Monthly Archives: July 2009

That Band – Trailer

Good gravy, a sitcom trailer on YouTube … wait a God damn, cotton picking moment …

That’s my sitcom!

Well, one I co-wrote anyway with Lee Otway anyway.

Want to see the rest? Storm your local broadcaster and demand, DEMAND I SAY, they commission it immediately. If they refuse, shit on their desks.

Or don’t.

Don’t is probably best.

Umm …

Here it is:

Categories: That Band | 2 Comments

Fucking about

Today is a working day, so naturally I had a nice long lie in, got up late and immediately got straight down to breakfast.

Breakfast was a leisurely affair and by the time I’d finished it was nearly lunch time, so I just rolled straight into the next meal because you have to keep your energy up, don’t you?

Of course, after having two big meals right next to each other, I needed a little lie down … which became a fairly long lie down – but that’s okay, because all sleeping time is actually thinking time and can be written off against tax.

Thoroughly refreshed, I jumped up, showered, had a cup of tea and was sitting at my desk within the hour (not the same hour, but within an hour), ready and raring to browse the Internet for a bit.

Let’s be fair here, I’m not completely work-shy. I have opened Final Draft and it’s been staring mournfully at me from the taskbar all afternoon.

Hours later and I’ve run out of things to do (apart from actually doing some writing) I’ve voraciously checked emails, I’ve read blogs, watched cats hurting themselves on YouTube, checked my emails, posted deliberately inflammatory messages on message boards in the hope of annoying homeopaths, Christians, creationists, holocaust deniers, conspiracy theorists and anyone else I think I can get a rise out of (but they’re not biting today) and checked my emails again, just in case I missed one.

Short of actually replying to people offering me drugs, weight loss, weight gain in a specific and private area, discount software, sex, beat-the-casino-systems and other random things designed to empty my bank account – I might actually have to do some work!

Gasp!

And then I thought, no. I’ll write this blog post instead.

And now I have … it’s definitely time for tea and biscuits.

Categories: Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 1 Comment

Do you follow?

Let’s say we’re in a room, just you and me. Any room you like, doesn’t matter.

Okay, I can see you’re uncomfortable with being alone in a room with me. That’s fine, no really. Very sensible. Tell you what, why don’t you bring someone along as a chaperon, okay? Bring whoever you want. Bring your mum if you like … is she hot?

Kidding.

Sort of.

Anyway, we’re in this room and I suddenly get up and ask you to follow me. Being an obedient and obliging sort, you do as you’re told and we wander out of the room, down the hall, out of the house …

Now, the question is this: how long would you follow me without asking where we were going?

1 minute?

10 minutes?

Half an hour?

More? Really?

I’m betting you wouldn’t go more than a minute without asking. Okay, if we were having a nice natter about biscuits or moss or something then maybe you might let it go 5-10 minutes, but I doubt much more. Remember, this stranger is literally leading you up the garden path … and it’s not even your garden, it’s a strange garden. One you’ve never been in before.

And would you be taking in all the detail or peering down the path, trying to work out where the hell this ginger, moss-rambling fool is leading you? Again, my money would be on you thinking: ‘Is he taking me to the shed, or the gazebo? God, I hope he’s not taking me to the compost heap. Shit, there’s a gap in the back hedge – we could be going anywhere.’

Whereas, if I said we were going to the ornamental fountain, you’d probably be free of that worry and make some passing comment about liking what I’ve done with my azaleas.

This is what watching a film is like for me, I like to know where I’m going so I can take in the journey. I don’t want to know every step of the way – I don’t want a treasure-map style pace count read out before we start; I’d just like to know roughly where we’re headed so I can wonder how we’re going to get there.

It’s just natural human curiosity to wonder what kind of story this is. True, you want the audience asking questions, but ‘Where are we going?’ is not the same as ‘What happens next?’

‘What happens next?’, if you’re good at your job, is a question they can ask excitedly all the way to the end – even when they know what that end is going to be.

‘Where are we going?’ quickly becomes ‘What the hell am I watching?’ which becomes ‘Fuck this shit, let’s watch a re-run of Minder.’

Which is why I think it’s important to quickly establish roughly what the film’s about – give people the same information they’d get if they read the blurb on the back of a book. If it’s a comedy, start with something funny. If it’s action, start with some action. If it’s horror, start with something scary.

Introduce your main characters quickly, explain who they are and what they want and then get on with the story. No fannying around, because you can guarantee if I don’t know what’s going on within ten minutes I’ll probably change the channel. If it’s really entertaining, I might give it until thirty minutes in … but I doubt it.

Basically, I like films which point out their destination and then make me wonder how they’re going to get me there; not films which don’t seem to knwo what they’re about and make me wonder if I can get my money back.

Categories: Random Witterings | 16 Comments

Psychoville

Lovin’ it.

Discuss.

Categories: Someone Else's Way | 11 Comments

Gutted

So I’m working on this treatment at the moment and it’s all going well, I know what I want to write and am making good progress … but there’s little nagging thought: I’m missing a couple of scenes.

Basically, there are scenes I want to include between a guy and a girl which I haven’t found space for yet; and every time I look for space I can’t find it because each scene moves logically and seamlessly onto the next one. I could randomly stick them in, but that’s not screen writing – that’s just a fucking mess and my number seven complaint about bad scripts: if the scenes don’t flow into each other, it’s not a movie – it’s just a random collection of scenes.

So there’s no space for these scenes, which I assume means they’re not important because it’s not a romance and the girl is neither protagonist, antagonist nor love interest. As eminent brain care specialist, Gag Halfrunt might say: she’s just this girl, you know?

I leave out the scenes and I carry on, ploughing steadily through the treatment towards the end of act two when … oh shit.

I’ve reached the point in the treatment where I need to end act two (somewhere on page 8, if you’re interested – this is based on 1 page of treatment = 10 pages of script or screentime) and there is no way to hit the planned end of act two.

Did I say ‘Oh shit?’

I did?

Marvellous.

But hang on, maybe this isn’t a bad thing? Maybe there’s a whole new way to end the second act which either still leads into the planned third act or, even better, leads to a completely new third act which trumps the old one and immeasurably improves the story?

No.

Bugger.

As far as I can tell, the best that can happen from here until the end is it will ramble on for a bit and then stop. Not exactly thrilling.

So what’s gone wrong? Why have I come out of the dense thicket of act two in the wrong place? Why can’t I see the finish line, the prize, the treasure … the end?

Obviously, it must have something to do with those scenes between the girl and the guy – something about the things I wanted them to say to each other must steer the guy towards the correct end of act two. But if that’s true, which I suspect it is since it’s beginning to dawn on me the girl embodies the reasons the guy is making the wrong decisions, then why don’t they fit anywhere in the story? Why is the sequence of scenes seamless without the vital scenes needed to keep it on course?

And there’s the answer.

The girl keeps the guy on course, and therefore the story too. Without her input, he’s making the wrong decisions and will continue to make the wrong decisions until the film runs out of time and just stops. Now I know this, I can trace the story back to the point where it goes wrong. Now I can see half of the seamless scenes are actually seamless in the wrong direction.

Bugger.

Oh, I said that did I?

Fuck-toggle?

I’m pretty sure I’ve never said that before.

So where does that leave me? It leaves me leaning on the delete key and rushing perilously back towards page 4 and the point the story began to meander. It does still cross the mid-point at the bottom of page 5 and for a moment I think I maybe able to stop the word-slaughter there, but then I realise it crosses it in the wrong direction so all that has to go too.

Back to page 4.

Arse-phlegm.

I, like the treatment, am gutted.

Categories: My Way, Two steps back | 1 Comment

Fandom

Apologies for the blog-absence, but I’ve been doing this:

Red boot

… for these people:

Newlyweds

And really haven’t had the time. However, I’m back now with sleeves rolled up (which looks frankly ridiculous since I’m currently wearing a T-shirt) and ready to get back to work.

How are you all?

Have you been keeping well?

If you enjoyed the last post about turd-rattlingly crazy fans, why not become one yourself?

The following link is to the fan page for my probably-next-to-be-filmed feature film, ’til Death. The clever folks in charge are asking if you’d like to become fans, here:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/til-Death/90024768500

Personally, I think it’s fucking mental to become a fan of something you’ve never seen and which currently doesn’t exist; but I’ve done it anyway since I should at least pretend to be supporting my own career. If you feel the urge to do the same, that would be lovely.

Thank you in advance.

Categories: Sad Bastard, til Death | 2 Comments

Now look what you’ve gone and done

Before you read on, if you haven’t already done so, head over to James Moran’s blog and read this:

 http://jamesmoran.blogspot.com/2009/07/stepping-back.html

Right, are you back? Up to speed on the whole situation? Good.

So in a nutshell, James, being the talented chap that he is, was one of three writers on the latest series of Torchwood – handpicked by the mighty RTD himself.

By the way, there are going to be spoilers from now on – don’t read on if you haven’t seen all five episodes of the last season.

James helped plot out the season and co-wrote one of the episodes – the hardest episode to write too, if I may make so bold. The middle episode of five is tricky because it’s the tipping point of the story, there’s a lot of explaining to do after the crash bang opening, dismantling of the team in episode one and the regrouping, rebuilding of the team in episode two. Episode three is where we find out what’s going on and where everything reorients itself towards the end – it’s fucking hard to write just that bit on its own … but James pulled it off with style, panache and other words which mean the same thing.

And can I just say, the whole season was fucking excellent. I’m not a Torchwood fan, I don’t like the show at all, but I was completely gripped by the story. Even Mandy sat and watched it with me – and as a rule, the words Sci-Fi have her reaching for the eye-gouging pins. It was a fantastic piece of telly which thrilled, chilled and made me cry.

On top of actually writing the show, James then went on to inform, educate and amuse his and Torchwood’s fans by explaining the process behind the writing, talking about the show as it aired and generally giving everyone the kind of insight into how TV is made which is usually reserved for specialist magazines or DVD extras.

He didn’t have to do this, he doesn’t get paid for it and it’s not going to generate him any new work. He gets no benefit out of it apart from the satisfaction of being nice to people.

And those people repay him by calling him names, accusing him of moronic stuff and generally being a bunch of whining cunts ABOUT SOMETHING HE DIDN’T ACTUALLY WRITE!

All of you should just fucking grow up. It’s a TV show, Ianto Jones is a fictional character – he doesn’t exist. Yes, you should be sad at his death because that’s what good telly is about, eliciting emotions. It’s okay to be disappointed because he was your favourite and now he’s not in it anymore and it’s perfectly acceptable to decide a show is no longer something you like and opt not to watch it again.

It’s not acceptable to hound and abuse a guy who DIDN’T ACTUALLY WRITE THE BIT YOU DON’T LIKE, call him names and accuse him of some nasty stuff.

The accusation I find particularly moronic (apart perhaps from the twat who accused him of deepening his/her depression) is that of homophobia. As if somehow Ianto was selected for death because he was gay.

Fuck off.

Russell T Davies has done more to promote gay characters on TV than any other writer working today. He is fucking gay for God’s sake. He’s even put gay and bisexual characters into Doctor Who, showing kids it’s perfectly okay to fancy whoever the fuck you want.

James, whilst not being gay to the best of my knowledge, is quite a strong proponent of gay rights and always sites man on man action as being one of Torchwood’s strengths.

John Fay who actually wrote that episode – I have no idea and I don’t care. He wrote a great episode, his sexuality isn’t important.

The argument here is really a variation of the girlfriend in a fridge syndrome – which is all bullshit. Hurting or killing a main character’s loved ones is a powerful writing tool which generates plot and emotion. In most comics, which is where the fridge thing comes from, the protagonists are straight men so the loved ones are usually their girlfriends/wives. If Jack had been straight or currently seeing a girl, then it would have been a girl who died in that episode.

The gender or sexuality of the character is not the deciding factor in the death of a character – it’s their closeness to the main character. In this case, Ianto was the closest so he copped it. If things had gone differently, it would have been Gwen who died.

But it wasn’t. Ianto died and it was very sad. Jack’s miserable and the world is doomed – that’s great telly. Cry while it’s on and then go out and enjoy your life because, and this is an absolutely vital piece of information which will improve your life immeasurably, if you reserve that depth of emotion and compassion for REAL people instead of fictional characters, your life will be so much better.

Drama is all about the suspension of disbelief and in order to enjoy anything you have to be able to PRETEND the characters are real for the duration of the show – but when that show finishes you have to be able to switch your disbelief back on. It’s not real, they’re not real and the writers can do whatever the fuck they like to them – it shouldn’t in any way, shape or form affect your real life.

If a show stops pleasing you, either hang on in the hope it’s going to get better or stop watching. You do not own those characters and it’s not up to you what happens to them. If you want to own the characters, learn how to write, practice until you’re as good as James Moran and then fucking do it yourself.

The bottom line is, I enjoy James’ blog and have done so for a long time. I sincerely hope he doesn’t let a few (and it is just a few, the majority were quite supportive) random nutcases stop him from imparting his wisdom to up and coming writers who look at him as an inspiration.

James is a writer who’s acheived what the rest of us are aspiring to and his blog tells us he achieved it not with some God given talent or blind luck, but by working fucking hard and making sure when opportunity knocked he was ready and good enough to make the jump to being a professional writer.

He left the door open a chink, just to shine a little light on the path and show the rest of us the way. Now whinging morons have forced him to shut that door to protect himself. It’s a damn shame and you should all be fucking ashamed of your behavior.

Grow the fuck up.

Categories: Rants, Writing and life | 13 Comments

A Splendid day

Yesterday was a great day: script meetings, infernos, damning the man, bucking authority, free food, working on my bladder control, uproarious comedy, old friends, new faces and a bat-shit crazy drunk on the train putting her legs behind her head whilst mumbling about her calves and then driving a stiletto heel into my chest.

Fairly normal for a Friday really.

It all started off with one of those great script meetings where you go through every page of the script and the questions are all about why the characters are doing what they’re doing. If I can answer in a logical manner which makes sense, describing the characters’ emotional state and giving sound psychological reasons for their actions … the scene stays in the script. If I can’t, we talk around it until we come up with a new scene which should do the job.

This is my favourite type of director to work with because he doesn’t just want the script and then me to fuck off, he wants to know exactly why I’ve written what I’ve written and wants to understand what my intentions were. True, he’s going to eventually go off and film his version of the story; but hopefully this way he won’t accidentally cut out the most vital scene in the film because he doesn’t understand why it’s there.

Plus, when the actors inevitably decide they’d rather not be upset in the scene because it’s emotionally unsatisfying and they’d much rather be gaily tap-dancing instead – he can confidently explain that being upset when your entire family has been face-raped to death by mutated Nazi reindeer is a much more universally understood reaction … you fucking  pretentious prick.

In the midst of the heated script discussions we noticed two things:

  1. It was actually getting quite warm in the office.
  2. There seemed to be a lot of shouting going on outside. I’d even go so far as to say it was verging on a commotion.

A quick peek outside the window revealed a common answer to both observations. The shouting was an inordinate amount of police, firemen and paramedics clearing the street and emptying all the buildings, and the reason they were doing it pretty much explained the first observation:

fire

The street was on fire.

Obviously this was a pretty serious fire, so we took the only sensible option … we closed the windows, pretended we hadn’t seen the coppers and carried on.

Fuck the police.

That’s right, I’m a rebel, I know. Sometimes I wear odd socks and I just don’t fucking care.

When we were God damned good and ready, not when the man told us, we sauntered – yes, sauntered, not ran for our lives – out of the office and strolled off.

It was a pretty quick stroll, but a stroll nonetheless and a nonchalant one at that.

I may even have been whistling, I can’t remember. I doubtlessly had one hand in my pocket, but that’s just because I like to play with my balls.

After that I wandered around for a bit, sat in a tea shop (it was actually a coffee shop, but I don’t like coffee and refuse to conform to your social conventions) until I really, really, really needed a piss. At which point I went to McDonalds and used their toilet without being a customer.

Fuck, I was just racking up the convictions that day. It was like a one man crime spree swept through Soho and disappeared without a trace …

And the place I disappeared into was the screening for Messrs Turner, Arnopp, Beckley and Morgan’s (who’s a girl and probably not a Messr) new sketch show, Splendid.

Going to screenings of things is always tricky because people ask you awkward questions like ‘Did you like it?’ and ‘Was it any good?’ The kind of questions you have to divert by pretending to be interested in their shoes:

‘Yeah, I thought it was … sorry, where did you get those shoes from? I love those shoes. In fact, they thrill me so much I must just dash off without answering your very valid question and touch myself in the toilets.’

It’s even worse when you actually know the people whose thing is being screened because a) they have your phone number and can ring up at any time to solict an opinion; and b) they tend not to be so friendly afterwards because they think you’re rushing off to masturbate over them.

Which I do, by the way. All the time. Especially about you. Yes, you. You know who you are.

Anyway, as it happens, on this occasion there was no need to dash for the toilets whilst tearing at my flies and muttering about slingbacks because the show was actually very good. Surprisingly good. Fucking awesome, in fact.

Seriously, it’s very, very funny and should be picked up for broadcast immediately. Do you hear me? Huh, do you?

Commission it.

Now, you fuckers.

I liked it. A lot.

It’s not perfect, don’t get me wrong; but it is very, very good and very, very funny. I think the couple of minor quibbles I had will either be justifiably ignored or ironed out and the result will be … well … Splendid.

Lobby your MPs now. Tell them to stop dicking about with that economy bullshit and force the BBC to make with the funny.

Also at the screening I met some lovely people I already know, someone I haven’t seen for ages and had forgotten how breathtakingly pretty she is, a few people I’ve never met before but quite liked and and a young lady with a burning desire to dress up as Richard Dreyfuss.

All good stuff then.

On the train home I got to spend half the journey chatting to Stuart Perry, which is always a pleasure, before we had to part at Haywards Heath. I decided to get my laptop out and work for the rest of the journey. At which point the train was invaded by an army of pissed up Motown fans.

Well, I say an army, more a Brigade really. Possibly even a Platoon. Or even a Squad. Yes, that’s it, an all female Squad of pissed up Motown fans – not a particualrly regular occurence, but not unheard of in those parts.

They spread themselves liberally about the train since there were no large groups of seats together. All well and good. Until I realised the 34 year old woman sitting opposite me was so far off her face she’d lost sight of it.

I know she was 34, by the way, because she told me. Appropos of nothing, out of the blue. Along with several other facts:

  • She teaches kids with Cerebral Palsy.
  • She liked Kenny Everett.
  • She’s a natural blonde and has the landing strip to prove it. (She didn’t … prove it, that is)
  • She’s very proud of her calves.
  • She can get her legs behind head and can prove that too. (She did and she can)
  • She thought my laptop was very smooth – a word which I now unfortunately link with the word perineum after the Splendid screening.
  • She thought the terrified Spanish girl she’d practically sat on was beautiful and should touch my laptop too.
  • Oh, and she had a black belt in Karate.

She chose to prove the last fact by kicking me in the chest whilst wearing exceedingly sharp stiletto heeled boots. The truly marvellous bit about that being she was initially wearing flat ballet pumps but decided to borrow some spiky heeled boots from a fellow rampaging Motown fan especially for the occasion. Presumably because they’d either hurt me more or show off her calves better.

Well, thanks for that.

Luckily she vanished a few stops later and disappeared into the Lewes night screaming about it ‘all being in the best possible taste’.

I was a little shell shocked, not quite as much as the delicate Spanish girl who may never speak again, but if I’m honest – which I rarely am – the whole encounter went about 80% towards fulfilling a fantasy I’ve harboured since I was about 14. The other 20%, of course, is completely impossible in the Earth’s gravitational field.

So there you go.

If you get a chance to see Splendid – seize it with both hands.

If you get the chance to commission Splendid – just do it, don’t stop to think about it, just do it.

And if you happen to be a 34 year old, Cerebral Palsy teacher from Lewes with a black belt, nice calves and natural blonde hair (with the landing strip to prove it) then I bet your fucking head hurts today … but probably not quite so much as your crushing sense of embarrassment.

Splendid.

Categories: Random Witterings | 3 Comments

Just for the Record – website

Ooh, look! A spanky, shiny new website!

http://www.justfortherecord-movie.com

Where’s my flag?

Categories: Just for the Record | Leave a comment

The movable goalposts of excitement

One thing I find you have to do as a writer is constantly readjust what you think of as being exciting. It’s like a series of little victories which are horrendously exciting the first time you achieve them, but quickly become tedious when you slog past them for the hundredth time without actually getting any further down the road.

For example, I can still remember the giddy excitement I felt when I first sat down to write a script. This was it, I was on my way! After years of telling people my sci-fi series was far superior to anything currently on telly, I was actually going to prove it!

Surely fame and fortune would be mine by the end of the week?

Nope.

It turns out, writing a script is difficult and writing a good script is nigh on fucking impossible (hence my comfortable rut of consistent mediocrity). Once you’ve started the first script, starting subsequent scripts is easy. It’s finishing the fuckers which is the tricky part; but that’s the next milestone …

I’ve finished a script! I’ve actually finished a whole script! This is so exciting! I’m days away from being rich and–

Nope, apparently it’s shit.

Bugger.

Still, now you’ve finished one script you can finish others and while it’s nice to finish them, it never feels quite as exciting as the first time you type THE END. You soon learn that particular goalpost is not really a major achievement but more a prerequisite for actually being a scriptwriter.

And so on. Every time you achieve the next step it’s initially exciting until you realise that particular project just isn’t going anywhere and is a career dead end. It’s like a giant, life long game of snakes and ladders where it’s increasingly difficult to get excited about any given ladder since you know you’ll be back at the beginning any day now.

Over time you just learn not to be phased by it. The first time you option a script is pant wettingly exciting, the tenth time without a single one of the projects going any further is considerably less so.

And all this is right and good, you can’t continue to be excited by the same thing over and over again indefinitely, certainly not when the reason you’re getting excited is because you believe it’s a step on a journey somewhere. The problems arise when you have to deal with other people. When someone options a script from you, you have to pretend to be excited because it’s their project now and they’re excited because they know for an absolute fact they’re going to make a fucking amazing movie out of your script …

Whereas you know, with reasonable statistical certainty, they’re not going to achieve anything and you’ll probably never hear from them again until they ring to apologise for the project falling apart because they couldn’t get funding/the actor they need/out of bed in the morning.

So you have to pretend and jump up and down and squeal and shout ‘Yay!’ a lot until they let you go home.

Similarly, when someone else options their first script and is breathlessly exuberant – the correct response is to buy them a drink and go ‘CONGRATULATIONS! That’s fucking awesome!’ because it is. Getting a script optioned by someone is awesome …

It just doesn’t actually mean anything useful.

Neither does winning a competition, getting a commission, getting an agent … hell, even going into production can ultimately result in nothing useful at the end of it. I’ve had seven feature films start shooting now and not one of the fuckers is actually finished. Even the one already out on DVD.

Maybe someday they will, maybe they won’t. If one of them ever does (and it’s actually good) then I probably will get a bit of pant moisture building up, but until then, I’ll just calmly wait and see what happens. An attitude I think confuses people:

“Oh my God! So-and-so’s in your film! That’s so cool!”

“Yeah, yeah it is.”

“You don’t sound particularly excited.”

“No? I can wave a flag, if you like?”

And so on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people shouldn’t get excited about these things, because they are exciting and it really is great you’re all making progress. I’m happy for you, I really am. I’m just not going to get excited about any of my projects, no matter how many times people talk about theatrical releases, until I’m sitting a cinema watching a film I wrote which I, and everyone else, have bought tickets for.

Basically, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Having said all that, I read an option agreement this morning whose terms did have me browsing the Aston Martin website and picking out colours …

Damn it, I’ve just wet my pants and drooled all over the keyboard …

Categories: Career Path, Sad Bastard, Things I've Learnt Recently, Writing and life | 7 Comments

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