Best described as Sit-down comedy, Rakugo performances usually start with small talk which then builds into the Rakugo story. This art form was originally created by 9th century Buddhist monks as a way to make their sermons more interesting.
“In Western culture a particular myth has evolved that drugs or madness can somehow lead to creative births of the highest order. How else to explain the work that John Coltrane did while hooked on heroin – or the great works of the playwright August Strinberg, who seemed clinically insane. Their work is so spontaneous and free, so far beyond the power of the rational and conscious mind. This is a cliche however that is easily debunked. Coltrane himself admitted that he did his worst work while hooked on heroin. It was destroying him and his creative powers. He kicked the habit in 1957 and never looked back. Biographers who studied the letters and journals of Steindberg discovered a man who was quite histrionic in public, but who in private life was extremely disciplined. The effect of madness created in his plays is very consciously crafted. Understand: to create a meaningful work of art or to make a discovery or invention requires great disciple, self-control, and stability. It requires mastering the forms of your field – drugs and madness only destroy such powers. Do not fall for the romantic myths and cliches that abound in popular culture about creativity – offering the excuse and panacea that such powers can come cheaply. When you look at the exceptionally creative work of masters you must not ignore the years of practice, endless routines, the hours of doubt, and the tenacious overcoming of obstacles these people endured. Creative energy is the fruit of such efforts and nothing else.”
“The past, it is vibrant, it’s alive. You know there’s the old saws that ‘if you don’t learn from the past you’re gonna repeat it’. But I think more than just learning from the past is really understanding how we’ve arrived, as people, you know, we have – as difficult as it may seem, whether its in this country or around the world, um, you look at the arc of ‘us’ – and its been phenomenal. You look around this room, and you see, so many different kinds of people – you know, not that long ago we couldn’t come together like this. And talk like this. And share like this. That in itself is phenomenal.
So I think it’s one thing to say that history, you know – much like Baskerville’s, although that’s fiction – but it’s about making things relevant, so, it’s not just about swamps and bogs and things like that, but, it’s about feeling something in the moment about curiosity, about fear, about being thrilled – and those are the things in history that excite us, you know, it’s those moments.
Entertainment is an empathy machine. You know, we’re not here to just make pronouncements about things or to dictate. If that’s what we’re here to do the world would be that much more advanced in terms of where we are because there is so much in books and cinema and tv and things like that. It’s not about trying to dictate to individuals: here’s how you should feel, here’s how you should think, and here’s my big idea about the past. It’s about can you feel something. Can you put yourself in a place.
And these films that you see, about so many different subject matters – whether they’re of great importance or small delicate thesis, little pieces that just move you, and the people around you, and your gut clinches, your heart opens, your tears flow. That’s what we’re here to do. So, if we can take the past and make it present like you’re saying…if we can take emotion that seems like its coming from another side of the country, around the world, and make people in their space feel that same thing – that’s what I think we’re here to do.
Writing is unique in that there are amazing actors out there. Great actors but they have to wait for that story to come to them. Great directors have to wait for that story. The writer can go and write. You know, you can get up in the morning and it’s – not to go too far on tangent but it’s the difference between – read long time ago, someone said, “What’s the difference between Superman and Batman?”, and, the difference is you know that Batman – Bruce Wayne has to put on the costume to be Batman. Superman wakes up in the morning and he’s Superman. That’s it. He’s gotta put on a costume to be regular. And when you wake up in the morning as a writer you have the opportunity to be heroic, to tell a heroic story. In any way shape or form. And everyone else, as great as they are, as much as they contribute – as vital as they are – because you cannot do it without this team of people, you know, they’ve gotta wait for that story to come out there. So for all of those individuals who are writers, aspiring writers, you know its not about the check, it’s not about going to Hollywood, or, somewhere in Austin, or whatever – it’s about: wake up in the morning, saying, you know, I’m a writer. That’s it. I’m doin’ it.”
“The idea that the creative endeavor and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time. The four twentieth-century writers whose work is most responsible for it are probably Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and the poet Dylan Thomas. They are the writers who largely formed our vision of an existential English-speaking wasteland where people have been cut off from one another and live in an atmosphere of emotional strangulation and despair. These concepts are very familiar to most alcoholics. The common reaction to them is amusement. Substance abusing writers are just: substance abusers — common garden variety drunks and druggies, in other words. Any claims that drugs and alcohol are necessary to dull a finer sensibility are just the usual self-serving bullshit. I’ve heard alcoholic snowplow drivers make the same claim, that they drink to still the demons. It doesn’t matter if you’re James Jones, John Cheever, or a stew bum snoozing in Penn Station. For an addict the right to the drink or the drug of choice must be preserved at all costs. Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They drank because it’s what alkies are wired up to do. Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in some other jobs – but so what? We all look pretty much the same when we’re puking in the gutter.”
Franklin Leonard: Movies are a very special thing. Um, in, in, in contemporary life, there are very few times where we as a community or as a world or as people in any of those things sort of gather together and have a shared experience, um, you know, you, you see it in sporting events, you see it in live music, you see it in religion, you know whatever, depending upon what faith you are, one day a week you go into a room and you have a shared human experience with a bunch of people that you may or may not know, um, and, I think film is similar. You know, every friday night there’s a new movie, and you go to a theater, and with people you don’t know, and you have an experience – an emotional experience, if the movie is good – uh, and you leave the theater seeing the world maybe a little differently than when you came in. Um, I think, I think it’s a sacred responsibility. Um. The. The stories that you tell, the stories that you attempt to tell, the stories that make into film that are shared with the rest of the world – do have an effect. Um, it may not be an effect that’s knowable, um, but it all – but it is an effect that in aggregate is undeniable. And so I think it is really important that as writers write, you know, think about what you’re putting into the world and aspire for greatness because there is no point in doing it otherwise. (http://www.scriptsandscribes.com/2014/05/podcast-franklin-leonard/)
“Ums” and “Ahs” in this ‘factual fiction’ transcription are not meant to be disrespectful…
Craig: I have just general umbrage for the world of speeches that don’t acknowledge the writer. I think everyone’s speech should thank the writer. And why? Because we are first. You cannot figure out how to costume the actors if the writer hasn’t created the character, including very often the setting, the time period, what they kind of dress like, what they look like. You can’t do anything — you can’t find a location, you can’t produce a set, you can’t light it, you can’t shoot it, you can’t act it, you can’t cut it, the sounds. Every single person’s job is touched by the writer, every single one. The writer should be the first person they’re all thanking.
And it makes me crazy, crazy that at the very least the people who are speaking the words that the writer wrote specifically aren’t thanking us, but frankly I think the writer should be thanked by everyone. Everyone. I can’t help but feel that the writers aren’t being thanked because our existence somehow makes people feel insecure about what they’ve accomplished. And I want to just give everyone a big hug and say stop that. Stop it.
I don’t feel diminished by the fact that somebody had to perform this character. I can’t do it. I can’t do that. I don’t even know what lights, I don’t know how the lights work. They talk about these lights and I go, “Oh my god, it’s freaking wizardry that they know that you’re supposed to put a filter in a thing and put a light there instead of here.” I don’t understand any of it. And I’m okay with that. I love and respect everything that people do to make a movie happen. Why is it that other people should feel insecure and diminished by what we do?
Is it because we’re first? Is it because the screenplay has primacy? Maybe so. I will say this: the process for an Oscar-winning movie ends at the Oscars. And at the end of that process people get up and they accept awards for their role in making a movie. But you know how the process begins? We can’t pay a dollar to make a movie until we get a good script in.
“Well, we’re not going to be able to get a director unless we get a good script. Well, we can’t get an actor unless we get a good script.” And what are the actors, and the directors, and the financiers all say, “Well, it’s all about the script.” They’ll just say that. They will say it casually at the beginning of the process, verbatim. It’s all about the script. They say it like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, because it is. And then at the end of the process the script is gone. The writer is gone. And that has to stop.
How was that?
John: There was some umbrage there. I would want to also just have a discussion about what you may say up at the podium. And I think there’s basically two tracks you can choose when you’re up there accepting an award. If you are going to talk about how grateful you are for this journey, you’re going to thank the people who gave you the award. You’re going to say something about what it means, or something about sort of an aspiring message. I think that’s an absolutely valid choice. And I think you can go down that route and then take your statue and start to walk the wrong way off the stage and then get redirected and head the right way off the stage, like everyone does. and that’s absolutely great and fine.
But I think the moment you mention any filmmaker by name, anybody who was a part of making this film by name, you mention the director, you mention the producers, you mention this. That’s when you have to mention the writer. So, you can go two different paths and I think they’re both okay — mentioning none of the actual creative team. Fine. Mentioning the creative team. Great. But if you’re going to mention the creative team you have to include the writer, otherwise you’re just a dick and don’t be a dick.
Craig: Well said. And with much greater calm.
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