Monthly Archives: November 2006

Why didn’t you tell me?

Finishing that first feature script is a great feeling. Finally, you’ve accomplished something; you’ve taken your first step on the road to becoming a professional writer. There’s just one problem:

It’s rubbish.

I mean that in the nicest way, of course. I know you tried your hardest, you’ve poured the entire sum of your talent and knowledge into this pile of paper before you; but, honestly, it is rubbish.

And why shouldn’t it be? This is your first attempt; it’s bound to have a few flaws. Okay, so maybe they are a few genii out there who can produce a masterpiece right out of the box; but for the rest of us average guys and gals, perfection is something we need to work on.

So, you’ve had some opinions on your script from other people. Hopefully not just from your friends and family, maybe from a professional script reader, maybe from other amateurs on sites like Trigger Street; whatever. The point is, people have told you it’s rubbish and you’re getting set to do the second draft.

And here it is, the best piece of advice for a first time writer.

Don’t bother.

Seriously, just don’t even try. You wrote that script last week/month, you’re no more experienced now than you were then; trying to re-write now is just turd polishing. I really wish someone had told me this before I spent the best part of a year fiddling (not even re-writing, I didn’t know how to do that then) with a crappy script.

Of course, this all depends on your long term objectives. If you want to be a professional writer, you’re going to need to write other scripts. Having one good one you’ve spent your entire life polishing will not make you a professional writer. It’ll make you a one trick pony.

If, on the other hand, all you want to do is tell that one story; by all means, polish away.

Me, I wanted a career (still do, really) so the best thing for me was to move onto the next script. Unfortunately, like I said, I kept whittling away at the first script for a year until I became so frustrated I felt like giving up.

The catalyst for me to move on was a producer friend who wanted to take a pile of scripts to Cannes. I volunteered to write five scripts for him. Rash words since Cannes was only five months away and the only script I had was truly, truly dreadful.

I did manage it, and although the next five weren’t much better, they were slightly better. I’d even go so far as to say the fifth one was reasonable.

From there I got involved with a host of other projects which kept me occupied for a couple of years. When I went back to the original script, my very first, I could now see how crap it was. More importantly, I could see how to fix it. I could happily dump over fifty percent of the characters and nearly all of the scenes. I could, and did, make it work.

From there I went back over the other five and applied my new knowledge to them. Nearly all of those scripts are now in production. I honestly believe I wouldn’t have got anywhere if I’d kept on fiddling with that first one. I may have got that one script into reasonable shape eventually, but what happens next?

There are other factors involved in this apart from your new found experience. It’s always easier to start something from scratch than it is to try and patch up the holes in an old plot. Also, coming back to something you wrote a year or so ago means you have distance, you’re not so personally involved and I find I can’t remember why I’d managed to convince myself the crap bits were necessary in the first place.

So there you have it, my favourite piece of advice for first time writers. The one piece of advice I wish I’d had at the beginning. The funny thing is, I’ve given this piece of advice to a lot of first time writers recently and they’ve all ignored it. Only one person seems to appreciate it, whether she follows it or not remains to be seen.

So, in a way, maybe it’s better I didn’t have this advice in the first place? Maybe I too would have believed so blindly in my talent I would have ignored all advice as unnecessary and something lesser writers have to do?

Maybe, who knows? I had to learn the hard way; at least you now have the choice.

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Categories: Industry Musings | 2 Comments

The Fear

I’m afraid of my emails, absolutely terrified of them.

I know that’s not the best thing for a strapping(ish) young(ish) man to admit, but unfortunately it’s true.

Let me qualify that a bit. I’m not actually afraid of the emails per se; I don’t have nightmares about being chased by giant killer emails… hmm, would that make a good movie?

Probably not.

I’m afraid of not receiving emails and of others, in turn, not receiving mine. Every time I send an email I wonder, did the recipient get it? Should I email them and check? What if they get the second one first and our lives are forever out of synch?

I know you can ask for a read receipt, but that always seems rude. I hate it when I get asked to send one before I’ve read the email; it might contain something I want to pretend I haven’t received. Similarly, I think it’s only fair to allow the recipient of my emails the opportunity to metaphorically hide behind the sofa of cyberspace and pretend they’re not in.

A far bigger fear is that I’m not receiving important emails. You know, ones from financially stupid producers who desperately need to give me loads of cash. The problem with this fear is it’s actually happened and continues to happen with alarming regularity.

Not from the producers with big wallets and small IQ’s, just emails in general.

Take this blog, for example. It’s supposed to email me and tell me when I’ve had a comment, but it doesn’t. Sometimes it does, true; but frequently I find the comments lurking here, waiting to be moderated. It worries me, it really does.

Every now and then I get an email asking why I haven’t replied to something I haven’t received; or I get an email on my old address asking me if I’ve changed my current address; or an email telling me the last three emails they sent me have bounced.

It’s all very scary.

Okay, not as scary as being chased down a blind alley by a gang of chainsaw wielding cannibals, who are hungry, hate ginger people and have just stubbed their collective toes; but in my world it’s a close second. I need my emails to be reliable: I rely on emails for work, I rely on work for money and I rely on money for food.

And comics.

So where do all those emails go? Is there a Phil Baron (one L, one R) somewhere who’s just been offered a five figure deal to write Indy 4? Is there some large pool of undeliverable emails hanging around in cyberspace and annoying the residents? Will they eventually turn up? Will I receive them in one go in 2027? Will Channel 4 make a program out of reuniting people with their long lost emails?

All of these questions plague my waking life, I hate missing out on stuff. Especially when I don’t know what I’m missing out on. So what I need to know is this:

1) How/why does it happen?

2) Is there anything I can do to stop it?

3) If not, is there a tablet I can take to cure the panic?

Answers on a postcard, please; my emails aren’t safe.

Categories: Industry Musings | 3 Comments

NewsRevue makes good

NewsRevue have finally paid what they owe me. Hopefully they’ve paid everyone else too. For anyone not following this saga, you can fill yourself in here and the follow-up here. In basic terms, they hadn’t paid me for a year, now they have.

Which actually is quite cool. A whole year’s pay in one lump sum – it’s going to be a fairly merry Christmas after all. NewsRevue may pay slightly less than a pittance per sketch; but add them up over a year and it makes a nice little end-of year-bonus.

And now I’m off to blow it all on comics before anyone gets the chance to suggest something sensible.

Categories: Progress | 2 Comments

It’s sadder than you think

Evolved DVD

I know this is quite sad, but I couldn’t resist it. This is the first time I’ve actually seen THE EVOLVED in a DVD shop; even though I’ve already got two copies, I had to buy it.

I’ve got one copy from Amazon and one copy my wife bought from the states. Oh, plus a pre-release copy from the guys who made it. Thing is, I’ve never seen it in a shop and I’ve never actually walked up to the counter and bought it.

I had to do it, didn’t I?

The sad bit is taking a photo. The really sad bit is after leaving the shop, I found out the photo hadn’t saved. I then went back to the shop and asked if it was okay if I put the DVD back on the shelf in order to re-take the photo.

Oddly enough, the assistant looked at me as if I was mad. Can’t think why, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable request to me.

Thankfully he said yes. Actually, what he said was:

“Do what you like, I don’t give a shit.”

For some reason, he didn’t seem to share my excitement. A few moments earlier, when I bought the DVD, the guy at the till asked what it was: “Some kind of Nazi puppet porn?”

“Erm, yes?”

That seemed to satisfy him, I think he was even considering buying one.

So there you have it. The saddest thing I’ve done for a long time. I would be ashamed, but I’m still far too excited.

Categories: Sad Bastard | 2 Comments

Yankee Disco

I’m elbow deep (that’s like knee deep, but more pleasant) in re-writes for a second feature film for Yankee Disco Productions, the team behind THE EVOLVED. I love writing with these guys for several reasons:

1) Anything goes. I can write anything I like and no one will get offended, upset or moralistic. They have a very similar sense of humour to me; if anything, they over step boundaries I won’t. It’s very refreshing to know I won’t get stupid notes back about “will people find this funny?” Basically, if we like it, it goes in the film.

2) They will actually film it. This is a massive bonus. In an industry where people give you assurances and then completely disappear, meeting a group of people who actually achieve what they set out to do is priceless. Not only will they finish what they start, but they will actually start what they promise – this is really rare.

3) They’ll make it quickly. I have several films which have been in pre-production for a long time. They may one day start shooting, they may not. The waiting is the frustrating part. These guys will have a final edit of the film within a year. Hell, they’ll probably have it in the shops within a year. They work fast. So fast, in fact, that THE EVOLVED was in production before we’d finished the script.

Okay, so we’re never going to win an Oscar for best film; but the results are funny and it’s fantastic knowing the effort you put into a project will actually result in a finished product. To be able to walk into a DVD shop and put your hands on something you wrote is a great ego boost and makes all the bigger money, longer distance deals seem worth waiting for.

Plus, on what other project can you receive notes like:

13.  Alan & Dave make it to Shirley Bassey’s house but hold back when they see Tom Jones arrive – spying, they hear Tom Jones ask Shirley Bassey for  Zarthrax’s cock and ball’s.

It’s purile, it’s childish and it’s a bit crap; but the results are very, very funny. I wish I knew more film makers like them.

Categories: Progress | 3 Comments

Brainstorming

Monday was my first day of brainstorming for POP Productions; and what a fantastic day it was. I’ve worked for POP before, it’s not a completely out of the blue job. For about a year, I was head writer for a proposed on-line sitcom The WOW Life. Most weekends, myself and a team of writers sat in a room and tried to make each other laugh. It was hard work, but a fantastic job to have. If I tell you the other writers were all not only funny and talented; but also good looking women, you can maybe understand how great an experience it truly was.

As head writer I got to hire some people, sit in on casting, organise script meetings, attend shootings, write a load of episodes and generally keep my finger in every pie. I loved it. The format was daily, ten minute episodes: Monday to Friday. We wrote enough step outlines to cover the first 12 weeks and scripted the first 4.

Unfortunately, the production was plagued with regular massive set backs which means the pilot week (although filmed) has yet to be aired.

Monday’s session was a different crowd, but no less entertaining. We had an agenda, several briefs to fulfill, which gave the whole thing a bit of direction. They’re a nice bunch of people and there were some good ideas floating around. All in all, I had a great day. That was the first of regular sessions, plus I get paid the same amount for the odd day working from home.

A regular income, at long last. It may not be enough to buy that Aston Martin yet, but it’s a small step towards it.

Categories: Progress | Leave a comment

Top Trumps

Every month, after its run, The Treason Show produces a running order which tells the writers who wrote what. Every month, Gordon Robertson and I read the list, eager to find out who had the most items performed, who won Treason Show Top Trumps.

Unfortunately, it’s usually Gordon.

Unfortunately for me, not for him. He works much harder, writes much more and produces better sketches. Damn him.

And to be fair to myself, I rarely have time for sketch writing any more. I find myself in the nice position of being too busy with other projects.

Still rankles though.

I was going to write this post last month, but I won and it would seem very boastful to go and shout about it on the net. However, this month I lost (a lot) so it’s the time to announce our game to the world; or at least that tiny section of it which reads this blog.

So, the results for the November run of The Treason Show:

Performed items written by Gordon:      14

Performed items written by me:             3

Pathetic isn’t it? Well done Gordon, again. I’d like to say I’ll get you next month, but we both know that isn’t true.

Categories: Sad Bastard | 14 Comments

Bits and bobs.

A week since my last post, what have I been up to?

Nothing.

Well, not nothing; just nothing writing wise. That’s right, I had a week off. It was fun, I got to spend some time with my wife (yay!) and the RSI in my right index finger has almost disappeared. I’m relaxed, rested and ready to get back to work.

Lots of little bits of news in the last few/next few days. In no particular order:

Had an email from Kevin McDonagh, the director of CHAMELEON, confirming they’re using my script.

I’m starting work for POP Productions tomorrow. It’s a trial day to see how we get on, the plan is a regular brainstorming session to develop new projects. Have to wait and see if I can provide what they’re looking for and whether I can realistically cover the distance. I hope it pans out, it would be nice to have a regular income.

THE EVOLVED is going to be screened at the Gothenburg Film Festival with some kind of talk/discussion thing after about ultra low budgt film making. Should be hilarious, hopefully we’ll have a blast.

And finally, this is not progress or an achievement or even anything to do with writing, but it made me laugh; someone found my website using the search terms: man with firework in arse. Nice to see the internet is being used for educational purposes.

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Sketch Factor

I got an email yesterday from the BBC – never a good sign. A month or two ago I sent in two sketches for their latest competition Sketch Factor; the general aim being to find new writers for a new Radio 4 sketch show: Recorded for Training Purposes.

I don’t usually bother with BBC Talent competitions, for several reasons:

1) Judging by the latest comedy offerings, the BBC and I don’t really agree on what’s funny any more. The last BBC sitcom I had any time for was HELP, which was buried in the back end of Sunday night where no one would see it. This difference of opinion usually extends to the winners of their competitions, I just can’t believe they are the best the country has to offer. I’m not saying I’m any funnier, I don’t think I am; but there must be some aspiring comedy writers out there who can actually write comedy, surely? The last few competitions have been about submitting material to shows I really, really don’t find funny. Writing comedy in a style you don’t find funny is really difficult, or at least it is to me.

2) I feel a bit weird about submitting to these competitions. By their standards, I qualify; I haven’t had a radio or TV commission. I do however make a small living out of writing; I am technically a professional writer – I get paid to write. I can’t help feeling I’m not complying with the spirit of the competition somehow.

3) I don’t actually like writing sketches. I do a lot of it, because it pays the bills; but I don’t actually enjoy it that much. I certainly don’t think I’m very good at it.

So initially I thought I wouldn’t bother.

Then I thought again. Recently I’ve been having a lot of success with sketch writing. The Treason Show and NewsRevue certainly appreciate my material. I’ve sat in the audience of The Treason Show and watched people laugh at my material; I know I can make people laugh – consistently, month after month.

So I changed my mind. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

And yesterday I received the response:

 Many thanks for your entry to the Show Me The Funny Sketch Factor competition.  We are sorry to let you know that your sketches have not been shortlisted for the next stage of the competition.

Damn it.

I honestly believed I stood a chance this time. I even sent one of the sketches into The Treason Show, where it was performed and people laughed. They thought it was funny, they can’t all be wrong. Can they?

It’s been a while since I’ve been rejected by anyone, I’d almost forgotten how it feels. I know logically it doesn’t mean I’m not funny. It doesn’t even mean the sketches aren’t funny; it just means there were other sketches which were a) funnier and b) better suited to the show format.

Still stings a bit.

On the plus side: I got a call this morning about GROOVE BRITANNIA, a short film I wrote with Marian Kilpatrick. It has been filmed and is currently in post-production; hopefully there’ll be a screening sometime in the new year.

I also got an email from Andrew Senior, one of the guys behind THE EVOLVED; they want to start on a new project as soon as possible. Great news, these guys may not have much in the way of resources, but THE EVOLVED was filmed and available in the shops inside of a year. As good as it is, the new project is going to be much better. They gained a lot of experience from the last shoot and I gained a lot of insight from the Cannes screening. I really think we can make this new film exponentially better.

I’m choosing to see yesterday as a good day. It may rain occasionally, but the sun always comes out afterwards.

Categories: Progress | 2 Comments

Chameleon

It’s amazing what you can find out on the Internet; without it, I wouldn’t know what was going on in my life. Yesterday I found out I’ve got another credit on imdb; as the writer for the screenplay CHAMELEON. This is the martial arts film I’ve mentioned in previous posts.

Since someone has announced my involvement to the world at large, I guess it’s alright for me to do the same.

The original draft of Chameleon was written by Mike Anka. It’s being made by Rotunda Films and Chi Media Ltd; directed by Kevin McDonagh and produced by David Beaumont and Victor Marke.

Chameleon stars Zara Phythian, who is a fantastic martial artist; and exceptionally beautiful to boot. This was a fun script to write, because it gave me the opportunity to combine my two greatest passions.

Three, if you count the number of chocolate hob nobs I ate whilst writing.

I hope it’s fairly apparent I enjoy writing, it’s a passion which pays – always a good thing. What you might not know, is I also have a couple of black belts (one in Aikido, one in Lau Gar Kung Fu); so being able to use that knowledge in a script was very satisfying.

Not that I was too descriptive with the fights, that’s up to Zara and her stunt co-ordinator; but thinking about what’s possible in certain situations, assuming I was even a tenth as good as Zara herself, was a great exercise.

As far as I’m aware, the production is slated for early next year; but there is a concept trailer available at the official website: www.chameleon-themovie.com; or from YouTube.

I’ll let you know more details as and when I learn them; but since I generally find these things out second or third hand, if anyone hears anything first, please let me know.

Categories: Progress | Leave a comment

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