In this 10-minute episode, 2.6: “A Way to Learn, Screenwriting Gym, and Dashing Through”, I talk for the first time almost only about writing and a couple of things I’ve personally found helpful to grow as a writer and produce good work.
OCTOBER 16th 2018 — I visited Chopin’s tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris a bit over a year ago.
And the greatest thing was that there was his music in the air just then, just like in an episode of THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER that had a scene actually filmed there: “On the Orient, North”. Someone was playing it from their phone. I almost couldn’t believe it.
Also wonderful was how the apartment I rented happened to be located literally just down the street from this cemetery (and I mean, Paris is huge), which I always knew I would want to visit. But I didn’t even realize this when arranging for the flat. It was the only one open to me, really.
It was on rue du Chemin-Vert (“Street of the Green Path”). And in Paris I experienced some of the happiest moments of my life. I treasure some of those memories.
SEPTEMBER 20th 2018 — Ray Bradbury loved cinema and cinematic storytelling all his life.
From trips to the movies with a beloved family member when he was a boy, he fell in love with the form and it never ended.
Two characteristics permeate all his writing: all of it is lyrical — he had the soul of a poet and that’s why he’s one of my favorite writers — and much of it is powerfully sensual. It engages all the senses.
He said one could film any of his stories by simply turning each sentence or paragraph into a shot. All the information was there, he said, in his writing: what to show and when and how.
From 1985 to 1992 the world enjoyed his TV series THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER. It was filmed on location in many countries: Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and France.
Ray personally scripted every episode and proved his profound and natural understanding of how to tell a story in this form. His work for the series is a model of what to do and not do in scripting film and television.
(I prefer saying just “film” from now on. These are mini-movies in all but name.)
Scenes are allowed to unfold without drowning everything under too much dialogue. Just enough is said and not said. Sights, sounds, and yes, through the power of his work and that of his collaborators, also smells, tastes, and tactile experiences come through.
Iceland is to me Bradbury country and more like the remembered land of my childhood than anywhere else I have been as an adult. Magic is still possible here. The elements have power, like in his stories. The wind has a presence unlike anywhere else. There is the sea, there are mountains and waterfalls, and dark nights and summer cottages in pristine nature.
Stories live here and are respected. As is poetry. As is music. I write this in a snug bedroom with a great big bed and a slanting ceiling of the kind that through some geometrical alchemy seems to fire the imaginations of all creative people. I wish more than anything that I could really share all this.
In any case, Iceland is a great place to watch THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER. I also did so in Paris last winter, and before that in Finland. As an adult, and long ago, first in childhood.
“Marionettes, Inc.” (1985), directed by Paul Lynch (who also directed many episodes of the STAR TREK spin-offs), is not among my favorite episodes. I felt casting James Coco (1930–1987) as the protagonist was not the best choice.
But like all these episodes, this one too affords many incidental delights. Here are some of them.
This and every other episode of THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER is available as part of a DVD box set. Despite nearly VHS-quality video, it comes with my warmest recommendation.
SEPTEMBER 10th 2018 — What is Bradbury country? It’s a place where the magic of life and childhood are still possible. Where the elements and outwardly simple, primal sensory experiences can still get to you. The night means something, and the wind, and all the repeated rituals of life.
The first image and sound of the first episode of THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER after Mr. Bradbury’s introduction:
Boiling eggs, closely followed by brewing coffee and toasting toast. I can’t begin to say how refreshing it was to me to see and hear these things. I could taste and smell the eggs, the coffee, the toast.
I was reminded of the good things in life, the things we would miss most if we were shot out into space, never to return.
Where in our filmed fiction these days do we even see or hear these things anymore? And when we do, nearly always they are no more than halfhearted daubs of color to lend the thinnest surface gloss to a story without real human warmth.
In Bradbury and other fiction I can love, these things are primal, self-sufficient experiences that need no other justification. They may serve some story functions, but that’s not really why they’re there. They’re there because in these things our love of life finds expression. We share.
But that’s already getting too far into analysis. Better to just experience and savor when we can.
Why am I so preoccupied with what I call human warmth? And why the same with thoughts concerning childhood?
The questions are nonsensical to me, because I cannot imagine a human being I could love or even like who cared nothing for human warmth, and no artist or kind person worth much of our time has lost touch with or stopped caring about childhood — their own, and that of others.
And a person with a reasonably healthy and developed mind who did not concern himself or herself at all with thoughts and hopes of making the world a better one for children to grow up in could perhaps be called something of a monster.
When I came to Iceland again, one day I was alone pushing a cart in a supermarket, feeling sad for reasons I won’t even try to put into words — and remembering the amazing scenes with Sarah Palmer at a grocery store in the TWIN PEAKS Season 3 trailer and episodes — and suddenly I heard a child’s voice that made my eyes sting.
It was so clear from that voice that this child was growing up in a caring family, in a world that is largely safe and where real childhood is still possible.
I had not heard that anywhere since my own childhood. Not in Finland and not in Paris.
It is a quality that I see and hear here, in passing, all the time. But I don’t remember it from Finland since I was a kid myself.
And like I’ve said, I believe there can be no greater gift you can give in this life than giving a child a safe, happy, good childhood and start in life.
We are here now — but one day we won’t be. We have to care and do what we can.
Sometimes I have days or nights when I feel I am on the very edge of the cliff. In my life, in better days, and on better nights, I have been lucky enough to be the recipient of great human warmth in many forms.
Words, deeds, from people very close and from people very far and even personally unknown to me. They all found some ways to pour some of their warmth out into this world, to pass it forward, and to give some of it to others.
When I feel on the edge of that cliff, I must remind myself that even if a wind were to gust up and blow me over that edge, I should try to turn around and hurl as much of my warmth back into the world as I can, even in that last moment — like a wizard casting their life energy as a final message and protection and strength over those with life still ahead of them.
I am not a wizard, but I care. Whether in art or daily life, if we find ways to do that, we are helping.
SEPTEMBER 8th 2018 — I came to Iceland to escape from a life I had outgrown and to run towards beauty and meaning.
My first visit to Iceland in 2016, for six very special weeks, left an indelible mark on me. Iceland and Icelanders captured my heart.
I started learning from them what was missing from my life.
I learned that the most beautiful things in life are human warmth and family and friendship and caring. Icelanders have these values in their hearts. They have to, living in one of the harsher climates on this earth.
I grew to love that climate too. The wind and the rain, and the occasional moments of sunlight and rainbows, have a way of cleansing your soul of unnecessary perplexities that other countries foster.
And I learned that more than anything else I want in this life to share my life with a special someone and to start a family with them. I am alone, understand, but this is my dream. There can be nothing more beautiful in this life than giving a child a good, safe childhood and start in life.
And it was driven for good into my soul, even more than before, that art and creativity in all their forms are things I need and want to have in my life as much as possible.
So I came to Iceland and started formally studying Icelandic so I could live in the most special place on earth — a land of youth and beauty and a land where childhood is still possible, Bradbury country and my own remembered childhood country (though that was elsewhere and the feeling no longer exists there, but does here), where the magic has not been driven away — and I came to create music and stories and poetry, some of them in Icelandic.
I hope to one day find what I am looking for. I followed my heart here and even though as I write this I have experienced a terrible personal blow, I have to try to keep going. In this blog I will talk about all the things I am doing and pursuing, especially creatively.
I wanted to put my dreams into words, so the rough winds of the moment wouldn’t sweep them away into eternity. And perhaps someone will read them one day.
Is there enough magic out there in the moonlight, a character in FIELD OF DREAMS asks, to make that dream come true?