The other day, a friend of mine told me of his shock at discovering how his teenage daughter had never heard of Al Pacino. It got worse; she had never heard of the iconic Godfather 1 and Godfather 2 movies (ignorance of the mediocre Godfather 3 being perfectly understandable). So, he had all the excuse he needed to sit down with his daughter and feast on these through the medium of Amazon Prime.
As it happens, Godfather 1 features prominently in one of the best books that I have read on story-telling, “Into the Woods”. A recent discovery, its author, John Yorke, demonstrates how so many stories, in print and on film, follow a remarkably similar trajectory. Usually that involves a turning point that lies (sometimes uncannily) exactly half way through the story. In the case of Godfather 1, this is timed to the unforgettable moment where Michael Corleone (Pacino) executes the crooked cop and the drug dealer in a tiny New York restaurant. In the minutes before the assassination you can see the significance of the turning point in Pacino’s eyes. For at that moment his character transforms from being a clean, admirable military veteran who single-handedly saves his father from a murder attempt to becoming just another mobster. And it’s the slippery slope downwards all the way from there. Fabulous – if you understand what I mean.
I mentioned my surprise at my friend’s daughter’s ignorance – or more likely innocence – in an email to a female journalist friend who is of the same vintage as me. She replied, with appropriate embarrassment, that she has never watched those films either. So, it appears to be not just an age gap but a gender gap. She illustrated her point by sharing this wonderful clip from “You’ve Got Mail” where Meg Ryan’s character had never heard of the expression “Going to the Mattresses”.
Through The Big Story we will be going to the mattresses with COVID-19. But the pen is mightier than the sword. Be responsible, stay safe, but let’s come out fighting with our creativity. I recommend investing in John Yorke’s book if you need some inspiration – and get writing!