Monthly Archives: January 2013

The HMV high

bixrec104hmv

On the day it was announced HMV was going into administration, producer Jonathan Sothcott posted this on his Facebook page (reprinted here with his permission, don’t go copying and pasting it willy nilly now):

524694_227574980676343_1530184419_nAdministration doesn’t mean closure but today’s news about HMV appointing administrators makes it a dark day for the UK film industry. With 90% of physical sales made at supermarkets, HMV was the last bastion of the niche title after the fall of Virgin, Zavvi, MVC, Choices, Tower Records etc. With the supermarkets (understandably) focussing on big budget studio product and uber-commercial top 20 material it means there is nowhere left to buy independent films that don’t make the cut. As a producer, I’m fortunate that my films generally get picked up by the supermarkets. As someone who loves DVDs, I’m gutted that my choices have been so limited.

As a teenager I caught up on more cult movies in the Brighton and Croydon branches of HMV than anywhere else. I know there wasn’t an internet then so the concept of ‘rare films’ made collecting videos more exciting but it was an experience that generations to come are unlikely to have. On Christmas Eve I queued for over an hour in HMV in Croydon buying Christmas presents and it gave me a renewed hope that the rumours were not true and that HMV might live to fight another day.

Alas it was not to be. There’s a lot of silly talk about downloads replacing physical formats and how you have to ‘face up’ to it – scant comfort for the 4,300 people facing unemployment. Download might be on the horizon but I promise you it isn’t here yet. No HMV will push piracy rates up and it will be the illegal downloads that skyrocket.

Sad, sad news.

And it got me thinking.

It got me thinking about how much I enjoy the act of buying something physical, of walking into a shop with cash and walking out with a product I have to wait until I get home to watch.

It got me thinking about what it will mean for low-budget film-makers in the UK and how (apart from a select few who “qualify” for supermarket sales) HMV is the only outlet where people can buy their films; but most of all it got me thinking about how exciting it is to see your own DVD for sale in a shop.

evolved-dvd.jpg

Now, I don’t know if that means anything to you. Mainly because I don’t know who you are.

You may not think seeing a DVD of a film you’ve had a hand in creating on an actual shelf in an actual shop is particularly exciting. Maybe you’ve had so many DVDs released you no longer care? Maybe you’re far too cool to get excited about such trivial things? Maybe you’ve never made any contribution to a film, script or otherwise, and just don’t see what the fuss is about?

Me? I fucking love it.

Regardless of the quality of the film itself, I find something electrifying about seeing my work in a shop. Being able to buy it in public is part of it; but a greater thrill is anyone else can buy it too!

They might buy it in front of me!

They might even tell their mate what they’ve heard about the film. Good or bad, doesn’t matter – it would be an unfiltered opinion!

Okay, so you could argue that the internet is full of unfiltered opinions; but you could equally argue most internet opinions are written using the ‘cunt’ filter. (Yes, including the ones expressed here.)

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Even better than that, maybe the guy behind the counter will make some comment on my purchase? Maybe he’ll tell me I’m wasting my money and should buy Football Fuck Ups Vol 18 instead? Maybe he’ll look me in the eye, recognise I’m in some way connected to the making of this DVD and acknowledge me with a knowing nod of the head?

None of these things have ever happened,  by the way; but they could! One day, they might, who knows?

Okay, they probably won’t; but buying your own DVD in an actual shop is so exciting (to me) that it overrides all reason.

First time I saw a DVD of my work on sale was The Evolved. Annoyingly, I bought it before I’d thought of taking a pic.  I had to go back into the shop (or store, for t’was in America) and ask the clerk if I could put it back on the shelf and take a photo of it (lest he saw me taking it off again afterwards and accused me of stealing).

Surely this would be the moment where he recognised my greatness!

 

2012-01-31 14.59.03

No. He just said “Yeah, whatever. Do what you like.” and strolled off to be impossibly cool somewhere else while I giggled insanely and snapped the photo above.

Not immediately above, higher than that.

Not that one, the one above that.

Go back and look at it! Between The Exorcist and The Evil Dead! How fucking cool is that?

The photos are in chronological order, by the way. I suppose I should move them around so that one is next to this sentence; but I just can’t be fucking bothered.

Oh, I’ve just remembered! I got so excited about seeing The Evolved in store that next time I passed an FYE, some months later, I went in and bought it again. Yes, I am the guy who bought all the physical copies ever sold! Both of them, that was me!

The guy in that shop did pass comment on the DVD, he looked at the cover, looked up at me and said …

“Holy shit! What the fuck is that?”

2012-07-13 14.54.12

 

I love seeing my work on shop shelves and I love buying them with my own cash … and it saddens me that generations of film-makers to come may not have that opportunity.

If HMV goes (as it probably will) then only those who make the kind of movies supermarkets want to sell will get to experience that buzz; and supermarkets are notoriously fickle about what they will and won’t stock.

Yes the death of HMV would have wider implications for the UK film industry (this article in The Guardian highlights most of them); but from a purely selfish level, I need that small victory at the end of the process.

Writing a film is fucking hard. Dealing with the development process is even fucking harder. Watching the final product emerge as an absolute fucking mess is just soul destroying; but being able to walk into a shop and buy a copy of the DVD, no matter how atrocious its contents … it’s a high I genuinely hope those who’ve never experienced it get to love one day.

But realistically, no HMV means you probably won’t.

You can’t see this, but I’m now doing my sad face.

HMV history in pics

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Categories: Industry Musings, Just for the Record, My Way, Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Stalker, Strippers vs. Werewolves, The Evolved | 1 Comment

Jealousy redux

jealousy

Did you read this excellent blog post by Debbie Moon?

If not, you should. Go on, go have a read, we’ll wait …

… while they’re off reading the post, have you noticed how much more attractive they are recently? I mean, I don’t know what it is, whether they’ve lost weight or done something with their hair, but … wow! I’m a quivering rod of sex-citement when they’re in the–

Shh! They’re coming back, act natural!

… Read it? Cool. Good post, isn’t it?

No, no I always stand like this.

Hiding a Boner

Anyway, my favourite bit about that post is point three. Writers do tend to get inordinately jealous and dispirited by other writers’ success.

This is silly.

Really.

I’ve blogged about this before: https://phillbarron.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/jealousy/ ; but it’s worth repeating because … well, it’s probably not worth repeating. To be honest, I’d forgotten I’d written that and only worked it out after I’d written this and WordPress pointed out I was repeating myself. However, let’s not dwell on that. Let’s pretend this repetition was intentional from the start and that I pay as much attention to what I write as you do.

So … yes, it’s silly.

Yes, there are a finite number of jobs – considerably less than there are writers; but it’s very rare that someone else get exactly the thing you want.

Well, okay, that depends on what you want. If you want to write for a specific TV show, then every writer who does is doing the job you want. Similarly, if you want to adapt a specific book then you’re shit out of luck too.

shitoutofluck

But apart from that (and some other stuff I haven’t thought about), particularly in the movie industry, someone else’s success is completely irrelevant to you.

Or at least, is far from detrimental. It’s certainly not worth being jealous about.

If you know this person, then you should be pleased for them. Their success is a good thing for several reasons:

1) It makes them happy and happy people are nice to be around. Happy people make me happy.

2) Having successful industry connections is never a bad thing.

Let’s say you’re a writer who’s best mates with Steven Moffat – that would be a good connection to have, wouldn’t it? It may not guarantee you a job on Doctor Who; but it means you at least have access, and that’s half the battle. There would have been a time when he was just starting out and only one step ahead of someone with no credits – getting all upset about that just taints a possible future connection. You don’t know which of your connections will be important/influential in the future, so why not just be nice to/happy for everyone? It’s self-defeating to be otherwise, as well as being cuntish.

cunt

3) The other person’s success is probably not what you think it is.

This is particularly true in the UK film industry. A writer you know has been hired to write a film script for an actual production company!

Oh my God, that guy’s so much more successful than me!

Erm … yeah … possibly not.

In the UK, most films are independent. Only a very small minority of films have any kind of development budget. Most of these films pay either a pittance or nothing for the script until the first day of principle photography.

Okay, so he’s writing a script for an actual production company … but that company might just be one guy with no money who’s printed up some business cards.

A producer

Yes it’s nice to be writing for someone as opposed to chucking stuff into the spec void (which, by the way, is a stupid way to think about it – target your writing to an audience, be that a producer or an agent or an actor or whoever … don’t just write stuff you have no clue who would want to read it unless you’re just starting out and need the practice) but it doesn’t mean there’ll be either a film or some money at the end of it.

Even if a writer you know has a script in development with a major TV company … doesn’t really mean anything. Someone who works for that company might have read the script and said “Yeah, it’s alright … would be better if all the characters were animated teapots though.”

The writer goes off to make the (unpaid) changes with no contract in place and tells everyone they’re developing something with Bumfuck TV.

Writers make shit up. We exaggerate. We find the drama in the situation and expand on it. That’s what we do. Fuck, that’s what everyone does. A guy who gets beaten up by two men will say he was beaten up by three men the next day and by eight the next week … humans tell stories, particularly if the stories make us seem more successful or less stupid.

stories

Writers aren’t wrong to fudge the truth to make themselves seem more successful – it’s absolutely the right thing to do. We absolutely should be celebrating every success, no matter how minor, because the job is mainly a race with no finish line.

Writing is just a series of hurdles, for everyone, no matter how successful they are or aren’t. The job is primarily to see how many hurdles you can jump over before the race gets cancelled and the project falls apart … at which point, you go back to the beginning and start again.

Yes it’s frustrating, yes it’s largely a waste of time and effort … but that is what the job is: a hurdles race against yourself where there may or may not be a finish line.

Getting bent out of shape because someone else has jumped over one more hurdle than you is silly. They’ll probably fall at the next one. If they don’t, that’s a good thing.

Even if you know for an absolute fact (which is impossible) that you’re a better writer than that guy … so what? If you’re better and that guy can do it, so can you.

500full

Writing is about who you know, there’s no denying that … but you can easily get to know people with a little effort. Beyond that it’s just about being good at the job.

EVERY aspect of the job.

Be a good writer, be nice, be helpful, be a team player, be supportive, be visible, be the kind of person people want to spend time with … and you too could find yourself being “hired” to write a script with no hope in hell of being produced.

Personally, I want all my friends and acquaintances to succeed. I want them to have rich and varied careers which take them to unprecedented heights … because I like them and because, whereas it may not help me directly, it certainly can’t fucking hurt.

If someone’s doing better than you, ask them what they did and copy it. Be motivated by other people’s success, not envious.

Jealousy … you just don’t need it.

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Categories: Random Witterings, Someone Else's Way, Writing and life | 6 Comments

Gill Dennis screenwriting workshop

I was sent this email yesterday, thought you might find it useful/interesting …

SCREENWRITING WORKSHOP MAY/JUNE 2013

Gill DennisThis is a unique opportunity for UK writers to work with an inspirational writer and practitioner. Gill Dennis is Master Filmmaker in Residence at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, and co-writer of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line (2005). He will be running a two-part workshop for eight writers (working in two smaller groups).

This course is suitable for screenwriters working on a feature or short film script, as well as novelists and/or short story writers who want to adapt their own work for the screen.

There will be two workshop meetings for each group of four writers, plus a one-hour individual meeting with Gill for each writer.

Gill will read all the scripts in advance. Participants will be asked to read and discuss the work of three other writers.

The first meeting will be on Saturday 18 May. Group 1: 10.30am -1.30pm, Group 2: 2.30 – 5.30.

On Sunday 19th and Monday 20th Gill will meet each writer for a one-to-one meeting to set objectives for rewrites.

The two groups will meet with Gill again on Saturday 1 June (same times) to discuss the resulting revisions and changes.

Walk the Line

BIO:

GILL DENNIS’s screenwriting credits include the Oscar-nominated film WALK THE LINE (2005); RETURN TO OZ (with Walter Murch, 1985); RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (TNT, 1996); and an original mini-series, HOME FIRES, named as one of the top ten television events of 1987 by Time Magazine. He also worked on scripts such as THE BLACK STALLION, APOCALYPSE NOW and POLLOCK.

His current projects include FOREVER with director Tatia Pilieva, now in post-production; SPANISH BLOOD with Aza Jacob, starring Jennifer Lopez and John Hawkes, which will be shot in the Spring; and an adaptation of Joe Sacco’s FOOTNOTES FROM GAZA for the director Denis Villeneuve (INCENDIES).

As Master Filmmaker in Residence at the American Film Institute, Gill has mentored many of the new generation of American filmmakers, including Jonathan Levine (THE WACKNESS), Jacob Estes (MEAN CREEK), Goran Dukic (WRISTCUTTERS), and Aza Jacobs, whose feature TERRI screened at last year’s London Film Festival.

Gill Dennis won the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for Distinguished Direction in Theatre, and has taught screenwriting workshops in Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, and Australia.

Return to Oz

APPLICATION PROCESS:

If you’d like to take part in this workshop please send a short writing sample together with a covering letter telling us something about you and your writing and the screenplay you are developing. No attachments. Paste text in the body of your message and email to this address: londonwritingworkshops@gmail.com

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. If you are accepted, you will be asked to pay a deposit to secure the place, and to send in a full draft of your screenplay by mid to late April 2013. The balance of the course fee will be payable before the start of the course.

DEADLINE: applications before 31st March.

WORKSHOP FEE: £350

” Gill Dennis is a man who ‘knows that the way to learn is to listen, and to ask the questions that will find the heart of the subject. He’s an expert communicator, which serves him both as a teacher and writer.” – from the publicity for Gill Dennis’s masterclass at the 2011 Galway Film Fleadh

There’s more info on the Facebook page here.

Categories: Someone Else's Way | Leave a comment

January!

New Year's Eve celebrations, London, Britain - 31 Dec 2012

Hooray, it’s January!

2013! A New Year, not like that shitty old one we’ve just abandoned. I mean, sure, it seemed like a lovely shiny year 12 months ago; but frankly I think it hung around just a few weeks too long.

But it’s gone now. Slunk off into the night like a cat who’s shit on your sofa, buried it in cushions and would rather not be around when you wake up.

A New Year; but more importantly, a new January.

I love January, me.

I know it’s not to everyone’s taste. I know some people are broke after Christmas or feeling fat because they ate their entire family’s bodyweight in Quality Street or depressed because it’s a bit gloomy outside …

2013-01-08 15.54.55

And that’s fine. You’re not wrong to feel those things, you have my gracious permission to continue to feel them.

Me, I love this time of year because this is the time of year EVERYONE decides they’re going to change their lives.

New Year, new me.

Or new them.

A new me (them) means making that film or TV show or web show or thought projected psy-porn a reality.

This is the year they’re going to achieve something, this is the year their career is going to erupt in a blaze of awesomeness.

They’re going to make it happen. They’re going to make a difference. They’re going to make manifest their dreams.

Why do I love this?

Well, for one I love it when people are happy and motivated. Even if I don’t really know them that well, I just like to hear that people are trying their hardest and enjoying the process.

SHEILA HANCOCK HAPPINESS PATROL

More than that though, I love it when people get all fired up because a small portion of them try to hire me.

As a writer for hire, people trying to hire me is a good thing.

January is traditionally the month when my inbox melts down (or merely gets a bit warm) and my phone actually rings (an event so rare I get confused by the noise – I don’t really use my phone for making phone calls any more).

Zombie projects lurch back into life (because THIS is the year), new projects get under way and people get in touch just in case I’ve got something pre-written they can use.

I haven’t, by the way. Or rather, I have; but I don’t like any of them, so you can’t have them.

In the past I’ve said yes to everything I’ve been offered … taken on too much, ended up disappointing at least one or two of them and having a bit of a fizzy meltdown somewhere around July.

Stress

The plan this year is not to do that. The plan this year is to be a little more selective and try to maintain at least a tenuous grasp on my sanity.

So hooray for January! Hooray for new projects and new ideas! Hooray for getting your dreams off the ground!

Later we’ll fail, but let’s not think on tomorrow. For now let’s all be productive, enthusiastic and a bit spendy in my general direction.

Happy January!

Categories: Random Witterings | 1 Comment

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