The Sticking Place was founded in 2001, a collaboration between Paul Cronin and Adam Meggido.
In 2013, The Sticking Place Theatre Company, run by Adam, was renamed Extempore Theatre to reflect its ongoing commitment to improvisation in performance. Paul plods on, under the Sticking Place banner, and would not be unhappy if, upon his demise, his name is known only because of a brief footnote on page six mentioning that he introduced Adam to Ken Campbell.
Over the past fifteen years, Paul has busied himself with a series of long-term research projects.
Several of these undertakings – which include Alexander Mackendrick, Werner Herzog, Abbas Kiarostami, Peter Whitehead and Haskell Wexler’s 1969 feature Medium Cool as subject matter – have resulted in both written and audio/visual elements. His primary focus is currently A Time to Stir, a thirty-hour documentary film, in ten chapters, about the Columbia University student protests of 1968 which will be accompanied by a number of publications, including an illustrated book containing new testimonials from a range of participants, a history of the student uprising in primary documents, a collection of essays, a book of photographs, and a transcript of the film. The project is the third of a trilogy centred on 1968. The first was about a film, the second an individual, now an event.
Since 2000, Paul has been working on another trilogy. On Film-Making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director is a collection of pedagogic writings by Alexander Mackendrick and is accompanied by an educational audio/visual project (here), A Guide for the Perplexed is an interview book with
Werner Herzog, and Lessons with Kiarostami documents a series of workshops led by Abbas Kiarostami and was published alongside several volumes of his original and selected/adapted poetry. Mackendrick’s writings tackle craft, structure and precision, Herzog aims his attention at the value of perseverance and what he calls “agitation of the mind,” while Kiarostami focuses on the expression of poetry, on the potency of reading between the lines, on the search for the enigmatic. An appreciation of all three is a requirement of the competent filmmaker and storyteller. Without precision, formlessness ensues. Without perseverance, little is accomplished. Without poetry, craft is mere mechanics. Think carefully before you speak,
be forceful enough so people hear what you have to say, and express only those ideas most meaningful to you. The challenges can be invigorating. If Herzog is a self-proclaimed soldier of cinema, perhaps Mackendrick is a mechanic and Kiarostami a monk. Different approaches to the world and to filmmaking, different traits at play, but those that may profitably be drawn together, resulting in things new and worthwhile. What binds this trio, what is always in evidence, is an implacable commitment to creative adventuring and belief in the primacy of the audience. Work on the trilogy – collectively a manifesto of sorts, hopefully some kind of stimulant and provocation – will progress for as long it seems a constructive diversion and use of everyone’s time. Herzog’s bountiful disposition means that only a few months after publication, a fresh and updated edition of A Guide for the Perplexed was required, while five new Mackendrick books are near completion and more Kiarostami poetry might yet come to light.
Side projects include research and translations for Cassavetes on Cassavetes, ghost-editing two volumes (here and here) of interviews drawn from the archives of the American Film Institute, editing three collections for the University Press of Mississippi’s Conversations with Filmmakers series, a book and film about production sound mixer Chris Newman, a book and film about historian and curator Amos Vogel (also assisting with the creation in 2005 of the reprint of Vogel’s 1974 classic Film as a Subversive Art),
an unfinished interview with Errol Morris (in this book), and an essay about Maurice Stein and Larry Miller’s 1970 publication Blueprint for Counter Education (details here). The always stimulating and gloriously flexible day job is here. The publishing venture here. Incomplete lists of books here and here.
After finishing a project, I find myself flailing in new and different ways (plus all the old ones too), back at square one, mired in confusion, so it’s unclear just what the point of any of it is. I suppose this all somehow passes the time. But anyway… Do nothing on anyone else’s terms (note Emerson). Believe no one who insists something can’t be done a certain way. Be fearful of nothing, don’t take criticism of your work personally, and don’t doubt your abilities (plenty of people will do that for you). Be invaluable to those around you. Play to your strengths (where can a useful contribution be made?). Remember what
Werner Herzog said about money: it’s cowardly and stupid, slow and unimaginative. Free yourself from the control of others (wait for no one) and chase what you want. Nothing worth anything comes easy. Don’t spread yourself too thin. “Live to the point of tears” (turn away from anything not challenging and exciting). Let he who has never sinned… Guard against “experts.” Reuse your work (birdstone) and know your tools. Autodidactism is good and never-ending (learn to do it all yourself). Our most valuable commodity is time (cherish convenience). “Only the exhaustive is truly interesting” (superficiality is dishonourable). Delay gratification. Hard work, the only substitute for intelligence, will not go unrewarded. Never fold when you can check (keep open your options). Reliability and consistency are crucial. Stay away from institutions or accept the inevitable. Maintain momentum. Earn the respect of those you respect. Common courtesy goes a long way. Learn it all on the job. Bluster is rarely good – remain undercover (solitude). Search for fierce creativity, for those able to switch you on, and hold them close – never let go of worthwhile collaborators. The answer is often right under your nose. Every project has a natural life. Avoid safe. Leave your sense of entitlement at the door (play low-status, stop talking about yourself). If not now, when? Decide which side you’re on: do it for the institutions or for yourself (there is no middle ground). “Schlafen kannst Du, wenn Du tot bist.” Swallow your pride. No one likes a whiner. Invest in the open-ended. It’s OK to be bored so long as there’s something new to seize upon. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. “Independence” is a state of mind. Process not product. Leave the ignorant to themselves. There is very often not better, only different. If you give, give unconditionally. “Credit you give yourself is not worth having” (beware the culture of narcissism). Walk the desert, wherever you are. Politics is half the battle (“Indicate you heard me”). Dignity matters. Go for the low-hanging fruit last (do something every day). All life is problem-solving (don’t make your problems other people’s problems). Stop talking and listen. Be especially respectful of gatekeepers. With scant concern can come liberation.
Hold yourself to the highest of standards. Know thy limitations (and when to disengage). Don’t use “myself” when “me” will do just fine. Try not to die like a dog. Live up to your myth. NO (“like”) HEDGING. Create your own rigorous learning environment. Enjoy the abyss. Get more exercise.
Stop mumbling. Forgive all this self-aggrandizing. Don’t quit those piano lessons. And screw your courage to the sticking place.