Category: market

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‘.

Faster than a speeding bullet! Why Superman does what he does…

RAY

talkin’ INTERSTELLAR Blues

TED interstellar blogpost
TEDed

“Interstellar” By Chris Nolan has sparked admiration and quality criticism (New Yorker)  Few other high-concept films in recent years have had this kind of echo, as if it were “2001 Space Odyssey” all over again.

TED-ed posted a number of blog posts and visuals about the science in the film.

The conversation continues here Cinemahead Forum

Clayton Kershaw, when a story melts down.

The Dodgers blew it again in the playoffs gifting the St. Louis cards with a take-home 1-3 series. This time it was star pitcher Kershaw who owned the melt down: he gave away a 6-1 lead in game 1 and a 2-0 lead in the 7th inning of game 4. The figthing red birds gratefully grabbed the offer en route to the world series.

Now, Kershaw is perhaps the best regular-season pitcher today. So, play along with my metaphor here: I see a pitcher like a top screenwriter, a master storyteller with a job: to take home a concept, a strategy, and in the end win. In baseball it’s the won game, in scriptwriting a finished, imaginative, killer story. (Sold, yeah.)

Kershaw in 2014 playoffs wrote some great beginnings, rock’n’roll first acts, then lost his plot points in act 3. The Dodgers jumped to early leads and coasted forward evenly. This is what good writers have learned to do, by apprenticeship and instinct:  set up the game-story and control it, directly, by pitching strikes and outs, and indirectly by inspiring your teammates to asphalt their opponents with talent.  But what about highs and lows? What about action?

Kershaw looked like William Goldman in the first 6 innings of both game 1 and 4: solid presence, perfect timing and ahead of the opposition. You trust a good writer like Goldman to take you on an adventure, like you trust Hitchock to serve a juicy finale no matter how cheap the McGuffin. But a “won game” has to actually be won, like in chess. A winning idea for a script has to be developed until it’s done and over. And it pays off.

Instead, the Dodgers seemed to wait lazily hoping to avoid disturbing plot complications. These horrors, in the form of home-runs, errors and comebacks, hurt. The more you are ahead, the darker the chance that forces of antagonism will team up to pull you down.

Kershaw may have to pitch his way out of a reputation as a choker, by winning “won games” that count. Lost games may be paradoxically easier to win, as concentration is less likely to slip away and a pitcher gets max support from his cast. But winning the “won games” is the ultimate test of patience, character, skillful. A subtle creeping danger haunted our pitcher-writer choice by choice, action by action, pitch after pitch, surfing the good story, gliding upwards towards a clear & happy climax, nothing to fear.

But our defeated storyteller Kershaw may have fallen into that exact trap of ignoring fear, coasting to a shortcut to the win. He even arm-wrestled opponents with a hasty greed for overpowering show-and-tell fastballs… Oops, gone. So little regard for  the dark disasters that lurk within an unfinished opus.

Clayton: in those fierce do-or-die moments (which will come again) focus your heart on your inner scoreboard, the one that ultimately matters. Fear is defeat. Keep your story burning.

Written by Comments Off on Clayton Kershaw, when a story melts down. Posted in BLOG, market

Branding smart w/ fresh squeeze: an immunity booster?

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Sweden is famous for its quality of life, democracy and gender equality – but not necessarily for humor (certainly not during the week).

So you can image my surprise when yesterday, just back from travel, I found this funny looking juice with a label the likes of which I’d never seen before.

Here was an example of branding with infotainment!

Recycling bits of Berlusconi news is in itself not news. The man has used gaffes and bad jokes as a way to boost his humanity and friendliness. Anyone remember the sad/mad Holocaust joke he cracked at a EU parliament session.

But now, the Man has lost his parliamentary immunity after been sentenced for fraud. Why put this on the juice pack? It’s innovative branding, for sure.

What do you think?

Any other examples of something similar?