Monthly Archives: June 2012

How’s the writing going?

Blimey, it’s been ages since the last post.

Well, not ages.

Not like two Ice Ages and a Bronze Age; but very probably somewhere around a month, which is like half an Ice Age in Internet terms.

So how are you? Are you good? Syphilis cleared up? How’s your hubby? Dead? Oh, I am sorry. Oh, you murdered him … I have no idea how to react to that. Well done?

How’s the writing going?

Now, I don’t know about you; but I fucking hate that question. It’s not really a question writers ask other writers. Writers tend to ask something more along the lines of “What are you working on at the moment?” because at least you can answer that one honestly and succinctly. “How’s the writing going?” tends to be asked by non-writers. Beyond a generic, conversation stopping ‘good’, how are you supposed to answer it?

Actually, in all probability, all the person asking the question wants to hear is ‘good’ so they can tick that box. They’ve successfully remembered a tiny detail about your life, have integrated it into the conversation so they look like they care about you and now they want to move on to talking about themselves. It’s like when someone you vaguely know asks how you are – they don’t want to get into a long conversation about the death of Auntie Edna and how it’s affected your depression. The correct response is supposed to be: “Good, yeah. How are you?”

But that’s beside the point. I am a borderline sociopath with scant regard for human convention and a crushing need to be brutally honest in all aspects of life (apart from the bits where I lie habitually). If someone asks me how my writing’s going, I want to give them an honest answer … but I can’t. Because I don’t know.

I mean, here’s my year so far:

 

I’ve had two films released both theatrically and on DVD.

That sounds good right? That sounds extremely good. In fact, in scriptwriting terms, that’s fucking amazing … but to non-writers, that sounds about normal. Well, normal depending on how they view your ability. If they think you’re a loser who only fantasises about being a writer, then it confuses and amazes them:

What, like real films with actors in proper cinemas?

Yes. Real films, with actors you’ve heard of in an actual, proper cinema with walls and popcorn and mystery-meat hotdogs and everything.

Oooooooooh! You’re not just a lying bastard after all!

If, on the other hand, they think you’re a serious, highly-paid professional (which I rarely get mistaken for) then it probably sounds a bit shit.

Obviously, the truth is (some ludicrously high)% of “scriptwriters” never finish a script; (a similarly ludicrously  high)% of scriptwriters never sell a script; (a further ludicrously high)% of sold scripts never get turned into films and (a really ridiculously ludicrous)% of scriptwriters who accomplish all three of these things never, ever work again.

I’ve had nine feature films produced now. In industry terms that’s both surprising and fucking amazing. The fact the resulting films (or at least the ones released so far) are utter shit is completely beside the point. Climbing Everest is always an achievement, no matter how badly you fall off the other side.

So, you know, two films out theatrically and on DVD in one year is awesome … but they are shit. I mean, absolute dross.

Actually, let’s be fair here – one is an appalling pile of sloppy elephant turds, the other I can’t bring myself to watch.

So is that good or bad?

 

I’ve been offered four other feature films so far this year

I have no idea if that’s good or bad. How many feature films do you get asked to write in six months? Am I on the motorway or the cattle track of the scriptwriting world? I just don’t know.

I turned them all down. Is that good? Or is that really, really fucking stupid?

 

I’ve overseen the writing of four seasons of PERSONA

PERSONA, if you didn’t know, is a daily smartphone drama series. You can download the app from the App Store or Google Play and watch three minutes a day of top notch drama in the palm of your hand for absolutely nothing.

I’ve been involved in six seasons of PERSONA so far, four this year. I can honestly say it’s the most consistently good project I’ve been involved with. So that’s good, right?

On the other hand, I’ve fucking hated almost every minute of it.

So, um, that’s bad, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not hated the show or the producers or directors or even (most) of the writers; but I’ve hated my role and the amount of time it’s taken up. I’ll probably blog about that in more detail one day.

 

Out of the blue, I got asked to submit sketches to a BBC show

That’s definitely good.

Probably.

Actually, I suspect my name was on an old mailing list and it’s a mistake. Oh, and either the show was never made or my sketches weren’t used. Either of which tilts it back towards the bad axis.

Or does it? I don’t know. It’s nice to be asked, TV has a similarly ludicrously high percentage of ‘going nowhere’ – it’s the norm, so it’s probably good no matter what the outcome.

Probably.

 

I’ve got two more feature films on the go

This is definitely good.

Definitely.

Although, PERSONA, sketches, life, marriage, fatherhood and exploding engines have all got in the way of these two, with the result being … well, there’s no result. Not yet. There have been far too many distractions to give them my full attention; but all the writing-based ones have been resolved now and it’s full steam ahead.

Probably.

Maybe half-steam sideways?

 

There’s a phone game being developed as a companion to a script I wrote

This is good. This is exciting. This … has absolutely nothing to do with me. I mean, it’s all progress, right? Just nothing I’m actively involved with, so … is that good?

 

There’s a webshow being filmed as a companion piece to a script I wrote

This too is good. This too has very little involvement from me. Although, I think not being heavily involved is a good thing because it doesn’t distract from the stuff I’m supposed to be doing.

 

And … um …

No, that’s probably it. I think I’ve forgotten something, but it’s beside the point. The point is: I have no idea how the writing is going, so how am I supposed to give an honest answer to people who don’t actually want one?

It’s a conundrum I’ll never solve to a question which prompts a confused sigh and a feeling of intense hatred. So do me a favour, ask me a different question.

Preferably one on Sci-Fi.

Categories: BBC, Career Path, My Way, Progress, Random Witterings, Writing and life | 8 Comments

Misstep

About five years back I was hired to rewrite a script which just didn’t work. It had been through several writers and no one could make it work, so I was brought in to save the day.

But I couldn’t.

It just didn’t seem to work, no matter what I (or anyone else) did or suggested. The only thing anyone could agree on was that the first scene was awesome.

And that’s when the director made a suggestion – maybe the problem was the first scene?

The first scene was brilliant and funny and got the film started with a bang … but, annoyingly, the director was right – it was the problem; because the protagonist was stupid and didn’t really know what he’d done and wasn’t really invested in the rest of the story. Changing just the motivation of the protagonist in that one scene made the rest of the script fall into line.

I learnt a vitally important lesson that day about how a small change at the beginning of a script can knock the rest out of kilter. A bit like in navigation, half a degree of difference can send you in completely the wrong direction and leave you miles off course.

In an ideal world I’d have taken that lesson to heart and never made that mistake again.

But I didn’t, and I just did.

I’m rewriting a script and have changed the opening sequence. Now, A no longer connects with B and I’ve had to add in five extra pages to get A and B to join up … but it’s not quite right. I think I’d need to add another two or three pages to make it work properly, which is just dragging the beginning on far too long …

Overnight, I’ve realised, the answer isn’t more, it’s less. If I end A slightly earlier, then it matches perfectly with B without adding anything else. There’s one scene at the end of the opening sequence which sets me off in the wrong direction and necessitates a lot of tap-dancing to get the script back on track.

It’s a misstep, a single step in the wrong direction which means the end is no longer in sight.

The only logical course of action is to retrace my steps and set off again in the right direction. That means the five pages I wrote yesterday have to be binned, but that’s just writing. It happens.

Luckily, I really enjoy this side of the process – the problem solving. The opportunity to shelve the creative part of the brain and engage the critical faculties. I like being able to stop thinking like an artist, in terms of beauty and truth and flow, and start thinking like a scientist – does that bit fit onto that bit?

 

If not, why not?

Do I need it?

Would it work better without it?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many good lines there are in a scene or how much me, the writer, enjoys these particular moments … if they aren’t motion towards the goal, if they don’t help (or actually hinder) the story … then they’re a misstep and they need to be corrected.

Easier said than done, mind. That’s the problem with missteps – you don’t know which of the thousand steps you’ve taken is the one which led you up the bind alley.

Or at least, I don’t.

You may have a special misstep detector gland. You may never put a foot wrong and skip gaily from FADE IN to FADE OUT with nary a toe out of place.

I tend to blunder around, fucking up all over the place. Still, it all comes good in the end.

Sometimes.

Categories: Someone Else's Way, Things I've Learnt Recently | 5 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.