We are entertainers. What we do is not as important to society as brain surgery, or even refuse collection. But when the brain surgeon and the refuse collector finish work, they come to us and it is our job to entertain them - not necessarily just to distract them, but to stimulate, to refresh, to engage them. That's our place in the scheme of things, and it's a responsibility we should take seriously. To let our egos intrude is like the brain surgeon writing "Jake Was Here" on your frontal lobe before he puts your scalp back.
The way to circumvent ego (and thus reduces the risk of boring) is to make story our god. Find a story that interests you and tell it. Don't ask yourself why a story interests you; we can no more choose this than who we fall in love with. You may not be what you think you are - not as kind, as liberal, as original as you ought to be - and yes, the story (if you are true to it) will find that out. But while your attention is taken up with its mechanics, some truth may seep out, and that is the lifeblood of good, exciting art.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Make story your god.
There's a fascinating opinion piece on the Guardian's website by Anthony Neilson, where he exhorts his fellow playwrights not to produce boring, self-important, issue-centric dramas that put a statement about the things like racism, the war in Iraq or globalisation ahead of entertainment. I'm not sure if you need to be a registered user of the site to view the whole piece [if you do, registration is free and relatively painless], but click the link in the previous sentence you'll find out. While Neilson is talking specifically about theatre, some of his comments are just as relevant for screenplays, TV drama and radio plays. Here's an extract: