The Power of Funny

My name is Elliot Grove, the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. I was kindly invited to write for Collab Writers to explain what opportunities exist for creatives as a result of the COVID-19 crises.

In these troubled times of COVID, filmmakers are wondering what story trope to focus on. Choosing the wrong story type could ruin a career. Choosing the right one, and your storytelling career will soar. I, for one, am putting my money on the power of funny.

Laughter can help us deal with the stress and difficulty of living. Here’s something I’ve noticed: We don’t laugh at anything unless they cause us dismay or discomfort at a later stage in our life. The history of comedy is filled with a litany of incidents. The stand batch of jokes ranging from relationships to bowel movements, for instance. And jokes about money, sex, family and work.

A thing that makes us laugh usually has it’s root in deep anxiety and pain.  Which is why these dark times will, in my opinion, respond to the power of funny.

Four uses of the power of funny

The beauty of a comic character is that no matter how nasty and horrible they are, if they are funny they are engaging and entertaining. We allow them their rudeness, falsehood and antagonistic behavious. It is seeing these qualities on stage and amplified that makes us laugh.

Here are some ways great writers use comedy

1.Mocking the powerful

There can be little more entertaining than seeing a powerful person mocked. We love to see someone powerful become the victim of a practical joke. When this happens, we the audience, see the comedy as a leveller of social class. For a brief moment we are on the same level as the powerful person.

Barack Obama forced to laugh at himself by Conan O’Brien

In this TV interview with Barack Obama, TV host and comedian Conan O’Brien skillfully gets Obama to laugh at himself.

Monty Python chose another angle for their hilarious send-up of greek philosophy.

Their Philosophers’ Football Match pokes fun at the great names in intellectual history. This works on two levels: Firstly, it allows us to laugh at intellectual bullies who make us feel intellectually inferior because we don’t know the teachings of Wittgenstein and Schopenhauer. And these giants of academia are proved to be totally hopeless at football.

2.Therapy for despair

Traditional art has viewed despair with great seriousness. Painting of Christ on the Crucifix adorn coutless churches and cathedrals. The goal of artists like Valaquez was to draw the observer into the despair of the execution of Christ, and emote feelings of servitude.The Power of F

Crucified Christ – Diego Velázquez

A comic scene doesn’t deny misery, but has a different relationship. Monty Python’s Life of Brian, for example, demonstrates the power of funny especially when uses as dark and black humour.

The Power of Money

In this case, Monty Python didn’t expect you to take this scene as true. In the case of this time setting, the enemy was strong and ever powerful. The point of this was simple: keep being defiant, no matter how ridiculously out-manned you are.

This kind of humour works well in our current pandemic. The success of this Monty Python scene is that the characters mock a deeply and horrible situation.

3.Therapy for humiliation

There is nothing more damaging than humiliation. Last week I was accused of being cringeworthy. And wow! Did that ever sting. It seemed like my entire life’s work was for naught.

What did I do? I fell apart!

I sought the advice of friends and family who all consoled me. I even had a zoom-pat-on-the-back from my lawyer! But was I worked up! And I was glad to get the sympathy of my colleagues, no matter how flawed I am.

Let’s consider Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. In this show we see a deeply flawed man. He’s arrogant, selfish, thick-headed and horribly opinionated. And no matter how outrageous he is, we, the audience, do not withdraw our sympathy. This shows the great skill of the comedy writing team. And once again, the power of funny.

John Cleese Power of money

4.The power of funny and mocking social class

The examples of Basil Fawlty and Monty Python are really examples of what Christianity was teaching us over the centuries. Namely, that it is ok to be a worthless beggar and still be seen as a worthy person in the eyes of authority – in this case, moral authority. And to be lowly and worthy of love and attention to the same degree as the most powerful ruler.

What a powerful message. And to be able to deliver this and make people smile and laugh? If you can do that in your stories, I call that ‘talent’.

Fade Out

This is my first attempt to look at comedy. Those who surround me tell me that I can be funny. Although I often suffer the humiliation of proclaiming yet another Dad joke.

I defer my knowledge of comedy to David Misch – a comedy writer of great skill. He is available to you, for free, on Aprils Fools Day, 2021 7pm GMT at Collabwriters.com.

David is also presenting his award-winning class: The Art and Craft of Comedy on Zoom on Saturday and Sunday 24th / 25th April 2021, 16:00 – 19:30 UK time

David Misch is a former comedian, screenwriter (“Mork and Mindy,” “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” “Saturday Night Live”), author (“Funny: The Book”) and teacher (comedy courses at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles). His teaches a two-day class for Raindance, “The Art & Craft of Comedy,” on 24,25 April. He’s also taught the class at Sony Pictures, Disney Studios, Lucasfilm, Oxford, the Actors Studio and Second City.

Why not join the Collab Writers Youtube channel and watch the replay of our past events.

The stories you care about are the ones to tell

I bang on (and on) about telling stories that matter and how now is the time. I believe this more and more, day by day. The thing about the pandemic is that it makes us more aware of life and death and the mere momentary breath that separates them, how precious it is and how important it is to come here to do what we were meant to do and say what we need to say.

That’s where your voice, spoken, on the page, through art or dance, or any other medium, matters. It really does matter, and I’m delighted that an organisation with greater muscle than Collab Writers agrees.

Netflix want you to tell stories that matter

Yes, you read that right – whatever you are doing, sit down, take a deep breath and read on. Netflix are encouraging you to tell stories that matter, and have launched a documentary talent fund to inspire and discover a new generation of filmmakers, with an open call for submissions on documentaries until 31 January 2021 . Yes, that’s right, us mere mortals can directly get our ideas to Netflix, agented or not, experienced or not. So, dig deep and make time to sketch out the story you are keen to tell and the perspective from which you want to tell it under the banner of ‘Britain’s Not Boring and Here’s a Story.’

Human Rights, wrongs, social issues, mental health, inequalities

There is no shortage of hot topics that matter to each of us. Is there a unique perspective that you or someone you know has that has yet to see the light of day? That might be a window into an idea.

Documentaries don’t have to be heavy or about things that are wrong – they can be upbeat and hopeful too. They need to tell a story, a story that matters that needs to be told.

But I don’t know what story to tell

If you haven’t worked out what story you need to tell, sit quietly again and have a think about what matters to you, whether there is a story or a perspective on that story that has not been told and jot down the idea.

I can’t tell it alone

Fear not, if you want to collaborate on a documentary send us an email to info@collabwriters.com. We will put a call out on our next newsletter and try to get you hooked up with fellow Collab Writers.

Also, come along to our January 7th session online with media lawyer, Tony Morris.
Attend and put a call for interest in the chat.

See you soon!

Showcasing a new story structure for new times

This month at Collab Writers there was magic in the air, as we hung on every word of the Joseph Campbell of our times – storyteller and creative writing teacher, Kim Hudson as she talked us through a new model of storytelling, The Virgin’s Promise.

Kim gave us her scoop on a story structure that is new and fresh and has come into its own in the pandemic where we are eager to tell stories that matter. The Virgin’s Promise is a wonderfully meaningful story structure that is the perfect framework on which to build such stories. There are 13 beats suitable to tell stories of personal growth, creative, spiritual and sexual awakening, to name a few .

Kim Hudson’s inspirational hour with Collab Writers

Kim calls these stories ‘feminine stories’ and don’t let that put anyone off, who doesn’t identify themselves as feminine. The story structure works just as well to tell masculine stories. Regardless of sex, we all have yin and yang in us and we all have what we have come to recognise as masculine and feminine energy. The thing is, we don’t always embrace both sides. Many of the Hollywood movies we watch focus more on external achievement, with screenwriters having been schooled in the art of telling the hero’s journey of going out into the world and achieving something, coming back home and shouting about success to the outside world. We often see this play out in stories that follow the 12 beat structure of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

Chritopher Vogler, who wrote ‘The Memo’ that changed storytelling in Hollywood, has written The Foreword to Kim’s book, and says the following:

"What I found in these pages was an eye-opening retelling of the universal human story from the feminine perspective, with quite different language and thinking than I had considered."

The Virgin story is about knowing one’s own dream and bringing this to life within a world that often doesn’t support that and it’s through that inner challenge that the growth occurs and the Virgin can become who she was truly meant to be. Sound familiar? The 13 beats of Kim Hudson’s ‘Virgin’s Archetypal Journey’ from Kim’s book, The Virgin’s Promise are:

” 1. Dependent World – 2. Price of Conformity – 3. Opportunity to Shine – 4. Dresses The Part – 5. Secret World – 6. No Longer Fits her World – 7.Caught Shining – 8. Gives Up What Kept Her Stuck – 9. Kingdom in Chaos – 10. Wanders in The Wilderness – 11. Choose Her Light – 12. Re-ordering (Rescue) – 13. The Kingdom is Brighter.”

Movies that follow The Virgin’s Promise

To give us context, Kim talked us through stories of Personal Growth that we know and love that once upon a time we might have gone out to the cinema to see (yes, remember those wonderful days!), like Joker, Roman Holiday, Jo Jo Rabbit, Billy Elliot, The Wife and Her.

Stories of our Time

In the pandemic, outer and inner worlds have become more polarised and we’ve seen heros and anti-heros playing out on the world stage. I won’t mention any anti-heros by name but there have been plenty of examples in 2020. Like in the novels we write and read and movies we write and see, these heros often refuse to admit defeat and cling on to the bitter end, whether or not they have the support of the community or the moral upper ground.

They often share a common trait, they are right and it’s their view of the world that they will defend to the bitter end, regardless.

Is it time to tell new stories?

Since our session with Kim, there has been a seismic shift on the world stage. I’ve been asking myself “are we done with the hero’s journey?” Is it time for a new story structure? One that isn’t focussed on the strongest or smartest, or on achievements in the outer world, but rather upon the inner world and the journey we experience within, through personal growth and change to become who we came here to be, whether society approves or not.

It’s true that for many of us, lockdown has given us the opportunity to get know ourselves much better. As we can’t go out, we have gone within. We’ve had to get up close and personal with our lives, relationships, feelings, our work, or lack thereof and really ask ourselves some home truths. Home truths that reveal our inner make up, who we really are, and why we are here, especially at this time.

Need some help to discover your story of personal growth?

The beauty of Kim’s Virgin story structure is that the 13 beats don’t have to roll in any particular order. They can be mixed up and appear in your story in any order which is why stories that follow this structure tend to be intense, memorable and unique.

Let’s together disrupt the old way of storytelling and embrace a deeper, more meaningful way to tell our stories where no two are the same. Kim’s teachings can help you do this with grace and you never know, you might just enjoy it. After all, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

I truly believe that the future belongs to those who dare to be different, not to those who follow the crowd.

If you want to treat yourself to some new notebooks to write your stories in. Or, if you are looking for unique gifts for Christmas, check out our Collab Writers limited edition notebooks, designed by London print designer, Caroline Lowe. As 2020 has been hard on creatives, here is an opportunity to support a talented artist this Christmas!

Two Collab Writers Original Notebooks

Designed and made by print designer Caroline Lowe. This pair of show-stopping notebooks are just-the-thing to give a home to your creative thoughts. A snip at £25 a pair including postage in Europe. If you are outside Europe, please do email us for a postage quote.

£25.00

Your Creative Ikigai

Many many moons ago, I lived in Japan. The Japanese live life well. Despite the technological advances, they appreciate the simple things in life.

A phrase often heard from kindergarten kids to 90 year olds is ikigai.‘ Before I fully understood the translation of the word, which as luck would have it has become a borrowed word in the English language, I got it. I got it, because the ever so helpful body language told me all I needed to know.

Ikigai has the guaranteed side effect of smiling, a warm fuzzy feeling and heartfelt happiness

The dictionary or hand held electronic translation (yep that used to be a thing kids) wasn’t necessary because the obligatory accompaniment to ‘ikigai’ was a smile, a warm glow or a hand placed over the heart that often triggered a smile.

The body language, was usually accompanied by some kind of action, be it flower arranging, a tea ceremony, tending the garden, growing veg, keeping chickens, writing, painting, playing tennis, swimming, walking, doing yoga, practising martial arts. An endless list….. Ikigai, is an activity or feeling that one enjoys in the moment when doing something one loves.

A love affair with the living of life itself that is true, honest and full of delight.

Ikigai is something money simply can’t buy, it’s without class, without divide, open to all to enjoy, equally.

There isn’t one word in the English language that can sum it up, it is a combination of so much of what we treasure in life. In essence, it’s the reason we get up in the morning, our passion, our ‘go to’ thing in life, that’s beyond a quick fix of Netflix or Amazon Prime. I say that as someone who regularly finds solace in movies and TV series, especially in lockdown days. Deep down, I know that my ikigai is an inner creativity and encouraging others to create.

Creative Carpe Diem

So, look back on your today and if there was joy, look at where that joy was. If it was when you sat down and came to the page or your laptop to write, shooting that scene on the underground with masks, a morning walk, run or playing football. Whatever it was, make it a regular thing if you can. It’s not a to do list or a must have number of words, it’s a desire, a passion, a match that thing or thing(s) that lights your inner fire. So, seize the day and do more of what brings you ikiagi, today, tomorrow and whenever you feel you need a reason to live. If you didn’t experience that today, think about what brings you joy and add it into any time left today and definitely your tomorrows.

Arigato gozaimashita Japan……….

The Dawn of The Age of Collaboration

creative collaborationThank you 2020 for bringing many of us together, the year ‘collaboration’ became ‘cool’.

Let’s face it, without collaboration, we wouldn’t have got as much done. If you are enjoying your new found ‘collaboration’ you will love what we do at Collab Writers. The clue is in our name, we are all about ‘collaboration’ of writers and other creatives.

Goodbye ‘me, myself and I’ culture

There’s no denying that part of our old society is crumbling together with the ‘me me me’ culture. In case you’ve forgotten it already, this was the culture where people cared quite a lot about themselves, how rich they were, and what they could achieve in life. Competition was the name of the game. Keeping up with the Jones’s was more important than giving the Jones’s a helping hand.

Enter 2020, and we have got to know our neighbours, and have helped in the community. We are becoming more ‘us’ than ‘I’, also marking the dawn of The Great Collaboration.

“The old way of life has been paused by a power greater than us and the ‘me, me, me’ culture crystallised in history to make way for The Age of Collaboration.”

If we stop and think, even the best of us were a bit ‘me, me ‘me’ focused until 2020 arrived. As we emerge like butterflies from lockdown, we are transformed, thinking about how we can help others, opening us up to finding ways of working with others.

Hello Collaboration – working together as one

Collab Writers was born (pre-pandemic) to connect people, to help them get to know one another and build up relationships of trust. The collaborative creative community was born to encourage creatives to collaborate through telling stories together. We are here to connect, support and inspire you to join forces to create passion projects.

As distance disappears, and time differences become less important, we are paying less attention to individual difference and believing more in commonalities. The time to collaborate is NOW. When Collab Writers was born, 18 months ago ‘collaboration’ was a word we didn’t hear that often. It is now on every forward thinking company’s radar.

So how does collaboration happen at Collab Writers?

We bring people together. We identify creative synergies and make creative collaborations happen. How? We just do. There is no clever algorithm. We know creative talent when we see it, old hands or emerging creatives, all are welcome. Our collaborative crystal ball gives us the vision of what we feel will work collaboratively. Then we connect people and collaborations just happen. It’s why we were created, and we truly believe it’s the reason we are here.

On top of the many ongoing collaborations that have been born and come to life through Collab Writers, our members have also collaborated with big players, the Raindance Film Festival, The Showface Festival, and Manga Big Bang to name a few. Our Small Ads, Big Roles Feature on our newsletter is open to all members as a platform to seek collaborators and shout from the rooftops about collaborations and creative projects.

Whatever happens in the future, one thing’s for sure, it’s Goodbye the ‘Me me me’ culture, and it’s Hello to the ‘let’s work together, as one’ culture.

If you want to know what all of the buzz is about, join us at Collab Writers in September on ZOOM with a special creative guest. We are also delighted that we have more new and exciting international collaborations stirring in the Collab pot, to be announced soon.

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