Monthly Archives: May 2009

Touchy feely

Just back from my hols and feeling a bit … well, a bit like Scotty.

Original, James Doohan Scotty, that is – not that there’s anything wrong with Simon Pegg’s version, I thought he was great, but he’s just different and … no. I’m really fighting the urge here to post a four hour rant on the new Star Trek film – which, despite the odds, I enjoyed. Seriously, don’t get me started … would it really have been so difficult, as well as making it action packed and visually stunning,  to get it to make sense? I don’t even mean making sense from one end of the film to another – it’s a long film and that’s quite difficult – but couldn’t at least one scene have made sense from beginning to end? Just one? It was everything Star Trek should be: bright colours, short skirts and fist fights but … surely, just one scene where I didn’t think ‘Hang on, didn’t he just say they couldn’t do that?’ wouldn’t be that difficult, would it?

Sorry. I’ll shut up now.

As an aside, how gutted would you be if someone rang you up and offered you the role of Scotty in the new Star Trek? I mean, yes, on one hand Scotty was a great character and probably one of my favourites on the crew, but come on! We all secretly want to be Kirk, don’t we? I think my first thought upon being offered the role would be “So I’m not the charismatic, ladies’ man with natural leadership oozing from every pore? Are you sure? I’m fat, ginger and balding, that’s got to count for something, surely?” It would be a bit like Stephen Moffat ringing you and asking you to be in the new series of Doctor Who … as Sergeant Benton. Nice to be asked, but a bit of a slap in the ego.

Anyway, I’m back from hols and feeling a bit Scotty:

                           SCOTTY
I had me a wee bout, sir – but, uh, Doctor McCoy pulled me through.

                           KIRK
A wee bout of what?

Uncomfortable, Scotty exchanges a glance with Bones.

                           BONES
Shore leave, Admiral.

Yes it was great to relax and spend time with my family. I had a great time, it was relaxing. And fun. But I want to get back to work, I’m itching to get back to work. I have contracts to sign, treatments to write, scripts to plan and … oh fuck, I’ve just remembered: my laptop power supply exploded the day before I went away.

Bugger.

And yes, before you say it, I know I should have bought a Mac, because Mac power supplies never explode; but how fucking boring is that? What’s the point of life if occasionally bits of it don’t go POP, FIZZLE or BANG and make a spirited attempt to set fire to the curtains?

You know, I think my attitude to technology is skewed by my love for the Millennium Falcon and the TARDIS – both are a bit unreliable, a bit dated and have a nasty habit of exploding at inopportune moments … but they’re all the cooler because of it. Reliable technology? Who wants it?

Oh shit.

My laptop’s not working.

My laptop’s not working!

Shit!

Argh! Panic! Fuck! Argh!

What am I going to do? What if I want to go and hide in the Caribbean? In fact … I do want to go and hide in the Caribbean. I want to go tomorrow, but I can’t, not without a laptop. What the fuck am I going to do?

Okay, calm down, it’s just the power supply (the second power supply, since you’re not asking – the first one maliciously went ‘fizzle’ some months back) I can order a new one.

But it won’t arrive by tomorrow.

No, wait! I have a variable laptop power supply from an old laptop whose power supply went POP one day!

Is there a pattern here?

Where is it? Where is it? Not in the shed, or the other shed, or the thing under the stairs outside which is kind of like a shed.

Ah! I know!

I sent it to the insurance company when they didn’t believe my original laptop refused to work anymore.

Bugger.

Hmm … now I come to think of it, my laptop does have a sticky ‘d’, the ‘a’ is beginning to get a bit suspicious and the wifi adapter doesn’t always find a network. And it’s always been a bit on the pink side for me … I think there’s only one sensible course of action here …

laptop

A new laptop! With Touch Screen! A touch screen laptop!

I have it now.

It’s mine.

I can relax.

Phew.

Ooh, pretty. I’m off to stroke it … and maybe pretend I’m Captain Kirk.

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Categories: My Way, Sad Bastard | 13 Comments

A bit of a blur

It’s been another busy few days. Wednesday/Thursday/Friday saw me:

Have dinner in Jamaica, breakfast at 38,000 feet, lunch in Nuneaton, dinner in Crawley, breakfast in Eastbourne and lunch in London. I’d like to tell you which days they happened on, but it was all a bit of a jet-lagged blur and I’m not 100% certain.

Simultaneously I plotted one screenplay, was commissioned for a second and optioned a third (which doesn’t actually exist yet, but I’m sure I’ll have written it – or something vaguely like it – by the time everyone’s excitement dies away and they realise they haven’t actually seen a script).

I’ve also completely disrupted and possibly ruined a serious meeting about tweaking the rough cut of a produced movie by shouting about Star Trek, had a phone call from the Mail on Sunday about not being in Cannes, undergone a three pronged Mac-vangelist attack (I claim victory on the grounds one of their Macs packed up halfway through the argument) and taken a meeting in a room chock full of little rubber pigs – every single one of which bore a sticker proudly proclaiming:

THIS IS NOT A TOY

In other news, ‘Just for the Record’ is getting a bit of local press attention:

http://www.gazette-news.co.uk/news/4384415.On_location_in_Essex___funnyman_Rik_Mayall/

and

http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/4384407.Strip_club_plays_part_in_Rik_Mayall_movie/

My favourite quote being:

“Mr Lawson said: ‘To get the cast we’ve got, it must be considered a pretty good script and story!'”

Mr Lawson being Steve Lawson, the director and all round good egg.

I’ve never used the phrase ‘all round good egg’ before, but it seemed to fit and I’m always up for new things.

And that’s it. That’s your lot for a week or so since I’m now off on holiday to my parents’ house in France. I may post something mid week, I may not. In fact, I probably won’t.

Or maybe I will?

No. No, I doubt it.

But I will leave you with a few words of warning:

If you ever find yourself sitting in a cafe, calmly discussing whether or not to rape a young girl in front of the decaying corpse of her father … make sure you announce loudly, and at every possible juncture, that it’s JUST A FILM. It did seem to put a few people off their soup, but I thought the screaming histrionics and the threat to call the police were uncalled for.

Categories: Just for the Record, Progress, Publicity, Random Witterings, Things I've Learnt Recently | 8 Comments

Last post

Yeah … sorry about that last post.

I had one of those days on Friday when I completely failed to achieve anything useful whatsoever. It’s not that I had nothing to do, it’s more I just did nothing.

All day.

Most people produce shit until you put them under pressure, and then they produce a diamond. Me, I produce nothing until you put me under pressure and then I produce shit. It’s not an ideal situation, but there you go.

At the moment I’m just waiting for people to get back to me. Every project I’m working on is inbetween drafts (or currently shooting, or being edited or … other technical stuff which has nothing to do with me) and I can’t really do anything until people start getting back to me.

True, I have a long list of spec projects I could start … but … I didn’t.

And probably won’t.

Well, I will one day; but that day wasn’t Friday.

So I did nothing all day, then tried to write a blog post and failed.

Sorry.

Still, ‘Just for the Record’ started shooting yesterday … is it still Monday back home? No? Oh. It’s still Monday here because, yes, as usual I’m hiding in the Caribbean until the shoot is over.

No, that’s a lie – I’m here for the first week, then I’m going to see my folks in France for the second week. Either way, I’ll be avoiding the shoot and the UK until it’s all over.

Actually, that’s a lie too. I might go to Nuneaton on Thursday.

Or I might not.

Regardless of this drivel, ‘Just for the Record’ has started, it’s being filmed now and I can heartily recommend – without shame, reservation or doubt – if you’re going to avoid the filming of your script by hiding in the Caribbean, make sure you travel First Class … they’re very accommodating:

 

 

THERE USED TO BE A VIDEO HERE …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT ISN’T HERE ANY MORE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUST IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVE ALONG

 

 

 

Categories: Just for the Record, My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 15 Comments

More people

Two days until ‘Just for the Record’ shoots and a few new cast members announced: Colin Salmon, Adele Silva and Alice Barry …

D’y’know, I’ve completely forgotten why I started this post now.

I’m sure it will come back to me.

No.

Sorry.

Categories: Just for the Record, Sad Bastard | 5 Comments

Moments later …

——————————————————————————————————–

WARNING!

THIS POST WILL POSSIBLY  PROBABLY  UNDOUBTEDLY TURN INTO A POINTLESS RANT WHICH AT LEAST HALF OF YOU WILL VEHMENTLY DISAGREE WITH

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

——————————————————————————————————–

I was reading a script a while back which was … well, fairly dull to be honest. Not dull enough to be unpleasant, but one of those scripts you read without really taking anything in. There’s some people, a lot of people, and they’re doing some stuff, not sure why, don’t really care and … oh.

Hang on.

Something happened which made no sense. One of those visual things which would probably be fine on screen, but in the script seems impossible.

Unless it’s night time.

Yes, that must be it. It must be dark and he can’t see … yes, that must be it. I’ll just check the scene heading.

I probably should explain at this point, I don’t read scene headings when I read scripts – I rely on the location being obvious enough from the scene – if the character sits on a sofa, he’s probably in a lounge. If he perches nervously on the edge of the sofa, it’s probably not his lounge, if he throws himself into the sofa, swings his feet onto the coffee table and flicks the TV on, it probably is his lounge.

Or he’s trying to annoy his mother-in-law.

Or he’s a very confident, and slightly moronic, burglar.

Regardless, it’s generally clear who’s where and if it’s not a quick glance back at the scene heading usually does the trick. If there’s anything unusual in the scene heading like FLASHBACK, DREAM SEQUENCE, HALLUCINATION … it tends to catch my eye and I’ll actually read it instead of skipping onto the interesting words.

So I check the scene heading – is it EXT. SOMEWHERE – NIGHT … ?

No.

It’s EXT. SOMEWHERE – MOMENTS LATER

Okay, fair enough – not to my taste, but let’s see what it’s moments later from …

INT. SOMEWHERE ELSE – CONTINUOUS

Right.

Back another scene:

LATER

And another:

A LITTLE LATER

I keep going:

CONTINUOUS

MOMENTS LATER

CONTINUOUS

CONTINUOUS

CONTINUOUS (yet strangely in a different location with different characters – continuous from what exactly?)

LATER

MOMENTS LATER

LATER

LATER

A LITTLE LATER

SAME (what the fuck? Same what? Same day? Same time? Is this split screen? Have we gone back in time since the last scene?)

MOMENTS LATER

CONTINUOUS

CONTINUOUS

CONTINUOUS

LATER

MOMENTS LATER

CONTINUOUS

Aha! EARLY MORNING …

Fifty two fucking pages earlier!

FIFTY TWO!

I had to flick through fifty two pages of bad script to find out if it’s dark or not and I’m still not fucking sure. Are fifty two pages enough time for it to go dark? Or have the characters inexplicably, and very quietly, gone fucking blind?

Needless to say I chucked the script in the bin, took it out, burnt it and put it back in the bin.

Then felt guilty about not recycling it.

Then changed my mind, I’d hate to think I was drinking tea from a cup recycled from that script.

See how it’s suddenly gone from a dull script to a bad script? Merely by annoying me?

What’s wrong with a simple DAY or NIGHT? That’s all I want to know. DAY or NIGHT? DAY or fucking NIGHT?

Alright, fine, if you really, really want to – go for DAWN or DUSK or EARLY MORNING or AFTERNOON or something else you feel is absolutely vital and won’t be immediately clear by reading the script – but LATER? CONTINUOUS? A LITTLE LATER? That’s different from LATER how?

And how the fuck do you schedule a script like that? Let’s break it down:

“Number of DAY scenes?”

“One.”

“Number of NIGHT scenes?”

“Zero.”

“Right. So is this all just one ninety-page scene?”

“No, because there are 17 LATER scenes, 14 CONTINUOUS scenes and 29 MOMENTS fucking LATER scenes.”

MOMENTS LATER than what? And even fucking worse SECONDS LATER – and that’s different from MOMENTS LATER how?

No wait, I’ve found a worse one: FOUR DAYS LATER

Four!

Not five or three, but four. How the fuck are the audience going to know, just by looking and without any visual aids like a TITLE OVER or a calender or a man growing four days worth of beard, that it’s four fucking days later? And why four? Why? For fuck’s sake why?

Here’s a handy hint gleaned from hiding in the Caribbean whilst my scripts are being shot: FILMS ARE SHOT OUT OF SEQUENCE. There’s a tendency to lump scenes together by location, cast and DAY or NIGHT to make filming easier, shorter and fucking possible. I may be wrong and will happily accept a correction from any passing AD, but I strongly fucking doubt scenes are shot together because they’re CONTINUOUS or MOMENTS fucking LATER.

“Ah, all these scenes are MOMENTS LATER, are they? Excellent, we’ll schedule them for one block of … um … hmm, DAY or NIGHT shooting?”

For the love of Internet porn, just put DAY or fucking NIGHT in your scene headings and be done with it. Look how upset I am. Look at me. I can barely type I’m so angry. Oh no, wait, I can type. Fuck it, just don’t do it – take your MOMENTS LATER and shove it up your arse.

Or don’t.

Maybe if you absolutely have to do it. HAVE TO! Or the pixies will pull your pubes out one by one, then you could use A LITTLE LATER sparingly, but not EVERY FUCKING SCENE. Don’t do it. Don’t fucking do it!

Or do, do it.

Do what you like.

It’s your script.

Sorry.

Categories: Rants, Sad Bastard | 6 Comments

Story drops

Something I dislike while watching a movie, and something I try to avoid when writing one, is when the story drops – a point in a film where there is no more story, no more goals to attain, no paths to walk, no lessons to be learnt.

Unless, of course, you’ve reached the end of the film – then that’s fair enough. But I dislike a story drop in the middle of the film, when one story ends and there’s a pause before the next one begins. Even if the pause is only a few seconds, that’s a few seconds where the audience are thinking: “Is that it? Can I go now?”

It sounds like an obvious pitfall to avoid, but it does happen.

Hancock springs immediately to mind, like an enthusiastic puppy who’s tried to show how much he loves you by biting a child in half. Two separate stories with no appreciable join. One ends, they go for dinner, the next one begins. The result is everyone complaining it’s two films joined together.

It’s not, it’s two stories NOT joined together.

The first opposite example I can think of, bearing in mind I’m busy, hungry and don’t want to be here, is True Lies. Two stories which aren’t even woven together that much, but somehow seem like a coherent film.

Somehow? That kind of vagueness isn’t applicable, we’re writers, God damn it. We need to understand why.

Okay, so there are two stories:

  1. Arnie has to stop terrorists who’ve got a nuclear bomb.
  2. Arnie’s wife is bored and about to have an affair – he needs to win her back.

What actually happens is we start with story one for a bit, then we forget about it and move to story two; but there’re enough questions left hanging about story one for us to want to find out how it will end. Story two goes almost all the way through its arc: Arnie stops his wife having the affair (even though she wasn’t really going to do it, she does love after all), he gives her the excitement she craves and reveals himself to her. All they have to do now is kiss, she finds out he really is the man of her fantasies and that story is over.

At this point, the hotel/dancing scene, we’ve pretty much forgotten all about story one. If they kiss and story two ends, there’ll be a story drop. “Is that the end of the film? Wasn’t there some terrorists or something? Fuck it, let’s go to the pub.”

So it’s vital BEFORE they kiss, the terrorists break in and the two stories smoosh into one. The kiss gets shoved back until the end of act two and it all seems like two great stories in one magnificent film instead of two short films glued together.

It would have been very easy (and very crap) to have the kiss and make up in the hotel scene, then get back to the terrorists – but then you’d have this odd section for the first half of act two where there were no terrorists, no fights and all Arnie did was bang on about his wife for a bit.

And all it took to make the film seem like one film was to move two sequences – the explanation: “I’m a spy.” “Fuck me!”; and the kiss: “Actually, that’s kind of hot. Fuck me. Seriously, do it now.” … the third act of that story.

Same with Hancock – move the bit where he achieves his goal of public acceptance by saving people (the explanation: “It’s okay, he’s a good guy!”; and the kiss – or handshake in this case: “Well done, jolly good show.”) to the end of the film and hooray, one really cool film instead of two good films with a dinner break in the middle.

Every now and then I find a story drop in one of my scripts and it annoys the piss out of me. It shouldn’t happen, there shouldn’t be moments where if you stopped reading, you wouldn’t feel like you’d missed anything.

It’s a fairly simple rule, but one that needs to be drummed into me:

DON’T RESOLVE EVERY PROBLEM UNTIL THE END OF THE SCRIPT.

If there’s ever a point where your characters have nothing to worry about and can just slip off for a bit without anyone noticing – start again.

Categories: Random Witterings, Things I've Learnt Recently | 8 Comments

Just for the Record

Working in the micro budget movie industry is a task fraught with inexperience, incompetence and sheer bloody idiocy. It’s been a long standing joke for me that it’s easier to get a script into production, than it is to get a completed film out of the other end – a joke which might be vaguely funny if it wasn’t so heart achingly true.

I’ve worked on 40 feature films, of which only 7 were spec scripts, the other 33 were written specifically for someone. 17 of the 33 never got past the synopsis or treatment stage, but the rest all underwent at least one, usually several, drafts before vanishing into the ether. Of all these projects (689 documents!), only 7 have made it as far as production – not the same 7 as the spec 7, I hasten to add – that would be damn impressive.

40 projects, 7 films entering production – 17.5%,  that’s not too bad in the grand scheme of things.

Until you realise only one completed film has so far made it out of the other end.

One.

Which no one’s ever really seen.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I still believe one or two of the others might limp home; but really, after starting 33 feature projects at the request of various producers and directors – what do I have to show for it?

  • Some cash, which I’ve long since spent.
  • A CV full of things which, at best, only partially exist.
  • A shit load of bizarre and idiotic stories.

I can’t get the cash back and my CV is what it is, but the stories accrued from years of failed projects … there just might be something there:

JUST FOR THE RECORD

JFTRIn 2008 an independent production company set out to make the micro-budget feature film ‘Just For The Record’.

Armed with a stellar cast of top TV actors, the world’s most advanced digital camera and a quirky location to die for … what could possibly go wrong?

A lot, as it happens.

A year after the film has been abandoned, the cast and crew reunite for a series of interviews about the ill-fated production. It’s a constant round of accusations, recriminations and humorous anecdotes as everyone tries to answer the central burning question: Why did the film fail and whose fault was it?

The interviews reveal a host of possible candidates: For a start there’s the alcoholic, womanising and mostly incompetent Producer. Then there’s the wunderkind Director who doesn’t make films, he creates experiences – bad ones; the writer who’s read every screenplay book going without actually managing to develop any talent; the bi-polar editor who can’t even agree with himself and the DOP who would struggle to understand a ZX Spectrum, let alone a state of the art camera.

Mix them all together with a two week night shoot, a budget smaller than most films’ catering bill, an incompetent crew, a cast who can’t stand each other and a location which proves to be dark, inaccessible and downright un-filmable … and you have the perfect conditions for laying a cinematic turd.

JUST FOR THE RECORD is a warning to anyone thinking of making a feature film on the cheap. By turns hilarious, tragic and poignant the direct to camera interviews of the cast and crew expose what it’s really like in the seedy, cash strapped and ultimately thankless world of micro budget filmmaking.

Reminiscing about every stage of the process from conception through scripting, casting, preproduction, shooting, editing and ultimately giving up in despair – this pathetic tale will entertain, inform and warn off anyone thinking of getting involved in a similar project.

JUST FOR THE RECORD is a how-not-to manual which proves you can have all the talent in the world … or you can have a micro-budget movie.

Shooting starts on the 17th (ten days to go – nothing’s gone wrong yet!) and the cast is superb.

I know, I know, I always say that and be fair, I’m hardly likely to say “The film shoots next week, the script’s good but the cast is fucking awful.” am I? However, in this case I think the cast list speaks for itself:

  • Dirk Benedict
  • Rik Mayall
  • Steven Berkoff
  • Geoff Bell
  • Roland Manookian
  • Phil Davis
  • Ian Virgo
  • Frank Harper
  • Martin Kove
  • Craig Fairbrass
  • Victoria Silvstedt
  • Ciaran Griffiths
  • Lots of other people!

For a full cast list, including photos, why not join the Facebook group?

Dirk Benedict! Face! Starbuck! The proper Starbuck! The cool one! The man who’s more or less directly responsible for my arrest for counterfeiting and fraud!

I’m very excited about this cast … but in retrospect, if I’d known Rik Mayall was going to be involved I probably wouldn’t have stolen quite so many jokes from him.

Probably.

JUST FOR THE RECORD – feature project number forty-one and who knows, maybe completed film number two?

Categories: Just for the Record, Progress | 17 Comments

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