Monthly Archives: December 2006

2006

I’m new to this blogging game, but it seems to be the done thing to sum up your year. So here goes:

Got rejected by every agent in the land. Again.

Sold the script that every agent in the land rejected me over last year. (These things aren’t connected, it just makes me feel better to see them together.)

Won ‘Reader of the Month’ on Trigger Street, despite not having had time to review scripts for months.

Got the job as script editor for Night Junkies.

The Evolved failed to get into Tromadance, the festival hosted by the company the film was specifically designed for.

Found out that Troma wanted to distribute The Evolved on DVD.

After months of wondering if The Wow Life(an on-line sitcom) would ever happen, the website arrived. Everyone on the writing team gets very excited.

The website consequently disappears and hasn’t been seen since. Everyone on the writing team gets very disappointed.

LVJ needed more re-writes, despite having been a finished film when I was asked to write a tiny new scene for it in 2001. 6 years in post-production and counting.

A couple of short scripts were runners up in Marchmont’s short film invitation.

Had eleven producers/directors contact me (me!) out of the blue, asking if I was available to work on a feature script for them.

After a few weeks of discussion (and, in some cases, down payments) nine of them disappear, never to be heard of again. Emails bounce, phones are disconnected, mail goes unanswered. Took the money and ran.

Went to Cannes for the first time. Met Andrew Senior, a guy I’d written The Evolved with, a guy I’d been in contact with for a year and had yet to meet. In fact, I didn’t even recognise him since he’s heavily made up in the film.

Oddly enough, I recognised everyone from the production company because they were in the film, except the one guy I’d actually spoken to. I spent the best part of a week with these random strangers, and had a great time. I like to think I overcame a little of my naturally shy nature; but, then again, I haven’t spoken to any new people since.

Had somebody in a pub ask me if I was “the legendary genius, Phill Barron?” I pretended I hadn’t heard her until someone came and took her away. This was in relation to writing sketches for The Treason Show and Newsrevue, not for any pub based shenanigans.

Got rejected by every BBC sketch writing initiative going.

Recieved a random rejection from an agent for a script I hadn’t written. I presume they were bored and thought: ‘I know, we haven’t rejected Phill for a while. Let’s drop him a line.’

Sold another two short films. One of them actually got made! At least I think it did; several actors have the film on their CV, but I haven’t seen a copy of it yet.

Had a minor fight break out over the rights to one of my scripts. I only wish the two companies involved had enough money to get into a bidding war. They didn’t, I’m still broke.

Got paid to write two feature films. I’m still broke.

Had seventeen people desperately interested in making various short films. Not one of them actually managed it.

Came runner up in Trigger Street‘s ‘Script of the Month’. Won coverage from Script Shark which resulted in a CONSIDER, which resulted in a mild flurry of Hollywood mailings, which resulted in a discussion with Colin O’Reilly who really liked the script, which resulted in…

Nothing. Still broke.

This is turning into a long post.

Got asked to contribute to a sitcom pilot. Never heard anything since.

Heard a sitcom I wrote last year is under consideration at ITV. Haven’t heard anything since.

Got the opportunity to submit a spec script for ‘Footballer’s Wives Extra Time’. They were looking for new writers, my name came up, submitted a spec script (along with 13 other people), found out it wasn’t the best, but wasn’t the worst – it depends how many writers they needed for the new series…

The series gets cancelled.

Huh, that’s weird. Just going through the year’s emails and I’ve found one from someone I don’t know asking if I want to be her friend. I think I would.

Got asked to write a five minute comedy monologue for a musical saw performance. I shit you not.

For some odd reason, I’ve had an ever increasing stream of people asking me to read their screenplays. I have no idea why. I oblige when I can, seems rude not to, but I can’t help wondering, why me?

Is anyone still reading? I know I’m bored. I’ve got the first two series of Blake’s 7 downstairs and they’re calling to me. Let’s just say I’ve been very busy, I’ve had a great year and it’s only getting better.

I’m done, thank you and good night.

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Other people’s characters

The last three screenplays I’ve written have been specifically written for people/production companies.

Yay me! What a great position to be in, I don’t have to worry about trying to sell the scripts afterwards, they’ve already got a home.

One of those scripts was for a group of guys I spent five days with in Cannes this year. We’ve already made one film together (THE EVOLVED) and we all get along; I was getting very rough notes and had a relatively free hand to do what I wanted within the framework we’d discussed.

Groovy.

The other two were a little more complex. For one I received very detailed notes, a full back story of the main characters. For the other, there was already a script and I was told they had the cast and the locations ready to go. In other words, in both these cases, the producers/directors had a far better idea of what the characters looked and sounded like than me.

The first hurdle is introducing the character. I don’t know what they look like, how do I include a character description? Okay, so for CHAMELEON, I know what the main star (Zara Phythian) looks like; but no one else.

What’s the problem, I hear you ask? Just leave out the descriptions.

Yeah, I could do that; but what if this script then has to go to a financier? Or another producer gets involved? Or anybody who isn’t involved in the script at this point in the development? It’s horrible reading scripts when the main characters aren’t described in any way. I just read a script where I thought a character was a guy for two pages before he was referred to as a she.

Plus, it just feels weird. It looks like something’s missing on the page, I don’t like it and I feel like I’m not doing my job properly.

The second hurdle is the locations, same problem. I can describe something as a mansion, or a Turkish cafe, but I like to include a little more than that. Not a lot more, I know I’m not writing a novel, but it’s nice to give a little flavour of the scene you see in your mind’s eye.

So what’s the solution? I could contact whoever the scripts are for and get them to describe the characters to me; but that is an awkward conversation which is likely to be met with a confused brush off – ‘What difference does it make? We know what they look like.”

So I didn’t really bother. I tried to add in vague descriptive words which don’t really mean anything, or are so ambiguous they could mean anything.

It rankles though, not a lot, but a little bit; there are now scripts of mine out there somewhere, which aren’t written ‘properly’. People are reading these scripts, actors, crew and anyone else connected with the movie whose jobs I can’t even begin to comprehend.

What if these films suddenly and inexplicably become popular? What if the script is posted on the net? Who knows who will end up reading them? Is there a possibility, however minute, that people could use them as examples in the endless format discussions on writing forums? – “Phill Barron doesn’t describe characters, why do I have to?” 

Okay, so I’m delving into fantasy here, sorry.

The truth is, most of the small number of people who read these scripts probably won’t notice, or care; but I do. They’re reading a sample of my work which isn’t up to scratch and it just feels… jinky.

I don’t think that’s even a real word, but it’s exactly how I feel.

Categories: Industry Musings | 3 Comments

A different point of view

I never really suffer from writer’s block, at least not so far anyway; but occasionally I find myself unsure how to proceed, or struggling to find a bunch of ideas for a brainstorming session.

Maybe that is writer’s block, not sure.

Anyway, one of the tools I use to help spur me on is simply changing location. I find by moving somewhere else I start thinking about things in a completely different way. At home, I tend to just go and lie on the bed and new ideas instantly start flowing.

This practice came from when I was writing The Wow Life, an online sitcom which one day may actually materialise. The first five episodes are filmed and edited, a further five are scripted and we have somewhere in the region of sixty episodes plotted out; unfortunately, nothing seems to be happening beyond that.

Anyway, the writing team consisted of five or six writers and we all tended to gravitate to the same seats in the production office. It was an excellent working environment and ideas flowed freely. Whenever we found ourselves drying up or stuck for a resolution or gag, we’d swap seats, literally get a different point of view; and as if by magic, the solution became obvious.

I can’t remember whose idea it was, but it works. Whether that’s because it actually works or we just thought it worked and it became a self fullfilling prophecy, who knows? Doesn’t matter really, the point is, it worked for us then and it still works for me now.

So if you ever find me lying face down somewhere, mumbling incoherently to myself; do not be alarmed. I’m just trying to get a different point of view.

Categories: Industry Musings | 5 Comments

…and rest.

So I finished the first draft of the feature script I was working on in the small hours of yesterday morning and promptly sent it off to be mulled over during Christmas. Normally I like a quiet, fallow period just after finishing a draft. A recovery period, if you will, when I have time to reflect on the mental battle I’ve just fought.

No such luck.

A phone call first thing and I’m back on the corporate case, tweaking and expanding on what we’ve already discussed. After that I need to look at the next draft of THE BEEFEATERS, and when that’s done I really need to start thinking about something for the Gumball 3000 thing.

In and between all this, I want to fit in some Treason Show sketches. I haven’t written anything for them for a while and I’m starting to feel guilty. Don’t know why, I just do.

It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I’m happy when I’m busy and right now I’m about as happy as I can get.

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December Top Trumps

It’s that time of month again, The Treason Show final running order has been released and it’s time to play Treason Show Top Trumps.

This month, the results are:

Gordon:                 15

Me                          0

Hmm.

I’ve thought of a better way of looking at this. I didn’t write any sketches this month, at all. So, technically, I had 100% of my sketches performed. That’s a pretty good success rate. I bet you can’t beat that, Gordon, can you? Huh? Can you beat that, punk?

No, thought not.

Take your winnings and bank them with shame, for I have the moral high-ground.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit chilly up here and I can’t afford to buy a scarf. Lend us a few quid, mate?

Categories: Sad Bastard | 1 Comment

‘Tis the wrong time to be writing

Fah la, la la la, la la, la, la

I’ve so much to do at the moment and time just keeps disappearing. I keep getting calls from friends and family who want to pop round and say hello before Christmas. Some of these people I haven’t seen for six months or longer, which makes it very hard to refuse them. Each of them only stays a day or two, but they keep on coming.

From their point of view I’m only giving up a day, that’s not too much to ask; and anyway, I work from home so it’s not like proper work, is it?

Tony Blair works from home, I bet he doesn’t have this problem.

I don’t begrudge spending time with my friends, if I did, they wouldn’t be my friends; but it would be helpful if we could split the Christmas period into two. Keep Christmas One in December for everyone whose surname begins A-M; and invent another Christmas in July for surnames N-Z.

There must be some other religious festival in the summer which we can subvert, invent random symbolism for, forget the actual religious connotations and swamp with rampant commercialism? Surely?

Failing that, could we add another few hours to each day?

There has to be some solution to this, other than getting rid of all my friends or moving house and not telling anyone. All suggestions gratefully received.

On a slightly less whiny note:

— I’ve moved forward to the next round of… hmm, it’s not really a competition, or is it? Gumball 3000 are looking for script writers for a feature, they’ve narrowed it down to a 100 and I’m one of them. I suppose it is a competition, it just doesn’t feel like one.

— Corporate work continues to dribble in. It’s a steady trickle and mostly comedy, which suits me fine.

— I’ve been getting some great notes on THE BEEFEATERS, the next film for Yankee Disco (more frequently referred to as ‘those weirdos who made that film with the Nazi Puppet on the cover‘)  Check out a sample:

“We want the two Cuba Gooding Jnrs to be African tribesmen, one a medicine man and one a chief, who Tom Jones promised jobs as Traffic Wardens.”

and:

“there is a mine of comedy related to having a dragon spunk bomb explode up your ass and the consequences thereof. I would encourage you to pursue that line of thought”

or, my personal favourite:

“someone in the film has to get addicted to Crystal Meth”

— Today, I might actually manage to finish a feature script I’ve been writing for the past couple of weeks. It’s been taking me longer than expected due to several layers of symbolism within the script which all need to be linked together. Plus, I keep finding my knowledge of socialism in the 1980’s is poor at best.

There’s no set deadline for this project, but I have a feeling I said I’d send it in a couple of days ago. Time to knuckle down, except, no; there goes the bloody doorbell again.

Categories: Industry Musings, Progress | 3 Comments

User names

Why do scriptwriters use pseudonyms on their blogs?

I understand why people blogging about their view of the world might want to keep their identity hidden, I understand why people who blog about porn or murder or something equally socially unacceptable might want to keep it a secret from their mum/wife/imaginary friends; but why would a scriptwriter not want people to know who they are?

Let me clarify that, I’m not talking about known writers, people whose work you may have gone looking for, people who may want an anonymous forum to slag off the people they’re working with/for; I’m talking about aspiring writers, people who need the exposure.

Why would you not want people to know who you are? Sometimes I read a blog by someone who claims to be a scriptwriter, I like what they have to say and I wonder what they’ve written, what stage their career is at; but I can’t find out because they have no real details on their profile.

This phenomenon isn’t restricted to blogs; over on Trigger Street, a site specifically designed to help writers improve, network and gain a little exposure – why would you not use your real name?

Do people have so little confidence in their own work they don’t want to be associated with it? Do people think their ideas are so offensive or just plain wrong it’s better to pretend to be someone else? Is it a fantasy thing, a chance to actually be someone else? Is it experience, knowing everything you write on the net can and will be taken the wrong way by a small minority of angry adolescents? Or is it just because everyone else does it and it seems the done thing?

I know I need all the exposure I can get. The more people who hear my name, the better; I want my name associated with my work. I genuinely don’t know why other writers don’t feel the same way, but I’d love to find out.

Categories: Industry Musings | 2 Comments

Starting small

I keep reading posts where people bash other people because they’re trying to make a film for free. There’s one guy in particular who regularly posts on a film-makers message board, shouting about how insulting it is when people expect a writer to give up his script for free.

This guy has several feature film credits, until you investigate further and realise none of them have actually been produced and the company which optioned them is his company.

Did he pay himself?

Sometimes I see adverts by new companies looking for scripts so they can make their first feature film. Frequently, these companies want to appear at least semi-professional and therefore don’t bother mentioning that ‘the company’ is just two guys with no experience and a camera.

Someone, usually the same guy, bangs on about the company looking dodgy because they have no credits and no information about their past work. Now, I can understand writers who regularly get paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to write major motion pictures not wanting to submit their work to a first time company; but why would an unproduced writer not want to take every opportunity he can get?

Is it better to have a pile of scripts at home which you’re waiting for one of the big production companies to buy for millions; or is it better to have several of those scripts in production by small first time companies who may or may not be able to pay you a pittance?

I fall squarely in the second camp. There are always new ideas, writing is what I do and I can always write more. I’d rather take a chance on a new company being able to make a half decent job of one of my scripts than waiting to be ‘discovered’ by the big boys.

Sure, send it to the big companies; but the chances of them wanting your script are very small. If someone else will actually produce your work, why not? You never know what will happen, the film might be good enough to draw attention to your work from people with the serious money.

At the beginning of your career it’s all about exposure, the more people who get to see your work, the better. This doesn’t happen if you don’t get it out there. Who knows, the people you work for free for, might attract enough attention to get a budget behind them the next time. If you’re good at what you do, they’ll want to work with you again. This is what’s happened to me and I now get paid to write – life doesn’t get any better than that.

Perhaps I should be thankful that these moaners aren’t trying harder? It’s all less competition for me. I do hope to be in a position where I can always get paid for my work, I’m almost there now, but I still send material off to first timers and small companies – why? Because I love writing and I love seeing my work on the screen. The money is nice and something I want more of, but over and above that, I just want to see my work in production.

So lay off on the criticism, let people make a film on their own terms. If you don’t like it, don’t get involved; but why feel the need to spoil it for others? Good things can happen when people collaborate, working for free is a good starting point; just don’t pay them any money, that’s a scam.

Categories: Industry Musings | 4 Comments

Busy, busy, busy.

I’ve been really busy this past week, finishing off the re-write for THE BEEFEATERS: THE RETURN OF ZARTHRAX. This is the second feature for Yankee Disco Productions, the first being THE EVOLVED.

It’s been a tough re-write. It was meant to be a simple case of altering a few scenes; but as often happens it’s resulted in a completely new script. Only one scene has escaped relatively unaltered, and that only lasts for one page.

I’ve also managed to fit in a little bit of corporate work; but sadly, no sketches for The Treason Show. It’s a safe bet Gordon’s going to win the Top Trumps again this month.

I usually get a few days of post project blues after completing a script; a period of listlessness where I can’t focus on anything and need to unwind. Not so this time, I’m straight into another feature project. A fresh script I said I’d have ready by the middle of December.

So that’s it, straight back to work for me. Luckily, I love my job.

Categories: Progress | Leave a comment

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