Archive for October, 2012

Shakespeare’s Quadrophenia- Part 1

This summer Ian Manson, who was the director of the ‘making of’ doc for my last film The Power, asked me to attend a meeting with his colleagues who were interested in making a feature film adaptation of a Shakespeare play – King John.  Now I had heard of King John but had never seen it performed and had never read it. So in advance of the meeting I started to read it. It was heavy going, partly because the plot was extremely complex, and I have to admit I gave up before the end. However I did clock a unique and compelling character in The Bastard.

I am not a great fan of Shakespeare on film. I admired the cleverness of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, always had a soft spot for Orson Welles’ adaptations of Macbeth and Othello, and remember fondly the Russian Hamlet. But Olivier’s and Branagh’s adaptations never worked for me, so I am a sceptic when it comes to Shakespeare on film.

However, I thought I should hear them out. At the first meeting I was told that the play had been put on recently at the Unicorn theatre where it sold out every night. This is partly due to the fact that the play is rarely put on. The idea of the adaptation was to set the play in the first world war, which I believe was the theatre adaptation as well. With 2014 coming up, and the expectation of a great memorial to 1914 being mounted, I thought that this idea had some legs. I said I was interested, and would wait to hear more.

A couple of weeks later, Ian summoned me to a second meeting, and now I was told of a new idea: the play would be adapted to the 1960s, as a replay of the famous battles between the mods and rockers. The film would cover the historical rise of mod culture, and have a rich soundtrack of 60s songs. Now this idea lit me up. This was clever and original and I thought could be a winner.

I went to film school with Franc Roddam, who directed Quadrophenia, and I had noticed that his film has grown in stature year after year. It is still popular 30 years after it was made. The idea of making Shakespeare’s Quadrophenia is intriguing and we are now starting to raise the finance to get it made.

It turns out that Shakespeare is the most credited person on IMDB, and King John was the first of his plays ever to be filmed – in 1899 I am told. So I hope that in 2013, only 114 years later, we will be able to do the remake.

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October 22, 2012 at 11:29 pm 2 comments

My New Audio- I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp

I learned today that my audio of I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp is now online at Audible.com. It’s taken quite a long time to get the audio uploaded and the reasons are many.

In the beginning I decided to call the audio (and book) Testament, and I prepared artwork and recorded the audio with that title. However my book publisher- the inestimable David Cohen of Psychology News Press – thought that Testament was not a strong enough title. I agreed, and went in to the studio to record the new title- I Survived a Nazi Death Camp.

When it came time to look at possible covers for the book, I went to Hatchards bookstore in London to look at their history section. My friend Ruth came with me to help.After looking at some of the books on display, she suggested that even my new title wasn’t strong enough to lift my book out of the huge mass of WW2 books published every year. Her proposed solution  – rewrite the title as I Survived A Secret Nazi Extermination Camp.

I agreed with her for two reasons. Firstly, the camp in question – Belzec – was a secret camp, both for the Nazis who wanted to keep its existence unknown to the outside world, and it is still unknown today, unlike the sister camps of Treblinka and Sobibor, which many people have heard of. The reason Belzec is still so little known is that there was only one survivor of that death factory – Rudolf Reder- and it is his story that forms the basis of the audio.

And it was an extermination camp, not a death camp. In the Nazi concentration camps death was a constant, but it was in the extermination camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka that the Nazis put into effect the industrial killing of Europe’s Jewish population. Victims arriving at these camps by train survived for no longer than 2 hours before being inhumanly gassed.

So having made the last title decision, I went back to the studio at Heavy Entertainment and re-recorded the new title. Now I am waiting for the book to be printed and we will be able to launch it with our non-existent publicity budget. Still, I am proud of the book and audio, and I believe it is not only a good book, but one which has an original take on the holocaust. Really, I wrote the book for my grandfather, and since he died in the 1970s other people will have to read it and listen to the audio to bring the story to life.

October 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm Leave a comment

Web Site Frustration

I decided I needed to revise my website to change the focus from The Age of Anxiety (an audio I created) to my new book I Survived A Secret Nazi Extermination Camp. The book is being printed (soon) and so I wanted to be ready with a site to support the book’s launch (if there will be one). But my HTML skills are non-existent, so I’m finding it difficult to work on my WordPress site.

Maybe I need to really commit the time to learning these skills rather than just throw my hands up in despair. But I have always believed that if there is someone who knows how to do something well – whether a plumber, electrician or web designer – that amateurs like me should always pay for them to use their skills rather than do a hash of the job myself. In the past I always had the dosh to pay for this work, but at the moment cash is tight, which is why I am even considering doing this myself.

I’ve always assumed that Photoshop and other design tools were beyond my ability. I haven’t changed that opinion. So here I am needing to make a decision- learn the skills or pay for them. Any suggestions from the virtual world?

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October 22, 2012 at 3:06 pm 3 comments

The Tipping Point

I only recently got around to reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point. Although the book was written before Social Media kicked in, his analysis of how ideas (he calles them epidemics) take off fits perfectly into the new digital world. I’m trying to see if I can use some of his insights to work out an online campaign to try to sell my new book. The book – I Survived A Secret Nazi Extermination Camp – has an appeal to several groups of readers:

1. My family and friends

2. The children and grandchildren of Survivors

3. Jewish boomers who were not the children of survivors (I am in this category)

4. Hopefully, their children, for whom the book might serve as an introduction to the Holocaust

5. People interested in the Holocaust and/or the history of the 2nd WW  (this includes educational users)

6. Poles

7. Everyone else

Gladwell writes about Connectors as being highly networked people who can spread the world about an idea or product. In the digital world this seems to refer to Twitter and Facebook users who have huge followings. Whether I can get my book taken up by connectors like this is uncertain, but it’s obviously the ideal way to get it in front of large numbers of people.

What I have decided to do is to use email to try to spread the word. We are publishing the book in the UK in November and my plan is to email everyone in my address book with a request that they disseminate an attachment about the book to all of their contacts. Whether they are willing to do that depends on the quality of my email, which is another of Gladwell’s points. He calls this the stickiness factor: is the idea sticky enough for people to remember it or does it just fade away on first reading. If I can write a sticky enough email, then perhaps enough people will be willing to do the boring and tedious task of re-sending the email out.

Why am I writing this post? I suppose I’d like to get feedback from people who are more au fait with social media than I am as to whether this is the right way to go about it, or whether there are other things that I can do. I’d like to see the book widely read, because I think it has something new to say. But if it does not get beyond my immediate family and friends I won’t be unhappy, although my publisher will. I wrote the book originally for my Zayde (grandfather), but he died a long time ago and won’t be able to read it.  Only the living can read, and it would be satisfying if a good number of living breathing readers would discover the book.

October 7, 2012 at 7:57 pm 1 comment

I Survived A Secret Nazi Extermination Camp

That’s the title of my new book. It didn’t happen to me, I wasn’t even born when Rudolf Reder lived through those terrible times. He was the only post-war survivor of a death camp in Poland called Belzec. Most people have never heard of it, but in just 18 months 700,000 people (almost all Jews) died there. We only know what happened in this death factory because Reder managed an incredible escape, and after the war told his story to a Jewish Historical Commission in Cracow who were trying to gather evidence against the Nazi criminals.

The victims who arrived by freight train to Belzec were killed in the gas chambers within two hours. The Nazi system processed these people like cargo. The only people who survived longer were Jews who were selected to work at the camp, and they only lasted a few months at most. Reder lasted for 4 months because he was an engineer and could fix the tank engine which produced the carbon monoxide which was the killer gas.

I found out about Belzec and Reder’s story when I made a trip to Lublin in Eastern Poland to research my Granfdfather’s roots. While I was there I visited Majdanek Concentration Camp and there I found a slim book called Belzec which contained Reder’s witness statement. My young Polish guides explained to me that Belzec was where the Jews from Lublin were sent to die, so it is very likely that some of my relatives were killed there. I never knew that I had relatives killed in the Holocaust until I made this trip. 

Now I am waiting for the book to come out, and I need to find ways to make it known to potential readers. We are starting first in the UK (I live in London) and hope that if we can make a bit of a splash that we can find a publisher in the US. An ebook will follow in a few months.

I decided that Reder’s statement was so strong and powerful that I needed to make it more widely known. So I decided to make an audio out of it (soon to be on Audible) and wrote an account about how I found the text.  

October 6, 2012 at 11:10 pm 5 comments


The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.

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