Some strange noises – at first barely audible and impossible to identify – came from behind the heavy velvet curtains. For some time I was frozen to the spot, unsure not only what to do, but even if I should do something. Then the noises got louder and suddenly there was no alternative, but to yank back the curtain and see what was behind it.
Just over three years ago I started writing the script of a thriller called Hauenstein. Now that the Berlin-based film producer Alexander van Dülmen and film director Ziska Riemann are my partners in this venture, and we are working to realize Hauenstein as a 6 x 60 minutes series, this project demands to be presented properly. Apart from everything else, it means that I am now „officially“ a scriptwriter as well as a journalist, and with that this blog (long neglected because of the pressure of work) begins to take a new direction.
No doubt, this will come as a surprise to those people who have followed my journalistic work, some of them for many years or even decades. However, this new project has deep roots. It was the combination of my 60th birthday and the Covid-19 crisis that pushed me to start writing, but the figure of Hauenstein came into existence in Vienna during the summer of the year 2000. My first attempt to write his story in early 2001 was an abject failure, because I lacked even the skills to write a film or TV script.
I began acquiring those skills after I moved from Berlin to New York City at the end of 2012, although it took all of my four NYC years to get a good grip on the basic principals of storytelling. I was surprised to find that a great many of the books and films I loved complied with those principals even when the authors were unfamiliar with those principles.
I have a lot of sympathy with those scriptwriters and authors who find the idea that there are „rules“ for what they do intimidating or constricting. But, rules are there not only to be followed, but also to be broken and twisted around, for example, as the Nouvelle Vague film director Jean-Luc Goddard famously said, „A story should have beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.“ He made that work very well in his films, which confirms that he knew exactly what he was talking about.
I actually prefer the beginning, the middle and in the end in that order, the classical order, because I think „one thing leads to another“ is how most of us experience life most of the time. I also found the discovery that there is a logic to storytelling empowering, rather than limiting or inhibiting. However, I must point out how this wonderful revelation was allied to the painful realization that most of what I had written before was fundamentally flawed. The best case scenario for my writing pre-2012 was that I got lucky and a good instinct enabled me to tell a journalistic story in a way that made it compelling. But those were definitely exceptions to the rule. Mostly, my stories were fuzzy at the beginning and in the middle, then they fizzled at the end.
I think it’s not going too far to say that coming to a basic understanding of story structure and dynamics was a new beginning for me, and this new story of Stuart Pigott the scriptwriter has now reached the middle section, its turning point possibly fast approaching. Getting to know Alexander van Dülmen was a decisive moment, after which I had no doubt that one way or another Hauenstein and the other stories I am developing would come to fruition.
I will be writing more about all of this here during the coming weeks and months, not just reporting on the progress the Alexander van Dülmen, Ziska Riemann and I make with the Hauenstein project. I will also delve into the background of my – love it or hate it – extraordinary story. It is very much part of our Zeitgeist, yet it has such ancient roots. That might seem like a far-reaching claim to make, but let my show you why I think it is entirely realistic. I will also describe how my own obsession with film caused me to give the story of Hauenstein its totally distinctive form. Watch this space!
PS I am not abandoning wine journalism, www.JamesSuckling.com, FINE magazine or the other publications and platforms where my journalistic work appears. Please don’t believe anyone who tells you that I am! It is a very German myth that each person is and can only be one thing.