Tuesday, May 29, 2012



The Producers of the forthcoming feature film, SEEING THE ELEPHANT, are running a competition to find a poster for the film. Find details at http://www.seeing-the-elephant.com

Monday, May 21, 2012


One-Eyed Jacks in the only film Marlon Brando ever directed. The story of how that came about need not be recounted here as it can be found on the web. The film itself, however, is unusual in several respects. Though flawed because of budgetary complaints and the incompatibility of the creative and commercial agendas existing between Brando and the studio, the movie presents a story and a fascinating combination of characters that inhabit a world that is as unexpected and compelling as it is memorable.
Essentially, this is a revenge story with two very powerful and cunning men at its center - one, named Kid Rio (Brando) and the other, an older man, named Dad Longworth. Kid and Dad (the names are meaningful) were friends and partners in crime until Dad ran out on Kid, taking the money and leaving Kid to rot for years in a Sonora prison. Escaping from his imprisonment, Kid's only wish is to track down Dad and kill him. Problem is, after more that six years cooped up in a Mexican gaol,  Kid has no idea as to where Dad has landed. 

After a fruitless and prolonged search, Kid  winds up in the saloon of an old friend where a drifting gunslinger/bank robber not only tells him where he can find Dad but also informs him that the place where Dad lives has the biggest, fattest bank this side of the Mississippi.  Kid also learns that the town's sheriff is none other than Dad, a reformed criminal who now presents as the community's most respected and likeable citizen.

And so the stage is set for a dramatic encounter replete with subtext, suspense, tension and a masterfully drawn baddie - Dad's evil deputy, played by Slim Pickens. 
One-Eyed Jacks is not everyone's favorite film - when it first appeared it was a commercial and critical disaster. Perhaps it was ahead of its time. Or maybe we have developed a more subtle appreciation of the ambiguities that underlie the human condition. For my money, the film is a tour de force that ranks with the greatest westerns ever made, and breaks with many of the cliches one normally associates with the form, the most obvious being that it is set along the Pacific coast where many of its best scenes are played out against a background of pounding surf and golden beaches - unusual for its time, for any time. Indeed, I can't think of another major American western that employed such a location.

Also, look for the powerful cameo performance by the eccentric and over-the-top character-actor, Tim Carey - the "bastard Mexican" whose treatment of women leads to the confrontation between Dad and Rio that informs the rest of the film. This is a fine and highly intelligent western revenge story, by turns brooding, cerebral, exciting, and ponderous, but always surprising.

Finally, the film highlights the singular importance of endings. The ending that the studio insisted upon was not the one that Brando preferred. Watch the film and see if you can't imagine what Brando had in mind.

For more great films, both fictional and factional, visit THE SCREENING ROOM at  http://www.wheresthedrama.com/apps/videos/

Sunday, May 20, 2012


The cinematic storyteller’s facility for observing in any given situation the emotional energies residing within, between and behind dramatic actions requires much more than objective, empirical activity. One doesn’t simply and cold-bloodedly sort out the various pros and cons of dramatic problems, objectives and actions, and end up with a satisfying (read: fresh) dramatic story. Genuine engagement with ALL of the characters relevant to finding the story is essential, but this is impossible so long as one remains merely an ego standing apart from the phenomena that call upon one to respond. You must already BE in some intimate relatedness to the phenomena that claims or calls. It is, after all, this relatedness, this finding oneself in attunement with the CHARACTERS and whatever it is that captures their attention (and our attention!) that calls for observation in the first place! However, authentic observation - as a meditation on character, character actions and character meanings - requires a facility for “letting things be” (Gelassenheit), so that the emotional energy of the film-story is not dissipated or otherwise interfered with.

In film - as in all the creative arts - the crux of the matter is that it is only in one’s complete surrender and openness to the resources available that the “thing” one is finding - and that is finding YOU - can become THAT thing… which reminds me of a story I read about twenty years ago: There was once an art competition in New York and each student was given a cubic foot of plaster of Paris. The winner, a girl, looked at the cube and asked herself, “What does this cube want to be?” At that moment, it appeared to her, it did not want to be anything. She dropped it to the floor. After looking at the partly shattered cube she said, “I see what it wants to be now.” - from Keightley, A. (1986). “Into everything a little Zen must fall”.

For more about CHARACTER, go to http://www.wheresthedrama.com/character.htm

Friday, May 4, 2012

MINDER - a format for a new television series

Here is a copy of the document that writer, Leon Griffiths, used to sell his television series idea to Thames Television. Griffiths found a champion in Thames Television's script editor/oproducer, Linda Agran, who sheparded it into eventual production. The rest is history.

by Leon Griffiths

"Minder" is a new type of action/character television series featuring an independant bodyguard who often operates on the fringe of legality but alwyas seems to end up on the side of the angels.

Do you remember the opening minutes of "Rocky" when th hero is collecting a debt for some heavies? He is tough but nice, mildly threatening but certainly not vicious. That incident could easily be a sicty-seconds pilot for this series.

The hero of "Minder" is "The Magnificent Seven" minus six; a hero who takes on jobs outside the scope of police and such organisations as Securicor.

It is a "street" series relying heavily on the new "exotica" of London. No more shots of Tower Bridge opening and closing - but a reasonable number of stories set among the Greeks of Camden Town; the Irish around Holloway and Kilburn; Indians in Southall; Bengalis in the East end; Italians who've moved from Clerkenwell to Stanmore (is Stanmore the Tuscany of the suburbs?); West Indians in Brixton and Cricklewood; Chinese in Gerrard Street; new towns full of old East-enders; smart clubs where the new aristocracy of property dealers, BMW commissinaires and wheeler-dealers of the pop industry congregate.
The series is predicated on several prejudices shared by most viewers and a lot of writers and directors:
  • They're getting sick of seeing cops chasing robbers through the streets of San Francisco and Belgravia.
  • The free-lance do-gooder is only believeable if you place him in the unreal world inhabited by the Saint and the Avengers.
  • The criminal as a hero is not acceptable as the protagonist of a long-running series.
  • One British private-eye is enough.
  • Heroes employed by strange unknown "trouble-shooting agencies are unbelieveable and they'd rather have Starsky and Hutch anyway.
Yet there is a need for a hero who is on our side, who is rebellious, independent, tough and amusing and is not a villain. His name is TERRY and he is the hero of "MINDER".

As I outline some of the stories themorality of such a series will become apparent. It will also become clear that there is no "police" or "private-eye" story that cannot be adapted to the format of "MINDER".

Violence is implicit in the character, but need not be explicit in the series. Terry is not a stunt-driver, so there won't be spectacular car chases that land everybody in the local Magistrates' Court the following morning. For Terry it is often enough to squeeze somebody's elbow and suggest that they stop being a "silly feller" to avoid unrealistic shoot-outs and shattered balsa-wood bannisters.

Most successful series feature two cunning characters. "Minder" is no exception, but the relationship is more complex than in most series. It is not simply that one is older than the ohter, or jokier than the other.

ARTHUR is a "face", a "well-respected" man in certain parts of London. He fancies himself as a Godfather but often emerges from the stories more like a well-dressed, dodgey employee of the Citizens' Advice Bureau. He is often to be found trying to shift 400 Dralon sofa covers while hiring Terry out to someone who needs a bit of looking after.

Arthur always takes the bigger share of the fee and is certainly not a man to depend on in a tight corner. Arthur lives in a world of favours bestowed and the'd better be returned.

Arhtur is the fringe villain that all your rich friends know and think of as a "card". Arthur is a myth perpetuated by himself.

Arthur is amusing but a bit unscrupulous and he'd hire out Terry to protect somebody from the armoured dvision of the Red Army if the price was right.

TERRY is never going to reach the finals of "Mastermind" but he catches on quick in the world he knows and understands. He has a past and is desperately anxious to stay "straight". He knows he isn't much more than "hired muscle", but at least he's good at it. He's got a reputation and is smart enough to know that there will always be another fast gun riding into town.

Do you doubt the existence of the Minder? Well, no pop star would be seen without one and ditto most international pop stars. The euphemism is "driver" or "my man". But we don't want it to be a series about show business. So who else would use a "minder"? The man who owned the Spaghetti House chain for starters.

Our version of that story would probably run like this:

"Siege At The OK Corral". Albert Delano is a second-generation Italian who owns six down-market restaurants trading under the name of OK Corral Steak Houses. Friday nights he collects the takings and he doesn't want two guys wearing funny crash helmets and uniforms accompanying him. He knows Arthur and had done so ever since "the old days" and he regards Terry as a greater deterrent to most of the criminals who might be tempted to nick the takings.

The four black villains who attempt the robbery are amateurs. Terry saves the money buit finds humself trapped with Albert, a couple of customers and the four villains in a downstairs store-room.

Arthur hears about it on his car radio. He is soon on the spot hectoring and hindering the police. After all... that's his meal-ticket in there.

The police bribg all the usual techniques into play... concealed microphones, video cameras on the drain holes, psychologists, sharpshooters, etc

But is Terry who eventually strikes up a rapport with the villains; it is Terry who unutes villains and hostages in a common suspcion of the police methods; it is Terry who finally "outfronts" the one really dangerous villain... and it is Terry, with his known police record, who is carted off to the local nick under suspicion of being party to the robbery in the first place.

Arthur and Mr Delano manage to establish his innocence and Arthur, naturally, gyps him on the fee... "after all Terry, you got all the publicty."

What will become clear as the series progresses is that although Terry sometimes finds it hard to distinguish betwen legal right and wrong he is always certain about good and bad.

When he does get into a fight we will want him to win as fervently as we wabted Shane to win when confronting the bar-room bullies.

Inevitably many of the people who emply Terry have something to hide, answers ti questions they'd rather not be asked.

We would not tackle a story like "OUT" because Frank Ross wouldn't want Terry's help and Arthur would be unlikely to offer it. But we could will go into the area of "George Somebody-or-other is innocent."

In "Innocent O.K.?"  a journalist is writing a book on a man doing a life sentence. The journalist wants to meet people involved in the case... villains, suspects, coppers, wives, sweethearts, grasses... but his publisher is fearful for his safety. Terry will be his guide and protector.

But Terry finds that they are straying beyond the boundaries of his tribal territory. The journalist is being threatened as he upsets villains and coppers alike. Terry is "on wages" which gains him a kind of immunity from some of the villains but also means that he must go all the way with the crusading journalist.

And all the way means forcing the real villain out into the sopen, seeing that justice is done without informing or transgressing his onw simply constructed moral code.

Simple matters of protection soon develop into tough, complicated situation for Terry and Arthur. In "The Bengal Tiger" Tariq, the local newsagent, seeks Arthur's help because he's having a hard time from some tearaways and realises that if he takes up arms or pick-axe handles to oppose them he'll be the one taken to the local nick accused of starting a race riot.

Arthur has long operated a nice take-away service at Tariq's expense - he takes away newspapers, magazines and a few Panatellas and puts them on a non-existent bill. For L300 he'll help Tariq. "kids," he tells Terry, "bunch of yobboes. Sit in the shop for a week; there's a hundred and twenty in it for you."

Yariq appears to have quite a few problems. His daughter, Shiva, is a pretty seventeen-year-old with an East-end accent deeply opposed to the idea of a contracted marriage "to some bleeding rice picker from old Bengal." Also the "kids and yobboes" who are harrassing Tariq turn out to be mature heavies from South of the river. Shiva disappears. Has she run away or been kidnapped? For now Terry has discoverd that Tariq deals in more than the Daily Mirror and half ounces of Olf Holborn... he's running a racket in forged entry permits to Mother England. In finding the girl Terry is obliged to break the racket...