Monthly Archives: March 2016

Jack Sparks

 

downloadI have friends who do things and sometimes I like to promote those things. It seems like a nice thing to do and I get a genuine kick  out of seeing or reading things they’ve done.

And then there’s this:

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Which I don’t know how I feel about.

Okay, so it’s a book by Jason Arnopp … which is cool. Arnopp is lovely.

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Look at him! Look at how lovely he is!

To be fair, in real life he looks a little less like I’ve photoshopped his head onto Paddington and a little more like this:

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But that’s beside the point. He’s nice. I like him. I want to help him succeed.

However … he’s written a book about Jack Sparks. I think it’s safe to say I was never really a fan of Jack’s.

I know you can’t really judge people by their social media presence … but I met Jack once and found him every bit as pompous and self-serving as you’d have assumed. Apparently, according to that post, I wanted to punch him a bit. Which is rare for me.

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When Jack died, I didn’t seem to be too bothered* … so why would I want to read a book about him?

On the other hand … how did Jack die? There was all that weird shit about the youtube video and … you know, the other stuff. Stuff I’m not really sure Jack was capable of. He was a prick, yes … but … I don’t know. Maybe that whole year of drugs thing fucked him completely?

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I do kind of want to know the truth though.

And then there’s this:

… which, you know, sounds intriguing.

I guess, ultimately, if Arnopp believes the truth about Jack Sparks needs to be told, then I should at least do him the courtesy of reading the book.

If you fancy reading along, the book’s on sale … well, everywhere.

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* Although I don’t even remember writing that post. Weird, isn’t it? I can remember what I wrote in 2009 but not in January of last year. Guess I used to pay me a lot more attention than I do now.

 

Categories: Someone Else's Way | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition 2016

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There now follows a short public service announcement:

Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition 2016 is open for submissions.

Shore Scripts have the highest calibre of industry judges of any screenwriting contest in the world. The winning scripts will be read by 32 Oscar, Bafta, Emmy, Golden Globe & Cannes award winning judges and sent to over 70 production companies and agents from around the world too.

As well discovering new and exciting writing talent through their regular Short and Feature Script competitions, Shore Scripts have also opened a new TV Pilot category, plus are introducing a fantastic Short Film Fund scheme designed to help produce one winning script with a minimum budget of £5,000. That adds up to over £15,000 in cash and prizes for the winners.

More information on each of the categories can be found on their website at www.shorescripts.com.

So, you know … you might win something. It’s got to be at least worth checking it out.

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There is an entrance fee … however, if you fancy taking a punt on getting a free entry to either the Feature or the Short categories then you’re in luck.

Or might be.

I’ve got one feature and one short entry to give away. To win one, simply join the Shore Scripts mailing list by clicking this link:

THIS IS THE LINK! CLICK HERE!

… and sending them an email with MAILING LIST – JOBBING SCRIPTWRITER as the subject line.

Presumably the mailing list will be about the competition and things related to writing rather than adverts for PPI and viagra. Although, I don’t get any viagra ones any more … do you? Maybe some viagra spam might actually be useful?

If you do enter, let me know either in the comments or via email/social media – just so I can keep tabs on what’s going on. The two winners will be drawn at random at the end of the month.

Good luck!

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Categories: Opportunity, Someone Else's Way | Tags: , | Leave a comment

#PhonePhill – Conversation #14: Calum Chalmers (The Revenge)

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Hello, what have you been up to? I’ve been chatting to Calum Chalmers (again) who’s still a lovely writer-director type chappy. Calum was the first (sort of) ever #PhonePhill in April last year, proving this talk-to-a-stranger-malarkey* might just actually work. Last time, we spoke about this sort of thing.

This time we spoke about many, many things over the course of about two and a half hours.

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Blimey. Was it really that long? Or did the clocks go forward midway through? Doesn’t seem likely, so yeah … must have been.

In that long, meandering two and a half hours we covered more many, many things. Including, but not limited to:

  1. Dealing with notes, both giving and receiving.
  2. Weird behaviour from apparent professionals.
  3. Bland trailers.
  4. Remakes and reboots.
  5. Small island/small industry.
  6. Social media implosions.
  7. Other stuff.

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On which topics I generally feel:

  1. I’d rather be taking notes than giving them.
  2. Just be fucking nice to each other. Why is that so difficult?
  3. Trailers don’t excite me any more. They might as well just be a poster informing me of the film’s existence. Are trailers badly made? Or is it because most trailers I watch are for franchises which I’m probably going to go and see anyway and my enjoyment will depend entirely on the execution? This is the only trailer this year I’ve been excited about:
  4. I don’t care any more if anyone remakes anything. When they remade Bedazzled my friends hid Empire magazine from me for six months, afraid of what I might do if I found out. Now they’re remaking Ghostbusters … fine, whatever.
  5. See point 2. Calum and I have never met … but we know a lot of the same people. We swapped stories. Years ago I read a script he’s recently optioned. It’s all very incestuous … so be nice.
  6. See point 5. We all get bitter or blue sometimes … keep it to yourself. Ranting about it on your network of choice is unlikely to get you any work. Quite the opposite in fact.
  7. Yes.

One other thing we discussed was pigeon-holing. Should writers do it to themselves? The advice for American writers is a resounding yes. Be the go-to guy for something … you can always break out and back in again later on.

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But does that hold true in the UK?

I think it does. Writing is a hard craft to master and different genres require different skill sets. Not specialising has hurt my career because when I get to the point where someone says:

“I like this, but don’t want to make it … have you got anything similar?”

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The answer is always: no. I’ve got something of equal quality but a completely different genre or medium … which is of no interest.

Unfortunately I’ve had movies produced in a variety of genres. I like switching it up every now and then. Right now I’ve got a political black comedy casting and a teen-vampire-sex-comedy in development. Okay, so technically they’re both comedies … but they are poles apart. Ready to go I have a seriously dark moral drama film, the first film in a kid’s Christmas franchise and a sword and sorcery action-adventure movie. I write what  interests me at the time and … well, I shouldn’t. I should specialise in something.

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I think, perhaps, maybe … kids’ TV is the place to specialise in the UK because … well, it covers everything, doesn’t it? It seems to get treated as one genre despite covering drama and soap and comedy and sci-fi and horror and … stuff. At least, that’s how it seems to be from the outside. Maybe writers for kid’s horror finds people are resistant to them writing comedy?

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I have no idea. I’d like to find out, maybe there’s someone working in kids’ TV in the UK who fancies a #PhonePhill? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Once again I finished this conversation thinking I like Calum, he seems like a nice guy. Hopefully we’ll work together one day.

If you fancy a natter, email me and we’ll have a chat. It doesn’t have to be for two and half hours, it can be for fifteen minutes. You don’t have to be in the industry, you can anything or anyone … so long as you have a phone and the willingness to use it.

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* This is the first time I’ve ever typed the word ‘malarkey’ it’s not spelt the way I thought it was. Unless it is and my spell check is wrong.

Some handy note-links for you:

How to Deal With Notes (a silly list)

Notes From The Other Side – Part 1 (why I was giving notes), Part 2 (how reality got it wrong), Part 3 (a rant about things not to do when receiving notes).

Categories: #PhonePhill, Career Path, Industry Musings, My Way, Someone Else's Way | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hammer draft

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I’ve spent the last few months doing casting rewrites on a script which is due to shoot in September, as well as rewriting another script which was recently optioned.

The casting rewrites are … a thing. If you’ve not had to go through that, I’ll probably blog about the process soonish.

The option rewrite, on the other hand, I’ll blog about now. If you’ll indulge me?

You will? Splendid.

So the script was optioned and the notes came back from the producer and director: one set of coherent notes presented by one person, first by email and then in detail via conversation.

This is how it’s supposed to be done.

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Everyone giving notes agrees between themselves first before giving them to the writer so there are no contradictions.Notes come via email (as opposed to dumped on you in a room) so you’ve got time to cycle through the stages of grief (anger, resentment, more anger, crying, fury, anger, rage, denial, incandescent rage … then accepting all the notes are correct) before responding. A follow up conversation by phone or in person to talk through the notes and explain what the intention is. Normally, the intention isn’t always what you think it is. A note asking you to cut a scene often means there’s a different scene earlier on which muddies the waters and makes this scene seem irrelevant. A conversation about these things allows you to state your case.

So with all that out of the way, I went to work.

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Sort of.

Christmas got in the way, but after that I got straight to work.

In this instance there were three notes and a realisation which kind of made a lot of the other notes irrelevant. This can happen. In this case the three notes were:

  • Moving the script from the UK to the US.
  • Changing the secondary character’s motivations to make him less of a one-note dick.
  • Bringing three of  the minor characters to the forefront to make the starring duo part of a five-piece gang.

And the realisation (by me) was that I wanted to change the theme which meant the protagonist’s motivation had to change, which meant all of scenes in the first act have to be different. And all of his scenes in the second act need altering. And the ones in the third act too.

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Basically draft 2 is going to be a completely different version of the same story. Everything is going to change … but a lot of scenes will probably still work in a slightly altered form.

I’ve often said that 50% of the script often gets abandoned for draft 2. I think this is kind of a benchmark to expect, if not aim for. Assume you’re going to be throwing away 50% of what you’ve written and you’re prepared.

That was probably true in this case … but the other 50% was going to be heavily rewritten too. And in a different order.

So it’s time for a hammer draft.

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My hammer drafts are lumpen, misshapen monstrosities which barely make sense. Essentially I’m picking up square scenes and hammering them into round holes elsewhere in the script.

So A, B, C … becomes:

New A, X, Q, second half of old A, B, F, G, H, C, something with a chicken, Y, V … and so on.

The task at this point is just to get the pieces roughly fitting. The next pass is for smoothing off the splintered edges and tightening up dialogue and checking everything flows properly … this draft is just hammering things into place. Because here’s the thing I visualise – they say you can’t put a square peg in a round hole … well that’s just silly, of course you can. You either have to fill in the gaps around the edges of the peg with something else or you hammer it in with enough force to knock off the corners and leave you with the important core of the scene.

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It’s not pretty and the joins/breaks will be clearly obvious … but only at first. Next time through you’re filling, sanding and painting until it all looks like that’s the only place any of these scenes could ever have been.

It’s a process I really enjoy even though it’s bastard hard work and sometimes harder than just throwing it all away and starting again. It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle where the challenge is to disassemble an existing jigsaw, trim the pieces and reassemble them into a different, yet familiar picture.

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Hammer drafts, I love them.

But they come with a warning: NEVER, EVER SHOW THEM TO ANYONE. EVER.

You’ll think that everyone’s on the same page as you and they’ll understand you’re just showing them a work in progress … but they might not get it. And if they don’t understand that what they’re not supposed to be looking at the intricacies of the dialogue or the transitions … you’re fucked.

My hammer drafts are for my eyes only … because they make no fucking sense.

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A draft or two later, when they’re all shiny and the welds have been smoothed and painted over … that’s the public draft. The one that gets torn apart so the whole process can start again …

 


 

* Except when the notes are inherently contradictory. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, contradictory notes can both be true. The protagonist can be too aggressive and too passive in different places, we all just have to pick which one she’s supposed to be or devise a mechanism to explain why she flips from one to the other.

Categories: My Way, Progress | 1 Comment

#PhonePhill – Conversation #13: Robin Bell (Redux)

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD FOR STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, THE FORCE AWAKENS, INSIDE OUT, SUPERMAN, STAR TREK … BUT NOT REALLY.

VERY MILD.

CHICKEN KORMA MILD.

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So #PhonePhill is still a thing. Anyone is welcome to ring me and natter about anything they like. You don’t have to be a scriptwriter, I’ll talk to anyone. Actors, director, producers, sound effects person … or, you know, people not even connected with the industry – maybe you’re a gas fitter (I don’t know what that is) or a mortician or a … something on a submarine (chef? Do they have chefs on a submarine? Submarine polisher, is that a job? I have no idea).

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In essence, no matter who you are, if you fancy chatting to a scriptwriter drop me a line and we’ll work something out.

This week I’ve been talking to Robin Bell. Again. Hey, there are no rules. I can talk to whoever I want whenever I want.

To be honest, this is a lie. It wasn’t this week, it was weeks ago. Possibly even months.

So long, in fact, that I’ve completely forgotten what it was we talked about. I’ll have a vague stab at remembering:

Robin’s a wandering minstrel who’s recently invented a new type of electric jock strap. He’s hoping to market it exclusively to Iranians with asthma.

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At least, I think that’s what he said. Either that or he’s still the co-creator of Twisted Showcase and has recently been writing children’s TV scripts – at least one of which sounded awfully good to my tin ear.

We spoke of many, many things. Well, I didn’t – I spoke exclusively about me because I’m like that, but Robin had lots of interesting things to say. Probably.

I definitely remember talking about how difficult it can be to get some concepts into a script. Sometimes these things will be obvious on screen, but will mean nothing on the page. Or maybe we spoke about the need to create a physical something on screen to represent abstract ideas – show, don’t tell … basically. We concluded that the only film we completely and utterly agree on is Mamma Mia which we both, unashamedly, love. Which is odd given how partial we both are to genre movies.

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Although I suppose Mamma Mia is a genre movie. Musical is a genre, right? A very broad genre, but a genre nonetheless.

Genre (as in sci-fi, horror … etc) itself was discussed, specifically how British TV is mad keen on genre for children … but for some reason assumes those children grow out of it and don’t want to watch it as adults. Which is weird. American TV doesn’t same to have the same attitude.

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Ooh! One thing we did get stuck on for a while was fridge logic and how the difference between it working and it derailing the film is largely down to how much you’re enjoying the film.

Examples which came up were the Millennium Falcon flipping between the two Star Destroyers in Empire Strikes Back – at the time it seems amazingly cool and thrilling … but later (almost a decade later for me) whilst your mind’s wandering as you’re opening the fridge (fridge logic) you start to think … hang on. What the fuck were those Star Destroyers playing at? They’re something like a mile long … and it’s in space! It’s not like they couldn’t see each other coming. What was their plan? To squish the Falcon between them? That’s a bit like two people deciding to kill a wasp by running at each other with their chins out.

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But it works. The scene is fantastic. The logic holds at the time because the story is gripping and we completely believe Han can out fly those Imperial slugs.

The opposite is true (for me) in Star Wars when Han and Luke climb out of the trash compactor and ditch their stormtrooper outfits to reveal they had their own clothes on underneath all the time. Even as a five year old I struggled with that one. Wait … did they … how does that work? Is that under the formfitting bodysuit?

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But I loved the film, so five year old me let it slide. It’s one flaw, it doesn’t matter.

As it turns out, we now know stormtroopers wear trousers under their uniforms. Not leggings. Trousers. Possibly with pockets.*

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Good fridge logic: George Kirk tells his pregnant wife he CAN’T leave the ship because he HAS to stay behind and steer it … then goes to sit in the Captain’s chair, roughly six feet from the place where you steer the ship from. That didn’t click with me until after the film – at the time I was too busy sobbing.

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Bad fridge logic: why didn’t Joy put the core-memory globes in the tube-thing which leads straight back up to the control room? She’s asking the … peanut things … how to get back up there. They show her, right in front of her, how to send them up … and she just ignores it.

That nearly derailed the film for me – I had to find a way to rationalise it to myself: “She can’t send them up because the whole point of the film is she can’t let go. She has to be in control, she has to take them there herself – it just wouldn’t occur to her to send them up on their own” … which does make sense, but I shouldn’t be having to do that kind of thinking whilst watching an otherwise amazing movie.

Or at least, that’s what I think.

What makes something fridge logic and not confusing is whether or not it’s noticed during the first watching of the film. The problem with that is scriptwriters have no real control over whether or not the audience will notice. Some people will, some won’t. I guess the real problem is quantity – one or two instances of fudging what people wear under what (why can’t you see Superman’s costume through his white shirt?) or which seat someone sits in is fine. If there’s something like that in every scene it becomes a problem … unless you’re enjoying the film so much it just doesn’t matter to you.

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We’ve all been in that situation right? When someone points out a flaw in a film you love and it just doesn’t matter? If anything it makes the film more endearing.

This is what most of the hour-long conversation with Robin consisted of – disagreeing over whether or not the flaws in films are irritating or endearing. A disagreement which in itself is endearing. And yet we both agreed, Mamma Mia is awesome despite (and in some cases because) of its flaws. If you’d like to disagree with me about something, #PhonePhill


 

* Which is another reason why I don’t believe Finn was really a stormtrooper. Surely that’s proof he actually worked in the sweet shop and stole the uniform minutes before that first battle? Come on, a cowardly, klutz of a stormtrooper who wears trousers under his uniform? Yeah … I don’t think so. There’s more than meets the eye there.

Unless he put the trousers on because he knew he was going to defect? Yeah, maybe that was it.

Categories: #PhonePhill, Random Witterings | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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