Monthly Archives: June 2013

Man of Steel – 3 things I try not to put in a script

WARNING THERE WILL PROBABLY BE SPOILERS HERE

NOT IN A “HA HA! LOIS LANE IS REALLY A MAN!” KIND OF WAY, BUT MORE IN

A”YOU’LL BE LOOKING FOR NIGGLY LITTLE THINGS ALL THROUGH THE FILM”

KIND OF WAY

IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN MAN OF STEEL YET, DON’T READ ANY FURTHER

I’M FUCKING SERIOUS

So, Man of Steel – is it any good?

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Neeeeeyarrrrrrgghhh …

No. And yes.

I enjoyed it.

Most of it.

Except for the bits I didn’t, the bits I had to shut my mind to. And the bits which didn’t really work. And most of the CGI which, to me, looked fairly poor.

But apart from that – Henry Cavill is awesome. He’s exactly how I want Superman to be. Amy Adams is awesome. Russell Crowe kicks arse, which is nice, Kevin Costner is just wonderful (fuck it, the whole cast are amazing) and the costume and set design are exquisitely lovely.

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Ultimately, I enjoyed the film … but I had to work really fucking hard in order to do so. I think I brought in so much good will and desperate desire for it to be good that I forgave all the bad bits.

And there were a lot of them.

The CGI thing is funny: Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness both had sequences where everything on screen was CGI – but I never really noticed whilst watching.

Man of Steel kept kicking me out of the reality of the film – my brain kept telling me none of it looked real. Don’t know if that’s down to the quality of the CGI or because we can’t do people properly yet. Even those breathing masks annoyed the piss out of me – I felt I was constantly trying to look past them to see the actors. As if someone had just scribbled all over the negative.

Not sure if that’s just me though.

All I know is I spent a large portion of the film arguing with myself to just shut the fuck up and go with it. Same with bits of plot, characters and motivations.

But let’s not get into that. Today I just want to talk about three things I noticed which I try really fucking hard to avoid in scripts.

I often fail, mind.

Or at least, I fail in the first draft and someone reminds me how shit they are so they can be removed for the second draft.

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This isn’t a criticism of the script or David Goyer, by the way – I haven’t read his script so have no idea if these were his things or director/producer mandated or just happened that way in the edit. I’m not pointing fingers or assigning blame, just wanted to use the film as an example for discussion.

So, first up:

1. DULL DUAL-TIME TRANSITION

I like telling stories in multiple time periods, flashing forward and back between now and then or today and tomorrow. I just love it.

It’s fucking hard to do, but I love films which get it right. The Escapist is one I’ve seen recently which does it really well – a superb film if you get the chance to see it.

If you don’t get the chance, make your own luck. It’s worth it.

The thing about dual time periods is both time periods have to be interesting. Ideally, when I transition from one to the other, I want the audience to be torn – I want them to be annoyed because they’re desperate to find out what happens next in this time period, but excited because they desperately want to know what’s going on in the other one.

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Both stories have to be compelling. The best way to maintain this, I think, is to leave each story at an unresolved story point. The sniper’s crosshairs are on the hero’s head, the sniper’s finger tightens on the trigger … BANG! The bullet streaks towards the hero …

… and we’re in the past.

Did the bullet hit?

A question.

One which (hopefully) will make you want to stick around to find out the answer. To me, the rule is: always leave on a question.

Man of Steel has that wonderful transition where Clark sees a bus … and remembers he once sat on a bus.

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Um … right.

So we’re leaving the story at the heart-stopping moment of … a man sees a bus. Which, even then wouldn’t be that bad, if there were some relevance to the bus in the present day story.

But there isn’t. There isn’t even really any story in the present day yet – Clark is just meandering around being a bit of a loner.

The entire sequence between two bits of past backstory is: Clark steals some clothes. He sees a bus.

Is that interesting?

If that sequence were cut out of the film and we just stayed in the past, would we be missing any information?

Well, yes, we’d be missing the fact that Clark has to steal clothes; but if we saw him wearing new clothes, we’d assume he’d bought them. Or not even think about it. Given I think the point of that scene is to show why he needs a super-suit – is the stealing important? It seems a bit … un-Superman. Not sure it really adds anything.

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As for his ability to see buses. Yeah … probably could have taken that for read.

Okay, so technically it does leave on a question – “Why’s he a bit mooney-eyed about that bus?” But even if you accept that as an interesting question, it’s answered in the other time period – so there’s no desire to come back to the present. There’s no continuing story we’re missing out on and eager to catch up on.

I find these sort of things in my scripts all the time – and hack the fuckers out. My aim is to always transition from one time period to the other at a moment of excitement or tension or … something other than seeing something.

Or seeing something mundane, anyway.

Transitioning as the hero sees a werewolf leaping out of a birthday cake wearing his best friend’s lungs maybe a bit more exciting.

Maybe.

2. TELLING A CHARACTER SOMETHING THE AUDIENCE ALREADY KNOW

That sequence where Jor-El explains the fall of Krypton and General Zod’s role in the final days is heart-achingly beautiful. Really. I fucking love the animation in that scene. Fucking awesome.

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Not so fucking awesome is the fact we already knew 90% of that information and I’d already assumed the other 10%.

I really fight with myself not to have a character explaining something we’ve already seen/already know to another character. It’s just … boring.

Take Margin Call, for instance:

Spock sees something I don’t understand on a monitor screen so he tells his bosses. They freak out … and immediately explain the same thing to Kevin Spacey. He freaks out and immediately explains the same thing to his bosses. They freak out and immediately explain the same thing to Jeremy Irons.

This takes about an hour.

It’s exceptionally tedious.

Oh … and I’ve just realised, that’s a SPOILER FOR MARGIN CALL.

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Sorry. It’s a tedious film anyway, you’re not losing out.

Seriously, the same thing gets explained four times, in slightly different, but equally incomprehensible ways.

Coming out of that film, I fully understood why the banking crisis happened – it’s because bankers are fucking idiots who need things repeatedly explaining to them in very small words “as if they were a Labrador”.

Again, I try really hard not to have characters explaining the plot to other characters.

I try not to do it generally; but I really try not to do it when the audience already know what’s going on. It’s dull and repetitive and rarely makes it past the first draft.

To be honest, it rarely gets put into a first draft.

3. STORY DROP

A story drop is possibly a term I made up; but more likely stolen from someone else.

Essentially, it’s the point in a story where there are no more obstacles and every question has been answered.

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The odd thing about Man of Steel is it’s two stories stuck together.

Sort of.

The first one is: Clark isn’t sure who he is or why he’s been sent to Earth. Jor-El explains all that to him. Clark becomes Superman, end of story. All of the questions have been answered – Clark knows who he is, where he’s from and why he’s here.

Hmm … but there’s over an hour to go!

Ah ha! Here comes story number two: Zod’s turned up, which, okay we knew he was coming so it’s kind of not that bad of a story-drop.

Zod wants Kal-El or he’ll kill the world!

Lordy, lordy, what on Earth will Clark … oh, okay. He’s surrendered.

Right.

Well, I suppose it’s the logical, brave thing to do because … there’s no reason not to.

Apart from cowardice, which isn’t really a super-power.

So Clark surrenders, the bad guy wins and will just go away. I guess.

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So is that the end?

Are we stopping now?

Bit of an odd place to stop; but since there’s no more story I guess that’s it. Shall I just get my coat ready and find my keys? I know I dropped them here somewhere.

Yes, I know Zod’s a baddie so will do something bad and the story will start again … but that’s the point – it has to start again.

Right now, the story has finished (again) because there are no more obstacles.

It kind of reminds me of a scene I’ve always wanted to write but never found a place for: the hero is tied to a table and the villains are going to torture him.

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“Join us or die!” they say.

“Okay.” says he.

“Okay what?”

“Okay, I’ll join you. Just untie me and we can go fuck up some kittens or something.”

“Um … hang on. My Evil GCSE didn’t really cover this. Are you sure you want to join us?”

“Yup. If the alternative is death, then sign me right fucking up.”

And so on …

I think there should be a reason why the goody can’t just give the baddie what he wants. (And possibly a reason why I spell goody with a ‘y’ and baddie with an ‘ie’.) And that reason has to be apparent before the goody gets offered the choice. We have to know exactly why giving the baddie what he wants isn’t the best action to take … or it just seems like an obvious, if a bit sad, way to end a film.

If Leia had just handed over the Death Star plans to Vader … it might have felt like a good place to end the film.

Okay, so she might have a copy or they might be fake plans … but it would take a while to feel dramatic again, instead of feeling like there were no more obstacles to overcome.

I try to avoid this sort of thing too.

So there you go: tension-less transitions, secondary exposition and finishing the story in the middle of the film – three things I try not to do in scripts.

Feel free to tell me what you liked or disliked about the film, but please try not to slag off any of the people involved – you weren’t there, so please don’t go pointing fingers!

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Categories: My Way, Someone Else's Way | 7 Comments

Free stuff!

free-stuff1

Some free stuff! Free! It’s all free!

Unless you actually want to pay for it, which you can.

First up:

RULE  ZERO by LAURENCE TIMMS

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So I read an earlier version of this book and really liked it. Laurence has a wonderful writing style which, to me, falls squarely into the Douglas Adams/Terry Pratchett/Jasper Fforde camp – which is a fucking great camp to be in. That’s not to say the story is derivative, because it’s not; it’s totally original and very entertaining. If anyone told me my writing reminded them of any one of those writers (let alone all three), I’d be over the fucking moon.

As well as suspicious, they’d plainly be trying to sell me something.

Which Laurence isn’t.

You can download a copy of the book for FREE from its own website here or Smashwords here.

But fuck it, why download it for free when you can actually pay a tiny sum to help support the guy who wrote it?

harlan3

Go on, be nice – buy it from Amazon here.

Here’s a synopsis to whet your appetite:

Harry Bacon, former head of psychic investigations for the Ministry of Defence, veteran of countless paranormal encounters, is about to do the unthinkable: retire. Then an unexpected message leads him into what could become his greatest – and strangest – case yet, a case whose foundations are inextricably linked to his own past.

Rule Zero is a darkly comic fantasy thriller packed with psychic spies, prescient journalists, contact clairvoyants, repressed supermen, a lethal cocktail waitress and a roving troupe of ape-like security guards.

Britain will never be the same again.

Which leads me onto the second FREE offering, this time from Claire Bott, who, unlike Laurence, I’ve never actually met but she was very polite when she contacted me and I’m a sucker for politeness.

As well as for kittens and large sums of money stuffed into my pants.

cat pants

Actually, you can keep the kittens.

Claire is a script reader who … well, reads scripts, I guess. The important thing here, the crucial element, is she will read your first script for FREE.

Now, I don’t know Claire and I don’t know how good a script reader she is. I haven’t had a script report from her, but I like what she has to say about various films here.

And you know what? Fuck it, it’s FREE. Try her out for yourself.

So there you go, two free things and it’s not even whatever day tomorrow is given I wrote this post a few days ago and can’t remember when I’ve scheduled it to appear.

mr-forgetful

FREE STUFF!

Categories: Someone Else's Way | 1 Comment

Write2screen – script hot house

And now, an opportunity:2431694

Dear Phill

this is a bit of a cheeky ask, so apologies in advance if your response is simply to tell me where to stick it…!

You may or may not have heard of write2screen

We have recently launched a new scriptwriting development scheme, which is open for submissions now, until August 2013.

I was wondering if you might be so kind as to give this a push on your blog?

I’ve attached a guideline/application document for your info.

If you have any questions, please contact me any time.

With thanks

Georgie Kuna

It would be my pleasure.

Well that looks interesting. You have to live in the East of England, specifically:

Submissions are invited from writers resident in the East of England (that is the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex) or with another strong and specific connection to the region within the last 5 years which can be evidenced (i.e. having been a student at a recognised institution in the region). You must be over 18 and not in full time education.

But if you fit the bill, it’s probably worth a go.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 2nd August 2013.

Good luck!

Categories: Opportunity, Someone Else's Way | 2 Comments

The long dark edit of the soul

tick's back

And I’m back!

Miss me?

I know you did, don’t be coy now. Come on, we’re all friends here.

Well, not all friends. I know no one likes Gerald*; but frankly, if you’re going to behave like that in public then you deserve all the shunning you get.

So I’ve had my head buried in this script to the exclusion of all else and managed to completely neglect nearly every aspect of my real and e-life.

So sorry for that, but I’ve been busy.

But it’s done now. It’s over. I have triumphed. I have journeyed into the foetid depths of my dwindling imagination and emerged victorious once more.

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Or possibly victorious, it’s hard to tell until the client comes back with his thoughts – the whole thing might be a complete and utter pile of poo.

I hate the first draft. Hate it. Every time I write one I wish I wasn’t. Anything’s better than writing a first draft. Watching juggling, that’s better than writing a first draft. Organising the kitchen utensils by date of purchase – that’s better than writing a first draft too. Hell, even nailing your genitals to something acidic would be preferable.

Your genitals, please note. Not my own. That doesn’t sound like fun at all.

You know what I hate most about the first draft?

Apart from all of it?

The final check and edit before sending.

It all just feels so pointless. I fully expect to ditch at least fifty percent of the first draft during the second draft. At least, possibly more. So fifty percent of the words I’m scrutinising for sense and originality and zingy-ness will be chucked out. It’s methodically polishing stuff which is going to be just chucked in the bin.

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Add to that the fact I’ve been staring at these scenes (in various forms – synopses, outlines, treatments, character breakdowns) for months now and can no longer tell if any of it is good, bad or indifferent … and the whole thing takes on a kind of Kafka-like level of inanity.

I’m fiddling intricately with stuff I no longer understand for a client who’s going to hate half of it. And if he doesn’t hate half of it, it’s my job to convince him half of it is shit; because, you know, the scariest comment you can get about a first draft is:

“I love it! It’s perfect!”

Um … no. It can’t be. Half of it must be shit. It just must be. Read it again and read it fucking properly this time.

The other end of the fretful rainbow is maybe this client is one of those clients who doesn’t understand that fifty percent of the first draft is MEANT to be shit.

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What if he doesn’t get it? What if he thinks this is as good as it’s going to get and loses interest in the whole project? What if this is my only stab at writing this and I’m actually going to be permanently judged on THIS draft? What if he does something weird like send this draft out to everyone in the fucking world for an opinion and they judge me on this draft, not knowing which draft it is?

It has happened. And it’s not fun.

Couple those feelings with an all day session of squinting at a monitor until late into the night while everyone else in the house has gone to bed and perhaps you can see why I hate the first draft so much?

The second draft, on the other hand, I fucking love. Deleting whole swathes of shit with one keystroke, joyous!

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So here I am, the day after submitting the script, waiting in fear of the judgement and in eager anticipation of being able to gut my own work. I’ve come through the long dark edit of the soul and am trying to reintegrate myself into society.

So what else has happened while I was away?

Well, I had one of those lovely meetings with a lovely TV development script editor at one of those lovely major production companies. Where the aforementioned lovely development editor explained, in a very lovely manner, why all my ideas were shit.

Now this may not sound lovely to you, but let me assure you it’s absolute fucking gold. I’ll go into how and why this meeting happened some other time, but the essence of why this sort of thing is so valuable is this: explaining why ideas are no good is exactly the same as explaining which ideas are good and what everyone’s currently looking for. Getting that information from someone who’s actually in the industry and actively seeking that content (as opposed to nobodies reposting the same old falsehoods on their pointless self-aggrandising blog) is amazing.

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Plus, despite hating everything I pitched, she still wanted to read something else! Although, she may have just been being polite.

Either way, that was a beautiful experience.

I’ve also finished a script I’ve been writing with an actor friend (or to be more precise, my brother’s best friend’s brother) and it’s really something special. Or at least, we think it is – and I generally hate everything I’ve ever written.  Just need to make time to market that one now.

It’s a spec script! I’ve written a spec script! Me! Something I’ve written for me!

On top of that I was offered a script job I really, really want to write. Always a happy day.

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And the cherry of delight on the cake of absolute awesomeness … a script I wrote years ago which has been in development for … well … since about six months before I’d actually come up with the idea, has found its way onto the desk of a guy who’s one of those people everyone’s actually heard of!

And I don’t mean just industry folk, I mean everyone.

He wrote that movie we all love. And that other one we all love. And that one I love but most people never saw. And he directed those two movies everyone except me loves which were produced by that guy we all worshipped as kids. Oh, and he directed those movies which everyone in the whole world went fucking nuts about.

That’s him!

And by ‘found its way onto his desk’ what I actually mean is ‘he asked to read it’.

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So, you know, that’s a good day right there. Even if he hates it, that guy who wrote that movie we all love and that other one we all love and that one I love but most people never saw and directed those two movies everyone except me loves which were written by that guy we all worshipped as kids and directed those movies which everyone in the whole world went fucking nuts about … will have read at least one page of something I wrote.

He knows who I am! Even if he thinks I’m a talentless twat, he still knows who I am!

Happy days.

And that’s about it for now, because I’m no longer accustomed to all this bloggy chat.

guls
In essence, I’m well. Hope you’re well too. Feel free to brag about your latest efforts in the comments, I’m keen to catch up. Next time (which will be soon) I’ll find some free shit for you.

———————————————————————————————-

*Not you, the other Gerald. You’re lovely.

Categories: My Way, Progress, Random Witterings | 1 Comment

Argrhu!

laptop-exploding-battery-fire

I huaven’pt been around muchu recently. Or at least I huavent been around muchu in an online sense, obviously I still huave a corporeal body; but, thuanks to a rigrorous exercise progrram, considerably less of a corporeal body thuan I used to huave.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may huave noticed thuere’ps not muchu to follow rigrhut now. If you merely subscribe to thuis blogr in thue vain huope I one day say somethuingr interestingr … you’pve probably noticed I’pm not huere muchu eithuer.

Truthu is I’pm ballbustingrly busy and actually feel gruilty if I do anythuingr withu my laptop othuer thuan write.

Scripts. Othuer thuan write scripts.

So whuere as some insanely excitingr thuingrs are huappeningr, I can’pt really spare thue time to tell anyone. Whuichu is most upsettingr.

Still, huopefully, I shuould be done soon and normal service will resume.

Thue eagrle-eyed amongr you may huave noticed a few typos in thuis post. Sadly thuis appears to huave been thue reesult of a small accident involvingr my laptop, a four year old chuild and a grlass of water. More annoyingr thuuan thue odd random letters is that thue backspace key eithuer returns thue cursor to thue begrinningr off thue pagre or putss it a line up. Thus huelpfully prevent sme from autocorrectingr myself by huittingr backspace after every gr, ‘p or hu.

Thuis, of course, is exactly whuat I need whuen I’pm racingr for a deadline.

Still, it’s not all bad. I have found a solution, it ‍just looks a bit silly.

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In other news, Strippers vs. Werewolves is on TV tonight – 21.00 on Movies 24, that well known home of ‘quality’ movies. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re damned lucky. If you have and want to see it again, seek medical help.

Oh, and if you feel like critiquing the writing based on the film (as opposed to actually reading the script) then just remember – praise goes to Pat Higgins, angry rants and abuse come to me.

Enjoy your day, I’ll be back soon.

Ish.

Categories: Random Witterings, Strippers vs. Werewolves | 1 Comment

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