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 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
So many battles I've had to fight alone. Betrayed by those I loved the most, they were also the ones I had been fighting for. The weariness of this realisation makes you weak at the knees and yet you must continue to fight or else the duplicity of their motives will win the day. You become hollow inside, not by cancer, but by the fact that something deep and magical and life enhancing has closed down never again to be reignited. You feel lighter as you inch closer to death. All that remains on most days is a shell. This is when you are called upon to become an actor and give 'em what they want. A performance. A great performance because it is so convincing most people think you still function and have risen above the hurt and damage of the shadow people. But then again, your life, or what's left of it, hangs on the thread of your ability to push on through the small talk and darkness of "What if...?" without puking on someone's expensive shoes. So many amongst us are asleep at the wheel and do not understand or care about what is at stake. Love is a distraction. Pain is the only honest constant and it has become your friend. You cannot be hurt anymore, which is disappointing to a lot of women. You cannot be brought down any further, which is crushing to many men. You cannot be bought, because there is nothing you need. You cannot be humiliated anymore, which is pleasing to God. For now all layers of bullshit and make-believe have been ripped away. You are free now. God almighty, free at last! You once had a dream too. But now you have awakened to see the game for what it is. Nothing can scare you now. You are impenetrable. This makes you frightening to those who only operate by spreading fear amongst us. And at the dawn of our demise you are noticeably at peace. And powerful again. (c) Frank Howson 2017 Painting by Frank Howson (c) 2017
I stumbled and fell into this. It was not of my doing as the road I was forging went in a different direction to the dreams of the boy I was. This caused me great confusion and suffering as I wandered lonely as a cloud through school poetry and beatings. My pain became my shield and protected me from the salt of their laughter. I learned to make them laugh before they had the chance to laugh first. Several women attempted to wash my feet before my crucifixion one grey day in history when our father forsaken me because of his drinking. I cried in agony with a thief each side of me, one believing in me, and one to ridicule me for a life that ended so. Somehow I rose from the dead and since then I have had several resurrections. In fact, the more times people write me off, the stronger I come back. My enemies have unwittingly made me indestructible. The shock realisation of this has killed many of them. The rest I have dealt with. People now stop me in the street and ask for my wisdom. But this wisdom was not my doing, and has come from the undoing of everything I wanted and loved. It was fired by pain and made as strong as steel through humiliation and injustice. But still I go on. And those who have spoken against me have been struck down by God or are dying in the poisoned bile of their lies. I visit their graves at night to laugh. For nothing is forgotten or forgiven at this train stop on the way to Armageddon. I choose to travel economy for my instinct tells me that God only welcomes the humbled. The man who brags may get ahead in this life, but suffers a thousand years in the next. The ignorant fool who never stops talking and always distorts the third hand facts will be the next to fall on his sword and death waits patiently in his gallery of art to silence his unrepentant and envious ways. I am coming for him. Coming in the night. Coming in the dead end street. Coming in his busy schedule. Coming for rightful correction. Coming. Every hurtful snide remark is etched on my heart. Every belittling lie is another stab wound he will suffer. Another thousand years to linger at the abyss. And the hellish realisation that it was all for nothing. (c) Frank Howson 2017 Photograph by Raija Sunshine (c) 2017
The street was the same as I remembered it. And the birds swooped as if to herald my return. So it was true, I hadn’t dreamed it. For a moment I stood and took in the beautiful cacophony of noise that I’d never fully appreciated before in all its ugly glory. The sun came out to shine on cue and its warmth informed me that I had now entered a safety zone for lost boys.
How can you know a place so well and yet feel that you are seeing it for the first time? If this is a dream and I awaken now I will be angry all day. Maybe all days.
I continue moving on further into it until I reach the gate no one ever closes, and the narrow cement path leading to the apartment block steps I once knew so well I could climb them in the dark, and under the influence of too much life. This time there seems to be a lesson learnt in each step and greater effort needed to conceal the weariness of the outsider.
Halfway up I enter the glow from the first storey window that conspires to shine God-like behind the statue of Buddha as if even the universe is welcoming my return.
More steps and more weary remembrances of lessons learned and I am at the front door, knocking in a drum pattern of whimsy and familiarity.
After an eternity of seconds the door is opened and I see your smiling face as I remembered it from a long ago carefree time. Bright, loving and kind. I can now die in my footsteps and not be lost to wander and wonder.
I enter and am surrounded by the comfort of the greatest books and music ever written. Each word and note a friend of mine. And I sit at the empty table. Alone no more. Everything and nothing has changed as I take my place amongst it.
You ask me how I am. But there are no words to convey the miracle of ordained destiny.
For in that sheltered moment, I am home.
(C) Frank Howson 2017
I’ve been asked by my dear friend Mark Richardson to write something about the spirit of Christmas for Ash Long’s Melbourne Observer.
Christmas lives in the hearts of children and the child inside us all. It also lives on because of writers such as Francis Church, Irving Berlin (who penned a little ditty called White Christmas), Charles Dickens (in his sublime novel A Christmas Carol), and Frank Capra’s screenplay of It’s A Wonderful Life. The latter was a flop at its initial release, but like Christmas it is still with us.
It seems it doesn’t much matter whether you tell the story of a pauper child born in a stable, or a jolly chubby white-bearded man in a Coca-Cola suit, or of a husband/father from Bedford Falls who forgets just how many friends he has. The spirit lives on in the telling.
This is a true story I heard many years ago, perhaps when I was a child. It touched me then as it touches me now.
On September 21, 1897, the New York Sun published a letter from a young girl named Virginia O’Hanlon. It read…
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in the Sun it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?”
One of the paper’s editors, Francis Pharcellus Church, decided to rise above the simple question and address the philosophical issues behind it. Church, son of a Baptist minister, had been a war correspondent during the American Civil War, and had witnessed first-hand the great suffering and resultant decline of hope and faith in much of society.
His printed response was so moving that over a century later it remains the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any newspaper in the English language.
Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus? It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sight and sound. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus? You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart a baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest of men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith. poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
And so he does to this day.
For me the spirit of Christmas was the generosity and joy of giving I saw in my mother, Pearl.
Christmas was her favourite time of year and she’d begin shopping for it early January.
I’d always wake early Christmas morning to see a mountain of presents under the tree. Gifts for me, my sisters, my aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and some mere acquaintances.
We were a working class family and to this day I’ve no idea how her meager budget stretched to accommodate all those gifts. No doubt she denied herself many things in order to work her miracle. And although we gave her our gifts in return it was not the receiving that mattered to her, but rather the joy of giving. I’ll always remember the blissful sparkle in her eyes as she watched us excitedly opening our presents.
Since her death, and my son growing up and growing away, Christmas is no longer the same for me. It can be a lonely and hollow time for single people. But, come December, I smile in remembrance, because once I was blessed to have witnessed the spirit of Christmas.
It was not found in the gifts. But in my mother’s eyes.
(c) Frank Howson 2013.