Reading the new issue of Journal of Social Issues devoted to Stanley Milgram’s ‘Obedience to Authority’, I recalled that around this time last year (October 2013) I participated in a ‘Conference on the Legacy of Stanley Milgram’ held at Yale Law School and organised by Tom Tyler. Fellow presenters included Milgram’s biographer, Tom Blass, Alex Haslam and Steve Reicher. It was an inspiring event, with much debate. Alex, Steve and I have been collaborating on a documentary Shock Room that restages and reinterprets Milgram’s dramatic experiment, questioning whether we are really programmed to obey. More very soon…
At the conference, I was introduced to the work of psychologist Saul Kassin who gave a fascinating presentation about the power of situation in extracting false confessions. Like Stanley Milgram, Kassin and his colleagues go to a great deal of trouble to create the right environment for their experiments, conducting much of their research in a Psycho-legal Laboratory containing a mock courtroom complete with a judge’s bench, witness stand, podium, and seating area for a jury. Staged trials or testimony are recorded with videotape cameras and microphones built into the ceiling and walls.
In September, the Journal Of Social Issues published a special issue ‘Milgram at 50: Exploring the Enduring Relevance of Psychology’s most Famous Studies.’ It was edited by Alex Haslam, Arthur Miller and Steve Reicher.
My own article ‘Revisioning Obedience: Exploring the Role of Milgram’s Skills as a Filmmaker in Bringing His Shocking Narrative to Life’ was in a section devoted to new insights from the Yale archives. It also included terrific new articles by Nestar Russell and Stephen Gibson. Another highlight is Haslam and Reicher’s article. You can find full details of the issue here.
In October, The Boot Cake screened at Astra Film Festival in Romania. One of Europe’s most highly regarded documentary festivals, Astra began in 1993 as a festival devoted to ethnographic films and broadened its focus to creative documentary. In 2014, the centenary of the debut of Chaplin’s Tramp character on screen, Astra programmed three films in a special Chaplin-themed section. I love their graphic above. Astra screened two of Chaplin’s short films The Fireman (1916) and Easy Street (1917). And, to our great honour, The Boot Cake.
In June, I participated in the Charlot 100 conference/festival at Cineteca di Bologna which celebrated one hundred years of Chaplin’s iconic character The Tramp. It was an inspiring event with a wealth of screenings, speakers and talks. The picture above shows the audience entering into the spirit of Chaplinitis at a special open screening of KID AUTO RACES AT VENICE (USA/1914), A NIGHT AT THE SHOW (USA/1915),THE IMMIGRANT (USA/1917) SHOULDER ARMS (USA/1918). The films were accompanied by the Orchestra of Teatro Comunale di Bologna conducted by Timothy Brock. I’m up the front somewhere… Other highlights included a launch of David Robinson’s wonderful new book which tells the story of Chaplin’s novella Footlights, a prequel to the film Limelight.
I screened my film The Boot Cake about another birthday party for Chaplin, held by the Charlie Circle in Adipur, India. And presented some of my research on Chaplin imitators around the globe.
Earlier this year, my book Screenwriting in a Digital Era was published by Palgrave Macmillan. I aimed to examine a range of practices for writing for the screen. Looking back to prehistories of the form, my book links screenwriting and visual storytelling to visual and oral storytelling. From the shadow playwrights of twelfth-century Europe to semi-improvised ensemble films played out on the streets of cities around the globe. Looking to the future, Screenwriting in a Digital Era examines the blurring of genres, production stages and roles in digital ecologies and the practices of sustainable screenwriting.
Adrian Martin (Goethe University, Germany) wrote:
‘Kathryn Millard’s brilliant book asks: what is involved in writing for the screen in a digital era? Surely much more than just words on a page. With images, sounds, fragments of story, impressions of place and research materials, we improvise, perform, assemble, re-mix on our computers. We project our imagination into the world (real or otherwise) that we hope to capture on screen. Conventional accounts of screenwriting find the classic story templates wherever they look; Millard, by contrast, finds the ‘seeds of the new’ everywhere in the experiments of the past. Hers is the first truly international survey to look beyond Hollywood for its rich and varied inspiration. It is a book for the future of cinema and all screen media’.
The Charlie Circle of Adipur, founded by Dr. Ashok Aswani, recently celebrated their guru’s 124th birthday. Here’s a still from my 2008 film The Boot Cake showing the town’s Young Charlies ready for Chaplin’s birthday parade.