Bring me Sunshine

images-13I just watched Miranda Hart’s film, ‘My Hero’, about her comedy idol, Eric Morecambe, and found it incredibly moving.

Their head writer, Eddie Braben, said the key word that described their act was ‘innocence’.  Their comedy took us into a world of laughter and child-like gags that never lost their charm no matter how many times you saw them.  Every Christmas we watched their shows, and then watch them again, every time they were repeated.  We grew up on ‘Morecambe and Wise’.

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It is considered proper to grow up gracefully and leave behind such childish things.  Yet in performers we cherish that refusal to grow up and play ball, the wilful retention of innocence.  They are the keepers of our own innocence and so we let them play it out one more time for us.

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I watched ‘Morecambe and Wise’ with my mother the Christmas she was diagnosed with cancer.  When we first heard we walked out of the hospital and across the road to a service station where we bought a large bottle of gin.  The following weekend was Christmas and neither of us wanted to celebrate.  But for an hour, the hour when we watched ‘Morecambe and Wise’, we forgot she was ill and could relax and have fun together.

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As the BBC TV Centre closes, an era is over.  The studios will be closed or hired out piecemeal. The bars and canteens where my mum, as a young actress, used to spot stars like Eric Morecambe and Christopher Plummer, will be empty.

But I hope the innocence lives on.

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What were your favourite TV shows growing up? Leave a comment below or find me @emlin32 on Twitter.

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The Romance of the Western

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This week I have been watching a lot of Westerns.  I want to get a feel for the landscape of Arizona and for films about the land.  In a Western the land is the main character, the real star.  Everything is set outdoors where life is lived. The landscape shots in All the Pretty Horses are breathtaking.  The wide screen was made for vistas like this.

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I used to think Westerns were just shoot ’em ups, all guns and horses and men insulting each other before riding away.

But the modern Western and, I realise now, many of its predecessors are full of emotion.  People’s lives and the decisions they have to face.  Love and death and the whole damn thing played out across real time.  Years pass, generations come and go, these films are about families, their ties and their betrayals.  I don’t know if it’s a pure Western but Giant seems like that to me – an epic portrait of family life in America.

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I just saw The Hi-Lo Country again and found it close to the idea of a traditional ‘Woman’s Picture’, the central love triangle between two men (Woody Harrelson and Billy Crudup) and a woman (Patricia Arquette) delivering as much emotional punch as any romance novel, only the unspoken love was between the two guys, becoming an elegy for the last of the cowboys.

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I love American films for their mythic element and the Western is the original myth about what it means to be an American. Which is oddly enough one of the themes in my own film. The desire to belong to someone, something bigger than yourself, to be a citizen, versus the right to self determination begs the wider question, ‘Who am I?’

And then there’s the loners.  I always liked The Misfits. A group of drifters who don’t belong, a melancholy in the way they kill time together.

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And the lonely cowboy in The Searchers, walking away at the end.

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A conversation with a movie you love – or which touches on the themes you want to write about can influence you in ways that conscious analysis never can.

So within one film we see another, and another and so on…until we find our own.

What film have you had a conversation with recently? And how does it echo the story in your head? Leave a comment here or find me @emlin32 on Twitter.

IN SEARCH OF ACT 3

chiricahua 6HOW DO YOU WRITE YOUR THIRD ACT?

I have finally reached the end of Act Two, that long hinterland of plot development and adventures high and low.  For all its flaws it’s got me to this place – the beginning of Act Three.

And I have no idea what happens next.  And that’s OK.  Because during Act Two a strange and wonderful thing happened.  My characters started thinking and acting for themselves.  The framework of the treatment became just that, a point from which to leap into the unknown, still following the thread but winding through new paths in the city.   Let’s Get Lost.  And suddenly getting lost in the story doesn’t seem such a bad idea.

As a writer structure is your friend. You need it to lean on, to support you as you try and explore your ideas, to make a shape others will recognise and to help make sense of the emotional chaos of your world.  And structure, with its twist and turns, can be fun.  The spinning of a tale is half the pleasure, a spider’s web, a minor miracle.  Structure lends the journey a familiar form.  It gives comfort to the audience as they absorb difficult truths about themselves and the world they live in.

But not knowing is magical too.  Free writing, like free running, has a grace and honesty as it flies onto the screen.  Characters given free rein can go a little crazy, mess up and live their wildest dreams as they escape the limits of conscious thought and take you somewhere new.

To go in search is not to know the answer.  But to know you’re looking is a start.

Where are you in your writing this week?  What unexpected moments have you uncovered?  Leave a message below or find me @emlin32 on Twitter.

MOMENTUM

movement.037MOMENTUM is when

  • You can’t sleep at night because your brain is buzzing with ideas and conversations you’ve had.
  • The people you’re meeting start talking about each other and you realise they’re all connected
  • Everyone wants to help you.
  • You perceive a benevolent universe.
  • Goals that seemed difficult suddenly feel within reach.

Alongside writing my feature I’ve been interviewing a lot for TV work recently and looking for an agent. This week all my preparation and hard work seemed to be paying off as several great meetings rolled into each other and I had a couple of major breakthroughs in areas where I’d previously felt stuck. The breakthroughs revolved around people offering me help in the areas I’d been struggling with, which attracted other people in turn.

Whenever I’m in trouble I imagine my friends and family stretching out in a pyramid behind me to offer support. Right now I feel like I have a huge crowd of new friends ready to reach out and help me reach my goals.

When I first heard the American expression ‘to reach out to someone’ I found it laughable.  Don’t they just mean ‘contact someone’? I thought.  But though it may sound sentimental, reaching out for help is what you do every day when you’re producing a film – and the earth rises up to meet you.  People offer the help you need just when you need it and together you become something bigger than yourselves.  You are in service to an idea and the realisation of that idea has the power to move people inexplicably – and for a long time after your film is made.

So reach out… or, if you are British, contact someone soon.

Because when you have momentum it feels momentous.

Who gives you momentum? What projects have inspired people to work alongside you? Leave a comment here or tweet me @emlin32 on Twitter.