Monthly Archives: January 2007

I finally gave in…

I had a little wobble today. Yesterday I finished a feature re-write and today I had to go straight into a second. Not normally a problem, I tend to be mulling over everything I’m working on anyway, plus several projects I’d like to write sometime and several I know I never will.

These two features are completely different, total opposites. Yesterday’s was ‘The Last King of Wales v The Beefeaters’ and today’s is a tragic romance, set against the fall of Socialism at the end of the ’80s, provisionally called ‘The Return’ but soon to be renamed on the grounds there are already way too many films with the same name.

Now, ‘The Return’ needs a a totally new subplot, for which I have a 12 point list from Garip Aksut, the director. Fair enough, I knew the original one wasn’t right when I did the first draft, but the scenes served as placeholders. The problem is, I have no idea how many scenes there are in the first draft, but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot less than 12. Probably closer to 6.

So there’s the problem, I need an overview of the script, a way to see where to slot in the new scenes. This is not normally a problem for me, it’s all instinctive. I can see the movie in my head and the scenes just drop in where they’re needed.

Not this time.

I don’t know if it’s because of just finishing a different script or if it’s lack of sleep or maybe I’ve finally lost my scriptwriting superpowers; but I couldn’t visualise where these scenes belong.

And so I went and bought something I’ve always meant to, but never quite felt I needed:

A board.

And here it is:

My Board

Isn’t it lovely? Took me about thirty seconds to find out where the subplot scenes belonged. They’re the yellow ones by the way.

Hopefully this will speed up all future re-writes. I think it’s a great tool and something I’ve always meant to get, but I’ve never quite got round to it. I guess, prior to now, I’ve only worked on one or two things at a time and I’ve never had to replace an entire B story in one go.

I’m quite pleased with my new purchase and I’m looking forward to using it as often as possible. Plus I got to drill some holes in the wall, always a bit of fun.

I almost feel like a proper writer now.

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Categories: Sad Bastard | 4 Comments

Replies

A few days back, Adrian Mead posted a piece on Shooting People about writers who unrealistically demand a reply to their unsolicited screenplay submissions. It’s a good post and, as far as I know, makes sense.

It’s also here on UKScreen if anyone missed it.

Anyway, a couple of days later, a writer posted a response about how unprofessional it is when producers/directors who have requested your script then fail to get back to you. Which I thought was also a good post.

Personally, I tend to fall somewhere in between these two points of view. I don’t expect a reply from anyone (mostly because I worry too much about my email not actually working); however, I think it does depend on circumstances.

If you’ve sent an unsolicited script to someone, why should they reply to you? You’re a door to door salesman who’s jammed his foot in someone’s door. Piss off.

If, on the other hand, you’ve responded to a script call or sent a query which has received a reply and a request for the script, then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hear a thanks, but no thanks reply. Now you’re a salesman who’s been invited into the home only to find they won’t let you in and are hiding behind the couch.

On another, third hand, this is what happens, learn to deal with it. The ones who reply are no more professional than the others, just a bit nicer.

When I receive one of these brush offs I send a quick reply thanking them for their time and wishing them luck with their project. I like to be nice, but that’s just me.

Having said all of that, I occasionally rail against the people who love the script, want to make it, pay me some money and then disappear. What the fuck is that about?

Erm, hello? I’ve got your money. You gave me some money, can I spend it? Is anyone there? Okay, I’m going to spend it now, let me know if that’s wrong.

Anyway, the original few posts sparked a flurry of debate (a small flurry) and I was just mulling this over when I realised who the second poster was. She emailed in July last year and asked if I would read her script. 

This happens to me a lot, does anyone else get this? Why are people turning to me for advice? It’s nice and it’s ego-flattering, but it’s just plain weird. Why me? Who the fuck am I?

I agreed, I’m nice like that, and wrote her a page or so detailing what I thought of it and in response I heard…

nothing.

I sent a prodding email a few days later, just a quickie: How’s tricks? How are you getting on with your script? Were any of my comments useful/hurtful/just plain wrong?

And still no response.

Funny that. Mind you, it’s probably something to do with my increasingly random email service. Or is it? I’ve been developing a new theory. Years ago, when I had to hide behind the sofa when the phone rang in case it was the bank…

Yes, I know they can’t see over the phone, but you never know.

Whenever I absolutely had to send out a cheque on pain of arrest, I would write a nice letter saying ‘here is your cheque’, put the letter (without a cheque) in an envelope, seal it and tear it in half. I’d then post the half with the stamp on. The Post Office would deliver the torn envelope in a plastic bag and apologise for tearing the letter in their machine.

Hey presto! Another few weeks’ grace.

Maybe the ‘if I ignore them, they’ll think there’s something wrong with their email’ excuse is just an electronic version of ‘it’s in the post’?

Categories: Industry Musings | 1 Comment

Good things always clash

I had an email yesterday from Jonathan Wolff, the director of a short film ‘Groove Britannia’ I wrote with Marian Kilpatrick. It’s an invite to a screening of said short film, something I’m particularly amazed at since I was slowly coming to the conclusion that no one actually makes short films. I’ve found it easier to get a feature script made than a short, which runs contrary to what I think of as common sense. Despite having had a lot of interest in my shorts (I love typing that), no one actually sees them through.

Until now. Which makes this screening quite important to me, a new first. Only problem is, I can’t go. I’m supposed to be flying out to Gothenburg that night for a screening of ‘The Evolved’ at the Gothenburg Film Festival.

Bugger.

Why do good things always seem to happen in clumps? Why do I frequently find myself having to choose betwee two things I really want to do?

On the other hand, it’s pretty cool that so many good things keep happening to me I find myself having to choose between them. Yes, that’s a much better way of looking at it.

More good news:

The first trailer for Yankee Disco Productions’ new masterpiece is finished and available online. For anyone who han’t been paying attention this is the script for which I’ve been receiving the following notes:

“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.”

“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”

 “I’ve got this animatronic stag’s head…”

and, recently, the following:

“Tom Jones should be more like Idi Amin.”

Hence, the new title of the film: ‘The Last King of Wales v The Beefeaters’; and the trailer:

Categories: Progress | Leave a comment

Plodding along

Nothing much to report at the moment. I had a meeting today with a director I’m writing a feature script with, I’m not sure how much he wants me to give away so I’ll just say we went over the first draft and jotted down notes for the second draft. All looking good so far.

I’ve been working on character sheets for a proposed TV comedy-drama with a different director, that’s also shaping up nicely. Nothing particularly concrete yet, but it’s getting there.

I’ve yet to hear back from the director who contacted me on the 2nd about filming one of my shorts. I’ve re-sent my ‘yeah, sure’ email, just in case she didn’t get it; but no response at all. Maybe she doesn’t check her emails very often (two weeks?) or maybe my fear of emails is justified after all.*

I’ve got a few short pieces to knock out tomorrow before a corporate meeting on Wednesday. If I get time, I might even manage a few sketches for The Treason Show or NewsRevue. Speaking of NewsRevue, they sent me another cheque recently, so they seem to have sorted whatever problem was plaguing them. It’s not a huge amount, but it’s nice to have in the aftermath of Christmas.

And that’s about it at the moment. I’ve got second drafts to run through on two feature films which should keep me busy until the end of the month. All in all, life is good.

*I just spoke to someone I designed a website for, he sent me a list of changes a month or so ago. Did I get them?

No.

Damn it, what else am I missing?

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Lazy screenwriter deaths

Driving home today through the pouring rain, I started thinking about death.

Not mine, I hasten to add, but movie deaths in general. Although I’m a sucker for a happy ending, I also quite like to see main characters die. There’s nothing which raises the stakes more than actually killing people off, if it’s done properly.

I have a pet hatred of ‘lazy screenwriter deaths’, the prime example of this would be Trinity in the last ‘Matrix‘ film (Regurgitated? Rehashed? One of those). There they are, nearing the massively anti-climatic end to the trilogy (“Shall we forget our belief systems and way of life are diametrically opposed and just stop fighting?” “Yeah, okay then.”) and the writers suddenly realise Trinity is still with Neo. They want Neo to confront the machines on his own, solution? Just kill her off. Make it pointless and a bit random, no one will notice.

Her death and rebirth in the second film was quite moving (compared to the rest of the sea of shit that comprised the film); Neo moves heaven and Earth and gives up the battle to save her life. Great stuff. In the third film, where we already (weirdly) established he has the same powers in the real world (eh?) he can’t be bothered to revive her when she’s lying right next to him.

Lazy writing.

Similarly, in ‘Serenity‘, Wash is killed after he’s served his useful purpose. He’s a pilot, he lands the ship, THEN he gets killed. Pointless and lazy. Killing a character at this point was a good idea; it shows they’re not invincible, it ramps up the stakes and should make you doubt whether any of them will survive.

Killing Wash, the pilot, is a great idea. How the fuck do they get off the planet? He’s likable, the last person you’d want to die, the only one who’s never in any real danger. Killing him off is a good choice, just not when he no longer serves a useful function in the plot. To me, that looks like Joss Whedon had too many characters  in the room and needed to get rid of at least one. Solution? Just kill him.

Lazy writing.

I’m not saying all deaths have to be Spock’s heroic death from ‘The Wrath of Khan’; but it would be nice to at least make it part of the story. If Trinity had died at the end of the second movie it would have been quite moving and skewed the story in a different direction (maybe).

If Wash had been killed before he landed the ship it would have forced someone else, someone who couldn’t fly,  to take the controls. Even if he’d been wounded and managed to hang on until the ship landed, it would have meant something.

Killing someone just because you can’t think of anything else to do with them is plain lazy. Needing to kill someone because it’s the right thing to do for the script is fine; choosing the character who’s outlived their usefulness is just as lazy.

It was at this point I hit a large puddle, aquaplaned, span and ended up facing the wrong way up the M23. As I slid backwards towards the south coast I thought, this is a stupid way to die.

Luckily, I didn’t.

On a more positive note, I sent in my Gumball 3000 treatment yesterday. They’ve acknowledged receipt, which is always nice, and promised a reply before the end of the month. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Anyone fancy swapping treatments after the deadline’s up?

Categories: Industry Musings | 3 Comments

What were they thinking?

No good news today; but then, they do say no news is good news, so maybe…?

Nah, I’m really reaching now. I have had a couple of ‘we’re still working on the project’ emails; but since there’s no real progression, it doesn’t really count as good news.

I have finished working on the Gumball 3000 treatment. I haven’t sent it in yet, I thought it’s best to get a friend to read over it first. I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense yet, but I’ll wait and see what the verdict is.

Apart from that, just general day to day stuff. Although I did have this observation:

I was in the States recently and unfortunately found myself watching TV. I couldn’t help noticing that the programs in America are really beautiful to watch (I’m not talking about the content, just the visuals); but the adverts are horrendous, they look like they’ve been filmed with a mobile phone.

By contrast, in the UK, it’s the other way around; the adverts are stunning and the actual shows are shiny and horrible. Two things struck me about this:

1) TV advertising must be really cheap in America.

2) Can’t we get the people who make adverts to make TV programs?

I know nothing about the technical ins and outs of this. Why does British TV look so bad? Is it purely financial? Is it somethingto do with the preferred filming media? Is it a weird choice to distinguish adverts from programs? If anyone could explain this, I’d love to know.

On the subject of adverts, in America, I saw a TV ad for this:

http://www.nationalcollectorsmint.com/product2.jsp?path=-1%7C1699&id=4689

Quite possibly the crassest thing I’ve ever seen. Look kids, you can stand the twin towers up and knock them down again! Re-enact that fateful day in coin form.

And to think Mattel sneered at my ‘car-crash Diana’ Barbie idea.

Categories: Industry Musings | 2 Comments

Keeping up the average

I’ve completely lost the ability to tell one day from the other, not a good thing. I think I’ve been averaging one good piece of news per day, but with my current sleep pattern the last two could have both happened today.

As far as I can work out, yesterday I had a phone call from a director who’s trying to get funding for one of my short scripts. He phoned to see if I fancied developing a new project with him, which I do. We’ve got a vague idea of what we want to do, now it’s just a case of hashing out the details.

The other piece of good news definitely came today by email, regarding a feature film of mine which a producer is trying to get off the ground. It’s a really, really exciting piece of news which should dramatically increase its chances of being produced; but I can’t say anything.

Balls.

Never mind, I know it’s exciting and you’ll just have to trust me. So there we have it, day four of the new year and I’m four bits of good news up, not bad.

Categories: Progress | Leave a comment

Movable deadlines

Thankfully, the deadline for the Gumball 3000 script competition-type-thing has been moved from the 5th (eek!) to the 15th (phew!) of January. I could have finished the treatment by Friday, but it wouldn’t have been pretty.

I’m worried I’m breaking one of my own rules here, if you can’t be the best, be the fastest; I’m a pretty good writer, but I’m under no illusions I can beat 99 other writers to win this competition. I’m fairly certain there will be a lot of similar submissions and whoever gets their treatment read first is in a stronger position. If it’s put on the maybe pile, the next one which follows a similar plot has to be that much better to knock it off. By extension, the 100th treatment has to be fantastic to join the other favourites up to that point.

All things considered, it doesn’t hurt to get the submission in early.

Which is why I was beginning to panic a little, until I got this email today:

“Because of continued requests we have now extended the deadline for submission of your treatment until Monday the 15th of January. We  hope this gives you some more time to put your thoughts on paper. “

Yes it does, thank you very much. It’s also nice to know other people have been lax over the Christmas period too. I was beginning to suspect I was the scriptwriting grasshopper in a competition of busy little ants; but no, turns out there are at least a few others who have wasted the festive holiday by enjoying themselves.

I can breathe easy. Now, if only my treatment made any sense.

In other news, I’ve had another email today from a director who wants to direct one of my short scripts. This one is a friend of the one from yesterday…

Or was it the day before? What time is it, anyway?

Oh, 03.27.

Bugger, that’s my early morning exercise regime scuppered. Looks like tomorrow will be another day of getting out of bed first thing in the afternoon.

Anyway, that’s two directors asking to direct two short scripts in the first two days of the year. That’s a pretty good start, wonder if I can keep it up?

Categories: Progress | 2 Comments

Happy New Year!

Or is it? How many of you actually enjoy the first of January? How many of you are still suffering from last night’s excursions? Have you broken those resolutions already?

I was thinking about the way forward this year, not really in terms of resolutions, just an overall strategy for writing and the progress I should attempt to make. At first I thought I’d try and complete one project each month. I’m not talking about writing a feature film from scratch each month, rather polishing off the ones I have and trying to do something with them.

I’ve got a few feature scripts which are almost ready to be sent to production companies, they just need that last tweak. I’ve got a handful of (mostly dreadful) sitcoms which could easily be thumped into line. I’ve got a radio series in mind, something which might go down well. I’ve got two contacts at two different production companies who have both mentioned me submitting ideas to them. One of them even emailed me and reminded me he was head of development, send him some ideas. The ideas are there, the ears are ready to hear them, they just need putting into a submittable form.

One of these a month, I thought. Pick one and concentrate on it. Focus your energies.

Unfortunately, it’s never that easy. Something else always crops up which takes time away from these spec plans. It’s all very well saying you’ll work on your own projects, but when someone offers you money to write something else, you tend to forget about it very quickly.

At least I do.

So then I revised that strategy to one project every two months.

Then I thought, fuck it. I’ll just write what I feel like, when I feel like it. I’ll put them in an order of priority and then see how many I manage to get through before something better comes along.

It’s only the first today and already I’ve had four work related emails. One from a guy who wants to make one of my short scripts; who knows, this one might actually remain in contact for more than a week?

Two from directors I’m already working with about the state of play of two projects.

And the other from Andrew Senior over at Yankee Disco (more frequently referred to as ‘those weirdos who made that film with the Nazi Puppet on the cover‘) , about The Beefeaters script. In true Yankee Disco form, the notes begin:

“I’ve got this animatronic stag’s head…”

I think it’s going to be a very happy new year.

Categories: Industry Musings, Progress | Leave a comment

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