Nudes and Nature

Debbie Boostrom

If ever there was a campaign for “Milk, it does the body good”

A thousand years ago, when I was a much younger man, I found myself in possession of an issue of Playboy, where I discovered a lovely young woman named Debbie Boostrom.

I was smitten (let’s agree to leave it at that).

I remember sharing my discovery of Ms. Boostrom with some school friends at a hockey rink (where all good Canadian things happen). And at some point, as we admired her physique, I found myself saying aloud:

“Man, can you imagine what she looks like in a bathing suit!”

That my friends chose to remain my friends is a testament to their patience…or possibly to their respective inabilities to make friends.

In any event, I too joined them in shock at the idea that it would be good to alter such loveliness…and especially cover it.

Well, a thousand years later, I find myself in similar shock, but less with nudes than with nature.

Recently, on the way to a hockey game (see what I mean), I took an amazing photograph of a sparrow in a thorn bush.

SONY DSC

Given my fascination with nature, my initial inclination is to focus in on the bird, but in this case, I decided to keep the image relatively wide, the bird blending in beautifully with its surroundings.

I was smitten (let’s agree to leave it at that).

As I was discussing the photo with a friend earlier today, I commented that the photo would make a great painting. If I put a wash over it, it might look like something wildlife artist Robert Bateman would paint.

Batemix

Just assumed Bateman was born on a foggy day

Hunh.

Yet again, I want to take something I smit (that’s a word, right?) for its natural beauty and alter it…even cover it. Such delicate detail and I want to blur the lines.

Maybe this is some deep-seated desire to mar the things I love to spare myself the pain of inevitable rejection…although Ms. Boostrom has reportedly passed on and there must be 439 other sparrows in that ruddy bush.

Perhaps I am a closeted Puritan who believes there is evil in anything that brings pleasure. Nah, my love of hockey and bacon, and my Jabba the Hutt-like lair (and body structure) suggest otherwise.

Or maybe I’ve stumbled onto a hybrid art form.

Yes, you too can Batemanize your family portraits!

I don’t know…maybe I’m just weird. I should go to the rink and think about this some more.

To wash or not to wash?

Bible or Anachronism – The Elements of Style

EoS

As we approach the 100th anniversary of this well worn tome on writing correctly, I would like to survey my social media environment to determine how often Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style is actually referenced by people on a regular basis.

NOT do you own it.

NOT have you cracked it open at some point.

BUT do you actually use it to improve your writing.

OR do you not even know about what I am talking.

Those of you who know me well, already know my stance on the book. At the same time, as I have seen the book referenced countless times as a classic must-have, I have come to consider that my bias regarding the book may have been a product of the era in which it was thrown at me, and thus, I should be open to reconsidering the tome.

The writer who… (UPDATED)

As an advertising copywriter, I was constantly called upon to summarize a client’s product with a single line, as few words as possible that would capture the brand essence of the product or service. The almighty tagline.

As a magazine writer, I am also called upon to summarize the stories I write into a sentence or fragment. Something that will give the reader the kernel of the story so they can decide whether they want to read it or move on.

And finally, as a budding screenwriter, I am asked to summarize my entire story in a single sentence so prospective producers can get my idea and see the possibilities, artistic but mostly commercial.

And yet, with all of this practice in concise summarization, there is yet one product that eludes my abilities: me as a writer.

At last year’s Austin Film Festival, during a session on how to work the festival, the Langlais brothers—that’s how they describe themselves, but Gene and Paul, for the record—challenged each of us to define ourselves in a single sentence as “the writer who…”. They suggested that if we could define ourselves as producing one type of screenplay, it would make it easier for producers and directors to wrap their heads around who we were and where to go when they needed that kind of screenplay. Call yourself something and then be the best that you can be.

The challenge for me was that I couldn’t even decide on a medium or genre, let alone determine what types of stories I wrote.

About the only medium I have not yet written for is radio and that’s more the result of lack of opportunity than lack of interest.

I am naturally inclined to write comedy, but my last two screenplays have been family drama and murder thriller with the possibility of a horror on the horizon.

For nine months or so, the question has plagued me. I am “the writer who…”

Recently, however, because of a screenwriting course and completely separate conversations about life with a friend, I have had a bit of a breakthrough, if not an actual answer.

Maybe, I’m looking at this challenge on the wrong level. Rather than focusing on the details of what I have done—genres, media, angles, etc—I need instead to take everything I have done to its most basic level. Stripped of the decorative details, what is the essence of what I create?

What is at the core of my favourite comedy sketches? My screenplays? My television shows? My magazine articles? And what am I doing that makes it mine?

I still can’t tell people I’m “the writer who…”, but I think I’m a little bit closer.

(Image is property of owner and is used without permission, about which I am of two minds.)

 

UPDATE

Interestingly, the Canadian film organization Raindance Toronto just posted an article called Creating a Personal Genre. Although aimed at filmmakers, the article clearly has overtones of what I presented above. Check it out.