Monthly Archives: January 2008

The Wrong Door

A few days back, apparently whilst my head was firmly up my arse, BBC Three announced their Winter/Spring 2008 season.

Two things immediately strike me about the line up.

  1. I obviously don’t watch BBC Three very much. There seem to be a lot of comedy shows returning for new seasons, shows I’ve barely heard of let alone seen.
  2. They’ve announced the sketch show I’ve been working on.

Which I’m quite excited about.

Apparently it’s now called ‘The Wrong Door’.

Which is it was called originally, before it became ‘Untitled CGI Sketch Show’. It seems it’s gone back to its original name.

The BBC Press Office has this to say about it:

The Wrong Door

This is a daring new sketch show set in a parallel universe; a fantastic world governed by the laws of comedy – not nature – and where special effects seen in the movies and on TV are part of everyday life.

In this parallel universe, herds of space hoppers and shopping trolleys roam the countryside; robots play tennis; mini-bars come with a helpful mini-barman; magazines come with a free, blow-up boyfriend; and mp3 players generate 3-D popstar holograms and monsters under the bed.

In this world, viewers can meet the Booze Fairies, the Wizard of Oswestry, the World’s Most Annoying Creature and a love-struck dinosaur called Phillip. Here, superheroes, wizards, dinosaurs and monsters casually go about their business amongst the daily irritations of explosions, disasters, battles, chases and driving lessons.

With its genre-busting mix of celebrity cameos, unimaginable locations and impossible visual effects, The Wrong Door heralds a brave new world of comic possibility.

Oooh!

I still don’t really know how many, if any, of my sketches have made it into the final edit; but at least two items on the above list seem to refer to my work.

A careful scrutiny of the list might lead you to an obvious conclusion; but you’d be wrong – the love sick dinosaur was called Phillip before I got involved in the project.

The British Sitcom Guide seem to have found a photo of him from somewhere:

wrong_door.jpg

I think Phillip is the one on the right. As you can see, he’s plainly not ginger – although he does have my nose.

If any more information becomes available, such as scheduling dates or cast or anything vaguely interesting, can someone let me know? I always seem to be the last one to find out about this sort of stuff, possibly because I don’t pay enough attention; but more likely because I have a very short attention span and frequently get distracted by shiny objects.

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Categories: BBC, BBC Sketch Show, The Wrong Door | 15 Comments

Demotivation

My new calender arrived this morning – a sentence which may lead you to believe this is a regular annual occurrence; when in fact, I’ve never owned a calender before.

Or at least, I’ve never bought one before. I guess I have owned one – assuming taking the free one from the Chinese takeaway and chucking it in the bin counts as owning a calender.

I like to think I can remember all the important dates, meetings and anniversaries in his life; making a calender superfluous.

In reality, I can’t remember fuck all and have to be constantly reminded by Mandy; who not only owns a calendar but actually writes stuff on it.

Weird.

Anyway, I decided to buy on the grounds I might be busier this year than I’ve ever been (hopefully) and because I saw this calendar on the net and thought it was apt.

This is January’s page:

Aspiration Demotivator (Medium) 

Well, it makes me giggle.

If you haven’t seen 101 Reasons to Stop Writing, I suggest you check it out.

It’s mostly aimed at novelists, but if you screenwriters could take the advice to heart and stop competing with me – I’d appreciate it.

The calendar is available here; and I can report it’s a quality product – very nice, weighty and with lots of space to write all those important dates on.

If you can remember what and when they are in the first place.

Categories: Sad Bastard | 2 Comments

Moving on

So K started shooting on Saturday and so far I guess no news is good news – on the grounds that if something was going horribly wrong, I’m sure I would have heard by now.

With that all underway it’s time to move onto the next project: Mixed Up.

Mixed Up is a comedy feature set in a Croydon record shop, directed by Lawrence Pearce and produced by my pimp, Jonathan Sothcott.

This is the blurb from Lawrence’s website:

“Mixed Up is a quirky independent comedy set in a second-hand record store with a heart and personality all of its own. The store is a real life treasure called Beanos and it’s my pleasure to bring this amazing place to the screen.

Taking inspiration from Empire Records, High Fidelity, Kevin Smith’s Clerks and Cameron Crowe’s Singles, this multi-character story presents memorable and lovable characters as they explore their own fears of failure and find that music still has the power to bring people together.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Watch me fuck it up.

There’s a new challenge here, the ‘multi-character story’ part. I’ve done the treatment and I’m halfway through plotting out the scenes – so far so good. The challenging part is getting the scenes to marry up emotionally. I don’t want some of the stories all smilely and happy whilst someone else is getting screwed over … except when it works and one character’s happiness makes someone else miserable.

It’s an interesting process because moving a few story elements around messes up all the other stories and means I have to back off and have a re-think. I still want that emotional roller-coaster feel; but not from scene to scene. The film still has to have an overall cohesion which can generate real emotions as it progresses – without yoyo-ing from happy to sad every other scene as we switch stories.

It’s not something I’ve done before and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out; plus I haven’t done any comedy for a while and I’m interested to see if I’ve still got it.

Assuming I ever had it.

Oh bollocks, I feel a tin foil episode coming on.

Categories: K, Progress | 3 Comments

Sex and the actress

With the shoot for K kicking off tomorrow, my days are mostly full with tweaks and adjustments to the script – none of them major, most of them just revolve around the practicality of filming in a certain location or the availability of a certain actor on certain days.

For example: if a certain scene is inside rather than outside, then a night shoot could be scheduled during the day and they don’t have to call the actor back for an extra night.

Or

Can we change the order of bits of dialogue to fit in with the geography of the location, so that it can all be filmed in one take?

Stuff like that.

It’s nothing too taxing, but it’s fiddly and takes up time. Time which I was going to use to start a new project; but will just have to wait a few days.

I’m back on a rather steep learning curve at the moment, with all sorts of interesting (at least to me) little tit-bits coming to light. The sort of things not really covered by screenwriting books* because they’re only peripherally connected with writing. I’ve decided to start a new series of blogs about these curious little bits of info.

I thought I’d start with sex.

I’ve always been of the opinion a well written sex scene should leave the reader feeling the need to go off and have a little fiddle.

I’m not talking about a sex scene in a family comedy or a film intended for a wide audience – you could argue they shouldn’t have sex scenes in them anyway; but sometimes they are necessary and a quick snog, fumbling partial disrobing and a dive beneath the covers is all you need.

But what about a film which demands a proper sex scene – sweaty, writhing, dirty sex?

Well, if an action scene should take your breath away, a funny scene should make you laugh, then a sex scene should give you the horn.

Obvious.

Except, maybe not.

I don’t know if this is just confined to my shallow end of the pool, but it seems sex scenes make actors and actresses nervous. In the specific case I’m thinking about, it refers to an actress; but I’m assured the same applies to both men and women.

A sex scene, with even partial nudity, is something people have to think about. Do they really want to do it? How will it affect their career? What will their mum think of them? Will they be typecast as a slutty girl from now on? Do they really feel confident enough about their own body to put it on display for all and sundry? There isn’t even a huge paycheck to soften the blow.

Obviously, some sex scenes are crucial to a story – but do they have to involve nudity? Can the scene be written in such a way that it’s obvious no one will see anything? If the scene is written using words like ‘quivering’ and goes into a lot of detail about ‘things being inserted into gaping orifices’ then it’s bound to make someone stop and think about the type of movie being made.

So how do you write a sexy sex scene without making it sexy?

Do you make your script reader-friendly or actress-friendly?

If it’s a spec script, then I guess you write the hottest sex scene the story demands and wait and see what any future potential producer thinks.

If it’s a script written to order and plunging headlong into low-budget production, then you might have to think again. Obviously in this case you can ask the producer or director; but how an actress might feel about it is something I’ve never really had to consider before.

I don’t really have a point to make, it’s just something which came up recently and I thought I’d share.

And I’m back to revising the script. Those of you who read regularly might find it ironic to learn I’ve just been asked to put more swearing into it.

Another fucking first.

————————————————————————————

* Or at least the few I’ve read – I’ll happily admit I’m no expert.

Or should I say actors for both genders? I don’t know, it seems to upset some people and not others.

Categories: K, Things I've Learnt Recently | 2 Comments

Tin foil

Well, that was a bad week.

I think I can honestly say the last week has been the worst of my fledgling career so far. Horrible just about sums it up; but doesn’t really convey the gut-wrenching fear, disappointment and rage which left me on the verge of tears.

And by ‘verge of tears’ I mean ‘bawling my eyes out, lying curled up on the bathroom floor, wrapped in tin foil and screaming for my mummy’.

Why tin foil?

I don’t know, that’s how upset I was.

Still, it seems to be almost over now and life is becoming sunny again. I may blog about it at some point, but probably not. It’s all a bit embarrassing and totally my fault.

So instead I’m going to talk about some random shit I was too numb to notice during the last seven or eight days.

Like on Monday, when I visited one of the locations for K and watched the fight choreographer put some of the actors through their paces. There were swords and tonfa and … well that’s all I saw; but they were being flung around all over the shop.

Or night club, I suppose.

Then we visited a rooftop location to discuss how we’re going to throw an actor off without it costing too much.

I think hiring twins is the answer.

One who can act and the other who’s suicidal.

I’ve finally discovered what the issue was with the difference in page count – it turns out Final Draft fixed a bug which added the odd blank line into the script. I was running 7.1.1 on my desktop (104 pages) and 7.1.3 on my laptop (102 pages) – which is not a problem until you lock the script for production and suddenly it all goes haywire.

I’m away from home a lot and need to be able to work on the script from both machines.

The solution?

Well, the best solution would have been to update my desktop; but the production team have all been working from the 104 page version. So solution number 2 is to uninstall Final Draft from my laptop and reinstall the older version.

Great, then I can work on the script while I’m out and about.

Except … no, wait. There was a reason why I updated the laptop – it’s running Windows Vista and Final Draft 7.1.1 won’t save as PDF in Vista.

So now I have a script I can work on, but no way of sending it.

Ah, no! I can print the revised pages using a PDF printer (CutePDF – because I like the name).

Okay, now we’re cooking.

Except no, the director can’t open pages printed to PDF, only ones saved as PDF.

Why?

Who fucking knows?

So now I have to send the CutePDF printed pages out to the First AD for distribution, with a one page per scene version for the continuity person.

I’m sure she has a technical name, but I don’t know what it is.

Then I have to email the Final Draft version back home so Mandy can save it as PDF and send it back. Then I can send it to the director.

Yay!

No.

Bugger.

For some reason the text is mostly green. Green is the current revision colour, but it shouldn’t save green text into PDF.

Now I’m really confused; and, as some of you may have noticed, wittering on about PDF formats to stop myself thinking about …

Fuck it, it’s no good.

I need more tin foil.

Categories: K, Progress, Random Witterings, Software, Two steps back | 5 Comments

Blue Pages

“Can you send any further revisions on blue pages?” asked the First AD.

“Yeah, sure.” was my confident reply; and I hung up.

Which is fine. I know what blue pages are, I should think we all do: once a script is locked for production, the first lot of revisions come on blue pages so cast and crew can find them easily. By locking the script, it also means the page count doesn’t fluctuate wildly as you add extra stuff into the middle.

That’s fine, I know that.

I also know the colours change with each subsequent revision. I don’t know the order, but I know they’re different. There’s pink and green and even goldenrod – although I always thought that was Han Solo’s nickname for See-Threepio.

So, blue pages – yeah, sure.

Except, wait – exactly what does that mean?

I can lock the script, no problem. I can add in extra pages which come out as A, B, C … etc pages, and that’s fine.

But what do you actually send a production company?

Do you send them the entire script with the changes marked?

Do you just send them the pages you’ve changed?

Do you write something in the header, like: These are BLUE pages?

Or the revision date?

Because it occurs to me that unless I colour the pages blue myself, no one on the other end is going to know which ones are the blue pages; and since they want them in PDF format, if I colour the pages blue, then it will use blue ink to print the page – and I’m sure that’s not how you’re supposed to do it.

Especially since a lot of people use mono-laser printers.

So what do you actually do? What is a blue page? I’ve suddenly realised, I’ve never actually seen one and I can’t find any information about it on the Internet.

In fact, the proper response to “Can you send any further revisions on blue pages?” should have been “No, I don’t think I can.”

I needed some advice and asked several people who might know.

Which didn’t help, since everyone had a different opinion.

All very helpful opinions which absolutely made sense within the context of their experience, but didn’t help me too much. The basic gist is – everyone does it differently.

The best piece of advice I got was to ask the production company. Which is, of course, absolutely the best thing to do.

Except I usually feel enough of a twat on a daily basis without having to ring someone up and go “You know when you asked me to send you blue pages? And I said, “yeah, sure”? Well … what is a blue page?”

So I took the coward’s way out and just made up my own solution. I sent them the revisions as separate pages and then people can just do whatever the fuck they want with them.

Afterwards, I cursed myself for not writing the revision date on them.

Still, too late now, they’re away.

An hour later, I get an email from the director – he can’t open the PDF files as they’re just gobbledegook.

A word I’ve never typed before.

Oh, I spelt it wrong:

Gobbledygook.

Now that looks wrong.

Sorry, where was I?

Oh yes, so the director can’t open it and wants me to sort it out. Then it turns out the First AD can open it and the fault possibly lies in the director owning a Mac.

Or knowing most Mac users, for everyone else not owning a Mac.

Macs never, ever do anything wrong. Ever.

And then, as if things weren’t complicated enough – I get a confused phone call from the First AD:

“You know those revisions you sent over?”

“Erm, the blue pages, yes.”

Always try brazen it out.

“I’m a bit confused.”

Bollocks.

“The page numbers don’t seem to correspond to the script I have.”

“Really?”

As it turns out, there’s a tiny discrepancy between Final Draft on my laptop and Final Draft on my desktop … which, I know, is probably my fault for not owning a Mac. Leave me alone.

It’s a very small discrepancy, but over the course of a feature script it turns 102 pages into 104 pages.

Which means nothing quite fits.

Now I found this out recently, so I knew it was a problem. I even asked the director to clarify which script he was working from before I locked the pages – and he did, even sending me the script to double check.

Yet, somehow, not everyone involved is working from the same script.

It’s all the same draft, but some copies have an extra two pages.

How?

Fucked if I know.

So now the First AD has to ring around and check with each department to find out which script everyone’s working from. Once we have a consensus, I can re-lock the script and re-send the blue pages.

Aha, here’s my chance.

I already look like a twat, there’s no more dignity to lose.

“You know when you asked me to send you blue pages?”

“Yeah?”

“And I said, ‘yeah, sure’?”

“Yeah?”

“Well … what is a blue page?”

There was a long pause.

The kind you imagine being filled with rolling of eyes, shaking of heads and general covering of the mouthpiece whilst filling the whole office in on the joke.

I thought I’d better clarify my position.

“I mean, I know what it is – I know it’s a revision printed on blue paper, but what does it actually look like? How do I actually send them to you? You see, I’ve never actually seen one.”

Another pause, this one slightly shorter – but distinctly uncomfortable.

And finally, the response:

“No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one either.”

Categories: Progress, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 6 Comments

Outlines

The script’s away. It’s launched and running. It’s hot and in the … no, wait. That’s torpedoes.

The script’s in the mail?

Email.

Which means it’s already there.

Oh dear, this post has gone wrong already.

The producer and the director have the script, now I’ve just got to sit back in buttock-clenched fear until I hear back from them.

I just hope it’s before I finish eating all my fingernails and other such clichés.

Things I learnt whilst writing this script:

There’s no É in Courier Final Draft.

Um … that’s about it.

Well, it’s an important lesson, I suppose.

Something which it has driven home to me, again, is the importance of proper preparation.

A script is so much easier to write when you don’t have to solve all of the problems on the fly.

Which brings me to the title of tonight’s epistle:

OUTLINES

Every now and then I read about some wannabe scriptwriter – and I don’t use that in a pejorative sense, I just mean they want to be professional scriptwriters and aren’t yet – who say they don’t outline anything. They say they just start writing from the beginning and churn out a masterpiece.

And I’ve always thought – if that works for them, great.

But it’s not great.

Outlining a story – being able to write a good synopsis or treatment (since people tend to treat the two words as interchangeable) is a vital skill. Most jobs you get, or at least I get, are based on a submitted treatment.

Someone says have you got a film based on such and such. I say yes (which is usually a lie) and the next question is: “Great, can I read the treatment?”

I don’t think it would go down very well if I turned around and said “No, but I can tell you roughly what it’s about.”

Or it might, but they’re still going to want to see a treatment.

It’s particularly important when the director’s already on-board because he’s going to want to have his say – and it’s far easier for him to have his say when you’ve only written ten pages as opposed to a hundred.

In a lot of cases, the treatment is also used as a fund raising tool – it gets included in a pack with the film and sent out to potential investors.

Okay, so you could write the treatment after the script – but that assumes you’re writing the script on spec as opposed to on commission.

Look at this way, you’d turn up to view a house which is already built; but you’d never pay to have a house built without seeing the plans first. If you’re looking for a new house and three architects submit detailed plans and the fourth tells you he just makes it up as he goes along and you’re trying to restrict his creativity with all this plan nonesense – well, I’m guessing you’d instantly narrow your choice down to three architects.

That’s what it’s like for me.

I’m not building houses, obviously; but I haven’t written a spec script for years. What I have done though, is write a lot of spec treatments.

Sort of.

Is is still a spec when someone’s asked you to do it?

My point is, for all those aspiring scriptwriters (that’s a nicer way of putting it) who think outlining is a waste of time – you’re going to have to do it at some point in your career.

And since the decision on whether you get the job or not will be based on that treatment/synopsis/outline, then you’ve got to be good at it.

And since the only way to BE good at something, is to GET good at something and the only way to do that is to practice …

Then you might as well start now.

Unless you’re a genius writer who people will throw money at just for the chance of perhaps owning one of your masterpieces … in which case, just carry on as you are.

Categories: Industry Musings, My Way, Progress | 10 Comments

January’s script challenge – Day three

Fuck me, I’ve done it.

89 pages of … I want to say glory, but since I haven’t been back through it yet that might be a bit optimistic.

I am quite surprised at how easy that was.

In fact, it was almost too easy.

I’m not tired, my fingers don’t hurt … or bleed, and I’m fairly certain it all makes sense.

Fairly certain, not absolutely.

No struggle, no confusion, no bits to sit and think about because they don’t fit.

It just went from my brain to the page with the minimum of fuss.

It feels very weird, like I’ve cheated somehow.

I still need to go back through it tomorrow and edit it, plus I know for a fact the action lines are a bit on the repetitive side. There’re only so many words for ‘corpse’ and I didn’t use any of them.

Except the actual word ‘corpse’, of course.

I’ve also got the weird feeling I overused the word ‘doorbell’ too.

Oh well, I’ll find out tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s pass is looking for continuity, upgrading the language from technical to reader friendly, making sure the characters don’t use the same phrases and checking all the elements are in their right places.

I know there’s going to be a lot of notes on this script anyway. There can’t help but be since the director and the producer have tried to get it off the ground once before, and have therefore been thinking about the whole thing for a couple of years.

They’re bound to have copious notes about how they’ve envisaged scenes or locations – that can’t be helped.

I’d like to think I can now take Wednesday off, but that’s not true. I’ve already got a list of notes to action for last year’s five day film – minor little things for the most part; and there’s another feature script for a different project which is bound to have a deadline slapped on it any day now.

As long as the deadline’s not Friday. I can’t help feeling I’ve set myself an even stupider precedent than last time.

Oh well, bring it on!

In other news: the brothers Kemp are on Who Wants to be a Millionaire on Tuesday. Since the last project they worked on together was Karma Magnet, I’m kinda hoping for a free plug.

Categories: Progress | 2 Comments

January’s script challenge – Day two

43 pages today – get in!

That brings me up to page 68. I’m well ahead.

Looking at the board:

03012008112.jpg

I’m in a completely new scene somewhere between the blue/green card and the yellow card at the end of the third row.

That’s right, I’m at the end of act two, mother fucker.

Which is also almost exactly on target.

Some days I scare myself.

So what does this mean?

I may well be able to finish this by tomorrow, edit it on Tuesday and actually take the last day of the deadline off.

A day off! Who’d a thunk it?

Does this mean I can now write a script in three days?

Well … no.

Sort of.

This script is flying out because I wrote the treatment last year.

June to be precise.

Which means, even though I’ve not done any work on it since then, I’ve been mulling it over for six months. Once I’ve thought of a story or even a basic concept, it rolls around in my head. Even when I’m working on other projects, my mind still occasionally wanders over to have a poke at it.

This happens for everything I do. I have little mental boxes with all the concepts in and when an idea pops up for a particular project I just drop it into the box. Over six months, this box got very full.

When I came to look in the box last week, the whole film was practically already written.

Plus, this is a re-imagining of a 70s horror film – I wasn’t going to mention that bit, but the producer says it’s alright – so there’s already a full film to watch and study. That film has the whole template laid out for me, I just have to add a few tweaks and update the characters.

Believe me, if you gave me three days to write an original film from a concept I hadn’t mulled over for a while, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Well, I might; but it would be a pile of shit.

To be fair, this one might be. I haven’t read anything I’ve written yet. I feel like I could push on tonight; but I won’t. Writing at this time of night tends to produce strange results and there’s no room in this script for dancing monkeys.

So I’m off to watch Blake’s 7.

All being well, I might finish the script tomorrow. Although tomorrow will be a short day – I’ve got to break early to teach a class tomorrow night. If anyone in the Brighton area wants to learn Kung Fu as a new year’s resolution, drop me a line.

Categories: My Way, Progress | 8 Comments

January’s script challenge – Day one

Or possibly day two, or even three – depending on how you want to look at it.

I’m calling it day one because it’s my first day of actual scripting. Yesterday (or the day before by the time I finish this post) I watched the specified reference film and wrote a brief bio for each character. Today (or yesterday by the time … you get the idea) was all about the script.

The challenge – a feature film by the 9th.

The progress – not bad actually. 25 pages today, that’s 7 more than I planned for and if we look at the board:

03012008112.jpg

I’ve just finished the last card on the top row.

Which is about right. In a 90 page script, that should be somewhere around page 22-23, so allowing for editing (assuming there isn’t too much shit) I should be almost exactly bang on.

Hey, I’m actually getting better at this!

If I can keep this up, I could have it done by the 8th.

A feature film in four days!

Or five, or six, depending on how you want to look at it.

The way I see it, I have two choices:

  • 1) I can carry on at 25 pages a day, write the film in four days and edit it at my leisure on the fifth.
  • 2) I can write 16 pages a day for the next four days and panic edit it just before I send it off.

Of course, there’s always the default number three option:

  • 3) Give up, watch TV for two or three days and then slap down any old shit in the last few minutes before the deadline with no time to edit at all.

On balance, I think option number one would be the best.

Maybe I’m finally growing up?

Categories: Progress | Leave a comment

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