Monthly Archives: December 2009

2009

So here we are at the end of the year, hell at the end of the decade and …

Actually, when does the decade end? Is 2010 the end of this decade or the beginning of the next one? Tricky number, zero. Still, fuck it. If the Romans couldn’t get to grips with it then why the fuck should I? I mean, they built roads and shit while all I’ve ever done is push buttons on a keyboard … and even that I do pretty badly.

Mind you, have you seen the roads in Rome? Shockingly bad. Fuck knows how those people supplied an empire.

But I digress.

Did you have a good Christmas? Did Santa bring you everything you wanted? I asked for World Domination and some French Fancies but the fat git failed on both counts. How was 2009 in general? Mine went almost exactly like this:

JANUARY

I realised we were living in the 21st Century … nine years after the fact.

Discovered Oli stops reading when he reaches his own name and then talked briefly about magic puppies with Lego faces.

Tries to get someone to hold my hand.

Learnt, once again, communicating by email results in appalling scripts and that the more notes someone has for you, the better the script is.

Revealed I had a BIG IDEA … with no time to write it.

Had a pile of work, so massive and so daunting … I decided to fuck everyone off and go to Disney Land instead.

Didn’t go to Disney Land, just knuckled down and attacked the pile of work.

Talked about a Writer’s Vision – basically how to lie in order to get money.

Revealed to the world that Satan talks to me through the TV and told me I have to leave Pipex and sign up to Sky Broadband or he’s going to make me rape, kill and eat next door’s babies.

Fielded an email from an American Production company looking for something almost exactly like the BIG IDEA. It’s right easy this marketing lark – you just sit there and wait for them to call you.

And then saw Seven Pounds and got depressed because I can’t write like that.

FEBRUARY

Had a pointless conversation with an Air Hostess in the middle of a forest.

Got bored.

Decided, more or less on a whim, never to speak to anyone ever again.

Named and alphabetised my T-shirts.

Decided I didn’t want to be in Battlestar Galactica.

Revealed my obsession with Creative Screenwriting Podcasts.

Got confused about Easter.

And got bored once more, this time by Benjamin Button. Fuck it, if he doesn’t pay any interest in his own life, why should I?

MARCH

Failed to blog about THE A TEAM V DAD’S ARMY and DAISY DOGNUTS. No, I have no idea what that means either.

Talked about the technical difficulties involved in writing a script … although for the life of me I can’t remember which fucking script I was talking about. I may have been making shit up to make myself seem cool.

Shit a solid gold brick.

Explained why this:

Made me into a writer.

Discovered a clone of me from the future used to stalk me in the past.

Got attacked by a T-Rex and rescued by Spiderman.

Got nominated for a Rose d’Or. Sort of.

Met up with Lara Greenway and Terry Wogan in Madam Tussauds.

Got emails from actors asking if they could be in a film I didn’t write. Only to find out I may have written bits of it, sort of.

Realised I could carry all my scripts around on my phone, all the time.

Got annoyed about mugs and companies who sell themselves as cool without actually telling you what their products do. Like Apple.

And offered to buy people lunch.

APRIL

Got nominated for a BAFTA. Actually, this has nothing to do with me.

Dropped an imaginary phone into an imaginary vat of home brew at Dan Turner’s imaginary house.

Wrote a script to an extremely complicated and prescriptive set of rules. Rules which the producer who set them immediately complained about.

Karma Magnet came out as a DVD extra.

Pimped some stuff for someone else.

Got fucking angry about the media’s ‘information’ about Swine Flu and declared it was all fucking bullshit and no one was going to die from it. Bird Flu, anyone?

Warned people their ideas would make a 90 page script into a 180 page script. They didn’t listen, I wrote the script, they got upset.

And filming started on a sitcom pilot … so I hid in Crouch End.

Wow, nothing really happened in April, did it?

MAY

Got annoyed about story drops – the point in a film/TV thing where you could stop watching and not feel like you’d missed the next hour.

Got really unreasonably upset about MOMENTS LATER. That must have been a particularly bad day.

Just for the Record began filming. I went to hide in the Caribbean and got sucked off by an air steward in First Class. There was a video of that and everything … but I seem to have lost it.

Got a phone call from the Mail on Sunday who wanted to talk to me about not being in Cannes.

Took 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

Went to Nuneaton. Never again.

Apparently I went on holiday somewhere, but for the life of me I can’t remember where.

Oh, and I bought a new laptop:

Touchy touchy!

JUNE

Came over all positive for a moment and said some nice things. Hopefully that was just a phase.

Launched Jack Tweed’s movie career. Great.

Went to the Screenwriters’ Festival and drew some sperm:

Muttered something about being forced to promote stuff even when I thought it was shit

Saw a preview/promo for Fleeced:

Saw a trailer for Just for the Record … which has since been removed. Damn.

Saw a poster for Just for the Record … which has since been binned.

Tried to make sense of Spatulas, Iguanas and a fruitbowl.

Attacked a man on the bus so I could rip this page from his paper:

Because of this paragraph:

Which is about a sitcom pilot I co-wrote.

And came over all nice again and promoted other people’s short films.

JULY

Finally explained about the movable goalposts of excitement.

Held a meeting in a street which was on fire.

Attended a screening of Splendid. It was.

Got hassled by an all female Squad of pissed up Motown fans. One of whom insisted she was a natural blonde with the landing strip to prove it who went on to kick me in the chest with a spiked heel. I quite enjoyed that day.

Got angry about morons giving James Moran a hard time for writing good telly.

Did this:

For these people:

Deleted more than I wrote.

Ran out of ways to procrastinate and very nearly had to do some work.

And saw the trailer for the sitcom pilot I co-wrote:

AUGUST

Oh, and a music video from the same:

Another trailer for Just for the Record. This one’s still there!

Took part in a three-way conference call between New York, Barbados and Crawley. (I was in Barbados, but strangely my car was in Crawley).

Was told I wasn’t allowed to photograph an imaginary gorilla and used it as an excuse to show this trailer again:

Finally realised (but haven’t fully accepted) that NO ONE FUCKING CARES ABOUT SCRIPT FORMAT.

Confessed I frequently imagine I’m Steve McQueen.

And tried to work out what I wanted out of the SWF.

SEPTEMBER

Are we all still here? Are you as bored as I am yet? Yes? Good, moving on.

Saw a trailer for Exposé.

Signed contracts and received feedback for the BIG IDEA. Wait, did I mention I sold the BIG IDEA without trying? No, not to the American Production company, but to a different American Production company. Actually, my friend sold it for me without my permission or knowledge. Suits me, as long as I don’t have to do any work.

Made some cats out of blue icing.

Talked about two adaptations and how they’d missed the fucking point. Since I’m now working on two adaptations I look forward to people throwing that blog back in my face.

The Dutch gave me some money, via the BBC.

So did Sweden, Denmark, Italy, America and Russia.

And, for reasons which escape me, babbled about furniture for far too long.

Is that it? Is that all I did in September? Was it a short month this year?

OCTOBER

Hooray! This is nearly over and I can go and do something more interesting!

In October, I lost my rag with Microsoft.

Got suckered into thinking this was a real school orchestra:

Got stuck in a rant about designing cars and then bought one to cheer myself up.

And … that’s it? That’s fucking it? What the fuck was I doing in October?

NOVEMBER

Went to the Screenwriters’ Festival – fannyed around, didn’t really make the most of it and met a lot of nice people. Like Hayley McKenzie – she’s lovely. Oh, and I compared cock size with Simon Beaufoy. I’m not telling you who won.

Masturbating monkeys … I still don’t really want to talk about that.

Tried to sell my car via my blog. Bizarrely, I actually sold it in absolute darkness, during a storm and a power cut to two Eastern Europeans who paid cash and didn’t want to test drive or even inspect it.

Got all mellow and wibbly over stuff like this:

Wrote an open letter to directors.

Wrote an open letter to writers.

Wrote an open letter to producers.

Hmm … looks like I did more in November than October but still, come on! Have I really been too busy to blog?

Yes, I have as it happens …

DECEMBER

 Moaned a lot about writing constantly without actually writing any scripts.

Pointed out the target audience for a script is the producer and the director, not the people who pay to go and see a film. That’s the target audience for a film.

Spoke to a wall.

And that was it. That’s the entire fucking year.

I can’t help noticing the beginning of the year involved a lot more blogging than the end of the year. I’m sorry about that (unless you hate my blog, then I’m happy for you) but I have been exceedingly busy. I’m currently working on four feature scripts as well as keeping all the other plates spinning and blogging has become an expensive luxury.

January and February 2010 promise to be absolutely fucking mental and possibly completely impossible – but hopefully once this lot is out of the way, normal blogging service will be resumed.

And by normal service I mean me talking shit in extremely long-winded, ill-thought out and ill-advised posts.

Happy New Year to you all, see you in the next decade!

Or maybe the last year of this decade … depending on how you count it.

Categories: BBC, BBC Sketch Show, Bored, Career Path, Exposé, Festivals, Fleeced, Industry Musings, Just for the Record, Karma Magnet, LVJ, My Way, Progress, Publicity, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard, Software, Someone Else's Way, That Band, The Wrong Door, Things I've Learnt Recently, til Death, Two steps back, Writing and life | 1 Comment

Merry Christmas!

I was going to post about how men in skirts hitting each other with sticks can help you be a better scriptwriter … but I can’t be bothered.

So I’ll just wish you all a

MERRY CHRISTMAS

 

and leave it at that.

Eat, drink, fall asleep and … other stuff.

Now it’s time for the song and dance.

Categories: Writing and life | 2 Comments

Talking to walls

Do me a favour, do it right now. Come on, don’t be shy, no one’s watching you. Unless you’re on a bus or in the library or something, in which case everyone’s watching you, you fucking freak – but hey, fuck ’em.

What I want you to do is sit on a slightly uncomfortable chair about six feet from the nearest wall.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Well fucking knock it off. Sit upright, no slouching. Face the wall, take a deep breath and talk about your latest project.

To the wall. Out loud. Imagine it’s interested and you have to be interesting. See how long you can talk about one of the characters or the plot or the writing process before you dry up, repeat yourself or completely forget what you’re talking about while you’re talking about it.

Don’t just do it in your head, that’s cheating and you can trick yourself into thinking you’re doing alright. Actually talking out loud is far more difficult – in exactly the same way you can think about a scene and know you’ve got every detail nailed down … only to start writing it and realise you haven’t got the faintest idea what it’s about.

Now imagine there’s someone just to the right of the spot you’re looking at, just out of your eye-line. They’re listening intently and judging you. Oh and they’re recording everything you say with the intent of broadcasting it to the whole fucking world.

Try it. It’s not fun. Well not much fun, anyway. It’s quite funny if you enjoy embarrassing yourself. It’s also how I spent Thursday afternoon – staring at a wall (it was green) and babbling about spaceships, explosions, aliens and, for reasons I can’t quite remember at the moment, bananas.

Actually, I have to admit I loved every minute of it – my first proper ‘Behind the Scenes’ interview. I say proper because I have done one before, but it was by accident. I’d stupidly wandered on set to have a mosey around and found myself chatting to one of the actors – who was armed with a camcorder and was asking a lot of questions. Halfway through our chat I realised he was recording it for the EPK and I suddenly lost the ability to form coherent sentences.

At least I’m mostly positive that particular tape will never see the light of day. It’s possible my disjointed ramblings this time can be edited into a couple of lines which make sense – but I don’t hold out much hope.

My favourite technique appears to be to forget what I was going to say and sit quietly trying to remember. After a while I realise I’ve also forgotten what I was talking about … and then I realise I’ve been sitting silently for the best part of a minute before asking if I can start again.

I can’t begin to imagine how difficult press junkets are, although I guess with journalist after journalist being wheeled in to ask you the exact same questions you either eventually start getting it right or you lapse into a kind of automatic pilot where it doesn’t matter what questions people ask you, you talk about how great it was working with ‘x’. Where ‘x’ is any one of a dozen people you threatened to kill on a daily basis.

Just not to their face.

I implore you, have a go. Talk to your wall today. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not film it and post it on your blog? Then we can all have a good fucking laugh at your ineptitude.

Unless, of course, you’re all really good at it and it’s just me who’s incapable of talking in complete …

???

Fuck, what was I talking about?

Categories: My Way, Publicity, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Things I've Learnt Recently | Leave a comment

Writing for your target audience

When you’re writing a script, it’s absolutely vital to keep your target audience in mind. There really is no point writing something they don’t want to see.

Of course, frequently, your target audience doesn’t know what they want to see and it’s up to us to try and persuade them; but the maxim remains true – you’re not writing to please yourself, you’re writing to please them.

And by target audience, I of course mean the director and/or producer – they are the initial target audience for your script. You may think the target audience is 16-24 year olds (whatever the fuck that actually means) but in reality you’re writing what the producer or director thinks 16-24 year olds will like.

If you’re writing comedy it’s not about what you find funny, it’s about what they find funny. If it’s a drama, it’s what they find dramatic. If they think the dialogue’s stilted because they don’t believe people talk like that, there’s no point playing them the recording of your friends’ conversation you’ve lifted verbatim …

Well, actually, that might work. Or they might just think you’ve got freakish friends and fire you by association.

Anyway, the point is: you’re writing to please the people who have hired you.

Obviously, in an ideal world you can pick and choose your projects and collaborators so carefully you will never write something you’re only half interested in and you will all instantly agree on the best way to make the film.

In the real world, you occasionally have to bow to the will of someone who you fundamentally disagree with. The real skill, of course, is to find the middle ground where everyone is happy. Which is tricky.

Particularly since producers and directors tend (and I stress tend since there are no absolutes here) to think very differently.

Hopefully, you’ll all be focussed on telling the best story at the script stage – but best is an ambiguous term and everyone will have different ideas about what it actually means.

For a writer, that tends to mean the most coherent, emotionally moving story. Whether that emotion makes you cry or makes you hang on the edge of your seat as giant robots knock the fuck out of each other – writers tend to be all about making sure the characters’ actions and the plot make sense.

Producers tend to think in terms of selling the movie and what elements they can beg, borrow or steal. If they can film in Puerto Rico for free – one of the scenes needs to be set in Puerto Rico. It adds production value. If they know four female and three male actors who are interested in working for next to nothing – then that’s who has to be in the story. If the producer bumps into Brad Pitt and he says he loves the project, wants to work for free, invest in it and let you have his house as a location – then guess what? The best way to tell the story is for the 19 year old female protagonist to become a middle aged bloke living in LA. Or wherever else Brad Pitt may have a house.

Possibly the only time this isn’t true is when it’s an adaptation – I can imagine a producer turning down Julia Roberts in those exact same circumstances if she wanted to play Batman (then again …) but if it’s a completely new project – the producer (hopefully) understands what it takes to actually get the film financed, made and sold.

The director, on the other hand, tends to think in terms of images and will give you instructions like:

“I don’t care where it’s set, who’s in it or what happens, but I really, really want a dog with a fridge for a head. I think that’s a great image and really opens up dramatic possibilities.”

It doesn’t open up dramatic possibilities at all – it just makes life really fucking complicated; but they have this image in their head and they want to see it in the film. They think in pictures, whereas producers think in numbers.

And please don’t get me wrong – neither of these things is a bad thing and I’m not saying either side has no interest in any other element because if they’re good at their job they will be interested in everything which goes into making a script great from characters to plot to motivations to arena and whatever; but there frequently can be a bias towards a certain type of thinking.

And this is why it’s really important to keep your target audience in mind. By all means talk about why a character is doing something or how this smoothes the weird transition from act one to act two; but remember to frame at least part of your ramblings in a way your target audience can understand.

If you want to tell a story about a depressed sofa who’s fed up with people sitting on it all day – then tell the director what it could look like and how certain images really leap out at you, while you’re telling the producer how many people love sofas, associate with sofas and what kind of merchandising deals you could do with DFS.

This stuff isn’t that difficult but it’s taken me a while to work it out. Sometimes it’s easier to get your idea across than others and I think when someone’s struggling to see the beauty in the idea it’s because you’re using words which don’t make sense to them.

Telling a writer he has to have a talking sofa in the film because you can get a great merchandising tie-in is unlikely to fly. Telling the same writer about the characterisation of the sofa and how it fits into the plot will get him salivating.

Well, probably not; but you get the idea.

Now, can anyone think of a title for a talking sofa movie? I’ve got this great contact at Habitat …

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way, Things I've Learnt Recently | 3 Comments

Anything but

One of the things no one tells you about script writing (or perhaps they told you, I was either asleep or mitching off that day) is you don’t spend much time actually writing scripts.

And I’m not talking about the hours wasted on Internet porn, Simpsons marathons and just generally sitting around scratching your arse waiting for inspiration – I’m talking about the time you spend doing proper work with your fingers (of both hands) pushing buttons on the keyboard in order to produce words on the screen. In the last three or four months, the percentage of actual work time I’ve spent actually writing (or re-writing) actual scripts is roughly zero.

0%*

That’s shit in anyone’s book.

‘How can this be?’, you doubtlessly don’t care enough to ask. ‘What the hell have you been doing with your time?’

Well. all the other stuff:

Loglines, synopses, treatments, pitches, writer’s visions, character breakdowns, index cards, email ping pong, ADR lists, web content, this blog and other promotional stuff, commenting on various aspects of various productions, CVs, applying for new jobs, funding applications, updating my website … etc.

Then there’s all the other stuff, the stuff which winkles me away from my keyboard and forces me to confront the real (and reel) world:

Meetings, conference calls, the SWF, general networking, watching edits, watching web content, reading books for potential adaptations, watching films for potential remakes. watching referenced films so I know what the fuck the director/producer actually wants … etc.

Add onto that travelling time between various meetings, putting time aside to watch current films/TV so you know what everyone else is doing (or was doing a year ago) and the general thinking time needed to actually come up with all this shit and there’s very little time left for writing.

Not that lack of time’s really the issue since currently none of the six-million projects I’m working on are at the script stage. It just frustrates me sometimes that I write because I love it, yet writing is the smallest part of the process. It’s probably the most difficult, but the sheer weight of material you have to get through in order to sit down and start a new script is mind-boggling.

To be honest, I’ve kind of forgotten how to write one anyway – it’s been that fucking long.

That’s not to say I’m not doing any creative writing – I’ve just finished three weeks (interrupted by other stuff) of combing through an ADR list. This basically consists of sitting there with the rough edit of the film and staring intently at a scene trying to work out how long the actor’s face is out of shot then trying to sum up in one line everything which happened in the previous three scenes which (because of lack of time, money or competence) are no longer in the edit.

What the fuck does that mean? Why isn’t he wearing any trousers? Didn’t he just get shot in the head?

Sometimes scenes are lost, sometimes they get moved around, sometimes new scenes are added late in the day – the ADR list has to cover all of this.

On top of this, there’s the odd moment where either a line got improvised and makes no fucking sense, or perhaps it references something or someone who’s no longer in the film, or just plain doesn’t work – all those have to be replaced by something better of the same length.

Then there’s the pure effects shots, or long shots where you can’t see the actors, or scenes dipping in and out of cars – all of the voice over dialogue can be changed. Not necessarily because it doesn’t make sense – but there’s always that thought: can it be funnier? The car one is quite interesting – you can change any of the conversation you hear when the camera’s outside the car, but it has to match up with what they’re saying when the camera’s inside the car. Sometimes that switch has to occur in the middle of a sentence. This entails writing a line then reading it back in the character’s voice at the same pace and tone as the actor to see if it fits.

Oh and here’s a free piece of advice – if you do this on the train, people will stare.

And point.

But mostly stare.

It’s quite an interesting experiment which shows you how many choices there are with each single piece of dialogue. Frequently I find myself writing ten or so choices for each line because I can’t decide which one I like best. When I’m writing a full scene it all flows and a specific word or phrase choice seems more obvious than the others – when you’re looking at each line individually there are thousands of potential options, of which you have to select the one which is the most concise, the most informative and the most funny.

It’s quite fun.

As a specific example, one of the ADR notes required a term similar to ‘desk jockey’. Now I don’t want to use ‘desk jockey’ because I’ve heard it before and it’s already been used a few times in this film – I want a new term which I’ve never heard before … from a 1974 NYPD officer.

I managed 15 options before I gave up and moved on – which I thought was perhaps a little overkill, but it’s kind of fun and I got lost in the possibilities.

Anyway, enough of this jibber-jabber – I’ve got to get back to work … not actually writing a script, of course; but I’m sure I’ve got some index cards to shuffle.

Unless there’s anything good on the telly?

————————————————————————————————

* I have a sneaking suspicion this isn’t true – please feel free to comb through the last few months of blog posts and call me a liar.

Made up number, I didn’t count them.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Writing and life | 5 Comments

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