Some subscribers to this MailChimp are authors. If that’s you, the most helpful thing I can write this week is “subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for Android right now.” You’ll find something in this episode that will make a lightbulb go off above your head.
Here are some excerpts about why Michelle Miller chose to explore serialization.
“I just got really excited about fiction, and excited about…thinking through how you revive fiction for a new audience. I think that, unfortunately, fiction has gotten sidelined behind non-fiction media, which is seen as more productive. And frankly, I don’t think that’s true at all. I think that fiction taps into empathy and compassion and opens our minds to see the world differently…non-fiction media just makes us more set in our ways.”
“I really started thinking about why people don’t read books any more…I came down to this fact that I spent a lot of time in the office. I was at work for twelve hours a day. And while I was there, I was reading the whole time…and by the time I got home in the evening, the thought of picking up a 400-page novel was, frankly, daunting, and I was tired of reading.”
“The more you understand how publishers work, I don’t think their economics are good enough any more to really take risks. As a first time author…if you can come to them saying, look, I just proved this many followers, but I need you to get me bigger, I actually think they were really excited by that…I think the fact that I had proven that there was an audience for this story was really appealing to them.”
You’ll find more about Michelle Miller’s serial (now book) The Underwriting at her website hashtagmm.com
On June 23, 2001 we went to see The Narrow Margin at the LaSalle Bank Cinema on the Northwest side of Chicago. The bank showed movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age every Saturday night along with cartoons and old-time serials. The ticket and concessions prices were negligible. This wasn’t about maximizing profit. It was about providing popular entertainment.
The serial that evening (was it Batman?) was forgettable. The hard-boiled, 71-minute hyper-noir B-movie feature, apparently, was not.
This was the theater where I first saw Detour and Gun Crazy, two other mind-blowing examples of lean, low-budget storytelling. But The Narrow Margin lodged in my brain because I was working with Michael Hirsch, a former advertising co-worker turned movie producer on promotional strategies for the micro-budget satirical action movie Spaceman by writer-director Scott Dikkers, a co-founder of The Onion: “America’s Finest News Source.”
The early moments of The Narrow Margin are so noir that they reminded me of what Mel Brooks and the Zucker Brothers had done in previous decades with their genre send-ups, and what the Coen Brothers were currently doing with their genre homages (The Man Who Wasn’t There was released later that year). Carl Reiner and Steve Martin had tried an innovative noir send-up called Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) integrating Martin with clips from old gangster movies, but the stitched-together plot didn’t hold up. The Narrow Margin was a noir movie that was so aware of its noir origins that it was already meta. I thought that Michael Hirsch and Scott Dikkers could have some low-budget fun creating a film noir set on a train. The cheaper it looked, the more fake the rear-projection scenery, the funnier it would be.
After discovering that The Narrow Margin wasn’t available on VHS or DVD (streaming wasn’t an option in 2001), and that sharing the movie idea would cost $265 plus renting a 16mm projector, I filed the idea away.
Who knew at the time that I would go on to create an episode of my own meta-noir serial to accompany a viewing of The Narrow Margin?
(Bonus Easter egg hunt. If you listen carefully for the names of the detectives in the film, or just go to the IMDb page, you’ll unearth the clue of how I arrived at our serial detective’s name. For his wife’s name, I changed Ann, as in Ann Sinclair, to Anna. No one ever said that writing noir was rocket science.)
Check out this hard-boiled dame and detective.
(Reading time: approx. 22 min.)
Preview: A light, persistent rain glimmered on the streets. She walked north on Park. Sternwood put his phone away and extended his umbrella. He caught up to her at the corner. A few cars were heading east on Yamhill. Sternwood sheltered her.
“No need to get soaked,” he offered.
“I’m just catching the MAX…but thanks.” She flipped her hood back down.
“I’m parked in the lot.”
“I didn’t think you were stalking me.”
Traffic cleared, and the two of them crossed the street. The overhang by the MAX stop wasn’t far from the steps of the parking structure.
“Mind if I ask you something?” asked Sternwood.
“Well, that would depend on what you had in mind, wouldn’t it?”
It's best to read any mystery from the beginning.
Thu, 09 Jul 2015 07:08:03 -0700