Tomorrow night, which is Monday 4th April, 2011 if you’re reading this in the future (hello! Do they still have blogs where you are? What about cake? Or have the evil robot gerbils banned that too?), Karma Magnet, a short film I wrote, will be screening at Chris Regan’sMoviebar night in Brighton.
I’ll be there and may even have to say something or answer some questions or dance like a trained monkey or something. Hopefully it won’t involve some kind of trial by combat; but if it does then fuck it, bring it on.
If anyone fancies some short films and a chat, it would be cool to see you. I’ll be the nervous ginger one who’s incapable of intelligent thought or speech.
Directed by Martin Kemp, the film stars Gary Kemp and Adele Silva.
And if you enjoy it (or even if you don’t) I wrote a blog post about writing the short here; which includes links for the original treatment, original script and the final shooting script which may (or may not) prove illuminating.
So here we are at the end of the year, hell at the end of the decade and …
Actually, when does the decade end? Is 2010 the end of this decade or the beginning of the next one? Tricky number, zero. Still, fuck it. If the Romans couldn’t get to grips with it then why the fuck should I? I mean, they built roads and shit while all I’ve ever done is push buttons on a keyboard … and even that I do pretty badly.
Mind you, have you seen the roads in Rome? Shockingly bad. Fuck knows how those people supplied an empire.
But I digress.
Did you have a good Christmas? Did Santa bring you everything you wanted? I asked for World Domination and some French Fancies but the fat git failed on both counts. How was 2009 in general? Mine went almost exactly like this:
Failed to blog about THE A TEAM V DAD’S ARMY and DAISY DOGNUTS. No, I have no idea what that means either.
Talked about the technical difficulties involved in writing a script … although for the life of me I can’t remember which fucking script I was talking about. I may have been making shit up to make myself seem cool.
Shit a solid gold brick.
Explained why this:
Made me into a writer.
Discovered a clone of me from the future used to stalk me in the past.
Got hassled by an all female Squad of pissed up Motown fans. One of whom insisted she was a natural blonde with the landing strip to prove it who went on to kick me in the chest with a spiked heel. I quite enjoyed that day.
Got angry about morons giving James Moran a hard time for writing good telly.
For these people:
Deleted more than I wrote.
Ran out of ways to procrastinate and very nearly had to do some work.
And saw the trailer for the sitcom pilot I co-wrote:
Signed contracts and received feedback for the BIG IDEA. Wait, did I mention I sold the BIG IDEA without trying? No, not to the American Production company, but to a different American Production company. Actually, my friend sold it for me without my permission or knowledge. Suits me, as long as I don’t have to do any work.
Made some cats out of blue icing.
Talked about two adaptations and how they’d missed the fucking point. Since I’m now working on two adaptations I look forward to people throwing that blog back in my face.
The Dutch gave me some money, via the BBC.
So did Sweden, Denmark, Italy, America and Russia.
And, for reasons which escape me, babbled about furniture for far too long.
Is that it? Is that all I did in September? Was it a short month this year?
Went to the Screenwriters’ Festival – fannyed around, didn’t really make the most of it and met a lot of nice people. Like Hayley McKenzie – she’s lovely. Oh, and I compared cock size with Simon Beaufoy. I’m not telling you who won.
Masturbating monkeys … I still don’t really want to talk about that.
Tried to sell my car via my blog. Bizarrely, I actually sold it in absolute darkness, during a storm and a power cut to two Eastern Europeans who paid cash and didn’t want to test drive or even inspect it.
Got all mellow and wibbly over stuff like this:
Wrote an open letter to directors.
Wrote an open letter to writers.
Wrote an open letter to producers.
Hmm … looks like I did more in November than October but still, come on! Have I really been too busy to blog?
Moaned a lot about writing constantly without actually writing any scripts.
Pointed out the target audience for a script is the producer and the director, not the people who pay to go and see a film. That’s the target audience for a film.
Spoke to a wall.
And that was it. That’s the entire fucking year.
I can’t help noticing the beginning of the year involved a lot more blogging than the end of the year. I’m sorry about that (unless you hate my blog, then I’m happy for you) but I have been exceedingly busy. I’m currently working on four feature scripts as well as keeping all the other plates spinning and blogging has become an expensive luxury.
January and February 2010 promise to be absolutely fucking mental and possibly completely impossible – but hopefully once this lot is out of the way, normal blogging service will be resumed.
And by normal service I mean me talking shit in extremely long-winded, ill-thought out and ill-advised posts.
Happy New Year to you all, see you in the next decade!
Or maybe the last year of this decade … depending on how you count it.
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
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 …
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.
None of them?
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.
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!!!!!!!!!!!
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.
George MacDonald Fraser died. I was a bit upset about that.
I set out to write a feature in six days (due to some ridiculously bad time-management skills). I actually managed to write it in three … and it was shit.
I found out I had no idea what blue pages actually are. Or rather, I knew what they were, but not exactly what they looked like and how to do them. I’m still not 100% sure but I’ve come up with my own version and no one’s complained so far.
Whilst on location for ‘K‘ I managed to work out a cheap way of throwing an actor off the roof.
I got fired from a film and inexplicably became obsessed with tin foil as a direct result. Looking back on that, it might have been a teeny tiny nervous breakdown.
I learnt how to write a sex scene which won’t upset actresses, then got called a sexist by Piers for using the word ‘actresses’.
Weirdly, someone asked me to put more swearing into a script. I’ve never been asked for that before or since.
I went to the thing I got invited to – a BBC shindig and chance to meet the producers of the BBC’s New Comedy Unit. Where I stood in the corner for a few hours, got very hot, very angry and completely failed to meet any of the producers of the BBC’s New Comedy Unit.
I realised there are very few female sidekicks.
I picked up even more low budget film work.
Abi Titmuss completely failed to mention me in The Sun and then promised to continue to never mention me in public. I decided not to believe she existed.
The Wrong Door had the highest opening of any show on BBC Three (about four people) which seemed to greatly upset a handful of Internet loonies who went on and on and on about it for fucking ages.
I made the mistake of suggesting the people coming to my blog to call me names because they didn’t find a TV programme funny were a bit mental. Several people took great exception to this and went far out of their way to call me names in an effort to prove how mistaken I was about their lack of sanity and a real life.
Got my first death threat. Actually I got two death threats and one offer to rape my three month old daughter to ‘teach me a lesson’. That was nice. Perfectly sane behaviour that, I thought.
Still working on that fucking treatment.
Had a superb meeting where people offered me lots of money. I didn’t, and still don’t, really believe them.
Got offered another low budget feature film. That’s more like it.
Yet more abuse about The Wrong Door. One guy has taken to posting insults then changing names and agreeing with himself. He doesn’t seem to be able to grasp concepts like IP addresses, I can see it’s all one guy. I assumed this was a guy because I like to think women have better things to do.
An old project threatened to spring back to life … and then didn’t.
Finally finished that fucking treatment.
Oh and a bit more abuse about The Wrong Door.
On a serious note, all that abuse was a bit wearing. You write in the privacy of your own room for years until someone decides they want to make your work. You’re pleased, they’re pleased, the show comes out and generally people either like it or turn it off. Then a small contingent of morons think it’s perfectly acceptable to come and call you names, threaten your family and generally behave like cunts because – horror of horrors – THEY don’t like it. It’s depressing and it’s demotivating. I expected to be slagged off in papers if the critics didn’t like something I’d written. I expected to be slagged off on forums or other people’s blogs – all that’s fair enough; but the sheer persistence of a few individuals who felt the need to come here and spout off about it did actually get me down.
Until Oli sent me a cartoon. Which explained everything and really cheered me up. I decided I would find some way to repay him, somehow.
I completely failed to do some writing and in a gargantuan procrastination session, I redesigned my website.
Hooray! December! This post is finally over and we can all go home!
Assuming any of you are still here.
Met some more writers in the pub: Paul Campbell, Danny Stack, Lara Greenway, Michelle Lipton and Oli … as well as the normal crowd. They were all nice. I told Danny and Michelle the secret which isn’t really a secret – just something I don’t bother telling people. Danny immediately left the pub, Michelle wanted to hug me.
Got angry with ten imaginary people because there were ten of them.
Panicked. Finished the script.
Cut out every other word in the vague feeling it might make it exciting and mysterious. It didn’t.
Told people how to wait. Not sure why, probably avoiding some other work.
Declared my love affair with Apparitions. Which I still haven’t seen the last episode of. I’m a fickle fucker sometimes.
Had some fun. It was fun.
Met James Moran. Told him the secret which isn’t really a secret – he seemed to find it funny.
And there you go. That was 2008 for me. How was it for you?
My original idea was sparked by being generally annoyed at how easily people ascribe things to fate. People look at things which are amazing coincidences and try to make them less amazing by fitting them into a pattern: it was fate, or one of the Gods or Karma or Santa or someone or something like that.
A friend had recently lost his mind by looking back over his life and trying to find a common thread, one which linked all of his experiences. It amazed me how an incredibly intelligent man could genuinely believe all the events of his life were linked (other than by having happened to him and each effect being the product of the preceding cause) and then find an external force to blame.
This human gullibility, the desperate need to believe the universe cares one way or the other what happens to you, was the jumping off point for this treatment.
I’m assuming everyone can work out you need to click on the blue words to read the document.
I can’t remember getting any notes about the treatment and so the first draft was more or less a literal translation.
There followed a short period of development with most of the changes being about reducing the number of scenes by amalgamating some and cutting others; and the addition of an additional twist for the end.
The final shooting script also included extended radio and TV reports which could carry on in the background and a doubling of the length of the rooftop scenes – the fear being they would look too choppy in the final version. As it happens, they were fine and the additional lines gave us more to choose from in the edit.