Just another quick thought regarding my previous post. Part of us securing the new lease is having to submit credit reports and references. Understandably our landlord wants to check that we are reliable. Throughout this process the subject of the landlords reliability has not been bought into question. This strikes me as entirely one sided arrangement. Just a thought.
We are moving from the flat we have lived in for about fifteen years. We’ve found another place to rent in Streatham or as the marble mouths who want to gentrify the borough insist on calling it, St. Reatham. Our current landlord has been great but periodically, for one reason or another, floats the idea of selling. The last time was earlier this year. He eventually told us to hold fire but it put the wind up us a little so we kept looking. At some point he was going to sell. Better for us to jump now rather than wait to be pushed. Finding the right place has taken a while but we think we’ve found somewhere nice but more importantly somewhere that has the potential to be long term. The idea of finding somewhere quickly is horrible, not least because it puts us at the mercy of that loathsome profession, the letting agent. I hate letting agents! I hate dealing with them. I hate being at their mercy. I find them unnecessarily rude. They have the social graces of an autistic teenager. And worst of all I hate feeling like I’m being ripped off. How they justify charging twice for the same service is beyond me? They charge you for finding the landlord a tenant while charging the landlord for their services. Make no mistake a letting agent works for the landlord. The landlord hires them to look after the property not the inverse. Thankfully we found our new place through a friend of a friend so we’re being spared the stress and indignity of dealing with an agent. We, like most people, would love to buy somewhere. The relative security of property ownership is attractive but because we rent the prospect of buying is an Everest of a problem. Even if we were pulling down above average earning, which we’re not, there wouldn’t be a lot left to save after you pay ever increasing rents, utility bill, travel and the basics of living. Bottom line, the cost of living in the United Kingdom and London in particular, is too high. Cost of living high. Prospect of saving low. No savings. No deposit. No deposit. No buy house. Even if we took advantage of the governments new help to buy scheme we’d have to find more than £17000 to place a five percent deposit on the flat we currently live in. We, like an ever increasing number of people, have to face the idea that we will never own a property of our own. This is a problem on so many levels it would take a book to cover them all. The immediate political problem is that if there is a generation who has to rent something must be done to help renters, improve their rights, make it fairer, more affordable, less vulnerable to the vagaries of the market, more long term and most of all devoid of autistic teenagers.
For reasons that I don’t really want to go into I’ve had to do a lot of motorway driving recently. I must’ve done two thousand miles up and down the M1 between London and the North East. It’s exhausting; not because you have to sit in the same position for an extended period of time but because it’s so stressful. Driving on the motorways of the UK is nothing short of playing a twisted game of Russian roulette. But this isn’t the kind of Russian roulette that has you chamber the round, spin the cylinder, aim it at you head then pull the trigger. This is the kind of Russian roulette they play in Géla Babluani’s 13 (Tzameti). The kind of Russian roulette that has you chamber the round, spin the cylinder, point the gun at the guy in front then pull the trigger. The kind where you choose to play the game but someone else kills you. As I understand it the rules of motorway driving are relatively simple. They stipulate that you drive along the inside lane at no more than seventy miles an hour. The two adjacent lanes are intended for overtaking slower moving traffic. Once clear of the slower vehicle you should then return to the inside lane; all the time keeping the correct stopping distance between you and the vehicle in front. Yesterday I did about five hundred miles. In no particular order here are a few of the things that happened. While overtaking an articulated lorry, the driver decide he wanted to overtake the vehicle in front and suddenly pulled out. I was lucky there was no one to my right. If I hadn’t pulled over as quickly as did he would’ve hit me. On another occasion, on a fairly congested section of road, a car suddenly cut in front of me. I was forced to break hard or hit him. He just decided to pull over without following the basics of the highway code. There were a series of incidents involving drivers who seem incapable of using the inside lane; the middle lane hogger. I approached one vehicle from a clear inside lane. There was no reason for the car ahead to be in the middle lane. Rather than undertake him, very easy to do but illegal, I had to cross to the outside lane. No so bad until I got level with him and he woke up, decided he didn’t want to be overtaken and started to speed up. I returned to the inside lane as he pulled away. Five minutes later, a few more cars on the road and I overtook him? On another congested stretch of road, caused in no small part by these cruise control junkies hogging the middle lane, I found myself in the outside lane. I maintained a steady speed, had enough distance between me and the car in front until someone pulled in front of me, halving the stopping distance I had built up. This relatively minor action feeds a couple of other much more serious behaviours. There are the drivers doing significantly more than seventy miles an hour who insist on driving bumper to bumper with the vehicle in front; they stack themselves up like cards ready for a death match of fifty two card pickup. The sister to this is the light flashing tailgater. At one junction somewhere past Sheffield I pulled into the outside lane to give those joining the motorway room to do so. I passed one car as it speeded down the slip road and watched in my rear-view mirror as they joined the motorway, cut across all three lanes of traffic, until they were behind me, lights flashing for me to pull over because apparently I was in their way. I find this behaviour particularly infuriating. Vehicles doing well over the speed limit pulling in behind you and flashing their lights demanding you do something that usually isn’t possible. These are just a small percentage of the reckless behaviour I witnessed yesterday. I have no understanding of other road users behaviour. Part of me thinks they’re the product of a society dominated by rampant self-interest. I’m the only person of worth, you lot are a hinderance to my progress and should be forced to one side. Some might say this is just the law of the jungle. Survival of the fittest. You’re not fit enough to have the money to buy a massive SUV or Saloon car you’re not fit enough to be on my roads. I think on a very simple level the chaos of motorway driving is an indication of some fairly serious underlying social problems to do with a general lack of respect each of us has towards the other. Alternatively, there’s a kind of class war is being played out on the motorways. Just a thought?
Just a short post to firm up something in my head. I was asked again recently what my screenplay was about. I often give people the logline; when the government targets junkies for genocide, a self-righteous policeman fights to save his drug using sister. This time I said “it’s about the cruelty of prohibition.” I realised today it’s not about the cruelty of prohibition, Carrion is about the fight between freedom and security. The fight between freedom and security is at the core of the war on drugs. Think about the rhetoric of prohibition. War. Protection. Threat. Danger. Safety. They all frame drugs and their users as dangerous. A threat to our way of life. We have to protect ourselves. At the core of peoples desire to take drugs is rebellion. A desire to reject the values of the wider society. To be free. I’ve mentioned this dynamic before when writing about the conflict between Adam and Reiner. Deep down the two men are fighting over the kind of world they are going to live in. Reiner demands a world of security. At the end of the story Adam is fighting for a world of freedom. He doesn’t get it. The fight for freedom has only just begun but the realisation is what brings the end of his journey.
Working on Carrion today I found myself asking the question; why is Adam against drugs? In the story world of Carrion the drug user is the enemy. As a distinct social group they are to Reiner and the prohibitionist what the Jews were to Hitler and the Nazis; “if we did not have them we should have to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy.” (1) They are the outsider. The other. The enemy. The threat that people can be united against. Defeat drugs and the world will be a better place. From Reiner’s point of view the choice to do drugs represents a kind of desire for freedom that poses a direct challenge to the security he craves. This makes Adam’s animosity for drugs more about his desire to be part of something bigger. Which raises the question; if you strip away that belonging would the animosity go with it? Adam wants to be part of something bigger. The price to become part of that something is his sister. Unwilling to pay the piper he is exiled, forced to experience the world thusly. That makes Adam’s animosity towards drugs environmental. It is a learned behaviour that has more to do with his relationship with Christine than some innate hatred of drugs and users.
I’ve been going over yesterdays post trying to figure out the ten minutes of story that follow the inciting event. At its simplest the sequence is about Adam escaping. This prompted me to research individuals escaping arrest. The scenarios for escaping arrest seem to fall into three main categories. The first involved intervention by a third party. Two bank robbers escaped custody when a prison van they were in was attacked by an armed gang. The gang forced the van to stop, threatened the guards with shotguns, freeing the two men. The second involves meticulous planning. A murder escaped prison by scaling the walls of the prison with an improvised rope. He first hid in the prison gymnasium, then made his way onto the roof, before climbing down the wall using a rope fashioned from discarded netting. The final scenario can best be described as an opportunistic escape. While guards were not looking, an arsonist slid under the van that delivered him. He managed to escape custody by clinging to the undercarriage as the van drove out. The second of these scenarios is the least likely to work for Adam. There simply isn’t the time for him to plan an escape. The first scenario is also unlikely. All of Adam’s comrades are prohibitionists; who would come for him? Which leaves the third scenario, the opportunistic escape. Refusing to kill Christine categorises him as a junkie in the eyes of Reiner and the prohibitionists. While the punishment for this treason could very easily be quick and final, Adam’s punishment is to be treated as a junkie, suffer the same indignities the drug taking community has to suffer. Outcast by the prohibitionists, thrown in with the quarantined users, Adam is reviled by both sides. This scenario is rife with the possibility of violent confrontation. Confrontations that have the potential to get out of hand and create opportunities for escape. There is more to come but that’s it for now.
Some time ago I mentioned throwing out the first act. While working though various ideas about Adam, Christine and Reiner I came across a much stronger inciting event. Basically Adam is forced to make an impossible decision. He is given the opportunity to join the party and progress within the prohibitionist cause but to do so he has to kill Christine. It’s the most provocative inciting event I have managed to find. The problem is choosing it has forced me to reassess what follows. Specifically the events after the refusal. Technically this is the start of Adam’s desire line. But to save Christine he first has to save himself. The problem is the refusal to kill Christine makes him a combatant deep behind enemy lines. He is now a prisoner of war. Which makes the question for next ten minutes of story; how does Adam escape? One way is to have Reiner release him. But Reiner is so hurt by Adam’s refusal, so committed to the prohibitionist cause, that this just wouldn’t happen. A second way is to have Adam fight his way out. But this option is just too obvious. Adam’s character is not combative enough at this point in the story. He has not yet learned to fight prohibition. It contradicts the “not fighting back” immoral actions that underpin his character. A third way is to have him take advantage of events happening within the story world; swarming insect, a riotous mob or sympathetic aggressor. But all of these scenarios have the potential to dilute events later in the story. Overall it needs to be something of relatively low intensity. But what? Time to finish. I will return to this issue in another post.
Reading through Christine’s desire (1) I found myself going over one section repeatedly.
At its essence she has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story. The question then becomes; what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something.
Thinking about her destructive weakness and creative need it dawned on me that this binary polarisation of destructive and creative impulses is at the heart of the story. The clash between the will to destroy and need to create is the point at which all the characters intersect. Adam and Reiner are fighting over the kind of world they are going to live in; one of security or one of freedom? Each character wants to destroy the others version of the world and create their own. Another of the things this understanding allows is to broaden destroy/create dynamic into one of damage/heal. For example, the destructive weakness that compels Christine to rebel against Adam brings with it the creative need to heal the rift between them. I said this was a “short note” and it is. That’s it for now.
By the end of yesterdays post I had to reassess my understanding of Adam and Christine’s relationship. Truthfully I had an inadequate view of Adam that benefits from being reversed. I had this idea of him as a basically decent character. A victim of circumstance obliged to look after his sister. I understood his self-righteousness towards Christine as desperation but didn’t really understand how despicable his behaviour is at the beginning. For some reason I viewed Christine as a problem he must solve. Her behaviour drops him in the trouble he has to get out of. None of that takes into account Christine or the influence she exerts. I guess what I’m saying is that their relationship lacked depth. Yesterdays post made me articulate very specifically Christine’s desire, what she wants, in a way I hadn’t done before. A less passive Christine makes Adam’s job that much harder. The contrast between the two becomes that much starker. If I view him as a complete cunt at the beginning the change at the end is more powerful. It is also interesting if you consider Christine’s need is hidden from her until the end. It is only at the point of self-revelation, after the crucible of battle, that she realises what she is asking of him. Best of all this revised dynamic is rife with dramatic potential.
I ended my last post with a question; what does Christine’s desire line look like? It would be easy to say Christine’s desire is to escape prohibition but I don’t think that adequately describes what she wants. To truly understand her desire we first have to understand her need. What must Christine fullfil within herself to have a better life? Need is about overcoming her moral and psychological weaknesses. The knee-jerk reaction to this question identifies her drug use as her weakness but as I tried to explain in my previous post Christine’s drug use is not a negative. That understanding just doesn’t fit with the moral vision or theme I have for the story. As I understand it Christine’s weakness is her rebelliousness; that impulse she has to resist authority, control or convention. In the “Character Web by Archetype” chapter of “The Anatomy of Story” John Truby notes that the rebel’s strength is the “courage to stand out from the crowd and act against a system that is enslaving people.” The weakness of this archetype is that they “often cannot provide a better alternative, so end up destroying the society.” I think of the link between the two sides of her weakness like this. If Adam’s self-righteousness is a product of a positive pushed until it becomes a negative; his responsibility, taken to the extreme, is oppressive. Christine’s weakness is a product of her bravery pushed until it becomes destructive. At the beginning of the story her rebelliousness is the wellspring of the conflict with Adam. Her defiance exasperates Adam. He reacts with self-righteous indignation and arrests her, which reenforces her will to resist. At its essence she has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story. The question then becomes; what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something. An insight that brings me to the conclusion that Christine’s need is to change the society she lives in. Ironically, a need she is only able to fulfil through Adam. When he chooses freedom over security at the end of the story Adam is fulfilling Christine’s creative need to free society. He is doing it because of what he has learned through Christine. A conclusion I wasn’t really aware of until now. Christine’s desire line is not to escape prohibition, it’s to change Adam. This insight changes the way I look at Adam and how he relates to Christine. But that’s the subject of another post.