A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Marshall McLuhan: Filmmaker.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 68/69).  Let’s make a movie!

I have just spent a very productive day with Jane Jacobs.  We have written a script for a movie, “A Burning Would.” (You will of course recognize the reference to Finnegans Wake, “A burning would has come to dance inane.”)  If all works out this film will either be the final word on the nature of film or stop the Spadina Expressway dead in its tracks.

Me (June 2010, age 57)   Lessons?

Jane Jacobs describes the chaotic and exhilarating day she spent with McLuhan writing a film script in Who was Marshall McLuhan.  The word “script” is an exaggeration.  Here’s how the day went:  he persuaded her to give it a try, they talked about ideas, McLuhan’s secretary, Margaret Stewart took notes, and typed them up, and McLuhan made arrangements to meet with the filmmaker David Mackay to discuss the “script.”  Jacobs describes the resulting “script” as “garbled and unreadable” but also as “dazzling sparks and fragments.”

Remarkably the film (12 minutes long) was made [and even more remarkably doesn’t seem to be posted on YouTube].  Jacobs says that the film was “good” but “the final product bore no relationship at all to our original script.”

Perhaps, the major lessons to be learned from this film are:

Don’t be afraid to try new things (neither Jacobs nor McLuhan had ever tried to write a script before.)

Get yourself good partners.

Don’t be afraid to fail.

What new things are you doing?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Who Was Marshall McLuhan. Edited by Barrington Nevitt with Maurice McLuhan, 1995, pp. 101-102.

For other inspiration see Julien Smith’s In over your head.

And thanks to Michael Edmunds for this interview of McLuhan on his plans for filmmaking originally published in Take One in the 1970sMarshall McLuhan makes a movie.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Education, Vol. 1 2 Comments

2 Comments to Marshall McLuhan: Filmmaker.

  • Michael Edmunds says:

    Burning Wood
    Joyce lifted from Shakespeare

    A strong image in the film is a telephone sitting on the yellow line of the road ringing…
    the prediction of mobile phones?

  • Peter Svatek says:

    I worked on the film, but have never seen it. What I remember is one image (no idea if it is in the film) of someone holding a fishing pole, the camera pulling back and discovering the fisherman is on a freeway overpass.. Don’t ask.

    That was the second time I worked on a film with McLuhan – although I never knew him, I met him the two times. The first was in 1966 on the Donald Brittain film Never a Backward Step. McLuhan talked on camera with Roy Thomson (in Thomson’s University Ave boardroom) about Nigerian televiaion. The most fascinating power talk of two egos speaking past each other I can remeber.

    Peter Svatek

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