Future Tense

Welcome to the future!



Happy Future Day!

It’s today!

Today’s the future!

Welcome to it.

In the course of my life many days have been thought of as the future. 1984 because of surveillance culture; 1999, because that’s what we used to party like it was; 2001 because … fuck knows, something to do with black rectangles and Space Jesus; 2010 because Space Jesus did something to Chief Brody …


All of these days (and more) have come and gone and somehow the future never arrived, I mean we always seem to be living in the now. Star Trek would had us believing the future would involve everyone on each planet wearing the same clothes (or lack of them, if you’re a woman).


That didn’t happen.

2001 would have us believe we’d be harangued by mental computers on our way to Jupiter (or Saturn – depending on whether you prefer the book or the film).

That didn’t happen.

Prince would have us believe the future involves … death? Is that right? Why were we supposed to party in 1999? Is it because the moon got ripped out of orbit and things went correspondingly wonky?


Who knows?

Didn’t fucking happen anyway, but at least women got to wear something on the moon.

Today though, today is actually the future. It’s future day as foretold in Back to the Futures I and II.

We made it! And um … yeah. Very few hoverboards. No flying cars. Can’t see anyone wearing their trousers inside out. In fact, weirdly, everyone I’m currently looking at is wearing clothes from 1985.*

Fax machines are slightly less prevalent than expected. TVs are smaller … but not by much. Portable computer tablet device thingys are here. Weather forecasting … hmm …

But you know what? Who cares? The fact is Back to the Future II was set in the distant, far flung future of today.



I was 12 going on 13 the year Back to the Future came out and I loved it … despite the fact I should have been annoyed by the obvious Doctor Who ripping off – which never bothered me in the slightest and is probably just all coincidence.

Back to the Future was the first film I saw with my friends without grown up supervision. It marked the beginning of adulthood for me, a freedom to come and go (at least as far as the cinema) as I pleased.

I remember coming home and describing the film to my parents in excruciating detail. I can even remember how bored they looked.


It’s one of my favourite films, one of those films I can watch from any point every time I catch it on TV without feeling bored.

Huey Lewis and the News became the first band I decided to like because I liked them, as opposed to liking because everyone else did and they were in the charts. I made it my mission to track down their back catalogue. They kindled my interest in guitars and led (indirectly) to me learning bass a few years later. They were the first gig I ever went to (again on my own, for my 16th birthday – cementing my friendship with the guy who was to be my best man at my first wedding).

I became a little obsessed with Deloreans (didn’t we all?) and used to moon over the Volkswagen Sirocco because it looked a little similar. I even bought one of these …


… for much the same reason.

Okay, maybe not from that angle.

I read and reread the novel until I could no longer distinguish between the film I’d seen and the words I’d read.# Did Marty’s thrilling escape from detention with the chewing gum, the matches and the elastic band happen in the movie or not? I could see it vividly … but couldn’t be sure. No one else remembered it, but that’s no guarantee of accuracy.^

I became obsessed with finding a Walkman which was as small as his … and eventually found one smaller.

SANYO Walkman JJ-P101 01

I tried (surreptitiously) to copy Marty McFly’s style – for years I never left the house without wearing a t-shirt under my shirt. I even found a body warmer (a Washington Redskins one died black) to wear over my (orange) denim jacket.

I. Looked. Awesome.



I also loved his fifties’ ensemble and have been vaguely in love with fifties’ stylings ever since.

Most of all though, whenever I lose my way with my writing, I think of Back to the Future and I try to remember that it’s exactly the kind of film I want to be writing – adventure and excitement with a heavy dose of comedy.

The sequels I like~, the original I love. I love the world, I love the characters and I love the way they make me feel. I want to write something which has that effect on someone. Even if it’s only one person, that’s my ultimate goal.


It feels utterly bizarre to be in the future of Back to the Future. It feels equally bizarre that my seven year old daughter loves the film – I’m not convinced I’d have loved a film in 1985 which told the tale of someone from 1955 travelling back to 1925. But hey, maybe she’s just more sophisticated than me?

Oh who cares?

The future, we made it.

Happy Future Day!



* This is a lie. The only people I can see from the window of my rooms on the Secret Writing Island are wearing bikinis. Which may or may not be inside out, hard to tell from here.

# Remember this was in a time where it took AGES for films to come out on video … and then pretty much only to rent, buying was still expensive. Going to see the same film twice at the cinema was expensive and pretty much didn’t happen (for me) so the book was the only way to re-experience the movie.Remember this was in a time where it tooks AGES for films to come out on video … and then pretty much only to rent, buying was still expensive. Going to see the same film twice at the cinema was expensive and pretty much didn’t happen (for me) so the book was the only way to re-experience the movie.

^ A similar thing happened to me with Terminator 2 – I have vivid memories of scenes which didn’t show up until the director’s cut because they were in the novelisation.

The opposite happened to me with Return of the Jedi – there was this photo in one of the tie-in books which showed Luke hanging from the grating in Jabba’s Palace. The text described him leaping over the Rancor and going hand over hand along the grate … until the denizens of the palace knocked him back into the pit. Everyone I know insisted it happened in the film, I was adamant it didn’t. By the time the film came out on video I was no longer friends with any of those people and missed out on a rare opportunity to be right.

~ Have you watched Back to the Future II recently? Watched it through the eyes of a writer? Every second scene is exposition. Almost literally every second scene involves someone explaining to someone else what’s going on. Occasionally with diagrams. If you just assumed people understood how time travel works then that film would be about 14 mins long.

Categories: Future Tense, Random Witterings, Writing and life | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments


As the year limps to a close in a trickle of damp grayness, it’s time to reflect on what’s gone before and wonder vaguely about what may come.

How was your 2011? Mine went something like, if not exactly the same as, this:



I began the year by joining Twitter. Actually, I began the year by tweeting using an account some mysterious person set up for me against my will a year earlier. I still don’t know who that was, but would dearly love to know.

Wrote a post about a project so secret I can no longer remember what it was about.

Offered to write someone’s name on a fighter jet.

And then gave a free video projector to anyone who wanted it. Turns out the people who wanted it most were the people who were supposed to have been given it eight years earlier until idiocy intervened.



I was a guest on #scriptchat (transcript here) and waffled at great length about getting work without an agent.

Karma Magnet turned up online. You can still watch it here.

Persona launched!

If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, then I’ve failed and that’s pretty much all there is to it.

I revealed my deepest secrets. No, wait, not secrets … just a bit of witter about junk files.

And then tried to encourage everyone to whip off their drama condoms and ride that script bareback. Dramatically speaking.



In which I finally explain how to read.

Gave some people £25 each.

Explained what a reboot means for the hard of thinking.

And explained why having your script re-written was exactly like having your best friend spunk in your face. (An analogy which came back to haunt me months later when someone pointed out I’d spunked in their face.)



Karma Magnet was shown at the Brighton Movie Bar and I was invited to talk shit about it. And talk shit I did. And I won the movie quiz. ME! I WON FOR I AM THE WINNER (on this specific occasion).

Had a bit of a rant about sexism.

And another rant about getting excited in the wrong places.

And another one about why you should all feel inspired by my presence.

Then apologised for not ranting more.



I went on holiday and did this to my child:

Stole ideas from Jason Arnopp.

Felt guilty, so I linked to the Stormhouse teaser:

Was amazed to find out half of Neil Gaiman’s Doctor Who episode was exactly the same as half an episode I’d outlined for Big Finish. Just not the good half.

Told you all how to eBehave. Actually, this one’s important, you should all go and read it and spread the word.

Took you on a tour of my rooms on the secret writing island:

And reviewed a book I didn’t want to read about a program I don’t use.

Actually, somewhere around here Strippers vs. Werewolves went into production; but for reasons too horribly complex and horribly horrible, I didn’t actually mention it until months later.



Explained why having to do re-writes mid-production is a good thing.

Denied I’d written The Dark Knight Rises. Because I didn’t.

Shouted at critics for reviewing the script they haven’t read instead of the film they have seen.

And promised to include more joy in my scripts. Joy like this:



I learnt a new word! Callipygous … and then explained why you should never use it in a script.

Explained why comedy is and isn’t subjective.

Called a producer a parochial twat.

Wrote a film-makers’ glossary. Wish I hadn’t.

Swore at Final Draft. A lot.

Debated misogyny. Still not convinced I spelt it right.

Gave you one of the most useful writing tools you’ll ever use: snippety-snip.

And voiced an opinion on gangsters and the low budget movie industry.



I explained why I keep swimming with the gangster fishes.

Demanded you tell me what to feel.

Explained my career in a series of pretty graphs and charts. Like this one:

Explained why I quite like being replaced on a project. Sometimes.

Warned everyone to stay clear of hyphenates … whilst consistently using a slash instead of a hyphen. I did a flowchart too:

And unsuccessfully tried to give everyone £30.



Finally admitted I’d done the production re-writes on Pat Higgins‘ Strippers vs. Werewolves:

And listed all the lovely press about it.

Told people to stop hassling me, the script will be done when it’s fucking done.

Ranted about notes … before remembering Sam Bain said it better.



Persona relaunched.

This time for the bargain price of free!

iPhone app here: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/persona-drama/id417940950?mt=8

Android app here: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.appmedia.persona

Explained the secret of success

Talked about the sheer horror of realising someone’s made a bad film out of your script.

Stalker had its London Première – hooray! Here’s the trailer:

Strippers vs. Werewolves had a fantastic set report in Bizzare Magazine:


Highlighted why slagging people off and then asking them for a job is a bit daft.

Re-wrote Monty Python’s Parrot Sketch in an ill-advised attempt at humour.

Mumbled about being depressed in the middle of every script.

Was disappointed by the American art for Strippers vs. Werewolves:

Tacky. And has one notable lie on it.

Blogged about Fade In scriptwriting software – nearly what I want, but not quite.

And finally revealed the AFM Promo for Strippers vs. Werewolves:

My favourite comment about that promo is:

Looks pretty bad, but I like werewolf movies and tits, so I’ll probably watch it.


In which I finally admit there are no stupid notes.

Explained why Scrivener is brilliant … but no use to me.

Defended soapstars.

Reaffirmed the old maxim: PATRICK STEWART IS ALWAYS RIGHT.

Gave away a (very) small library.

And began using Fade In scriptwriting software because the developer developed it to suit me. Sort of.


Explained how to think.

Debated the lack of comedy tribute acts.

Explained how to action a note now and undo it in the future.

Expounded my theory on how writers sideline themselves.

Went to see Piers‘ production of Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales. It’s awesome, if you hurry, you’ll catch it too.

Rambled on, at great length about mystery in TV

And rounded off the year by analysing decades old Star Trek films. Because I like to be topical.


So that was 2011. Wow. I explained lots of stuff, didn’t I? Did you need those things explaining to you or was I just being presumptuous? If the former, you’re welcome. If the latter, sorry.

But onwards and upwards!

What does 2012 hold?

Well, hopefully it holds nothing new.

Or rather, nothing new film-wise.

I’m hoping not to get involved in any more writer-for-hire jobs for a year or so. I really, really want to write some spec stuff, you know, something just for me.

I’ve got one or two commitments to tie up and then I’m going to (hopefully) spend the whole year writing stuff I want to write so I can build up a decent catalogue of spec scripts and venture into pastures new.

I say hopefully because I am easily swayed by money and may end up doing something completely different. Feel free to sway me. I like a good swaying.

How was your 2011? Did you enjoy it? Have you learnt stuff? What will 2012 hold for you?

Whatever happens, have a great New Year and I’ll see you in January.

Categories: Career Path, Future Tense, Industry Musings, LVJ, My Way, Persona, Progress, Publicity, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard, Software, Someone Else's Way, Stalker, Strippers vs. Werewolves, Things I've Learnt Recently, Writing and life | 2 Comments

The Summoning

The horror anthology has had a name change from Future Tense to The Summoning. It’s also got a natty little teaser poster:

The Summoning Poster

I think all six of the shorts are finished.; now all I need to do is write the linking scenes.

With four of the shorts, the first drafts are pretty much unchanged – a couple of minor dialogue changes here and there, nothing too drastic. One of them, a werewolf tale, was too funny; so I wrote a second, serious draft and we seem to have settled on a mixture of the two. The sixth, the vampire one, just wasn’t working. I was given the option to try and fix it, junk it and run with five, or come up with a new story.

Five shorts would leave the feature a bit on the short side and fixing it would be a lot of work when it wasn’t really suitable in the first place (a fact which didn’t become obvious until I’d written it); so a new story seemed the easiest way to go.

Producer Jonathan Sothcott and I came up with a few ideas over lunch on Monday, settled on one and I wrote it up today. I sent it off for approval earlier; no notes so far, but there’s bound to be some.

Just the links to go.

In other news: I wrote up a proposal for the TV mini-series I got grilled about in Cannes. It seems to make sense, so I’ve sent it off to the lady concerned – no response yet, but it’s still early days. I sent her an email just checking she remembered me and was okay to receive email attachments. She replied:

“I remember our meeting well.  Yes you can send me the idea by e-mail.”

Which could be good or bad. It’s nice to leave an impression, but I’m never sure what kind I’m leaving. She still wants to read the proposal, so it can’t have been that bad.

Can it?

And just as I was beginning to despair about the sizeable dent in my bank balance left by Cannes; the nice people at NewsRevue sent me a hefty cheque.

Which was very nice of them. I love it when this happens, and it happens to me a lot. I wonder vaguely where the next money is coming from and someone just sends me some.

Aint life grand?

Categories: Future Tense, Progress, The Summoning | 1 Comment

Ready for the off

Cannes tomorrow, in four hours time, to be precise (ish).

I’m packed and I’m ready to go. I think I’ve got everything I need; but I always think that, and I’m usually wrong.

Still: tickets, passport, driving licence, car rental reservation, French sim card reservation, directions to the hotel, hotel reservation … erm. Is that it?

Oh yeah, clothes and other non-essentials.

In the last couple of days I’ve managed to squeeze in another two segments of ‘Future Tense’. Well, three I suppose. Maybe more like two and a half.

Basically, I wrote the fourth of the six shorts on Wednesday; but there was a (possibly) legitimate concern that it was too funny. My personal opinion is a bit of levity in the middle helps as a contrast to the others. A bit of comic relief sets you up nicely for the rest. However, I also understand it might be completely the wrong tone to link with the others.

In the spirit of fair play, on Thursday morning I thought I’d just write a darker version and see which one the people involved prefer. Still waiting to hear about that one.

Yesterday afternoon/evening I wrote the fifth segment. One more to go now, plus the linking scenes which tie them all together.

But that will have to wait, I don’t imagine I’ll get much time in Cannes.

I’m still not a hundred percent certain why I’m going; because Marion, the producer of ‘The Seventh Sword of Bathrick’, asked me I suppose. I spoke to her briefly earlier on. She assures me we’re going to be kept busy with numerous appointments over the next week. Whether or not they prove fruitful remains to be seen. I’m sure it’ll be fun and it will be nice to get to know her and the others involved in the film a bit better.

I’m hoping to hook up with at least three producers I’ve worked with before, just to remind them I’m alive, available and the answer to their scriptwriting conundrums.

Or maybe the cause of their nightmares, but we’ll gloss over those bits.

Expectations: not a lot really. I don’t for a moment believe I’m going to come back richer, better known or better connected; I don’t expect to sign a mega-bucks deal with some desperate Hollywood exec; and I don’t even expect to see many films.

I suppose my only real expectation is to come back considerably lighter in the wallet.

Fuck it, it’s a hell of a way to spunk your cash. Easy come, easy … oh, it’s gone.

Categories: Festivals, Future Tense, Progress | Leave a comment

It’s been a busy few days


I’m thinking of making that the name of this blog.

Over the weekend I signed the contract for ‘Future Tense’ which is the provisional title for the horror anthology mentioned in previous posts.

This simple little sentence probably conjures up images of a nice office where contracts were signed on a plush desk and celebrated with champagne. A handshake, a brief chat: ‘we’re so excited to be working with you on this’ and out the door half an hour later.

Oh no, my friends. It was a five and a half hour pub crawl of Eastbourne, followed by a brisk trot along the seafront in the vain hope of there being another bar open at 11.30 pm on a Sunday night.

Surprisingly, there was. Or at least, surprisingly to me. Which is embarrassing since it’s now technically my home town and has been for the best part of a year.

Never mind, a good time was had by all. Or at least both of us: the producer, Jonathan Sothcott, and myself. In fact, the more Jonathan had to drink, the more work he seemed to be offering me; a fact I must remember when dealing with producers in the future – get them drunk.

Or at least allow them to get themselves drunk.

As usual, I had to resist shouting out: “YOU FOOL! HAH, HAH, HAH, HAH!” immediately after the ink had dried. I settled for saying it quietly to myself when Jonathan had gone to the toilet; something which worried the barmaid who had witnessed the signing and wasn’t really sure what was going on anyway.

So I told her she’d signed away her soul.

We got thrown out shortly after that.

Future Tense is proving to be a very enjoyable film to write, since it’s really just six shorts stuck together (with a linking premise). I had intended to be really flash and turn up on Sunday night with the last four written, slap them on the table and shout something pithy; but it turns out my delusional grasp of time had struck again and it was only physically possible to write one.

Still, I’m three shorts in now and they’ve all been well received. The only notes I’ve had so far about the last one was “Lose the Poodle”.

Which seems fair enough.

Yesterday I scribbled down a longer version (5 pages) of the ‘K-Past’  synopsis for director Don Allen to take with him to Cannes.

That was well received too. It seems, at the moment, I can do no wrong.

Speaking of Cannes, I’ve resolved my ‘hotel in Belgium’ problem by renting a car; which will probably be a damn sight cheaper than taxis/buses and solves the other problem of deciding what clothes to take into town each morning. Casual? Dressy? Shorts? Now I can take them all, including the new (cheap) suit I bought on Saturday to replace the old (extremely cheap) suit I ruined at the Gothenburg Film Festival. I hope I’m not going to go through one suit every festival.

I also sorted myself out with a French sim card so it won’t cost a fortune ringing people trying to find out where they are.

You’d be forgiven for thinking I’m getting myself organised.

The only hassle with the sim card was the company wanted confirmation by fax and my PC isn’t connected to a land-line. The simple way was to install the relevant software on my laptop and connect that to the phone-line downstairs.

I’ve never really liked the simple way though, where’s the challenge?

It took the best part of three hours to find the right cables and enough extensions to run from one corner of the house downstairs to the opposite corner upstairs; but by god it was worth it.

Well, no. Actually, it wasn’t; but I wasn’t going to let a machine and some common sense beat me.

Speaken of beaten, that’s me off to bed now. Another early start tomorrow, another segment of ‘Future Tense’ to write and more fretting over my rapidly diminishing bank balance.

If anyone can be bothered, there are some very sketchy details about ‘K-Past’ and ‘Future Tense’ on my website; but be warned, they are very sketchy. By reading this post you’ll probably know more about them than you will from scouring my website.


Categories: Festivals, Future Tense, K-Past, Progress, Sad Bastard | 2 Comments

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