Monthly Archives: February 2008

Bollocks

I’ve been memed.

Again.

Thanks very much, Rob.

I hate being memed. I don’t hate the memer, I just dislike the pressure of having to say something interesting to order and I really hate meme-ing others since I feel I’m intruding on their lives.

In fact, that’s the bit of the meme thing I hate. I hate asking people do to things; I don’t know why, but I find it very difficult. Occasionally I feel the need to ask people for help and I immediately feel ashamed for putting them on the spot – and that’s when it’s important enough for me to actually seek assistance. Merely asking someone to do something for fun?

I just can’t.

So I won’t.

I will answer the meme though, as best as I can.

Um.

Film book recommendations. I don’t have the original meme to work from, but I think the idea is to recommend five books about films or maybe film making?

The first thing which springs to mind is … I haven’t really read many books about films.

This is embarrassing and, quite frankly, shows a marked lack of interest in my chosen profession.

In fact, a cursory glance at my bookshelves shows I’ve ever only read five film-related books.

Can that really be true?

Basically, I have no choice but to list them all. Even if I don’t heartily recommend all of them.

1)  Something I Can’t Remember by Someone I Can’t Remember

Ten years ago, shortly after starting a job I hated, I decided I was going to go to University and do a scriptwriting degree. My parents, keen to support my ambitions, bought me a ‘how to write scripts’ book.

For the life of me, I can’t remember what it was called or who wrote it.

I can remember being thoroughly underwhelmed by it. Apart from a few technical details, there was nothing in that book which wasn’t blindingly obvious from watching films.

Films have a beginning, middle and end; they have turning points, they have a mid-point; they have sub-plots; they have … I mean for fuck’s sake! I have seen a film before.

An afternoon spent in Waterstones, skimming through a host of ‘how to’ books revealed they all have the same info in them. A quick comparison with University prospectuses(prospectii?) showed the courses covered pretty much the same areas.

Three years to learn the same stuff covered in one book? Stuff I already (kind of) knew?

Fuck that.

And then it hit me: the crap job basically consisted of sitting in expensive hotels doing nothing for days on end – the perfect job for a writing career.

Bollocks to it, I thought, I’ll just stay in this job and not bother with Uni.

Still not sure if that was the right decision.

2) Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman

Everyone’s read this one, haven’t they?

I read it, I enjoyed it … but the overwhelming memory was the end bit about converting a short story into a short film which someone (George Roy Hill?) said was a fucking stupid idea.

Other than that, I can’t really remember much about it.

Oh, except William Goldman doesn’t use INT. or EXT. because he thinks it looks ugly.

I would re-read that, if I still had it; but it became a casualty of lending stuff to my brother. A mistake I keep repeating because, well, he’s my brother.

He did actually give some stuff back recently. It was very surprising.

3) If Chins Could Kill by Bruce Campbell

It’s good, I liked it.

4) Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

Yeah … another one of those people who’s more famous for telling other people what to do than for doing it himself. I happened across it in a bookshop and thought I’d read it just to see what all the fuss is about.

It’s pretty much exactly the same as the first book I read, only more concise. Which to me makes it better. I did adopt the board thing, or a half remembered version of it. I think it’s probably the best ‘how to’ book I’ve read (a huge selection, as you can see) for the complete novice since it covers the basics quickly and simply.

It’s alright, passes the time.

5) Writing Drama by Yves Lavandier

I only read this because they sent it to me and asked me to.

It’s got a hell of a lot of detail in it and made my head spin. There’s a lot to absorb from one book, possibly too much. I suspect it’s the kind of book you need to read in sections and then go away and do some writing exercise to cement what you’ve learnt. It would probably be a very good accompaniment to a writing course.

And that’s it.

Those are the only five film books I’ve ever read.

Pathetic, isn’t it?

Categories: Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 9 Comments

Bits and bobs

Just a few random updates, nothing exciting.

Well, depends on who you are, I suppose. In fact, some of them, if not all are very exciting to me.

I’ll start again.

Hey wow! Guess what’s going on in my life! It’s all groovy and neato.

I think ‘K‘ might have finished shooting. I’m not sure, but there are some crew photos flying around and I’m fairly certain it was due to finish the weekend just gone.

This isn’t really news, is it? It’s just a bit of pointless conjecture.

And talking of pointless conjecture, I think ‘The Wrong Door’ (the BBC3 sketch show) might have finished shooting too. This is an even more spurious piece of guesswork, since I have absolutely no idea when it was shooting or how long for.

I did have a text from one of the CGI guys telling me he’d seen some of my stuff which I think might have been in the last batch. Obviously they were saving the best for last.

Either that or they were hoping they’d have enough material from everyone else and wouldn’t need to use my pitiful efforts.

Either way, I think it’s done now.

Maybe.

Something I am more sure about – the first draft of the new script went down well. I’ve got a couple of pages of notes to action, but they don’t amount to much more than a few superficial changes – there’s nothing major which needs changing and shouldn’t take long to do.

I think.

Although that may just be my eternally optimistic memory playing me up again.

I should double-check that.

After that’s done, the way is surprisingly clear. There’s nothing immediately pressing which needs doing. There are another couple of films slated to shoot this year; but until people get back to me with notes, there’s nothing I can do. Which means, apart from tweaking the new script as it heads for production, I’ve got some free time.

Free writing!

I can write whatever I want!

Cool.

The plan is to focus more on TV stuff, since I have a fair few films in pre-production/development (12-ish) and any one of them could explode into something amazing or disappear up their collective arses at any moment.

I think I’ve done as much as I can there for the time being, and although I will work on anything interesting which comes my way, TV would seem to be a better bet for a more financially stable future.

With that in mind, I’m going to start by writing down the list of potential ideas which have been swimming aimlessly round my skull for years now, put them in order of attractiveness and write some sort of pitch document for each one.

In theory, I should end up with a dozen or so of these outlines which I can maybe use to generate some interest.

In theory.

Who wants to lay odds on me starting another low-budget film next week?

Categories: K, Progress, Random Witterings, The Wrong Door | 1 Comment

… but the moment has been prepared for.

Meet my new office …

22022008130.jpg

That’s right, I now have a sofa so I can lie down when it all gets a little too much. Not only that, I also have …

22022008132.jpg

Two desks.

Two.

Count ’em.

That’s one for every day and one to fill full of crap.

The faithful and comfy chair survived the arduous and perilous move from the room next door; but sadly, due to the new desk being slightly higher, it’s become incredibly uncomfortable.

Aha, you might say if you were that way inclined, why not simply raise the height of the chair? Well, because the height raising mechanism became permanently rusted shut during the great water fight of 1996.

It’s never been an issue before, since it was set at the perfect height, but now … new chair it is.

The new desk caused a few problems and almost didn’t happen. I saw it and was instantly struck by two things:

  1. It was perfect, giving me double the work space and simultaneously being all shiny.
  2. It was ludicrously cheap.

Mandy and I have recently come to the opinion that ludicrously cheap isn’t always good. Since we tend to buy the cheapest, only to have it disintegrate after a month, forcing us to buy a more expensive one anyway.

No, second cheapest, that’s the way to go.

But this was the cheapest desk, and it was the one I wanted. How could I stick to my new principles whilst getting the desk I want?

Fuck it, I want it.

When you’re a kid, adults tell you ‘I want doesn’t get’.

They lied.

Except, wait … it doesn’t fit. The sofa, which we already had, flips out to be a spare bed, limiting the space available to 142 cm. The desk is 149 cm.

Balls.

After searching in vain for an identical, but slightly smaller desk, I came up with a plan … I’d just build my own.

Genius.

I’ll just build an exact replica to a marginally smaller scale.

Let’s see, that’ll take some welding and some glazing … a bit beyond my capabilities that.

PLAN #2

I’ll build an exact replica to a marginally smaller scale … out of wood!

Genius.

Except it won’t be shiny.

And my carpentry skills are slightly worse than my astronaut skills or my ability to breathe under water.

Okay … a new plan.

PLAN #3

Buy the desk and alter the corner piece so it’s marginally smaller.

True genius.

I’ll either get a glazier to cut 7 cm off the corner piece, or I’ll create a slightly smaller wooden replica.

Yes! I’m dead clever me.

Although after building and assembling the desk … I don’t want to cut bits off it, and my carpentry skills haven’t improved much by not actually practising.

Sod it.

As it turns out, when the bed is extended, it only just lies under the corner of the desk. The only way anyone in the bed would kick the desk would be if they balanced right on the edge and madly flailed their legs around.

In which case, it’s their own fucking fault.

And so there it is, in all its slightly too big, glass and steel shiny glory.

If I feel the need, I can transfer to the sofa to stare mindlessly at the board; or even take the keyboard with me and write whilst lying down.

Behind me …

22022008131.jpg

Are my books and comics. Since most of the names in my scripts tend to come from staring at the spines of graphic novels, it’s a handy resource to have.

But for me, the thing which makes the upheaval all worthwhile, it a light-switch shaped like a nipple:

22022008126.jpg

Now I’m truly happy.

Right, back to work.

Time to create that masterpiece. The one I’ve always wanted to write, but never had time. The one people will talk about for years to come. The one which will be hailed as the greatest …

Oh look, comics.

Categories: Progress, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 15 Comments

It’s the end …

Sooner or later everything comes to an end and although the last few years have been the most productive of my career, it’s time to move on.

Mixed Up was the last script I’m ever going to write … in this room:

Office 

Of course I’m not giving up; but with baby on the way, this room is set to become the nursery. It’s served me well for the last couple of years, but it’s time to move aside for more important things.

Or people.

One person to be exact.

I’ve had the desk and the chair since I was fifteen, they too are to be scrapped. There’s just no room for them in the brave new world. The desk never fully recovered from someone trying to ride it down a cobbled hill in Swansea anyway; and although it rarely wobbles, it does occasionally fall off its own legs and plunge everything onto the floor.

The chair, despite its utilitarian appearance, is very, very comfortable. I’ve never suffered from any form of back ache despite sitting in it for days on end. It’s ragged and it’s squeaky, but it does the job. Perhaps I might grant the chair a temporary reprieve, but the desk is definitely destined for the scrapheap.

Soon the shelves will be stripped, the board will come down and the office light will be turned off for the last time. The next time the light comes on, it’ll be the nursery light and there’ll be a cot where the desk once stood.

And occasionally fell over.

I’d just like to point out, the decor was not my choice and was there when I moved in. It’s fairly inoffensive and never seemed worth the effort to change. Hopefully, the nursery will be much more suitable for a baby girl.

Or at least that’s the plan.

I am going to miss this room, it’s exclusively my space and it’s served me well. Change is always a mixture of excitement and regret. I like to move forward, but a rut is ever so comfortable. Still, it’s for the greater good and I can’t wait for the day I can lie in bed, look across the hall at my baby daughter, turn to Mandy and say … doesn’t she ever fucking sleep?

The odd thing is, for a while at least, the baby’s room will have considerably less toys than the office does now.

Categories: Progress, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 5 Comments

Validation

Sometime in the last few days, K appeared on IMDb. I don’t know why, but seeing an extra credit on my page always gives me a thrill.

Getting the first one sent me into spasms of euphoria, I really felt like I’d achieved something. The funny thing is, each subsequent credit has had the same, although slightly reduced, effect.

It’s a form of validation, as if that single listing means I really am a writer. The meetings, the notes, the phone calls, the brightly coloured index cards and the actual people pointing actual cameras at other actual people who read my lines, hell, even the finished DVDs on my shelf somehow are all less real than an IMDb credit.

As if IMDb makes it all official.

Since each successive credit has moved me slightly less, I guess there will be a time when it’s so commonplace I don’t even bother to check … and that saddens me. I enjoy being excited about the trivial things, it confirms to me I’m putting my energies into a career which is worthwhile in the only meaningful way – it makes me happy.

Hopefully, one day, something I write will make other people happy instead of annoyed or slightly nauseous; but since that will make me even happier … hell, it’s all about me.

Jonathan Sothcott once asked me if I thought we would ever stop giggling like excited schoolgirls over the poster art for new projects and I really hope the answer is no.

For me, for now, I’m revelling in a slightly increased sense of self-worth.

I’m a writer, IMDb says so.

Categories: K, Progress, Sad Bastard | 5 Comments

Mixed Up

The first draft of Mixed Up is done and away.

As usual in these situations, I have three completely conflicting emotions:

  1. Pride: because the script is a fucking masterpiece.
  2. Shame: because I fear it may be the worst thing I’ve ever written.
  3. Resignation: because I know it will probably be fine and it’s just the first step in the development process.

Luckily, numbers 1 and 2 cancel each other out and leave me with the more realistic number 3.

Which is good enough.

This script has presented me with some new challenges and some old familiar ones.

The new stuff is keeping away from movie and TV references and trying to couch everything in terms of music. I tend to be more into film and TV as a cultural touchstone. We want to make this film very much of the moment, but it’s hard to do so without slipping into the wrong frame of reference.

I used to be very into music, back in the day when I played an instrument myself and hung around with a lot of other musos. Nowadays, those people are all scattered around the world, with a surprising amount of them dead or in mental hospitals. I’ve drifted away from music in general, primarily because writing has taken over. To be honest, the only time I listen to music is in the car and I tend to listen to things which would cause the teenage me to die of shame.

If anyone fancies a laugh, this is a video of my first band playing for only the second time since we broke up in 1991.

I am embarrassed, believe me.

One consequence of my decreased music interest is all my knowledge is out of date, so writing a script with music lovers throwing in current references takes a fair bit of research.

And it’s difficult to judge. If I want to mention a band everyone will know is great, but would be unknown to someone who only ever listens to chart music, it’s tricky to know which one to pick. I could do it easily for a ’90s flick; but a ’00s?

Basically, it’s not happening in this draft; but that’s fine. I’m reading, I’m browsing, I’m listening and I’m making notes – the names of bands and the stories associated with them can change right up until the last draft, so I’m not worried about it.

Yet.

On more familiar ground, there’s always the challenge of making it funny. I like writing comedy, I seem to be good at it; but it can be stressful. Trying to get the balance right between a dramatic scene and the need to be funny can be trying, especially when you’re staring at the joke for weeks on end. It’s really hard to know whether something is still funny when you’ve been prodding it constantly, but sometimes you just have to trust your original instincts and go with it.

Which I have.

Now it’s just the agonising wait for notes.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A question …

Let’s say, for example, two of your friends are sitting in a bar. One’s a producer, the other’s a director and you’ve worked with both of them before. They’re talking to the director’s sister, who happens to be something like, say, head of production at a fairly major production company.

Just as a random example.

Now, imagine the sister mentions her production company is looking to do more comedy and the director recommends she talk to you. She asks a few questions and the producer, who might be the kind of guy with very good people skills and pretty much talks for a living, pitches one of your sitcoms – something you’ve almost forgotten you wrote.

This isn’t the question by the way, this is just a hypothetical example to set the scene.

So let’s say the sister likes the idea (probably because of the way it was pitched) and asks a very interesting question:

“Would he be interested in a meeting with the head of development?”

Again, not the question I’m building up to, just a hypothetical situation which could possibly happen given the right conditions – feel free to make up your own example.

So the director confirms you would probably sacrifice all the first born of Eastbourne (or any small coastal town, it doesn’t matter) for the opportunity for a one to one meeting. The sister asks the director to ask you to send in a CV.

Everyone with me so far?

The question’s coming – honest.

Let’s say you send in your CV and the head of production gives you a shit load of really, really useful advice about presenting your CV in a better light and asks you to send in some script samples.

Now, to the point: Is it ethical to send in a sample which is in production by a third party? You’ve signed a contract, they have the rights and are currently making the film/TV show/whatever; assuming they’re not available to ask permission, would you send that sample, which I believe morally (if not legally) belongs to someone else?

I’ve always thought no, but then other writers I’ve spoken to don’t seem to have a problem with it.

What do you think?

Categories: Industry Musings, Progress | 16 Comments

A marginally better photo

Exactly what it says, really:

phillip-the-wrong-door.jpg

Apparently, the woman is MyAnna Buring.

I’ve no idea who she is, but to be fair, she probably has no idea who I am either.

Categories: BBC, BBC Sketch Show, The Wrong Door | 11 Comments

Spread the word

Or don’t, it’s up to you really.

If you’re feeling friendly, come over to the Mixed Up MySpace page and add yourself as a friend.

If you’re not feeling friendly, do it anyway.

If you’re feeling aggressive and downright abusive, still do it and stop whining.

Once you’ve added yourself, why not tell your friends?

I believe that’s how this word of mouth/social networking thing is supposed to work.

While you’re there, why not add your favourite song lyric?

I’m also interested in your favourite music trivia, anything funny, touching or vaguely interesting about your favourite bands. There’s no section for that on the page yet, but feel free to post any here.

So there you are: Mixed Up, MySpace, lyrics, trivia, add yourself – GO!

http://www.myspace.com/mixedupthemovie

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Keeping actors happy

A difficult task.

Not that actors are generally an unhappy bunch, but they do tend to be a bit on the sensitive side.

Unlike writers, who of course are massively robust and don’t crave attention or validation in any way, shape or form.

The thing I’ve learnt recently may be blindingly obvious to everyone else, but it’s something that’s only just been pointed out to me: when you first introduce a character and describe them physically, don’t be insulting.

Whereas it may be accurate and fitting to describe BOB (67) as short, fat and ugly; you’ve then got to hire someone to fill that role. Okay, so once again the rules are probably different for a multi-million pound feature; but here in the shallow end, where the money’s tight and you can’t afford huge fees, you have to be a bit more sensitive.

The last few films I’ve worked on have had a provisional cast in place before the script’s written, so I’ve known who will probably be playing what. What I’ve done in these circumstances is to find out the actor’s official age from IMDb (which can differ from their real age, sometimes by up to ten years) and knock a few years off.

The number of years deducted is on a sliding scale, if someone’s in their early twenties, then it’s one or two years; if they’re in their sixties then I’d deduct ten or more. It’s a simple thing to do, everyone likes to think they look younger than they are. Of course, for the smaller parts or if the actors haven’t been cast, then you can be a bit more honest.

After that it’s a question of finding a brief description. I tend to find two or three words which describe the character, rather than comment on physical features. Occasionally it’s important to note that someone’s beautiful or handsome or whatever; but I find it easier to say they’re ‘lively and quick-witted’ and let the reader fill in the details.

I think I’ve always described the main characters by personality rather than physical attributes, since in the movies nearly all women are beautiful and all men handsome; but I’ve been a bit lax with supporting characters – roles which can sometimes be even harder to fill.

I recently caught myself describing a character as chubby and balding – which may be accurate for the kind of look I wanted, but it’s not conducive to attracting a name to a low budget film.

On a final note, I’ve also learnt (ages ago, but I keep forgetting) to name all the characters. Even struggling beginners want to put the role on their CV and MAX sounds a lot better than GUARD #1.

In a low-budget world where money is not massaging people’s egos, it’s nicer for them to think they’re playing a proper role, even if it’s only one line. MAX is a small, but vital role; GUARD#1 is just a glorified extra.

There is a difference.

All this may sound pointless and unnecessary, and to a certain extent it is; but it doesn’t hurt. Anything which makes anyone else’s job easier (agent, producer, casting agent) without creating much extra work for you has got to be worth doing. It really doesn’t hurt to be nice in this world and keeping actors happy can only help the finished production.

So go on, spread the love.

Categories: Things I've Learnt Recently | Leave a comment

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