Floating …

Floating sounded better to me than drifting …
Lullabye for Kara (for Cello & Piano) / Rick Sowash


It has been an amazing year of discovery for me. This first full year after the pandemic when there has been time for reflection on the two-year event and repercussions. I somehow managed to come across three of the most incredible books I’ve ever read this year. I wrote reviews on all three of them and one is going into a communication journal and the other is being considered by another journal. Reading the books and writing the reviews was a way to reflect on the pandemic in many ways it seems. All in a coming post.

The fact is, after the last review was sent off I took a few days off and enjoyed the explosion of Ohio’s autumn leaves with my camera. What direction did I want to go? Writing original material? Fiction? Non-Fiction? Screenplays? Long articles in communication journals?

I’m in that state between projects that artists often find themselves in. Somewhat like actors between gigs in films. I envision this period as that sailing ship in some exotic harbor from a Conrad novel. No wind and just still in the still bay. Well, maybe I’m not exactly like this but the metaphor seems close.

A friend suggests that I should publish an old manuscript of mine.

Written ten years ago, I go back and read it again.

The writing is passionate and eager to educate on a tour of screenwriting theories.

The manuscript is Hollywood Safari. It provides a tour of various screenwriting theories.

* * *

I began thinking about updating and publishing it now. The important thing is that it provides a context to all the content of screenplay theories in the first years of the 21st century.

There is a quick gust of wind across the bay and the sails of the ship go up. My energies towards reviving Hollywood Safari are increasing like the wind. I feel a view of overall contexts of subjects and leading theories in them is important so that no one is captured unfairly by one particular theory. It seem important also in light of current cultural trends such as a time when existence is more and more confined to the cyber-space of one’s social media/news bubble.

In effect, we don’t need more niche publications into smaller and smaller subjects.

This is what I loved about the book Strategy Safari about the leading management strategy theories by Henry Mintzberg. If a tour could be given (very successfully as the book was a huge seller) through the management strategy environs, a book could certainly take one through the landscape of screenwriting theories.

It is interesting and perhaps not serendipitous that little books that summed up things in short versions are not longer popular. I read a lot of those little summary books when I was goriwng up. Starting with those black and yellow lined Cliff Notes or the red Monarch Notes. But there were so many other “Cliff Notes” in life for me. Sometimes, a book that tells things you feel but haven’t yet expressed like in the book.

This is the way I felt when I first came upon management guru Henry Mtizberg’s brilliant Strategy Safari sometime in the mid-80s when I had a marketing consulting firm in the Bay Area. More than anything, it was this book that showed me there wasn’t a dominant theory in that ambiguous area called “management strategy” theory. One might get hooked on one of the various theories. Think of the young person out of business school and working for a firm starting out that had belief in one particular management theory. Henry Mintzberg simply wanted people to realize there never was one theory of management but that there were a number of theories of management.

People like Mintzberg are not welcome by most management theorists. The reason is simple. The management theory people are not generalists. Rather, they’re focused on their own brand of management theory. As they should be.

So, it is for someone who already has a brand as a legendary management consultant to put together an overview of the management strategy industry. In other words, the brand of Mintzberg attached to a project has great weight. Few have had an insight into the overall context of the management strategy world as Mintzberg. He chose to write a book featuring different chapters based on particular strategic management theories. The fact that he saw things as a group of management theories rather than one management theory made him all the more interesting to me.

I think the concept of Hollywood Safari is right for the time. In fact, it could easily create brand extensions into other subjects to give “safari” tours through. The concept: presenting the various theories of a particular discipline in a short, concise pieces. As if each theory was a book or film to be reviewed and the chapter was a review in many ways. A collection like this provides the substance of what one gets very little of in the digital age. That is, the idea and phenomenology of the idea of context of a number of pieces (theories) of content were contained within.

It is a time when the world consists of so many bubbles of social media. Of course these bubble cyber-communities create the news and entertainment and social friends for millions in the world today.

The book Hollywood Safari presents a tour through Hollywood screenwriting theories. It seems an important task today to expose young people to a larger context of their potential industry. The leading theories in the particular industry. Such as Minzberg’s safari through management strategy. Or, my tour in Hollywood Safari through screenwriting theories.

* * *

Something written almost ten years ago. With much passion. It seems not much has changed in the overall environment of screenplay theory in the last ten years years. (This is an unfair comment and based on my cursory review of the best-selling books on screenwriting in 2022). But, I don’t expect much change amongst the various screenwriting guru brands out there. McKee and Truby among others. They own a particular way of telling a story in a particular number of steps. From Syd Field’s three step structure to Truby’s twenty-two step structure.

The brands and battle lines have been drawn. There is no universal answer about screenplay structure. For instance, the number of dramatic steps involved in a dramatic production. The number of steps are all over the place as evidenced in our manuscript Hollywood Safari. Like Mintzberg’s great survey of management strategy theories, I wanted to make Hollywood Safari something like his great book.

It seems more important that ever that young people are not swept up within the bright and shiny content of a sales pitch. It seems more important than ever to present a larger context of life to the young. At least the context of the sales pitch they are receiving. McLuhan might have said the medium. So many, running off and chasing after the content of the moment through their lives. Never having any idea of the context of the world in all their time spent chasing content. Why cower down with others who have the view that life is closing in on the content of their decreasing lives. Why not think big about life and think in terms of understanding areas of life by being able to present the key ideas of this areas as one might be taken another on a type of safari tour of this landscape.

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