Monthly Archives: October 2008

I’m a celebrity

No, seriously, I am. I found out this morning.

If you go to Hollywood.com and click on celebrities and search for my name, you come up with something which looks almost exactly like this:

http://www.hollywood.com/celebrity/Phillip_Barron/5106935

See? I’m a celebrity, a website I’d never heard of until this morning says so. Curiously, no one’s registered as my number one fan yet, but I’m sure that’s just a matter of time.

Right, I’m off to sell my used underwear on ebay.

Categories: Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 5 Comments

Writer’s vision

Another first for me today – a producer asked me for a ‘Writer’s Vision’ for the sales pack.

Writer’s Vision? I don’t have a vision.

Except maybe that one about a world where all people are equal … except me, who’s in charge. And possibly the Dutch who can be used for medical experiments.

In fact, due to a desperate need for glasses and a massive antipathy towards my own welfare, I’ve barely got any vision at all. The world around me ends after ten feet in a comforting fog. Driving’s a bit of an adventure and road signs are a complete mystery until I’m just passing them.

I felt clarification was needed.

Of the term ‘Writer’s Vision’ not of the road signs – I quite enjoy not knowing what road I’m on. Danger may not be my middle name, but it’s certainly stamped on my driving license in big red letters.

Apparently a Writer’s Vision should include: what story/message I hope to be told with my script and my inspiration/motivation for writing it.

Ah, right, well, why didn’t you say?

The story I want to be told is the one I wrote down in the script and my motivation was ‘hoping to get a fuck load of money’.

Does that count?

As for inspiration, that’s easy:

http://www.plotshot.com/

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings | 1 Comment

Ten percent of a hundred equals …

Writing a feature screenplay is hard. 100-ish pages, that’s a lot of work and a lot of work takes a lot of time. It’s a given. Everyone knows if you want a screenplay written well, you have to allocate the time to do it.

A treatment on the other hand – 10 pages? Only 10? Well, obviously a tenth of the page count should only take a tenth of the time. I once wrote a screenplay in three days (it was shit) so therefore the treatment should only have taken three hours.

Assuming time were decimal or the Earth span really, really fast. Which it isn’t and doesn’t; but my maths (math?) skills are far too feeble to cope with ten percent of 72 hours. Oh, wait … 7.2 hours. I get that now.

Fuck it, anyway … the point is there’s an assumption about the relationship between time and page count which just isn’t true. A ten page treatment can take exactly the same amount of time to write as a 100 page script.

Is it annoying anyone else that I’m using an inconsistent system to write numbers? Words or numbers, I really should pick one.

Sorry, getting distracted again.

I think sometimes it’s difficult for producers or directors who don’t write to understand why a treatment takes as long as a script. A ten page script usually takes a tenth of the time to film as a 100 page script, so why the discrepancy in the writing time?

Assuming (again) that there is a discrepancy for everyone else and I’m not out on a limb talking about problems no one else suffers from. You know, like when you tell a room full of people about how you hate that feeling when you get up in the middle of the night, go to the toilet in the dark and then wake up to find you only dreamt the bit about going to the toilet and have in fact wet the bed … and everyone shuffles away from you because they’ve never done that.

Personally, I think a good treatment should solve almost all the problems you’ll face when you come to writing the script. There shouldn’t be lines which gloss over the complicated bits like:

“She solves the puzzle and gets the treasure.”

or

“He wins her heart back by doing something romantic. Possibly involving a yoyo.”

Those lines may just about be acceptable in a synopsis (apart from the yoyo line), but to me the treatment is the script without dialogue. I go scene by scene, describing everything that happens both physically and emotionally. Sometimes I even include the odd line of dialogue, if I feel it’s absolutely necessary; but generally it’s a scene by scene description of the movie.

When I was a kid I was briefly in the cubs (before the incident with the bug spray and the rubber gloves which we never, ever talk about) and it coincided with the time Doctor Who was being shown twice a week. The upshot was I missed every second episode. This was in a land before video (or at least affordable home video) and I would have been lost if my mum hadn’t dutifully watched each missed episode and described it to me whilst walking to school the next day. She wouldn’t perform the dialogue, but she would describe each scene in enough detail for me to visualise what was going on. So successfully in fact, that years later when I finally saw the missing episodes – I couldn’t work out which ones I hadn’t seen. Thanks for that, mum.

I always bear that in mind when I’m writing a treatment. I’m telling every detail of the story as it will unfold in the finished script. There can’t be any gaps or bits to work out later – this is where the spine of the story is nailed down.

Sure, there will be extra bits added later. Things will change, scenes will move around, characters will be added or lost; but in essence, my treatments are a first draft.

And that’s why they take as long as a script to write; because I am writing the script in my head. Every scene, every action line, every word of dialogue – I go through the whole thing in my mind and then boil it down until only the essence of the scene is left. What makes it to the page is a description of what happened, scene by scene, in the movie I’ve just created in my head.

If anything, writing a treatment should take longer than a screenplay because there’s an extra step involved. Everything has to be mentally written and then summarised. It’s this process which helps me spot the flaws in the story. Why don’t they just run away? Why does she find him attractive? How come no one noticed the mild-mannered guy has blood spattered all over his face and the murder victim’s teeth marks in his arm?

I like to try and solve all these things before I go anywhere near a script. It’s just easier to prepare everything well in advance and it’s more useful to the person waiting for the treatment. If all the details are there, they can accurately judge what the finished script is going to be like. There shouldn’t be any surprises at this stage, the map should accurately reflect the territory and that takes time to accomplish.

All of which sounds like a long-winded excuse for still not having finished the treatment – but I have. I finished it on Monday in a blaze of inspiration and panic. I’m lucky because the guys I work with are generally lovely and don’t hassle me about stuff like this. Sometimes there are deadlines, but most of the time they trust me to get on with it and just send gentle prodding emails asking how it’s coming along.

Well, it’s done now. It’s over. I’ve handed it in and am eagerly awaiting the notes. There may be enough to justify a second treatment or I may go straight to script – I’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime I’m going straight back to the rewrite I interrupted for this treatment,

Or I might go out and play for a bit first.

Categories: My Way, Progress | 5 Comments

www.e16media.com

I’ve been trying to find a way of phrasing this which doesn’t make it seem like just a blatant plug … but I can’t.

So I won’t.

The fact is this is just a blatant plug for a friend’s new business: www.e16media.com.

Apparently E16 Media is … “a cutting edge new media business offering everything for artistes, film makers and media professionals to stand out from the crowd in today’s increasingly technology-driven entertainment landscape.”

I have no idea what that means, but there’s some information on the website.

Hmm … I feel a bit dirty now, but that’s nothing new. Sothcott, you owe me a cup of tea.

Categories: Someone Else's Way | 2 Comments

Procrastination meme

I’ve been tagged by CNUT:

“List the top five ways you distract yourself when you should be writing and then procrastinate some more by sending it to all those other writers who should really procrastinate more often.”

Top five, that’s quite difficult. All five probably involve the Internet in some fashion. It really is the world’s best tool for not actually accomplishing anything. Most days I can procrastinate non-stop without having to leave my office. Today, on the other hand, I successfully avoided doing any work by driving to Brighton and letting a stranger pull a tooth out of my face whilst being so heavily sedated I have no memory of the event.

It’s a very strange thing when you can’t remember a portion of the day which involves drills, pliers and your face; but I went from an injection in my hand to someone poking me in the ear and telling me to go home. I lost a tooth AND half an hour of my life. It just doesn’t seem fair somehow. Mandy, on the other hand, thought my post-drug confusion was hilarious and has been making fun of me all day.

Meanwhile, back at the point; my top five methods of procrastination:

  1. Responding to emails. The trick here is to make sure everything you write ends with a question, that way the person receiving the email feels obliged to respond, meaning you have to reply again and before you know it, it’s lunch time. I get a couple of emails a week from random strangers asking for advice (Why me? Seriously, I give slightly less useful advice than inanimate objects) and they always apologise for taking up my time. Apologies are nice, but completely unnecessary. I might have had to do some work if they hadn’t emailed.
  2. Internet forums. There are a few forums I check on a minutely basis, just in case I’ve missed a really interesting thread I have no intention of replying to. Occasionally I do chip in, but generally I just lurk and laugh to myself at the inanity of it all. My particular favourite is watching people with no experience argue continuously about how to format a specific element of a script. It’s great, you get pages of people quoting various gurus who also have zero experience of actually writing and selling scripts. I’m not saying these people have nothing useful to teach, but most of the minor quibbly points of format just don’t matter. No one really cares, as long as the finished project looks roughly like a screenplay; but people spend more time arguing about what it said in the last book they read than actually writing.
  3. Reading blogs. I read all the ones on my blogroll, but I also branch off from there to read the ones other people link to. This really can go on all day. I waste even more time composing eloquent replies to almost everything and then deleting them because they make me sound like a tosser. Or, you know, more of a tosser than usual. Occasionally I find a useful nugget of information which shines new light on a particular method of working and dramatically improves my skill as a writer. Mostly it’s just a mildly voyeuristic way of wasting an hour or so.
  4. Watching crap TV. After all that time in front of the monitor I need a break, so I head downstairs for a cup of tea, a biscuit or a bit of cake and half and hour or so in front of the old goggle box. Normally that will mean an hour of Stargate, Scrubs, The A-Team, Futurama or The Simpsons; but I’m in the process of rekindling my love affair with TV so I’m trying to record stuff at night I actually want to watch and then watch that instead. I used to love TV and watch every new series with gleeful anticipation. A few years back I somehow lost that love. There are years worth of worthy shows I’ve never seen and since I want to do more TV work, it’s about time I got back into it. So, technically, you could argue that’s not procrastination – it’s research. Yeah, right.
  5. Checking my stats. Jesus, this one’s pathetic; but I find my self irresistiblydrawn to that little graph which tells me how many people aren’t reading my blog or checking out my website. It’s fascinating and I probably check it dozens of times a day. I’m not proud of this behaviour, but there you go. Most of the hits on my blog come from people searching for “Do they really have sex in sex scenes?” Which seems like a remarkably stupid question. Today, someone found this blog by searching for “Best script writer ever” which, presumably, is some kind of mistake on Google’s behalf.

And there you go. I’ve got a vague feeling I’ve done this meme before and therefore so will have everyone else; but it’s possible the teeth drugs haven’t worn off yet and I’m just imagining it. In which case, I’ll tag Jason, Lucy and Dom.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings | 21 Comments

I’m sure it was around here somewhere …

I’m still working on the treatment for the proposed January shoot, I’m over the big bloody hole where the second half of the second act was supposed to be and the end is nearly in sight.

Actually, that’s a lie; the end is nowhere to be seen.

Running at the plot hole and typing furiously seems to have worked. The characters just got on with stuff, filled in the gaping hole in the plot and made it to the other side of the story chasm. Hooray for them! And they did it with almost no conscious input from me.

The only small problem is, they haven’t arrived where I was expecting them. There’s a perfectly good ending waiting for them just down the road, but I have no idea how to get them from where they are to where I want them to be. This is the problem with giving the characters a free reign with the story, the bastards hijack it for their own ends.

I suppose I could put them back on the other side of the chasm and force them to do it all again, only differently, hoping against hope they make the right choices to bring them in line with the ending. Or, I could sit down and plot it out properly. I could even come up with a new ending which makes use of the new position … but the truth is, it all seems like too much work. I could even use the same ending we used in ‘The Evolved’ which was just to stop the action at the end of act two and put up a title card saying: TO BE CONTINUED …

No, God damn it! I’ve got an ending, it’s a good ending and I want to use it.

Instead, I’m going to opt for lying on the sofa and staring at the ceiling until a single line of action pops into my head and solves everything.

It’ll probably involve aliens, or magic, or maybe even a fade to black and then fading back in with half of the characters dead, a couple resurrected and a small goat following them around.

“Phew, that was difficult.” says the hero, and they get on with the end.

Yes, that sounds perfect.

Categories: My Way, Progress, Random Witterings | 5 Comments

Sub par

So there’s me, Jason Arnopp and TV’s James Moran in this minuscule flat somewhere in London. I’m not sure whose flat it is or how we came to be there, but we’ve just finished eating a meal which we cooked together … and by cooked I mean burnt the shit out of everything using every available pan, plate and utensil. The kitchen is a fucking mess, there’s food stuck to every surface and for some reason the prospect of cleaning it up sends us into fits of giggles.

The post-prandial conversation drifts onto writing and money with Jason and I voicing the opinion that James must be doing alright what with all that telly writing he keeps doing. Naturally James is very modest and declines to comment one way or the other, but Arnopp chips in with this odd sentence:

“He’s just bought a submarine!”

And so he had. Just a little one, apparently it only holds four people at a push. We all find this very funny and I desperately want to know why he wants a submarine. James isn’t sure, there was this guy selling them and he just bought it on a whim. It’s just outside so we pop down to take a look.

Five minutes later we’re standing on the pavement looking at what James describes as a personal mini-sub, but I’d describe as a rusty MG Metro, painted battleship grey with a periscope welded to the roof. Badly.

“That’s not a submarine.”

“Yes it is. It’s a mini-sub.”

“James, it’s not. It’s a Metro.”

“No, no, it’s a submarine, honest. The guy who sold it to me said it was.”

“It’s got wheels!”

“Yeah, it’s an over-ground one, not one of the ones which goes under the water.”

“An over-ground submarine? Are you fucking mad?”

And at that point, I woke up. Quite why I’m dreaming about these two reprobates is beyond me, especially since I’ve never even met one of them; but when you throw the Metro/submarine into the mix … well, it was a bit odd. Not raining kittens odd, but a bit odd nonetheless.

As you can see, I’m still working on this treatment and don’t have anything useful to blog about.

Categories: Bored, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 9 Comments

Bridging the gap

I’ve been thinking over the weekend about the big bloody hole in the treatment I’m working on and it occurs to me there’re two ways to proceed:

  1. Refer back to the concept and the theme, rethink the structure and make detailed plans for a modified story and the way forward.
  2. Start writing in a blind panic and hope by the time I’ve reached the gap I’ve built up enough momentum to carry me over it.

Of course I’ve already eliminated several other options like running away, killing myself, killing everyone else so there’s no one to left to notice, faking a nervous breakdown or giving up writing and inventing anew kind of whisk instead; so to my mind the two options left are the two sensible options.

Well, one sensible option and one bloody stupid one. Option one is obviously the rational, professional approach. I, of course, am choosing option two.

The plan is to type as fast as I can, with my eyes closed whilst screaming like a little girl.

That should do the trick.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings | 10 Comments

Big bloody hole

So I sat down today to write this treatment. It’s a horror film, it’s got a good premise, I know who the characters are and I’m ready to go.

Step one: white index cards to mark out the opening image, inciting incident, first act break, midpoint, second act break and closing image.

Easy.

Step two: put the murders down on red cards. There are six murders throughout the film, so I mark them all down, in order and roughly how and why they happen.

Brilliant.

Step three: blue index cards for scenes I want to include. These are scenes which illustrate the theme, are essential clues to solving the mystery, reveal character or are generally just cool and I want them in there. Basically, these are the scenes I know have to happen.

It’s all shaping up nicely. Step away from the board and what have I got … ?

A big bloody hole where the second half of act two should be.

Fuck socks.

This isn’t meant to be a definitive guide to the film. I don’t plot out every scene on cards before writing the treatment, just the main points to get the spine and shape of the thing. I like to nail down the structure and fill in a few bits of interest to remind me why I wanted to write this thing and the rest I work out organically as I’m writing the treatment. I find this mixture of preparation and on the job creation works best for me. Afterwards I go back to the board and fill in a card for every scene.

The preliminary carding helps me see, with visual aides, where the gaps are. There’s always a bit I haven’t really thought out properly, usually a bit covered by a ‘hi jinks’ ensue type phrase. In this case the gap is a whole quarter of the film. There is nothing going on except one murder and surely that can’t be right? Surely the murders should be getting more frequent towards the end, not less?

The midpoint is when the characters realise there’s a crazed murderer stalking them and all hell breaks loose. The end of the second act is when the characters decide to fight back. Damn it, they’re just not taking this shit anymore.

So what the hell are they doing in the meantime? According to the one pager they’re involved in a deadly cat and mouse game throughout the house and grounds. But now I come to look at it, what the fuck does that mean? If they’re in the grounds, why don’t they just fuck off home? ‘Too far to walk’ is not much of a reason when there’s a knife happy lunatic on your trail.

“Quick, run away!”

“Fuck off! I’m wearing heels and it’s two miles to the nearest village.”

“Is it! Lordy, we’d best go back inside with the homicidal maniac and make a cup of tea.”

Doesn’t ring true, does it?

That’s actual dialogue from the script, by the way.

So I’ve been staring at this story abyss all day and several things have become clear:

  1. If you stare at things for too long, your eyes stop working. This has something to do with the blind spot in your eye where the optic nerve is. The reason you don’t normally notice a big fucking hole in your vision is because your eyes move about a lot and your brain cleverly fills in the gaps.
  2. I should stop googling stuff about blind spots and get on with the treatment.
  3. A character has completely disappeared. She turns up for the finale but seems to have done nothing in-between whilst everyone else is running around screaming about a murderer. Perhaps she was cleaning the oven?
  4. The characters should just get together in one room and wait for the baddie to come to them. Then they should fuck him up.
  5. Maybe the baddie should have a gun to prevent all the characters waiting in one place and ganging up on him?
  6. I need all of the characters to spontaneously lose their mobiles and their ability to open external doors or smash windows.
  7. I need to rethink this. A lot.
Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Two steps back | 21 Comments

State of play

Lovely and busy at the moment. Actually, slightly scarily too busy. I’ve got myself into another one of those situations whereby I’m slightly over-worked now with the possibility of really fucking myself over in the next few months.

The Pain In The Arse treatment has to be approved by three people. Two of them have read it and really like it, just waiting for the verdict from the third now.

In the meantime I’ve been disassembling a script and weeding out the pointless bits in order to accommodate the potential director’s notes. It’s going to be a very substantial re-write and so far I’ve managed to clear out a lot of deadwood, re-think the plot, index card it and re-write the first act.

It’s going well, but I have to stop. Which is a shame because I’m really getting into it.

The reason I have to stop is because I’ve got to knock up a treatment for a new film which is provisionally slated to shoot in January. I promised the producer I’d start the treatment at the beginning of October and since this one is more pressing than the re-write then it has to take precedence.

When I suggested the beginning of October as the start date, I was still blissfully optimistic about the PITA treatment which was nearly finished and surely wouldn’t take more than a few more days. That would leave most of September for the re-write and straight into the new treatment in October.

Unfortunately, the PITA treatment wasn’t giving in without a fight and took up most of the re-write’s time. Add in a brief bout of malaria and I’m running a little behind.

So that’s where I’m at. Hopefully this new treatment is going to be lovely to write and will slip peacefully from my brain onto the page. I’ve got all the basic plot points worked out and it seems simple enough, but you never can tell with these tricksy bastards.

A worrisome blip on the horizon comes in the form of two meetings this month which could lead to two new projects: one for theatre, one for TV. I’ve kind of agreed to these things because in my head it will all be lovely and I’ll have plenty of time, but my PITA experience has made me mildly suspicious of my ability to judge how long a project will take. Add to that the possibility of the PITA screenplay being requested and the future goes from worrisome to frighteningly impossible.

Still, it’s tough, I’ve agreed to the work and I’ll just have to get on with it as best I can. If it leads to a couple of nights without sleep, so be it. As I’ve said many times before, it’s nice to have these kind of problems. It’s nice to be in demand.

Categories: Progress, Random Witterings | 7 Comments

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