Monthly Archives: August 2011

London Screenwriters’ Festival 2011 – Tickets

It’s that time of year again, Summer hands over the rain-soaked baton of boredom to Autumn; Autumn gears itself up for some actual sunshine (just so it can listen to everyone banging on about how weird it is that September is hotter than August, despite the weather being exactly the same as it was last year and the twenty fucking five years before that); I fight my way past the Christmas cards and the odd hopelessly early Easter egg to stare longingly at the new jackets appearing in the shops … and young scriptwriters fancies turn to thoughts of the London Scriptwriters’ Festival.

If you’re an unproduced or fledgling writer, then this is the networking and training event of the year. If you’re a produced or grizzled, battle-scarred writer then it’s an excuse to mock your industry mates for having their flies open during their seminar and grumble about how the industry’s changed around you whilst getting pissed afterwards.

Basically: people talk at you, you go and get drunk, you talk at them. For three days.

Check out the website for all the gory details including who’s speaking and when and what sort of networking hijinks you can get up to.I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about money.

Specifically, I’m here to offer you the same deal on discounted tickets as I did for the London Comedy Writers’ Festival in March.

Basically, anyone flogging tickets as an affiliate (which I am) can offer you a £30 discount off the £300 ticket price. You get £30 off, we also get paid £30 and everyone’s a winner.

Except, I don’t think it’s right. Personally, I think it’s immoral for me to make money off fellow writers since we’re all pretty much in the same boat and money is tight in these trying times. I don’t want to make money off you, so I won’t … I’ll give you my £30 commission.

By the way, just because I think it’s immoral for me to make money off you, doesn’t mean I think it’s immoral for other bloggers to keep the cash. Some bloggers provide an invaluable, free service for years and years on end – tirelessly feeding you information, hints, tips and competition dates. If, once a year, they want to make a little extra cash; then that’s up to them and who am I to call them names?

We all have a different concept of right and wrong. Personally, I find alcohol and casual sex immoral*; but counterfeit, forgery and stealing from large corporations to be merely naughty. We all have a naughty line and we draw it where we damn well please.

But the fact remains – I want to give you £30 off your ticket and a further £30 after the festival when I get my commission. In effect, you’ll be getting your ticket for £240 … I think. 300 – 30 – 30 = … yeah, that’s right, isn’t it?

£240 for a ticket – that’s a good deal, right?

A word of warning: five people took me up on the deal last time and it took ages to get the money back. The festival was at the beginning of April – I didn’t get paid my commission until the 1st of July. The cheques were sent out three days later. Those five (who may or may not choose to identify themselves) did get their money; but three months later than expected.

Having said that, there’s been a sea change at the festival and they assure me all monies will be paid out within 30 days of receiving an invoice.

So it’s up to you. If you want to go to the festival (and you should) and you haven’t yet bought a ticket and you want to pay £60 less than the asking price of £300, then here’s what you do:

  1. Buy your ticket from this link. Use discount code JOBBINGSCRIPTWRITER and pay your £270.
  2. Send me an email (phill@phillipbarron.co.uk) telling me you’ve done it and include your home address.
  3. Attend the festival, laugh, learn from and mingle with your writing heroes.
  4. After the festival, I get sent a list of who bought a ticket using my code and £30 per person. Upon receipt, I immediately send you a cheque for £30.
  5. Cash the cheque.
  6. Blow the cash on fags ‘n’ booze.

And that’s pretty much it.

Like I say, they are other people offering tickets at a discount price and if you like their blog then you should support them. If, however, you’d rather save yourself an extra £30, then I’m your boy.

Hopefully, I’ll see you all there.

——————————————————————————————————————

* I don’t, not really. Not immoral. Boring, maybe? But not really immoral. I think I had a moral once; but I may have lost it. Possibly down the back of the sofa.

Whistles nonchalantly – nothing to see here.

Categories: Festivals, My Way | Leave a comment

Re-writing hyphenates

It’s a minefield, a fucking minefield.

Let’s be clear here, I’m talking about when one side of the hyphen is ‘writer’.

Producer/director isn’t so much of a problem since all that really means is there are less people to fall out with each other, less chance of conflicting notes (make the lead a man and a woman, make the script shorter and longer … etc.) and less people to use you as a pawn in some bizarre power game whose goal is to create the worst movie ever just to humiliate the other person.

Unless, of course, the producer/director is completely fucked in the head and has fallen out with himself; but that’s relatively rare.

Writer/director or writer/producer – that’s where the problems can lie. I try to be very, very choosy when I’m approached by one because … well, they can be a fucking nightmare.

To be fair, not all of them. LVJ has a writer/director and a writer/producer and both of them are reasonable, pleasant, talented people who genuinely want the best for the film. They should be set in amber now, for future generations to enjoy.

But why can re-writing a writer/director be less fun than removing your own teeth with a circular saw?

Good question: because the person whose you’re re-writing is the one judging your work – they aren’t always objective and can be very, very precious about it.

Think about when you’ve asked someone to read your script and they haven’t liked it.

Stings, right?

Now imagine you’re a raving ego-maniac who thinks he’s a fucking genius and only agreed to hire a ‘writer’ (in inverted commas because no one but you is good enough to be described by that term) at the insistence of someone you don’t respect … and that guy DARES to point out flaws in your life’s work.

See the problem?

Consider the terminology first. I’ve said it many times before, because it’s fucking true: most people in the industry can’t do the job they’ve printed on their business card. Most writers can’t write, most directors can’t direct and most producers can’t do fucking anything whatsoever and have picked producer because they think it’ll get them laid the most.

A writer/director or writer/producer is rarely someone who can do two jobs, it’s more likely to be someone who’s failing at two jobs. All those writer/directors you’re about to name … don’t. You could name a thousand good ones and still only be thinking of less than one percent of the dross out there.

Writing, directing, producing – these are really complicated skills which take years to learn and perfect. A hyphenate is someone whose ego tells them they can do both, frequently without any practice whatsoever.

Again, not always. Maybe they’ve done forty years as a director, had one bash at writing and decided they need help. Maybe they’ve been an actor in film and TV for decades and have learnt both skills by osmosis? Maybe they are just genuinely talented at both?

Usually not, but it does happen. Martin Kemp, he’s done a pretty good job at the writer/director thing with Stalker.

If I don’t mention you here,  by the way, it’s not because I don’t rate you from working with you, it’s because the fuckwits loom so large they block out all pleasant memories.

So when a hyphenate hires you for a re-write, you could be looking at someone who’s failing at two jobs and asking for help on one of them.

Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Unless they’re not actually looking for help.

Sadly, it seems most of them hire a writer to polish (not re-write) on the insistence of the non-hyphenate part of the development triumvirate (writer/director/producer). So you get a situation where a guy who can’t do two jobs is reluctantly paying you to do a job he doesn’t think needs doing.

And then is massively obstructive about the whole process.

He’s a writer/director or writer/producer with zero years experience – there’s nothing you can tell him he doesn’t already know because he’s a fucking genius … at this point he’ll probably compare himself to Tarantino. They all fucking compare themselves to Tarantino. That man may be a genius, but he’s inspired more talentless fucknards than Led Zeppelin.

He doesn’t agree with your opinions on the lack of characters, plot, structure or common fucking sense in the script. He doesn’t think spelling is important nor punctuation nor putting at least two words together which fucking belong in the same sentence. This is his vision we’re dealing with and his radiant genius will magically transform the entire project into one which everyone will flock to see, regardless of stupid things like coherence or ‘a story’. Pulp Fiction doesn’t make sense/have a story/any characters and that did alright.

Pointing out Pulp Fiction had all three of those things won’t help you. He’s seen the movie, but he didn’t understand it.

If he’s the originator of the project, then the project is doomed and all you’re going to get out of it is months of frustration and rage … and maybe some money. The money isn’t worth it, say no. Tell him to fuck off!

Fair enough if the hyphenate in question comes to you and says “I’ve tried writing a script, but it isn’t very good – can you help?” Sometimes it might actually be a good script which just needs a tweak or slight restructuring – that’s fine.

But how do you know? How do you weed out the irritating?

Luckily for you, there’s a simple checklist for getting involved with a hyphenate re-write:

You can download that as a PDF, if you like. Staple it to the hyphenate’s forehead during the first meeting – just so you don’t forget. Basically though, it all comes down to one piece of advice:

DON’T WORK WITH PRETENTIOUS PRICKS

… if you can help it.

Categories: Industry Musings, My Way, Someone Else's Way | 5 Comments

Grimm Up North

Ooh, festival goodness!

Trailer and info here:

Martin Kemp’s Directorial Debut to Screen at Grimm Up North with Exclusive Q+A

Stalker stars Billy Murray, Jane March and Linda Hayden

On Friday October 7th, the festival will host a very special premiere screening of Stalker– the directorial feature debut of TV and music icon Martin Kemp – ahead of its national theatrical release. In addition, the former Eastenders star and Spandau Ballet bass hero will be joined by members of the film’s cast and crew, including producer Jonathan Sothcott (Devil’s Playground, Dead Cert) and actress Jane March (The Lover, Clash of the Titans) to take part in an exclusive Q&A session after the movie.

Sure to be a controversial festival talking point, Stalker is based on the infamous 1976 sex-and-slash shocker – and previously banned ‘video nasty’ – The House on Straw Hill(aka Expose). For 2011, Kemp has reworked this cult gem into a tense, psychological thriller focusing on memory, identity and the creative imagination. Fans of the original might also be interested to hear the movie features Linda Hayden, cult horror actress and star of the seventies chiller, in a supporting role.

Commenting on the film, Producer Jonathan Sothcott said: “Stalker is the slickest, best-directed film we’ve made to date and a genuinely well-made, creepy horror film in its own right. We feel it is strong enough to stand a theatrical release in selected UK cinemas and we’re looking forward to unleashing it on the world.”

The Grimm Up North team are delighted to be able to unveil Stalker as the first entry in its official 2011 programme and look forward to welcoming Director Martin Kemp to the City of Manchester in October. Tickets for this event plus the entire programme will go on sale soon so keep your eyes peeled Grimmlins.

Categories: Festivals, Publicity, Stalker | Leave a comment

Credit where credit’s not due

I used to get really upset about being rewritten; but now, not so much.

It used to be if I were hired for a project I would be bitterly disappointed if I didn’t get to see it through to the end. I mean, it’s an insult, right? They’re saying I’m not good enough. Worse, they’re saying the guy replacing me is better than me, aren’t they? Surely, by replacing me, they’ve just told me I’m shit?

Well, no. Not really.

Writers get replaced for various reasons and rarely because they’re not good enough. Even if it is a quality issue, it just means that script isn’t very good, not you as a writer on every project for all time.

Most of the time though, writers get replaced because of something to do with politics or egos or general spineless incompetence. Like:

  1. The director wants more control, he ridicules a script everyone else likes so he can write it himself.
  2. The producer’s wife spontaneously decides she doesn’t want to sell handicraft pencil holders any more and would rather be a scriptwriter. Starting now. On this project.
  3. The producer has forgotten you’re waiting for notes from him about the last draft and gets so wound up by you not delivering the next draft (the one he hasn’t asked for) that he fires you. Presumably for not being clairvoyant.
  4. A project ends up as a co-production deal and the other company (the one putting up the most money) insists on a re-write using their own writer (who they found in Tesco that morning).
  5. Producer doesn’t understand ‘development’ and just keeps hiring new writers for every draft until they run out of time and/or money. “For fuck’s sake, this first draft isn’t perfect either! How many first drafts do I have to commission before someone gets it right?”
  6. Someone insists on a talking monkey. You don’t want to put a talking monkey into a story about how the Beatles got together. They find someone with less common sense/principles.
  7. Producer asks for something. You write it. Co-producer hates it. Original producer blames the writer rather than stand up for his own ideas … you get replaced.
  8. The director hates you because on your last project you sided with the producer against that director who is this director’s cousin/brother/fuck-buddy and he is determined not to work with you … but not so determined he won’t take the money.
  9. You keep giving the producer what he asks for – he’s an idiot with no concept of how a story works, he doesn’t want you to write what he told you to write, he wants you to write something good.
  10. The director has taken a LOT of drugs. Either that or he’s a ‘creative person’ – or ‘fucking retard’ in common parlance. He changes his mind so often he can’t remember what he asked for, even if you show him the email where he asked for it.
And so on.
My feeling now about being re-written is … yeah, fine. Whatever. I’ve done my job as best I can. Either it’s genuinely not good enough or there are external reasons. Either way, so long as I get the credit I’m due, I don’t really care.
Thing is, there are so many people chucking stuff into the mix during production, the chances of the final film bearing even a passing resemblance to the original script are so slim as to be almost zero. Having another writer’s name on the credits is rarely someone stealing your glory, it’s more than likely someone to share the blame … so long as they have actually written a significant portion of the script.
If they’ve just changed the name of one of the characters or written a couple of lines for an actor who couldn’t remember the original line because it had too many syllables … then that’s different. If they don’t deserve a credit, then they shouldn’t get one and you’ve got every right to be upset. And litigious.
Similarly, if it’s a spec script, a labour of love you’re really proud of … which then gets re-written because of the reasons above … yeah, that’s fucking annoying and soul destroying.
But if you’re hired to write a script and for some reason they go with a different writer later on?
Yeah, fine. Whatever.
You did the job you were asked to do, you got paid for it, the script you wrote still exists as a sample/testament to your ability … so, really, what difference does it make?
Sometimes I even relish being re-written. I’m not enjoying this, I don’t like these people … “We’ve decided to go in a different direction, of course you’ll still get a credit and paid.” Whoo-hoo! Get out of jail free!
On more than one occasion, I’ve been hired for something I wasn’t that fussed about. Occasionally, I’ve thought it might be nice to get fired now that I’ve done enough work to ensure payment and credit. In those circumstances, being re-written is a good thing:
“We want to pay you, credit you; but someone else is going to do all the work.”
Um … let me think about that for a moment …
Fuck, more of those jobs, please!
Categories: Industry Musings, My Way, Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way, Things I've Learnt Recently | 1 Comment

Stats

Earlier today I lied on Twitter.

It wasn’t a big lie, but it’s been playing on my mind. The tweet in question was:

Can you spot the blatant lie? Can you? Huh?

I hope not, because you’d have to have access to my laptop or desktop to work it out.

Actually, it’s not really a lie, more of an error – I’ve only been involved with 50 feature projects. One of them was in two separate folders under different names. Call it sloppy research, call it an inefficient filing system, fuck, call it Clarence for all I care – the point is, it’s not 51, it’s 50.

Luckily, the error was on the unproduced side, not the produced side, so my produced/unproduced ratio has gone up! It now looks something like this:

Which may be good or bad, I have no idea. What percentage of projects are supposed to be produced?

No idea.

At all.

But it got me thinking, how many projects do writers get involved with? How many get produced, how many fall by the wayside or fizzle out? Is there any place on the Internet where this information is available in easy to understand yet not terribly useful charts?

Yes there is my friend, look no further! Here’s that same pie chart as a bar chart!

And here is what happened to the nine which went into production:

Four have yet to make it out the far end. Four! That’s 44.44% … apparently.

How did all these projects come about? Well, for these reasons:

Only one of the nine produced films was a spec script, by the way. I haven’t got a chart for that. Oh wait, I could make one! Here it is:

Bit pointless that one. Or is it? You can deduce from that spec scripts are 8 times less likely to be produced than commissioned ones. If you’re me. At this time.

So where did all these commissions/polite requests come from? Well, how about FUCK OFF I’M NOT TELLING YOU? I WORKED MY BALLS OFF TO MAKE THESE CONTACTS AND I’M NOT ABOUT TO LET YOU, A MORE TALENTED, YOUNGER AND BETTER LOOKING WRITER MUSCLE IN ON MY REPEAT BUSINESS.

But here’s a useless chart with no labels on it:

As you can see, company A has come back for more punishment scripts 14 times! Suckers! Company B are gluttons for punishment too.

But how does that equate to actually produced projects? Well, I’m glad you asked me that – for I have a chart detailing it right here:

As you can see, Company A makes good on its promises 4 times out of 14. That’s … um … a percentage. Company B are obviously a bunch of complete and utter no hopers. What a waste of time and money. Well, time anyway. The money wasn’t wasted, I spent it. On crack.

As for the time … well, how much writing is there involved in 50 feature film projects? Stick around, kid; you’re about to find out!

And how does that break down per project? Startlingly similar to this:

I know this isn’t much use really without the names of the projects, but I couldn’t fit them on. Here’s the same chart for treatments:

It would have been kind of nice to have these charts overlaid on each other; but I don’t know how to do that, so I haven’t. Hey, it would be nice if we could all fly and eat cake without getting fat, the world’s not perfect, okay? Leave me alone.

Here’s the chart I didn’t do for the number of synopses per project:

Because I couldn’t be arsed.

I suppose it would be helpful to know which projects were actually produced? Well, it was the last F, the first K, the L, the M, the second N, the 4th and 5th S and the third T. Does that help?

Yeah, whatever. I’m kind of getting bored of charts now. Here’s an extremely pointless one detailing how many of the projects were sequels to existing movies:

None of them have fucking happened, have they?

Two more and then I’m going home. After counting all the treatments, synopses and drafts in my ‘Films’ folder I checked to see how many files were in there in total:

1140? Only 207 of which are drafts, treatments or synopses? What. The. Fuck?

I guess the others are duplicates of the documents either as pdf doc fdr or without dates/draft numbers on the front. Or with different titles … who knows? Not me, that’s for fucking certain.

One last chart. An important one. How many of the projects I’ve worked on am I completely and totally happy with?

Which one? Well, the one I did for you, of course!

 

 

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard | 6 Comments

Tell me what to feel

One of my pet hates when reading a script is a scene which ends on a revelatory piece of dialogue … without telling me how the characters react.

			DARTH VADER
		Luke, I am your father.

	INT. MILLENNUM FALCON - DAY

	Princess Leia soaps herself up for ...

No, wait! What? How did Luke react to that? Was he shocked? Angry? Surprised? Did he already know? I know how I’d react, but I’ve no idea how the character does. The only time that’s maybe acceptable is when you’re not supposed to see the character’s reaction because it’ll be revealed the next time we see them.

Even then, I’d rather be told we’re not going to see the character’s reaction.

	Darth Vader smirks at Luke's unseen reaction ...

Just so I don’t hurl the script across the room in annoyance.

Actually, that doesn’t make sense, does it?

	Darth Vader wheezes at Luke's unseen reaction ...

Yes, that’s better. Now I know I’m not supposed to know what he knows.

Even a piece of dialogue doesn’t always help me understand:

			DARTH VADER
		Luke, I am your father.

			LUKE
		No.

	INT. MILLENNUM FALCON - DAY

	Princess Leia adjusts her tiny scraps of underwear as she ...

Stop, stop, stop! What does ‘No.’ mean? Is it horror? A statement of fact? Revulsion? Sarcasm? “No, go on! You? Really? Old leather stinky pants?”

The problem is, apart from annoying me, if you don’t explain how the character is feeling then you risk losing the reader. Or at least unintentionally leading them down the wrong path. Worse than that, if you’re not crystal clear then you might be leaving it up to the actor to decide. And that will never do. Actors have odd ideas and should never be encouraged to contribute to the proceedings.

“Ah, but it should be clear from the context of the text.”

It’s not. You’re not that good a writer. Even if you are, why take that risk?

For the sake of clarity (and the brad-shaped dents in my office wall) please just jot down a line explaining how the character is (and, by extension, I’m) supposed to feel.

			DARTH VADER
		Luke, I am your father.

			LUKE
		No!

	Luke stumbles back in shock - horrified by the information
	which, deep down, he already suspected.

	INT. MILLENNUM FALCON - DAY

	Princess Leia applies lubricant to the flaps of the Falcon's
	hyperdrive motivator.

A script should describe what I will see on screen. I will be able to see the character’s facial expressions and divine how they’re feeling. Perhaps not what they’re thinking, but certainly the emotion they’re emoting.

Unless they’re wearing a mask. Like Darth Vader. Hmm … I guess he’s got pretty expressive shoulders.

Please, just tell me how to feel.

Categories: My Way, Random Witterings | 3 Comments

Balancing the fish/pond equation

The same producer as the last post went on to ask me a very thoughtful question which speaks volumes about his (probably misplaced) faith in me as a writer.

“Why do you keep working with these people? Why don’t you send your stuff to better companies higher up the ladder? Maybe you should get an agent or something?”

Which is a good question. Or three good questions.

The truth is, I do the middle one. Sort of. I have lots of things in development with lots of different companies of varying degrees of prominence, experience and ability both here and in the US.

So why keep playing in the low budget, gangster infested pond?

Well, there are several reasons.

One is I’ve not personally been fucked over or had anyone threaten to break my kneecaps. I’ve always been paid. Not always on time or without a degree of pleading, but I’ve always been paid for my work. Whether that work is valued (or indeed valuable) is a different matter, but I do get paid to write scripts – which is kind of the goal, really.

The second is the films do get made. Not always successfully and not all of them, but some do get made and they do get released with proper actors, ones you’ve heard of, and you can wander into a shop and buy them on DVD.

Sometimes it’s the pound shop, but you can buy them.

This all ties in with point one, but also just adds to your CV. Or my CV, rather. A year or two after a stinker had been released, no one can remember what it was like and the fact all those people liked my work enough to make the film is moderately impressive.

Thirdly, I don’t really have any spec scripts I like. I don’t get time to write spec scripts. The only attempt I’ve made to write a spec in the last few years was under option before I’d committed a single word to paper. I can’t really approach bigger companies at the moment because I have nothing to sell. I’m pretty sure I could get a read from anyone … if only I had something unencumbered which was worth reading.

And you know what? The spec game is hard. You’ve got to find someone who’s looking for something in the genre you’ve already spent months writing.

“Are you interested in a rom-com between two people’s subconsciousness?”

Is less likely to be answered in the affirmative than:

“Can you write me a rom-com about two teenage donkeys and a soap factory?”

I almost always say yes. They rarely do.

There may come a time when the best approach is to refuse new work so I can take time out to work on something just for me … but to do that I have to stop getting paid … which I can’t really afford.

It’s kind of a stupid cycle to be stuck in; but at the moment, getting paid less and often is better than maybe being paid a lot at sometime in the future perhaps.

Besides, there’s always the outside possibility one of these low-budget films will breakout and be wildly successful. The last one I worked on certainly has a lot of commercial potential (I actually overheard a stranger talking positively about the film before it had been shot … that’s a nice level of buzz), but since it’s all in the execution and the execution is in someone else’s hands … who knows?

As for the agent question, well it’s another version of point three. I don’t really have anything for them to send out anywhere. Yes, they could possibly pimp me to bigger or better companies as a writer for hire; but I have nothing for them to *sell* as such.

The other thing is, if a script is written to order then it’s not necessarily going to be reflective of my ability. People ask for stupid things to be put into scripts and you can’t always persuade them otherwise. Just because the director or producer thinks it’s a work of genius, doesn’t mean it is or will be perceived as such by others.

Basically, I’m not convinced I’m ready for an agent just yet. Mind you, I’m willing to be convinced.

So whereas the long-term plan is to get paid more by bigger companies … the short-term plan is to keep working, keep getting paid … and keep my fingers crossed.

Categories: Industry Musings, My Way, Random Witterings | 1 Comment

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