I have a theory about Berlin. It is a phoenix city. Rebuilt from ashes, walls and war. The pace the residents move at reflect this. Life is slower than England. The same can be said with much of Europe, which is why I love visiting. But this pace in Berlin, the general assurance of the locals – perhaps, it is all a result of the long-remembered ashes. The structures of oppression have been broken and transformed into labours of love, art and at times, terrible beauty.
This process of transformation seems constant. Rooted from a deep understanding that Berlin has ascended from the lowest point of the valley and together, as a city, they have hiked up another hill. It’s a tall climb but the hill is worth it. A hill of culture, individualism, multi-ethnicity and healthy acceptance.
Perhaps, Great Britain should acknowledge we’ve been rolling downwards for a long time.
Back to Berlin: it is a city that radiates cool. From the in-yer-face graffiti laden cityscape, to the Wilhelmine architecture in Eastern areas, such as Prenzlauer Berg – there’s a balanced duality between new and old, refined and rough, monochrome and colour. As Berlin-based architect Matthias Reese said “we were poor, but we were sexy”.
But as so often is the case with short trips to cities, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface and now I have an itch to discover more. This being my first visit, I was consumed with seeing the main attractions: East Side Gallery, Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. All worthy of my time and attention, no doubt. Nonetheless, as is so often the case, aimless wandering reveals the best secrets though. One day, walking near Postdamer Platz my eyes peeked into an archway that led into a dream of an alleyway. A cinema café, walls stampeded with stickers and glorified with graffiti, hanging trees letting through ripples of light, packed tables of people babbling with beers. Just this one brief excursion has left me with an itch that will only be scratched by revisiting. It’s a city that I imagine surprises real Berliners once in a while.
Whilst entering that modern day Diagon Alley, I had a mini disaster. My camera ran out. Cruel comedic timing. My filming was thus limited to my iPhone. That mini disaster was one of many…
So, disaster time – since I am incapable of living a day on this earth without inflicting Armageddon onto myself.
#1. Raspberries. Sweet, sour, lovely, bastard raspberries. All I wanted was a refreshing zip of fruit whilst I was on the go. I had images of a picnic in a park, maybe some butterflies fluttering around my head. Instead, I had a soggy (and slightly fragrant) facemask for the remainder of my day, purple blotched notepads and I ‘ruined’ my missus’ blue cardigan. It’s tie dye now.
#2. Deja-vu. If you read my memoirs of travelling, specifically in Krakow, you will know that the first shop you enter, after you’ve dropped your bags off at your respective gaff, is a test of the human spirit. A baptism of fire. An unnecessary pain in the arse. All I wanted was water, you know, the thing you need to not die. But no. My card is rejected. Contactless? Uh-uh. My other card? Nope. My missus’ card? Noooooo.
To make matters worse, a newly formed line of angry Germans wanting to pay for their schnitzels was eyeballing me. And so, I did the walk of shame. I left my bag of shopping. Walked an age. Took cash out. Returned, tail between legs. Another queue. So I stand next to my bags and next to another person paying for their shopping whose wondering whether I’m going to nick his crisps or offer to pack his shopping for €20.
Eventually. Eventually, the kid behind the desk managed to sort me out. He paid for my shopping when I left the shop, bless him. It looked like his first day, first week at least – hands shaking when a problem arises, eyes shifting just to not focus on reality. Then his manager came, grilling everyone in German and pointing fingers.
I gave up. I handed the kid a €20 note, gave my thanks and bolted. The shopping came to €11.50.
#3. Purgatory. I lost the key card to the apartment. Left it inside the room. Leading all of your suspicions that I’m ‘not quite all there’ to be confirmed. And guess what? Reception was a ghost town. The phones sent me straight to answer phone. Their WhatsApp sent me automated messages so I felt mugged off by inanimate objects to harden the blow. It was traumatic. No more detail, no more reliving it. Just know that I didn’t wake up on a duvet of binbags next to some ‘new buddies’.
I got over my camera fear. The fear of looking like a weapon, of being the sort of tourist that you might roll your eyes at. I just had fun filming, even if it wasn’t anything special or innovative, I started to get to grips with the camera. Now with this footage, I’m going to experiment and attempt to make a travel video. That means using editing software for the first time, which is inevitably going to be a learning curve and a half, but hopefully I have fun doing it.
Secondly, I have felt revitalised when I’m writing. I made the decision to stop working on the script, ‘Moving Up In The Underworld’, that I’ve been plugging away at the last couple of weeks. It felt like too many dead ends and frustrations. Instead, I’ve begun another rewrite of a different script and it’s making my writing flow a lot easier.
I’ve started reading regularly again. Currently, I’m on Bob Saenz’s ‘That’s Not The Way It Works’. After reading several screenwriting books that try to teach you the craft, I needed something different. Saenz’s book not only inspires you with the freedom to write what you want, how you want but it is also a no-nonsense, hard fact look at the industry and what you need to do to build a career which is really refreshing. If you’re into screenwriting, read this before you read ‘Save The Cat’ and the likes, trust me.
I’ve also begun watching Aaron Sorkin’s Masterclass. An expensive but worthwhile investment.
Unfortunately, I saw nothing new this week. I intended to go to the cinema to see Babyteeth but things got in the way. I shall recitfy that this week.
I did, however, watch Searching (2018) from the comfort of my own bed and it is a film worthy of your attention. In fact, whether you believe it to be worthy or not, two minutes into this movie it will have your attention. In a vice grip.
At face value, the way it is filmed may appear like a gimmick. What you see as a viewer is literally only what the protagonist (portrayed brilliantly by John Cho) sees. His computer screen, his phone screen and news reports. That’s it. Whilst at first you may expect this to be reductive, it is far from it. The story is one you’ve seen before – the search for the protagonist’s daughter. But the way it is shown is something rarely done before and props to the director Aneesh Chaganty who was only 27 when the film was released, which I find just as inspiring as the bravery displayed by the way it was filmed.
MOVIE IDEA OF THE WEEK
I felt more inspired this week. My ideas ranged from a property developer who arranges ‘exclusive’ house viewings, which are actually black market auctions and meetings to a Berlin-inspired drama about an old man who continues to party, lauded by his city and its youth. When he bumps into his long-lost daughter, however, he realises it might be time to grow up.
This idea was specifically inspired by Berlin’s “techno grandpa”, Bernhard Enste. Check this video VICE made on him:
My favourite ideas this week were of the post-apocalyptic variety. I think I am now having a belated obsession with apocalypses, after everyone else got their out of their systems during lockdown. My first idea was pretty bad – an apocalyptic world that has no gunpowder. Which element has disappear, be it sulphur, potassium nitrate, etc. I have yet to decide, same with how it would disappear. To be totally honest, the only reason I had this idea was imagining how cool a dystopian/apocalyptic landscape where people are forced to fight with swords would be.
You want to know how cool it would be? Check this painting out.
There’s an even bigger but though. I’m a novice writer with no track record. Essentially meaning that there is no point me investing huge amounts of time right now writing a script which is likely to be very high-concept. Need to start at the bottom if I want to get anything sold and build on from there.
So I came up with a short-film idea that would suit a low budget. A contained thriller, wherein a woman fleeing from something unknown yet horrific, finds shelter in a house/room, only to meet a suicidal maniac inside. She attempts to bring him towards the light even though he could be the end of both of them.
SCENE OF THE WEEK
This is the opening of a script titled, ‘The Gateway’. This is a third rewrite I am doing on it currently and I am taking it in an entirely new direction now, which I’m loving.
Anyways, that’s it for this week. Same goals as ever, I want to get back to writing.
Signing off, G.