#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

 

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#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.

#ThinkpieceThursday – CBS’ Salvation: It’s Never About The Asteroid

Thinkpiece Thursday

Despite a massively talented writing team, Salvation on CBS was mostly a ratings disappointment and earned just 56% on Rotten Tomatoes.  It’s a summer popcorn series that didn’t quite connect.  Why?

As I see it, some of the problem is that it is populated by stereotypes.

Eccentric maverick tech billionaire, Darius Tanz (Santiago Cabrera)
College wunderkind, Liam Cole (Charlie Rowe)
Earnest young sci-fi writer, Jillian Hayes (Jacqueline Byers)
Government Deputy of Defense (with a sensitive side), Harris Edwards (Ian Anthony Dale)
Pentagon Press Secretary, torn between her establishment lover and the romantic billionaire,  Grace Burrows (Jennifer Finnigan)

What happens is:

College wunderkind calculates an asteroid is six months from striking the earth and destroying all life. Wunderkind contacts eccentric billionaire, who knows (is in love with) the Pentagon Press Secretary. Because they don’t want to cause public panic, they agree to keep this information secret within the government. Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary of Defense is already running the D.O.D.’s top-secret operation to deflect the asteroid. At the same time, eccentric billionaire is working with earnest young Sci-Fi writer, on a different approach to saving humanity.

What we care about are human relationships and how disaster, catastrophe, or dire threat reveals character. It’s never about the asteroid, the space aliens, the flood, the fire– it’s about how people show who they really are in meeting danger. We never see the inner conflict within the characters or their personal worldview shaping how they each

We never see the inner conflict within the characters or their personal worldview shaping how they each intereact with others and how they approach the problem of the approaching asteroid.

In Salvation, the characters never move much beyond stereotypes or agents to push the plot forward.  But we don’t care enough about the asteroid– we’ve seen it before.

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#ThinkpieceThursday – The Power of Love is a Double Edged Sword

Thinkpiece Thursday

 

Power of Love characters fear being useless, unnecessary, unwanted or unappreciated. They believe that if they aren’t hypersensitive to others’ needs they will be rejected and abandoned. They define their own self-worth by how much others need or are dependent on them.  Examples in song are below “As Long as He Needs Me” from the musical and film Oliver and “He Needs Me” from Punch Drunk Love.

These characters believe the way to get love and keep love is to be helpful, useful, loving, kind and, above all, necessary to the other person. They fear that if you don’t put others first you won’t have good relationships. If you don’t have close personal relationships, then life isn’t worth living.

On a paper valentine it says simply, firmly and powerfully “Be Mine.” Possessiveness and passive/aggressive domination are the hallmarks of these characters in their Dark Side. Power of Love characters often lavish their attention and affection on others in order to exercise control, prevail, gain dominance or conquer another’s heart. The example below is “Mother Knows Best” from the movie Tangled.

Here are the three examples in song (lyrics are below):

“As Long As He Needs Me” from the musical and film Oliver as sung by Shirley Bassey.

LYRICS FOR AS LONG AS HE NEEDS ME

As long as he needs me…
Oh, yes, he does need me…
In spite of what you see…
…I’m sure that he needs me.
Who else would love him still
When they’ve been used so ill?
He knows I always will…
As long as he needs me.
I miss him so much when he is gone,
But when he’s near me
I don’t let on…
…The way I feel inside.
The love, I have to hide…
The hell! I’ve gone my pride
As long as he needs me.
He doesn’t say the things he should.
He acts the way he thinks he should.
But all the same,
I’ll play
This game
His way.
As long as he needs me…
I know where I must be.
I’ll cling on steadfastly…
As long as he needs me.
As long as life is long…
I’ll love him right or wrong,
And somehow, I’ll be strong…
As long as he needs me.
If you are lonely
Then you will know…
When someone needs you,
You love them so.
I won’t betray his trust…
Though people say I must.
I’ve got to stay true, just
As long as he needs me.
Another great example of love as need is “He Needs Me” from Punch Drunk Love:

 

LYRICS TO HE NEEDS ME

And all at once I knew
I knew at once
I knew he needed me

Until the day I die I wonder why
I knew he needed me
It could be fantasy oh oh
or maybe it’s because…

He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me!

Da da da da da da da da da da da dum da da da da da da da da da da da

It’s like a dime a dance
I’ll take a chance I will because he needs me
No one ever asked before, before, because they never needed me
“But I do”
But he does!

Maybe it’s because he’s so alone
Maybe it’s because he’s never had a home

He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me!

For once, for once in life I finally felt that someone needed me
And if it turns out real
Then love can turn the wheel

Because…
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me
He needs me!

Da da da da da da da da da da da dum

The Dark Side of Power of Love is sung with great effect by Mother Gothel in Tangled:

LYRICS TO MOTHER KNOWS BEST
You want to go outside? Why, Rapunzel!
Look at you, as fragile as a flower
Still a little sapling, just a sprout
You know why we stay up in this tower
I know but
That’s right, to keep you safe and sound, dear
Guess, I always knew this day was coming
Knew that soon you’d want to leave the nest
Soon, but not yet
But
Shh! Trust me, pet
Mother knows best
Mother knows best
Listen to your mother
It’s a scary world out there
Mother knows best
One way or another
Something will go wrong, I swear
Ruffians and thugs, poison ivy, quicksand
Cannibals and snakes, the plague
No! Yes! But
Also large bugs
Men with pointy teeth, and
Stop, no more, you’ll just upset me
Mother’s right here
Mother will protect you
Darling, here’s what I suggest
Skip the drama
Stay with mama
Mother knows best
Got ahead, get trampled by a rhino
Go ahead, get mugged and left for dead!
Me, I’m just your mother, what do I know?
I only bathed, and changed, and nursed you
Go ahead and leave me, I deserve it
Let me die alone here, be my guest!
When it’s too late, you’ll see, just wait
Mother knows best
Mother knows best
Take it from your mumsy
On your own, you won’t survive
Sloppy, underdressed, immature, clumsy
Please, they’ll eat you up alive
Gullible, naive, positively grubby
Ditzy and a bit, well, hmm, vague
Plus, I believe gettin’ kinda chubby
I’m just saying ’cause I love you
Mother understands
Mother’s here to help you
All I have is one request
Rapunzel?
Yes?
Don’t ever ask to leave this tower again
Yes, mother
I love you very much, dear
I love you more
I love you most
Don’t forget it
You’ll regret it
Mother knows best

#ThinkpieceThursday – Coincidence Tanks Top of the Lake: China Girl

Thinkpiece Thursday

Despite strong performances all around, the sequel to Top of the Lake disappoints because of the ridiculous contrived coincidences powering its plot.

## SPOILER ALERT ##

Teenaged Mary, (Alice Englert) is the long lost daughter given up for adoption by Robin (Elizabeth Moss) the cop investigating the “China Girl” murder.  Mary just happens to be sexually and romantically involved with the killer, nicknamed “Puss” (David Dencik).

The brothel Puss helps run, where “China Girl” worked, is also an illegal surrogate “farm”.  It caters to Australians so desperate to have a baby they don’t really check the girls’ backgrounds.

The supervising cop on the investigation just happens to have used one of the brothel girls as a surrogate for the child his mistress wants to have.  He KNOWS his surrogate is a prostitute because he has frequented the place.

His mistress, Miranda (Gwendoline Christie) just happens to be Robin’s partner on the police force investigating the China Girl murder.

This is too much coincidence to sustain credibility.

When is coincidence a good thing?  K.M. Weiland describes it beautifully:

Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

“At some point in almost every story, there is going to be something coincidental that kicks off the plot. What is it that first brings the protagonist and antagonist into opposition? Often, it’s a coincidence:

  • Roger Thornhill accidentally hailing the page boy who is looking for a government agent in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.
  • Harvey Cheyne falling into the ocean and being rescued by fisherman Manuel who just happened to be there in Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous.
  • Katniss’s sister Prim just happening to be drawn as a tribute in her first eligible year in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games.

 

  • D’Artagnan just happening to insult Athos, Porthos, and Aramis on his first day in town in Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers.
  • Flik catching just the end of the circus bugs’ Robin Hood act and believing they’re really warriors in A Bug’s Life.

All of these things just happen. Although there are some causal dominoes leading the protagonists up to a few of these examples, there’s not enough cause in play here to let any of these moments avoid being coincidences.

And yet they still work. Why? Because they only make things harder–and more interesting–for the characters. You’ll also note these major coincidences are pretty much the only major unexplained coincidences in their stories. It’s not on Pixar’s list, but we could add to their above rule:

Only one major coincidence per story: early in the story.”

That’s a rule to live by.  For another of my blog posts on coincidence click HERE

 

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#ThinkpieceThursday – Docs and Drinks on British TV

Thinkpiece Thursday

Since I’ve moved to Bristol I have had a number of experiences with the NHS.  The doctors have been kind and caring and available when I needed to see them.

I’ve also had a good amount of experience with doctors shows on the BBC, having done consulting work on Casualty, Holby City, and Doctors over the years.  The writers, producers, and directors on these dramas are committed to making the best show possible.  They are talented, dedicated creatives.  BUT…

There is a serious omission at work culturally, the full acknowledgment of Britain’s catastrophic drinking problem. Alcohol-related injuries and illness were to blame for 70% of A&E (Emergency Room) admissions at weekends in one NW hospital. Dr. Clifford Mann, an emergency care consultant at Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, points out that in England alone (i.e. not including Wales or Scotland or Northern Ireland), one million hospital visits every year are related to alcohol, at a cost to the NHS of £3.5 million.

This problem has taken an incredible toll on the NHS not just financially, but also with the level of violence and abuse directed at staff by those who are drunk.  What does all this have to do with television?

On a recent episode of Holby City, one of the key junior doctors, Morven Digby, drinks to a black-out state. She doesn’t remember how she got home or that she slept with (shagged) a colleague. She comes to work the next day and the incident is treated as an embarrassing joke. (To be fair a colleague does ask if she has a drinking problem, but is shrugged off).

This level of drinking is not an isolated incident. Black out drinking or drinking to excess (getting legless) is all too common amongst doctors and consultants on the BBC soaps.

This level of drinking is not an isolated incident. Black out drinking or drinking to excess (getting legless) is all too common amongst doctors and consultants on the BBC soaps.

This level of drinking is not an isolated dramatic incident. Black out drinking or drinking to excess (getting legless) is all too common amongst doctors and consultants on the BBC soaps.

Drinking at night doesn’t mean you are sober by morning. Nearly one in six drivers convicted in the UK are caught the morning after.  Drink four pints of strong lager and you can’t drive for at least 13 hours after finishing your last pint.  If you finish at midnight you aren’t safe until 1 pm. Drink five super strength cans of beer or cider and you can’t drive for at least 21 hours, almost a full day later.

If you aren’t safe to drive you definitely aren’t safe to perform surgery or make clear judgments on complicated medical issues.  But yet, people carry on as normal after unsafe drinking all the time on these shows. Black out drinking is treated as an embarrassing incident, not a shameful lack of professional conduct.  Coming into work before you are completely sober is criminal negligence.  That issue is never raised dramatically.

Again, to be fair, Holby City seems to be building up to a story on a senior consultant’s drinking problem. And there have been a few other drinking stories. But as long as ANY doctor on the show gets legless or drinks to black out this is inexcusable and should have real consequences. Drama shows us what is acceptable and what is not. Britain’s drinking problem is not acceptable, it is ruinous. Medical professionals on television should not seem to make it okay.

 

 

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#ThinkpieceThursday – Game of Thrones: Action and Consequence

Thinkpiece Thursday

This post has been excerpted (and paraphrased) from a wonderful article in FORBES MAGAZINE.

George R. R. Martin is a great writer who cares deeply about carefully plotting his stories in a way that is consistent and makes sense.

His characters act true to themselves and are believable. Perhaps more importantly, the bad things that happen in Martin’s books are always, without fail, consequences.

A character always causes his or her own downfall.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Oberyn Martell was killed in his fight with the Mountain due to his own foolishness.  When the Mountain was down for the count, Oberyn doesn’t finish him off.  Instead, he taunts the Mountain and loudly condemns Tywin Lannister, in a speech lasting long enough to give the Mountain time to rally.  If Oberyn had not strutted about so much and had killed the Mountain when he had the chance, Oberyn would have lived to tell the tale of justice done.

Ned Stark is beheaded because he is too stubborn and honorable to seize power after Robert’s death. Cersei told Ned that when you play the game of thrones (willing or not) you win or you die.Ned was not self-serving or ruthlessness enough to seize power and save himself.

Robb Stark married for love rather than fulfill his strategic military vow to marry a Frey girl. He wasn’t merely betrayed by the Boltons and Freys, he betrayed them first. The Young Wolf was brutally killed when the Lannisters used his betrayal to turn his least loyal bannermen against him.

Joffrey Baratheon, was betrothed to marry Margaery Tyrell, but he was such despicable little sadist that her grandmother, the Queen of Thornes, took matters into her own hands.  Queen Olenna Tyrell poisoned the young king and framed Tyrion Lannister for the murderous deed.

In each case, the plot turn was a direct consequence of some action, whether noble or foolish, or selfish. It’s always best if a character is his or her own worst enemy.  Compelling writing and great antagonists find ways to force characters into self-limiting, self-destructive, or self-sabotaging behavior because of fear, pride, stubbornness, or recklessness.

Does it matter if travel times are foreshortened or motivations don’t quite sync?  It does–

For example.

When Dany instructs Yara to take Ellaria and the Sand Snakes back to Dorne to muster an army it doesn’t ring logistically true. Sunspear is located in a secure bay at the southern tip of Westeros. Dragonstone is much further north, and very close to King’s Landing.

To sail all the way to Dragonstone from Slaver’s Bay, Dany would have to pass the Dornish capital. It would be an easy stop along the way, and the perfect place to meet up with Dany’s allies.

So why on earth didn’t she stop there to discuss her plans for invading King’s Landing and taking the Seven Kingdoms? Why sail all the way to Dragonstone if her plan was to then have most of her force sail south again?

Olenna was already in Dorne, forming her own alliance between House Tyrell and the Martells. Dany could have stopped at Sunspear, well protected in the Sea of Dorne, where she could have conveyed plans for her allies to march against King’s Landing.

This way, Yara wouldn’t have had to take Ellaria back to Dorne. They’d be there already! Grey Worm wouldn’t have had to sail all the way to Dragonstone and then all the way back down and around to Casterly Rock, either. He could have just left from Sunspear! Even Olenna would have had an easier time returning to Highgarden to muster her armies.

There was no debate between Tyrion and Dany about stopping in Dorne. This isn’t the consequence of a stubborn Queen, foolishly demanding that her court be held in Dragonstone. It’s sloppy writing.

From a narrative perspective, this choice is contrived. There’s only one reason to do it: To place Yara and Ellaria in danger and have Euron capture them. That is literally the only reason, and it’s the writer’s hand at work, rather than the characters acting consistently with their proven strategic sense. It’s not propelled by their own selfishness, fear, greed, or ego.

For this reason, early on in season 7, tragedy is not consequences of a character’s actions, but rather consequences arranged by the writers to conveniently push the story in a direction they wanted it to go.  This improved in the last two episodes.  But previously there was a lot of moving pieces around the chess board for convenience sake.  It’s a lesson to be learned in your own writing.

To read the whole FORBES ARTICLE click HERE

 

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#ThinkpieceThursday – Destructive Lovers

Thinkpiece Thursday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

There are two possible endings to every love story, either the characters are together at the conclusion or they are apart. If characters are to stay together they must work through their differences and, basically, grow up and grow together. When a love story ends tragically either one character can’t grow up or some greater internal force keeps them apart, like honor or duty.

Recent examples of each end are, Barry Jenkins’ 2016 best picture-winner Moonlight, and Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2013 Palme D’or-winner Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Spoilers follow for both films. 

In Moonlight, central character Chiron (Ashton Sanders), discovers his sexuality and his love for friend Kevin (Jaden Piner). They are torn apart by Kevin’s brutal betrayal until their reconciliation after more than a decade.

In Blue Is The Warmest Colour, central character Adèle (Adèle Exarchopolous) has some awkward sexual experiences with men before realizing that enigmatic Emma (Lea Seydoux) is the one for her. But two fall out forever over Adèle’s impulsive affair.

Moonlight is a Power of Love story, and Blue is the Warmest Colour is a Power of Idealism story. In a Power of Love story, the couple ends up together. In a Power of Idealism story, they are separated lovers who are haunted by loss and longing.

In Moonlight, Chiron is a shy alienated Power of Reason character and Kevin is a charming eager to please Power of Ambition character. Kevin’s desperate desire to fit in explodes in violence toward Chiron as Kevin tries to fit into a toxic culture of the thuggish gang masculinity. Only drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), a kindly Power of Love character provides the understanding and nurture that Chiron needs in his social isolation. 

Chiron and Kevin are reunited after years apart. A more mature and humbled Kevin discovers Chiron has protected himself with the outward toughness of a thug. Kevin has found contentment as a fry cook who supports his son.  Kevin’s honesty and tenderness give Chiron what he needs- love, not lust. Their relationship shows both men hope for real happiness.

In Blue is the Warmest Colour, both Adèle and Emma are Power of Idealism characters. They are intense, passionate, and gifted. Emma is a bold vibrant painter and Adele is a talented writer, too afraid to show her work and risk possible rejection.

Emma is devoted to Adèle.  Adele is the great love of her life and muse for her glorious early paintings. She believes Adèle is perfect.   Adele is unwilling to accept Emma’s adoration and be satisfied. Adèle fears Emma will ultimately reject her.  She has an affair when Emma is preoccupied with helping a friend.   When Emma discovers Adele’s betrayal they have an explosive screaming break up.

Years later they meet and a reconciliation is possible. But Emma has completed her emotional journey.  She has grown up and finds contentment and peace in an ordinary domestic life.  This grounds her creative growth and helps her mature as an artist.

Adele cannot move past her torment over her lost “great love’ with Emma.  She is adrift in loss and longing and wants Emma back, or to have an affair at the very least.  Emma refuses.  She cherishes her family. Even though Adele is still her passionate “great love” Emma walks away from her. Adele simply cannot move on.

Power of Idealism stories always end with separated lovers.  Other examples are Bridges of Madison County, Casablanca, or Gone with the Wind.

Power of Love stories always end with the lovers together.  Examples are every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen.

Character is structure. Will your couple live happily ever after despite their differences? Or will the lovers part ways, remembering always that “great love” that got away?

 

 

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#ThinkpieceThursday – Characters Have To Come First

Thinkpiece Thursday

This week I am busy in Copenhagen so I offer an excellent essay by Patrick H Willems.  His video discusses the character problems in the latest batch of DC films.

This essay was released before Wonder Woman, which has come some way to fixing what Willems talks about. With Justice League right around the corner, audiences will be anticipating Wonder Woman’s return.  There is lots of work to be done in the franchise to make the two returning characters and two brand-new characters add and not detract from the sequel.

My own take on Batman: The Dark Knight Rises can be found HERE

#ThinkpieceThursday – Dunkirk: Failure Presented as Triumph

Thinkpiece Thursday

Christopher Nolan’s well-reviewed film, Dunkirk, revisits a part of British history that, with a PR reversal, turned utter failure and defeat into triumph and glory.

British government propaganda spread misleading information after the battle and refused to publicly accept that Dunkirk was an unmitigated disaster of biblical proportions. Winston Churchhill, in private conversation at the time, described Dunkirk as “The greatest British military defeat for many centuries”

“The Dunkirk episode was far worse than was ever realized in Fleet Street (the British newspaper quarter). The men returning to England were so demoralized they threw their rifles and equipment out of railway-carriage windows. Some sent for their wives with their civilian clothes, changed into these, and walked home.””
Director of Statistics at the War Office

Military men who were on the scene recount the situation:

“We were lost for words. I don’t know how to put it. We were just so demoralized and humiliated. I could not believe how well-equipped the Germans were. I had just a few months with a rifle and no proper field training and there they were with all this equipment and organization. They were prepared for war and we weren’t.”
Ivan Daunt, Queen’s Own Royal West Kents

“If you ask anybody what they remember most clearly about (…) Dunkirk they will all mention two things – shame and exhaustion. Shame-as we went back through those white-faced, silent crowds of Belgians, the people who had cheered us and waved to us as we came through their country only four days before, people who had vivid memories of a previous German occupation and whom we were now handing over to yet another. I felt very ashamed. We had driven up so jauntily and now, liked whipped dogs, we were scurrying back with our tails between our legs.” Brigadier Brian Horrocks, BEF

But that’s not what everyone remembers.  What they remember is the brave flotilla of fishing boats, private pleasure craft, and commercial trawlers braving the channel and bringing the boys home when the British Navy couldn’t help.  On the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, 338,226 out of 400,000 soldiers had been rescued by a haphazard assembly of over 800 boats. Private citizens had rescued the surviving British Expeditionaryy Forces. It’s a better story than shame and defeat caused by strategic incompetence.

The film, Mrs. Miniver, tells the usual side of the story,  Nolan’s film shows a bit more of the untold reality of shame, confusion, and despair but also leans heavily on heroism.  For a full dose of British pluck here is a TMC clip of Mrs. Miniver:

Compare that to scenes from Dunkirk: