Writing Science Fiction, October 18th with Ian Long
You may have seen the documentary Room 237, in which numerous people get to air their more or less crazed theories about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining - the Rolls Royce of horror films, and itself a kind of mental maze at the centre of which many hapless viewers are still sitting bolt upright, frozen to the spot, much like Jack Torrance at the end of the film.
If you have seen Room 237 you’ll remember that one of the more far-fetched hypotheses casts Kubrick’s entire movie as one big confession to his part in faking the footage of the 1969 Apollo Moon landings – a confession partly coded in the Overlook Hotel’s extensive and startlingly patterned carpets.
There’s a persistent current of thought that the Apollo landings were staged in a film studio; either because they never happened, or to conceal some unspeakable event which occurred during the actual landing. All ridiculous, of course. But are these ideas entirely berserk, or is there something to them - not so much a grain of truth, as a whiff of rocket-grade kerosene?
You may be surprised to learn that the launch of the first fuel-injected rocket – the technology that would eventually take us into space - was projected to be funded from the advertising budget of a science fiction film. And that Werner von Braun, one of the men involved in the planned stunt (which never materialised), would play a large part not only in the Nazi rocket programme, but in the United States’ own race into space.
The truth is that cinema and rocket science have always described a joint parabola, with fact and fiction so tightly intertwined that they are surprisingly hard to separate. And a good place to start plotting their trajectory is Fritz Lang’s 1929 Sci-Fi epic, Frau Im Mond (Woman in the Moon), the movie with the ambitious advertising plans.
In many ways Lang was a prototype for Kubrick: the autocratic, visionary director given unlimited carte blanche to pursue his pet projects, whether this involved turning a colossal sound-stage at Berlin’s UFA into a forest for a scene in his five-hour version of Die Niebelungen, or making five hundred children stand in a freezing pool of water for fourteen days to shoot the flooding of a city in Metropolis.
In Frau Im Mond, his last silent film, Lang made a convincing documentary of an event that wouldn’t happen for more than forty years: the first manned landing on the moon (convincing, that is, until elderly Professor Manfeldt goes on the first moonwalk – pre-empting both Neil Armstrong and Michael Jackson – strikes a few matches to test the atmosphere, then takes off his helmet and strides into a cave where hot springs are bubbling and large, detachable pieces of gold hang from the walls).
Leaving this aside, the film is eerily convincing. Not only is there a brilliantly detailed launch scene and a rocket which proceeds by jettisoning its earlier stages, there’s a count-down to zero prior to lift-off. All successfully mimicked from actuality. But of course, there hadn’t yet been any actuality to mimic. In fact, the reverse count-down was invented by Fritz Lang for the movie - and subsequently copied by NASA and other space agencies, who evidently relished the manufactured - not to say theatrical - suspense that it created.
The Nazi regime obviously took Frau Im Mond seriously, because it banned the film in the 1930s, afraid that its details might betray the pattern of the state's own experimental programme. And when the first V-2 rocket launched from the Nazi facility in Peenemünde, the Frau im Mond logo was painted on its base.
Given the way in which fact and fiction morph into each other in this area, maybe it’s not so far-fetched to think that Kubrick was more closely involved in the moon landings than he cared to admit. So, next time you watch The Shining, don’t be afraid to have a close look at the carpets – you might learn something.
Euroscript Workshop: Writing Science Fiction
Conspiracy theories are alternative visions of reality, so they’re a great source of Science Fiction stories - films like The Matrix, Men in Black and Capricorn One and many others have exploited 'conspiratorial' ideas.
In our Writing Science Fiction workshop on October 18th we’ll find out a lot more about how Science Fiction stories work, and where to find fresh ideas. An you'll end the day with notes towards your own original story.
Book now for our special Early Bird offer!
Charlie Wiseman asked Euroscript to give him some advice on how to make his video for the project described below.
CHARLIE WISEMAN: We started working in Edinburgh in the Grassmarket hence entitled 'Grassmarket Project', showing days in the life of homeless and we were invited to Berlin Peoples Stage, the only British company in fact to be so. We worked there with street people and an Ensemble of Homeless ' Rats' as they like to call themselves went on to win an Academy of Arts Award.
This led to us being recognised by a wide range of people, from Ken Branagh, who asks for updates,to Sean Connery who wrote that our work was 'a great contribution to British theatre and it would be a shame if it wasn't able to continue for financial reasons,' so in this spirit I have been able to further develop work which has led us to work at Paris Pompidou, probably the only time they put street people on their stage, as well as Australia, with natives on Ayer's Rock and with Susan Sarandon who supported our work with Brazilian street girls who lived in a refuge 'Casa de Pasagem', started by a compassionate retired lawyer Anna, who knew they would die young otherwise. Susan even went as far as to suggest playing the role of Anna in a film version, if funding is found.
The work continues now under the title 'London Peace Through Community', www.londonpeaceprize.com, which was inspired as a reaction to the riots of 2011 when I was living between Ealing, Battersea and Croydon Warehouse Theatre, where we were developing a project Girls about people whether pregnant or in tough situations trying to get their lives together. The media stereotyped young as either hopeless or violent which was so destructive given how hard some were working.
During this time I thought up a piece about healing, which showed how wounded and damaged might actually see their bruised scarred lives as potential for growth and we worked in Ladbroke Grove, more recently at Calder Bookshop, Omnibus-Clapham and Chelsea Theatre, always with a following from the street as well as the CEO Stephen Robertson of Big Issue Foundation, Hen Garnett the Bloomsbury heiress providing for a Kickstarter entitled
Fenella, with her technical knowledge listened after a free Euroscript event, making herself available to talk about the work which has unique qualities, not always aligned in creating expensive beautiful images, which enabled us to suddenly realise how to make a successful short film: admitting aspects of dream, with blurs and letting images flow into each other with words. The suggestion that the text needs to be experimentally and visually developed was energising and led directly to more free attempts.
The enthusiasm for genuinely helping out with such work is what makes it a pleasure to meet up at BFI. Euroscript are excellent buddies.
We sell calendars, are applying to the arts council to support our short film and depend on support from Isis Olivier, Pru and Tim West, Ken Loach, to name a few: the following video involved vulnerable, marginalized women from Romania Renata Nedela, Laura Voicu, who had once risen to Hollywood's ranks and a half-Indian actress who we encourage as potential often is hidden in people of mixed race. The work we developed with free space at Chelsea Theatre,while Pret A Manger also supply us meals for workshops.
More here: https://vimeo.com/99788744
THE ONLY PLACE TO TALK ABOUT THE CRAFT OF SCRIPTWRITING.