Category: Flashbacks

Today is tomorrow’s flashback. (Armando “Melk”)

Why good stories make you want to have a better life.

Recently I liked this far away three-pointer by Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed.  They always struck me as adventurous storytelling characters, Super-people from the quiet wild side.

Their quote was about finding ways to get through life.

One: “Don’t be afraid of anyone. Now, can you imagine living your life afraid of no one?”

Two: “Get a really good bullshit detector.”

Three: “Three is be really, really tender.”

“And with those three things” – Laurie said – “you don’t need anything else.”

In the full wide range that stretches from street hobos to rich presidents and from Ivy-league dropouts to post-celebrity rehabs, there is a common thread:  life is ripe with conflict.

Sure, conflict is what made humans sharper, problem solvers until the last beat. Storytellers know that ultimately conflict alone can float identity through a sea of half-truths, up, up to the surface where the sun plays catch with flying fish. However important our culture of conflict may be, the search for less human pain, suffering, and crisis may also be a story to pursue. A peaceful target to shoot for.

In dramatic movies, the ending may be, in terms of plot, happy or unhappy. In either case, if the story works, the viewer is rewarded with insights into the depths of human life.

The ancient Greeks attended Tragedies more than school, feasting on pop-corn-less morality with cathartic heroes like Oedipus (an unknowing motherfucker) or universal strategists like Ulysses, king of the surprise climax.

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Endings in these stories didn’t seem to matter much. The deus ex machina finale at times gave Gods the task of resolving plot indecision or confusion. This over-the-top device released authors from spending too much stage-time on predictable closing show and tell details. (They lived happily ever after! was another shortcut).  The middle of the story is where it all happened. Development, substance, focus, now.

So, what can we learn about “making our life better” by watching a film story?  It is true that caped Super-heroes are our cultural diet now, just as Commedia dell’Arte theatre masks were dominant wanderers from town to town for four centuries.

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Masks are types. Types embody in broad strokes the infinite relationships among standard folk: the rich man, the poor woman, the young lovers, the old doctor, the cop, the thief, the servant.

It’s all about relationships, stupid.

A film I would watch again is one that leads to my relationship with the story. Titanic was a lesson in teen-age blockbuster making, who would have thought it? Multiple viewings create a relationship, characters become familiar: it’s the key to the new TV series mania.

Note for debate: Characters are not people, but they’re close enough to pretend. Characters stand in a story because the plot says so, and the writer cast them for a role.  No script? No character. They look like people, however. Or should.

This is not the case in real life where life may be scripted but in all likelihood is not very good. Determinists saw destiny play a bigger part than individuals. In the west we famously trust individual agency and will to drive success and failure.

You want to be the big boss man? Slay the dragons. Dominate your universe and plunge forward. Action films seem equivalent to playing Mozart with only Major chords. (Male chords, duh)

I have a preference for the Minor Key in film. Movies that don’t try and impress only with underlined cinematic cartwheeling. I have the same bias meeting people at parties.

If a film reveals a personal insight, I am Up.  If there is a label that explains everything or indicates next to each action, I am turned off. I follow film-makers that make movies that matter, even a little.

As a producer of youth-cinema, I see film conflict not as a medieval head-to-head battle to release adrenaline, but a personal texture, an inside chess game of question marks: where to go? what to do? How? Who with? Well told conflict can be hesitation pure and simple. Or an identity short-circuit. Or lack of clarity, loss of vision. How to take direct action choices, then? Voting can be Hamletic too, in hard times.

Even without a simple top-down final duel on a skyscraper, a film can lead to a character’s foggy melting point, the quiet intersection of dramatic need, desire and urgency in search of identity.

Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed are not film characters.

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Their lingo is story with sound. They quest to stay away from trouble, they are grounded in their shape-shifting personae. Who they want to be? Simple:  happier spending time together.  Popcorn flicks too could explore that engagement vibe.

In the script of life rewritten, I would try reducing, not adding, conflict to stories.  Better conflict, of course, the one worth fighting for without fists and watching with senses aloft. As James Joyce said, the cinema is a “screen of consciousness”.

Luckily I am not afraid of fear, I can smell bullshit from outside the playground, and I still want to hear my kids tell me I was kind. That’s a step towards a better now, even for a callous storyteller like me.

There is already enough conflict to go around in the world.

Danny Alegi is a filmmaker, story development coach and speaker.  Read more of Danny’s blogs at ‘Movies Without Cameras‘.

“The War of the Worlds” If you don’t hoax, who will?

Listen or read the Orson Wells radio on “TheWar of the Worlds.”. The sci-fi sceneario of alien invasion became a surprise hoax radio show in 1938. Today, pulling off an event like this seems unlikely, for  a few reasons:

a) This storytelling genius was so precocious smart and prolific as to make a thread of absolute masterpieces, only to get blackballed for good by the industry of fear. There are few people like Orson Wells around today.

b)  The story of alien pods landing in New Jersey farms  was told in a no-TV environment where fact-checking was impossible. Today news data travels faster than gossip and secrets pop like GMO corn.

3) There hasn’t been a good hoax in a while. Too many hoax-check sites out there.

Here is THE WAR OF THE WORLDS – SCRIPT – Orson Welles & the Mercury Theratre on the Air

danny alegi

Ps – make a #littlesecretfilm.

 

“APPLAUD or DIE!!” Must see Award-Winning Short (10 min)

Contemporary film studies commonly use the feature film as the basic, common dramatic space and format. The three acts, the familiar setups and characters populate what film students examine the most. If you are learning how to write screenplays, you probably have read and reread “Chinatown” and “Ordinary People” and “Tootsie” ay nd “Casablanca” and other classics. These films of course are awesome and history and deserve attention, respect, awe. But they are not the only source out there and, in my POV, they can frankly be too much. If you are learning to swim, laps are more manageable than crossing the Channel. If you are a beginner at Chess, you can learn how to “castle” from a friend, without having to study a whole Fischer-Spassky match.

This new category in the “Movies Without Cameras” Blog suggests different award-winning short films to watch and perhaps explore. Shorts can have alternative structures, fewer characters and streamlined scenes. What better gym for short-film makers to flex their imaginary muscles in?

The first short I offer for thought is called “Applaud or Die” by and with Benson Simmonds as a desperate man in an alley playing for his life. Not recent, but a timeless CLASSIC.

Release the Captured Image

danny photo

published in the collective book: MAGIC MOMENTS
by Broby Grafiska – Film I Värmland, 2014
ISBN 978-91-981533-0-9

I struggled as a kid with the systematic murder of butterflies in the name of the study and preservation of their magical, ephemeral beauty. Maybe an idea is like a butterfly that we find alive in flight, perfect as is. We humans are curious creatures, we live for ideas, we want to feed on rapture and wonder. We are driven to observe, hold, capture, even devour an idea. It’s a process we do unconsciously, like breathing, I suspect.But then, as in any story, once we feel an idea… “what happens next?”

For me an idea is like lighting a match in the dark, IT makes all the difference. IT reveals a little more. IT creates shadows and in betweens. Before I “get IT” or explain IT or identify IT, I can recognise one feeling: an idea can transform the unfamiliar into a cell of awareness without having a name or a purpose yet. Just a bolt of energy that reshuffles what we knew before, like a new kid on the block has the power to change an entire neighborhood.
For the most part, my ideas remain private, unexplained. Instinct is wordless, right? Why explain ideas to yourself? Sequences of verbal translation are a social tool of communication. My guess is when you feel an idea, you do what a plant does thru photosynthesis, changing light into nutriment. Perhaps our ideas are inputs, breaths to exhale later in new form. In between the in and out, is the mysterious, fascinating creative adventure of “process”, the middle of things, the Now. The East sits on the path of “what’s happening now” in a contemplative, deeper sense. The West keeps trucking’ on the highway of what happens next: desire, competition and material accomplishment. Action is inevitably a story structure: beginning, end, middle. The middle comes last because, a middle is a middle only if it is followed by an end.

Personally, I am interested in one specific kind of idea: the cinematic idea. A cinematic idea moves and changes thru time. It possesses- from its beginning – the energy and DNA of a film, and nothing else. A cinematic idea carries visual power and storytelling potential, emotional dynamics. A cinematic idea wants to be a film, not a statue, a painting, or a building. Trying to freeze and label a cinematic idea to me is like sticking a pin into that butterfly, to be able to place it – dead forever – under a magnifying glass. But I am no scientist or biologist, I am interested in stories ion motion, movies, personal films across genres and media. The movies I am most interested in are not the ones playing on Netflix, but those that have not been made yet. I started working with youth cinema for this reason: young and amateur creatives can fly if you just let them without dissecting them with how-tos and to-dos. One thing is fly, and another is to label, report and study.
James Joyce once said that his final opus “Finnegan’s Wake” – whose verbal flux and storytelling deconstruction were so unprecedented as to frustrate and fascinate readers for ever – said his inspiration for the weaving structure of the book came – in part – from the new art of cinema. [Read the “Introduction to Metaphysics” by Henri Bergson, there is a cinematic idea]

Ideas, in fluid narrative process, can become “stream of consciousness”, the art of flow. Many writers wait for flow to flood their pages with unstoppable, final sentences. Good ideas seem to shine with a promise: there will be “less pain” when a script “writes itself”. Bbut in story development good ideas are necessary but not sufficient. A writer can’t just admire a new magic moment of insight, s/he must dance with IT.

A magic moment “pops up” and we look at it, then we think we must save it, hold on to it, never let it go. How do we do that? Some scribble or tap notes. Some “take pictures” to stake a placeholder claim on the world. We all seem to want to trap, even arrest our ides as images and words, and then imprison them in our pocket digital devices. We seem to give so much value to our “captured images” and their potential value as idea reminders. But I know there is a way to do the reverse, to release the source of an idea back into the wild, to set IT free. I call it the Cinemahead process.

Carrying captured images and sounds can fill the hard-drive space in our camera and brain. This cuts down our play-space and playing with ideas (the process, the now) is the most juicy part of the game. So I try and leave a new idea exactly where I found it. Instead of capturing a shot of a tree as a memory, I play with it, then I put it back: I leave it there. Next time you do, look at how “your” idea returns where you found it. rock-n-roll! The next time, your the idea will be waiting for you there, exactly where you left it. Nobody will steal your ideas in the open. Trusting an idea into the common space can be not sonly exhilaratingly free, but even contagious. Imagine others as they may run into your ideas and you into theirs. Imagine a creative commons of shared ideas right around us, everywhere. So much common ground, so much potential for cross-pollination and mutual inspiration. Personally that in itself feels like an idea, so – like an unknown butterfly – I will leave it here and let it go. See what happens to it, now and next. The best part of a magic moment is breathe it in, and let it be.

[daniel alegi]

Come hear “String Cheese” play… storyjazz by the waterside.


The first time I heard String Cheese was in 1999 and the music never stopped. This is a full show, take a bite, start anywhere you want. (minute 46, for example?) If you don’t know this jam band, listen in. They depart wildly from basic melodic structures and verses, opening up spaces for unforgettable creative vibes in motion, jazzy ripples circling juicy refrain patterns.

What’s that got to do with film, you say?

The magic of a reveal

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A forgotten station emerges from under NYC, a metaphor for the magic power of reveals. We discover what was hidden and the range of our familiar spaces and sources expands. Read more on the blog that posted the story first, the cool travelettes.

http://www.travelettes.net/new-york-city’s-hidden-subway-station/#%21

This station is with us now, like a secret in a story revealed from the deep. Meaning is best not told, but discovered.

The best spots ever?

Some ads are memorable. The Cannes Ad festival every year nominates the best ad in the world. The winners of these high-profile industrial competitions are usually big ad companies. If you have’t seen these award-winning ads for Nike, Old Spice and Adidas here is your second chance (life’s all about second chances).

These ads are entirely different, and worth comparing.

The Nike chicken ad comes from Tractor, a Stockholm-L.A. team of directors producers that enjoys a kinda cult status in Sweden. way past Björn Borg and approaching Abba. They’ve done work for pop tarts stars and coke global sodas, and they’ve even taken a comedy shot at hollywood.

 

 

This is not an Ad – It’s film funding.

Crowdsourcing is the thing now.  When you want to make a film  you take it first to  family, friends, supporters and potential audiences. By the process itself of revealing your intentions in public, you transform an abstract idea (a dream?) into a plan. By asking for contributions in exchange for (clever, fun) rewards, your film becomes a project, one that you are responsible for. Just by posting on Kickstarter or Indiegogo (among others) you become a storytelling entrepreneur, a making-of artist  in the web-circus.

What are you selling when you crowdsource? Your ideas, your talent, your role as an innovator in an innovator world

Your video. good=funds, bad=redo, rethink, remake.