Monthly Archives: October 2007

Rejection

 There’s precious little* advice on the net about how to handle rejection.

I’m not talking about being rejected. That’s easy to deal with, I have a simple three step formula:

  1. Forget you’ve sent stuff to people; that way, if they don’t get back to you, it’s not a problem since you weren’t expecting them to anyway.
  2. Understand that this is just one person’s opinion about one product – it’s not a fact and it doesn’t apply to you as a person/your entire catalogue of works.
  3. Find out where they live and set fire to their pets.

Easy. I never feel bad about rejection.

Mass puppy murder, yes; but rejection … not bothered at all.

What no one tells you¤ is as you start to get a little bit more well known/successful/lucky, you get flooded with job offers and you have to turn some of them down.

I’ve been living in denial of this fact for a while now.

“Pile it on!”

“More work!”

“I can cope!”

“Oh fuck, no I can’t!”

In this last week, I’ve had three offers from people I’ve worked with before … and I’ve had to say no to all of them.

I hated doing it, and I’m still not sure if it’s the right decision; but I did it all the same.

Last year (or maybe the year before), working on a low paid project, with slim chances of getting made, was fine. I’d rather be working for a little money for someone who actually wanted to read what I’ve written, than writing a spec script for no money and then have to persuade someone to read it afterwards. It’s a simple formula:

Little money + a first timer pushing your script forwards > No money + no interest

At least in my world.

I still believe that, I really do; but now there are extra factors:

More money + someone famous pushing your script forward > a little money + a first timer pushing your script forward.

My life situation has changed (for the better, but in a worrying way). There’s a lot morework on offer and only so much Phill to go around. In essence, I need more money than I did before and I’ve got more work to choose from.

This doesn’t mean a higher paid project is automatically more worthwhile than a lower/no money project, because it doesn’t quite work like that.

The formula for this calculation looks something like this:

[n(n-1)/2 – 2D]/[n(n-1)/2] = 1 – 4D/n(n-1)

Where ‘D’ means … um … a doggie, maybe? And ‘n’ means I just picked a random formula off a random webpage.

Okay, so I don’t have a formula – which only makes it harder.

There are some well paid gigs on the table right now which might happen, or they might not. There are some high profile projects in production/in development which may lead to even better things, or they may not.

Then there are the projects with people I know, like and want to work with but who have no money.

It’s all very difficult.

The end result is I’m having to turn people down. I’ve gone from rejectee to rejecter and I don’t like it. In a way, it’s nice a nice position to be in, I have a choice of projects. In another way, it’s horrible and I hate it. I have to say no to people.

Hopefully, these people understand and won’t take it personally. I hate to think I’ve upset anyone … but I’m hiding my cat just in case.

———————————————————–

* I don’t actually know, I haven’t looked.

¤ Or maybe they do? See the above note.

A very small flood, more of a damp basement; but you get the idea.

One is a lot more than none. Two is a lot more than one. Three, four? We’re getting into loads now.

Although a steady stream of biscuits and an ever decreasing exercise regime seems to be increasing the amount of raw material.

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Categories: Industry Musings, Progress, Random Witterings, Writing and life | Leave a comment

Puddles of excitement

I just saw the concept art for a previously undisclosed project which is hurtling headlong towards reality.

It’s very, very cool.

I’m not saying it’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen recently, since it has been a particularly exciting month, but suffice it to say the puddle I’m currently sitting in isn’t water.

I’m off to change my pants.

Categories: Progress, Sad Bastard | 2 Comments

It happened again!

I’m working on the next project (it never ends) and the bloody characters are off on their own, again!

This couple are arguing and, to be honest, she was being a bit of a bitch. She just didn’t seem to understand the emotional trauma he was going through and then …

BOOM!

She lays out this one line which totally changes the argument. Her point of view suddenly seems much more reasonable than his.

I wish my characters would stop doing this. It’s annoying to discover they know more about their own lives than I do. I invented them, for god’s sake!

In fact, I am god of their universe. They can’t go around knowing things I don’t. It’s just not on.

So I did the decent thing.

I’ve given her cancer and made him impotent.

That’ll fucking learn ’em.

Categories: Random Witterings | 7 Comments

Aglay

I outline.

I plan.

I write treatments, character bios and arcs, plot points, story as prose, draw lines and mark the important bits on it.

In short: I know what I’m going to write before I write it.

I find if I don’t I spiral off into all sorts of problems.

Okay, yeah, maybe I can get away with writing a short film on the fly; but only because it’s short enough to hold the entire thing in my head before I start. Anything longer than 5 or 6 pages and I need to start with a plan.

And I’m good at sticking to that plan. The page count may go out a little, but it’s always proportionally correct. If I expect to hit the mid-point at page 45 and I hit it at page 55 then it’s a 110 page script and that’s all there is to it. I haven’t gone wrong, other than underestimated how much needs to be said.

I’ll say it again: I know what I’m going to write before I write it.

Imagine my surprise then when the latest project I’m working on (it’s a secret, sort of) just went completely off the rails.

There had been a nice meeting where the next draft had been discussed and a lot of ideas pitched. I took them all and wrote out a plan. I knew where I was going, what plot points to hit, how it all fit together …

And it didn’t happen.

That is to say, I hit the mid-point bang on. I got the main character to the right scene at the right time and she just lost her fucking mind.

She went nuts, she just went off on this massive bender and completely missed the end of the script.

Or at least the end I had planned for her.

It turns out the stress of the first half destroyed her mind and she just fucking lost it.

Big style.

It may seem weird to talk about a character as if she’s real; but I sat on the train to London on Monday, with my fingers flying over the keyboard, and I actually shouted at my (gay) laptop.

“No! What the fuck are you doing?”

There was then some shuffling as people moved further away from me.

I couldn’t believe the mess she got herself into and I had no idea how she was going to get herself out of it. I swear, I was as much a reader as I was a writer. I just typed and read in shock and panic.

“Fuck me, no! What … what are you doing?”

And then I got to Victoria and had to shut my laptop down.

One page to go.

One.

My protagonist has just hacked some bloke to death in the middle of a crowded area and I’ve got to go and be nice to people in the pub for hours before I can find out what happens to her.

I found out on the way home and it wasn’t pretty.

The end result?

So far everyone really likes it and has been very complimentary.

The moral?

Um … don’t write on trains?

Sometimes planning is good and sometimes it isn’t?

Plan but don’t worry if something better comes up?

How about: don’t push your characters too far, they don’t like it?

I’m not sure if there is a moral, it was just a unique experience for me. One which might go some way to explaining why I was a little shell-shocked in the pub and talked slightly more shit than normal.

Then again, it might not.

Categories: Random Witterings | 6 Comments

Mixbag

A few random things which have happened in the last few days:

        1) Completed the rewrites to the five day feature, they only took half a day. Not because I was moving at lightning speed, but purely because there were very few notes on the original draft. I could take this as a sign of my blossoming genius, but I suspect it’s more to do with the producer reading the script and giving notes on the same day. The further I get from it, the more little flaws I keep finding; there’s bound to be a few major ones somewhere.

 On the positive side, the producer emailed the revision (which is really the first proper draft) to the money men without reading it. He says he has enough faith in me to know it’s good enough to send out.

Which I thought was jolly nice of him.

        2) Had a meeting with Martin Kemp, Gary Kemp and Jonathan Sothcott about ‘The Summoning’ and other stuff. An intense, short meeting which was basically four people shouting ideas at each other until we had too many. Now I’ve just got to try and sort them into a reasonable order.

        3) Wrote out a list of a dozen sketches for the, as yet untitled, BBC sketch show, and had just sat down to write them when I got a phone call from the producer asking me to tweak the selected sketches from the 30-odd I wrote at the beginning of the month.

The great thing about this was I got to see which of these particular style of sketches are currently in the running (it may change, who knows?) and I get to tweak them so there’s a story which runs through them. Basically, because they were all written as individual sketches, one of the characters gets a little repetitive after the third week. Now she has a bit more to her – assuming the changes are acceptable and don’t get the entire series of sketches binned.

The bad thing about this is I was asked to write them to the specific format they use on this show. That’s not a bad thing in itself, except I was struggling to work out what the format is. It seems to me to be fairly random and to change from page to page. Plus, I had to amend word scripts, so I couldn’t use Final Draft (or Sophocles or Movie Magic. I tried importing the script into all three and they just got confused) which meant I had to type all the character names out by hand.

And the scene headings.

And format everything individually.

Very retro.

Very annoying.

I’ve never really realised how much slower it is to write without proper screenwriting software, it’s a fucking nightmare. By the end of a long day’s work, I’d only managed to tweak the twelve scripts and write two new ones. I think under ‘normal’ circumstances I’d have managed to write at least another five or six.

I finished the day in a blaze of swearing and a resolution to buy the BBC a copy of Final Draft.

        4) The BBC then redeemed itself by telling me who they’re approaching to play the lead in my sketches.

I’m not saying who it is, because he may not do it; but suffice it to say, I was excited enough to shit myself.

        5) One change of pants later, I realised my list of twelve new sketches was mostly shit anyway. So it’s probably a good thing I spent the day swearing at Word instead of committing them to paper.

        6) One of the feature films I’m working on is no longer a feature, it’s something much, much cooler.

        7) I read a script by a guy who’s just had one of his other scripts optioned by one of the top Hollywood producer/directors. Ignoring the fact it was full of passive tense, wrylies, unfilmables, camera directions and bland characters … it was still a bit shit. Good premise, badly done. I read the script he had optioned by said ‘big cheese’ and that was even worse. It didn’t even have a good premise.

        8) I read another script by a guy who used to be in a soap of some kind and that had absolutely no formatting whatsoever. Dialogue was sometimes in bold, sometimes in brackets and seemed to float around the page. Action wandered about all over the place. Sometimes it was full page width, the  it would be in brackets in the centre, then it turned up inside people’s dialogue.

Honestly, you’d think this guy had never seen a script before, instead of having been (or maybe still is?) an actor in a long running soap. Unless, that’s how they write their scripts and all these formatting rules are an Internet myth put about by bored readers who just want to confuse people? I mean, seriously 3) , 7) and 8) – all three scripts by people who should (and probably do) know better – not one of them has anything remotely like the format the gurus tell us to use.

I’m still sticking to these ‘rules’ because I happen to like them; but really, does anyone else give a shit?

        9) Made up a feature pitch on the spot. It went down well. Now I’ve just got to find the time to write it.

And that’s it. That’s been my week. A lot of little bits and bobs with no cohesive whole.

A bit like most of the scripts I’ve read recently.

Categories: BBC, BBC Sketch Show, Industry Musings, Progress, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way, The Summoning | 3 Comments

Writing Drama

Part of being an internationally famous writer means people send me free stuff to review.

No Aston Martin’s yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

An embarrassingly long time back, I received a copy of ‘WRITING DRAMA’ by Yves Lavandier.

I say embarrassingly, because it took me a long time to read – that’s not the book’s fault; but for the past few months I’ve had very little spare time for reading.

Anyway, I’ve read it. I liked it, and I thought I’d let you know what it’s like.

It’s a very comprehensive book. It’s not just a guide to writing screenplays, it’s an incredibly in-depth discussion of the underlying principles of writing all drama. I’m not University material, but I’m guessing it’s the sort of book which could easily form the foundation of a degree course.

Each section goes into a hell of a lot of detail about different aspects and theories of drama writing. So much detail in fact, I frequently felt I needed to put the book down and digest the information before moving on.

I could easily imagine a lecturer setting exercises based on the individual chapters and taking the best part of a year to get through the book.

It has a lot of examples from a wide range of popular movies, comics and theatre – so many, in fact, that the index contains 38 pages of title references in teeny tiny writing.

Personally, I found the book very useful, since I was in the middle of re-writes to a feature at the time. The chapter on Dramatic Irony convinced me to change the nature of the information I was keeping back, a change which dramatically altered the tone of the script for the better.

Yves has a different take on the three act structure to the definition I’m familiar with, and I can’t say I entirely agree with it. That’s not to say I disagree, since it makes perfect sense, but I find other definitions more useful to my writing style.

That, however, is a tiny niggle about what is otherwise an excellent book. Like I said, it’s not a ‘How to write a screenplay’ book, but it will get you (or at least me) thinking about different aspects of your story in new ways.

What can I say? I found it useful, and I don’t begrudge the time I spent reading it.

If anyone wants to check it out, it’s available from Le Clown & L’enfant, priced €38.

Now then, Aston Martin; I’d like a blue … actually, I’m not fussy. I’ll take whatever you’ve got.

Categories: Someone Else's Way | Leave a comment

A feature in five days -Aftermath

I was going to do a book review today, but I felt like wrapping up the five day script challenge first.

As I mentioned in the comments on the last post, the official word is good. The script has been well received and I’ve had remarkably few notes.

Worryingly, it does seem that the less time I have, the stronger my work is. The notes I have had are mostly minor. The biggest one being a lack of clarity on the chronology of the sub plot – which is fair enough, since I only worked it out myself once I was halfway through.

As I was wandering up to the office yesterday, I had a flashback. A proper ‘Lost’ style, wooshing flashback. An image, of a single page of script which contains these words:

       FELICJA
Something about the problem.

       ANIA
The solution to the problem.

       FELICJA
Something about implementing the solution.

Balls! I left the placeholders in.

I tend to do this when I sort of know what needs to go in there, but not the specifics or how to tie it to the theme. Rather than get stuck at a particular point puzzling over the details, I sometimes find it’s better to drop in these placeholders and just move on.

What I don’t normally do is leave them in when I send someone the script.

Oh well, one mistake in 122 pages – not bad.

At least, the only one I can remember so far.

Something this script drove home to me (yet again) is how glad I am to be a writer now as opposed to prior ten years ago. This script is a Rom-Com set in Krakow, where the city is as much a character as the people. The script needs to reflect the city and its locations.

The problem is, I’ve never even been there. Never even set foot in Poland.

Yet, with the aid of the Internet, I can confidently (ish) write a script set in a city I’ve never seen. I can search for hotels, find one in the location I want and describe it accurately from photos. I can find anecdotes from travellers who’ve stayed there and weave those in.

One scene requires a night club to be right next to the hotel.

No problem.

I found several nearby, found out what the clientele were like, what music they play and can even see photos of the interiors. I can measure the distance from the club to the hotel and time the conversations exactly.

One character is picked up from his hotel and driven to a specific location. I want the driver to give him a brief tour of the city en route – easy. Google maps plans the route, shows me which streets are one way (or were when the maps were compiled) and then I can switch between the map view and the satellite view to determine what can be seen from the car.

Later on, I need a walking tour of the city – so I look up a company which gives walking tours and find their itinerary. Then I put each location into Wikipedia and paraphrase the first line of description as my scene description. A search of travellers’ comments gives me the details to point out.

I’m not saying all this adds up to a incredibly detailed and accurate description of Krakow – but it’s a hell of a lot better than if I’d just made it up. The director, who goes there a lot, thinks I’ve captured the city well – something which would have been incredibly difficult B.I. (before Internet).

Yeah, going there would be better; but on a five day schedule, that isn’t really practical.

The down side of course, is it’s hard to stay focused on your script when every single piece of information (both real, imaginary and just plain wrong) in the whole world is available and waiting. I learnt some really bizarre and random pieces of information while I was writing this script – including ideas for two more feature scripts.

Still, five days eh? Not bad.

And in case the short time frame wasn’t enough, for the first four days I was nervously waiting for the results of some rather life-changing information; and on Thursday I had a phone call from the BBC asking for more sketches. I spent the last two days of the script scribbling sketch ideas down on a pad beside the keyboard.

All in all, it was a stressful few days; but I’m glad I pushed myself that little bit harder.

Although, it does make me wonder: if it only take five days to write a feature script, what the hell have I been doing with my life?

Categories: BBC, BBC Sketch Show, Progress, Random Witterings | 4 Comments

A feature in five days – Day Five

I’ve done it.

122 pages of glory.

Or about 60 pages of glory and 62 pages of shit; I’m not sure yet.

122 is a bit over the asking length of 90 pages, but there was a lot of ground to cover. Plus, I haven’t edited anything I wrote today, or even read it or spell-checked it properly.

To be honest, I’m fucked.

But the script is away, and that’s the important thing.

It may be 30% too long, riddled with spelling mistakes and generally a bit shit; but it’s on time.

I did it.

A feature in five days.

Sort of.

It’s 4.17 in the morning and I’m still up. Does that count as an extra day? I didn’t start until 12.30 yesterday, so I don’t think it does.

Maths:

Shit.

I started this morning (or yesterday afternoon, if you’re being picky) at 63 pages. I finished just now at 122 pages. That means I wrote 59 pages today.

Theoretically, that means I could write a feature in two days.

Hell, with an early enough start I could probably knock one out in 24 hours.

In fact I … oh shit, I’ve gone blind.

Categories: Progress, Sad Bastard | 14 Comments

A feature in five days – Day Four

Oh dear.

I started off well today … no, actually, I didn’t. I woke up late did that writer thing of finishing breakfast and rolling straight into lunch and didn’t sit down to write until about 13.30.

Still, it’s 02.30 now, so I’ve done a good 13 hours writing.

Apart from tea breaks, dinner, supper, afternoon snack and the odd snuggle with Mandy.

Which probably means a good 10 hours work.

Unless I deduct time for browsing the web, faffing about and other general procrastination.

Which I’m not going to.

The first half of my writing day seemed to go quite well: 14 pages, taking me up to page 58; but … that only took me up to the green and blue card in the centre of the second row.

09102007071.jpg

One card further on than yesterday.

One card!

Jesus!

That can’t be right.

That means it’ll be about 70-odd pages up to the mid-point.

That’s really not right.

So I went back to the beginning and hacked like a motherfucker.

If you don’t know how a motherfucker hacks, ask one.

8 pages I hacked out.

8.

Which left my new daily total at 6 pages.

Uh-oh.

Furiously onward did I scribble, bashing out another 7 pages.

And then immediately deleted one of them.

Scribble, scribble, manic scribble.

Until I closed on page 63.

I’m at the mid-point now – the centre (ish) of the film.

The third act, as mentioned yesterday, will be short. Which puts the probable length at 110 pages – my worst case scenario.

I can’t bear to do the math.

28 pages written, 9 hacked out – 19 pages further on than yesterday.

That’s bad.

That means I probably have to write 47 pages on Sunday.

47!

I’m not working tomorrow, no matter what happens. Sunday, Sunday is going to be the testing ground.

Place your bets ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

Categories: Progress, Sad Bastard, Two steps back | 3 Comments

A feature in five days – Day Three

Day three, the first full day of just writing.

No pretty boards, no messy fighting, no lounging around watching TV.

Not much TV, anyway.

How did I do?

The target was 24 pages and I did …

29.

Cool!

But then I deleted 3 of the last two days’ pages.

Not so cool.

Still, that puts me at page 44.

(I’ve messed up somewhere, the maths don’t quite add up – but that’s where I am, honest)

On a 90 page script, this should put me at roughly the halfway mark. Let’s take a look at the board:

09102007071.jpg

Oh dear.

I’m in the first half of act two (the second line) and I’ve just finished the first pink card.

Which means I’m not going to reach the midpoint until about page 60. Rom-coms tend to have a short third act (they decide they can’t live without each other, they kiss – job done), but even taking that into account, I can’t see this coming in at 90 pages. Probably more like 100 – 110.

Which is fine, but the director specifically asked for a 90 page script.

Which is also fine.

Under normal circumstances, I’d edit this down after finishing; but with such a tight deadline it’s going to be tricky to finish and then edit in time.

And look at the second half of act two (third line of cards); there’s a lot going on there. So much so, it even goes off the edge of the photo. That’s not going to be easy to cut down, nor would I want to – it all has to be cut down in proportion or the timing is way off.

Basically, I think about 10 pages of the first act have to be junked – it’s too long.

Balls.

In retrospect, maybe the tap-dancing squirrels can go. They’re probably quite hard to train anyway.

The problem is, with the current extended length it throws out my maths. I could spend tomorrow hacking pages out, and get back on track (by losing half a day); or I can assume a 100-110 page script and push on, hoping to find time to edit later.

What to do? What to do?

If I still aim for 90 pages, that’s 46 to go at 23 per day.

Easy.

If I aim for 100 pages, that’s 56 to go at 28 per day.

Easy?

If (as I suspect) I’m heading towards a 110 page script, then that’s 66 pages to go at 33 per day.

Eek!

Oh fuck it, I’ll cope.

Categories: Progress, Sad Bastard | Leave a comment

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