#ThinkpieceThursday – Power vs Influence

Thinkpiece Thursday

I’ve just discovered a wonderful website Difference Between. Here is their take on Influence vs Power. Lawrence of Arabia is a classic example of a character who had absolutely no power but had tremendous influence. He basicly remade the Middle EastGandhi is another example of a character who also had no power but remade India.  Both where the subject of Oscar-winning motion pictures.

Here is the article from the Difference Between website.

Power and Influence are two terms between which a number of differences can be identified. Both Power and influence are attributes that we come across very early in our lives. You must have heard interviews of celebrities where they talk about the person who held the greatest influence on their lives. Surprisingly, for a vast majority, the person having the greatest influence turns out to be either father or mother. But fathers or mothers are certainly not very powerful, are they? This means that power and influence are separate entities contrary to common perception. Though many a times it looks like the person with authority is influential because of his power, but often it is vice versa. There are differences between power and influence though their ultimate purpose or objective is the same, and that is to control others or to get them to do things you want them to do. This article attempts to highlight the differences between the two terms while elucidating each term.

What is Influence?

Influence can be defined as the ability to create an impact on the beliefs and actions of an individual. Influence evokes respect. Unlike Power, influence contains such a magic that those under the influence keep working in the desired manner even in the absence of the influential person. Influence is a desirable trait in any leader. No secretary of state has been more powerful than Dick Cheney in US. This was because of the influence he had over the then President George Bush. Mahatma Gandhi was the most influential personality ever to have breathed in India. All the power, he had, was derived from his influence. He had no post, no power from the top. He had hundreds of thousands of followers who were ready to die for his cause or obeyed him blindly. This highlights that Influence is a very powerful quality.

What is Power?

Power can be defined as the authority to get something done through an individual. This usually evokes fear. Both power and influence can be used to achieve a particular goal such as the completion of a task. However, since power is often associated with fear, there is a tendency for the task to be completed poorly. Especially, when the person, who uses the power, is absent, the quality of work decreases. Power is imposed from the top as when your boss asks you to do a job. You do it in time and the manner that your boss has asked you to do, but you do it more out of fear than any love or respect for him. You do the job because it is your duty, and you are fearful that you might get reported if you do not complete the job. Some people are powerful because of their influence. However, most derive their power from the post they have got. In the modern society, we see people abuse their power merely to get things done. This abuse of power is not only immoral, but also harms the entire society. What leaders need to cultivate is to accumulate both power and influence, and learn to use both judiciously and appropriately. They must realize that misapplication of either can result in the loss of both.

#MondayMusings – Saying Thank You to My Socks

Monday Musings

I am a fan of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising.  Is she nuts, a bit obsessive, and takes things too far?  Absolutely!

But I do follow her general advice.  Take everything out of your closets and surroundings that isn’t affirming, isn’t beautiful, doesn’t make you feel beautiful, isn’t wonderfully useful, or doesn’t make you happy.

Appreciate what you have and be grateful.  She says to say thank your shoes and socks for helping you go where you need to go. Amen to that.

Clear your mind, make way for new projects, new ideas, new relationships and/or new beginnings.  Give yourself the space for reinvention.

There were so many things hanging in silent condemnation in my closet or resting with guilt and a sense of failure elsewhere.  Gifts I didn’t like from people I loved, clothes that were the size I wanted to be, bargain/sale mistakes (some very recent ill-advised purchases), and things that were out-of-date or not really my taste any more cluttered my life.  No more!

I have tidied up and it is indeed magic!  If anyone is interested, let me know and I will post pictures.



#ThinkpieceThursday – Music in Film

Thinkpiece Thursday

My husband was on a panel at a legal conference right around the time The Silence of the Lambs was released.  An FBI profiler was also on a panel at the conference.  The moderator asked what the profiler thought of the film.  He said, “I was scared to death”.  The moderator asked why. “Don’t you deal with this stuff every day in your job?”  The profiler replied, “Yes.  But in my job, there’s no music.”

Jonathan Demme is known for marrying sound and picture in a very evocative way.  He creates a sound atmosphere’s that heightens emotion that’s already there but doesn’t hit you over the head telling you how to feel.  Howard Shore wrote the score and he talks about music in film HERE.

This is also my impression of your score for SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. The music is very “neutral” and monochromatic. It’s just flowing without much counterpoint.

I tried to write in a way that goes right into the fabric of the movie. I tried to make the music just fit in. When you watch the movie you are not aware of the music. You get your feelings from all elements simultaneously, lighting, cinematography, costumes, acting, music. Jonathan Demme was very specific about the music. His suggestions were valuable…

Here is an analysis of Shore’s score for The Fellowship of the Rings trilogy.  He is, indeed, a modern master.

Contrast Howard Shore with John Williams.  While visiting my family this summer we went to an outdoor orchestral performance of John Williams’ scores. So much of it sound vaguely alike.  Personally, I am not a fan.  I especially disliked his heavy-handed work on Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. The script was very weak and very episodic and the score tried to box the audience in the ears to get them to feel something.

The following video essay on Marvel movies is a great analysis of modern scores



#ThinkpieceThursday – Deep Dread of Uncertainty

Thinkpiece Thursday

At the heart of any character’s inner conflict is change or transformation. The rage and divide in US politics is all about the perception that the country is changing. “It’s not the country I know anymore.”

Demographics are changing. Social mores are changing. Moral taboos are changing, Resistance to these changes is summed in the theme song of the television hit All in the Family.

In a story, someone or something provokes some kind of shift or change in the character or the character’s world. Change is disturbing because what comes next is uncertain. “You are no longer who I expect you to be. You are not predictable.”

Studies have shown that people would rather get a predictable electric shock (pain) now than maybe be (unpredictably) shocked (or not) later.  People show greater anxiety when waiting for an unpredictable shock (or pain) than an expected one. The Joker says: “Because it’s all part of the plan.”

Writers are always advised to write what they know. What writers (and all other human beings) know the most about is change.

Living, by definition, is to change. Nothing in life is static. Change and transformation are all around you. Both impact you every day. You live in an unsettling and constantly changing world. That is especially true today, with the backtracking, outright lying, and whiplash-inducing policy and personnel shifts in the White House.

The world is (and always has been) full of political uncertainty, evolving relationships, personal and professional ups and downs, and, conflicting responsibilities, loyalties, commitments, and desires. Your characters should experience their world in exactly the same way.

You know how painful change and transformation can be. You have experienced extreme, dramatic and, sometimes excruciating change. Your life has been full of unexpected reversals, complex dilemmas, and difficult growth experiences- and so should the lives of your characters. (And there’s no reason why all this turmoil, chaos, and pain shouldn’t be hilarious. Great comedians know: “If it doesn’t hurt. It isn’t funny”.

One of the downsides of the awesomeness of human consciousness is the ability to worry about the future. We know the future exists, but we don’t know what’s going to happen in it. In animals, unpredictability and uncertainty can lead to heightened awareness.

What’s unique about humans is the ability to reflect on the fact that these future events are unknown or unpredictable,  This uncertainty itself can lead to a lot of distress, anxiety, and pain. And that is scary.











#ThinkpieceThursday – Genre Is Meaningless

Thinkpiece Thursday

I am a screenwriting heretic.  I don’t believe in many of the so-called foundational tenets of screenwriting.  For example, I don’t believe genre is a helpful term for writers.

Genre is mostly style, tone, and setting.  It’s a marketing tool.  It’s designed to help people scanning Netflix or Hulu for something to watch that fits their mood.

The Silence of the Lambs, on a streaming service, could be found under keywords: detective, crime, serial killer (sub-genre), mystery, thriller, or even coming of age (it’s about a young woman who is assigned her first professional job).  How is that mix helpful to a writer?

A detective story sometimes involves a murder, but not always. A thriller often involves a crime, but not always. A serial killer story sometimes involves a mystery, but not always.

This is very hazy ambiguous stuff when great writing is always about specificity.  What to do instead?

Apocalypse Now and Chinatown would never be located on the same “genre” shelf, but they both have the same emotional structure.  To me, emotional structure is key.

Both of these films feature a protagonist trying to find the truth about one simple thing (AN: where is Colonel Kurtz? CT: Who killed Hollis Mulwray?).

Over the course of the film, the protagonist finds out the truth about a much larger thing (N: The moral quagmire that was the war in Vietnam. CT: The corruption in City of Los Angeles water system.).

And in the end, the protagonist finds out the truth about himself (AN: Captain Willard could easily become Colonel Kurtz and, in fact, Kurtz’s followers want him to do just that. Willard looks into his own heart of darkness. CT: Jake Gittes lost two women he loved because he refused to ask for help.).

In Chinatown, we know Gittes has a strong relationship with the press because he threatens the bureaucrat with exposure in the press.  He could expose Noah Cross publically.  His ex-partner is a decent cop.  Gittes admits as much to Cross.  But Gittes doesn’t go to his partner for help in exposing Cross.

In each alternative, Evelyn Mulwray probably would never speak to or see Gittes again for revealing their monstrous family secret, but she wouldn’t be dead and her daughter/sister wouldn’t be in the hands of Cross.

Emotionally, Apocalypse Now and Chinatown have the same structure.  This is a specific emotional pattern that I think is much more useful than undefined notions of genre.





#ThrowbackThursday- Aardman, Bristol and Me

Throwback Thursday

Something a little different this week…

People often ask me why I moved to the UK and why Bristol in particular.  I will leave the UK answer to my post on the difference between American and UK/European broadcasters.  The answer to the Bristol part is easy.

My good friend Paul Kewley, when newly appointed as a development executive at Aardman Studios, invited me to Bristol to do a series of workshops.  These visits to the city from the US resulted in several consulting assignments on Aardman projects.

I met Paul when I was in the Masters Program in Screenwriting at UCLA and he, a Brit, was a student in the USC Masters program in Producing.

He like a script of mine and we went out pitching a number of projects together.  Over the years we stayed in touch and when we were in a position to recommend each other we did! So thanks Paul for the introduction to Bristol and Aardman

Paul has since become Oscar-nominated as a producer of Shaun the Sheep.  One of Aardman’s iconic characters, first introduced in Nick Park’s Oscar-winning A Close Shave.

Always be kind to school chums as they may someday be in a position to offer you a job! And it’s a good idea to be kind and helpful anyway because that makes you a human being!

The lovely Nick Park, as a result of my work on Aardman projects, wrote one of the two letters I needed to apply for my Tier One Exceptional Talent visa. This allows me to work in the UK without restriction.

Nick is quite simply a genius, although a genuinely humble and shy one. The gentle affection with which he writes his characters, despite their loopy eccentricities shows a depth of understanding of the human condition.  Thanks, Nick for being one of the principle reasons I was allowed my lovely time in Bristol.

Barbara Machin, BAFTA-winning creator of Waking the Dead brought me on board as a consultant for long-running BBC medical series Casualty.  

I’ve since done work on both Casualty and companion show Holby City. The first show is about A & E (or the emergency room in US terms) and the second is set in the hospital.

 The shows were initially shot in Bristol and subsequently moved to Cardiff.  But it was another introduction to Bristol and Barbara was a principal cheerleader and hand-holder during my UK Visa application process.

So thank Barbara for encouraging not to give up my dream of living in the UK.  Initially, I thought for one year, but it’s been almost five and with a recent visa renewal, I am good to stay until 2021 and eligible to apply for “leave to remain” indefinitely. (like a US Green Card).

Wildseed, a talent incubator and production company started by Miles Bulloughs and Jesse Cleary, Aardman alumnus, hired me early on to help young animators improve their storytelling skills.  It was a Bristol vote of confidence shortly after I moved. And subsequently, Scandinavian and UK writers/directors and producers have come to Bristol to work with me.  And it’s very easy to fly anywhere from Bristol airport via Amsterdam or Brussels.

So the final answer is, I knew a lot of people in Bristol (a real social network and not just a virtual one), there were lots of clients here, and it is easy to travel anywhere in the world.  Not to mention Bristol is a wonderful friendly creative city! Voted Best Place to Live in Britain-  CLICK HERE









#ThinkpieceThursday – 30 Something Turns 30

Thinkpiece Thursday

It was thirty years ago last week that the seminal television series 30 Something first aired on ABC. Within a year it won an Emmy as best drama.  Hollywood Reporter published a great look back at the development of the show.  Here is a quote:

Baby boomers Herskovitz and Zwick realized that outside of Kate & Allie and Saturday Night Live, they weren’t seeing a lot of their baby boomer peer group on television. That led to conversations about doing a series that not only captured who their generation was but did it without making them be doctors, lawyers or cops. As they talked things out, they realized how they and their friends were all struggling with the same issues: fear of marriage, having kids and not really understanding how to be a parent and not having a clear career path.

I think we are in the same situation thirty years on.  You never see 60 somethings on TV unless they fill the minor role of grandparents in a drama. It’s like this whole huge population segment has no life of their own.  (Okay Netflix’s Frankie and Grace is a rare exception but, like Golden Girls, is a comedy.)

I wish someone would realize that this age group (as above) is struggling with the same issues: fear of losing independence, launching kids and have them coming back and not knowing where to draw the line, not having a clear path to retirement or what comes next, dating and finding love again. This is the stuff of drama.  I wish someone could take the leap that ABC took with 30 Something.

#MondayMusings – Awesome Oslo


I have been away from Norway for a while. When I arrived, I realized how much I missed working in Oslo. The Drama Days summit was wonderful.  Interesting panels and most of my local professional colleagues in one place!!  I did a short lecture on The Emotional Toolbox and the following day a full day workshop.

I had a great weekend off– well, sort of off.  I had several project synopsis to read in preparation for one-on-one consultations for the Norwegian Film Institute.  Excited to meet all the writers.  Several of the projects have already been commissioned by the NRK (Norway’s equivalent to the BBC).

Some great drama and comedy shows are coming from the network– I particularly loved Norsemen, a wacky comedy, Valkyrien, a wonderful medical thriller, and Occupied,  a show about the stealth takeover of the Norwegian government by Russia for the oil and gas resources (on TV 2).  You can catch all of this on Netflix!

Here is a great video that gives a taste of Oslo:

#MondayMusings – You Okay?

Monday Musings

When I first moved to the UK I was rather unnerved by the typical greeting: “You okay?”  I wondered if I looked ill or if I was somehow wearing my pants (underwear) outside my trousers (pants). Were they asking if something was WRONG with me?

Then a friend surmised (not sure how reliable this person is) that the greeting originated during the Blitz in London during World War II.

It was a reassurance that a friend or stranger had survived intact. A quick check that they had indeed made it through.  “Okay?  You okay?”

Now the greeting is a cursory, automatic response. It doesn’t unnerve me because, in fact, I am surviving just fine. And I answer: “Yeah, you?”

But after catastrophic fire, flood, drought, and wind in the US maybe it’s worth taking a note from our British cousins.  You okay?



#MondayMusings – I Love Bank Holidays

Monday Musings

The Summer Bank Holiday has come and gone (August 28, the last Monday in August).

The August Bank Holiday was originally organized by the Bank Holidays Act of 1871 to give bankers a day off so they could participate in cricket matches. Since then, however, its significance has expanded to a much-beloved summer break intended to give all workers a three-day weekend before the summer ends and employees must return to the workplace and students to their schools.

The Notting Hill Carnival in London is probably the number one August Bank Holiday event in the whole UK. It is the largest street fest in all Europe, drawing one to two million attendees each year, and it is the second-biggest street carnival on the planet.

The festival was founded in 1964 by London’s Caribbean community to celebrate Caribbean culture, and it has maintained that Caribbean flavor to this day. This year a minute’s silence was held across the whole carnival at 3pm on Sunday to remember those killed when a fire ripped through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, killing 80 local area people.

The “August Festival” is a collective name for a number of distinct festivals celebrating books, music, theater, comedy, and spoken word performances taking place in Edinburgh throughout the month of August. The festival variety lasts for the greater part of the month and runs through the August Bank Holiday Weekend.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival offers edgier avant-garde performances.

What strikes me as amazing is how sacred Bank Holiday are in the UK.  NO ONE is working.  NO ONE answers emails.  NO ONE returns telephone calls.

In America, people are expected to be reachable on holidays.  Not so in the UK.  This is just one of the many reasons life is so pleasant here. There is a real life work balance and an expectation that shared family holiday time is important.  The nine Bank Holiday long weekends are on top of about 5 weeks paid vacation a year!

And don’t whinge about Brits being less productive.  Study after study reveals how important time to regroup and recharge is to creativity and productivity.