ME AND JOHN LENNON

I was thrown up into this world
Or born into it
Or cast down 
Some time ago
When everything was grey
Mostly
Although some things were black
Or white
And your skin colour
Could be wrong or right
Regardless of your heart
And actions
It made me nervous
That one could so easily
Cross the line 
And be punished
For who you were
So I locked myself away
In my room
My tomb
And listened to the radio
But mostly the music was grey too
Like Johnny Ray
And Doris Day
So I dreamed in Vistavision
And lived in the movies
Where the hero stood up to the mob
And did the right thing
Regardless of the cost 
Sometimes getting the girl
In the final reel
Sometimes not
For the hero was mostly a loner
A man who'd seen too much
And didn't want to see anymore
For he too 
Found that the world was grey
And was not above sacrificing his life
So that others may live
I continued on
Looking forward to Christmas
And my birthdays
When suddenly there was kindness
And laughter
And glimpses of the colours 
Of joy
And what the world could be
If only we tore the walls down
And embraced
And displayed our brokenness 
And vocalised our care for others
Imagine
I was about eleven years of age
With my mum in the Myer department store
In the city
When I heard a sound that changed my life
It was unlike anything I'd ever heard
I stopped 
Transfixed 
My mother asked me what was wrong 
I smiled because 
Suddenly 
Everything seemed somehow right
I wandered away
Toward the music 
Leaving my mother to follow me
The singer's voice 
Was the most exciting and dynamic sound
I'd ever heard
He sounded like a caged animal
That had just been set free
As I had 
The record was "Twist And Shout"
By a group called the Beatles
And on the front cover of their EP
They looked to this kid from St. Kilda
To be from another planet
Their hair, their clothes, their boots, their sound 
It seemed the planet they came from was called Liverpool
I needed to know what the singer's name was
And was told by the girl behind the record counter
That he was John Lennon
And he played rhythm guitar and co-wrote moat of their songs 
John Lennon saved my life that day
And he has had my staunch loyalty ever since
I grew to read much about him
In fact, everything
And have since met many people who knew him
He was a complex, fascinating, contradictory and flawed man
All of which made him even more interesting 
And still does to this day
Scarred by the early loss of his father, then his mother
And then his best friend
He put up a guard to protect himself
From any more hurt 
His singing tone sometimes snarled to hide his pain
But we heard it in his soul
And in the words of his songs
And knew that behind the tough guy facade he was the kindest 
And most caring of all 
My friend Phil Sloan told me that John's spirit was so huge 
That you actually felt his presence enter a room 
Before you'd even seen him 
Another friend of John's who'd known me for some time
Told me that he would've liked me
I hope so
Because I have spent a long time
Loving him 
He was my liberator, my hero, my friend
He made me laugh, he made me cry, he made me angry, he made me care
And sometimes when I am lost or despairing
I think about how Johnny Rhythm would handle things 
And it gives me the inspiration to go on
To try and find a way
I guess it was destiny
That he left us after such a short time
But perhaps his spirit was too big for this world
As his beautiful boy Sean said to his mother when she was grieving,
"Don't worry, Daddy's bigger now...Now he's part of everything."


(c) Frank Howson 2017
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FOR BAM BAM (The Hotel Lobby Dog)

We're like the dogs
Who shy away from your touch
Some of us bite
When we've been hurt too much
We try to forget
But we never can
The inhumanity
And cruelty of man

Some are like cats
Who tend to love with reserve
Dogs wag their tails
While the cats just observe
Dogs try to help us
But cats know they can't
For dogs think we are Gods
While cats know that we aren't

(c) Frank Howson 2017 Lantau, Hong Kong. 


ACCEPTANCE SPEECH BY NEW MELBOURNE UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL DIRECTOR, FRANK HOWSON.

Becoming the Director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival is something I had not lobbied for or ever desired.  But given Richard Wolstencroft’s recent sudden departure and his request to take over the helm, it is something I couldn’t refuse as the Festival is now bigger than any one person and for it to cease to exist would be, in my opinion, a tragedy for the industry.  It fills a very important role in shining a light on the next generation of Australian filmmakers and in its 18 years of existence it has discovered a number of people who have gone onto receive international success.

Years ago when I was a young creative person trying to break into the film business it was almost impossible. It seemed, at that time, to be a closed shop with the same ol’ same ol’ people getting the grants and making the movies. And of course, those who were benefitting from the system were certainly very reluctant to let new blood in. Many of those people never encouraged the next generation of talent and we have been paying for that for some time now. Who knows how many brilliant young creatives got frustrated by the red tape and closed doors, gave up and walked away. It made me all the more determined that if I broke through then the least I could do would be to help others achieve the same. And so I did.  Even though at the height of my success I was making 5 films a year (in some cases shooting a movie whilst I was in post-production of the last one and pre-production of the next), yet, I still made time to meet and give advice to any young filmmaker who phoned asking for help.  I am proud that my company gave several directors their first chance to direct a movie, along with giving breaks to young editors, music composers, actors, costume designers, etc., etc.

In fact I remember giving the young Richard Wolstencroft his first chance to direct a 35mm movie, which starred the very young Lachy Hulme. Although in my long and varied career I have won quite a few awards, I can say in all honesty that nothing gives me more joy than the knowledge that I helped several people into the industry who went onto achieve international recognition.

It saddens me that Richard has had to relinquish his directorship of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival so suddenly and in such circumstances. It was his creation and for 18 years his baby and I have some understanding of the pain involved in having to walk away from that. Hopefully with the passing of time people will choose to remember his contribution and achievements rather than some ill-conceived and ill-timed remarks that I know he is extremely and sincerely sorry for having made. In the words of the great director Billy Wilder, “A man is as good as the best thing he did, not the worst.”

In my opinion the mark of how far we have spiritually evolved in this life is measured by our capacity to humble ourselves by owning up and apologizing for our wrongs and, in other cases, to forgive. The latter takes an awful lot of evolving to reach.

Under my directorship at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, I will continue to spotlight new and exciting local talent, and select movies that take risks, that inspire and inform us, confront us, thrill us, and celebrate our humanity towards people of diversity.  I do not undertake this leadership for ego reasons, or financial gain, but see it as a service to the industry and the community that original voices are discovered and given the forum to be heard, and debated, as well as the opportunity to go on.

I look forward to steering a new look Melbourne Underground Film Festival to an exciting future for filmmakers and cinema goers alike, and I hope you will support my efforts by submitting your work and attending our screenings. Let’s defeat apathy and build a healthy and diverse film industry one brick at a time.

Submissions will be open in January for our 19th Festival.

Yours sincerely,

Frank Howson

DON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER

In this business of show
The best advice I can give is
Don't take no for an answer
Your work will be judged by idiots
And by genius
And guess what?
Sometimes they all get it wrong
And if all these experts know everything
Then how come they make so many flops?
Your greatest guide 
And you must protect it
Is your instinct
For those of us who believe in a higher power
I believe our instinct is God talking to us
But guess what?
Most times we second guess ourselves
And go against it
Or allow ourselves to be talked into doing
Something that doesn't feel right
And the end result is always disaster
And recriminations
If everyone followed sound advice
And stuck to the tried and true formula
We'd have had no DaVinci
Or Glenn Gould
Nikola Tesla
Or Picasso
Marlon Brando
Beatles
Elvis
Hitchcock
Bob Dylan
David Lynch
Breaking Bad
And so on and so on...
The Beatles were told that "Guitar bands are out of fashion"
Tesla was told that "his ideas wouldn't fly"
Yet he lit up the world
And in return it broke his heart
Elvis was threatened with jail if he continued to rock the boat
And Dylan was laughed at as a freak
I'm not saying that sticking to your inner voice
Wont be a difficult road
It will be
But when was anything worth having easy?
All the people I have mentioned had only one thing in common
Persistence
Fuelled by a total self belief
Don't get me wrong
I'm not saying don't listen to good advice
Do
For only a fool turns their back on a good idea
But trust your own instinct as to what is right for you
And what isn't
My mother once told someone that if you want Frank to do
Something for you just ask him and he will
But order him to do it
And he'll do the opposite just to piss you off
So I guess I was born with a rebel soul
And all I know is this
Every time I was told 
"You'll never make a film because you haven't made one before.
So go home and forget about it, sonny, and leave it to the experts"
It somehow made me stronger and more determined to prove them wrong
Every time I was told "Don't bother trying to get that big name star 
For your movie, because it won't happen"
It did
Or "You can't make a film about that because it's too personal and no one 
will get it other than you"
That was the one the people responded to
In an era that I believe is the darkest age for movies
When they are only making films about comic books
Don't give up
Where some see a wasteland 
Others sees a golden opportunity
Never before has an original idea been such a valuable commodity
Be bold and mighty forces join you
The future belongs to you
If you are brave enough
And strong enough
And stubborn enough to grasp it
And to those who are
We at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival
Salute you

(SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE 2017 MELBOURNE UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL)
(c) Frank Howson 2017






THE NAKED SPOTLIGHT

The great actors know
What it's like
To stand naked in front of strangers
Your vulnerability exposed
And on show for all to see
No secrets
No guards
No veils
No safety net
No second takes
You're on and this is the moment
To learn to not cover yourself
For the sake of modesty
There is no such thing
Anymore
So you relax
And savour it
Burn
Don't run
It's thrilling that they now
Know you more intimately 
Than you know yourself
The monster with a thousand eyes
Hidden in the dark
Breathing as one
Committing every part of you to memory
And reducing you to a one line review
To be discussed amongst friends
At dinner parties
Laughing at how far you were
Prepared to go
For that moment of truth
That intimidated the audience
Reminding them how timid their lives were
In comparison
Exposing their cowardice
To walk the high wire
And to be seen in anything less
Than designer labels and tags
While you are free
To soar
Experience
Feel
Fail
And show 
The real you
8 shows a week
They will never be able to hold
Eye contact with you again
Without flinching
For your eyes are way too honest
And brave
And can see into
The darkest places of the soul
It has made you strong
Undefeated
Self-reliant
And lonely

(c) Frank Howson 2017



MEMORIES OF MOONLIGHT

My memory is going
Taking with it the moonlight
I can feel it
That bank of steel
That never let me down
Is letting go of things
Perhaps making room for new
Or maybe God is showing mercy
By finally unloading from me
Some of the painful baggage
I have carried for far too long
I don't know
Not even sure what my PIN number is anymore
But the jokes still come
To cover any situation
And never let me down
I have been using this technique
Since I was a child
Who felt things too deeply
To save face amidst any humiliation
Against any bullying
Or grief
Despair
Loss
Embarrassment 
It's seen me through many falls
And comebacks
And falls again
As I've clung desperately
To the glimpses of joy
While equally frantic to shed
The fatal wounds of misery
Now
All has become one
In a faded echo of some childhood song
Where only the chorus is still remembered
And the detailed verses
Are only hummed
The Tin Pan Alley story forgotten
But the melody memorable enough
To linger in that part of your brain
Reserved for joy and innocence
From a time way before
You knew of war
Or suffering
Or heartbreak
Or selfish love
Or painful longing
And here you find yourself again
And know it from memory muscle that this strange room
Feels like home
Whatever that was...


(c) Frank Howson 2017


 

 

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

Once I saved 
While others played
I came fresh faced
In a suit of blue
Sacrificed on the altar 
Of others' agendas
Sent scurrying to find
Things that were never there
Was given love
Only to have it taken away
Was made to laugh
Until I cried
A man of peace
Hardened enough to kill
I always went crazy
In the final reel
"Since I lost my baby"
Is all I play
On every jukebox
That I find
In this burnt out wasteland
Of broken hearts
Paperback dreams
Second hand lives
Mercy murders
The billboards tell the truth
There's nothin' down here worth savin'
We've filled our lives with shit
Auctioned off paradise
And gambled away the money
The writers get degraded
And then ignored
They're resented for knowing too much
About what makes things tick
Now there's a lonely kid
Livin' on the street
With dreams of makin' it big
But little does he know
He's already dead
Dead to the world
Dead on arrival
At the feet of the paedophiles
And the worshippers of Satan
Who shape shift
Into human beings
Regret is my supper
For turning my face away
From all the horrors I have witnessed
That killed me
Piece by piece
Believing politicians
That didn't even believe themselves
Until it was too late

(c) Frank Howson 2017