What We Do: Eat a Currywurst

For my newest Tuesday weekly feature, I thought I’d dip into the past giving ideas and recommendations on anything from food to pop culture to games from here to around the world.  And so for the first post, I take you to Berlin, Germany where a popular little dish is eating a Currywurst.

If there is something that Germany has a lot of, it’s a lot of “wursts” – different types of sausages, including Knockwurst, Bratwurst, Kasewurst, Bockwurst and my personal favorite, the Currywurst.

currywurst

The Currywurst is something I tried for the first time in the early 80s and I became obsessed with it.  I would walk down to a nearby “imbiss”, which is a small type of bar that sold snacks and drinks of all varieties.  They would hand me a small paper tray, in which I would have a sausage cut up in a curried sauce.  It had a zest to it, but it wasn’t really spicy.  It would be my daily snack.  (And usually I would also have French fries coated with mayonnaise on the side).

fries

Since then, I’ve tried to recreate it in my own home and while it’s definitely not the same outcome, the taste is fairly similar.  Honestly, it’s really easy to make.  And cheap.  I use smoked sausage, although I’ve also done it with Bratwurst and Kielbasa, too.  In some stores (such as a Meijer or Kroger), they actually sell a specialized Curry sauce.  Some sell it with other condiments (“Curry Ketchup”), while other stores have an international aisle where they may sell it as an imported “Curry Sauce”.  Either one has worked for me.  I’ve also simply used a regular ketchup bottle, mixed it with some tomato paste and put some curry powder, salt, pepper and some creole seasoning in there as well.

The food is really popular in Berlin.  In fact, they’ve even opened up a Currywurst museum dedicated to the sausage itself.

museum

So in summary, if you don’t make it out to Berlin any time soon, try a flavorful Currywurst yourself.  And if you do make it out there, stop by, have a Currywurst and then don’t forget to visit the museum…to have some more!  It’s what Berliners do!

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Writing with a Tide

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When some people describe life, they go with the old cliché of life being a roller coaster ride or in many cases “like a tidal wave”.  A tide is described aptly as “a rising and falling in sea level”.  And for most of us, that’s how life really is.  I can recall many times in my own life where a bad moment in my life is immediately followed by a good moment, where tragedy is triumphed by hope and jubilation.  Plots in writing take the same form and is probably why we can use another cliché in “art imitates life”.

If you take a classic film like 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, the plot point shifts quickly from good to bad to good to bad.  Dorothy is at home on her farm in Kansas, bemoaning the fact that Mrs. Gulch is a mean-spirited witch that angers her and her dog, Toto.  Like most teenagers, the world is falling apart around them and all they look for is some attention and appreciation.  And so, Dorothy decides to run away.  Then, the weather changes from dreary to stormy and a tornado leads to Dorothy’s bedroom window ripping apart and knocking her silly.

This is where the tide of the film and the plot (and if Dorothy Gale was a real person, also her life) changes.  The world around Dorothy becomes more enhanced with jolly munchkins, beautiful witches, and a sparkling yellow brick road.  (On a side note, does anyone ever wonder what the RED brick road next to it led to?  I always thought that it would have been cool to let the viewer decide which road she takes and have the movie split in two depending on….you know what…it’s 1939…never you mind that…)  Moving on, for a few minutes, there’s a happy song with munchkins celebrating the death of the “Wicked Witch of the East” until her sister shows up and warns Dorothy that she’s coming for her.

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One of the things I always notice in the film is that the mood is mimicked by the setting.  When the film starts, the skies become darker and when Dorothy is “somewhere over the rainbow”, the colorful scene also brings out joy and happiness.  There’s a vivacious feeling when Dorothy first meets the Scarecrow, but it gets darker and windier as they meet the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion.  All this goes along with the plot shifting up and down, from light to dark moments.

Plot points in writing and scripts should take the same form, in my eyes, leaving the audience always guessing what’s going to happen next.  Are we supposed to feel happy, sad, anguished, shocked?  When the main characters achieve triumph, we achieve it with them and when they feel at their lowest point, so do we.

In my own writing, I always try to give the audience a sense of the lowest points of each character’s life and a struggle to maintain a normal journey.  Just like us, the characters I portray go through heartbreak, loss, and affliction, but they’re balanced with triumph and a sense of a road that will lead to optimism in their future.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy needed a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Lion to complete her journey.  She needed to gain knowledge, a heart and a loss of her own fear to keep her on a journey of hope and so that she could hopefully return home.

“Tidal” writing is what allows the audience to identify with each character.  If each character goes through their own ups and downs, the audience will identify with them as well.  Plot structure and characterization leads to realism and allows audience expectations to rise and fall with the characters.  And that’s where the writer’s next journey begins.

detector

What other films or books illustrate “tidal writing”?  Have you used it in your writing as well?  Reach out and comment on what you think.  For more on the daily prompt, visit here: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tide/.

On TV and Writing

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I recently read a post on TV writing that allowed me to think about whether writing a TV pilot is the right medium or not for my next writing project. (You can read the post here).  A few minutes later, someone emailed me asking if I wanted to partner up on a teleplay and all of a sudden all the stars aligned.  Here are the questions I asked myself before I decided whether to make it a screenplay or a TV script.

Has it been done before?

The answer as far as movies go was definitely a “yes”.  There have been plays on it, movies on it and even foreign films.  For me, I didn’t want to go down the road of making another film, but I saw it as a great vehicle for a streaming service, like Netflix or Hulu, that can push out 13 episodes at once.  If I had decided to go down a screenplay route, I could see it as being unoriginal and honestly, I may have been bored writing it.

How long is the story?

I needed to decide whether the story could be told in a 2 hour movie or a television medium and the answer was both, but the way I envisioned it being told would have been better as a TV show.  With TV shows, you get to know the characters more:   their past, their emotions, their whole demeanor.  You wouldn’t be able to do that with a movie.

Does it have the potential to be multiple seasons?

While I could see it going more than one season, I could also see it being just one season as a limited series.  I actually don’t mind whether it’s a one season deal because the story is fairly self-contained.

Would it have a good cast?

Not that it really matters, but having a shortened 13 episode season would really allow for some actors to have the ability to come out and sign up, but I am not a casting agent or director.  That’s not up to me and to be honest, many TV shows make stars out of a whole new list of actors and/or actresses (see:  Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why).  The cast isn’t a writer’s job…so asking this question to myself really didn’t have much of a point.

The point is…I had to weigh the pros and cons of both.  In the end, I like being challenged and this will definitely challenge me to write a good script for a medium that I’ve never tried before.  The article I liked above definitely asks me to go outside my comfort zone and I really truly am doing that here.  Writing has always been a passion for me and I have been doing it all my life.  Now I get to take on a whole new journey.

10 Great Foreign Films

When I began working on my Film Studies degree in 2002, I had no idea exactly what I wanted to do with it when I finished.  I was hoping the program would allow me to answer that by the end of it.  By the time, I finished in 2004, I still had no idea.  Did I want to become a critic and review films, becoming the next Roger Ebert?  Did I want to become a film historian a la Robert Osborne?  My strength was in writing and I thought to myself that I could use the degree to write a screenplay.  (NEWS FLASH:  You actually don’t need a film degree to become a screenwriter…in fact, you don’t really need a degree.)

I reached out to different critics, but by the time I had graduated, most of them were being laid off.  And so I decided to stay in the career of….hospitality.

Now the reason why I’m telling you this is not to discourage anyone from obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies or to lose hope as a screenwriter, film historian, critic, producer, or any other career associated with films.  There was something that I did get out of the degree and that was a vast knowledge of films from outside the Hollywood system and today, I use many of those films as an example in my writing.  They allow me not to follow a formula that is common in many Hollywood films and strengthen my plots and characters in various ways.

And so here are 10 great films outside of Hollywood that you would enjoy.  My only rule was to not have more than one film representing a country.

  1. Burnt by the Sun (1994) (RUSSIA)

Nikita Mikhalkov’s film “Burnt By The Sun” is about a Russian Commander and his family when they’re caught in the middle of an anti-Stalinist agenda by a returning family friend.  The film begins with a happy outlook that is helped by the performance of Mikhalkov’s real-life daughter as Nadia, but when Dimitri enters the picture, the family’s past comes back to haunt them.

 

  1. The 400 Blows (1959) (FRANCE)

This film, part of the French New Wave, was directed by Francois Truffaut (who, along with Jean-Luc Goddard) is considered the defining filmmaker during the movement.  The film is about a youth, Antoine Doinel, who finds himself trying to navigate the world of adolescence.  (If you enjoy this film, you can follow Doinel’s further adventures in subsequent films in the series with the same actor.)

 

  1. The Shop on Main Street (1965) (CZECHOSLOVAKIA)

“The Shop on Main Street” is about a man named Tono who has to seize control of a small store owned by a Jewish widow during the Nazi Occupation in World War II.  When he begins to care for the woman, she becomes a motherly figure to his disheveled world.  It is the final moments of the film that bring about a haunting ending and a tragic coda to their relationship.

 

  1. Y Tu Mamá También (2001) (MEXICO)

This film is about two immature best friends (played by real-life best friends Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna) who embark on a road trip with an older woman in the hopes of satisfying their own sexual appetite.  What they learn, however, is a lesson in the real meaning of friendship and adulthood.  Before directing “Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Gravity”, Alfonso Cuaron wrote and directed this coming-of-age story.

 

  1. A Separation (2011) (IRAN)

This Iranian film is about a couple who decide to get a divorce and are blinded to the effects it has on their daughter.  Truly, there’s a theme here about how we make our own lives more complicated by our own desires rather than those of the people we care about.

 

  1. Bicycle Thieves (1948) (ITALY)

The film “Bicycle Thieves” was made during the Neo-realistic era of Italy and is directed by Vittorio De Sica.  It depicts a day in the life of an impoverished father who gets a bicycle stolen needed for work.  Along with his son, they go in search of the culprit.  Much like “A Separation”, this film shows the selfishness of a parent and how we can become blind to our children.

 

  1. Sholay (1975) (INDIA)

Loosely taking elements of “Seven Samurai” (See Below), the film is about two criminals who are hired by a retired police officer to catch another notorious criminal.  It has all the elements of a Bollywood film (Songs and action and melodrama, oh my!), but it also has the themes of sacrifice, friendship and love.

 

  1. The Lives of Others (2001) (GERMANY)

I can’t say enough for the performances in this film about an East German officer who is told to listen in on conversations between an actress and her love, a West German writer.  Soon, he realizes that he’s sympathizing with their emotions and feelings and has to decide whether he wants to turn them in or help them.  There are two final shots in movies that I find which wraps the film’s theme into its central character’s facial expression.  One is Chaplin’s “City Lights” and the other one is this film right here.

 

  1. The Seven Samurai (1954) (JAPAN)

This film is an epic in every way.  Directed by famous director Akira Kurosawa (a notable inspiration for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg), and great cinematography and editing aside, the film boasts a wonderful depiction of Japan’s homeland and characterization of seven different Samurai warriors with seven different personalities (highlighted, as in many of Kurosawa’s films, by the performance of Toshiro Mifune).

 

  1. The Last Emperor (1988) (CHINA)

Technically not considered a Chinese film (but since this is my list, I bent my own rules a little) “The Last Emperor” is based on a true story about Pu Yi, China’s last emperor.  The film literally takes you from his early childhood to his final moments and is highlighted by Bernardo Bertolucci’s direction, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s haunting score and the depiction of the history in 20th Century China.

 

 

Last MOment:  Do you agree with the list?  Are there other great foreign films you would add?  Share your comments.