Needy writer

needy

I’ve discovered recently that I’m a needy writer and I’m working hard not to be.

Not needy in an emotional sense or a whiny, weepy, please love me, I need your approval sense …

Although I am that as well. Come on, we all are. Deep down?

Validate_Me

No? Just me?

Not like that anyway, more in the sense of thinking in terms of what the script/story/characters need.

Several times recently on a couple of projects I’ve been deep in discussion with the director or my co-writer about a script which isn’t quite working and saying something like:

“What we need is a scene which shows the character loves gerbils and is a homicidal maniac who’s afraid of cheese.”

To which everyone agrees … but how do we show both in the same scene?

Hmm.

What can we do to visually show both of these things in a single page or image? I mean, after the script needs it.

images

Needs. It.

Or does it?

What happens if we take that bit out? What happens if we change it? What if we make the character love cheese and get all stabby over gerbils? What if we make the character something completely different?

How much of what we think we need do we actually need?

In both cases, the answer was the same – we don’t need that. Not at all. In fact, if we do the complete opposite then the story actually works and is completely satisfying as opposed to merely kind of okay.

never-satisfied

The script I’ve just finished, to get specific without giving any of the plot away, is about risk and the taking thereof. We needed the protagonist to be risk-averse and to be forced into taking a huge risk in order to win through at the end.

We needed that. The script needed that. The story hinged on it. It had to happen.

The only problem is, it was making the protagonist incredibly boring. It’s quite hard (within the confines of the pre-existing story) to make this particular protagonist interesting and fun and likeable (or empathetic or loveable … or whatever you want to call it) and still be risk-averse.

I mean, how do you show that someone’s risk-averse?

3312492

You show them not doing dangerous things. You know, fun things like not skydiving or not being spontaneous or not gambling their career on a promotion or not … well, anything. And in order to show someone isn’t doing something, you have to have her standing next to people who are doing things. You have to see her next to someone (or someones) who do throw themselves out of a plane or off a building or running across a busy road while she waits behind looking scared and/or disapproving.

not-playing-no-more1

One of the quickest ways to build empathy with a character is to show them being good at something. Or compassionate about something. But if all you’re doing is showing them not doing it, then they’re just not interesting.

Okay, so there are ways around this but we found ourselves building in an incredibly detailed backstory to explain why she’s like this so the audience are on her side. She’s risk-averse because her mother was a compulsive gambler who lost the family home and was forced to work as a drug mule, taking the young protagonist along for cover who then witnessed first hand what happens when you are indebted to the mob and/or get busted for … blah, blah, blah.

why-are-you-still-talking

An extra fifteen pages later and the script is waaaaay too long.

And the protagonist is still dull. Justifiably so – we understand why she’s dull and know this is the story of how she learns to stop being dull … but still, dull is dull.

But this is what the script needs, it’s about risk. Stories work best when the character has a thematically ironic problem to overcome. The theme is risk. The irony is she doesn’t take any.

That’s what the script needs.

Needs.

app

Or does it?

What if we put that idea aside (because it’s terrible) and look at it from the other direction?

What if, instead of being risk-phobic, she’s a riskophile?

What if she’s the one throwing herself out of a plane while someone boring looks on disapprovingly? What if she’s a fuck-load of fun?

Well, for one thing it makes the story much more enjoyable.

She takes too many risks, learns about consequences and then, when she’s begining to fear taking risks, has to take the biggest one of her life.

Luke-Skywalker-Took-The-Biggest-Risk-Ever-In-Star-Wars

Suddenly the script is far, far better.

Why do people take risks? Why aren’t they afraid of the consequences? Why doesn’t she care enough about herself to rein it in?

Suddenly the script is wide open … without actually changing any of the pre-existing story points.

But what about the antagonist? He was the one taking the risks she was afraid of, now he’s pretty much the same as her. If we change him, we change the whole story … which we can’t do.

Okay, fine. So let’s make him the worst version of her to show her how dangerous her present course of action is. He is what she will become if she doesn’t begin to comprehend consequences …

consequences

And so on.

Forgetting about what we thought the script needed allowed us to find something the script actually needed. It allowed us to find a way to make it actually work.

So that’s my plan from now on – every time I find myself with a fixed idea about what the script needs but not what that thing might be, I’m just going to set that aside and try to imagine what the opposite might be.

And the end of the day, the previous option is still there. Thinking outside of what I believe the script needs might not provide the results, but it doesn’t hurt either. It’s a technique which is serving me well at the moment so, you know, it might be worth a try?

Bullshit or not?

Categories: Bored, My Way, Random Witterings | 1 Comment

Oh dear

So … regular updates. Yes. That didn’t quite happen, did it?

I think it’s fairly safe to say October didn’t go quite as planned.

On the writing side, I had to do a rewrite for a script which is just tipping over into production, got sidetracked by being asked for ideas for a completely different genre to the one I intended to write and also ended up completely junking my existing idea and starting again from scratch. So it’s not like I’ve done nothing, it’s more like I’ve got nothing to show for it.

At least nothing useful to show for it.

Yet.

This is as far as I got with the new idea in October.

2014-10-22 12.39.13

That’s my new laptop, by the way. Sometimes it looks like that, sometimes it looks like this:

2014-10-22 12.39.55

All courtesy of my lovely wife.

On the Proton Pack side of things … well, it turns out a month of weekends isn’t quite enough time to build one. Not when you’re using papier mache anyway. You see, it turns out papier mache takes ages to dry. Hours and hours. Bordering on days. Five layers of papier mache at three days per week takes … well, several weeks.

2014-10-09 12.42.15

Luckily it all accelerates after that …

2014-10-09 12.42.32 2014-10-10 14.41.14 2014-10-11 08.36.09 2014-10-11 15.21.57 2014-10-13 21.43.42 2014-10-13 21.46.47 2014-10-17 22.27.45 2014-10-17 22.27.51 2014-10-17 23.47.11 2014-10-17 23.50.30 2014-10-18 11.11.45 2014-10-19 00.03.12 2014-10-19 12.07.59 2014-10-19 17.15.55 2014-10-20 00.07.38 2014-10-20 00.07.59 2014-10-21 00.31.02 2014-10-25 21.33.09 2014-10-27 19.48.39

But not fast enough.

I even had to take some sewing to my secret writing island in order to get it all done.

2014-10-29 20.56.10

On Halloween itself, desperately jetlagged, I was still fucking about with LEDs and soundcards and painting bottle tops and lolly sticks. I didn’t quite manage to get the smoke machine working, but it kind of came out okay though:

And although the paint was still wet and a few glued on bits fell off … overall, it was a successful night of tricking and treating:

2014-10-31 18.30.11

I even got a free cup of tea from the lovely people at Tennis in the Park.

2014-10-31 20.15.25

So that was my October.

2014-10-31 21.12.442014-11-11 08.18.162014-11-03 19.08.08

November won’t involve any Proton Packs (well, bar maybe a teeny bit of finishing off) …

SMOKE!

… but hopefully should involve a new script.

Probably.

Categories: Random Witterings | Leave a comment

Proton script

Waitress-photo

Happy October!

Is it October yet? If it’s not we must be nearly there, surely? I have a plan for October, even if I’m not 100% certain when it begins. It’s a plan with lots of parts. It’s quite a good plan. I think.

Or maybe it isn’t? I don’t know.

Two sets of circumstances have occurred to lead me to this plan:

1) Both of the scripts I’ve been working on are … well, if not finished then currently in a good place. One’s going out to actors (in a really, really good way), the other is in the hands of my management. Both are awaiting the next phase, whatever that may be.

2) It’s nearly Halloween.

These two things form the crux of my October-Plan.

1) Write a new script. One for me. Something I want to write.

2) Make a Halloween costume.

Number 1) is something I haven’t managed for a long time … despite threatening to do it every six months or so. Something always comes up, but this time I’m pretty certain I’ve actually got the time to do it.

Number 2) … well, I’ve been picking at it for a while and need one last push to get it finished. You see, a couple of months back a mate of mine was going to an 80s’ fancy dress party and decided to go as a Ghostbuster – I offered to make the proton pack for him, for I like making stuff.

Nothing fancy. It had to be cheap, but look vaguely like the real deal. It should be recognisable, if nothing else.

This was the result.

2014-05-10 14.40.57

Made from Tupperware and assorted knick-knacks which were hiding in my shed (if anyone knows why I had all that tubing, I’d love to know) it’s lit with a few Poundshop lights and decorated with labels found at the frankly awesome GBFans.com.

The switches work. It lights up. It fires. It does the job.

2014-05-08 20.05.23

But I can’t help thinking I could have done better.

Plus … I want one. I’ve always wanted one.

And now’s my chance! If I make my own, we can go trick-or-treating with the kids! Last year I went as Batman … there’s at least one kid who thinks he met the real deal.

This year … Ghostbusters all the way!

2014-06-05 13.43.00

This decision was made a few months back and I’ve since been fiddling with various bits of costume. I wanted to make sure I had a fairly accurate one and, like I say, I just like making props.

I started out with the Belt Gizmo. In 1984 this was the insides of a calculator stuck to the Ghostbusters’ belts to make them look all science-y. It didn’t do anything and is never referred to in the film, but I wanted mine to actually do something … so mine detects ghosts:

2014-05-30 22.14.09

2014-05-30 22.15.24-3

Next up was the Ecto-Goggles, as modeled here by Dan Ackroyd:

goggles-screen-grab-2_zps468e2454

Again, I felt mine should do something so I made them with a night-vision mode:

2014-08-09 23.37.19

An infra-red mode:

2014-08-09 23.37.34

And Slimer-vision:

2014-06-17 19.03.03

After that I got a bit cocky and made the PKE Meter out of a clothes brush:

I should probably point out none of these are my original ideas – I’ve copied them extensively from various Internet sources.

Yesterday (depending on when I actually post this) I turned these craptastic 80s toys:

2014-09-28 17.25.59

… into replicas of the Motorola MT500s used by the boys in grey themselves (depsite them actually wearing a kind of beige colour).

2014-09-29 18.51.56

I’ve got a couple of bits and bobs left to do, but mainly I’ve got to build the proton pack … which has to be better than last time. The last one lit up. This one has to light up and make noises and shake when it fires and possibly vent smoke.

That would be nice.

And I won’t be alone. Alice will be joining in:

2014-09-06 17.11.11

So that’s my October planned. Hopefully I’ll finish both by the end of the month by following this schedule:

Tuesday to Friday: off to the Secret Writing Island for some serious, uninterrupted, head down scripting.
Saturday and Sunday daytime: family time.
Saturday and Sunday evening and all day Monday (aside from the odd bit of kung fu in the evenings): build an unlicenced nuclear accelerator.

Anyone who’s interested in seeing my progress (on both projects), there’ll be regular updates here.

Anyone who isn’t … come back in November, I’m sure I’ll be back on ranty-sweary form by then.

October or not, the work starts now.

Is there an emoticon for *excited cackle* or *gleeful hand rub*? If not, please imagine one in this space:

2014-06-18 07.25.41

Categories: My Way, Sad Bastard | Leave a comment

Recipe for success

132394245541710

I hate following recipes.

That’s not to say I’m one of those people who can fashion a gourmet meal out of kitchen scraps, artfully combining them in new and inventive ways by pure instinct. Truth be told, I hate cooking anything I haven’t cooked before – especially if it’s meant to be something recognisable at the end.

Cooking-Disaster

The problem I have is recipes aren’t really instructions. They kind of try to be sometimes, but generally assume you have a degree of cooking knowledge and can understand the difference between complex terms like ‘fold’, ‘beat’ and ‘whisk’ which to my feeble mind all mean ‘stir’.

Possibly vigorously.

355605383

They also use phrases like “a pinch”. A pinch? How much is a pinch? My fingers might be bigger than yours. How do you know I haven’t got massive fucking fingers? That’s hardly fucking science, is it?

My main issue with following recipes though is the fact I can follow them exactly and still not produce the meal I was supposed to be cooking.

2012-08-20 23.27.27

“This is what we’re having for dinner” says Mandy “and here’s the recipe.”

Okay, should be easy. We’ve eaten this dozens of times over the years. I know what it’s supposed to look like and taste like and …

By the way, there is a scriptwriting link coming. Honest.

… roughly what goes into it. Following the recipe should be a doddle.

Except it’s not.

IMAG0479

It never is.

Because one of two things happens: either I get halfway through and discover Mandy hasn’t bought a vital ingredient (for she does the shopping in our house since she spends far less time in the Caribbean than I do) forcing me to stop at a crucial junction and either run to the shops or substitute something random for something I have no idea what it was supposed to be.

“Olive Tapenade? What the fuck is a tapenade? Will Frosties do?”

More often than not, it’s at this point I give up and head for the nearest burger joint.

If I’m not missing an ingredient then I finish cooking to discover the result doesn’t look, smell or taste anything like it does when Mandy makes it.

IMAG0156

Which is frustrating since I was following her recipe.

Of course, the key to unravelling this mystery is to understand one simple fact: Mandy doesn’t follow recipes. She invents bits, for she is a wonderful cook. She doesn’t use Olive Tapenade because she knows I don’t like olives (I once drank a pint of olive oil – that sort of silliness tends to put you off) so substitutes it for something tomato-y.

Killer-Tomato-l

In other dishes she doubles, halves, omits or adds various ingredients because she’s cooked these dishes a few times and likes to experiment. When she serves a specific dish it’s not actually the one specified by the recipe because she’s altered it into something else. I can follow the same recipe a hundred times and never come close to approximating the dish she serves because I have no idea what it actually is.

And I don’t think this is uncommon. A good cook looks at the recipe and then disregards the bits which don’t fit his or her tastes. A good cook recognises a recipe isn’t a set of instructions, it’s a set of guidelines. It’s a statement which says:

“I did it this way because it works for me, do something similar which works for you.”

It occurs to me that this might be the correct approach to use when learning screenplay structure. Some writers are appalled by the notion that something artistic might have rules … completely ignoring the fact that ALL art has rules. Or perhaps just guidelines. Or recipes.

They’ll point to great artists like Picasso and go “well he didn’t follow the rules, so why should I?”

Pablo_Quotes_02

Which is odd, because if you ever go to the Picasso museum in Barcelona (you know, that one somewhere down off Las Ramblas – near that bar which has trees in it and fairies and a haunted castle-room-thing at the back … no idea what it’s called. The museum. Or the bar for that matter.) then you can clearly see Picasso learnt all the rules, painted some rather dull portraits before giving up and just taking the piss out of people.

At least, that’s my theory. There’s this great exhibit which you see an original artwork by someone or other and then Picasso’s version next to it. The original is a near-photo-quality portrait. Picasso’s version looks like Bod.

bod

And is worth ten times as much.

In other words, Picasso learnt the recipe and then did his own version. He changed the bits he felt needed changing to suit his style … but he still followed certain rules of composition.

Probably.

I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about and appear to be mixing metaphors all over the place.

download

Or am I folding them?

Possibly beating. Not sure.

The point, if I ever had one, is there’s nothing wrong with seeking out other people’s recipes for scriptwriting. I find it interesting to study them and see what I can learn from them. I don’t follow them to the letter though – I like to mix and match, to deviate from the recipe in ways which enhance the script.

Or at least I think they enhance the script.

Maybe they don’t?

Maybe I should just follow the recipes exactly? Maybe I should just shut the hell up because I’ve no idea why I started talking about this crap?

Yes, that sounds more likely.

Here, have some recipe-themed funk instead.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way | Leave a comment

TV programmes only I’ve seen: #1 – Tales of the Gold Monkey

I had a spare afternoon recently so I sat down and wrote out four new blog posts – four weeks’ worth of pointless tosh … and now I can’t find them. I suspect I saved them to my desktop and then deleted them in some frenzied docu-purge … but I can’t be sure.

Bugger.

So, instead of what was probably a torrent of meaningless rambling, I’m forced to write something meaningful and insightful … or talk about 80′s TV.

Yeah, fuck it, 80′s TV it is.

images

There are certain TV programmes I loved as a kid which no-one else appears to have heard of. Well, clearly not no-one because somebody must have heard of them or seen them. I find it highly unlikely I was the only person in the UK to have watched these things … it just sometimes feels like that.

Which is a shame, because these programmes are an important part of my childhood memories – they’re cultural touchstones only I seem to have touched… thus rendering them completely and utterly useless. I mean, what’s the point of holding onto a memory for thirty-odd years if you can’t reminisce about them with anyone? So this post (and any subsequent ones, if I can be arsed) are solely designed to see if anyone else shared these tiny moments of joy in the dark and dangerous past.

First up:

TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY! What a fucking awesome show! It had everything: planes, violence, a one-eyed dog, sexy (important to a ten year old) women, violence, Nazis, exotic locations and more violence. And cigars.

download (3)

Cigars were very important on TV in the 80′s.

download (2)

real-starbuck

_55587426_savile1_bodybbc

Tales of the Gold Monkey was a cross between (rip off of) Indiana Jones and Only Angels Have Wings (which apparently no-one else has seen either, so it’s pointless mentioning).

Set on a fictional South Sea island (probably – I was ten! I have no idea where it was set.) Tales of the Gold Monkey was a rollicking adventure series, the story of pilot Jake Cutter, played by Decker from Star Trek (not to be confused with Riker from ST:TNG who was completely different. Completely. Honest, he had a beard and everything!).

download (5)

Jake was the pilot (and one time owner, until he lost it in a poker game or something like that) of Cutter’s Goose, a frankly awesome sea plane … or possibly the only sea plane I’ve seen portrayed in a TV show. One of the two.

tFDDJ

Jake, together with his alcoholic engineer, Corky(?) …

images (1)

… and Jack (a one-eyed dog who barked once for yes and twice for no (or the other way round, probably the other way round) and was the most intelligent character in the show)

images (2)

… they flew around a bit and fought Nazis and hunted treasure and punched people and … just generally had adventures. They may or may not have discovered a few lost civilisations – I can’t remember.

Yes, I know I can just use the Internet to fill in the details, but that’s really not the point, is it?

Is it?

What else?

There was Sarah (I think she was called Sarah, she looks like a Sarah in my head) who was … um … something. A US spy, perhaps? Did she run the company which employed Jake? That sounds about right. I think she owned Cutter’s Goose. Or maybe she didn’t?

Capture4

Now I come to think of it, maybe Jake lost Jack’s eye in a poker game and not the plane? I’m guessing Sarah was Jake’s will-they/won’t-they love interest and/or added to keep Dads from turning over in the way all 80′s adventure shows added at least one token woman to be tokenly sexy … but then usually dressed them in oddly unsexy, neck to ankle dresses with lots of frills.

download (6)

Apart from Jodie in The Fall Guy, of course.

download (7)

Oh, and Daisy Duke.

Daisy_Dukes

And maybe one of the truck-bound engineer women in Knightrider? I’ve a feeling there were two of them and one was decidedly more token-sexy than the other … but I may be wrong.

Did this happen on women-based adventure shows like Charlie’s Angels or The Bionic Woman? Did they chuck in a scantily clad bloke just for kicks? Probably not.

Fuck it, I will – just to add balance.

buck-rogers-for-the-ladies

Tales of the Gold Monkey did have a female co-lead (or co-sub-lead) anyway. Oh and a Dragon Lady-type character who probably wasn’t actually Chinese since I’m not sure they let Chinese people be on telly much in the 80′s.

download

In my mind she ran the drug trade and was in league with the Nazis and was very sexy, but I might be getting her confused with a character from Buck Rogers?

Buck6

Or maybe even Flash Gordon?

aura

Fucking hell, did Princesses in space never wear clothes?

download (1)

I think there was a fornicating vicar who was a Nazi spy and a guy who ran the bar (Golden Monkey Bar?) who might have been in Planet of the Apes.

Or am I making this up now?

Maybe Tales of the Gold Monkey wasn’t as formative a memory as I first thought? There certainly seems to be less of it than I thought I remembered.

I don’t know why no-one except me saw this show. Possibly it was an age thing? It only ran for one season so anyone a year or two younger than me (apart from my brother, who definitely saw it) might not have been allowed to stay up until whenever it was on whatever day it was on?

Or maybe it was shit?

Maybe I’m largely getting mixed up with this:

I’ve got a vague feeling Bring ‘em Back Alive was on at the same time on the other side (yes, THE other side. There were only two channels back then … if you don’t count BBC 2, which no one did when we were ten).

Regardless of the quality of the actual Tales of the Gold Monkey, the version in my head is awesome and I’d love to write a movie version of it. So, you know, if you can arrange that for me it would be greatly appreciated.

I’m going to stop now because I’m bored.

TALES  OF THE GOLD MONKEY – find it, watch it, love it!

Categories: Bored, Random Witterings | 4 Comments

Conversations to quit over #2

download (1)

Great script, great script … just a couple of points, really. Names.

Names?

Names.

Okay.

There’s too many of them.

Too many characters?

No, you’ve got the right number of characters, but there are too many names.

You want some of them called the by the same name? Like six Barry’s or five Mildreds?

No, no, no. You’re not understanding me.

Oh, you noticed?

The protagonist has too many names. Dan, Danny, Daniel … it’s too many. Pick one name and stick to it.

Right.

It’s confusing.

I see. The thing is, it’s kind of meant to be like that.

Confusing?

No. His mother calls him Daniel because she’s a bit stuck up and is disappointed in him, his father calls him Danny because he can’t let his son grow up and still thinks of him as a little boy, and his friends call him Dan because to them he’s a peer.

Yeah, exactly. Confusing. One character, one name. Like Indiana Jones. One name. Everyone calls him Indy.

Expect Marcus Brody who calls him Indiana?

Well, yeah, except him.

Or Short Round who calls him Dr. Jones in public and Indy in private?

Um, well …

Actually, I think all the Nazis call him Dr Jones too, don’t they? So does Belloq, maybe?

Yeah, but that’s fine, because he is a doctor.

Right. And his father calls him Junior.

Yes, but that’s his father.

Come to think of it, is it only the women who call him Indy? And Short Round. Sometimes.

The point is, Indiana Jones isn’t confusing, but this script is.

Because?

Because I didn’t understand it.

You didn’t understand that Dan, Danny and Daniel referred to the same person? Even when the dialogue and character name always refers to him as Dan throughout the entire script? And the only time his father calls him Danny, there’s only the two of them in the scene and the dialogue is immediately preceded by the action line “Dan’s father grabs Dan’s arm”?

Exactly!
(beat)
Would it help if we replaced Danny with a talking kangaroo?

download

Categories: Bored | Leave a comment

Hi-tech vs. State of the Art

There is no point to this picture

Which is better?

Do they mean the same thing?

Can I arbitrarily choose one over the other?

Does it actually matter?

These

Well … yes, it does. The knock on effect of one over the other is an entire page of script and several hours more work.

By the way, this post is really fucking whiny. If you’re having a good day, don’t bother reading this – it’s all a bit pointless.

hidden

 

There’s that odd point in a script’s life where everyone loves it. It’s done. We’ve spent months heading down numerous blind alleys and years tweaking it as new people come and go from the project and opportunities rise and fall.

Yes, if it goes into production then there’ll be continuous fire-fighting as we try to match the budget or cope with the usual strops, disasters, incompetence, death and just general misfortune … but for now, the script is as good as it’s going to get.

Except for that one lone voice, somewhere in the production tangle, who decides the script is too long. It needs to be under so many pages. Needs to be.

Personally, I’ve never met the people who say this because it always come to me through a third party – the pronouncement comes down from on high and suddenly the script needs to be trimmed.

words

My first drafts are always under 110 pages (well, nearly always … except when they’re not) because I control exactly what I’m putting in there. Second drafts are usually shorter because I hate everything I put in the first draft. Third draft onwards stuff keeps getting added – we need this scene and we want this actor who wants to do this and we’ve got this location which we MUST use and someone’s lent us a Ferrari so we need that in there somewhere. Oh and we need a sex scene. Preferably in the Ferrari … but with a towel down.

And so on.

The script gets longer for a bit, then it gets shorter for a bit and finally it balances out somewhere in the mid hundred-and-teens.

Then the “under x number of pages” bomb gets dropped. As it always does, even when the script is already lean and everyone agrees that everything in the script is absolutely essential to the story.

Obviously half of the absolutely essential stuff won’t get filmed because the actors on the day will have a ‘better’ idea, but at the moment it all seems essential.

There’s just too much essential stuff, can I fix it?

I hate this point in the script, it’s a fucking moronic request because I’m not going to make it shorter by cutting anything expensive or time-consuming … I’m going to make it shorter by cheating.

This script will magically lose five to ten pages without actually losing anything worthwhile. It won’t be cheaper to make or quicker to film, it will be exactly the same film … just have less pages.

That’s why it’s fucking moronic.

I don’t blame anyone, I’m not calling anyone a fucking moron … I’m just pointing out the accepted wisdom on what page count actually means in terms of screentime/budget really just means a day or two of pointless fiddling for me.

This always felt impossible when I first started – how can you trim five to ten pages from a script without changing it?

are

Well, now I can. I’m sure everyone has their own tricks, but basically I just try to kill all the widows and orphans.

Get rid of them. Every single fucking one. No block of dialogue nor piece of action can have even one word slipping onto the next line. I hate doing this with dialogue, so I’ll do it with action first – if that’s not enough, then I go back through with a dialogue pass.

Frequently I can get away with just tweaking the right-hand margin by one character. Weirdly, if I do this to the whole script, say move the global dialogue margin one space to the right … then it’s immediately noticeable. It all just looks wrong and people can tell I’ve cheated.

One of the first things I do when I get a Final Draft script from someone else is put the margins back to where they should be so I can see how long the script actually is. But one space here and there, now and then … it’s less noticeable. Practically undetectable in fact. Two spaces stand out a mile, one space … yeah, fine.

If I’ve used an ellipsis to end dialogue or action then I’m not so bothered – that can run three or four spaces out and it’s not really a problem. To me. Other opinions are available.

just

If that’s not enough (and it’s surprising how much space I can reclaim) then I might have to delete a word or two or comb through the thesaurus for a similar word which is one or two characters shorter.

I try to get the first line (of whatever, dialogue, action … sometimes even scene headings) of page 2 onto page 1. There’s always a way, somehow. Then I do the same for the first line of page 3 (onto page 2, not page 1 – that would be fucking weird) and so on. Every page HAS to have the first line on the preceding page.

Except when it’s impossible. Then I don’t bother.

for

Sadly, among the first casualties are the bits which make reading the script easier. Passages like:

He shoots …

 

Misses.

 

She shoots …

 

Misses.

 

Reload! Reload! Hurry the fuck up! Reload!

 

She drops her powder – oh shit.

 

Triumphant, he snaps his pistol closed, takes careful aim …

 

… sneers …

 

… and …

 

… the escaped Bolivian rhino smashes through the wall, charges straight over him and tramples him into strawberry jam.

Become:

He shoots … Misses.

 

She shoots … Misses.

 

Reload! Reload! Hurry the fuck up! Reload!

 

She drops her powder – oh shit!

 

Triumphant, he snaps his pistol closed, takes careful aim … sneers … and … the escaped Bolivian rhino smashes through the wall, charges straight over him and tramples him into strawberry jam.

Or maybe:

He shoots … Misses. She shoots … Misses.

 

Reload! Reload! Hurry the fuck up! Reload!

 

She drops her powder. He snaps his pistol closed, takes careful aim … sneers … and … the escaped Bolivian rhino smashes through the wall, charges straight over him and tramples him into a gooey mess.

Or in extreme cases.

They shoot, miss and scramble to reload. She drops her powder. He snaps his pistol closed, aims … and is flattened by a charging rhino.

Now the last sentence is probably better being shorter. The spacing of the first bits just makes it all a bit worse. And that’s my problem with this process – I’m not making it cheaper or more tightly written, I’m just making it a little bit worse for no real reason.

Michelle

Because of the way Final Draft (and probably other programs) clumps action or dialogue together, a small change on page 1 can make a HUGE change at the end of the script. In my last script, saving one line on page 1 dragged an action block up from page 2 which knocked on all the way through the script until it moved ALL of page 106 onto page 105. All of it. An entire page of action and dialogue moved to the requisite 105 pages by changing four words:

State of the Art into Hi-Tech.

Saving those nine characters cuts off an entire page of script. Not just one line which had spilled onto page 106, but an entire pageful of text.

And everyone’s happy.

Lipton

Everyone except me.

and

Because I like the phrase STATE OF THE ART more than I like the phrase HI-TECH. Same all the way through – I originally chose all those words and pacing for a reason. The script is now shorter, but it reads worse as a result.

Does it matter?

maybe

Maybe. Maybe the short, truncated rhythm will put readers off. Maybe it won’t. In the end, if the film gets made, no one will ever know … but, damn it, the script is my art form. It’s what I produce. The film is my work filtered through the minds of a small army of creatives. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But the script … that’s mine and I’m forced to make it (slightly) worse to please people who think the page count is somehow important. Which it isn’t.

Not really.

Piers

But the myth persists and as long as people believe it, I’ll continue to spend hours staring at every page in the vague hope I can delete a preposition or remove a punctuation mark without removing all meaning.

Writing – occasionally it’s hard work.

Beckley

 

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Stupid script readers

blog_script-reader-skills

All script writers instinctively know that all script readers are failed writers.

It’s just a fact.

Not a true fact, but a fact all the same.

We also know that all script readers are fucking imbeciles who wouldn’t understand how a story works if we explained it with graphs and slides and diagrams and possibly even a cute, animated cartoon character.

This too is a fact. Despite being completely wrong.

hatemail_25_01

How can it be a fact and be wrong at the same time?

It can’t, you fucking idiot … and it’s not. Those statements are true/wrong at different times.

Script readers are imbecilic, know-nothing wannabe-writers … immediately after reading their notes and for about an hour or so afterwards. Possibly more, depending on how right their notes actually are. After that, there’s a gradual dissolve from being wrong/stupid to being right/annoying.

Sometimes they’re even embarrassingly right.

Even when they are genuinely wrong about something, the fact they’re wrong about it is important.

Let’s say a moronic script reader (for I have just read his/her notes and am near blind with rage) has completely and utterly missed the point of something I’ve written. Ten pages of their twelve page report is going on and fucking on about how the script fails to properly address something I haven’t even fucking mentioned and didn’t intend to.

7TKxd

They’ve read the script, wrongly assumed two guys are having an affair with each other and then further assumed that it’s woefully unclear that they are having an affair when they’re fucking not.

Fucking.

Each other.

“The writer needs to bring the affair more to the front,” they witter “if the audience are to understand the emotional implications for all concerned.”

“Perhaps there’s more to be mined from exploring how the men feel about their affair given the prevailing homophobic sentiments of that organisation at that point in history?” they’ll chunter on and fucking on.

“Maybe,” they’ll ramble, in an endless fucking stream of pointless fucking wrongness “the dual protagonists should get caught? Since the main strand of the movie is the consequences of their actions, this might help lift the dramatic question out of the murk and … “

Blah, blah, fucking blah.

Misunderstanding_cda0dc_4742070

There aren’t even any fucking men in this script! They’re all women! And none of them are having an affair! Not with each other or anyone else! The reason the consequences of their actions are not mined more is because there are no fucking consequences of their fucking actions because they’re not fucking fucking! Why the fuckity fuck can you not see that?

Ah, finally, a sensible question.

Why can’t they see it? Why do they think there are men in this script who are having an affair?

Instead of assuming stupidity, let’s assume this is a well-educated, well-read, intelligent individual who, for some reason, has misunderstood the point I’m trying to get across.

thumb-00004

Why?

That’s what’s important here.

I could rail against them and their inability to comprehend simple fucking English. I could decide they’re just too fucking stupid to read my script … but the fact remains, whether they’re smart or dumb … they misunderstood my script.

That means my script can be misunderstood.

downloadBy anyone.

Possibly by everyone.

This will never do.

If this script reader, no matter their qualifications, experience or ability, has made this mistake then maybe everyone else will?

Maybe calling one woman Ashley and the other Sam was a mistake? Maybe there’s some line somewhere which is ambiguously worded which will confuse the fuck out of everyone who reads the script? Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the script, but some of the people who read it are bringing their own opinions/baggage and assuming things to be true which weren’t intended?

Whatever the reason, something probably needs to be fixed.

images

Even, and this is probably rare, even if the script reader is a fucking moron … the script still needs to be fixed so that no one else will ever make the same mistake.

Maybe that means underlining the introduction of the two women, ASHLEY and SAM? Maybe it means picking more feminine names? Maybe it means combing through for words like affair or longing or desire and deleting/changing them?

The problem as I see it is less one of misunderstanding and more one of miscommunication – I haven’t communicated the idea properly and if one person has gotten the wrong interpretation then so might the next. And the next. And the next … because, at the end of the day, I have no control over the IQ of the people reading my script and even the smartest people make mistakes … especially when it’s not crystal clear to begin with.

images (1)

I can’t choose whose desk this does or doesn’t land on – all I can do is try to make sure it’s clear, simple and moron proof.

Which is tricky when (possibly) the stupidest person reading it is the moron who wrote it in the first place.

Chimpanzee_seated_at_typewriter

Categories: Industry Musings, Random Witterings | 1 Comment

Repointing the pyramid

9901290107

Somebody I follow recently tweeted:

Saying the script’s great but the end needs tweaking is a bit like saying “Great pyramid, but can you move the point six inches to the left?”

Actually, it might not have been recently. Or someone I follow. Or even on Twitter. I have no idea. Not even convinced it’s 140 characters and I’m far too lazy to bother counting to find out.

It might be a famous quote.

It may even have been something I overheard in a public toilet, but that seems unlikely.

penis-war

Whoever said/wrote it in whatever context, pat yourself on the back and (if you read this) feel free to identify yourself in the comments so others can (virtually) pat you too.

Because it’s a great analogy.

Recently I’ve had to do the opposite. I’ve had a script which needed the beginning moved six inches to the left. Or right. To be honest, no one was really sure where it needed moving to.

The problem was, no one who read the script cared about the protagonist. For he is a massive cock. Which was kind of the point. The idea was to have the protagonist gradually reveal himself to be the antagonist and for his girlfriend to gradually take over as the protagonist.

Bluestone_the_Great_unmasked

Which, structually, works really well.

In terms of caring about the protagonist … not so much.

The problem is, the stakes don’t really become apparent until halfway through the story. Until then, it’s interesting … but only in an intellectual way. That’s not good enough, it needs to be interesting in an interesting way.

The solution was clear, the proper protagonist needs to be more of a protagonist from the beginning. Dual protagonists from the word go. More than that, she needs to be the primary protagonist in a 51/49 percent split. It’s about both of them, but it’s more about her than it is about him.

Sounds easy enough, just give her more dialogue, subtly refocus the early scenes so she’s the instigator from the get go, essentially shuffle him six inches to the left and her six to the right until she’s in the spotlight instead of him.*

superman-ii-prison-shadows

Easy.

Except it’s not. Because it turns out, under the glare of the spotlight, that as a character, she’s paper thin. Bordering on transparent.

She seemed fully rounded and well thought out with motivations and goals and all the stuff a character is supposed to have … but somehow, moving her into the spotlight made all that stuff disappear. And, as a consequence, the entire film collapsed with her.

Now this isn’t a writing boys vs writing girls moral. It’s not about me developing male characters better than female ones. It’s about a character designed to be a protagonist being more meaty than one designed to (initially) support the protagonist.

sylvester-mccoy-bobbie-langford-doctor-who-431x300

If it helps, think about (arbitarily) trying to tell Star Wars (the proper Star Wars, the first one. I’m not down with all that Episode 4 – A New Hope retconning bullshit. It’s fucking called Star Wars because that’s its fucking name) from Obi Wan’s point of view.

Obi Wan’s a great supporting character, but really all he does is impart wisdom, fill in some backstory and then get killed. That is his function. He doesn’t learn anything or need anything, there’s no central irony to his character … or at least none I can think of with PEOPLE FUCKING SHOUTING! IN MY FUCKING EAR! WHAT? WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?

Oh right, I have to move. Hang on.

TCF

I’m back.

I should probably stop typing everything I’m thinking but … well, I’m in the flow.

Sorry, where was I?

Oh yes, so Obi Wan works well as a supporting character in Star Wars, but if you decided to tell the whole film from his point of view then you’d (probably) find out he’s a bit on the thin side. You’d need to give him an inner goal or a need or perhaps a more concrete goal from the off.

Maybe you’d need to go into more depth concerning how he feels about being the last (as far as he knows?) Jedi?

Or maybe there’d need to be more about how he secretly looks out for Luke (assuming he does?).

Or maybe even a good hour of him looking in the mirror and wondering what the fuck happened considering he’s apparently only in his mid-forties. I mean, seriously, what the fuck? What kind of bad paper round would you have to have as a kid to look like that in your forties?

Obi-WanSouthCarolina

See? All this prequel bullshit makes life so complicated.

No prequels, just the trilogy. Just the trilogy, just the trilogy …

Imagine me rocking back and forth and dribbling, if it helps.

The point is, in order to move any secondary (tertiary?) character into the lead role isn’t as simple as repurposing a bit of dialogue or the odd scene, it involves a complete and utter tear down and rebuild of the script.

It’s repointing the pyramid.

Finding a motivation, need and want for a protagonist which ties in thematically and carries an inherent irony AFTER the script has been written is a complete and utter pain in the arse.

pain_in_the_ass

Five fucking times I’ve started, got as far as page 40 and realised it makes no fucking sense.

Yes, I should have planned it out before I started rewriting.

But I didn’t.

Not properly.

Every time I started, it seemed to work. It seemed to be clear and obvious and … well, it fucking wasn’t.

But I’ve cracked it now. I think. Maybe. It seems to be working anyway and I’ve got to the final act. In a way, I guess I’ve moved the base of the pyramid six inches to the left without moving the point.

The only question I have now is … was did the client mean his left or my left?

download

Bugger.

————————————————————-

* Does that work? Would that not put both of them in the spotlight? Or both of them out? Wait, let me think about this. I need some volunteers and a lightbulb. Or my fingers. I’ll do it with my fingers. Yeah, it works. Kind of.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Things I've Learnt Recently | Leave a comment

Who killed Nelson Nutmeg?

1380849_798785346816437_1565318770_n

I don’t know, do you know?

Of course you don’t.

Do you want to know?

Well, probably not without some context. Let me elucidate …

10403447_855623647799273_1799493908196511582_n

Tim Clague and Danny Stack are people. Specifically they’re people who write/direct/generally make things. They also host the monthly UK Scriptwriters’ Podcast which they deliver direct to your ears for absolutely nothing.

Nothing. Free.

They give you that.

For free.

For nothing.

Because they’re nice like that.

Or they have some secret agenda involving sterilising zebras, eradicating the genes responsible for toe hair and generally interfering with the natural order of things to leave them joint kings of the world.

Probably the first one though.

If you’re a UK scriptwriter and you don’t listen to the UK Scriptwriters’ Podcast, then you’re a fucking idiot.

320x240_4988826

Or, you know, you just don’t bother/haven’t heard of it/haven’t got the time or have heard it and aren’t that interested.

Probably the second-delete-as-applicable-option in this case.

Whether you listen to the Podcast or not (I do, I like it. Despite them occasionally abusing me on air for no apparent reason other than apparently deserving it … which is apparently fair enough. I’d abuse me too if I wasn’t me. Which I am. Sadly.) is kind of irrelevant.

Much like most of this blog.

What is relevant is Danny and Tim are making a film and they’d like you to come along for the ride. They’re not demanding or wheedling or asking permission – they’re going anyway, you can come if you like.

Or not.

But as is so often the case in life, coming would be lovelier than not.

You may choose to read that as an innuendo if it makes you feel better.

Tim and Danny are two guys who give unceasingly to the scriptwriting community. Their blogs http:///www.dannystack.com/blog and http://www.projectorfilms.blogspot.com/ are two of the longest running in the blogosphere and packed to the … well, not rafters, um … edges? with helpful and friendly info and advice. Those too are delivered to your eyes for free.

They give and they keep on giving, for they are nice guys.

Tim_Danny-label.large

Well, I think they are, anyway. They certainly seem to be whenever we’ve met. I like them. We’re almost friends.

Almost.

Internet friends, as Tim has pointed out. On air (on pod?). To everyone who cares to listen. Which I assume means “we can be friends so long as we don’t have to actually interact in any meaningful way” or “no, you can’t come round my house. Ever”.

Which is fair enough. I am ginger (ish).

Anyway, the point is they’re making this film: Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? and they’d quite like you to join in. They’re doing it anyway, but if you want to give them something back for all the stuff they’ve selflessly given to you, then now’s your chance.

“How can I do this fabulous thing?” you are, doubtlessly, yelling at your electronic blog-reading device. Well, it’s simple, you can go to Kickstarter, to a page which is remarkably similar to this one. So similar, it is this one, in fact. Simply go there and pledge some money. Only a little bit, if you like.

10458130_855036194524685_8378967881373028579_n

Or a lot. You could always pledge a lot.

But you don’t have to. Every pound is accepted with grace and humility and much appreciation.

I assume.

To be honest, they may sneer at your gullibility and immediately spunk it all on fags and wicker-prostitutes (which are all the rage round the intelligentsia of Dorset), I don’t know for I am not them.

Seems unlikely though. I’ve had noodles with Danny and it was extremely delightful.

You may choose to read that as an euphemism if it makes you feel better.

I’ve not had noodles with Tim, but he did once offer me some sage advice:

“If you’re ever at a screenwriting event, sitting next to someone influential who’s giving advice … just nod sagely. Not as if you’re agreeing, but as if they’ve got it right. Well done them.”

10369056_854479004580404_3918910792546443146_o

I think that’s what he said, anyway. I might have imagined it.

(I didn’t imagine it, he did say it. He said it about Armando Iannucci in Cheltenham. I’m just pretending to be vague in case he doesn’t want people to know he said it … but he did! He fucking did!)

Sounds like something he’d say.

(Because he did say it!)

It’s good advice anyway.

Free advice too.

It cost me nothing.

Just like all the other free advice they give to you all the time. For free.

So if you, like me, want to know Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? then you, like me, can go to their Kickstarter page and give, like me, some small pittance towards helping them get their film made.

They’re doing it anyway, why not join them on the ride? And nod sagely at them from the sidelines:

“Yes. Yes, good. Uh-huh. Well done, that’s exactly right.”

 

Categories: Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,474 other followers