Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 16: "The Revolution Is Only A T-Shirt Away"

I was a Punk, for a moment. All pretty ironic really.

From the age of 10 to about 16, in the late 1960's and early '70's my musical diet was Progressive ("Prog") Rock (which we'll go into another time) and, suffice to say, my album collection was made up of bands like Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, The Who, Led Zeppelin and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. By 1975-76 those bands were stadium-filling rock dinosaurs and I was 17, going on 18 and hungry for the rebellion (whenever that was coming).

There was an absence of a machine to rage against or a war to fight about in my middle-class provincial English life. I lived in a two-up, two-down house, built on a peaceful private housing estate, with my family. We never were short of roasts on Sunday, package holidays in Majorca or crackers at Christmas. My father had his own small business, we weren't privileged nor under-privileged, just part of the great mass, laundered in Persil, that is Britain's middle-class. Plenty enough reason to rebel.

It was only natural that I should pretend to be a punk when that musical movement came along and gob at the bands I'd loved who, by now, seemed to have more in common with my parents than me.

I was more The Clash than I ever was The Sex Pistols. I think it was a bit like The Stones or The Beatles in the 60's, you were either one or the other, but you couldn't be both. I'm told, that if you were the father of a teenage daughter in the 1960's and found posters of The Beatles on your daughter's bedroom wall you would be horrified. However, if it was a poster of The Rolling Stones that you came across, you'd be calling the local Catholic priest to come and exorcise your mock-tudor semi.

I had a not-dissimilar experience at 31 Princes Drive. Stiff Records were the indie label du jour of the late 70's, launching, amongst others, the careers of Elvis Costello, Madness and Ian Dury & The Blockheads. Their nifty company mission statement was "If it ain't Stiff, it ain't worth a fuck", which I had, emblazoned on a t-shirt. My mother refused to wash that t-shirt. Point blank, that t-shirt was not going in her Hoovermatic or whatever it was called. At last, I had my fight.

Thank the Lord that Baroness Thatcher came high-horsing along into power in 1979, because then we had something to really spit at; unfortunately, by then, Punk was dead and the bloody, wafty New Romantics had pranced in.

Day #16 Tip: Have Something To Say
One of the hundreds of screenwriting books available out there has the very enterprising and seductive title: "How to Write the Screenplay that You Want to Write in 21 Days". Lovely. You bet I bought that one. Wouldn't you?

There are legendary stories of Paul Schrader checking himself into a motel with a carton of Lucky's, a case of Jack and walking out two weeks later with the screenplay of Taxi Driver. Yeah right. Like he hadn't been noodling it around in his head for two years prior to that?! Maybe it is possible, but any film I've seen that's been knocked off in " a handful of days" looks to me like a film that's been written in "a handful of days".

The only thing I do remember about "How to Write....." was that the author pointed out the different themes writers like to explore, the older they get. My themes and ideas have changed over the years, just like my musical tastes; let's just say that maybe I've matured a little. Doesn't mean that I still don't have something to say, a point to make. I mean, crikey...two hours of precious screen time?! I hope I have something to say.

Margaret Thatcher's reign of terror (1979-90) coincided with the birth of some of my favourite English TV and film directors and writers: Ken Loach was directing televisions Play For Today before he went onto make the films Riff-Raff and Ladybird Ladybird. Mike Leigh was doing the same before High Hopes and Life is Sweet. Long before Cracker, Jimmy McGovern was writing the seminal soap Brookside for Channel 4. But my favourite and fondest recollection was the never-to-be-forgotten 5-part televison series Boys From The Blackstuff by Alan Bleasedale, about a gang of disenfranchised and unemployed workers from Liverpool.

Those writers and directors all had something to say; God-love-them for that, because I, and plenty of others, were ready to listen. It's not restricted to drama though: in John Cleese's A Fish Called Wanda, never has their been a more eloquent expression of the English fear of being embarrassed.

I'll talk about Robert McKee's idea of a film's Controlling Idea in the coming days, but for now, it's important for me to remember that, like my t-shirt which remained unwashed (perhaps I really was a Punk!!), my scripts now must have, something that I want to say.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reminding me of my own incarnation as a mini punkette for some brief moments in London in the seventies...