Monthly Archives: May 2012


Did you see this story in The Sun a few weeks back?

If you didn’t, and don’t feel like giving The Sun any web-traffic, then the essence is:

Strippers vs. Werewolves only took £38 at the box office on its opening weekend!


Some tweeters went on to compare that £38 with The Avengers‘ £15,778,074 which, on the surface makes it even more laughable.

Unless, of course, you take the view that since Avengers cost £200,000,000 to make and SvW cost … um … considerably less, then technically SvW was less in the red after the first weekend than The Avengers.

This is, of course, a silly way of looking at things. Let’s be honest and upfront here – The Avengers is a far, far superior film. If you only go and see one film this year, make it that. If you have a choice between The Avengers and SvW – Avengers for the win every time. It’s made a lot because it’s awesome. Easily 415,212.474 times more awesome than SvW.


But .. £38 – that’s awful … isn’t it?

Surprisingly, no.

Surprisingly, that’s actually good.

Surprisingly, that’s actually quite surprising.


Well, because there’s an open industry secret surrounding a ‘limited theatrical release’ which everybody knows. Seriously, everyone knows it. Whoever wrote that Sun article knows it. Most of you reading this blog already know it. If you don’t, well I’m not going to spill the beans here – it’s a secret.

And don’t go spoiling it for everyone in the comments neither.


But the upshot of that secret is SvW wasn’t supposed to make any money in the cinema.


Think about it. The film was shown on six screens in the middle of weekdays without any advertising in either the papers, radio, TV or even outside the cinemas themselves. I’ll hazard a guess and say none of the six screens actually put up posters for the film or even had any posters to put up.

In other words, the film’s presence at those specific cinemas wasn’t advertised at all.

Or to put it in slightly different words no money was spent on promoting the theatrical release because the promotion often costs more than the film does.

Why would you put a film in the cinema and not tell anyone which cinemas it’s in or how to go and see it?

Aha! That’s the secret!

Think of it this way: have you heard of Strippers vs. Werewolves? Did you know it was in the cinema?

No? You do now.

Yes? You missed it! How did that happen?

Now … assuming you’re not a thieving pirate scumbag, are sufficiently intrigued by the title and don’t want The Sun to make your mind up for you … how are you going to watch the film?

You might, for example, go to one of these places:






And pay to watch the film.

Pay to watch a film you’ve seen no paid advertising for, but have heard of because almost every paper and movie magazine in the land reviewed the film and then several of them went on to run stories about how little money it made in its opening weekend.

That’s not the secret, by the way – that’s just an intended consequence. Not intended by me, I’m not manipulating the media and have no input on any of this – this is just how things get done.

So the fact around four people spent £38 to go and see the film is cause for celebration – that really is £38 no one expected to make! Thank you, random four strangers!

The fact The Sun runs a story telling everyone about the film again is another win! More free publicity!

The fact the story was gleefully retweeted multiple times on Twitter by people who feel smug and superior because they think they’re being nasty in public is another win! Thank you random nasty people, you’ve just helped spread word of the film further and wider!

Things aren’t always what they seem and while it would be great to have Avengers-style money … that was never going to happen. It was so obviously never going to happen, it was never the plan or the point.

The point is a secret, but Strippers vs. Werewolves is available in shops right now … although, you knew that, right?

Categories: Industry Musings, Someone Else's Way, Strippers vs. Werewolves | 10 Comments

Script trajectory

Ever watched a film and wondered what the hell happened? How did they decide to film that script? Why did anyone think that was a good idea?

You know the chant:

“Who wrote this shit?”

What a lot of people don’t understand is it’s possible what you’re watching bears little resemblance to the final script. Things happen on set and during post production which completely change what was written down.


If the film is awful, it’s highly probable what you’re watching bears little resemblance to the original script or idea.

Check out this report of Terminator Salvation as an example.

To my mind the script goes through three distinct phases of rewriting, each with its own impact on the finished product: DEVELOPMENT, PRE-PRODUCTION and PRODUCTION.

Each phase is like a mini-rocket booster designed to take the shuttle of your script into the orbit s a finished film. And like mini-rocket boosters, bits get jettisoned along the way. Although, unlike mini-rocket boosters, there’s very little chance of bits of idea falling on someone’s head and killing them.

But the problem is, not every phase has an upward trajectory. If the space shuttle launched on the three script-rewrite boosters of development, pre-production and production it would end up lodged in someone’s front room in Idaho.

Why Idaho? Because it’s easy to spell.



This can be either you on your own re-writing a spec script or it can be with a producer or director or several of each. It’s the stage when everyone’s just working on the idea.

There seem to be two ways it can go during development – either you get a bunch of very smart people who are focussed on making the script the best it can be and they all work together to lift it to new heights … or you get a lot of stupid and contradictory ideas which chip away at the core idea and effectively whittle the skeleton out of the body.

Frequently, both of these happen at the same time.

Essentially, if development destroys the script, then you’ve got a flat or downward trajectory which plants the film nose-first in a barn somewhere. There’s nothing you can do to fix that beyond hope they get bored and give up on the project.

Hopefully what you’re doing here is constantly (or generally, with a few dips and detours) elevating the script towards perfection. Changes made during this phase should only be about what makes the story better. You may have to tweak locations or budget or cast … but hopefully it’s not really about that.

Development, done right, should have an upward trajectory.



This is when the film’s been given a green light and all the heads of department descend on the script with red pencils. You get lists of things which need to change or be cut out in order to make the film affordable and possible.

Although these changes can sometimes result in far better ideas than the fuck-the-budget version, in my experience the scriptwriter’s job here is one of maintaining a flat trajectory. People are grabbing whole chunks of the script and throwing them away – you need to stitch the edges of the holes back together or come up with something new (and cheap) to plug the gap.

Pre-production is the gremlin on the wing of your script. You need to run around after it soldering the wires back together and getting the claw marks out of the ailerons.



God help you.

Nothing good comes out of changes made to the script during production.

Okay, so that’s a bit melodramatic; but it’s FUCKING TRUE!


Naively, I used to assume once you’ve written a script, you just hand it over and someone films it. I genuinely believed actors would just say the words whilst affixing the appropriate expression to their faces or directors would point the camera at everything in the script which needed to be on film, which is everything or it wouldn’t be in the fucking script in the last place.

But no.

Actors make up their own words or decide to be confused rather than happy. Directors, inexplicably, sometimes choose to film bits of wall instead of the actors because they think it reflects the brick-like nature of the tearful reunion scene.

Hurricanes spring up and wreck locations. Actors fall ill or pregnant or both or get sacked or all three. Directors who’ve bought themselves a career turn out not to have ANY FUCKING MONEY WHATSOEVER and certainly not the 70% of the budget they’d promised to stump up.

Basically, things go wrong and the writer is left to deal with it. If you’re lucky.

Or unlucky.

Frequently, whole chunks of script are omitted by incompetence or design without consulting the writer at all. This is akin to a hospital director wandering into an operating theatre and pulling out bits of someone’s brain because it’s his hospital and why the fuck not?

As I’ve said elsewhere the writer is the story expert, changing the story without consulting the expert is no different to moving the crash mat without consulting the stuntman – DON’T FUCKING DO IT!

Okay, it’s a lot different; but go with me, I’m on a roll.

Script changes during production is just fire fighting – you aren’t maintaining an even trajectory any more, you’re trying to control the descent and stop some fucknut from removing the bolts which hold the wings on.

No good ever comes out of changes made during production.

Okay, so that isn’t true. We can all site that bit in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy shoots the big sword-guy instead of fighting him because Harrison Ford had the shits.

You know why we can all site that exception?


Or rather, it happens now and then; but the times it makes the film better as a percentage of the total number of bad changes is as close to zero as makes no odds.

By the way, if you stay in hotels a lot, you should always carry an empty chocolate wrapper with you. If you ever accidentally shit the bed, simply lay the empty wrapper next to the offending mess and the maid will assume you’ve merely been eating chocolate in bed and go merrily on his or her way.*

Script changes during production are bad; but they happen. A lot.

So the high point of a script’s trajectory is often right at the end of development before the real world gets in the way. There are dozens of factors which can elevate a good script into a great film, such as great performances, great direction, great music, great editing, even great set design … but they can’t help a film which is being attacked at it’s  heart – the script.

Which is why I frequently offer development drafts of my scripts as writing samples – that was the high watermark, the apogee of the script’s trajectory. That’s the version I want people to read … once I’ve incorporated any cool bits of improvised dialogue or beneficial scene changes from the finished film.

So next time you see a film and wonder “Who wrote this shit?”, just remember – probably no-one did. Not intentionally at least. What you’re watching is possibly the flailing, last gasps of a script burning up on re-entry, knocked out of orbit by a combination of incompetence, misfortune and idiocy.


*This doesn’t work. For God’s sake, never do this. In fact, don’t shit the bed in hotels if at all possible.

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

Happy Me-day!

It’s Me-day!

Happy Me-day, everyone!

Take the day off! Have a public holiday all you hard working banks, for today is all about me.


Don’t believe me?

You fools! Why, take a look at this incontrovertible truth:



It’s kind of what it says really: out on DVD and BluRay today, a film loosely based on a script I re-wrote some bits of.

Okay, so technically there were other people involved in this, like Pat Higgins who had all the ideas and Jonathan Glendening who directed it and the cast who either sprouted hair or took their clothes off accordingly … but fuck them! This is Me-day, celebrate me!

Here, have trailer:



PERSONA is the world’s first daily drama-app made entirely for smartphones … and if you don’t already know that then you’re either missing out on three seasons worth of top-notch entertainment delivered directly to the palm of your hand for NOTHING … or you don’t have a smartphone.

Or you don’t care.

Either way, you’re missing out.

Season 4! Starts today, on Me-day!

Again, there were some other people involved. Rosie Claverton:


Martyn Deakin:


But more importantly, me!

And … um … there should be another trailer here. Not sure where that one is.

But never mind!

Watch PERSONA for free:



Watch Strippers vs. Werewolves for not-free:





Or better yet, do both and celebrate Me-day in style.

So go on, have a drink, be entertained (probably) and revel in the awesomeness (maybe) which is me (doubtful)!


Categories: Persona, Strippers vs. Werewolves | 3 Comments

Script format: how and WHY (title page)

Following on from the last insanely long post I thought I’d go through the hows and whys of script format in more detail, starting with the title page.

By the way, if you already know all of this then congratulations! You’ve done the absolute minimum research necessary to write your first script. Now all you’ve got to do is learn how to write, simple.

If, on the other hand, you’re learning this for the first time — congratulations! You’re doing the absolute minimum research necessary to … and so on.

So, the title page. What goes on a title page? What doesn’t? Why? And who cares?

Let’s start with:


Well, hopefully, you. This is your fucking career, show some interest in it. Let your script show you’re interested in your career before the first page.

So here’s the thing – your title page has no bearing on the rest of the script, it will never be seen by an audience and will barely be glanced at by anyone reading the script. A lot of people don’t even care what’s on there – they know it’s irrelevant, so why bother about formatting it?

Because there are a lot of formatting books out there and they all say it has to be done a certain way.

Worse than that, lots of readers and producers/agents/directors have read the same books and they believe it too. When you send a script out, you have no idea which camp the person reading it belongs to – do they care or don’t they?

The don’t cares will read your script anyway.

The do cares will probably still read your script, but they’ve already decided your script is rubbish and will be looking for the earliest opportunity to give up. So play it safe, do it properly and keep everyone happy.

Don’t believe real people care about this? Read this post by Doug Richardson

So …


You need one. Please put a title page on, don’t shove all this information on page one. The title goes on the title page – that’s why it’s called the title page. Page one is where the script starts.

If it’s a spec script, all that goes on a title page is:

  • by (or written by if you really feel the need)
  • Your Name
  • Contact details

And that’s it.


THE TITLE should be just that: the title. In a twelve-point courier font, centred. You can underline it, if you want. You can bold it if you really feel the need (although I do neither of these things – who knows what people get pissed off about?), but for fuck’s sake don’t use a fancy font or some custom artwork.


Because … were you in a band at school? Or did you know anyone in a band at school? Did you (or they) spend more time designing album covers, or logos, or planning funny stage performances than actually learning to play your/their fucking instruments?

I auditioned for a band which showed me all this artwork, down to the matching tattoos they were all going to get … but the lead guitarist didn’t actually have a fucking guitar! He couldn’t play! But he’d spent days and days designing his fifth album cover.

That’s what a logo, custom artwork or fancy font says about your script – you’re a teenager designing album covers instead of learning how to write. Is that the first impression you want to make?

The other thing is, designing the font/logo isn’t your job. It’s not going to end up on the poster or the publicity because people cleverer than you (or stupider – could go either way) are paid to do that in the event the script is good enough to make into a film. Whether the (spec) script is good or bad – a custom font/logo smacks of a desperate someone with too much time on their hands who doesn’t know where their job ends.

Some readers even get bent out of shape about any font bigger than 12 … so just don’t do it. It’s not worth pissing someone off over your need to draw attention to something everyone’s looking for anyway.

BY or WRITTEN BY? I prefer ‘by’ (in lower case) because ‘written by’ sometimes ends up longer than the title and just doesn’t separate it enough. Plus, the art of scriptwriting is saying the most with the least amount of words – using two instead of one on the front cover feels like you’re missing the point already.

YOUR NAME – no nicknames, no bold, no italics, no ‘THE GREAT’ in front of it. Just write your fucking name in Title Case – not UPPER CASE. Try not to look wacky (or fucking mental) or massively egotistic – the title goes in upper case, because that’s what they want to read at a glance. After they’ve read it, and hopefully enjoyed it, they’ll go back and look for your name.

Simple, clean, elegant.



Your Name

Although you’re centring all this, the margins should be an inch from the right and an inch and a half from the left. Why larger on the left? Because if the company stick a cover on, it tends to hide the first character on anything written on the left hand side. Not so important on the title page, but why alter the margins for one page?

At the bottom of the script, an inch from the bottom, to be exact, go your contact details. I’ve no idea whether these are supposed to go on the left or the right. I’ve seen both done and I’ve read formatting books which insist both are correct. Left seems more prevalent. Right looks nicer. Do whatever the hell you like.

Just make sure it’s in courier, twelve-point with no bold or italics or fancy curly bits.

I used to put my postal address on scripts … but now I don’t bother. I mean, why? Who’s going to write me a letter? Plus, some people are biased against working with anyone they can’t meet with face to face. A lot of people in London don’t really believe there’s a world beyond the M25, at least one not inhabited by freaks and monsters – so just leave your address off. Phone number, email address – that’s enough. If they’re desperate to write you a cheque, they’ll ask for your address.

Actually, a quick aside about email addresses: for fuck’s sake use one which makes you look professional. Buy a domain in your proper name and use that. If you can’t afford that few pounds a year, get one which is or or something recognisable.

For fuck’s sake don’t use an email address which is or Apart from looking stupid, they’re hard to find.

“I’ll just email Dave Dibble about a script I want him to write. What was his address again? I’ll just start typing his name and auto-complete will find it … D.A.V.E. … no, nothing. Okay, I’ll try D.A.V.I.D. … no, nothing there. Fuck it, I’ll give the job to someone else.”

Make life easy for everyone, get a sensible email address with your name in it. John August had similar things to say about this here:


Copyright symbols. Don’t put them on. Ever. You know why? Do you know what the copyright symbol means?


It suggests you’re the kind of writer who’s going to sue anyone who reads your zombie script and makes a different zombie film in the future. Seriously, don’t do it, you look crazy.

And that’s just the symbol. If you write anything like:

This script is copyrighted by me and registered with lots of lawyers and if you use even one word of this in any other production then I’ll sue you. And it’s confidential! Don’t go telling anyone or you’re in breach of the agreement you agreed to merely by looking at this page.

You might as well just write:

Please put this in the bin, I’m a litigious fucking loon.

Don’t include a list of people who read the script. Or liked the script. Or ‘helped out’ with the script. What the fuck does ‘helped out’ mean?  Is there a law suit in that future?

If it’s a spec script, don’t put a draft number or a date on the front. The spec script is draft one. Even if it’s draft fifty. Label your own versions however you like, but the draft you send out – no draft numbers.

If it says (Draft 1) you’re saying you haven’t put enough effort in to writing it.

If it says (Draft 50) then you’re saying you’ve spent waaaay too much time fiddling with this and are probably incapable of making changes quickly and to order.

No draft numbers.

Dates tell people how old a script is. They want to think it’s brand new, they’re the first person you thought of and  they’re about to discover something/someone wonderful.

If the date says 12/4/2008 then it tells them the script is out of date, not good enough to be snapped up straight away and has probably already been rejected by everyone in the industry … before being sent to them, the last resort.

If the date is today’s date, it looks like you’ve finished the script and sent it without polishing it.

Leave them off, leave the title page looking clean, crisp and inviting.

In fact, put nothing on the title page beyond:



Your Name

07xxx xxxxxx

It’s really not that difficult.

Okay, so you can put on ‘based on’ credits if you’ve based it on something real; but not ‘based on an idea by my mate’ because … who fucking cares?  You’re better off crediting that person as ‘Story by …’; but in general try to keep it all as empty as you can.

This is all for film specs, by the way. If it’s a commission or a TV script then the rules are all different. Not that they’re really rules, just reasons why title pages can cause a bad impression and make people assume the script is shit. Personally, I’d rather people found that out by reading the script, not pre-judging it on the title page alone … but hey, that’s probably just me.

Next time (if there is a next time, because my initial righteous rage is running on fumes and I’m already boring myself) SLUG LINES.


Categories: Industry Musings, Someone Else's Way | 8 Comments

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