Tag Archives: honesty

I hate movies; or How to eviscerate an idea

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.

Photo by Bruno Hamzagic

Assalam alaikum wr wb,

So help me God, I hate movies.

Day after day, week after week, I watch trailers, I look at posters, I scan the cinema listings hopefully, looking for something worth watching.


Less than nothing.  A slap in the face. A grab for my wallet.

I’m not interested in franchises anymore. I’m not interested in movie stars. I’m not interested in explosions.

I am not interested in shock, awe, blood, gore. I am not interested in laughter or tears. Those are empty emotions and can be triggered by practically anything I pull up on YouTube.

I would like a story.

How do you define a story?

A story means something to you. Not to me, the viewer, the ticket-buyer, the audience member, the cat-caller. To you, the story-teller.

Why do I love listening to my parents tell stories? Because they are joyful in the telling and I can see it in their faces. And through that joy, I begin to understand their values, their experiences, their beliefs, however different we are.

As we began to stop telling each other stories, I understood them less and less and we fought more and more.

The fact is, story allows me to empathize in a way that no other medium has achieved.

That is why I hate everything that is in the cinema right now. It’s a blatant insulting play for profit. It desecrates story and the power of the human spirit.

I don’t mean to say that stars, explosions and high drama are bad things. I think they just have to be used in the right way.

I loved Michael Clayton. It showed a veneer of real filth underneath a sterile world. It showed two men coming apart at the seams. Yes it had George Clooney and Sydney Pollack in it. But it was a great story.

I loved Ides of March too for much the same reason. It seemed real to me.

I follow the work of Ryan Gosling, not just because he’s an incredible actor, but mainly because he has a knack for picking exceptional projects. There has not been one movie of his that I’ve seen that I’ve not enjoyed and that I wouldn’t watch repeatedly and that I wouldn’t badger my husband into seeing.

Fo’ rizzle.

So why am I ranting on a Monday morning?

I’ve been generating ideas for The Quest 2013.

There’s plenty of literature on how to test a concept for the marketplace. I particularly recommend Save The Cat’s program of market research.

The question is – how do you know if a story concept is right for you? How do you gauge your level of passion for it? How do you know that it’s touching some deep dark place rather than simply treading tired old ground?

This isn’t just about generating the passion to go the long haul with each project. It’s about having a product at the end, that no matter what happens, you can be proud of. Because you poured your heart and soul into it. Because you told the truth, no matter how much it hurt.

That sort of energy will sustain a career, in my opinion, and that’s what I’m cultivating.

To that end, I’ve been asking a lot of questions about each idea.

As a viewer:

  1. Why would I watch this movie? What elements would make me book that ticket in advance?
  2. What elements would make me avoid this movie? What makes me shriek much like I did above?

These two questions allow me to really get to the nub of what sort of experience I want as a movie-goer.

As a writer (this is the clever bit):

  1. In what ways is this idea within my comfort zone of my abilities, interests, previous writing experience, etc?
  2. In what ways is this out of my comfort zone in the same ways?

It’s maddeningly simple, but for me, it’s helping me shape a story that’s been knocking around in my head for months now.

More importantly, it’s helping me commit to that story. Because I know why I’m writing it. Even if the telling is mediocre and the reception is poor.

Let me know what your thoughts are. And for God’s sake, if you’re a filmmaker with a movie that means something, please tell me about it. I’m starving for something real.

Wasalam and Fee Amanillah (in other words, Godspeed),

The Happy Muslimah

The Radical Honesty Experiment

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum wr wb.

No, I didn’t conduct an interview with Usama Bin Laden (from beyond the watery grave).

I heard something that intrigued me a while ago from Laurie Gerber from the Handel Group:

“I teach radical honesty; that means communicating even when a feeling is uncomfortable or even when I am scared to because I don’t want to face the other person’s reaction. But I have practiced difficult conversations enough to know the alternative is worse: living in misconception, feeling dis-ease, not having fun with my playmates and generally liking myself less. Ick. It’s worth the discomfort of speaking up to get rid of that toxic cloud. In a dialogue, everything changes. And you really forget that; you really think the dialogue in your head (or with the friend you are gossiping to) covers all bases, but it doesn’t. You have no idea where the other person is coming from. Please find out.”

So I decided I’d give this radical honesty business a try.

Turns out it’s heckuva lot easier being honest with myself (read: beating myself up) than being honest with other people. Especially people I love. The greater the love, the harder it is for me to tell them what I really feel.

I’m scared I might lose them and I think my friendships are much weaker because of it.

The following is a collection of random observations taken during the week on where and what I hide and from whom. It may not make much sense, but that’s because I was updating a Gmail draft at work whenever a thought struck me. I ask you to bear with me, lovely readers.

I tend to obfuscate and manipulate the truth, making it hard to get to for the person I’m communicating with.

I tend to keep my true feelings and my true needs to myself.

In the quest for real human connection, I tend to over-complicate my life looking for it. Maybe performance and comedy is a way for me to connect or at least try to connect. Most people just laugh and leave. Some write me emails afterward – those I love. But stand-up for me isn’t a patch on improv. Being part of an improv troupe is very much about trust, support and the group over the individual. Needy people not allowed.

I love Improv. And I like performing.

However when it gets raunchy, nope, not comfortable. Not the first person to say that and probably won’t be the last.

I am scared of my father. And I haven’t spoken honestly and openly to my mother in a long while. Nothing hurts me more than our fake laughter. We used to be friends. Really good friends. I used to tell her everything. Now I can’t tell her anything.

I discovered that it’s okay to ask questions, even dumb ones, even at work. Guess what? Most of the time, I’ll get an answer, because people are rarely anuses if you speak to them politely.

I learned from my boss, that if I follow my passion, I can inspire everyone around me without needing to give a pep talk.

I love the Little Comets. They’re messy wounded hoons in tracksuit bottoms and trainers singing musically jagged tunes on trams and in lecture halls, anywhere someone will listen. And I’m not sure what entirely they’re on about some of the time, but this girl in Dubai gets it.

There’s something about art that allows people to ‘get’ it even if they don’t entirely understand the ‘story’, to taste the meat even though the curry is unfamiliar. That’s what I want more of in my life. Not curry, art.

I read about the World Bank report about hunger. It killed me. To soothe myself, I ate a chocky bicky (irony much?). I want to do something about this. I tried to talk myself out of it – saying I’m more into gender issues. But hunger kills men, women and children everywhere. I’m a Muslim and a human being first. A woman and a writer second.

Authority figures scare me. A lot. I’m scared to call people more than anything. It makes me feel like a bad journalist and for some weird reason, guilty?

I’m frightened to enter the Al Shasha screenwriting competition.

I was honest with my client who called me after hours. I don’t want to work in the night-time. It was uncomfortable but I felt better and I felt freer.

I am sometimes surprised by the sound of my own voice.

I imagine disappointment and pain even before it happens. Sometimes it is of epic devastating proportions.

I don’t really think that I deserve happiness and I reckon my parents don’t think so either.

I’m going to write a letter to my parents to tell them honestly about everything and I haven’t the faintest idea where to start. And yes, I am going to actually give them the letter.

I don’t know what they’re going to do. Maybe they’ll get mad. Maybe they’ll get sad. Maybe it’ll make things worse. Maybe it’ll make things better. I don’t know. It’s all in Allah’s Hands. I don’t want to go to Him on the Last Day and say I didn’t try everything I knew to communicate with them with love and respect.

Yes. I’m scared.

Will let you know how that goes.

May Allah’s Grace protect you wherever you go and whatever you do, Ameen.


P.S. Bismillah. UPDATE! I was honest about something that I’ve keeping to myself for a very long time waiting for someone to understand.

It was quite freeing. My focus and my concentration improved dramatically after that single simple admission.

However, being honest has consequences. And this particular admission may have had HUGE consequences (so far, so good Alhamdulillah). Be prepared to be surprised. Be prepared to be snubbed. Be prepared to be forgiven.

I need to be prepared.

Peace out, y’all.



P.P.S Bismillah. 17th July: Incremental honesty is probably more affective than radical honesty, as incremental changes are more sustainable. I started with myself, will continue with people I work with (whom I respect, but don’t necessarily like) and slowly but surely, people I love. This is a continuous struggle and people are surprising, but true authenticity is worth it.

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,