, on "Only You" for about six months before filming. What did you learn from him?

Norman is so lovely, and smart, and funnyhe’s a real charmer, and it was a joy and a thrill to work with him. He did kind of trick me, though, I realized after the fact. The way we’d work was I’d go to his office, trusty copy of my script in hand. And he’d sit at his desk and read aloud from his copy. If he didn’t like the way a scene was working (I later realized), he’d read it badly. He, like Sydney Pollack, started as an actor. A lot of what was in the original script was a little silly and slapstick-y and I think he wanted to minimize those elements, so he would read those scenes badly, and I’d think, “Oh good God, yes, we MUST get rid of that.”
Diane Drake at Franco Zefferelli's villa. 1993.
   Ultimately, though, I do think a little of the breezinessa tonal thing that told you the whole thing was supposed to be a larksomehow got a bit lost along the way. Perhaps more owing to the way Marisa Tomei chose to play it, which was a bit more “dramatic” than what I’d imagined. Not unusual, I’m afraid, from script to screen, for things to change substantially, and the original writer to not have much say about it. Still, it was an extraordinary experience, and I want to add that Robert Downey, Jr. is not only one of the most brilliantly talented, but also one of the most gracious and nicest people I’ve ever met in Hollywood. Simply lovely.  

Only You could have been set anywhere. Why was it set mostly in Italy?

I knew by virtue of the nature of the story that it had to go somewhere. It (and she), had to literally take off. And I wasn’t interested in going from, say, L.A. to New York. I’d been to Italy a few years earlier, fell in love with it, and wanted to return, so when I asked myself where I wanted to go, that was the obvious answer. Plus, it’s just by nature such a romantic and beautiful place, and it hadn’t been done to death at that point. The only time we’d recently seen a romanticized Italy on the big screen was in more art-house indie fare like Enchanted April or Cinema Paradiso. (This was pre-Under the Tuscan Sun, etc.)  

Positano. Photo taken by Diane Drake in 1993, during filming of 'Only You.'
   At the time a good writer friend of mine, whose advice I highly respected, said to me, “It’s a good script, but don’t set it in Italy.” When I asked him why not, he said, “Because if you set it in Italy, it becomes a movie about Italy.” As much as I trusted him and his opinions, I knew he was wrong about that, and thank goodness I didn’t listen and stuck to my original plan, as not only did I get a great trip to Italy out of it, but I’m convinced that the setting contributed to the movie’s success and longevity in DVD. Turns out a lot of people like taking a vicarious trip to Italy as much as I did.  

*  The theme of Only You is stated explicitly in writing. “Faith involves risk.” Both the woman Faith, and faith that your choices are right (Wright) for you. Do you recommend that approach to theme for new writers?

Only You: Faith involves risk, and You make your own destiny.
Actually, not to be contrary, but to me the theme is more what the fortune teller tells Faith in a moment of conscience, “The truth is, you make your own destiny. Don’t wait for it to come to you.” I think that’s something I was wrestling with at the time, working for Sydney, but feeling like I wanted to do more, and knowing it was up to me to take the risk and do it.   

*  What Women Want was an enormously successful movie. It was your idea, but other people took writing credit on that film. What happened there?

What Women Want: Thanks for all your great ideas...
Let’s just sayit’s complicated. The movie was based on my original idea and my original spec screenplay which predated the involvement of anyone else. I like to work with ideas which I consider universal fantasies, and when I came up with that one, I knew I’d hit on something special. Little did I know how ironic it would ultimately be that I created a story about a character who steals and takes credit for someone else’s ideas. As far as the final credits are concerned, I felt the Writers Guild arbitration was mishandled, but I know I’m not the first writer to feel this way, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. On the plus side, my name is on the film, it was a huge success, and I got paid handsomely. Glass half full.   
   Did I learn any lessons? I always advise any writer to register his or her material both with the Guild and (in the US) with the US Office of Copyright. It won’t keep people from stealing from you, but at least you’ll hopefully have some recourse if it happens. 
   On a related note, the movie was recently remade in China with Chinese stars, and I received a nice check in connection with that. Just goes to show you the power of a good idea and good script.

What we all want: A happy ending
*  You’ve been teaching at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program since 2009.  What one main idea do you try to impress on students

I place a great deal of emphasis on structure. Movies have a specific structure that is often invisible to those who’ve not analyzed them. And they’re almost always about
one main character, even “buddy movies” have a character who is more the lead than the other.
   Another thing I try to make my students aware of is what makes a movie.
Movies are about the moment where somebody’s life changed.” That’s a quote from Christopher Walken, and it’s one of the best I’ve ever come across in terms of summing up what a movie is, and isn’t.
   Beginning writers all too often get caught up in what they think is interesting dialogue or a dramatic moment, and forget to keep their eye on the big picture (forgive the pun). 

Nora Ephron says she became a director in order to protect her scripts. Have you ever thought of becoming a producer/director

No, it’s a whole different ballgame, and unfortunately, not one I think I’m particularly suited to. 
*  You have your own script consultation business. What prompted you to do that?

Yes, I do consultation through my website, I really love doing it. I feel like I’m able to bring a lot of experience and expertise to the table, both as an executive and as a produced writer. My clients have been so sweet and appreciative, and it’s been gratifying. Writing is so personal to people, and I feel quite honored to be let in on, and able to assist with, their pursuit of their dreams.  

*  Have you ever run into sexism/ageism in Hollywood?  How did you handle it?

I think it certainly exists and basically I try to just ignore it and go on about my business, to not give it any more power. Obviously, there’s no question that there are plenty of weasels in Hollywood, but there are some really great and smart and genuine people, too (for example, Sydney Pollack). I like to believe that, in the end, talent is what matters most. That, and persistence. And luck certainly doesn’t hurt either.

*  Are you working on a screenwriting advice book?

I am. Stay tuned. 

*  What one book would you recommend to a young wannabe screenwriter in Adelaide?

This is not a screenwriting book, per se, but a book about writing and the creative life in general. Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. Written in 1934, but with so much contemporary resonance and wisdom. Full of timeless, wonderful insights and advice about writing from the heart, and the joys and perils of life as a writer. 
   Just one example: she talks about seeing things freshly, or cultivating what she calls, “The innocent eye.” She advises, “Try to be one of those people on whom nothing is lost.” 
   I think she’s something of an antecedent for Julia Cameron’s The Artist's Way.
   If people are looking for a book on the nuts and bolts (and trials and tribulations) of screenwriting, there are a ton of them out there, but none I really love. (I must finish mine!) But for the time being, I think Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat! is pretty good, as is Viki King’s How to Write a Movie in 21 Days, even if, as I tell my students, the title is absurd. 

*  Name ten of your all-time favorite movies.
The Lives of Others (2006)
Local Hero (1983)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Bull Durham (1988)
Toy Story (1995)
Swingers (1996)
Man on Wire (2008)

First posted:  6 April 2012

Saturday 19 December 2015


We haven't had a new web series for a while, so here's the first episode of a new one by musician, actor and producer Jack Dishel. :DRYVRS is a project from the former Moldy Peaches guitarist, who plays a guy using an Uber-style car service and chronicles the strange drivers he encounters. The debut episode guest stars Macaulay Culkin, the Home Alone kid, as his driver.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Hidden Meaning of Star Wars

Okay, there's this new film out, a revisit to a 1977 movie with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and that other guy. To celebrate the occasion, here's a study of the hidden meanings of the original film, as explained by Garyx Wormuloid.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

"The Film School Generation"

As we know, not everyone went to film school. But some people did. And some of them made an impact on the world of movies. So much so, that their stories have been gathered into a documentary which is available online in six parts. 

Here's Part 1.

Here's Part 2. 

Here's Part 3. 

Here's Part 4. 

Here's Part 5. 

Here's Part 6. 

First posted:  4 April 2012

Saturday 12 December 2015

Honouring those who passed - 2015

Turner Classic Movies honors those great actors, actresses & filmmakers who've made our lives richer with their talent & imagination. We'll always remember you.

Thursday 10 December 2015

The Beatles - Hey Jude

I admit it, this is a sentimental post for me: a trip back to my high school years. As I listen to this, I can see myself making sandwiches for my school lunch while listening to Radio 3SR in the kitchen.
Hey Jude topped the charts in Britain for two weeks and for 9 weeks in America, where it became The Beatles longest-running No.1 in the US singles chart as well as the single with the longest running time.

The Beatles did not record their promotional film until Hey Jude had been on sale in America for a week. They returned to Twickenham Film Studio, using director Michael Lindsay-Hogg who had worked with them on Paperback Writer and Rain. Earlier still, Lindsay-Hogg had directed episodes of Ready Steady Go! And a few months after the film for Hey Jude he made The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus TV special that featured John and Yoko but wouldn’t be shown until 1996.

To help with the filming an audience of around 300 local people, as well as some of the fans that gathered regularly outside Abbey Road Studios were brought in for the song’s finale. Their presence had an unlikely upside for The Beatles in their long-running saga with the Musicians’ Union in that the MU were fooled into believing the band were playing live, when in fact they were miming for the vast majority of the song. Paul, however, sang live throughout the song.

The video was first broadcast on David Frost’s Frost On Sunday show, four days after it was filmed. At that point transmission was in black and white although the promo was originally shot in colour. It was first aired in America a month later on 6 October 1968, on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Why do we tell stories?

A question I've been asked from time to time is, Why do you write?

The first time I heard that question, my mind turned to the movie Shadowlands (1993), which deals with the life of C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia books. Lewis was a prolific writer. His circle of literary friends (including J.R.R. Tolkien) formed a writers' group known as the "Inklings". (If you want to see writers discussing their ideas for stories in a learned, but passionate way, watch this movie.)

The Inklings discuss story ideas in an Oxford pub.
In Shadowlands, there is a scene where Lewis confronts a wayward student. The student becomes animated while talking about his love of books. Then he quotes his father as having said: "We read to know we're not alone." That rang true for me; true, but incomplete.

I answered the question—Why do you write?—by quoting from Shadowlands, "We read to know we're not alone," and adding: "We write in order to become known." Meaning, books and screenplays are a safe place for us to explore our inner turmoils, fears and pain, and to allow others to share in our examination. 

I was happy with my answer, until I read Brian McDonald's book, The Golden Theme. (I intend looking at that book in more detail later in the year, perhaps in discussion with Brian.)  It is a small book, overflowing with stories, which illustrate his many points. One of these is the idea that human beings tell stories to pass on survival information. He illustrates that with a story about the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, well-known to Australians, which inundated parts of South East Asia in 2004 and killed almost a quarter of a million people. 
But the Moken people, who live on the coastlands of Thailand and Burma, suffered no deaths at all because they believed in an ancient legend. A story saved their lives. When the ocean receded and a small wave rolled in, the Moken people knew that it meant a tsunami was coming, and they headed for higher ground.
   Their legend says that there will be seven waves before the big wave comes—the wave that eats people. It's called the Laboon and it is caused by the angry spirits of the ancestors. 
   When the spirit of the sea becomes hungry and wants to taste people again, it sends a wave to swallow them up.
What do you think? Does that story reflect reliable scientific fact? The people who knew the story to be unscientific ignored the warning and died in the tsunami. The 'ignorant' fled and survived. Story 1, Science nil.

Matsushima Bay
I was reminded of this when I read another story in the L.A. Times on March 11, 2012, called Japan's 1,000-year-old warning.n a refugee center on the island of Miyatojima, at the entrance to Matsushima Bay, when he stumbled on a story that taught him something unexpected: Collective memorystorycan save your life. A local man told him this story.

Saturday 5 December 2015

2015 Salute to Cinema

Ben Zuk has compiled a year's end salute to the movies of 2015. Enjoy!

Friday 4 December 2015

66 Movie Dance Scenes (from 1953 and earlier)

Michael Binder loves old movies and has a lot of time on his hands. In this video, he edited together a stunning mashup of some of our favorite dancers and singers, including people like Gene Kelly, Shirley Temple, Groucho Marx, Rita Hayworth, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, James Cagney, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Judy Garland, "Bojangles" Robinson, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. None of these clips was sped up or slowed down. 

If you love the old classics and wish they made movies like they used to, turn up the volume, kick back and watch this.

PS: If you want to know the names of the films, click on the video’s subtitles button.

Michael Binder got the idea for his mashup after watching this 100 Movies Dance Scenes Mashup. Same song, different movies.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Writing and interruptions

At our last meeting, one of the guys in my writers' group made a comment about how infuriating it can be to suffer an interruption when you are in full flight, writing.

That reminded me of John Cleese, as many things do. In particular, this video, which opens with an appalling joke about Flemish, the language, then moves on to a discussion of some of his experiences with creative writing.

It is worth watching, apart from the opening joke. I once showed it to my wife, who subsequently interrupted me less frequently when I was writing. Maybe that can work for you, too.

First posted:  19 March 2012