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Inspiration comes from living your life

My Creating Story sessions with Irish filmmakers continue with screenwriter Caroline Farrell. Farrell has written award-winning feature and short films, as well as short stories. Her film In Ribbons is now in post-production.

Farrell writes her own blog, which includes a series of conversations with Irish women filmmakers. I was interested in knowing if she sees any emerging or ongoing trends.

“What I notice mostly from connecting with these women,” says Farrell, “is that most of them are creating their own art. By that, I mean they are not waiting for funding opportunities, or for the green light from producers, directors, whatever. I think the male/female ratio of successful screenwriters in Ireland is mirrored internationally, but I am optimistic that it is changing. The wave of independent productions, much like the ebook revolution, is altering the goal posts, and the previously stifling role of the gatekeepers. That can only be a good thing.”

Inspiration comes from living your life Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Aug 26, 2013 at 3:07:23 pm

Irish Filmmaker Frank Kelly on Storytelling

The Filmmaker Lifestyle has started a new blog titled Creating Story.

Recently I’ve connected with a number of people active in filmmaking in Ireland. With the long-established Irish tradition of story in print and stage, I wondered if filmmaking there is carrying on the torch.

I spoke (by email) with Irish indie writer/director Frank Kelly about his own storytelling, and about the state of filmmaking in Ireland. Kelly has achieved recognition for his films Derelict (2012) and 140 (2009). Since this blog is all about story, naturally I wanted to know what influences his ability to create story.


Posted by: Bob Gillen on Aug 21, 2013 at 8:36:06 am

Chris Sullivan on His Debut Album The Odd Sea

Singer/songwriter Chris Sullivan recently released The Odd Sea, his debut album best described as vagabond blues folk. Sullivan connected with us about the storytelling element of his songs.

The Filmmaker Lifestyle:
Songwriters are storytellers and poets as much as any other writers. Do you feel a need to tell a story with each song, to create a living character in music? Do you ever approach each song as a “four-minute movie,” a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end?

Chris Sullivan:
I frequently approach songs from the perspective of a character outside of myself. I find it more interesting to investigate someone else's personal experience; explore someone else's relationships. It might be a defense mechanism against vulnerability, but at this time, that's what I'm doing. I definitely have a strong "verse, chorus" structure that ends up giving each song a beginning, middle and end. The songwriters I grew up admiring tend to have the same structure. 

Story looks to elicit an emotional response from the audience. How do you get at that in your songwriting? Do you look for a balance between telling the story in the music and in the lyrics?

I feel like the song/story should be able to elicit its own emotion without the performer/teller emoting on top of everything else. Strong, straightforward delivery should allow the song to deliver its message while permitting the listener to take away their own personal experience from the piece. I've already explained how I feel about something by writing the song. There is no need for me to tell the listener how to feel about how I feel with the performance. 

One of the themes in your current album is “heart” – “everyone knows a heart needs dusting”, “my heart just wants to sing”, “battle worn is the soldier of my heart”, “uninvited guests… that trash my heart”. This has to come from your own heart. How much of yourself becomes articulated in your music?

I think regardless of the character that I place on a song, there will always be a strong presence of myself in these songs. "The heart" is a strong, present subject in most music, I think. I guess I haven't thought about why so much, but I guess I feel like music isn't worth much if it doesn't make you feel something. If a song doesn't lead you to feel some emotion that you are looking to experience, then I imagine that music gets filed under "bad music". It's not necessarily bad. It just isn't serving its purpose in your life at that moment. In that way, I believe the heart and music are inseparable.


See Chris Sullivan’s full resumé.

Besides singing, Chris Sullivan has an extensive acting career. On Broadway he has acted in Nice Work If You Can Get It, Chicago the Musical, and Lombardi.

He has acted in various television roles as well.

And many will know him from his television commercial roles:
The voice of Mike the Geico camel talking about hump day;
a few years ago, the Snickers Viking.

And here is a link to Roberto Serrini’s video of “The Gypsy Queen” from The Odd Sea album.

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Aug 12, 2013 at 7:55:22 am

The Power of Story

Writing the Human Experience
Writing consultant Julie Gray is, by her own admission, passionate about the power of story to transform lives. “Yes, I have worked with writers all over the world. I think bottom line, writers everywhere are just humans who write about love, betrayal, revenge, hope, redemption - you know, the human experience.”

For over ten years Gray has taught writing in various venues as well as acting as a writing consultant. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, The Times of Israel, and Script Magazine. Gray presently lives in Israel, the scene and source of so many ancient transforming stories.

“I think a writer's storytelling ability,” says Gray, “is only bounded by their exposure to good story, structure, etc. What I find most interesting is that outside of the United States, where conditions are in some cases significantly different than they are in the US, I see a lot of writers who thirst to tell their stories but do not have as much easy access to the Internet, etc.” Gray believes that access to teachers, access to the Internet, access to books and to film makes a big difference for a writer.

“I do think,” says Gray, “that more fresh, unique stories and creativity can be found outside of Hollywood, to be frank, since that is a fishbowl environment which is frankly market driven. Writers who have not yet been molded to put sales first often write way outside of the box, which is exciting.”

Universal Appeal
Any writer looking to reach a wide audience needs to achieve a universal appeal in their work. “I advise writers to zoom in and be specific about what they are writing - and zoom out at the same time and make sure they are writing about themes which are relatable. Not everybody has to relate to your story - you might be writing an action thriller - but if you have a family dynamic there, or a love interest, you automatically will touch upon universal themes, things that viewers can relate to.”

Gray says that hitting a universal note in your writing is not always even a conscious experience. “You might be writing about an archetype and not even realize it, since archetypes are rather hard-wired, but if you are writing about a specific experience that you had or you think would be funny, stop and ask yourself - would a million viewers think this is funny too? Why? What's in this for a viewer? What can they relate to here that isn't just about me and how I felt about something but that is larger than that? Really ask those questions of your work.”

Trending Themes
As a story consultant and script editor, Gray has experienced all kinds of stories, trending themes, and genres. We asked her what she is seeing from today’s writers. Do their stories have the potential to transform?

She says, “I have seen so many trends come and go, it's amazing. Last year my competition had a great number of zombie scripts entered. You will always find writers with romantic comedies and action/bad guy scripts and horror scripts - and they are often emulative. Some genres and trends just never go away.

“But overall, I would say there is a really surprising panoply of scripts and creativity out there. I read three scripts yesterday and each was different, genre-wise and in sum toto. In general, stay away from trends when you write. By the time the script is done and presentable, your script may be obsolete.

“Don't follow trends, write from your heart. I know that sounds so corny but it's quite true.”

Creating Characters
Creating vibrant characters is key to a powerful story. “Don't just write a veiled version of yourself,” says Gray. “Try to write a character who is older, younger, a different race, a different gender from yourself. Create someone totally new and different to you.

“Do not forget back story; characters, in order to really seem three-dimensional, have siblings, parents, political beliefs, habits, hobbies and quirks just like anybody else does. Don't skimp on back story. Remember, your character existed before your story and they'll exist afterward - who are they?”

Julie Gray’s Bio:
A resident of Tel Aviv, Israel, Julie has been reading scripts and consulting with writers all over the world for more than a decade. A teacher at Warner Bros. Studios, Julie has also taught at the West England University, The Great American Pitch Fest and the Willamette Writer's Conference. The director of the Tel Aviv Writer's Salon, Julie is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, The Times of Israel and Script Magazine. Her screenwriting book, Just Effing Entertain Me, will debut at the London Screenwriter's Festival this October.

Julie's website is: Just Effing Entertain Me. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Power of Story Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Aug 8, 2013 at 11:23:17 am

Developing Media Careers for Disadvantaged Youth

Dealing With Youth Unemployment in Jordan
A Jordanian youth named Omair comes from the poorest area in Jordan. Several years ago he failed grade 12, which left little option for bridging back into the academic system or into the workforce. He had been without a job for two years and was desperate to help support his family of five siblings and his retired parents.

To make matters worse, the job market for youth in Jordan is a difficult one. Ms. Mayyada Abu-Jaber, the CEO of the Jordan Career Education Foundation (JCEF), says, “Jordan faces one of the highest youth unemployment crises in the region with a staggering figure of 29%. As youth approach their final year at university, they are faced with the realities of a selective labor market. The private sector in Jordan competes to become the pioneer in the region, and thus moves much faster than the academic system. Knowledge disseminated at universities is often outdated and not linked to the needs of the private sector.”

For some graduates, the job market is especially difficult. Ms. Abu-Jaber says, “Talented photographers, film makers, graphic designers find themselves jobless and frustrated, regretting ever having spent the time and effort in fostering their talents.”

JCEF Mandate
JCEF is a non-profit organization with the mandate of youth empowerment through employment. In 2012 Ms. Abu-Jaber partnered with media and communications specialist Lars Schwetje to create the JCEF Media Fellowship Program (MFP). Schwetje is a veteran news journalist with experience in video-reporting from the early days of the Iraq War. “The MFP,” says Ms. Abu-Jaber, “was designed to fulfill two objectives: to give a positive voice for the youth using social and new media, and to disseminate cutting-edge knowledge to youth in the media and communication fields to make youth more desirable and increasingly attractive to employers both in the private and public sector.”

Ms. Abu-Jaber stresses that “… economic inclusion of young people is necessary for the progression and development of society.”

“JCEF will be able to give a voice to those that are unheard, the youth,” says Ms. Abu-Jaber. “It will offer solutions to the frustrated voices of youth demanding decent jobs and the right to earn a living and become active members of society. These demands were among the highest priorities during the Arab spring movement that started in the Arab region.”

Recruiting Students
Early in 2013, the MFP program recruited students from the poor areas of Jordan. “The youth,” says Ms. Abu-Jaber, “were rigorously questioned to understand their commitment and passion for their country and for being active citizens of society. They were also screened to ensure that they fit our criteria of being marginalized and economically distressed.”

Ms. Abu-Jaber adds, “It was appalling to interview so many talented youth that require support to achieve their potential.”

Omair was one of fourteen youth recruited to take part in the MFP. Ms. Abu-Jaber says that Omair “… loves photography, and while being interviewed showed us his photos on his mobile phone. We later learned that he does not own a camera and uses his friend's cameras to take photos.”
The recruited youth received comprehensive media, film, photography and business training. “Each week of the course,” says Ms. Abu-Jaber, “focused on a different media topic, including print journalism, radio, blogging, social media, 2D and 3D animation, graphic design, filmmaking, event management and the theory of art.”

The training was conducted using a corporate engagement model, with the participation of fourteen Jordanian media and communication organizations that offered fifty pro-bono corporate trainers to train the students. And in addition, each afternoon, the media fellows were linked to renowned international speakers worldwide to disseminate their knowledge and experience.

Measuring Success
“The success of our media fellows,” says Ms. Abu-Jaber, “is not the mark they score in their exams, but the media and communication product that they develop to disseminate positive messaging about the importance of employment for youth and their role as economically active members of society.”

She goes on to say that “Omair learned how to use open-source technologies to create an e-portal for training modules that would be used to raise the skills of other youth to become employable. He is now placed in an internship at Prodigi - a social media company - and will be progressed into a full time job. Omair is the social media community manager for the company and is excelling.”

Extending Training to Other Youth
Omair's contribution to society does not stop there. “Our media fellows,” Ms. Abu-Jaber says, “deliver monthly one-day training programs to other youth fellows. These training sessions are focused in remote areas of Jordan. Youth exchange their knowledge and create Facebook pages to share their experience.

“So far, our media fellows have conducted two trainings in the north and will be duplicating a similar training program in the south.

“It is expected that we will be able to mobilize large numbers of youth throughout Jordan to carry out positive messaging campaigns and call other youth to join the labor market and become active members of society. The youth groups will be able to voice their opinions and open dialogue with the government and private sector to learn more the opportunities and to become part of the solution to the unemployment equation.”

JCEF is part of a broader initiative. Ms. Abu-Jaber says, “JCEF is an affiliate of the Education for Employment (EFE) and part of the EFE network operating in Jordan as well as Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunis.” JCEF will be able to duplicate a similar model through the EFE network to achieve a greater voice for youth via social and new media to support their country and their commitment to employment.

The bottom line: JCEF believes that every young person deserves an opportunity to get a job so that they may establish sustainable livelihoods.

Click here for links, pictures, and a YouTube conversation between President Bill Clinton and Ms. Mayyada Abu-Jaber

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Aug 6, 2013 at 12:05:35 pm

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