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On the cover
7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidans three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countrys stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.


Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.


Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.


Ukrainian Culture

The Man Behind the Curtain

Robert McKee stands behind some of the biggest screen works of our time: Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings, X Men, Sex in the City, Desperate Housewives, Million Dollar Baby, A Beautiful Mind and many others. All of these brilliant movies and TV shows have been written, co-written, produced, or directed by his students. Here in Kyiv this week to provide guidance, insight and his own personal experience to those in the world of cinema, television and journalism, Whats On sits down with the man behind the Story Seminar.

Robert McKee is one of the best-known screenwriter lecturers in the world. He began teaching screenwriting in 1983, at the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California, with an approach that was original and out-of-the-box. So out-of-the-box, in fact, that a year later he abandoned the school setting and took his seminar on the road, offering a three-day intensive course to anyone interested in learning to write a good story. 
Rather than concentrating on the plot or dialogues as the basis of the script, McKee explains the nature of the narration itself in other words, he teaches how to tell a story. His long resume shows he is up to the task too. If we were to judge the teacher by the achievements of his students, McKee is a real force to be reckoned with his students have won 49 Oscars, 168 Emmy Awards, 21 prizes from the Writers Guild of America, and 17 prizes from the Directors Guild of America. 

The Nuts and Bolts 
Robert McKee started acting in the theatre as a child, later moving on to earn a bachelors degree in English literature and a masters in theatre arts. During his studies, Robert acted in and produced theatre productions in Broadway and London. 
In the late 70s, he switched his focus to movies and there he finally found his calling bringing out the natural storyteller in his students. The fact that McKee has not had a single script of his own made into a film does not embarrass the master of story-telling. He says he does what he loves and the numerous prestigious awards won by his students prove he made the right choice. 
Here in Kyiv next week, the gurus Story Seminar is quite expensive to attend an entrance ticket costs 7,000hrv for the four-day intensive course. But if youre planning a hit career in blockbuster screenwriting, its a bargain Or, you could just read Whats Ons exclusive interview with the master storyteller, for a quick overview of his extremely successful process. 

Mr McKee, first let me say it is a great honour for me to be able to do this interview. You are a spectacular writing mentor and your seminars are such that they keep everyone in the audience fully entertained. Can you share your secret what is it that makes such a good story? 
The secret of a good script is simple at the heart of the story there should be humanity, because then each member of the audience will be able to relate what he sees on the screen with his own life and briefly live a different reality. Its necessary to expand viewers consciousness, immerse them in another world, and make them feel humanity in thousands of different dimensions.

I see, you mean a good story is one in which the viewer watches the movie and thinks, That could be about me!? Heres a challenge: can you give us an example of a good story in three sentences? 
The most famous good story I know in three sentences is: boy meets girl, boy loses girls, boy gets girl. But, to bring that up to date, we could do: girl meets girl, girl loses girl, girl gets girl. Or, boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy. Or, boys meet girl, boys lose girl, boys fight to death over girl. This little three-step formula has been around since Romeo and Juliet. 

So, really nothing has changed since Shakespeares time then. Some things do stand the test of time. Perhaps included in that are your seminars, which have been successful for more than 25 years, even in the face of an ever-changing media and writing world. What conclusions can you make about the evolution of writing are authors becoming better, more interesting, or just more curious?
If were talking specifically about text, weve made a big step forward and the successes are evident. Skills in keeping viewers attention are honed almost to perfection, and this is one of the most important aspects of screenwriting. In terms of technology, modern writers have evolved better techniques than their predecessors. But if we talk about the content of the story, my assessment is not so positive. Stories in general are more superficial now. They do not compare to the stories that forged the "Golden Age" of Hollywood. The era of post-modernism comes with certain superficiality. Form is now more important than content.

How do you think social networks like Twitter and Facebook influence people who are writing prose or scripts?
Of course, Twitter and Facebook and other Internet modern things influence modern society. First of all, the text changes writing becomes shorter and more succinct. I think the future of TV lies in series that can last for years and that bear plot similarities to the stories of Dickens. This will require specific skills from the writers, namely the ability to create such fun characters that theyre interesting to watch for a long time. I also think that all movies will go straight to the Internet someday, and that cinemas will disappear. The audience will enjoy a movie sitting in front of a big screen at home.

I cant skirt the problems with Ukrainian cinematography, and the paradox that exists here: namely, Ukraine has a lot of talented prose writers who cant break through to the big screens. Have you got any advice for writers on how to succeed in screenwriting?
Very few excellent fiction writers become screenwriters, truth be told. The most famous example of a great novelist trying and failing to become a screenwriter is, of course, F Scott Fitzgerald. He was a disaster as a screenwriter but he was a masterful fiction writer. 
A novel is principally about inner conflict. It is about what is circulating in the thoughts and feelings of a character, told either in the third or first person. So, what interests the novelist most is the inner life of characters. Whereas the most powerful level of conflict in film is not inner conflict, but physical and social conflict because this is what the cinema does best. 
If I were to give advice to a prose writer who wants to become a screenwriter, Id tell them to stop the stream of words and language that pours through their head in imitation of human thought and feeling. Step outside and take a Godlike point of view. Try to look at characters as pieces of furniture in the physical world.

Can a story be perfectly written? And, have you ever read one? 
I think that Michael Curtizs, Casablanca, is the best movie in the history of cinema in terms of the script. In my master-class, I dedicate at least six hours to a detailed analysis of this film every scene, every dialogue. But theres no formula, things like the perfect story cant be derived by mathematical calculation. But you know a funny thing? The American Writers Guild also calls the scenarios in Casablanca the best in the history of cinema. There was a very serious vote that lasted several years, where other classics like The Godfather and Citizen Kane were left behind. 

Where did you come up with the idea of visiting Ukraine? 
I teach my courses in many countries, regardless of what level or scale the television industry has reached in a specific place. Most of the examples that I use in my seminars are from popular movies because I think that film is the best way to tell mans story. I try to lead my seminars in that way, to help people who have never written before create a decent script. 
One of my main reasons for coming to Ukraine is to revive the approach to art from the ground up, and to teach the creation of interesting stories and complex characters. Im certainly not here to teach how to make Hollywood movies I dont know how to do that! 

More than 50,000 people have taken Robert McKees Story Seminar, some of whom include highly notable actors and writers:
Geoffrey Rush
Paul Haggis
Akiva Goldsman 
William Goldman 
Joan Rivers
Rob Row
David Bowie
Kirk Douglas
John Cleese
Steve Pressfield

Seminar with Robert McKee
11 14 October
Tickets are 7,000hrv 
Ukraina Movie Theatre (Horodetskoho 5)

Kateryna Kyselyova

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Read also:
  • When Walls Can Talk
  • Rights We Didnt Know We Had
  • The Path to Europe Begins Here...
  • Documenting Life
  • Head into 2014 Healthy

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didnt Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they dont understand the meaning of these words.

    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades childrens favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. Whats On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.


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