Monthly Archives: May 2014

Jogging On

What I love most about this time of year is that cherries are now in season. At our local market, they sell them by the boxful and there’s nothing like being able to graze on them by the handful, knowing they are not only delicious, but, unlike chocolate, more or less guilt-free.

May-time delight

May-time delight

Which is just as well, as I’ve been feeling guilty a lot over the past week – about the state of the house, about not doing more with the kids over the half-term break and particularly about my negligible work-rate and general lack of focus.

I’ve been trying to produce pieces to meet the briefs for various writing competitions, but as a result, it feels like it’s a long time since I got my teeth into a larger, more meaty project. At times it feels as if I’ve lost my way. I’ve also been struggling with my identity as a writer – can I really even call myself a writer? I’m not sure. And what it is I really want to write about anyway, what is it I want to say?

When I started out, I had an idea for a story that presented itself so powerfully that I felt no real need to ask myself why I was drawn to try to tell it. That was some years ago now, and the path that seemed so broad and straight has become narrow, obscure and fraught with pitfalls.

Even more damaging, I frequently find myself drawn into making comparisons with others who are treading the same path seemingly far more confidently and successfully than I am. It’s not that I’m jealous; I genuinely believe that the more good writers there are, the greater appetite there’ll be for high-quality writing.

Belgian crime writer, Georges Simenon – scarily prolific

 

Success engenders more success for more people. I don’t wish successful writers ill. Rather the risk, for me at any rate, is of being rather too over-impressed, and subsequently overwhelmed with a sense of my own inadequacy.

I feel I should write more, and be much less bashful about putting my stuff out there, but am not always sure how to go about doing this. Is it a good idea to enter competitions, when you’re up against so many others? Maybe I should just focus on writing feature-length screenplays – the most pleasurable format for me, but the hardest to sell. Or should I write short films that are quick and easy to make? Or what about radio? I like the idea of writing for radio, but again am not sure about how to break into it. What I need is a proper strategy.

Writing – a marathon, not a sprint

I guess the main thing is to stick at it, put my head down and keep going. When I look back at things I wrote a few years ago, they make me cringe. I know I’ve learned a lot since then and that my writing’s much better now than it was. Maybe the point is just to keep jogging on, and not worry so much about where it’ll take me.

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Filed under Film, Screenwriting, Writing

Unstoppable

Someone once told me that it’s only when you accept the reality of death that you can really start to live. There’s been a great deal of comment about Stephen Sutton, who lost his battle against cancer this week, though not before he’d succeeded in raising nearly three and half million pounds on behalf of the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Stephen Sutton - a thumbs up to life.

Stephen Sutton – a thumbs up to life.

We will never know how Stephen’s life might have panned out, had he not been diagnosed with cancer at the age of 15, but one thing is indisputable; faced with certain death, he chose to live triumphantly, passionately, generously and more fully than most of us achieve in a lifetime.

The exhibition of Henri Matisse’s cut-outs at Tate Britain tells a similar story. What a luminous, inspiring show it is! The cut-outs were produced towards the end of Matisse’s life, after he’d undergone a major operation that greatly reduced his mobility and made it hard for him to stand at an easel or execute the precise brush-strokes needed to paint.

Many in such circumstances would have allowed themselves a well-earned retirement, but not Matisse. For him, ill-health and old age were no match for the irresistible the urge to live and create. Abandoning palette and brushes, he began instead to fashion a whole new and innovative way of working.

Matisse working on a cut-out

Matisse working on a cut-out

Matisse originally developed the technique of cutting shapes out of coloured paper to help in the composition of his canvases. He loved how paper cut-outs allowed him to move things around and try out a myriad of different arrangements that he could adjust and re-adjust until the image was perfect.

Following his surgery however, the paper models came to take the place of painted images altogether. As video footage shows, Matisse was remarkably adept at cutting, his scissors slicing through the paper in fluid, wholly confident movements. He found this liberating, remarking, “only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated.”

Matisse’s acute visual sense, developed over a life-time, enabled him to see how apparently bizarre or random shapes could take on meaning and potency within his carefully constructed schema. As an artist he had a terrific capacity for expressing dynamic movement, which, coupled with his unparalleled sense of colour, endows his work with huge vitality, a sense of lightness, energy and joy.

The cover of Jazz

The cover of Jazz

As Matisse grew older, his paintings became ever more youthful. The cut-outs feature stars and sea-creatures, tumbling acrobats, dancers and doves, floating coral, beating hearts, flowers bursting with colour. They’re extraordinarily life-affirming. Matisse finally died in 1954 at the age of 84 but he kept on working right up to the end.

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Filed under Art, Biographies, Screenwriting, Uncategorized, Writing

Breaking Through

My mum may be an unlikely pioneer, but that’s what she is. Last weekend, she came down to London to take part in events celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the ordination of women priests in the Church of England.

Although she wasn’t strong enough to join in the procession from Westminster to St Paul’s, a distance of just under two miles, she and I were both able to attend the service that followed. It was a fantastic occasion and succeeded admirably in balancing a spirit of celebration with a strong sense that the journey for women in the church is far from complete.

archbishop-of-canterbury-justin-welby-and-women-priests

Mum’s in there somewhere!

Although Mum was one of the first women to be ordained, she was nearly sixty before it finally became possible. It was something she’d been waiting for throughout much of her adult life. Many of that first cohort are very elderly ladies now, and quite a few have already passed away. Yet there was very little resentment that it had taken them so long to get there.

What was striking was just how natural, how right it felt to be sitting there in the midst of a cathedral full of women, all of whom had felt the same overwhelming desire to join the priesthood, and who had refused to allow the accident of their gender to stand in their way. In hindsight, the only astonishing thing is that it took us near enough five hundred years to get here.

A number of speakers talked about the resentment they continue to experience and how venomous it can be. Women have made massive strides over the past century but there’s a growing sense that we’ve reached a plateau where, however far we might have come, real equality of remains tantalisingly out of reach.

Our daughters are doing just as well at school as our sons; in Britain and many other OECD countries, women make up more than half of graduates, but they still account for less than 7% of senior executives in the FTSE top 100 companies. Only four have women as chief executives.

The creative industries are little better. It’s still incredibly tough for women trying to make it in the film industry; the number of successful women directors and writers remains disappointingly and intransigently tiny.

Kathryn Bigelow receives her directing Oscar

The one exception: Kathryn Bigelow receives her directing Oscar

It’s hard to know why this is. Women are just as creative, just as imaginative as men, but I think sometimes we’re more inclined to lose faith in ourselves and our projects. Could it come down to the possibility that men tend to have thicker skins and a stronger sense of entitlement? Perhaps they succeed more often because they’re less inclined to take no for an answer, and more likely to think, “Screw you, I know this story has legs, and nothing’s going to stand of the way of me getting it on celluloid!”

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Filed under Film, Screenwriting, women priests, Writing

Bradbury, Roosevelt, my what tales you must tell!!!

See this from Cher for a little slice of Hollywood history!

The Chicago Files

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This post is the final in the Los Angeles/Long Beach series.  The above photo is the famous Bradbury Building.  It was built in 1893, and has been the focal point of many movies and fictional stories.  But wait, let’s take a look inside.  You won’t believe your eyes!

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Have you ever seen anything like it?  The Bradbury Building was used in the movie, “Blade Runner”.

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The building houses office of Internal Affairs of the Los Angeles Police Department.  Here’s another photo showing the other end of the building:

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Perhaps you are thinking this building couldn’t possibly get any more unique! Ah, look at this:

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This is the elevator! To use it, there is a ‘call button’ to press.  A on-duty guard literally has to crank a wheel-type device and up you go! How’s that for ‘old time travel’!

This building was one of the most unusual I have ever seen. …

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