The Story About the Creation of a Story

Synchronicity Captured (like a ghost image) in America’s Greatest Film

John Fraim

Hollywood creates many stories. Once in a rare while, the making of one of these stories is almost as interesting and powerful as the story itself. The below about the shaping of a story.

At least this was one of the ideas I wrote about in one of my books on symbolism and a strange force called synchronicity, or the coming together of things at one moment in time by that non-linear force called synchronicity. I argued how synchronicity might be related to the two greatest films in Hollywood and one of the most famous books in American history.

In common language we refer to synchronicity as coincidence. Or sometimes as luck. Other times, fate. The idea is the non-linear congregation of ideas, events, people at particular times by happens outside the traditional laws of linear cause and effect. There is a type of symbolic crash at a particular time intersection in individual lives. 

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Over the years, it seems to me that the idea of synchronicity (or coincidence) has gotten a bad rap by being associated with a concept of Carl Jung rather than a phenomenon studied thousands of years ago by the Chinese with their systems of the iChing using ideas of synchronicity for their predictions of fates. 

And, even if the idea is appealing to some, it seems never to be able to gather much of an interest on the national level. At least in the age of social networks, pandemics and fake news. 

Experiences of coincidences in life happen to individuals all around the world. A coincidence in one’s life. We have all had coincidences. Some more than others. But these coincidences are seldom shared outside the small rings of friends. 

Yet, might synchronicity happen on more of a collective scale if somehow coincidences (luck, fate) could be recorded at the incidence they happen. The specific time. Translated into various times around the globe. Perhaps these coincidences could be recorded on a wearable device or an app on phones? Life might be full of more coincidences than we are aware of. 

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For me, one of the most important things Jung talked about was his idea of a collective unconscious that united us rather than separated us. Might collective consciousness be viewed in the reporting of particular experiences of coincidence at points in time? Are there patterns? Is there a grand pattern to the coincidence? How is past the data on coincidence matched with current data? Certain algorithms used for the match?

But ideas like collective unconscious get little attention in the loud, back-and-forth divisiveness of our daily political narratives and news battles. The consciousness on the surface of the world is an uncollective conscious rather than a collective unconscious. Perhaps America needs to journey below her surface? For many years the surface of the nation and the individual could be divisive because it was offset by a strong sub-surface. In other words, there was a collective type of feeling at a particular time. Expressed via the coincidence data. 

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I’ve read a lot of Jung and continue to ask myself as well as search for a collective unconsciousness below the surface of consciousness. This seems a worthy source of exploration for me.  

Yet, is there this Jungian collective unconsciousness below the level the battles of daily consciousness? There’s lots of less interesting questions to ask in life. At least I have always thought so. These less interesting questions to me are the ones mostly posed to me over the years by our education system.

I’ve been asking and writing about the major law of symbolism in the theory of correspondence and its agent called synchronicity. To me, synchronicity is related to one of the great laws of symbolism in correspondence or the relationship of all things in life on various levels. The linear string of time and the observation of a “knot” in this time when the string got entangled. 

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All of this seems an interesting idea for today. Those coincidences in life. Examples of that old concept that Jung popularized for the modern world: synchronicity. A particular force behind this synchronicity that unites all at a common time and emotion. (Query: Might a device work also when the individual is asleep and record coincidences happening within dreams? Sorry if a little too much off track here).

Creating a method of recording coincidences in individual lives and then correlating to other similar coincidences at a similar global time. It seems a research project a lot more promising and interesting than a lot of other research projects in universities today. 

Of course, the technology route of identifying coincidences (luck, fate … as Jung said “meaningful coincidences”) is still waiting for someone to step up and take a leadership role in its development it seems to me. It is not some esoteric question as goes to creating a new paradigm for understanding things that unite in the culture rather than divide. These uniting factors exist under the surface of cultural awareness. This time spent in daily consciousness of culture far outweighs time spent in contemplating the unconsciousness of culture. The idea here to test a key law of symbolism within this theory of correspondence and its agents synchronicity, coincidence and luck.

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Much important data by this method of recording a particular incidence of non-linear event or coincidence. It seemed a little while that the above might be attempted by some entrepreneur. 

The logical thing to do at the time seemed to be to suggest synchronicity might be found in works of art in various media. Specific criteria to be applied? I argued that synchronicity might be present by measuring great works of art related to their creation time. The idea (theory to test) was that less creation time in great art works equaled more synchronicity in the creation of the work of art. 

More synchronicity seemed to come more from forces outside one’s conscious control. In this mode, the person – the artist – seemed more of a medium of communication rather than the message of this communication. Such a different and there is little value in attempting to convince others of this value. They need to experience it to join this particular army. 

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All this led to me putting together three incidences where great art has been created in short amounts of time. Examples of synchronicity and its presence in the creation of a great piece of historic art in America. Perhaps its greatest movie. It seems to me that time moves almost like the unraveling of a grand ball of string. Certain moments on this string become knotted and tangled before returning back to the smooth sailing of the string. 

The three stories below are selections from our unpublished Script Symbology manuscript. I paste these selections in below. After the discussion of synchronicity in these three famous works of American art, it seems a good time to introduce a new film about synchronicity during the filming of a great film. 

The great film came about from many things but mostly from the forces of synchronicity. It was always a work of art more outside present culture – outside in the sense of above and below the surface of the linear progression of culture. Our take below (2015) on three great works of American art and their relationship to synchronicity. Never published except on Midnight Oil Studios.

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The Synchronicity Of Classic Scripts

John Fraim

“Bogey would invite me into his dressing-room with his usual ‘relax and have a drink.’ We would talk and sometimes a genie popped out of the whiskey bottle and off I’d go to develop the idea into a scene.”

Howard Koch

(Co-Screenwriter, Casablanca)

“They are laying bets over on the RKO lot that the Orson Welles deal will end up without Orson ever doing a picture there. The whole thing seems to be so mixed up no one can unravel it.”

Sometimes, you don’t find symbols for scripts. Rather they find you. All of this relates to that atmosphere hanging over all great art that might be termed part of the symbolism of chance and synchronicity in life and art. 

It is times like these when greatest scripts are often created in the shortest amounts of time. While some of this creation might be conscious, most of it during the production of the following seemed more unconscious, feminine. Something breaking out from in all directions from inside rather than some masculine arrow shot high up into the outside world. 

One method for finding the presence of synchronicity in scripts is to select those classic scripts that have been written in the shorted amount of time. These were scripts where the symbols of alignment and opposition fell in place with their own internal power somehow.

Of course many products are created quickly – often too quickly – with a consequent fate of being forgotten just as quickly. But what if some famous products show a quick creation time? What if a pattern is found in a number of them? 

Consider the interesting stories around three of the most famous products of twentieth century art – the films Casablanca and Citizen Kane and the novel Heart of Darkness. All were created in extremely short time periods. In fact, one could say they were created almost by chance, on types of “detours” from their original destinations. Was the “zeitgeist” of their times the real “author” at work behind the scenes?


The Race Between Pencil And Camera

Since its original release date, Casablanca has played more revival dates than any other film in history. In the Introduction to Casablanca:Script And Legend (1973) critic Ralph Gleason writes “Casablanca summed up the morality of its time better, I think, than any other film ever has. Everybody saw Casablanca. Everybody knew the story, knew the characters, and knew the context…Casablanca was how we thought we were, all right, a pure explication of the mood in which we entered World War II.”

Howard Koch, one of the main creators of Casablanca is truly surprised at the success of the film. Koch writes in the above book that, “none of us involved in its production could have foretold that Casablanca was to have an illustrious future-or, in fact, any future at all. Conceived in sin and born in travail, it survived its precarious origin by some fortuitous combination of circumstances to become the hardiest of Hollywood perennials, as tough and durable as its antihero, Humphrey Bogart.”

Interestingly enough, there never was a planned script. It began when Warners Brothers purchased the rights to a play called Everybody Goes to Ricks but this script fell by the wayside before it reached Broadway. Jack Warner wanted a new female lead and chose an unknown female actress named Ingrid Bergman under contract to David Selznick. To pry her away from Selnick, the Epstein brothers pitched Selznick on an idea for a movie that would advance her career and her value to Selznick. They were good enough to have Selznick loan them Miss Bergman.

As Koch notes, the troubles began at this time. “The Epsteins confessed to Hal Wallis that the story with which they entertained Mr.Selznick was actually a feat of verbal hocus-pocus without any real substance to provide a basis for a picture.” The scheduled shooting was only six weeks away.

Two weeks from the scheduled shooting date, Koch had about forty pages or a quarter of the eventual screenplay. “Fortunately,” notes Koch, “I had the help and encouragement of Humphrey Bogart … Bogey would invite me into his dressing-room with his usual ‘relax and have a drink.’ We would talk and sometimes a genie popped out of the whiskey bottle and off I’d go to develop the idea into a scene.”

By the day shooting commenced, Koch had roughly the first half completed. “But a vast unknown territory lay ahead,” Koch notes, “with only signposts here and there to guide me. The race was between my pencil and the camera. I began to think of the camera as a monster devouring my pages faster than I could write them. About two-thirds of the way through the production, it was a dead heat.”

Koch remembers that the final weeks were a nightmare “of which I remember only fragments. When I sent down to the set the last scene and wrote ‘The End’ on the screenplay, I felt like a weary traveler who had arrived at a destination but with only the foggiest notion where he was or how he had got there.”

But somehow the film made a connection to the symbolic archetype of its time. And Koch suggests this saying, “As I look back at the film’s chaotic genesis … I like to think it achieved its real identity by some affinity with this new searching generation.”

Was there symbolic synchronicity at work in the creation of Casablanca? The reader should be the judge. In a review attached to Casablanca:Script And Legend, film critic Richard Corliss notes that there are two theories about the film. “The first is that Casablanca is a political allegory, with Rick as President Roosevelt.” Corliss notes that “casa blanca” is Spanish for “white house.” In this scenario, a man gambles on the odds of going to war until circumstances and his own submerged nobility force him to close his casino. Corliss notes that this is read partisan politics. He commits himself first by financing the side of right and then by fighting for it. The time of the film’s action in December 1941 adds credence to this view, as does the fact that two months after Casablanca opened, Roosevelt, or Rick, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, or Laslo, met for a war conference in Casablanca.

Herman Mankiewicz Writing Citizen Kane with Orson Welles

Citizen Kane

An Atmosphere Of Extreme Urgency

While Casablanca was created in a fury of writing mixed with whiskey, Citizen Kane was born out of another project altogether. In the book The Making of Citizen Kane (1996), Robert Carringer notes that Orson Welles was lured to Hollywood by RKO studio head George Schaefer with a contract that guaranteed him a degree of artistic control unheard of in the industry. Welles was engaged to produce, direct, write and act in two feature length films. His Mercury Theater operation had been shut down since the flop of Danton’s Death.

By prearrangement in his contract, Welles’s first film was to be an adaptation of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which Welles’ Mercury Theater had done as a radio show. But budget skyrocketed on the film and Schafer and Welles came to a new agreement to do another film before Heart of Darkness and use this film as collateral to finance Heart of Darkness. The film was Smiler With the Knife. But the project died and rather than continue work on Heart of Darkness, Welles let it die also.

By this time, Welles had been in Hollywood for five months with nothing to show for it. The January 1940 Hollywood Reporter writes, “They are laying bets over on the RKO lot that the Orson Welles deal will end up without Orson ever doing a picture there. The whole thing seems to be so mixed up no one can unravel it.”

As Carringer notes, “It was in this atmosphere of extreme urgency that the idea for Citizen Kane came into being.” Welles found Herman Mankiewicz who was between jobs and recovering from an auto accident. Mankiewicz went out to the desert to a guest ranch in Victorville with John Houseman and a secretary. Actually, Mankiewicz was sent out to the ranch to keep him out of the way because of his drinking problem.

It was at the ranch, during March, April and May of 1940, that the first installments of Citizen Kane were completed. The material that Mankiewicz and Houseman sent from Victorville was 250 pages long and called American. It was about a publishing tycoon. The shooting script was finished on July 16.

Heart Of Darkness

 A Sudden Flurry Of Activity

The two years before Joseph Conrad wrote The Heart of Darkness, one of the masterpieces of English literature, were filled with very little production. Yet an incredible flurry of activity possessed him when he began writing Heart of Darkness and the entire novel was finished in a little over a month.

This is an incredible feat of almost spontaneous creativity. In The Last Twelve Years of Joseph Conrad (1928) Richard Curle remarks, “I remember Conrad telling me it’s 40,000 words occupied only about a month of writing. When we consider the painful, slow labor with which he usually composed, we can perceive how intensely vivid his memories of his experience must have been…and how intensely actual.”

And, critic Ian Watt adds in Conrad In The Nineteenth Century (1979) that “after nearly two unproductive years, in little more than two months, and in the midst of several further anxieties, Conrad had managed to write, revise, proofread, be more than paid for, and even see beginning in print what was to prove one of the earliest and greatest works in the tradition of modern literature.”

This type of speed in composition it leaves little room for conscious contemplation and consideration of the intricacies of novel plotting and character development. More than Conrad writing his great novel it is more likely that it was writing him. The unconsciousness was coming through and expressing itself in symbolic terms. The result was that archetype of Conrad’s age was approached. It may never have happened if the book was written and revised and rewritten. For a few months of time, Conrad was a captive (one again) of the muses of the symbolism, art, chance and synchronicity. 

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Returning back to present narrative in our post, essay, blog whatever. Returning because of a piece of information I learned today: an upcoming film from Hollywood will examine synchronicity during the creation of Citizen Kane. One of the great pieces of art created in one of the shortest amounts of time. The time factor a key metric for finding presence of synchronicity in the creation of art. Are there lessons to be learned from all this? Lessons to the true artists of the world. And, lessons too, to all those who aspire to be artists in this world. 

The upcoming example of synchronicity is the film titled Mank, an abbreviation for the great film director Herman Mankiewicz. Mank is an upcoming American biographical drama about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. His battles with director Orson Welles over screenplay credit for Citizan Kane (1941). 

The film is directed by David Fincher, based on a script written by his father Jack, and is produced by Ceán ChaffinDouglas Urbanski, and Eric Roth. The film stars Gary Oldman in the title role, along with Amanda SeyfriedLily CollinsArliss HowardTom PelphreySam TroughtonFerdinand KingsleyTuppence MiddletonTom Burke and Charles Dance

Fincher’s father Jack wrote the script in the 1990s, and David originally intended to film it after he completed The Game (1997). Jack” Fincher (December 6, 1930 — April 10, 2003) was an American screenwriter and journalist who had written for various magazines and periodicals, notably serving as a chief editor of Life magazine. Fincher once wrote a Howard Hughes biopic before it was decided to go with John Logan‘s script for The Aviator instead. He also wrote The Brain Mystery of Matter and Mind (The Human Body) (Torstar Books Inc.)[7][4] 

Jack Fincher’s The 120-page draft of the initial script revealed that he closely followed a claim voiced by Pauline Kael in her 1971 New Yorker article “Raising Kane” that Welles did not deserve screenwriting credit. The article angered many critics, including Welles’s friend and fellow filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich who rebutted Kael’s claims point by point in “The Kane Mutiny,” in an October 1972 article for Esquire. Her argument was discredited by several film scholars through the years, including Robert L. Carringer in his study of “The Scripts of Citizen Kane.”

(Lots of hypertext links above pasted in from Wikipedia that I’m too lazy to cancel out as hypertext links)

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Mank was originally set to be filmed in the late 1990s but the script went un-produced and Jack Fincher died in 2003. His son David came back to his father’s project and the film was officially announced in July 2019. Filming took place around Los Angeles from November 2019 to February 2020. It also took place in Victorville, California and wrapped on February 4, 2020

The film Mank is scheduled to have a limited theatrical run in November 2020, before being digitally released by Netflix on December 4, 2020. On first observation, the film seems to represent the study of symbolism’s synchronicities and correspondences in the creation of Citizen Kane. In many respects, it seems to me, a classic study of synchronicity and its relationship to art and artists. 

In the end (at least for the present narrative) the upcoming film Mank might offer a powerful symbol of the synchronicity between a deceased father and his son in creating a work of art. By far, this is the great drama behind bringing an old screenplay out of the catacombs by a son. Few can argue with any force that this act was not tied close within the love of father and son in making Mank.

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The most powerful drama of Mank might really exist behind David Fincher’s creating a story from a script his deceased father wrote 20 years ago. For me, the most powerful drama behind Mank is the drama of a son uniting with his deceased (screenwriter) father via creation of a film his father had written the script for. This is the subtext of the entireMonk film.

This, to me, is the great symbolism behind this particular story and upcoming film. Yes, it is about distracting our general observation to sideline activities where all we see are cheerleaders for big and popular ideas in culture. 

This idea of synchronicity between perhaps the most powerful idea of the synchronicity symbols in life: the symbols for the living and the symbols for the dead. 

A deceased father and a story he wants to tell the world in the form of a screenplay. A son of this father who uses his father’s screenplay to produce a film called Mank. All background psychological materials go into the creation of Citizen Kane. One now is dealing with not only the straight artistic interpretation of a classic work of American cinema art. Rather, some postmodern version of this work. 

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It has never been discovered and only glimpses of it have been recorded by just brief snap-shops. So much more could be known/learned if our attention could simply by directed in a little different direction. 

So that big boulder to screw up things. The boulder directed at our attention each day. The media is so masterful at distraction. It is the key method for modern political control. Anything less that distraction is not sufficient to ward off the forces of synchronicity, coincidences, luck in life. All of these conspire to separate a father and his son. Might these incidences of connections be explored in a powerful manner in the upcoming film Mank.

Might this start a new thread of debate and interest about the relationship between works of art and their creation times. 

And, of course, to fathers and sons. In some beautiful, spiritual way rather than most of the current ways.

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