Sad Bastard

Hi-tech vs. State of the Art

There is no point to this picture

Which is better?

Do they mean the same thing?

Can I arbitrarily choose one over the other?

Does it actually matter?

These

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

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

hidden

 

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

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

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

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

words

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

And so on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s why it’s fucking moronic.

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

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

are

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

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

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

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

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

just

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

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

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

for

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

He shoots …

 

Misses.

 

She shoots …

 

Misses.

 

Reload! Reload! Hurry the fuck up! Reload!

 

She drops her powder – oh shit.

 

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

 

… sneers …

 

… and …

 

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

Become:

He shoots … Misses.

 

She shoots … Misses.

 

Reload! Reload! Hurry the fuck up! Reload!

 

She drops her powder – oh shit!

 

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

Or maybe:

He shoots … Misses. She shoots … Misses.

 

Reload! Reload! Hurry the fuck up! Reload!

 

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

Or in extreme cases.

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

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

Michelle

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

State of the Art into Hi-Tech.

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

And everyone’s happy.

Lipton

Everyone except me.

and

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

Does it matter?

maybe

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

Not really.

Piers

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

Writing – occasionally it’s hard work.

Beckley

 

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

Boldly going

boldly-go

I tend to go through little phases with my writing. Certain stylistic things which, for some reason, catch my fancy and make their way into most of my scripts during a certain, brief window of time … before being jettisoned from my tool box like a pair of *insert whatever style of jeans are currently unfashionable here*.#

Currently, I seem to be rather enamoured with intercutting between two people talking to the same third person in the same room at different times.

No, I don’t know why either. I just am.

The problem with that is: it’s fucking difficult to format properly.

I guess the accepted way would be something like this:

INT. INTERROGATION ROOM - DAY

DETECTIVE CINDY questions MAVIS.

                    CINDY
          Come on, Mavis, we've got you bang to 
          rights and no mistake.

                    MAVIS
          Oh lordy, lordy.

                                               INTERCUT:

INT. INTERROGATION ROOM - DAY

The same room, hours later. Cindy interviews REGINA.
          
                    REGINA
          Fuck you copper, I ain't telling you 
          nothing.

                    CINDY
          The other woman, the one in the tutu, she
          told us everything.

                    MAVIS
          Oh lordy, lordy.

                    CINDY
          You said that.

                    REGINA
          Eat my shit, pig?

                    CINDY
          Yeah, and that.
         
                    REGINA
          What about-- ?

                    CINDY
          Look, can we just assume you've used every 
          cliché under the sun and just get on with 
          the confessing?

                    MAVIS
          Oh lordy, lordy?

                    CINDY
          Once more! Just once! And my fist is going 
          right up your ...

And so on.

The problem with that example, is it’s really hard to tell who Cindy’s talking to. I mean, this line:

                    CINDY
          The other woman, the one in the tutu, she
          told us everything.

Is that said to Mavis or Regina? How about the rest of Cindy’s lines? Who is she talking to?

Another way of writing this might be:

INT. INTERROGATION ROOM - DAY

DETECTIVE CINDY questions MAVIS.

                    CINDY
          Come on, Mavis, we've got you bang to 
          rights and no mistake.

                    MAVIS
          Oh lordy, lordy.

                                               INTERCUT:

INT. INTERROGATION ROOM - DAY

The same room, hours later. Cindy interviews REGINA.
          
                    REGINA
          Fuck you copper, I ain't telling you 
          nothing.

CINDY AND MAVIS

                    CINDY
          The other woman, the one in the tutu, she
          told us everything.

                    MAVIS
          Oh lordy, lordy.

                    CINDY
          You said that.

CINDY AND REGINA

                    REGINA
          Eat my shit, pig?

                    CINDY
          Yeah, and that.
         
                    REGINA
          What about-- ?

CINDY AND MAVIS

                    CINDY
          Look, can we just assume you've used every 
          cliché under the sun and just get on with 
          the confessing?

                    MAVIS
          Oh lordy, lordy?

CINDY AND REGINA

                    CINDY
          Once more! Just once! And my fist is going 
          right up your ...

Yuck.

I don’t know about you, but I find that fucking horrible.

I also have a weird thing about scene headings without an action line underneath it. Don’t know why, I just do. But writing “Cindy interviews Mavis”, “Cindy interrogates Mavis”, “Cindy’s still getting fucking nowhere with Mavis” is even worse.

So, recently (and I know this is slightly less than interesting; but I’ve started now and am determined to finish regardless) I’ve been bolding the intercut scenes. Rather like this:

INT. INTERROGATION ROOM - DAY

DETECTIVE CINDY questions MAVIS.

                    CINDY
          Come on, Mavis, we've got you bang to 
          rights and no mistake.

                    MAVIS
          Oh lordy, lordy.

                                               INTERCUT:

INT. INTERROGATION ROOM - DAY

The same room, hours later. Cindy interviews REGINA.
          
                    REGINA
          Fuck you copper, I ain't telling you 
          nothing.

                    CINDY
          The other woman, the one in the tutu, she
          told us everything.

                    MAVIS
          Oh lordy, lordy.

                    CINDY
          You said that.

                    REGINA
          Eat my shit, pig?

                    CINDY
          Yeah, and that.
         
                    REGINA
          What about-- ?

                    CINDY
          Look, can we just assume you've used every 
          cliché under the sun and just get on with 
          the confessing?

                    MAVIS
          Oh lordy, lordy?

                    CINDY
          Once more! Just once! And my fist is going 
          right up your ...

Which I feel reads much better. Okay, it’s shit; but that’s beside the point. You may disagree, but please don’t – it unsettles my ego.

I’ve also started doing it for bits of a scene which occur away from the main characters. So, for instance:

EXT. ROOFTOP - DAY

Sam squeals with fear, points at the alley below. Bemused, 
Wilf peers over the edge - what the hell is Sam pointing at?
There's nothing there but:

Bins, a cat, a used condom.

                    WILF
          What? What is it?

Sam shrieks with fear, points even more pointedly:

The cat chokes on one of the condoms. There's a bit of 
newspaper meandering around the alley.

                    WILF
          What? Use your words, goddamn it!

Point. Point. Shriek. Point:

A cat. A condom. A newspaper. A Burmese Zombie Ninja. 
Nothing unusual!

                    WILF
          Seriously, just spit it out or my fist
          is going right up your ...

And so on.

I don’t know if this sort of thing is allowed or not, but it works for me and fuck you, it’s my script+.

Oh and apparently I now end every scene with the threat of intimate cavity violence.

Gloves-CopBlock

 —————————————————————————————————————-

# At fourteen I reached breaking point with fashion and decided it could fuck off. Fashion means looking like a twat but not realising it until a year later. Far better to be stylish than fashionable I thought. Never quite managed it, but the thought was there.

I don’t know about you, but I’m so bored with fashion cycling endlessly through the 60s, 70s and 80s (the 90s being a brief pause before we all went back to the 60s). Can’t we have something different? I vote for Elizabethan gear to come back into fashion: tights, codpiece and a fuck-off ruff – that would be awesome.

+ Unless you’ve paid me for it, then technically it’s your script. But still fuck you. I have my own funky style, that’s why you hired me and … what’s that? Difficult? Me? You’re never going to hire me again? Oh … well. Yes. Um … uoy kcuf (that’s me taking it back).

Categories: Bored, My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 3 Comments

What’s in a name?

Redshirts

I’m never quite sure what to do with minor characters. Or rather, I know what to do with them, but not what to call them.

Conventional wisdom is to just call them Thug #1 or Florist #17 (which is a lot of florists). The problem with conventional wisdom is not everyone agrees and, frankly, I’m one of them. Keeping track of three or four Thugs in an action sequence is really difficult. Okay, so they don’t all have to talk and you can sometimes get away with:

Bob shoots three THUGS in the head. *

sledgehammer_5en

But what about when you have six thugs who split into teams of two? What if you have three heroes running around dealing with them on different floors of the same building? And then the Thug-teams meet back up and join together?

Sure, you can still call them THUG(S) #1 – 6 but it’s a bit of a dull read.

Wiser conventional wisdom says give them all an adjective as a name: SKINNY THUG, FAT THUG, STUPID THUG, TRANSVESTITE THUG … and so on.

That works well … except when it doesn’t.

images (1)

Some scripts have lots of Vox Pops from one-line characters. Or have the protagonist meeting small groups of near-identical speaking characters at regular intervals like TAKEN, for example. I’ve not made the slightest effort to find the script for TAKEN, but I can imagine running out of adjectives towards the end of the script CREPUSCULAR BADDIE, HOMOGENEOUS BADDIE, TUTU-WEARING BADDIE …

Similarly, listing them up to BADDIE #113 would be quite wearing.

Then you get the producers (usually the micro-budget ones) who want all the characters to have names, citing the logic that it’s easier to get a slightly better actor to agree to a low-paid cameo if they’re playing CAESAR BING as opposed to FACELESS NOBODY #7.

This is an opinion which varies from production to production and while I don’t think it’s terrible advice, some producers think it’s nonsense and just panic when they generate a cast list and see forty-odd named characters.

images (2)

Personally, I think it’s best not to do this until you know that’s what this particular producer wants. Especially if you have a lot of people getting beaten up or shouting during the first few pages – it’s just confusing and scares readers who don’t know which names they have to remember. I’d rather only the major characters were named in the first ten pages or so, but that might just be me.

When a producer does insist every character is named, then I find I still have the issue of keeping track of who’s who. SEBASTIAN on page 93 – did we meet him on page 4? No, that CASPIAN. Or was it a talking SEABASS? Oh look, I’ve lost interest.

Was GERALD one of the biker gang or one of the scientists? They’ve been arguing for several scenes now and I’m beginning to lose the will to care.

images (3)

Sometimes I experiment with different naming systems. If someone gets into trouble with a small gang of ROWDY YOUTHS … I might give them names which belong together, like FANCY, SPOOK, CHOO-CHOO, BENNY and BRAIN. Or HERCULES, SHIRO and LEE. Or SCOTT, ALAN, VIRGIL, GORDON and … um … BRIAN? WAYNE? MAYNARD? Fuck, can’t remember. Oh dear.

Point is, these names only belong together if you’re of a certain age and wasted too many Saturday mornings in front of the telly.

LAUREL and HARDY might be good names for two bumbling security guards … unless the reader is in their early twenties and has no idea who Laurel and Hardy were.

“Oh, those two guys from that black and white poster?”

images (4)

Fucking criminal, I know – but nobody’s famous forever.

Other times I’ve tried giving a group of DISPOSABLE MERCENARIES colours for names: RED, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE … That seemed to work quite well during a particularly convoluted fight scene.

Very recently, I had a multitude of characters commenting on the action to camera, like an expanded Internet-based Greek chorus. We occasionally came back to the same person, but the number of them keeps growing. I tried calling them by their job title – but most of them weren’t in situations where their job was easily recognisable from their clothes/backgrounds – unlike, say, PARAMEDIC or NAZI.

So I tried giving all the characters an adjective-based name … but that wasn’t really working either because there were too many of them.

Then, after a dressing down from a frustrated producer on a different project who thought “giving all of the minor characters proper names is just standard and why the fuck aren’t you doing it?”, I panicked and rewrote every script I was working on … but this one just didn’t lend itself to that kind of thing. If you call the Paramedic STEVE, then you have to include an action line explaining he’s a paramedic, whereas a PARAMEDIC can just start talking.

Then I had a brain wave – why not give every character an alliterative name? NURSE NERYS, DOCTOR DAN, RENE THE RETRO-PHRENOLOGIST?

Yes! This was genius! Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

lightbulb

Because it’s fucking stupid, that’s why.

Never, ever do this.

Unless you want to. Because, obviously, rule number one is never, ever take advice from me.

I still haven’t found a solution I’m happy with. Or perhaps I just still haven’t found a solution which works every time. I’m searching for the Grand Unified Theory of Minor Character Naming … but perhaps there isn’t one?

Perhaps it’s something I should just review on a script by script basis?

Or perhaps I’m just writing this because I’m avoiding writing something useful and feel better knowing you’ve just wasted a significant chunk of your day too?

Yes, that sounds more likely.

images (5)

—————————————————————————————-

* With one bullet? Or one after the other with three bullets? This is a terrible action line. Never put this line in a script.

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

2013

images

Oh come on! That was never a year!

Really? Did we have all the months? Does everyone remember having all the months? We must have skimped on one of the summer months. July? Anyone remember there being a July in 2013?

The rate time’s passing is getting ridiculous.

On the plus side, if it’s 2014 tomorrow, then it means we only have one more year until hoverboards and flying cars!

And yes, they are both on my future Christmas list.

So how was your 2013? Was it good? Did you enjoy it? All of it? Even the July which I’m sure the Government have covertly pinched?

Mine, since you’re doubtlessly asking, went something like this:

JANUARY

I started the year by getting a bit excited about January. No, I have no idea why either.

Then, inspired by this post by Debbie Moon, I got a bit ranty about jealousy.

jealousy-batman-superman-jealousy-flying-demotivational-posters-1321741505
And I finished off the month by rambling on a bit about HMV maybe shutting down.

Which it didn’t.

The essence of my argument was it would be a shame if HMV went bust because the immediate next wave of filmmakers would never know the elation of walking into a shop and buying a copy of your own DVD. HMV is one of the last outlets who stock pretty much any low budget films. If they went, the only shelf space would be in supermarkets and they are a bit funny about what films they’ll sell.

Now, okay, DVDs (or Blu-Rays, if you prefer) will ultimately go away and people will feel giddy and excited about something else.

But a year later, DVDs are still here (as is HMV) and they’re still exciting. I don’t know about you, but I have a hierarchy of film-love. Only my absolute favourites get bought on DVD. Films I really enjoy … I probably won’t bother to buy. I might watch it several times on TV or pay to stream something … but only my absolute bestest films get bought.

Unless I know the writer and want to annoy/promote them.

2012-07-13 14.54.12

Having a film produced is exciting. Attending the première is more exciting. Seeing it in released in the cinemas is even more exciting still. But holding a physical copy in your hand, one you can put on the shelf or lend to people or just look at and smile … that’s the best bit.

For me.

Because that, in a small way, puts the thing I wrote on a similar footing to all the other films I love. Even when I fucking hate the actual film itself.

FEBRUARY

I began February by busting the shit out of the motivation, willpower and confidence conspiracy myth bullshit.

Or possibly by just ranting aimlessly about those imaginary things. One of the two.

simplicity

I finished off the month by loving Wreck-It Ralph. A lot.

At least I was right about that.

Was that it? Hmm … didn’t blog much in February, did I? Probably because I gave up chocolate, biscuits, sweets, crisps and cake in a vague effort to stop looking like a fucking hippo. That kind of thing is bound to make someone less bloggy.

MARCH

I began March by explaining, politely, that they don’t fucking love your script in Cannes – no matter what they may have said. If they loved it, they would have bought it. Did they buy it?

No. Then they didn’t love it.

1343674926513_9404422

Yes, you can still pay me to re-write it.

I also blogged about exercise, P90X and biscuits – somehow finding it appropriate to insert myself into Death in Paradise wielding a spoon.

ginge-in-paradiseNo, I have no idea why either.

That was a weird thing to do. Although, the good news is I still have that spoon. In a lovely bit of serendipity, I stole it from the Jamaican hotel which initially inspired Death in Paradise. It’s now my emergency back up spoon.

Then I wrote a blog about Other People’s Ideas and how hard they are to write. For some reason I equated it to making a human being and having too many ears.

Seriously, never give up biscuits. It’s just not worth it.

APRIL

Wait … what the fuck? THERE WAS NO APRIL! I fucking knew we hadn’t had a full year! Here’s the proof …

Or rather, here isn’t the proof because April never fucking existed. It can’t have existed or I would have blogged about it.

You fuckers stole my April!

I’m a bit cross about that.

MAY

All I did in May was give away a really cool book which, despite the cover, has no information in it about how to get laid by writing scripts.

filmcraft-screenwriting-1-9781908150714-976x976

What a rotten swizz.

JUNE

Apparently, some insanely exciting things were happening in June … but I have no idea what they might have been.

My laptop had a bit of an accident. That was annoying.

laptop-exploding-battery-fireBut I fixed it. Sort of.

IMAG1600

What else happened?

Ooh, I wrote some stuff and edited some stuff and had some meetings and all sort of proper writing stuff. That was exciting.

I then went on to promote a writing development scheme thingy.

2431694

What was exceptionally exciting about that is a writer friend of mine later told me she’d applied and been accepted onto the course – something she never would have known existed if I hadn’t mentioned it.

That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I love being vaguely useful occasionally.

Buoyed on by that, I promoted some free stuff. Which probably isn’t free any more, so … don’t bother clicking that link.

Assuming anyone’s still reading and is even clicking anything. Are you?

Really?

Why? Go do something more fun.

Oh, no, wait! This next post was my most popular post of the year. Still is.

I think.

MAN OF STEEL – 3 THINGS I TRY NOT TO PUT IN A SCRIPT

tumblr_mouxvehQ2y1s5k0eto1_500

JULY

July was simple. All I did in July was reveal the meaning of life and the meaning of illegal.

dart1

I got both of them completely and utterly right too.

Because I’m awesome.

I totally rocked July.

AUGUST

I’m getting bored now. Anyone else getting bored?

August! What did I do in August?

NOTHING!

There was no August either.

Wait a minute … no April? No August? No months beginning with the letter A?

Hmm …

That video would probably be more relevant if it was actually about the letter A.

SEPTEMBER

There was a September! Since September doesn’t begin with the letter A, this completely proves my theory.

It fucking does!

In September I went to see Monsters University.

element_meh

Then I gave you writer-based fashion advice.

dr who pants

And I rounded out the month by getting upset about a wine glass.

fu8bkhJesus.

OCTOBER

In October I had a letter from Linda Aronson, which was far politer than I deserved.

Then I wrote the first two parts of my fantastically successful Notes from the Other Side series; which was about my inept fumblings as a script editor for PERSONA.

i-have-no-idea-what-im-doing-dog

They were called Part One and Part Two. I’m original like that, I am. I was the first person ever to think of calling something part one and part two.

NOVEMBER

I’m really bored with this now. I’ve no idea why I do this every year, I mean what is the fucking point? Does anyone read this far? I will send a five pound note to the first person who quotes these three words in the comments:

Fresnel

Turpentine

Jamais vu

That’s a serious offer. I’ll send you a proper five pound note through the proper mail and everything if you’re the first person to copy and paste those three words into a comment.

And 12p to the first person who can use them in a sentence.

And now that I’ve (hopefully) successfully proved no one’s reading any more … on with November.

First up, Part Three of the Notes from the Other Side trilogy. I broke boundaries here by calling the third part Part Three. I also got a bit ranty about it all.

Sorry.

Especially to the person I referred to as a fucking twat; but to be fair. You were.

Or I was.

One of the two.

Possibly both.

download

Then I talked about tailoring. It was in relation to an upcoming meeting … at which everyone behaved in almost exactly the way I hoped they wouldn’t.

clown

For some reason I then had a pop at actors who don’t afford my scripts the same respect as Shakespeare’s.

No, seriously. I can only assume I was heavily medicated at the time.

download (1)

And I finished the month by gushing about my love for a man. Well, eleven men. Twelve, as it turned out. Thirteen now.

2013-12-30 14.36.45

If you’re feeling particularly geeky, you can spot seven differences between this photo and the one uploaded in November. Although, I warn you now imaginary person who’s never going to fucking bother doing this … number four is almost impossible to spot.

DECEMBER

I began December by delivering my verdict of The Day of the Doctor … I fucking loved it. I know I fucking loved it because I wrote “I fucking loved it.”

You can’t argue with that kind of proof.

Doctor-Who-50

Then I decided to tattoo something on my forehead so I wouldn’t forget it. This is the worst possible way of remembering stuff … mainly because it’s really fucking hard to see your own forehead.

amy-pond

Don’t do this. Seriously, it’s silly.

And I finished off the year with a series of Christmas crackers – little bloglet mentions of things I either think are cool or just felt like mentioning:

  1. The Elephantom
  2. Totally Serialized (there’s a competition on this one – you can win free tickets!)
  3. Dead Elf
  4. Production Hell
  5. Kung Fury

And that was pretty much it in blogging terms.

Behind the scenes, this was an interesting year. It’s the first year for nearly a decade I haven’t had anything produced or released … and yet I probably earnt more this year than any previous year to date.

Apparently a writer can earn more money by not getting films made than by actually getting involved in all that icky and annoying shooting business.

Who knew?

At the beginning of the year, I made a conscious decision to write something for myself. Something I really, really wanted to write which I would then try to sell.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, I worked almost continuously on other people’s ideas with varying degrees of success.

I had some lovely meetings with some lovely people and at least one of them I didn’t completely screw up.

I got paid to write stuff I enjoyed writing for people who actually cared about the script and wanted to get it right … as opposed to caring about the shooting date (tomorrow) and wanting to get it finished … even if ‘finished’ means ‘nobody fucking cares how good it is, we just need some words’.

As an added extra bonus, a producer sent one of my scripts to a director whose work I really, really admire. I’ve no idea if that guy actually liked the script or not. Probably not, but he wanted to read it and therefore at least now knows who I am.

I’m the guy who’s script he (probably) didn’t like.

Unless he hasn’t read it yet. Which is entirely possible and extremely likely.

2014 already has some super cool awesome stuff lined up with a couple of projects lining up on the starting blocks and even a few lumbering asthmatically towards the final set of hurdles.

Beyond which are another set of even higher hurdles, because that’s what the whole writing gig’s about.

So bring it on 2014, do your worst!

Just nicely.

Please?

Categories: BBC, Bored, Career Path, Christmas Crackers, Industry Musings, My Way, Opportunity, Persona, Progress, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way, Strippers vs. Werewolves, Things I've Learnt Recently, Two steps back, Writing and life | 16 Comments

Shakespeare’s leeway

funny,shakespeare,tshirt,want-fc6c62b4fe4b0dd64bf83c71ae59dace_h

I was listening to the Nerdist Writers’ Panel Comics Edition Podcast thing the other day.

You know, the other day. Not this day, but the other one.

If you haven’t heard it, you really should. It’s great. Anyway, Ashley Miller was talking about writing Thor (the movie), about sitting with Kenneth Branagh and how Kenneth said he had spent twenty years trying to understand the soliloquy in Hamlet.

And it got me thinking.

b91206a6c282966c9dc543f1e14523db38d00854

First off, I was thinking about the time I nearly accidentally killed Kenneth Branagh one day in Bath.

The town, not the tub.

He parked his car on double yellows and leapt out into traffic, forcing me to swerve wildly to avoid him. I don’t think he noticed; but if it weren’t for my mongoose-like reflexes, he would be dead now.

Thank you, I am directly responsible for Thor. You’re welcome.

If it was him.

Maybe it wasn’t? Maybe it was just someone who looked like him?

download

Fuck it, I saved someone’s life. Sort of.

The car behind swerved into the opposite lane and caused a ten-car pile-up, killing fifteen people and a small pigeon; but that’s not the point. I didn’t kill anyone. I specifically didn’t kill Kenneth Branagh (or someone who looked a lot like him). *

Next up, I thought about how dedicated, awesome and serious he is as an actor and how amazing it is that he’s spent all this time trying to understand a single passage in a single play.

If-you-can-t-explain-it-simply-then-you-don-t-understand-it-35

My third thought was that would never fucking happen to one of my scripts.

Okay, so there’s a quality differential between me and Shakespeare. In fact, you could argue that every other writer in the entire world sits between me and Shakespeare … and I wouldn’t argue back.

I’m like that.

But that’s kind of irrelevant because no actor would attach that much weight to any speech in any film script they were presented with. Theatre – yes, I believe maybe that does happen. Certainly among the work by the deader playwrights.

8fa648f7b7392e228fce87811bb9eed0.re

 

I can imagine a very kind actor spending half an hour, maybe 45 mins, trying to figure out how to make one of my speeches work before declaring “my character wouldn’t say that; but twenty years?

Twenty?

No chance. Probably because very few films are at the script stage for twenty years.

More likely because  if a play is still being performed 400 years after it was written then it’s kind of proved itself and probably doesn’t need to be improvised all over thank you so very much.

So not only is it pointless comparing myself (unfavourably) to Shakespeare; but it’s equally pointless comparing a film script written four days ago to a theatre script written four centuries ago.

Films change all the way through production. Lines are rewritten, chucked out, improvised, dug out of the bin and reinstated, forgotten and finally misread in an exercise which frequently leaves the scene unusable.

download (1)

New plays, I guess, go through a similar process.

Older plays, ones which have stood the test of time … they’re recited. They’re given respect. They’re given it because they’ve earnt it.

It’s different. I know it’s different. I do, honestly … but still, I can’t help feeling a little jealous.

Twenty years trying to understand the text.

Twenty. ^

Wouldn’t that be nice? For people to assume you put those specific words in that specific order for a specific reason and then try to figure out what that reason might be?

Makes me go all misty just thinking about it.

Then I go all sad because I know it’ll never happen.

catplayxbox360

—————————————————————————————————-

* It’s possible, not all of this story is true.

^ Actually, I can’t remember how long he’s spent – I heard the podcast weeks ago now (or possibly yesterday) and don’t hold information in my head for that long; but let’s go with twenty.

You know the only thing worse than an actor improvising all over a script? An actor not improvising anything at all. It’s all about balance, people. Good actors know when to improvise and when not to. Bad actors improvise the line back to the place-holder-line the writer discarded because it’s a cliché.

My biggest bugbear is when an actor decides not to use a word because they don’t know what it means. Especially when that word is a technical term used in a field their character specialises in:

“I don’t think my character, a submarine captain, would use all these long words about submarines and oceans. I think he’d say something simple like ‘Let’s go under water, please’.”

Mind you, I’ve also had an actor pronounce one of my  spelling mistakes because they believed in the sanctity of the written word.

Both of these approaches are fairly extreme and, luckily, pretty rare. As ever, reality, common sense and the majority lie somewhere in the middle.

Categories: Bored, Industry Musings, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Ending with a beginning

download

I went to see Monsters University recently. Or rather, recently to when I’m writing this; probably not recently to when I’m posting it. It seems to be taking me longer and longer between writing and posting.

Sorry.

Anyway, Monsters University …

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS (OF A SORT) HERE.

UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN MONSTERS INC.

IN WHICH CASE, YOU’VE ALREADY SEEN ALL THE SPOILERS

… is a really, really good film which I just didn’t really enjoy. I liked all the component parts. I liked the characters, scenes, dialogue, imagery, story and music … but was, largely, bored.

No, not bored … disinterested. Disconnected. I watched, but didn’t care.

element_meh

I think that’s because of Monsters Inc. If Monsters Inc. didn’t yet exist or I hadn’t yet seen it, I would have loved Monsters University …

But it does and I have.

To me, the central dramatic question of Monsters University is “Will Mike become a scarer?”

Well … no. No, he won’t. I know I won’t because he isn’t. Present tense. Monsters University is all in the past. Monsters Inc. is the present. Mike isn’t a scarer. That’s one of the facts which was indelibly stamped on my brain before I went to see the film. It’s part of who the character is. In the same way I know Captain Kirk isn’t a painter and decorator or Batman isn’t a florist.

download (1)

Or perhaps a more relevant way of looking at it is Doctor McCoy isn’t a starship captain and Alfred isn’t a costumed vigilante. If they had grown up wanting to be the hero, then that would be an interesting and semi-tragic bit of backstory; but I’m not sure it would make for an interesting film. It’s a good piece of a film, but is watching a character fail to become the person you already know they’re not a good story in and of itself?

Putting it another way: can you root for a character/invest in their story when you know they’re not going to achieve their goal?

The odd thing about the Monsters University is that’s the whole story, there’s nothing else to it. I can’t remember ever seeing another film where the ending was so clearly set in my mind.*

Okay, so I didn’t know the how or the why of Mike’s failure; but I knew he would fail.

You could argue you know the end of most films – Superman will save the day, Indiana Jones will find the treasure and James Bond will get the girl. Sometimes twice and occasionally (and uncomfortably) whether she wants him to or not.

download (2)

But to me, that’s normal suspension of disbelief. I know the hero will win but am prepared to pretend I don’t in order to enjoy the film because, fuck, this might be the one time they fail. I’m 99.9999999% positive they won’t; but they might.

To me, the fun of a film lies in that 0.0000001%

But that’s not what I saw in Monsters University. This was knowing the hero is going to fail. 100% positive. Worse than that, it’s knowing the hero will be much better off (and happier) once he has failed.

It’s watching the hero pursue the wrong goal and having to wait 90 odd minutes for him to work it out.

To me, Monsters University is an origin story, which is fine. I love stuff like that. I love watching how famous partnerships began or careers got started. I know Clark Kent will become Superman, Bruce Wayne will become Batman and Peter Parker will become Spider-Man. I know all this and can’t fool myself into pretending they might not. I can’t suspend my disbelief. When I know the outcome, it stops being a WILL question and becomes a HOW. I don’t really find HOW questions dramatic – they can be interesting on an intellectual, documentary level; but rarely on a visceral, emotional level. Luckily, origin stories are usually structured so the origin, the HOW they become the thing you know they will become, is at most half of the film. After that, you get another story.

Most recently: Superman had to fight off Kryptonians intent making Earth more dangerous for themselves; Batman had to stop some loons from destroying Gotham by making everyone else loonier and Spider-Man had to stop a bit of a dull lizard-bomb.

Cat_Stuck_In_Blind

Sometimes these origin stories weave the second story into the origin narrative (like in X-Men or in Batman Begins); sometimes the first story comes to a grinding halt (there you go, sir: snazzy cape, natty boots and a set of super powers … you’re all done! I expect an arch-nemesis will be along to monologue at you in a minute or two); but either way you get two stories:

How did X become X?
Will X overcome Y?

I like WILL questions. Will X fall for Y? Will X rescue the thing from the other thing? Will X find his glasses?

HOW … meh. Okay, I am interested; but I don’t care.

Monsters University is all HOW and no WILL.

Which is such a shame. Monsters University is clearly a superb film. It would have been fantastic as a stand alone film. And Monsters Inc. would have been fantastic as a sequel.

But that’s not what happened.

Monsters Inc. is a superb stand alone film; but I found Monsters University to be oddly empty and just backstory. I think it adds a lovely new sheen to Monsters Inc. Next time I watch Monsters Inc. it will be with fresh eyes, seeing nuances I didn’t know were there before. Monsters University has made Monsters Inc. even better than it already was … whilst at the same time failing to keep my attention.

images

I guess the problem was, although there were two questions, one cancelled the other out:

How did X become X?
Will X become someone else?

In order to become emotionally engaged in the second question, I would have had to stop asking the first question. I would have needed to not know it was an origin story. To me it needed a different second question – a WILL question which I didn’t already know the answer to which was wholly resolved in the movie. WILL Mike find the thief? WILL Mike uncover the dastardly plot? WILL Mike unmask the villain?

I guess the lesson I learnt is HOW questions pique my curiosity, but WILL questions engage me in the story.

Or something like that.

download (3)

I also thought it was really odd the way they ended the university section of the film. When Mike and Sulley discover they don’t need Monsters University in order to be the people they want to be, it’s kind of akin to the filmmakers telling you you don’t need to bother watching everything until this point in order to enjoy Monsters Inc. It’s a film about a character going to university where he discovers he doesn’t need to bother going to university. Oh. Right. So Monsters University is a waste of time? Is that an allegory for this whole film being a bit of a waste of time? Is allegory the right word?

We may never know.

Obviously I’m in a minority with this feeling – certainly the family behind me in the cinema loved the film. Loved it so much they shrieked with laughter at everything. EVERYTHING. Mike walks into a room, hilarious. Sulley breathes, hysterical. Randall has fingers, tears of laughter and whoops of fucking joy.

In fact, come to think of it, the HOW and the WILL of Monsters University were drowned out by the more pressing WHAT and WHEN of the family behind:

WHAT the fuck are they laughing at?
WHEN will they either shut the fuck up or laugh themselves to death so I can enjoy the film?

Maybe that was just the problem all along?

download (4)

——————————————————————————————————————————————

* People usually toss Titanic into the conversation round about here, because they knew the boat would sink. The boat sinking isn’t the fucking point! The boat sinking is a HOW question, one you watch with detached interest. The WILL question is “will Jack and Rose get together?” If you thought the answer to that was obvious from the start, then I think you’re lying. Because they didn’t and NO is almost never the answer to that question.

Obviously, if you didn’t like either of the characters or the film as a whole then you probably thought maybe, maybe not – I don’t care … but you didn’t KNOW.

Unless someone told you.

Or it’s mentioned in the beginning of the film and I’ve just forgotten. Which it might be.

Lincoln! That’s a film where I was a hundred percent certain of the answer to the WILL question. That film tries to ask WILL he succeed; but really it’s just a docudrama about HOW he succeeded. I kind of enjoyed that film without really being emotionally involved.

Categories: Bored, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Things I've Learnt Recently | 5 Comments

When is it okay to illegally download media?

Never. It’s never okay. It’s illegal. That, by definition, means it’s unlawful or not allowed.

30797015

Okay, so it’s never legal to illegally download a movie or song or TV show; but when is it morally acceptable to do so?

Never.

It’s fucking illegal, I thought we’d covered that?

28484119

Illegally downloading anything is stealing. It belongs to someone else, someone who doesn’t want you to have it for free.

This is something which drives me fucking mad – people don’t think of it as stealing. It fucking is! It’s not yours, you’ve taken it without the owner’s consent – you’ve fucking stolen it!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. Do whatever your conscience allows; but at least have the fucking balls or even the basic intelligence to admit/realise you’ve stolen it.

I keep hearing the same argument on radio or TV – some fuckwit admits to a reporter that he illegally downloads media and then justifies it with something like:

“Well, if DVDs weren’t so expensive I wouldn’t have to steal them.”

Double-facepalm

Yeah, good point. You know what else is expensive? Ferraris. Ferraris are really fucking expensive – do you steal them? Houses, they’re pretty expensive too, why not steal them?

Oh wait, you have a right to possess Season 16 of The Simpsons for free, do you? A human right? Is that enshrined in your country’s constitution? Or in the Ten Commandments? Thou shalt be afforded immediate access to a shitty cam version of the latest blockbusters? Where does it fucking say you shouldn’t have to pay for something which doesn’t belong to you?

Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. I’m not saying I don’t do it. I’m just saying call it what it fucking is – stealing.

You know what really pisses me off though? People won’t pay for a DVD but go and buy a knocked off version. They’re not prepared to pay the people who made the film, but they’re prepared to pay the people who stole it.

images

That’s fucking madness.

Oh, but it’s cheaper, is it? Oh well, that’s alright then.

Paying someone to steal a car for you is much more acceptable than stealing it yourself.

Except, oh no … it really fucking isn’t.

The problem is, stealing media has become so widespread that no one even realises it’s a problem.

I was in a meeting about a TV thing recently and the producer wanted me to watch a particular show as research.

Have you seen it?

No.

Oh. Maybe there’s some way you could watch it somehow?

I don’t think so, it’s not on any more, is it?

No. If there was some way you could watch it, it would be very useful.

I don’t think there is.

1244235414-theparty

The stupid thing here is he clearly wanted me to download it and watch it; but he couldn’t actually tell me to steal another TV company’s product, because it’s fucking illegal.

I did download/steal it. It was shit. But that’s beside the point.

Or rather, it isn’t.

I’ve written some bad films which were very heavily torrented. The people who stole those films then complained about how bad they were. To me.

Fuck. Off.

Writing those films was a traumatic experience. It was every bit as painful for me to write as it was for you to watch. And I’m not even being compensated for that pain!

Worse that that, some guy in a market somewhere is getting paid my nerve-soothing money.

del boy G1

How is that fair?

Well it’s not and life’s not fair. So it’s just tough shit.

But at least have the common fucking courtesy to man or woman the fuck up and admit that you stole it. You didn’t torrent it or share it or download it – you fucking stole it.

Is there ever a time when stealing stuff is perhaps not quite stealing?

images (1)

I don’t know – maybe. Maybe if you pay for Sky Movies and the film you want to watch is on there, but only on the day you’re not at home and (for some reason) you have no way of recording it and you’re going to be out of the country so Sky Go doesn’t work and (for some other fucking reason) you’re not capable of setting up a simple fucking VPN to get around that … then maybe, just maybe it’s alright to steal a film you’ve technically already paid for so long as you don’t actually keep it forever?

images (2)

Or if you buy the DVD but want to watch it on your phone but haven’t got any way of ripping the DVD to your phone so you steal a copy for your phone. Is that stealing? Yeah, but … maybe that’s understandable/allowable?

Maybe.

Or if a show is on the BBC and you’ve technically paid for it with your licence fee and you want to watch it while you’re temporarily abroad but forgot to download it on the iPlayer before you left and still can’t work out how a VPN works?

Is that still stealing?

Or is that just circumventing an annoying process which stops you viewing the content you’ve paid for at the time and in the manner you wish to view it?

notsure

I don’t know.

All I do know is stealing is stealing and stealing is wrong. You may choose to do it, but it’s still stealing and it’s still wrong. Doing it makes you a thief, that may or may not be acceptable to you, it’s not for me to judge because I don’t own a snazzy wig. It’s up to you do whatever the hell you like; but thinking it’s anything but stealing just makes you a fucking idiot.

download

Categories: Bored, Industry Musings, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard | 2 Comments

P90X vs biscuits

brain

I was having dinner the other day with the admirable Arnopp, conversing about all things writerly, when the conversation drifted (as it often does) to exercise.

Now you may think exercise is an odd thing for two writers to talk about, given writing itself is about the least energetic thing you can do (even though thinking does burn quite a few calories); but that’s kind of the point.

There’s a tendency for writers to pile on the pounds a bit. I guess it’s due to moving nothing but your fingers and eyes for hours on end, usually within sauntering distance of the biscuit barrel.

photo

I don’t know why, but chocolate biscuits seem essential to the writing process. Or my writing process at least. Some people like to choose the right music to write to, I like to choose the right biscuit to set the mood.

The end result of years of finger-waggling and biscuit-guzzling has left me slightly larger than intended.

I don’t know how it works for women, but as a man I’ve always said “The day I can no longer see my own cock will be the day I hit the gym in earnest”.

Well, that day … never came. Although I suspect I may have been leaning forward a bit.

The day that did come though was the “clothes are too tight and I can balance a mug of tea on my stomach whilst sitting bolt upright”. Okay, so the personal tea shelf is quite useful; but the clothes thing was annoying.

i-got-fat

So it was time to do something about it.

But what?

I’ve been an occasional gym member over the years and found it takes too much time getting there/back; plus, if you work out how much time I spent in a gym versus not in one, I largely paid NOT to go to the gym.

Which is a waste.

There’s a free gym on the Secret Writing Island; but I could never guarantee it wasn’t full of other people. I hate going to a busy gym Having to constantly modify my workout to anticipate which machine/piece of equipment will be empty next just irritates me beyond belief. Seriously, if you ever see an episode of Death in Paradise in which everyone in a gym is dead except for one chubby, spoon-wielding,  ginge – IT WAS ME!

ginge-in-paradise

Years back I used to train three different martial arts on various nights … but I’m a family man now and disappearing every night is frowned upon. Mostly by me. So that’s out.

Time is another restriction. I don’t want exercise taking up all morning. Nor do I want it taking up all evening. If Mandy’s out of the country then I have to look after Alice and can’t really leave the house, so I needed an exercise program I could do in my own house, with limited equipment which didn’t take longer than an hour a day.

Enter P90X.

p90x

I don’t know if you’ve seen the infommercials for this; but it’s all over American TV and looks really, really fucking annoying.

But … I wasn’t getting any thinner it seemed to tick all the boxes – an hour (ish) a day, limited equipment, no need to go to the gym.

I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to research, so I spent a few months poring over the details and decided … oh fuck it, why not?

And you know what? It’s been really good.

Well, mostly good.

I’ve enjoyed it anyway.

Or at least the bits where I wasn’t lying broken in a pool of my own sweat vowing to hunt down and murder Tony Horton.

tony-horton

I didn’t do the before and after photos because … well, it’s a bit weird; but let’s just say after completing the program I can happily report my penis and I are once again seeing eye to eye.

To be fair, I didn’t even do it properly. Instead of six days a week, I did four or five and I didn’t even bother with the meal plan. I did give up chocolate, sweets, crisps and biscuits for February (never give up stuff in January, it’s too long. February’s much more civilised) and have subsequently found I’m not that bothered about snacky stuff now.

Or, you know, significantly less so.

Immediately pre-P90X I ate 16 Lily O’Brien’s chocolate chip cookies in less than an hour.

That’s just silly, in anyone’s delicious book.

662-the-cookie-monster-is-serous-about-his-cookies

P90X is essentially a series of alternating muscle/cardio videos – 14 in all. You do muscle/weight stuff on the odd days and cardio stuff on the evens. The muscle stuff is broken down into groups so you don’t work everything at the same time, whilst the cardio stuff is plyometrics (an hour of ‘fuck me is this nearly over yet?’ jumping and squatting), Yoga (an hour and a half of ‘fuck me, I can’t do that!’ whilst dislocating the odd shoulder) and Kenpo (an hour of vaguely martial-art-themed punching and kicking. I’m quite good at that one).

I’ve found I can do it immediately after Alice has gone to bed or early in the morning before breakfast, depending on whether I’m in the UK or on the Secret Writing Island. It’s an hour of effort with no travelling time … and, well it worked for me.

I look better, I feel better and I’m thinking better. Hopefully that translates into writing better too … but probably not.

For me, it’s a good system at a reasonable price. Even more reasonable if you get a second hand set off eBay.

No, there’s nothing revolutionary in it. Yes, you could put a similar program together yourself; but there’s an inherent level of motivation to be had from following a video. It’s far easier to give up or slow down (on the cardio bits) if you’re just doing your own thing, so for me it was worth it.

There are dozens of similar products out there, this was just the one I chose. I think I’m going to try Insanity next because the adverts amuse me.

“Most of you watching this won’t be able to do Insanity. If you try, you’ll fucking die so don’t even bother.”

But if you’re feeling a bit porky and want to sort yourself out, you could do a lot worse than checking out P90X.

Like I say, it seems to have worked for me.

Or at least, everyone keeps telling me it has. At great length and in effusive detail. Which is exactly the same as having friends and family following me around saying:

“Fuck me, you used to be so fat. You were massive. Oh my God, you were so big I wanted to be sick.”

All fucking day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some one-handed press ups.

I need the other hand to eat these biscuits.

cookie-monster-diet

Categories: Bored, My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way, Things I've Learnt Recently, Writing and life | 5 Comments

They loves it at Cannes, they does

Ad-Land-Cannes-use-this-one1

Occasionally I get asked to write (or re-write) a script by someone (be that producer, director, actor or anonymous other) whose idea “went down really well at Cannes”.

Sometimes they’ve shown this idea to huge celebrity x or massive producer y or ginormous studio z and the response was incredibly positive – they love the idea/treatment/script and said this person should go away and get a script (re)written. Come back and see us when you have!

This used to impress me as much as it impressed the person who wanted to hire me to work on their fabulous idea. I mean, if huge celebrity x, massive producer y and ginormous studio z think it’s a good idea then it’s got to be worth working on! At least the person I’m writing the script for has someone in power eagerly waiting to read it when it’s done! That’s got to be better than writing a script for someone who has no idea what to do with it afterwards, isn’t it? I mean … they love it! Right?

Using-That-Word

Well, yes … and no.

Yes, because the person doing the hiring has at least worked out how to get the material in front of someone who could, potentially, make it.

And no because if the idea/treatment/script were any good then said important person would have bought it.

The vital bit of the second paragraph is “go away”.

“I love it! Come back when you’ve developed it further!” means “Fuck off and take your stupid fucking ideas with you.”

But this is a polite industry staffed with “artistic” people who react badly to criticism, so no one is honest. Not really. A producer/exec/actor will rarely tell you something is truly awful because they don’t want to offend and they don’t want to risk being wrong.

Just because someone puts a god awful idea in front of you today, doesn’t mean they won’t come up with a work of genius tomorrow. It’s unlikely in most cases, but not every piece of work from a good writer is going to be perfect. Or even good.

Similarly, just because you don’t like an idea doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad – someone else may like it. Several hundred million someone else’s might like it. If they do, then it makes sense to invest in that person’s bad ideas because … well, fuck it. If the idea makes money, it doesn’t matter what your personal feelings are about it.

Mr__Burns_by_od1e

There are plenty of films I think are appalling which have been smash hits – if I’d been in position to commission those ideas, I’d have lost my studio untold millions. Okay, so that happens; but if you decline politely then at least you’re in a position to say yes to the film maker’s next project. If you tell them to take their talentless shit and fuck off then they’re unlikely to want to do anything other than yell “I fucking told you!” through your letterbox at three in the morning.

So no one says no. Or rather, they say no; but make it sound like “I love it … but it’s not for me.”

Which leaves me in the interesting position of dealing with people who think their idea is awesome because no one’s told them it isn’t.

And in a way that’s fine, because they hire me to fix it.

Sometimes there is a nub of a good story buried in the script/treatment/idea and there’s something to build on – those are the jobs I accept. Sometimes there really isn’t anything to it – those are the ones I politely decline, for much the same reasons listed above.

1343674926513_9404422

The problem comes when the hirer believes the “It’s great! Please go away.” means their idea is so amazing it doesn’t need much work. Those projects are tricky because they don’t want to be told what’s wrong with their idea – they know for a fact there’s nothing wrong with it because x, y or z loved it.

It’s really hard to explain to people what x.y or z really meant without upsetting them. I try not to get involved with people like that because … well, it’s just frustrating and pointless. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to determine how immovable people can be on ideas before you sign the contract.

I wish I could. I wish there was some kind of collaboration test I could get potential employers to fill in. Something which would let me know how open they are to new ideas and how clingy they’re going to get to the bits which don’t work.

But there isn’t. Or at least, I don’t think there is.

So instead I’m left with my fallible intuition and the annoying realisation that I will occasionally get trapped in one of these pointless arguments.

I should just tell them the truth.

images

If they loved it they would have bought it there and then! Money is the only yes!

But I never do. I just swear a lot in private, wait a couple of years and then change their names and genders so I can whine about it on here.

Does that make me a hypercritical coward?

Yes, probably.

Sorry.

Categories: Industry Musings, My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way | Leave a comment

The HMV high

bixrec104hmv

On the day it was announced HMV was going into administration, producer Jonathan Sothcott posted this on his Facebook page (reprinted here with his permission, don’t go copying and pasting it willy nilly now):

524694_227574980676343_1530184419_nAdministration doesn’t mean closure but today’s news about HMV appointing administrators makes it a dark day for the UK film industry. With 90% of physical sales made at supermarkets, HMV was the last bastion of the niche title after the fall of Virgin, Zavvi, MVC, Choices, Tower Records etc. With the supermarkets (understandably) focussing on big budget studio product and uber-commercial top 20 material it means there is nowhere left to buy independent films that don’t make the cut. As a producer, I’m fortunate that my films generally get picked up by the supermarkets. As someone who loves DVDs, I’m gutted that my choices have been so limited.

As a teenager I caught up on more cult movies in the Brighton and Croydon branches of HMV than anywhere else. I know there wasn’t an internet then so the concept of ‘rare films’ made collecting videos more exciting but it was an experience that generations to come are unlikely to have. On Christmas Eve I queued for over an hour in HMV in Croydon buying Christmas presents and it gave me a renewed hope that the rumours were not true and that HMV might live to fight another day.

Alas it was not to be. There’s a lot of silly talk about downloads replacing physical formats and how you have to ‘face up’ to it – scant comfort for the 4,300 people facing unemployment. Download might be on the horizon but I promise you it isn’t here yet. No HMV will push piracy rates up and it will be the illegal downloads that skyrocket.

Sad, sad news.

And it got me thinking.

It got me thinking about how much I enjoy the act of buying something physical, of walking into a shop with cash and walking out with a product I have to wait until I get home to watch.

It got me thinking about what it will mean for low-budget film-makers in the UK and how (apart from a select few who “qualify” for supermarket sales) HMV is the only outlet where people can buy their films; but most of all it got me thinking about how exciting it is to see your own DVD for sale in a shop.

evolved-dvd.jpg

Now, I don’t know if that means anything to you. Mainly because I don’t know who you are.

You may not think seeing a DVD of a film you’ve had a hand in creating on an actual shelf in an actual shop is particularly exciting. Maybe you’ve had so many DVDs released you no longer care? Maybe you’re far too cool to get excited about such trivial things? Maybe you’ve never made any contribution to a film, script or otherwise, and just don’t see what the fuss is about?

Me? I fucking love it.

Regardless of the quality of the film itself, I find something electrifying about seeing my work in a shop. Being able to buy it in public is part of it; but a greater thrill is anyone else can buy it too!

They might buy it in front of me!

They might even tell their mate what they’ve heard about the film. Good or bad, doesn’t matter – it would be an unfiltered opinion!

Okay, so you could argue that the internet is full of unfiltered opinions; but you could equally argue most internet opinions are written using the ‘cunt’ filter. (Yes, including the ones expressed here.)

dsc00546

Even better than that, maybe the guy behind the counter will make some comment on my purchase? Maybe he’ll tell me I’m wasting my money and should buy Football Fuck Ups Vol 18 instead? Maybe he’ll look me in the eye, recognise I’m in some way connected to the making of this DVD and acknowledge me with a knowing nod of the head?

None of these things have ever happened,  by the way; but they could! One day, they might, who knows?

Okay, they probably won’t; but buying your own DVD in an actual shop is so exciting (to me) that it overrides all reason.

First time I saw a DVD of my work on sale was The Evolved. Annoyingly, I bought it before I’d thought of taking a pic.  I had to go back into the shop (or store, for t’was in America) and ask the clerk if I could put it back on the shelf and take a photo of it (lest he saw me taking it off again afterwards and accused me of stealing).

Surely this would be the moment where he recognised my greatness!

 

2012-01-31 14.59.03

No. He just said “Yeah, whatever. Do what you like.” and strolled off to be impossibly cool somewhere else while I giggled insanely and snapped the photo above.

Not immediately above, higher than that.

Not that one, the one above that.

Go back and look at it! Between The Exorcist and The Evil Dead! How fucking cool is that?

The photos are in chronological order, by the way. I suppose I should move them around so that one is next to this sentence; but I just can’t be fucking bothered.

Oh, I’ve just remembered! I got so excited about seeing The Evolved in store that next time I passed an FYE, some months later, I went in and bought it again. Yes, I am the guy who bought all the physical copies ever sold! Both of them, that was me!

The guy in that shop did pass comment on the DVD, he looked at the cover, looked up at me and said …

“Holy shit! What the fuck is that?”

2012-07-13 14.54.12

 

I love seeing my work on shop shelves and I love buying them with my own cash … and it saddens me that generations of film-makers to come may not have that opportunity.

If HMV goes (as it probably will) then only those who make the kind of movies supermarkets want to sell will get to experience that buzz; and supermarkets are notoriously fickle about what they will and won’t stock.

Yes the death of HMV would have wider implications for the UK film industry (this article in The Guardian highlights most of them); but from a purely selfish level, I need that small victory at the end of the process.

Writing a film is fucking hard. Dealing with the development process is even fucking harder. Watching the final product emerge as an absolute fucking mess is just soul destroying; but being able to walk into a shop and buy a copy of the DVD, no matter how atrocious its contents … it’s a high I genuinely hope those who’ve never experienced it get to love one day.

But realistically, no HMV means you probably won’t.

You can’t see this, but I’m now doing my sad face.

HMV history in pics

Categories: Industry Musings, Just for the Record, My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Stalker, Strippers vs. Werewolves, The Evolved | 1 Comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,468 other followers