Iona is an island in the Hebrides, off the Western Coast of Scotland.  It’s tiny – only a mile long with 125  year-round citizens. It is known as a  Thin Place.  In myth, a Thin Place is an atmosphere where only a tissue separates the material world from the spiritual world. Indeed, you can break through. The ancient Celts believed in Iona a traveler could often times touch “Otherworld” from his or her stance on the island.

I have read many books of fiction and non-fiction about Iona. I, myself, have written and spoken about it extensively but , I  had never been there.   It takes some steam to get there from America – a Transatlantic flight, a train, a bus  and two ferries.

Often, one becomes set in one’s own plaster and, sometimes, we must break out of the life mask before it sets. There are instances when research involves not only information but inspiration. I had been working almost three years on a fiction project where a large part of the story takes place in Iona. I had decided my nose had spent too much time in a book.  So I took the  trek in the spring of this year (2015) to the Thin Place.

After so many years, I felt I had arrived at some facsimile of home. Because Iona is so small and an island not that far from the North Pole, the majestic  skies are constantly changing. The lifestyle of the island is simple and beautiful : only a few cars, two organic gardens and two  small hotels. There are no movie theatres and no cable. Yet, one is so stirred by the sacred aspect of nature, that one needs  no other screen but the horizon.


I took a series of photos that are quite dramatic because they were enhanced by the Snapseed filter.  It is a terrific and easy app for photos.  Snapseed  is free and idiot-proof so perfect for me. Someone asked me yesterday that they looked for “those Iona photos” on Pinterest and could not find them. That’s because they are not there. So I have posted a few of them  here so others can partake in the drama and the beauty of Iona.

There is a Gaelic prediction that whoever goes to Iona will go not once, but three times. I am headed back there in October of 2015.















Con Keyes met me on a lecture tour in Europe. He asked me if he could take some pictures of my presentations. I said sure. I speak on the human journey through art, movies, and the creative process. I use screens. Lots of screens. The bigger. The Better. There’s something happening behind me or to my side, always. Things go a lot better when you have Jack Nicholson stage right and Diane Keaton stage left.

I always said that if I had any success as a studio executive, it was because I felt more comfortable advising from behind the screen rather than in front of it.


When I started lecturing, or perhaps, presenting is a better word, I  just could not appear on an empty stage. I had to  bring the players with me. So I used lots of imagery. Lots of movies . Con Keyes  knew every film. Every character. Every cut.  He would come up after the presentation with his lovely wife, Sheila and be so kind and encouraging.

I believe Con Keyes came to all eight of those presentations. He was like a dutiful  photography student, snapping silently with all kinds of lenses . In the end, he asked me if I would like some “snaps” when he got back to California  and I said sure and I gave him my address.

This morning, a beautiful picture book arrived in the mail of all my lectures and a CD of his snaps. I do not like looking at myself, but if I had to, I would like  to be looking at whatever  lens Con Keyes is looking through.

I googled Con Keyes only to realize  that he was the Director of Photography at the LA Times for many years and has taken wonderful photos of personalities as diverse as Edward Albee, Zubin Mehta, Johnny Carson, and Sammy Davis Jr. He never tooted a horn, nor made a big deal about his accomplishments. He was always too busy smiling, taking pictures.

I believe Con and Sheila, who have been sweethearts since they were 12 and have been married all their adult life,  retired about five years ago. They have been on a world adventure ever since. But once an artist, always an artist. And I am grateful to Con’s artistry and that I am the beneficiary of being in the eye of his lens if only for a moment.

Here’s a few of the many photographs he sent on to me –









Thank you, Con. Big hug to Sheila. I’ll see you on your next adventure.

From the French short film,  Le Ballon rouge, 1956
From the French short film, Le Ballon Rouge, 1956

“Follow your bliss.”

“Follow your bliss” is Joe Campbell’s motto and mantra. As defined in Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary,  (always an amusing, often provocative reference),  Bliss is “The highest degree of happiness; blessedness; felicity; used of felicity in general, when of an exalted kind, but appropriately, of heavenly joys.”

But what happens if you have lost your bliss? How can you rekindle it? Joseph Campbell, the  world-famous mythologist,  believes you can jump-start it in two  easy steps.

Here they are, in his own words –

1) Find a Sacred Place

The sacred place “is an absolute necessity for anybody today, You must have a room , or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is a place of creative incubation. At first, you might find that nothing happens there.  But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

2) Read A Book Or Hear A Song You Loved

“Our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older,” Campbell says,”  the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you.”

“Where is your bliss station? You have to try and find it. Get a phonograph and put on the music that you really love, even if it’s corny music that nobody else respects. Or get the book you like to read. In your sacred place you get the “thou” feeling of life that these people  (the ancient hunters) had for the whole world  in which they lived.”

As for the challenges and psychic sufferings in life? “Find a place inside where there is joy, “Campbell writes, “and the joy will burn out the pain.”

Proof of Concept

I followed Campbell’s advice on rediscovering  bliss through books.  I went back and reread the two books that gave me “bliss” early in life. The first was The Agony and The Ecstasy a biographical novel of the life of Michelangelo by Irving Stone. I read the book when I was nine. The second was My Autobiography by Charlie Chaplin . I was twelve when I read it. Both were about artists.

When I look back on my life, there is no question those two books, (ordered through  my family’s subscription to the Book Of The Month Club – remember that club?) had everything to do with my  own journey in helping film-makers cultivate their voice and their art.

As for songs,  I took  Campbell’s suggestion,  veering toward  the “corny music that nobody else respects.” That was the work of The Carpenters.  For me, it was magic. There is such a captivating and haunting tone in Karen Carpenter’s voice.

I hope this spring, in a time of transition, you find the time to check out the literature and music that pointed you to the person you are today. It may open a lens to your inner self which has been obscured by the rigors of time.

Note: The quotes were taken from the book, The Power Of Myth, a redaction of the legendary conversations between Bill Moyers and Joe Campbell from the 1980s.