October 2006

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Living with a claw

Having a broken arm is like having a giant claw. I'm not exactly loving it.

Although I can't go out to social events without slumping down into the corner after half an hour, I have been slowly reacquainting myself with my friends over cups of tea. My diary for the past week looks something like this:

Tea: earl grey, lady grey, chai, english breakfast, white wine, mangoes.

Friends: an artist, a singer/songwriter, a filmmaker, someone I went to primary school with, someone I went to High School with, and an official Christmas elf.

Random purchases that probably never would have happened if my wrist wasn't broken
: car wash ($12), new mobile phone (minimum $30 per month, phone "free"), $20 worth of raffle tickets for diabetes institute (first ever response to telemarketing), visits to hairdressers ($20 for a wash and blow dry), enormous amounts of codeine.

Things I've watched
: Fast Food Nation, lots of Aaron Sorkin, Australian Story (and anything else where people come up against greater odds than mine and win), Scrubs, and half of an accidentally hilarious sports movie called Youngblood, the central charracter in which is actually called Dean Youngblood. Somewhere, there are producers still kicking themselves that they got Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, and Keanu Reeves into a film, and it is immortalised thus.

Most annoying incidental things about broken wrist: can't tie shoe laces, or use credit card due to inability to sign name.

Biggest incidental joy brought about by broken wrist: actual hands-in-the-air-not-my-fault inability to dress in anything other than trackie dacks or to cook.

Little thing it makes me think: "Plaster and water wrapped around an essential limb? That's the solution here? Come ON."

Big thing it makes me think
: be nicer to old people. Being slow and relying on other people makes me want to scratch my skin off.

Amount of time it took me to write this, in comparison to how long it normally takes: 4:1

Weeks left in cast: five.

Degree of sympathy for own self: extreme to overbearing.

Stew's Cinematography Awards Night

IMG_0974

This is me celebrating Stewart's award in cinematography last Saturday night at the Epworth Hospital.

My Cast System

Today's "If I Still Worked In Commercial Radio, This Is What I Would Be Talking About" News Item is obviously this story.

In other news, today I went to get a haircut because I was not looking forward to the potential Mr Bean episode that would inevitably result if I tried to wash my hair with a broken arm in a plastic bag, balancing using a chair and trying to avoid getting soap in my eyes. I think maybe I'll get a haircut once a week until this cast comes off.

Any jokes about how funny it is that I have a "cast" on my "write" arm should be kept from me because I am wielding heavy plaster. That also goes for Stewart, who wrote the high-larious cast related pun in the subject heading above, when I clearly trusted him to type what I was writing. He went free form. He's fired.

Hollow Bones

What does a writer need? According to Virginia Woolf, it's a room of your own. I would add that probably the use of one's writing arm should also be condideration.

On Saturday night, Stewart Thorn, who shot our short film, won a cinematography award from the Australian Cinematographers Society for his work on another short film, Hollow Bones (directed by Nicholas Verso and produced by Rita Walsh). See it all in lights here. To say that I was a little bit pleased and proud of this would be an understatement. But in retrospect I could have expressed my pride a little more eloquently than by falling over and breaking my wrist.

Yes, I fell over on a slippery floor and snapped my wrist. My writing wrist. I am learning to type one-handed, and the frisbee won't be coming out for at least six weeks, but possibly the worst thing is that I have to bathe wearing a plastic bag. Also, it's kind of cruel that the film that I was celebrating was called Hollow Bones. Do you think someone is telling me something?

Congratulations to Stew and Nick and Rits. Very, very proud. Obviously.

AFI Awards

Things sure turn around quickly in the Australian film industry.

Right now, as of (so far as I can tell) last month, we are in a "bumper year" for Australian film, which can only mean one thing. Weekend newspaper articles about The New Generation of Filmmakers, telling Australian Stories and being photographed in designer clothing in the morning sunlight, looking serious but not wearing any shoes.

At any rate, it will be fun to see the Jacobson family (from Kenny ) turning up to the AFIs to mix it up with Heath Ledger's people and hopefully coming home with some loot.

Speaking of, you know, culture and stuff... Noack, who I have mentioned here before in relation to his cultural contribution to the State of Victoria through the form of Estonian Dance, is rumoured to be making a dancing comeback over the next few months. Anyone wants to know anything more about exactly how close to the front of this spectacular I will be sitting, just let me know. I can probably jack you up with a ticket. It's not something you want to miss.

Business Cards

Today, in my Day Job, I was asked to tell the people printing my business cards what I would like my title to be. My title. On my business card. Under my name. I was asked to tell them what I would "like" my title to be. Over the phone.

I was thinking, I could say anything, and they would print maybe five hundred or a thousand business cards reading "bad dancer" or "poo liason officer" or "Madam Lady President" or whatever and I could claim that it was a bad phone line, right?

Meanwhile, I haven't made it to the Melbourne Festival again because working for someone else requires, you know, working until you're exhausted and want to go home and watch episodes of things Aaron Sorkin wrote and that you wish you could have the time to write but you can't because you're watching Aaron Sorkin.

Wandering

I'm working in a proper job again. It has come to this.

Yesterday though, was a day for writing. And going for walks. On my lunchtime walk, I wandered past a car garage, with blokes' bodies emerging from under Datsuns and so on.

The difference was, this car garage had no Triple M booming out of it. It had no Golden Hits of The Eighties, either. It had a guy, a real guy, with a moustache, playing a mandolin.

Wandering around, playing a mandolin to the guys with their heads under cars.

I've never wanted to be a mechanic before, but now I kind of like the idea.

Little Miss Sunshine and 1984

The weekend of a writer who should really be at home finishing a script goes a little something like this:

Friday night - go to George Orwell's 1984 at the Melbourne International Arts Festival. This is one of those things I never would have thought of myself, but Rita thinks of most things for me and this was a present from her. The adaptation, by Michael Gene Sullivan is quite brilliant. It was directed by Tim Robbins and performed by The Actors' Gang. That's a pretty impressive line-up, just quietly.

The reason I say I wouldn't necessarily have seen the play myself is that 1984 is about the role of the powerful in society. It's extremely clever, but once you've read it, you get it, right?

But this play makes your head explode because it's clearly about today's society. It's about terrorism and Guantanamo Bay and people in power lying about wars, and it's about the economy working only when there are lots of poor and uneducated people. There's a torture scene that, even though the play was in the State Theatre and it was the opposite of claustrophobic in there, you really just wanted to leave. Some people did. So, quite a brilliant Friday night thanks to the always thoughtful Rita. My only quibble would be that they needed microphones (even just a central overhead mic would have been helpful). Everytime someone coughed, I wanted to clock them over the head.

Saturday, I went shopping. I hate shopping more than I hate the two major political parties in this country, and more than brussels sprouts. I had to recruit my friend Claire, who found me an entire new wardrobe within an hour and a half.

Saturday night, well as I've said somewhere here before, everyone in commercial radio gets stuff for free. I got a call from my mates in radio who had lined themselves up with a four course meal and unlimited booze for an entire evening because a restaurant was opening in East Melbourne. It was an increasingly hilarious evening and it took me an embarrassingly long time to recover on Sunday.

Sunday night, went and saw Little Miss Sunshine, a ridiculously farcical but funny and sweet film which was perfectly cast, very well performed, and which features many frankly alarming scenes shot in a real life beauty pagent for teensy tiny little girls tarted up to look like nineteen-eighties hookers. The film is very much a case of "what could possibly go wrong next in this hilarious dysfunctional family", but the characters are actually cleverer than that, and anyway, it's a fun ride, so shut up.

But the writing? Didn't get to the writing. Thinking I might get onto that now. Right after this cup of tea.

Hot October

Horrible, nasty, vindictive weather in Melbourne this week. The wind hurls dust up under your eyelids and into your nostrils and hurtles along the street swirling dirty clouds of McDonalds packaging and dead leaves into the gutters. It's October and it feels like March. A particularly hideous March. If you haven't already seen Al Gore's climate change film, go and see it, if only so you can realise how many of the "Things You Can Do" that you're not doing. It's getting a bit spooky.

Tonight I'm going to see 1984 at the Melbourne Arts Festival, with many thanks to Rita. It's my first festival show and I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully they have re-conceived the show in a contemporary setting, such as in the accounts department of Telstra, which I have been suggesting to anyone who will listen for some time now.

The Yarts

Last night I went to the Shed Warming at the Arts Festival, where I had a few drinks and decided I liked Kristy Edmunds, if only because of the Artist Card policy, which encourages artists to come to the festival at a slightly discounted price. This is obviously a good idea for the festival, because artists are going to want to go to the festival and they're not necessarily going to be able to afford it. So make them go to more stuff, make them bring more friends, and there's your (satisfied) audience.

Which brings me to the question of how come rich people get stuff for free?

I've never understood why people with money get invited to stuff for free and that's supposed to make the rest of us want to go. When I worked in radio, I got everything for free. Movies, CDs, concert tickets. Now that I have a wonky income? I pay full price for everything. I know it's about power and influence and fame and so on, but are they serious? They seriously think that if they can get, say, John Travolta to turn up for five minutes before the opening night screening of Swordfish, that's going to make anyone in that audience tell their friends to go and see the worst movie of 2001 all because John Travolta turned up, looked embarrassed, and then got on a plane to L.A? I'll tell you what they're going to do. They're going to do what Stitzy and I did, which is hang out eating the free food and drinking the booze and saying how turd the movie was.

People aren't stupid. It even works the other way. Bad marketing can't stop something genuinely good from working. Look at Kenny, the Australian comedy feature (and haven't we learned to love those words) released several months ago. I personally think that the marketing concepts for Kenny were terrible. I mean, it got a lot of pre-publicity, and the website is slick and everything, but they were marketing the wrong thing. Anyone with a healthy fear of dumb-Aussie-bloke-orientated films (and I don't think I'm on my own here) was not going to be enraptured by a poster featuring a dim-looking chap with a dunny brush surrounded by toilet paper.

But Kenny is a gorgeous film. It's not really about poo, or dumb blokes, or loveable idiots with hearts of gold. It's not even about comedy, really. You never once feel like you're being fed a gag, you're just getting to know a character. So what made me go from heart-sinking disappointment at the sight of the poster, to paying good money to see the film?

Two things: word of mouth, and Kenny. I was watching TV at gym one time and Kenny came on. Completely ad libbing in some mindless TV interview, it was hardly the environment in which anyone can shine. But shine he did, and I had to slow down the treadmill while I watched him sensitively describing the flushing mechanism on a toilet.

So, look, my point is, audiences are going to work it out. Kenny shouldn't have been marketed like that. I still know women who won't see it because "it looks terrible" or they're not interested in "toilet humour", and I think that's bad because women are actually who a lot of it is aimed at. So they got it wrong. But after two weeks, everyone had two friends telling them they had to see this new Aussie film called Kenny.

So dear distributors and production companies, please stop giving free tickets to people who never pay for anything anyway and who own three houses and two boats. Give the free tickets to the people who can't afford them and watch your audiences grow with the good films and sink with the lousy ones. It's really not that complicated.

I know, I know. I should really be running the country.

By the way, if you're going to see Kenny, here's some advice: see it in a HUGE cinema. Think of the biggest cinema you've been to and see it there. Do NOT see it in a teensy weensy cinema where the hand-held camera is so bad that several of you have to leave the movie and go outside and spew. There is a sign up at the Nova in Carlton warning people prone to motion sickness to sit up the back. Sit as far back as Fitzroy North would be my advice.

Swanning about

Last night I saw The Devil Wears Prada. It was a film that rang many bells for me, because it is about being a small fish in an industry that thinks it's important. It's also about working for arseholes, so yay for that.

It's a very silly film that makes you realise how much Sex in The City has to answer for, with pretty people prancing about drinking coffees and being shocked by changes in their own behaviour ("It was then that I realised..." etc). However, it has a sense of humour about its (very predictable) self, and what more can we ask from Hollywood fashion movies?

Speaking of pretty people swanning about thinking they're more important than they are, I'm off now to the Shed Warming for the Melbourne Arts Festival.

The best thing & the worst thing

I have a sore frisbee arm.

Hurrah!

Best feeling in the world is the particular kind of exhausted you feel after chucking a frisbee at the beach for an hour and only stopping because it's dark and you left your glow-in-the-dark frisbee at home.

Now, of course, I am back to reality.

On a serious note... this weekend, Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist who criticised her government and reported bravely on matters such as the war in Chechnya and the Beslan school disaster (on the way to which she was poisoned) was gunned down in the lift outside her apartment. She spoke at the Sydney Writers' Festival earlier this year (I didn't see her speak). Here are some of the other journalists who have been murdered in Russia in recent years, and these two journalists, from one of my favourite international radio stations, were killed in their tent this weekend as well. They had been researching for a documentary. All of this makes 2006 the most deadly year for journalists on record, apparently. Previously, 2005 was the most deadly year on record, and before that, it was 2004.

So when I talk about how crap Australian journalism is, it's not because I don't respect journalists. It's because I do. People are risking their lives because they recognise that media is a very powerful tool, and they are being murdered because of it. And today's Melbourne Age online stories? Brad and Angelina have a bodyguard who punched someone, Princess Mary is coming to visit, the MCG is ready for a terrorist attack on the basis of a rumour in a British newspaper, and there's a story called Sex Behind the Engagement Ring, which is the most viewed article of the day, and which is actually just lifted from the Telegraph.

I would like to think that Australia, being a "free" country, has greater opportunity for investigative journalism. Perhaps not.

Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers (culturally aware frisbee playing writer = dream boy) has written a book about Sudan, which you can read about here. Eggers wrote one of my favourite books and is responsible for many impressive things since then, such as the above website, this website, and this very cool dvd magazine.

Anyway, Sudan.

He doesn't do anything by halves. Read the interview.

Meanwhile, I'm getting away again this weekend. I saw Jet of Blood last night, which is Artaud, who I remember studying and whose biography goes some way towards explaining his artistic approach, which is refreshingly insane and experiencing a bit of a renaissance at the moment.

Also, thanks to the always sensible Dave Barry website, here is today's What I Would Be Talking About If I Still Worked In Commercial Radio link.

Because you should always finish the week on a light story that really only yahoo would print on the internet, right?

This one goes out to the checkout lady

This morning, the checkout lady in Piedemontes looked at me and burst into tears.

Quite quickly, she went from speaking Italian to the woman in the queue in front of me, to looking at me and getting all choked up and apologising into a tissue.

Now I'm worried about her and I want to take her one of the seven dollar bunches of Piedemontes roses. What happened? Did I remind her of someone? She was sixty or something and her manager was a seventeen-year-old in a tie. Did he look a little bit smug? I couldn't quite tell.

This one goes out to the checkout lady...

Oh Piedes checkout lady
You spoke in different tongues
You were clever with the register
And very good with sums

You smiled at your customers
You didn't think you'd cry
And when you did I got a shock
And now I wonder why.

What was it that made you sad?
Somebody at work?
Was it some obnoxious little prick,
Some Piedemontes jerk?

You turned the little lightbox off
That says "Register Three"
You put the closed sign on the bench
And all because of me

I'm sorry that I made you cry
I hope you're feeling better
If you'd like some jerk to cop it
I can write a nasty letter

I think perhaps it isn't that
I think it's something bad
So I hope you feel less lonely
And I hope you feel less sad

And I hope you have a donut
(You can get them free upstairs)
And in the chocolate lolly aisle
You stock some nice eclairs

There's nothing good on telly
But have a bath, it's total heaven
Meanwhile I promise next time
I'll stick to register seven.

The Real Film Industry

I went to a Fringe Festival show last night, and I was late. This is not a surprising or newsworthy event by any means, but it did afford me the opportunity to catch up with the doorbitch while I waited for the "late entry" moment when they open the door and allow you to slink guiltily into your front row seats (man I hate it when pricks like me walk in late to shows).

Anyway, the doorbitch at this show was a chap who goes by the handle of Noack. Now, Noack is the kind of bloke who rigs his shitbox car up with an elaborate alarm system, so that when he approaches the car in the street and points a remote control at it, passers-by are befuddled to see a 1984 model Sigma going "bloopbloop". Several years after first meeting Noack, I discovered that he is a highly skilled (not to mention bestockinged) performer of traditional Estonian Dance. This is completely irrelevant but it is the kind of detail I wish I could think of for characters in the scripts I write.

But I digress! Noack and I had a conversation which got me thinking. Noack has clearly put some thought into this, and I doff my hat to him while completely stealing his premise and writing it here:

WANT TO MAKE A BILLION DOLLARS IN THE FILM INDUSTRY?

Can't be done, you say?

Not in Australia, you say?

No such thing as a film industry, you say?

Then think outside the box...

START YOUR OWN FILM FESTIVAL!

Seriously. Start your own film festival. Now. What are the overheads? Maybe you have to get a permit for something. Maybe you have to get some insurance. Maybe you have to do a teensy bit of publicity. But get this, you charge! You charge, say, thirty bucks to EACH SHORT FILM ENTERED. Imagine that! That's, like, three dollars per minute that most of these films will run for. Most festivals have twenty thousand submissions. The smaller ones only get hundreds.

Hack in to the desperate market of filmmakers who can't find a way into the film industry, and watch them come to you. You can even write it into the application form that you own various rights in relation to the films these people submit to you.

Then, and here's the really good bit, hold the "festival" somewhere big and cheap but with a huge screen and CHARGE FOR ENTRY. Better still, the prizes for best film and so on can be donations from companies who want their stuff advertised to young people . Also, get a website and try to get Americans to enter or something. That way you can call yourself an International Festival, which means people will be doing interviews with you in the EG all about how you started the idea in a garage one time because you "just knew there was this gap out there and all these voices weren't being heard". Preferably there will be a shot of you on a lounge chair that has been dragged into an urban street, which will afford you an excellent opportunity to be photographed in sunglasses. And possibly also to carrying a martini which you can rest on a copy of The Unbearable Lightness of Being or Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance.

If it seems that I have a chip on my shoulder in relation to any of the above, well that is because I do. I wish I had thought of it earlier, frankly.

My festival is going to be called Alternation Film Festival (because it's alternative and nation all merged into one). Bugger, though, it already exists in Taipei.

Of course it does.

MSO

I went and saw the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra playing the other night with a young lad called Ben Folds. It really was quite something, and it made all of us want to go to the orchestra more often. Like, ever. There are some things I never do much, which I possibly should do more. These include:

- Attending orchestra productions

- Attending dance productions

- Reading books without interrupting self by purchasing more exciting book, which I then also don't finish on account of newly purchased and more exciting book

- Messing about in boats

I plan to add to this list. Lists of what I am inadequate at doing are always long and thick and rich with juicy goodness.

Carry on.

Nerdy nerdy nerd pants

So I admit to being a bit of an Aaron Sorkin nerd, and I am currently watching The West Wing, Sportsnight, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip concurrently (alternating episodes).

Seriously though, you absolutely have to watch this (scroll down to watch the clips).

It's a show about making television, which of course makes me squeal like a pig at a child's birthday party, and it's been reviewed here. For the more nerdy among us (pick me! pick me!) there is also a blog. Oh yes there is.

If you're wondering why all the talk about TV, it's because life has consisted mostly of staring at a computer screen this weekend. Went to the beach and wrote a whole lot of stuff that I've since deleted. Yay for progress.

Aaaanyway, I have now returned home to play with my friends, most of whom are called Tim.

None of them is this Tim, though, which is something I'm hoping to change. One can never have too many Tims at a dinner party, I find. So, more Tims and also I find there are insufficient people called Snuffy in my life at the present time as well. Let's everyone see what we can do about that.