Someone Else’s Way

Red Planet blues

Red Planet

By now, everyone will have heard about their Red Planet Prize entry.

Well, not everyone. I’m pretty certain not everyone entered. 7 billion entries would be quite tricky to get through and the ones from babies would be terrible.

So no, not everyone; but everyone who entered. Oh for fuck’s sake. I’ll start again.

By now, everyone who entered will have heard about their Red Planet Prize entry. Some of you will be doing the Snoopy dance …

Snoopy Dance

The rest of you won’t.

Charlie Brown

 

But here’s the thing … it doesn’t matter which group you’re in. Not really.

I’ve blogged about this before: Ivory Tower (that post is far better than this one. I’d go and read that one, if I were you) and six years later the same’s pretty much true – competitions are great, but they’re just diversions from your career.

Okay, so *possibly* winning something prestigious will catapult you to the top of the pile. Doors will open. Contracts will rain down upon you and all will be well in the world.

Possibly.

But probably not.

Probably, even if you win a competition, you’ll find yourself lauded and fêted for a bit … probably for as long as it takes for someone to ask “what else have you got?”

I’ve been there. Years ago I won a thing which got me some coverage, which got a very prestigious Hollywood manager sniffing around … which led to absolutely nothing, because my answer to “What else have you got?” was … nothing good.

Things

Because here’s  the thing (really? Here‘s the thing? I thought the thing was a few lines back?) being a scriptwriter isn’t about a script.

Competitions are, true.

Competitions are all about that one specific script you entered. They aren’t judging you, your ability, your dedication or your craft … they’re judging a script.

Just one.

Not even one, not really. In this case they’re making a judgement based on one sixth of a script.

Their reasons for rejecting that sixth of a script (not you, the script – no one’s rejecting you) are probably bang on the money.

Okay, so there may be mitigating factors. Chances are, no matter how ‘out there’ you feel your premise is, they had several very similar ones in. Perhaps yours was identical in all but character names to five other scripts? Perhaps yours got rejected because they had to choose one and that person on that day preferred the name Algernon to the name Reginald?

Want that one

It doesn’t matter.

Just as your career isn’t hung on one script*, it isn’t hung on one competition either. Winning a competition gives you a brief moment of access and attention – you still have to have the skill and determination to use that moment. You need exactly the same skill and determination (and stick-at-it-ness – I’m sure I know a word for that, but can’t think of one at the moment) to succeed whether you win a competition or not.

Winning isn’t everything, playing the long game is.

Because here’s the thing (another the thing! Fuck me, how many of these singular things are there?) people who win or place in competitions (and I’m not talking specifically about the Red Planet Prize here) don’t always have a career afterwards.

I can think of at least one guy who’s won loads of competitions and it doesn’t seem to have helped at all.

I’ve met another who was a runner up in the Red Planet Prize (and I am talking specifically about the Red Planet Prize here) who had twelve months of access to Red Planet Productions … and didn’t take advantage of it at all.

Why? Because he (or she! Could have been a she! It wasn’t, but it could have been) never really came up with an idea he thought they’d be interested in.

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In twelve months.

For fuck’s sake!

Many writers I know are no longer writers. They’ve given up because it’s a hard frustrating battle of constant rejection. Always. All the time. Everyone gets rejected. Everyone. All the time. It’s the whole point of the game:

“Do you like this?”

“No.”

“What about this?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“No.”

To paraphrase John  Sheridan, all you need to have a successful career is to ask the question one more time than they can say no.

The one! Or one of them.

And possibly some talent. And maybe a computer of some kind. And probably enough social skills not to fling your own shit at people who are trying to pay you.

The Red Planet Prize is an awesome competition and a great opportunity for those who get through to the final dozen or so; but it’s just one thing in a whole forest of things; because here’s the real thing – there’s more than one thing.

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* Because one script isn’t a career, it’s a script. Statistically, probably a bad one. We all write them. Some of us are unlucky enough to have them made into films.

JFTR

 

Categories: Industry Musings, Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way | 5 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. *

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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?

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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.

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* 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

Buy my opinions, they’re no use to me!

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I’m not a big fan of the ‘teach writers how to write’ industry, mainly because it’s largely taught by people who failed at being scriptwriters.

Now I’m not saying you have to be able to do in order to teach. Nor am I saying only the ultra-successful have anything useful to say about your script.

Everyone can form an opinion and everyone’s opinion is right from a certain point of view. Paying people for that opinion isn’t stupid or wrong so long as you know how valuable that opinion is.

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Andrew Ellard‘s tweetnotes almost always align with my own opinions. I would be comfortable taking notes from him, because I’ve read his opinions and I trust he would be able to point out all the stupid flaws and mistakes I make whilst writing – the ones I can see in other people’s work, but rarely in my own (because knocking something down is far easier than building it in the first place).

His opinion, to me, would be worth paying for.

Similarly, paying for script notes from any of the plethora of script readers who’ve set up shop on the net is probably useful/valuable – depending on the individual. They don’t have to be successful as a writer to be successful as a reader. The amount you’re prepared to pay them depends solely on how valuable you think their notes are.

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Recognising a bad script is not the same thing as writing a good one. Take all the advice/opinions you can get on the former … be very selective about who you believe for the latter.

The people who annoy me are the ones who profess to be able to teach you how to sell scripts, get an agent or build a career when they have been unable to do any of those things for themselves.

A scriptwriter who gives up because they weren’t getting anywhere shouldn’t be writing books or hosting seminars telling other people how to build a career.

Actually, no. That’s not right, is it?

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Writers probably shouldn’t be paying for books or seminars by people who have no experience in that area.

I say probably because, fuck it, it’s your money – spend it how you want.

But why would you want to pay for insider, industry insight from people who have never been inside the industry? If they can’t sell a script, how do they know how to help you do it? If they can’t get an agent, why is their method for getting one worth paying for? If they were unable to build a career, they’re unlikely to have any useful advice about how you can build one.

Or rather, they may have useful advice – but it’s not theirs and they probably read it online somewhere for free. It’ll take you five minutes of Googling to find it yourself.

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Having said that, there are a few valuable voices in a sea of parasites. There are working writers out there who are more than happy to share their opinions, advice and experiences.

Danny Stack is one such chap. Danny’s the real deal – a writer who makes money from writing. A writer with an agent and a career who actually has something useful and interesting to say.

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On top of that, he’s a really nice bloke.

And he’s running a course at Lighthouse in Poole next month.

In his own words:

I’m VERY EXCITED as it’s my first ever course bespoke to me and my experiences (instead of being asked to host a course or workshop for other people which is usually the way). I’m going to share what it’s like making a living as a screenwriter, the practical nuts and bolts that I think everyone should know, and my own personal ups and downs of my career so far.

Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Full details of the course can be found here or you can book tickets here.

The course is on the 23rd of Feb and costs £85, but there’s a £13 discount if you quote SCREENWRITING on the phone or over the counter.

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If you live nearby, you should think about checking it out. If you don’t live nearby, consider it a mini-holiday (Poole’s lovely – mostly) . And if neither of those options sounds palatable, then you should at least check out Danny and Tim‘s podcast because it’s free, funny, interesting and informative. And free.

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

2013

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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JULY

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

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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.

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Then I gave you writer-based fashion advice.

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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.

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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:

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Turpentine

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

Christmas cracker #5: Kung Fury

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I’m still going. I know! I can’t believe it either, I normally don’t have anything like this level of concentration.

I suppose, technically, this is all just procrastination … which counts as work.

IT DOES!

Anyway, number 5 – KUNG FURY

This one’s a Kickstarter project for a film. I know, I know … one of millions, but this one’s got time travel and uzi-firing Vikings and a renegade kung fu cop riding a dinosaur whilst trying to kill Hitler.

Oscar-bait, if ever I saw it.

And most of it’s already filmed – they just need cash for post-production.

Okay, so it’s just after Christmas and no one has any money. My list of broken-needs-replacing items includes the telly, the shower, the living room carpet, my desktop, my phone … oh, and the oven sounds like the Millennium Falcon starting up (just not in a good way). My next script commission will all be spent on just repairing/replacing stuff to get us back to a  normal (in Western, capitalist, 21st Century, consumerism-driven terms) standard of living.

But hey, if you can’t afford to donate, you can at least enjoy the trailer and spread the word:

Categories: Christmas Crackers, Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Christmas cracker #4: production hell

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Production Hell is a free website for Indie Filmmakers to list their upcoming productions, and for crew and potential investors to see what productions are happening up in their local area.

It’s brand spanking new. So new, in fact, that there’s not a lot there at the moment; but maybe you could change that?

As a writer who has zero interest in making films myself, I’ve no idea if this sort of thing is interesting to other people or not. Is it something you’d find useful? Have you been looking for this sort of thing to help get your project off the ground?

If so, here it is.

You’re very welcome.

For me pointing it out to you. I have nothing to do with the website itself.

Of course, if you already knew about it or even set it up yourself, then I didn’t even point it out to you.

I think I’ll stop now.

Categories: Christmas Crackers, Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Christmas cracker #3: A Dead Elf

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Number three! I really thought I’d get fed up of these long before now, but apparently not!

This one’s an ebook. I haven’t read it myself because … well, it’s an ebook and I just can’t be doing with them.

Partly because I have nothing to read them on (besides a phone, which just isn’t much fun); but mostly because, in certain areas of life I’m a complete Luddite and can’t see what’s wrong with good old-fashioned paper. I stare at a brightly lit screen all day, I don’t want to do it over breakfast or in bed too.

So why is this ebook number three in my festive fun-bag?

Because it’s by Terry Newman and I really like him, that’s why. Plus, it’s my fucking blog, I’ll champion whatever the hell I like.

A DEAD ELF: Comedy fantasy meets detective fantasy in a seedy underworld bar run by a defrocked wizard.

The world turns and changes, as it has an annoying habit of doing, and Midearth changes with it. History becomes tradition, becomes fable and is reborn as the main feature at your local Palantire Picture House. This is the shiny, bright New Age, you see. In modern Midearth they’ve got steam wagons, speech horns and performance art. And in Midearth the various peoples, men, goblins, elves, gnomes and the pix, have to get by as best they can – especially in the seething metropolis that is The Citadel.

Crime is still with us too, but now that goblins carry shooters, down those mean cobbled streets a dwarf must walk tall. Yes, dwarves are still around as well; dwarves like Nicely Strongoak, Master Detective and Shield for Hire, and this is his toughest case.

A dragon’s dunghill may smell bad, but not half as bad as politics. The elves came back you see, bringing with them the democratic process, but it’s funny how they still seem to be running everything; ‘all peoples are created equal’, but some with blue eyes, blond hair and pointy ears are more equal than others. Now a new political party has sprung up amongst the younger elves and men, the Citadel Alliance Party, with smart blue shirts, a fancy logo and some nasty ideas about equality.

Nicely’s search for a lost boyfriend takes him deep into the murky world of Citadel politics, via surfing elves, a race horse called Rosebud, a stolen emerald ring and a pocket dragon. But it’s only when Nicely and an elf called Truetouch have a narcotic-induced crash into the river that the case really heats up. Nobody misses Truetouch and that is not right, because in the Citadel there’s always somebody around who should miss a dead elf.

There, doesn’t that sound lovely?

You can get the book here.

 

Categories: Christmas Crackers, Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Christmas cracker #2: Totally Serialized 3

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From 16 to 19 January 2014, Ciné Lumière will hold the third edition of Totally Serialized, London’s favourite TV series festival. It will showcase the best of new productions from both sides of the Channel as well as European TV series. Audiences can enjoy their favourite shows on the big screen (Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, The Returned, My Mad Fat Diary) attend premières of tomorrow’s cult series and meet the creators during Q&As and masterclasses.

Totally Serialized is back for it’s third year and this time I’ve got some tickets to give away. Three pairs, to be precise.

You (yes, YOU! And two other people.) could win a pair of tickets to:

Saturday 18th January

14.00 Cult Comedy Marathon
in English, or in French with English subtitles
The Cult Comedy Marathon will feature episodes of French shows Love Bugs (Un gars, une fille) and So (Bref), as well as favourites from the UK.

or a pair of tickets to this double bill:

 Sunday 19th January
The Line / Un village français
2.00pm | UK premiere season 4, episode 1 | cert. 15 | in French with English subtitles
France | 2012 | 52 mins | creators Frédéric Krivine, Philippe Triboit & Emmanuel Daucé; with Robin Renucci, Audrey Fleurot

and

Les Anonymes
3.30pm |  UK premiere single drama | cert. 15 | in French with English subtitles
France | 2012 | 125 mins | dir. Pierre Schoeller; with Olivier Gourmet, Mathieu Amalric, Karole Rocher
Followed by a Q&A with director Pierre Schoeller and James Rampton, arts feature writer at The Independent.

or even a pair of tickets to this double bill:

Sunday 19th January

Salamander
7.30pm |  UK premiere
season 1, episode 1 | cert. 15 | in Flemish and French with English subtitles
Belgium | 2012 | 45 mins | creator Ward Hulselmans; with Filip Peeters

and

The Protectors / Livvagterne
8.30pm |
season 1, episode 1 | cert. 15 | in French with English subtitles
Denmark | 2008 | 45 mins | International Emmy Award

Maybe you’ve been to this the last few years and fancy going again for free? Maybe this isn’t something you’d normally consider but are willing to try something different? Or perhaps you just live nearby and are just looking for something to do?

Whatever the reason, if you want to win tickets then simply tell me how depraved your excesses were whilst watching TV on Christmas Day. Did you eat a whole roast goose stuffed with Quality Street and smothered with pan-fried otters’ bile for breakfast before preparing your main meal? Or perhaps you marinated your own liver with five litres of Baileys, in situ, coughed it up and ate it with lashings of piccalilli before visiting the hospital and lightly dying? Maybe you had half of that second dry cracker, which is more than enough for any God-fearing human?

Invent your tales of excess, leave them in the comments below (or email them, if you must – why do most of you email your comments these days? Are you ashamed to be seen with me? Don’t blame you, I am) and don’t forget to say which of the three pairs of tickets you’d prefer.

Maybe leaving the comment with a valid email address might help too?

The closing date for this will be … I don’t know. New Year’s Day 2014? That sound good?

Off you go then.

Here’s more info about the festival for those of a curious nature:

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The rise of TV shows in the past few years has been meteoric, with clunky acting, minimal plotlines and pre-recorded laughter replaced by multimillion-dollar productions starring A-list actors, with staggering special effects, and the finest writers churning out complex stories and incisive dialogue designed to keep the viewer hooked. An even more recent development in the British TV industry has been the breaking down of frontiers, with international buyers moving away from a remake-centred strategy and now broadcasting the original series with subtitles. French shows such as The Returned, Braquo, Spiral, Hard and Maison Close have benefited from this shift, and have proven to be a success on Channel 4, FX, BBC Four and Sky Arts respectively. One of the aims of this festival is to encourage this trend by showcasing tomorrow’s cult series.

TV professionals will get a chance to participate in an industry event dealing with various aspects of the constantly-evolving field of TV series, including producing, screenwriting, and financing, as well as case study of The Tunnel featuring writer Ben Richards amongst others. There will also be networking opportunities to allow ideas and future collaborations to flourish. The general public can also have a peek at what goes on behind the scenes with our Craft Masterclass on women and TV writing, organised in collaboration with BAFTA, during which leading screenwriters such as Virginie Brac (Spiral), Paula Milne (The Politician’s Husband, White Heat, Small Island) and Emma Reeves (The Dumping Ground, Young Dracula) will examine women’s contributions to screenwriting and the particular obstacles they face.

This masterclass will be a central part of our Leading Ladies strand, which will also include UK premieres of the French hit Mafiosa in the presence of director Pierre Leccia, and of season 2 of My Mad Fat Diary, in the presence of Sharon Rooney and writer Tom Bidwell. Our other highlight will be on political thrillers, with three gripping UK premières on Sunday 19 January: the Belgian Salamander, recently acquired by BBC Four for its Saturday Night Slot; the Danish hit The Protectors, an Emmy Award-winning offering of Nordic noir which is set to delight fans of Borgen and The Killing; and the French Les Anonymes by Pierre Schoeller (The Minister), who will be here for a Q&A.

Following the success of our UK premiere of The Returned in last year’s edition of Totally Serialized, we are pleased to host a marathon of the full first season of the now Emmy-awarded French show as part of our Saturday Fright Night, which will also feature a 10th anniversary screening of all the episodes of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace – with a Q&A with Matthew Holness – and a zombie party. For those who prefer laughter to chills, our Cult Comedy Marathon will showcase the best comedies from both sides of the Channel.

www.totallyserialized.co.uk

Categories: Christmas Crackers, Festivals, Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Christmas cracker #1: The Elephantom

It’s Christmas! In a general all-the-days-at-the-end-of-December-are-Christmas kind of way.

To celebrate, here are some* cool things (in no particular order) you can check out over the holiday period:

——NUMBER ONE——

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The Elephantom at The Shed is just wonderful. We had a family outing to go and see it yesterday and it was well worth braving the howling winds and torrential rain for.

The Elephantom

Adapted from the book by Ross Collins it’s the story of a little girl who’s haunted by a ghost elephant. At first, it’s fun …

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… but quickly becomes annoying when the elephantom’s friends start to turn up.

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The set design is wonderful, the cast are hilarious, the music is enchanting and the puppetry is fantastic. It’s a truly magical show, if you’ve got kids and you live somewhere nearby (or are visiting London over the next couple of weeks) then you really should take them along.

If you don’t have kids, then you should go anyway because it’s fucking brilliant.

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* I have no idea how many cool things there will be because this is the first one and I haven’t got bored yet. Rest assured, I will fairly soon.

Categories: Christmas Crackers, Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Finding the irony

If there’s one lesson I need tattooed onto my fucking face, it’s FIND THE IRONY.

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I know this, you probably do too. It’s so fucking obvious and makes the whole writing process so much easier and more meaningful … and yet, I forget. Every fucking time.

The irony I’m talking about is the one inherent in the premise. The ironic element which links the protagonist to the story. The thing which makes the protagonist the perfect and only choice of character to tell this particular story.

A recent example which springs to mind (recent to me watching it, not to it being produced) would be Pitch Perfect. If you haven’t seen the film, you really should. I loved it. Everything about it. It’s funny, well constructed and the music’s fantastic.

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If you haven’t seen it, you may consider the rest of this post to be chock-full-o-spoilers … but it’s not really the sort of film you can spoil, so it probably doesn’t matter.

SPOILER ALERT ANYWAY

So, partly for the benefit of those who haven’t seen it but mostly just for the sake of discussion, Pitch Perfect is about rival a cappella singers at an American university. To me, it’s one of those films like Dodgeball or Strictly Ballroom where you take an inherently silly competition and have everyone take it really, really seriously. In a funny way.

The irony in Pitch Perfect comes, as it should, from the protagonist – Beca.

beca anna kendrick pitch perfect

She’s a loner, someone who doesn’t really interact (or harmonise) with others, who finds herself joining a competitive a cappella club for (slightly) spurious reasons. Basically, in order to be left alone to pursue her loner musical interests, she has to work intimately with a close-knit group.

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If she was a loner who had to live as a hermit … it just wouldn’t be the same. The beginning and end of that story, the character arc doesn’t leap out at you because “a person gets everything they want without trying” isn’t really a sound basis for a story.

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A loner who has to join something, especially something which relies heavily on working so closely with others … a loner who can only achieve her goal by not being a loner … it’s all there.

You have the start point for Beca’s character (loner) and the end (joiner-in-er). Done badly, the film would start and end like that with the main character turning completely around to be someone else.

Pitch Perfect is better than that. Beca keeps her individuality whilst working within the group. She learns how to use her loner, anti-harmonic tendencies within the crowd. As do the rest of the Barden Bellas. She learns how to fit in without forgetting how to stand out … and that’s great.

pitch-perfect-2012-film

What’s also great is she realises she was pursuing the wrong goal. Or at least, she can achieve her goal in a completely different way to the one she expected. An ironic way, for her.

The rest of the characters spring from this central irony. You could argue for Aubrey or Bumper as the antagonist – both represent opposite ends of the spectrum. Aubrey wants everyone to fit in and be exactly the same, following the same path … which just isn’t going to work. The more she pushes the Bellas to conform, the worse they do.

Aubrey_puking

Bumper, on the other hand, is almost sociopathic in his pursuit of his own goals, screwing over his team mates for personal gain.

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Aubrey is what Beca is scared of becoming if she fits in. Bumper is what she could become if she doesn’t. The solution is the middle way. The ironic way.

The annoying thing about this kind of irony is it’s so fucking obvious … yet so easy to forget. Like I say, I need it tattooed on my face so I don’t forget, because I do … all the fucking time.

If you’re writing a story about a guy who becomes a hermit then the protagonist should either be a sociable soul who can’t be on his own; or a loner who took the job to get away from people only to find the hermitage is infested with squatters or has a lot of annoying neighbours … or something.

Something better, preferably.

But that’s the point I need to remember – find the irony in the premise. Find the worst possible character to star in the story and then use them as the branching out point for everyone else. Make the antagonist either the opposite or the same but further down the road. All the other characters should reflect this irony in some way.

Then make sure it’s all very subtle and hidden in the subtext.

Now all I need to remember is to tattoo it backwards so I can actually read it in the mirror.

tattoo

Categories: Someone Else's Way, Things I've Learnt Recently | 1 Comment

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