Now know why film photography is becoming a thing of the past. It is not only very expensive. It is also unpredictable. Got an email early this morning from the film processors. Job done. Paid them. Stuff should be here early next week. The unpredictable part of that equation has me feeling sick. I know some of the picture will have come out. Scared some of the important ones haven’t.
Got another letter from the BBC Writersroom today. They returned The Singularity with a letter telling me they’ve “decided not be taking things further”. Not unexpected. I never expect anything else. Still stings though. I did get a brief critique. Apparently “it is worth noting that only a relatively small proportion of scripts we receive are given feedback”. Still haven’t had time to digest what they had to say. And probably won’t for a while. I need to rewrite Carrion before I take another look at The Singularity. Onwards and upwards. I wouldn’t be doing it if it were easy.
Just got an email from the film processors telling me they received my order. And that it will be processed as soon as possible. The waiting is nerve shredding.
I shot twenty rolls of film over the weekend. Sent them off to be processed yesterday. They were the first thing that came to mind when I woke up this morning. I know I framed some nice shot. Heard the shutter click. But I have no idea what kind of pictures I actually took. Starting to feel worried.
A couple of days ago I flicked past Newsnight and heard the term “feral rich” for the first time. Two words you don’t often hear said together. They were referring to an article in The Telegraph by their chief political reporter Peter Oborne “The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom.” I don’t read The Telegraph and hadn’t seen the published article. So I read the online edition. Mr Oborne’s article highlights the “terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite.” He points to the scandal over politicians expenses. And the governments efficiency adviser Philip Green who sent a billion pound divided off shore. While their actions may well have been within the law. They were not in my opinion moral. Mr Oborne notes that “an almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up” among those at the top. One example is “Rotherham MP Denis MacShane who remarked (in the House Of Commons debate about the riots) “What the looters wanted was for a few minutes to enter the world of Sloane Street consumption.” This from a man who notoriously claimed £5,900 for eight laptops. Of course, as an MP he obtained these laptops legally through his expenses.” While Mr Oborne racks up a steady count of politicians all guilty of hypocrisy. Exposing the “get what you can” mentality that infects our society from top to bottom. And argues “that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society.” I think you have to go back thirty years. To the government of Margaret Thatcher. To understand the true causes of what happened a couple of weeks ago. Put simply you reap what you sow. And Mrs Thatcher’s period in office set in motion a series of social changes that we are only now starting to pay for. Her premiership brought with it a social shift that positivity promoted an ethos of rampant self-interest. It is my opinion that the recent banking crisis was caused by individuals who began their careers while she was in office. Her ethos rose with them through the industry. It was her brand of greed that ultimately brought the banks down. Prompted the massive bail outs. That has lead to the cuts. Prompted the unrest we saw in May. And ultimately exploded in recent lawlessness. The looters wanted what those at the top of the pyramid have. And got it. The way those at the top get it. By taking it. But I think Mrs Thatcher’s legacy roots deeper still. She changed the nature of our economy. From manufacturing. To service. In doing so she condemned an entire class of people to a life on benefits. Those people who now live the nightmare of joblessness. Are exactly the same people who would have found work in manufacturing. Those failed by the education system. Are now forced to compete in an employment market that is saturated with graduates. But with graduate unemployment now at its highest since the mid nineties. Even the most menial job is hard to get. What’s left for those without a university education? Minimum wage jobs that make befits seem like a pay rise. Cutting benefits is not the solution. Creating jobs is the solution. Jobs that pay enough to give people a decent standard of living. But how can that happen? When the cost of living is rising. And those at the top of the Sunday Times Rich List are able to increase their wealth by eighteen percent. It can’t. Because to create jobs you have to spend money. And this government is intent on deficit reduction. A deficit that should be paid off by those who caused the problem in the first place. The bankers put their interests about everyone else. And we’re paying the price. Not just in cuts. But in the social misery of poverty. Those at the bottom don’t have the luxury of walking away from their debts. Why should the “feral rich” at the top? The question shouldn’t be why did the riots happen? The question should be. Why aren’t their more riots?
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about not being on Facebook. A couple of days ago I created a profile. Not sure why I took the plunge. But I’m still not one hundred percent sold on it. I think I like my privacy too much. And Facebook ultimately seems a little too intimate. I think it might actually end up being a bit like my encounters with both LoveFilm and Blockbuster’s DVD postal services. Their business model is built on the premise that they offer a more flexible renting solution. The reality is that you let some monkey in a warehouse choose the films you watch over the weekend. Just as the LoveFilm’s of the world have found a way of providing a poorer service and making it seem like a benefit. Facebook promises the ability to connect to lots of people. Some of them you might actually know. In return you are prompted to give away a massive chunk of your privacy. Ultimately that makes me think “the entry fee might not be worth it”. You’ll know for sure what side of the line I fall if my Facebook profile suddenly disappears.
Over the last few weeks I have read both Robert McKee’s Story and John Truby’s The Anatomy Of Story. While reading these two books I have also been working though some ideas for redraft of Carrion. Not sure if it is a good idea to try and assimilate both treaties in quick succession while still writing. But as paid work has cut my writing time in half. I feel the need to keep pounding the keys. Or lose whatever momentum I have trained into myself. Anyway. Prompted by what I have read. I started to think about the premise of Carrion. Truby assert that the premise “is your story stated in one sentence. It is the simplest combination of characters and plot and typically consists of some event that starts the action, some sense of the main character, and some sense of the outcome of the story.” On the other hand McKee asserts that the premise is simply “an open ended question: What would happen if… ?” For example. “What would happen if a shark swam into a beach resort and devoured a vacationer? JAWS.” But what Truby calls premise. McKee calls the controlling idea. “A controlling idea may be expressed in a single sentence describing how and why life undergoes change from one condition of existence at the beginning to another at the end.” And what McKee calls the controlling idea Truby calls the designing principle. “The designing principle is what organizes the story as a whole. It is the internal logic of the story, what make the parts hang together organically so that the story becomes greater than the sum of its parts.” While both notions of premise make sense. Truby’s version sounds to me like the logline. And seems too detailed to be what McKee describes as “the idea that inspires the writer’s desire to create a story.” But if Truby is right when he says “if your premise is weak, there is nothing you can do to save the story.” I need to seriously rethink the foundations of Carrion. When I first started work on Carrion. The initial inspiration came from an idea that they. The government. The powers of prohibition. Genetically engineered insects to eat drugs. The whole script was written from that starting point. Characters. Plot. Dialogue. I now come to realise were built on shaky foundations. With Truby’s help I now realise that drug eating insects was too nebulous an idea. And lacks any notion of what is at stake in the story. With some work. And the help of McKee. I have come to another what if question. What if the war on drugs escalates into civil war? According to Truby this is still not strong enough. And needs to be expanded to include the event that starts the action. Some sense of the main character. And some sense of the outcome of the story. While I still have the character of Carrion’s previous draft. I know this draft has a different outcome. What it is I don’t know yet. But I do know I have a lot more work to do. The one thing I have realised while writing this is that while both Truby and McKee offer invaluable insights into the craft of screenwriting. Neither has the definitive answer. But they are both useful as tools to clarify my own understanding.
I’m not on facebook. People keep telling me I should create a profile. But I’ve resisted. There is something about the whole thing that makes me very uncomfortable. I know it’s a completely irrational prejudice. Fuelled by something I read a long time ago. The articular stated that among other things an investment company set up by the CIA owns shares. As do a bunch of multinationals like Coca Cola. And that facebook is essentially a massive marketing tool. Allowing companies harvest information about it’s patrons. And target them with direct marketing. Or use the information as free market research. Or keep tabs on them in some Big Brother kind of way. Putting the paranoid conspiracy theory away for a second. What company doesn’t farm information about individuals likes and dislikes from the internet. I posted on twitter recently about my frustrations with edf energy. They hand’t read the meter for over a year so I had been overcharged. I wanted a refund. It took several very long phone calls over the period of a month. But I got some money back. Anyway edf contacted me through twitter offering to help. I didn’t reply. I didn’t trust that it was edf. So ignored their repeated advances. But that highlighted something for me. While Twitter is a very public arena it feels very private. I hadn’t given much thought to the notion that a company like edf would be monitoring the twitter timeline. Truthfully I felt a little stalked. And I think that’s another of the things that makes me feel uncomfortable with facebook. While facebook is a great tool for connecting people. It can also gives access to those who you would rather not have in your life. We all have them. That work colleague who you would rather not talk to. Or the long lost friend who is better staying lost. Social networking sites like facebook allow the kind of personal access I am reluctant to give to anyone but those closest to me. At some point I know I am going to have to hand them my details. Join the club. For professional reasons as much as anything. But for now I think I will stay clear of the microscopic spotlight that facebook exposes you to.
I’ve been reading John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the intricacies of giving meaning to their story. For those who haven’t read the book. Mr. Truby approaches story as if it were a body. And dissects it as if her were doing an autopsy. He has a chapter on technology (tools). In it he observes that within a story “tools are an extension of the human form, taking a simple capability and magnifying its power.” Why do I mention this? Because while reading Truby’s book. I have also been working through some ideas for major redraft of Carrion. One of the ideas at the centre of Carrion is that insects have been genetically engineered to eat drugs. Within my story they are physical manifestation of prohibition. A tool that takes the ruthless unrelenting enforcement of prohibition to its merciless conclusion. The physical destruction of anyone who takes drugs. With that in mind. I started to think about drugs as a tool. And asked the question. What kind of tool are drugs? This quickly becomes more complicated that one might think. It is all to easy to view drugs simply a tool to alter one’s mood. I have written before about the link I see between drugs and prohibition. In a previous post Why they won’t stop the war on drugs I outlined a paradigm that uses drug prohibition as a tool for social control. Certainly that is one function drugs play within society. But it is not the only one. I read a paper recently by Tammy L Anderson that points to A Cultural-Identity Theory Of Drug Abuse. While the paper differentiates between drug use and abuse. “The theory proposes that drug abuse is an outcome of a drug-related identity change process featuring three micro-level (personal marginalization, ego identity discomfort, and lost control in defining an identity), two mesolevel (social marginalization and identification with a drug subcultural group), and three macro-level (economic opportunity, educational opportunity, and popular culture) concepts.” Without getting into the intricacies of a theory that describes twelve hypothetical relationships that lead to drug abuse. It does point to another way drugs are used. As a tool of cultural identity. From my own experiences I can say there is certainly an identification between those have used drugs. And those who have not. You only have to look at the way those who drink alcohol. View those who do not. To see a shared identity works. Conversely in this instance. Because alcohol is a socially acceptable drug. Those who do not us the drug are the ones viewed with hostility. But this binary polarization of us and them points to the dynamic at work when looking at the way illicit drugs are viewed. Cultural-identity theory argues that drug abuse is a consequence of a multitude of marginalizing experiences. “The greater the number of marginalizing experiences… the greater the risk for drug abuse.” If that is the case. And drug abuse is a consequence of an accumulation of negative experiences both personal and social. Drugs becomes a consequence of negative forces that define those who eventually abuse drugs. And not the other way round. Which perhaps accounts for the vicious way in which the sober world treats drug users. There is a sense of guilt felt by the sober world. A guilt that recognises drug use is not simply people being somehow weak willed. A guilt that can not be solved. And ultimately elicits hostility. There is a scene in David Mamet’s film The Spanish Prisoner that explains the psychological origins of human cruelty. The key line comes at the end of Steve Martin’s speech. When Campbell Scott asks him why his employers will start to act cruelly toward him. Martin replies. “To suppress their guilt.” But this notion of guilt does not take into account the cultural identity felt by drug users. But that is the subject for another post. For me. And certainly within the context of Carrion. I am starting to see drugs as a tool of guilt. A motivating forces for both protagonist and his antagonist.
I came across Channel 4’s The Random Spoken Word Competition today. It started me thinking about exquisite corpses. For those who don’t know. An exquisite corpse was Surrealist André Breton’s attempt to introduce chance into his artistic practice. Breton described it as a “game of folded paper played by several people, who compose a sentence or drawing without anyone seeing the preceding collaboration or collaborations.” The now classic example. Which gave the game its name. Was drawn from the first sentence obtained this way. “the-exquisite-corpse-will-drink-new-wine.” The judges of Channel 4’s competition “are looking for one piece of writing that imaginatively explores the theme “random” by using language in a rhythmically original and instantly engaging way.” Ignoring the fact that “random” is not a theme. As McKee tells us “theme is not a word but a sentence-one clear coherent sentence that expresses a story’s irreducible meaning.” I’m wondering if it’s possible to write something that resonates using the exquisite corpse technique? I’ve experimented with the technique on a number of occasions. With varying degrees of success. As a writing technique problems arise because it is by definition a collaborative endeavour. You need several people to make it work. It then becomes about the collaborative process. And not what is written. I once wrote an outline entitled “Exquisite Corpses Of Soloman Bishop”. In it Solomon Bishop speaks entirely in exquisite corpses. To circumvent the need for several people while writing this. I produced Solomon’s dialogue using Tzara’s technique for writing Dada poetry. I cut words from newspapers and magazines. Put them in a bag. Drew them out at random. And created sentences from the results.
- Squad more robots forced adoption.
- Lock-in sleeper defend green letters.
- Trial bombers nylon contamination.
Interesting statements. Full of jarring juxtapositions. That are still a kind of exquisite corpse. But it is very easy for this random selection of words to be ignored as meaningless. The question then arises. How do you give the randomness meaning? Or more precisely. How do you control the randomness’s meaning? One way is to give the words context. How do you give them context? By giving them a title that starts a story. “Once upon a time” gets the ball rolling. Propelling the resulting exquisite corpse forward sequentially. Another way is more abstract. But grounds the exquisite corpse to something. An idea. Open with a title like. “The exquisite corpse of twenty first century sin.” And all that follows refers to something tangible. More work is needed on this. But that’s all I have time for at the moment.