Jaded at the Odeon

by George Smith, an extract from his 2003 book Tiny Essentials of Writing for Fundraising.

George and I worked together for 20 years and we were close pals for even more. I’ve never stopped loving the way he writes. I’ve included this snippet from an anthology of his press articles because I treasure this image of him sitting in solitude in the darkened cinema, railing at the screen and life’s little injustices, just as he did his whole life through. KB.

 Odeon

And another thing …
This is therefore the age of prolixity – of excess words filling the space afforded by the means of expressing those words – the media again. Hundreds of radio and television channels have to be filled with something and are filled with dross – the ramblings of the presenter, the opinions of the phone-in callers and latterly the recitations of the e-mailers. You would not want to be stuck in a lift with any of these people but there they are in your house day or night.

And what are people communicating over mobile phones that could not have been thus communicated 15 years ago? Gibberish usually. How much content is there in the average office e-mail? Bugger all. It’s words filling space again, I fear.

Everyone feels the need to say more than is necessary. A cornflake packet now carries enough words for a short story. A weather forecast can fill its five minutes by telling you about today’s weather as well as tomorrow’s. Three commentators will discuss an endlessly replayed goal. So many words, so little meaning, so little attention!

And it’s irritating too. My favourite current example is the cinema, now subject to the new demands of branding.

I enter the Odeon while strobe lights scan the corridors telling me that I am in the Odeon. I am subjected to ads by Kodak and Dolby who want me to know that they played a part in proceedings. And, yes, I am subjected to a clip from the Odeon chain telling me that they show films.

I knew this already. But you want to scream at the screen. ‘I know you show films. It’s why I’m sitting here. Sod you, Odeon.’

All these new and malign things define the world in which the storyteller tries to do his or her job. Let me repeat the sixth word I used: jaded. That’s how people are these days. They’ve heard everything several times over and you are going to have to express yourself remarkably well to catch their attention and persuade them to give you money.

We should try harder with words in the belief that raising money to do good is still an honourable occupation, no matter how shabby and weary its tradecraft has become.

© George Smith 2011

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