Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’

Why I Wrote the 7th Python – Part 1

In 2012-13 I was in court with the Monty Python group over my share of royalties from Spamalot and other spin-off income from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I had this share of royalties because I Produced the film. After the trial ended I felt unable to write about the 7 frustrating years of this legal battle. But after about a year, my friend David Cohen suggested I should try to recount it. By this time I felt sufficiently distanced from the events to take that look back.

7 years is a very long time, and it represents what is termed a ‘little life’. For example the Chinese believe in 7 year cycles of life. so that the ages 7,14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63, 70, 77, and so on represent important stages in life, in which significant physical and emotional changes take place. So I wondered what these 7 years had done to me. I wanted to review how I dealt with this emotional rollercoaster.

Luckily, since 2001 I have been keeping a journal, and I had reflected during 2005-2013 about the stressful situation I found myself in. I was curious to read through those journals to see what I had been thinking, and to examine how I coped with that stress. I have quoted extensively from my journals in the book.

I also had the lawyers’ correspondence and the transcripts of the trial, so I could review the whole transit of the case from beginning to end. I could trace it from the first email to the final Judgement, and everything in between. I wonder how many real lawsuits (as against fictional ones) have had this kind of scrutiny. It was a bit like performing an autopsy, a forensic examination of all the elements that went into the case: the dispute with the Pythons’ managers, the lawyers brought in to argue it, my appeals for help to Michael Palin, a failed mediation, my unexpected meeting with Palin in a Soho street, the Pythons’ witness statements and their appearance in court (something which I never believed would happen), the witnesses, the barristers, the Judge and then the press. The transcripts are particularly revealing. 

When I read through the journals, I realised that the 7 years had at least done me one good thing. I could see that in preparing for the case I had to review in detail the events surrounding the 1974 production of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I split from the Pythons in 1975, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say they split with me. This split was not on the surface acrimonious, and in fact the split was not communicated to me officially for a couple of years. I had to work it out for myself. But the fact that I was no longer involved with them left me feeling betrayed, since the film was a huge success and went on to become the most successful independently produced film ever made in the UK. It has made around £ 30m in profit and the Pythons have each received about £ 2m from the film. It was my work which helped to create this wealth, and this feeling of betrayal stayed with me for many years, gradually losing its power. I was forced to look again at this break-up, and I could see, from a new perspective, how the events actually played out. This allowed me to re-evaluate what I thought was a failing on my part, but which I could now see was really a mutual kind of naiveté. I was pleased that I now understood what had really happened and could stop blaming myself.

This freeing myself of blame, of thinking that the break-up was my fault, is very liberating, since I was dogged with that feeling (albeit much diminished over time) for all these years. I now feel a kind of re-birth, that these events have freed me from some kind of barrier or obstacle in myself, and I now have the opportunity to continue to create books or films with a new energy and a new creative freedom. This book is therefore the first flourishing of this new freedom. Having discovered what had actually happened, I felt the need to communicate these ideas, and to use the book as a recognition of the catharsis that I had achieved.

Visit http://www.the7thPython.com for more information and to purchase the book
Visit The 7th Python on Facebook

November 13, 2015 at 10:21 am Leave a comment

The 107th Python

7th Python title 2

Who is the 7th Python? Certainly not me. Neil Innes or Carol Cleveland are the only two deserving of the name. Of course given how brutally Eric Idle treated Neil Innes over the Rutles’ aborted relaunch, being a 7th Python seems to be a poisoned chalice (or Grail). In his Witness Statement during the trial John Cleese wrote, “Mark Forstater wasn’t even the 107th Python. He has a better chance of being the 4th Kennedy brother.”

I thought of calling the book The 1/7th Python since the court case was about my 1/7th share of Spin-off income, mainly Spamalot, but in the end I decided to stick with the 7th Python since that is one of the arguments my lawyers used in court. Neil Innes says this title will annoy Eric Idle no end. He adds that the book performs a public service.

November 10, 2015 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

The 7th Python – blurb

This is the back cover copy for the new book:

Lights, Camera, Lawyers
If you want to know what a tooth and claw legal battle is like
If you want to discover something revealing about Monty Python. and see their darker side 
If you want to know how to make a movie without giving the financiers all the rights and keep creative control in every known – and unknown – universe in perpetuity

 You should read The 7th Python

  “This book will annoy Eric Idle for years to come.” Neil Innes, composer.
 
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a great, original comedy and the most profitable independent film made in the U.K. If you’d invested £1,000 in it, you’d have made £130,000 back. With more to come.

As a young man, Mark Forstater produced the film. He set it up so that the Pythons had total creative control. Each Python also made many millions. Mark got over 5 % of the profits. Everyone was happy – well as happy as John Cleese could be before he started therapy. Then golden icing on the cake: Eric Idle hit on the idea of turning the hit film into a musical. Spamalot was a smash. Spamalot was also cashalot for everyone involved and it should have been for Mark.

But the Pythons, or their managers, or their lawyers, or the gorilla in their collective unconscious, decided Mark didn’t deserve so much. No one used the word ‘deserved’. It was a question of how lawyers, accountants and managers re-interpreted his contract. Back in 1974, it had been amended by hand. Lawyers poured over these squiggles as if they were holy writ – apt since we’re into the Holy Grail. 

Forstater decided he had to fight the battle of his life. After 7 years of struggle it came to court, where the judge, the lawyers and the Pythons were all Oxbridge men. Forstater, an American, had gone to Manchester. Yet he won. If there were a Nobel Prize for Bitching, Eric Idle would be proud to win it. In revenge he called Forstater a loser, an idiot and a twat. The twat, however, has now decided to speak.

An original, lively and at times moving account of the inside story of one man’s battle against the mighty Python.

November 9, 2015 at 12:16 pm Leave a comment

A Review of I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp

Rudolf Reder- Belzec Survivor and Witness

Rudolf Reder- Belzec Survivor and Witness


JC review I Survived

September 28, 2015 at 10:38 am Leave a comment

The Real Deal- Why Exercise is Good For You

Exercise is good for you because it makes you feel good.
How does it do this?

1. Open Air – It gets you outside rather than in a gym
2. Movement – Your body likes to move, your body wants to move
3. Pulse Rate – Movement increases your heart rate
4. Blood Flow – Your heart pumps more blood
5. Circulation – The blood flows all over the body, into the extremities (for males, the penis is an extremity)
6. Oxygen – The blood carries oxygen into your cells, nourishing them
7. Alive – You feel alive, vibrant
8. Good – You feel good

And it costs nothing

August 16, 2015 at 11:27 pm Leave a comment

PRESS RELEASE- I Survived A Secret Nazi Extermination Camp

It’s taken a long time, but at last we are launching the new book:

BOOK LAUNCH

DEATH CAMP SURVIVOR’S STORY
LIVES ON OVER 70 YEARS LATER

Title: I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp

Author: Rudolf Reder, with a memoir by Mark Forstater

Genre: Second World War/ The Holocaust

Publisher: Psychology News Press

ISBN: 978-090-763337-2

SRP: £8.99

Date of
Publication: 26th March 2015

I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp

TIME: 1942

PLACE: Belzec, occupied Poland

It was March 1942. The Second World War had been going on for already twoand a half years. Across Europe, there had been a continual rounding-up of communists, gypsies, Jews, homosexuals and other so-called ‘undesirables’ for even longer. The term ‘concentration camp’ had become a byword for the ruthless efficiency of the German Nazi machine.

But nothing could have prepared the world for the process that was about to get underway in South-East Poland. The concentration camp at Belzec was to become the very first Nazi death camp. This was the world that Rudolf Reder, a Polish Jew from the nearby town of Lvov, found himself thrust into.

I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp is the harrowing and extraordinary story of the extermination camp at Belzec, Poland. Belzec is not an instantly recognisable name like Auschwitz or Dachau, and yet some 650,000 Jews and gypsies perished there in just a few months.

Numbers easily become blurs. Six million dead in the Holocaust – impossible to imagine. To give some grasp of reality: the number of those murdered in Belzec exceeds the number of people who live in Glasgow. It is more or less the number of football fans who go to Premier League matches every week; everyone at Old Trafford, the Emirates, Stamford Bridge, Anfield and more….. gassed to death……

One man, however – Rudolf Reder – escaped from Belzec and gave an account of the camp. Mark Forstater has tracked it down and it is the centrepiece of his book, a detailed and horrifying description of a truly dark death machine.

I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp presents Reder’s account of everyday life and death in Belzec and his miraculous escape. Forstater explains how he found the story, why it matters – and why it matters to him.

Nearly every Jew and gypsy who ended up in Belzec died in the gas chambers within two hours of their arrival.

Reder managed to survive for four months for an ironic and macabre reason.He was an engineer and useful to the Nazis in and around the camp. Moreover, he was the only man with the skills needed to repair the tank engine which produced the lethal carbon monoxide gas that was responsible for the brutal deaths of so many. After four months of incarceration Reder was taken to visit his home town of Lvov nearby to collect spare parts for the camp. Fortuitously, three of his guards went for a drink and the fourth fell asleep in the truck. Reder seized his opportunity to escape and was hidden by his former housekeeper who he eventually went on to marry.

Mark Forstater introduces Reder’s account and adds a personal memoir. He tells how he learned about the Holocaust growing up in America and how, in his search for his Grandfather’s roots in Poland, he discovered Reder’s witness statement and through it the fate of his own long lost relatives.

With comparatively little known about Belzec, unlike the other two death camps in Eastern Poland at Sobibor and Treblinka, but with the enormity of the crimes committed there in mind, Forstater increasingly believed that Rudolf Reder’s story, harrowing though it is, should be heard in the outside world. And his own heart-rending reflections, brought to life in his engaging and poignant memoir, go a long way to helping square the circle and humanise what is a story of dehumanisation.

I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp is an important addition to the literature of the Holocaust.

Mark Forstater is best known for his work as a film producer on some thirty films, including Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He is also an author, having published books on philosophy and spirituality that include The Spiritual Teachings of Yoga, The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius, The Spiritual Teachings of the Tao, The Spiritual Teachings of Seneca and The Living Wisdom of Socrates.

An American originally from Philadelphia, Mark lives in London. He has been married twice, has four daughters and three grandsons.

I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp is published by Psychology News Press and is available at £8.99 from reputable bookshops, online at http://www.amazon.co.uk , from the dedicated website http://www.isurvived.org.uk/ or direct from the publisher at http://www.psychologynews.org.uk .

For further information please contact: Nigel Passingham
+44 7795 02 42 72

Nigelpas@live.com

February 26, 2015 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

From: The Spiritual Teachings of the Tao – Part 2

Qualities Of The Sage

The ancient teaching says, “The sage is entirely peaceful, so his mind is evenly balanced and at ease. This even balance and ease appears in his serenity and de-tachment. In this state of balance and ease, of serenity and detachment, anxieties and anguish don’t affect him, and no harmful influences assault him. His Te, or power, is complete, and his spirit continues undiminished.

The life of the sage can be compared to the action of heaven, and his death is the transformation common to all things. In his stillness his power is the same as the Yin, and in movement his actions are like the Yang. He takes no initiative in producing either happiness or calamity.

The sage responds to the influences acting on him, and moves only when he feels the pressure. He acts only when he has no other choice. He discards knowledge and memories, and merely follows the pattern of his heaven-given nature. Therefore he suffers no calamity from Heaven, no attachment to things, no blame from people, and no disapproval from the spirits of the dead.

The sage’s life seems to just drift along;
his death seems to be a resting;
he doesn’t have anxious thoughts;
he doesn’t make plans;
his enlightenment is hidden;
his good faith isn’t contrived;
he sleeps untroubled by dreams;
he wakes untroubled by cares;
his spirit is simple and pure;
his soul is never weary.

Empty and selfless, calm and detached, the sage is in harmony with the qualities of Heaven.”

Therefore the teaching says, “Sorrow and joy are distortions of virtue; goodness and evil are transgressions of virtue; likes and dislikes show a failure of the mind. So for the mind to be free from sorrow and joy is to have perfected virtue. For the mind to be unified and unchanging is the perfection of stillness. To be conscious of no opposition is the perfection of emptiness. To have no attachment to external things is the perfection of indifference. And to have no feelings of dissatisfaction is the perfection of purity.

If the body is overworked and not rested, it becomes worn out. If the spirit is used ceaselessly, it becomes weary, and when weary, it becomes exhausted.

It’s the nature of water, when not mixed with other things, to be clear, and if not disturbed, to be level. But if it’s blocked and can’t flow, it won’t preserve its clarity. This is an image of the virtue of Heaven.”

To be innocent and pure, free from all contamination;
to be still and uniform, never changing;
to be detached and do nothing:
this is to move like Heaven and nourish the spirit.

Now the person who possesses the finest sword preserves it carefully in a box, and doesn’t dare to use it, because it’s considered the peak of perfection. But the subtle human spirit is even more perfect, and it radiates in all directions, flowing on without limit, rising to heaven above, and circling round the earth beneath. It transforms and sustains all things, and cannot be represented by any form. We call it the Supreme Harmony.

It’s only the Tao of pure simplicity which guards and preserves the Spirit. When this Tao is preserved and not lost, you become one with the Spirit and in this ethereal communion, you’re in harmony with the orderly operation of Heaven.

There is a proverb which says, “People consider gain to be the most important thing. Scholars – fame. Those who are wise and able value ambition. But the sage prizes essential purity.’

Therefore simplicity implies no mixing. Purity means the spirit is not impaired. It’s the one who can embody simplicity and purity whom we call the Real Person.”
(15.2)

September 10, 2014 at 6:42 am Leave a comment

CrowdFunding the New Freud Film

Writer-director David Cohen and I (with the massive help of Richard Cobelli) have just launched an Indiegogo page to help fund The Escape Of Sigmund Freud. We uploaded two videos- the first a pitch video in which David and I sat in his conservatory and talked about the film and how much we wanted to raise (£ 300,000 out of a million pound budget), and the second a short teaser trailer in which actor John Kay Steel plays Anton Sauerwald, the Nazi who was meant to make Freud’s life hell, and instead helped him to escape Vienna.

It’s a remarkable true story, and we feel very good about it. We have a solid script and the excellent David Suchet to play Freud. We hope to cast other fine British actors (and one German to play Sauerwald). Shooting will take place in London, Poland and Vienna in the early part of 2015. 

I believe that the film has the potential to be a very powerful story about the Shoah (the holocaust). It’s an unusual story in that the ‘good Nazi’ who helped the Freuds was in fact a dedicated follower of Hitler. He was not putting on his belief in the Nazi regime and the Fuhrer, but believed deeply in the Nazi ideology, This is what makes the story so fascinating. Why did this deep-dyed Nazi go out of his way (and in fact risk his career and life) to help the Freuds?  He couldn’t explain his actions, and what is even more telling, Freud himself had no idea why he did it. This is the mystery at the heart of the film.

A strange friendship grew up between these two unlikely buddies. What always astounds me is the fact that Sauerwald made a trip to London in 1939, just before the war broke out, to see how Freud was settling in, and to check that all the art works he had helped pack and ship actually arrived in good condition.  On this occasion Freud was recovering from an operation for cancer of the jaw (an illness he had for many years)  and he asked Sauerwald if he would drive Freud’s Viennese surgeon to London to do a remedial operation.  And he did.

Please take a few moments to visit the Indiegogo site, and if you would like to see this film come into existence, then make a contribution – big or small – and help us to get it made. Whether you contribute or not, could you take 5 minutes and share the information with anyone who you think would find it of interest.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-escape-of-sigmund-freud/x/7931764

June 17, 2014 at 10:26 pm 1 comment

The Mystery Of Buddhism

I am an admirer of Master Nan Huai-Chin, whose books Working Toward Enlightenment and To Realize Enlightenment I have always found difficult but helpful. They are not easy-going, but Master Nan is so knowledgeable and his experience so vast and  wide-ranging that he is always insightful. According to Master Nan I cannot realise enlightenment because I am not celibate, but in many other respects I try to live by the Buddhist precepts he advocates. I will have to leave enlightenment for another lifetime.

The first volume Working Toward Enlightenment starts with an interesting conversation and question, leading to one of his characteristic insights. He writes,

There is a story behind this book. An old friend, Mr. Xiao, came to see me. As he was about to leave. he asked me a question: “Shakyamuni Buddha left home when he was 18, and finally – much later, after years of effort- lifted his head, saw a bright star, and was enlightened. What was it that he was enlightened to? “

Master Nan explains that he answered his friend by saying that the Buddha was enlightened to interdependent causation and inherent emptiness. Mr. Xiao said ” Oh… right”, pushed the door open , and left. This exit left Master Nan disturbed. Mr Xiao was a serious student of Buddhism. “If someone else asked this question, it wouldn’t matter much, but since he was asking this question, it was very serious. In other words, when he asked this question, it had extraordinary depth.”

So what was it that the Buddha was enlightened to? Master Nan confirms that he awakened to inherently empty interdependent origination. But the point is that the Buddha awakened to it after 12 years of practicing all sorts of techniques and studying with a number of teachers. It took him years of effort to bring himself to the point where just stopping his meditation for a moment and looking up into the night sky to see a bright star brought him to enlightenment. It was a matter of an experience, a truth discovered through practice,  whereas Master Nan points out that you and I can open up any book on Buddhism and we can read about these principles and truths that we have not experienced, except through reading them.

Master Nan says that we are “inverting cause and effect”, taking the truths and principles that the Buddha discovered and adding them intellectually to our lives, without going through the experience that would really make them truths for ourselves, real lived experience. I have an idea of what the Buddha was enlightened to when he looked at that star, but it’s still more intellectual speculation- words. I won’t bother putting it down here, since this question – What was it the Buddha was enlightened to? – is a kind of Koan, a question to mull over and penetrate, until finally the answer (if there is one) comes out of your practice.

 

 

April 19, 2014 at 5:43 pm Leave a comment

My New Film: How Sigmund Freud escaped from the Nazis

The Escape Of Sigmund Freud

A film by David Cohen

I’m preparing a new film which tells the story of how the world-famous creator of psychoanalysis managed to leave Nazi-occupied Vienna protected and helped by the Nazi who was meant to make his life a misery.  Anton Sauerwald ignored Berlin’s orders and gave Freud and his family assistance, much to their relief and amazement.

This is a true story based on a book by David Cohen (The Escape Of Sigmund Freud) published in the UK, US, Japan, Brazil and other countries.

Freud managed to leave Vienna with sixteen members of his family, and his overseer, Sauerwald, arranged to sell some of Freud’s art collection to pay for the extortionate exit visas. He then sent Freud’s possessions to England by lorry, and later visited him in London (1938). On that visit Freud asked Sauerwald if he could drive his Viennese surgeon to London to operate on Freud’s cancer of the jaw. But the most striking part of this strange relationship between the second most famous Jew in the world (Einstein was the first) and Sauerwald, a committed Nazi, is the fact that Sauerwald found the Freud family’s hidden foreign bank books. If his superiors knew they existed, Freud would have been immediately arrested.

Sauerwald kept the bank books to himself, never reported them, and gave them back to Freud, without asking for a penny for himself.

After the war Sauerwald was arrested and tried for stealing from the Freuds. He asked Anna Freud to write a letter explaining what had happened. Perhaps influenced by the fact that her four aunts (Freud’s elderly sisters) all died in concentration camps, Anna hesitated for some time before finally writing a letter which declared Sauerwald’s innocence.

The events the Freud family endured are alarming and terrifying, yet strange and surprising twists of character and fate take place, leading almost to a sense of disbelief. Could this really have happened? Did a deep-dyed Nazi actually help Freud escape? Many Holocaust stories defy belief, but this one is different. It exposes the contradictory nature of the human mind, and it seems in keeping for this to happen to Freud, whose fame derived from studying the mind.

David Suchet is attached to play Freud, and there are other great parts. If we succeed, The Escape of Sigmund Freud could become one of the great Shoah films of our time, showing the horrific change that fell upon the Jews of Europe once the Nazis took control of their homelands. This is a sad, terrifying and moving story, but it still has moments of dry humour, since it was Freud’s sense of gallows humour which kept him sane.

Freud’s escape shows how complicated relations between Jews and Nazis could become. Who could imagine that a strange friendship like this could develop?  Although Freud was world famous for understanding the human mind, he was at a loss to explain why Sauerwald helped him, and Sauerwald too could not understand it.

The film will be shot largely hand-held, so that the sense of actuality will be preserved. The intention is to help the audience see the events unfolding in front of their eyes as events happening to the Freud family, and not as an ‘historical’ film.

It is really an amazing story and I am looking forward to making it.

March 21, 2014 at 5:31 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts Newer Posts


The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.

Categories