Monthly Archives: April 2009

Long, boring post

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WARNING – EXTREMELY LONG AND REASONABLY TECHNICAL POST

YOU MAY LIKE TO SKIP TO THE END AND READ THE HAPPY NEWS

OR YOU MAY NOT

RUN AWAY! SAVE YOURSELVES!

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

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It’s been a bit of an epic week writing wise, but it’s finishing up in the nicest possible way.

Last Tuesday I had a meeting about an ongoing feature project. It was the first time I’d met the director and that’s always a difficult moment – will he be a nice guy or will he be a twat? Will he appreciate what you’ve done so far or will he ‘want to move in a different direction’ – code for ‘it’s shit, do it again’ … or sometimes ‘it’s shit, you’re fired’. But even getting fired can be considered pleasant compared to the most horrible thing a director can say:

“I think I should co-write it with you.”

To which, the correct response is to drop to your knees, throw your arms wide and scream to the heavens …

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Sometimes there’s nothing worse than ‘Director’s Dialogue’. Not always, some directors are very, very good writers; but as I’ve said many times: most directors can’t direct and most writers can’t write, so a writer/director is usually someone who fails at two things.

And yes, you could point out exceptions, but I could also come round and stab you in the eye with a pencil – so let’s just leave it at that.

So I go for this meeting, a bit on the tired side and woefully unprepared. I didn’t go from home so I didn’t have a copy of the script with me and I hadn’t slept for a little over 24 hours … but it was fine. It was a sunny day, the director’s a nice guy and the first thing he said was about how much he liked the script and DIDN’T WANT TO CHANGE ANY OF THE WORDS I’D WRITTEN.

Fuck me.

None of them?

Cool.

To explain what he did want, I need to go back a little bit and give you a bit of info about the script.

The script was originally conceived as an ultra low budget, single location with no action and where none of the characters ever speak to each other. It’s a talking heads mockumentary with the characters giving their version of an event direct to camera. Since they’re all doing it against the same background, there’re no scene changes and the illusion of a conversation is created by cutting between the different characters. There were a couple of bits of other footage dropped in occasionally, but for all intents and purposes, from a script point of view, it’s one scene for 90 pages.

That was the first draft.

The second draft, along with some story and character changes, was about moving the characters to locations whic reflect their personalities. So instead of everyone coming to a central location to be interviewed, the documentary team went to them at their homes or places of work. Again, there’s no communication between characters and no changing scenes once they’ve been established. It seemed to me, the best way to write this is a scene heading when we first meet the character and then just INTERCUT between them for the rest of the script. What I didn’t want was a new scene heading for every line of dialogue because it would be a) unreadable and b) hundreds of pages long.

All well and good.

Draft three … there is no draft three.

Or not really, one character changed – which amounted to two or three pages worth of re-writes. I accidentally called it draft three while I was waiting for this meeting and it kind of stuck. And that brings us up to last Tuesday.

So we have a script which is essentially just dialogue and the director, quite rightly I thought, wants to make sure it’s visually interesting because otherwise it might as well be a radio play. Yes, the actors would make it come alive on screen, but he wanted to give them things to do as a start point. The other concern was, at 90 pages of pure dialogue, it would probably come in at around 60 mins of screen time.

The task seemed simple: take 90 pages of dialogue and add another 30-40 pages and action to every scene. What he was looking for was something funny (for ’tis a comedy) happening in the background or to the character every time we cut back to them; in other words, a visual gag for every line of dialogue.

That doesn’t sound too hard. He’d even come up with ideas for the first 30 pages so a third of it was already more or less done. On the way home I was thinking about this and came to the conclusion: as well as seeing something funny, since we were now going to be moving some of the characters around a bit, why not visually tell a different story for each character? It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but the characters can be trying to achieve something and every time we see them they’re either closer or further away from their goal.

No problems. 30-40 pages of extra dialogue – that’s a couple of days’ work.

Funny visuals for each line of dialogue which follow on from each other to create multiple interlocking storylines – that’s … fucking hard.

Hence the reason, at 4 am this morning, I finished a week of 12 to 18 hour days.

Oh, and the rush is because the film shoots on the 17th May and needs to be scheduled asap. In fact, because of the way the script was written, until the end of the 4th draft no one has any idea of what locations might be needed – not even me.

And to be fair, I actually typed THE END at 10.30 pm yesterday; but a) it took a couple of hours to spell check and proof read and b) there was one more huge fucking problem: the resulting script is completely unfilmable.

Because it was shit?

Hopefully not, but you never know.

It’s unfilmable in a technical sense because of the way it’s been written. Again, purely for reasons of clarity and enjoyment of reading, there are very few scene headings. I only put scene headings in the first time we see someone in that location and don’t mention where they are again until they move to a new one.

So for the main characters, they might spend the first 30 or so pages of the script in one location; but only speak twice a page or so. From a scheduling point of view, that scene isn’t 30 pages long, it might only be 6 or 7 pages long. From an actor’s point of view they have to learn 6 or 7 pages of dialogue by combing through 30 pages of script.

For the minor characters it’s even worse. One character, for example, speaks on the first page and the last (as well as every now and then in between) – her total dialogue is one two-page scene – but she has to wade through 164*pages to find them. So do the ADs for scheduling – and they have to do that for every character!

Plus it’s difficult for me to work out what the character was doing last and to maintain a constant flow of their dialogue and story. Something needed to be done. Which is why, at 4 am this morning I finished a second script – the production script (178 pages!). I combed through 164 pages worth of dialogue and collected them all together into scenes, separating them with a transition: LATER – hence the extra pages.

The original script is now the STORY SCRIPT, which is one you can give people to read and enjoy – I would say for casting, but that’s pretty much all done now – and the PRODUCTION SCRIPT is for … well, production. It makes no fucking sense to read, since each scene is just one person’s side of a ten sided conversation, but at least it can be scheduled and filmed. As an extra level of common sense – all the scene numbers in both drafts match up.

The big problem now will be any tweaks for the next draft since every word changed has to be changed in two scripts where they’re on completely different pages – but fuck it, I’m not thinking about that for the moment. I’m thinking about tomorrow and the nice way to end the week of hard bloody graft.

Tomorrow there are two pleasant things happening:

  1. Karma Magnet is showing at the Southend Film Festival – 6.30pm at the Southend Central Library for anyone in the area and/or desperate to see it on a big (?) screen.
  2. A sitcom pilot I co-wrote with Lee Otway begins shooting. It’s got a great cast, so hopefully it’ll all turn out quite nicely.

I was going to post the cast list but I think that can wait until another post – this one has already got way out of hand.

As is traditional, I won’t be going anywhere near the filming and will be hiding somewhere exotic. A randomly thrown dart at the map tells me I’m going to be in … Crouch End.

Hmm … not that exotic then, but sounds vaguely rude so it might be fun.

Ta ta.

*I know, 164 pages! Fuck me! But there is a reason … I just haven’t decided what it is yet.
Categories: Festivals, Karma Magnet, My Way, Progress, Random Witterings | 9 Comments

Swine flu

Given the media hysteria over Swine Flu (including The Daily Mail managing to get from “Two people in Scotland have it” to “You’ll all be cowering naked in your homes, starving and penniless while gangs of blacks and gays rape your children in front of you as society crumbles” in one article) I thought it might be prudent to remind ourselves what The Daily Mail had to say about Bird Flu a couple of years ago:

TWO MILLION COULD BE DEAD BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR!

You remember Bird Flu? The disease which was going to wipe out the entire planet … but didn’t.

Who knows, maybe this time it really is the end of the world? If so, party at my house! But I suspect the thought process behind the Swine Flu headlines almost exactly mirrors what happened two years ago:

THE TRUTH?

Categories: Random Witterings | 1 Comment

Pimping other people’s stuff

Here’s an easy guide to get me to pimp whatever it is you’re trying to sell:

  1. Send a polite email.
  2. That’s it.

So without further ado, pimping for Adrian Mead:

Breaking into the film and TV industrytoday.

This will be a day jam packed with the very latest career building opportunities for screenwriters and filmmakers. No screenwriting theory, just a clear guide to the shape of the Film and TV industry as it is now and how it is likely to develop.
and this will be an excellent opportunity to forge links with fellow creatives
and extend your network of contacts. This event is sure to sell out early and here’s what participants of Adrian’s previous classes have said -I found the course absolutely invaluable.  Adrian avoided the well trodden ground of screenwriting theory and instead concentrated on how to actually get finished manuscripts into the hands of producers and agents.Stuart

Adrian delivered the lab in a charismatic and professional manner. Giving clarity and focus to the sometime daunting task of making it as a writer.Monica
 
The course was amazing. I gained a real insight into the industry and now feel enthused to pursue my goals with vigour and boldness!

Megan

How are you going to get your break and advance your career as a screenwriter or filmmaker in the midst of an economic downturn?

The idea for a day about career building came from a spate of calls I’ve had recently from new writers and filmmakers who were ready to give up trying to build a career. Despite gaining qualifications, reading numerous websites and sending out scripts nothing had changed for them.

My answer was simple and brutal, “If you haven’t achieved what you want yet, then you aren’t really putting all that knowledge into action. Knowing isn’t doing.”

Think back to January. You were all fired up about breaking into the film and TV industry, “This has to be the year when I make it happen!”

So, how has it gone? What have you achieved so far? Be honest, didn’t you make that same speech last January, maybe even the year before that? So why are you trapped in your own version of Groundhog Day?

In order to find the answer you first need to recognize a huge and fundamental truth.

Knowing isn’t doing

Knowledge doesn’t change things. Action does.

Already some of you will have been lining up your excuses, “The film and TV industry has changed massively in the last six months. I don’t know where to start now. I mean, what’s the point in trying to break into an industry besieged by cancellations and budget cuts?”

In fact you couldn’t be more wrong. This is a great time to be a new writer or filmmaker trying to get your break. Seriously. If you know where to look there are numerous new opportunities available to you because of the economic downturn. Yet most of you will miss them as you continue employing a half-hearted, outdated and now redundant approach to advancing your career.

Take action and join me at THE SCREENWRITER’S CAREER GUIDE to discover what you need to do in order to break into the film and TV industry

The once standard approach you used even three months ago is now redundant. Everything has changed. You need to do the same or get left behind. These are exciting times filled with opportunities for new writers and filmmakers who know where to look and are ready to adapt and collaborate. THE SCREENWRITER’S CAREER GUIDE will teach you how to take action that will build contacts, find money and build a career.  

Adrian

THE SCREENWRITER’S CAREER GUIDE will be presented by Adrian Mead. If you have attended one of Adrian’s classes before you know to expect the most up to date information from a working professional. 

We work hard at creating a fun and friendly atmosphere

 

 

 

When and Where
The next course will be held on 4 July 2009 at a central London location.
The course fee is £ 70 + VAT (EARLY BIRD UNTIL 15 MAY). The fee includes all materials and light refreshments.

To book go to www.initialize-films.co.uk and check out THE SCREENWRITER’S CAREER GUIDE.

Testimonials
You can view testimonials for Adrian’s sell out classes and acclaimed e-book MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER at www.meadkerr.com

In the confusing forest of screenwriting books here is a sturdy oak: simple, honest and true. Highly recommended.

Ashley Pharoah
Screenwriter and Producer
Co Creator of Life On Mars, Ashes To Ashes

Categories: Someone Else's Way | Leave a comment

Karam Magnet

Do you long for the days when you got two films for the price of one at the cinema?

Do you yearn for times past when the local fleapit showed a clever little short film before the main feature?

Do you mourn the passing of those little featurettes which raised a smile, provoked a thought or otherwise tugged at your heart strings?

Well mourn no longer for those happy days are upon you once more!!!!!!!!

You! Yes, you sir! Don’t try to hide behind that young lady, I can see you. You too could be re-living the old days with this smashing two for one offer. Be the envy of your friends and admired by women (and/or men) everywhere by buying the movie-tastic treat which is the Karma Magnet/Wishbaby Double Bill DVD!!!!!!!!!!!

wishbaby

Did I just say Double Bill?

You’re darn tooting I did!!!!!!!!!!!

Marvel at the sheer shortness of the short film (wot I wrote and you’ve probably already seen on the Internet) shown on your very own telly!!!!!!!!!!!

And that’s not all.

Buy Karma Magnet and you also get, absolutely free, a personal viewing using your very own eyeballs of the feature-length cinematic treat which is … Wishbaby!!!!!!!! A film I have nothing to do with but was described by Fangoria as ‘a film’ and by Total Film as ‘What? Who are you? How did you get this number?’

That’s right, this amazing offer is available to one and all. For the measly little sum of ‘some money’, you too can own the amazing Karma Magnet/Wishbaby Double Bill DVD!!!!!!!!!!

Recreate those halcyon days of the silver screen in the comfort of your own living room. Once you own your very own Karma Magnet/Wishbaby Double Bill DVD you will instantly be transported back* to those movie-going days of yore WITHOUT ACTUALLY LEAVING YOUR FRONT ROOM!!!!!!!!!

Invite all your friends round and get them to smoke heavily until you’re unable to see your TV!!!!!!!! Leave your back door open so the chavvy fourteen year olds can sneak in and then talk all the way through a movie they’re far too fucking stupid to understand!!!!!! Why not pay Fat Ethel with the gammy eyes and the buck teeth to stand in the corner with a tray around her neck, point a torch in your face during the feature presentation, shout about ice creams and then scream at you as if you’d face raped her baby because she hasn’t got change for a fiver?!!!!!!!!!

All this and more can be yours for the paltry sum of ‘some money’!!!!!!!!!

But act fast, this offer is only available for an unspecified amount of time and may vanish, finish or spontaneously combust at any moment!!!!!!!

If you find after purchasing the Karma Magnet/Wishbaby Double Bill DVD you are in any way dissatisfied with either the performances, storylines, music or DVD shape you can, at NO EXTRA COST, complain all you fucking like because it will be too late and I’ll already have 0.00000000000000007p of YOUR MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Karma Magnet/Wishbaby Double Bill DVD – can you afford to miss out? Go buy the DVD now! Why not buy one for Auntie Vera? She’s half deaf, half blind and all stoopid – she’ll think it’s Bambi!!!!!!

Go buy it NOW before people jeer at you and avoid you in the street.

The Karma Magnet/Wishbaby … is anyone else getting bored of this?

Fuck it. Karma Magnet out on DVD. Technically it’s an extra on the Wishbaby DVD but in the interests of me feeling important, I’m pretending Wishbaby is an extra on the Karma Magnet DVD. If only they hadn’t spelt it Karam Magnet on Amazon and Play.com.

Bye.

*Actual Temporal Transportation may not occur

Categories: Karma Magnet, Progress | 4 Comments

Challenges

“THOU SHALT NOT USE CAMERA ANGLES

Don’t use them, ever. Under no circumstances are you to direct the camera. In fact, if you so much as mention the word ‘camera’ anywhere in your script I’ll fucking kill you, then I’ll come round your house, rape your goldfish and shit on your carpet.”

Or so the rules tell us.

Fair enough, but I’m all about the challenge these days.

I’ve finally finished the last of the ‘Four Feature Films by Easter Challenge’ and what can I say?

I failed.

Sorry.

Only by a little bit, mind you. Only by two days or so. Come on, that’s not bad. I’ve even managed two drafts of two of them – give me a little bit of credit. Please?

No?

Fine, fuck you.

Number three in the Easter Challenge was interesting and had a very peculiar set of rules:

1) No action lines. At all. You can have a few lines which set the scene, but not one single line of action after that – the entire script has to be pure dialogue.

2) Because of rule 1, the characters can’t move. You can choose where to seat them, but once they’re sitting down they can’t leave that seat for the entire 90 pages.

3) None of the characters can be in the same room and they aren’t allowed to talk to each other via any medium.

Hmm … tricky.

Oh yeah, and it has to be written in a few days because it’s being filmed in two weeksthree weeks … next month.

Actually, it was surprisingly easy and seemed to go down very well.

Number four was another doozy, and here’s where I had to break the camera angles rule. Number four has no movie camera – no audience point of view watching the characters, so no fourth wall. You can only see what the characters record using camcorders, security cameras and mobile phones.

Not iPhones, obviously; but, you know, proper phones.

Every scene therefore, has to have a camera mentioned in it somewhere. What type is it? Who’s holding it? What can they see? What can’t they see? It added another level of complexity to a script which was already proving difficult and goes part of the way to explaining why I didn’t quite make the Easter deadline.

And it felt weird. Me, describing the camera? Gosh. What awesome power.

But now it’s done, fired off and awaiting a verdict. I can breathe relatively easy for a while.

So what else is going on? How are you? How was the scribomeet on Tuesday?

I might even read some of my emails now.

Hmm … apparently I’ve got a sitcom pilot I co-wrote shooting on May 1st. That’s nice. Great cast too by the look of it.

Do I want to stay hard all night? No, not really.

Have I got any ideas for American TV shows? Yeah sure, why not?

Is my penis too small? Um, too small for what?

Oh, Easter Challenge film number three now has to have action lines added, apparently and they’ve cast … HOLY FUCK! No fucking way! xxxxxx xxxxxxx? But he was xxxxx xxx xxxx in xxxxxx xxxxx!

xxxxx xxx xxxx wants to be in a movie I wrote? Shit the bed!

He was xxxxx xxxxx as well! The original xxxxx xxxxx, the seriously fucking cool xxxxx xxxxx!

Sweet fucking, nailed up Christ!

I need to lie down.

Categories: Progress | 3 Comments

Splendid

I was at Dan Turner’s house last night and … well … I wish I wasn’t.

It’s not that Dan is a less than charming host … it’s just … well, I’m sure those of you who’ve met Dan would agree he’s a pleasant, dapper man and I, like many of you, assumed his house would reflect his pleasant, dapper demeanour.

It doesn’t.

Jesus, I haven’t been in such a shit hole since my Swansea junkie squat days. Back then this sort of thing didn’t bother me, but I’m much more refined nowadays and like the little luxuries in life like … glass in the windows, central heating (or any kind of heating for that matter) and a carpet which doesn’t move of its own accord due to the indigenous life contained therein.

Dan’s house is one of those two storey Victorian terraces, so nice big rooms but it could have done with either a spot of industrial cleaning or perhaps a bit of burning down. Back when I was in my early twenties it seemed perfectly acceptable to replace a smashed window with a piece of cardboard but now I find it a little … scummy.

Not that Dan and his flatmate (who I think is called Chris … he looked like a Chris, anyway) were extremely gracious hosts and no expense was spent in making us feel at home. It’s been a long time since anyone served me a cup of tea in a pint glass stolen from the local pub, but I tried  my best to be polite about the whole thing.

I was a little less impressed when I put the pint of tea down for a few seconds and roughly ten million fleas leapt in to practise their backstroke. Still, you know, people choose to live their lives in different ways and who am I to judge? I do wish though I hadn’t brought Mandy and Alice with me, or that we hadn’t agreed to spend the night.

Mandy went upstairs to put Alice to be and Chris, being the nice (if unwashed and fat) chap he is, volunteered to help while Dan gave me the tour of the house. A tour which involved considerable amount of detail and a rather in depth explanation of where every stain had come from.

Every stain.

There were a lot of them.

About an hour into the tour, we finally reach the kitchen, which, true to form, looks like Withnail & I refused to live there for hygiene reasons. There seemed to be a pot of something boiling on the stove, which was odd since the ring was turned off. Closer examination showed it wasn’t boiling, merely writhing with maggots.

And finally, what seemed to be the high point of  the tour: Dan and Chris’ homemade beer.

Dan’s very proud of his home brew, something he and Chris have been making for years. By the look of it, in the same five gallon plastic bucket without once washing it inbetween. Floating on the surface were what at first I took to be blue Cheerios, but on closer inspection turned out to be mould and the thing stank to high heaven.

About this time I finally realised Chris has been ‘helping’ Mandy put Alice to bed upstairs for the best part of an hour. This seemed odd to me, Alice goes to sleep very quickly … what the fuck were they doing? I double checked the time on my phone (I rarely wear a watch any more) just to be certain … and dropped it into the prized homebrew.

Dan was fucking furious.

Absolutely livid.

I swear a lot. Everyone knows that, but the string of obscenities which flew from Dan’s normally eloquent mouth shocked even me. Seriously, I had to look most of the words up when I got home.

He raved on and on about how I’d ruined the whole batch of the septic, stinking liquid and demanded I fish my phone out and pay for the raw materials for a new lot.

I was mortified, it seemed really important to him and … I like my phone. In fact, fuck his rancid booze, I want my phone back. So I’m up to my elbow in foul liquid, hoping Chris hasn’t murdered and eaten my wife and child while Dan hops around in the background waving a kitchen knife and threatening all sorts of unpleasantness unless I make good on his hooch … but I can’t find my phone.

I found plenty of other phones though … and watches, wallets, coins, an ornamental mantlepiece clock, necklaces, rings, an engraved fob-watch … in fact, very little of the murky alco-soup was actually homebrew. The contents of the bucket more closely resembled Fagin’s pockets and I was just wondering what the fuck was going on … when I woke up.

Another strange dream.

Anyway, in a mostly unconnected link, here’s the first sketch from Dan’s new sketch show: Splendid.

YOGA

Categories: Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way | 2 Comments

Curiouser and curiouser

The Wrong Door has been nominated for a BAFTA.

Okay, so it’s for the special effects and not the writing, but fuck it – from now on I’m introducing myself as a BAFTA nominated writer.

Sadly it’s up against ‘Doctor Who – Fires of Pompeii’ by the scribosphere’s very own James Moran. I think the only fair way to settle this is if he and I fight it out, dressed as Princess Leia (the metal bikini version, naturally) in a paddling pool full of white-chocolate rice pudding (which my mum makes – it’s very nice). In deference to Mr Moran’s obviously superior writing ability, I’ll allow him to choose the weapons, the time and the place.

The world is full of surprises, isn’t it?

Categories: Progress, The Wrong Door | 6 Comments

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