Sparkle

2015

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So that was 2015.

No flying cars, there were hoverboards … but they didn’t hover, they just set fire to people’s houses.

Behind the scenes I had a thrilling and exciting year … but I can’t really talk about it.

Not yet, anyway … but one day. soon.

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This is what’s immensely frustrating about being a scriptwriter – all the exciting things happen (and often die) out of the spotlight. By the time I’m allowed to talk about things (because contracts have finally been negotiated and signed) it’s old news and any excitement is feigned.

Well, not feigned … diluted. Like having to remember how excited you were about a Christmas present you got last year when it’s since been broken by the kid next door.fake-smile

But hey, it’s been a busy year with lots of stuff going on. On paper, it probably looks like not a lot … but that’s just the nature of the business. I’ve done a few uncredited rewrites, one of which has just been released … which is a yay I can’t publicly acknowledge.

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But never mind. If I was in it for the applause, I wouldn’t be a writer.

The rest of 2015, the bits I did talk about, went something like this:

JANUARY

Apparently all I did in January was talk about 2014, which although it included Ghostbusters and a suspicious looking codpiece …

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… seems a bit of a waste of a bloggy month.

FEBRUARY

Ah, hello groove I was wondering where you’d gone.

February was a proper blogging month full of blogs and … well, just blogs.

First off I tried to get you all to commit acts of phone-related mischief by adding ‘Okay Google’ phrases into scripts which would punish anyone who had their phone on in the cinema.

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Did any of you do it? Please say someone did it.

Then I defended Footloose because … it’s fucking Footloose. Footloose is awesome.

After succcessfully re-educating the world about the joys of ’80s dance, I went on to prove the three act structure is fine – stop trying to reinvent the wheel, it works just fine.

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And then I immediately explained why it doesn’t really work that well for a scriptwriter.

Aren’t you glad you’ve got me around to explain these things to you?

MARCH

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb …

I, on the other hand, came in with a thing about the joy of failing

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… stumbled into a confused ramble about clichés

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… mumbled something I can’t be bothered to reread about page thinking

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… compared Joss Whedon to HTC and rambled about how frustrating it must be to be either of them …

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… and went out with an in-depth discussing about liars and lying for a living.

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APRIL

April is where things got interesting …

Just not at first. First I wondered if maybe you shouldn’t really be able to point to the midpoint in a film.

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Then I used my blog to educate my producer as to why he shouldn’t get his hopes up about the first draft I was just about to deliver …

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Just as it might have got interesting … I got angry about spoilers instead.

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Then it got interesting. I had a phone call

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It was Danny Stack … and he didn’t want anything except a chat.

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Where it got interesting was it kicked off a string of phone calls between me and … well, just people. Nice people. People like Calum Chalmers.

MAY

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And it carried on with more nice people like Robin Bell, Andrew Mullins and Dominic Carver.

In fact, most of May was taken up with phone calls, broken only by me trying to figure out how to write the perfect cameo (it worked! I wish I could tell you how well it worked … but I can’t) and to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary.

Oh and I went on a bit about competition and how much I enjoy it.

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JUNE

June continued the #PhonePhill-ing bringing delightful chats with Dee Chilton, Rosie Claverton and Rebecca Handley.

In fact, June was all phone calls apart from one post about being better and how we should all pursue knowledge as if it were a … thing. I don’t know. Insert your own simile, I’m tired.

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JULY

July brought yet more telephone awesomeness …

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This time in the shape of Mac McSharry, James Moran, Jay Sutherland and Terry Newman.

As well as yakking to people, I also (gasp!) worked over a weekend.

Apparently this is so shocking to me I felt the need to blog about it.

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I also made an uncredited appearance as Iron Man at a little boy’s birthday party in a homemade, cardboard costume:

I enjoyed that.

AUGUST

In August I had a little panic about potentially offending  someone I quite like by giving them script notes. In order to cover my anxiety, I wrote this post about the kind of script notes I get and how upsetting they can be … if you don’t take them in the spirit they’re intended.

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Later on, I followed that post up by giving myself notes on an old script.

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I also pretended a meal/drink with some friends was a sort of #PhonePhill episode … even though it wasn’t.

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But it did lead to this picture, which is my favourite of the year:

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I rounded off August by highlighting my inability to not focus on background detail.

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SEPTEMBER

Man, I did a lot of blogging in 2015. Too much, some might say.

In September I added one more thing to a script and felt the need to tell everyone.

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Then I added a second thing and banged on about that too.

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I did a thing about tokenism and … well, I don’t know what my point was there. Feel free to read it and let me know.

Oh, and then I added some nonsense to Jason Arnopp’s blog post about hands.

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OCTOBER

I kicked off October by contrasting Rose Tyler with Jurassic Park … which, you know, is clearly two different things and needs a blog explaining why.

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And then … the future arrived!

I meant to take a photo of myself with my trousers on inside out … but I didn’t. Possibly because I don’t think I wore any in October.

Instead of wearing trousers, I watched some videos about deleted scenes from all three Star Wars films:

I say three because I’m a prequel denier. At that point I was adamant there were only three Star Wars films. Now, of course, there’s been another half of a Star Wars film.

Hopefully we’ll find out in a couple of years whether or not any of it makes sense.

NOVEMBER

Just when you thought I’d forgotten about it, another #PhonePhill – this time with William Gallagher. He’s written a book, you know. Bits of it are about me.

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Inspired by the resurgence of telephonic communication, I immediately didn’t do it again and instead waffled on about River Theory …

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Expressed my love for the Verity podcast …

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And raved on and on and on about this speech from Doctor Who:

Oh, and I found this photo of a Burt Reynolds crab.

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DECEMBER

Which brings us to now. All I did in December was a handful of short blogs about other people’s stuff. Things like:

Arnopp’s patreon campaign, the UK Scriptwriter’s Handbook and the Heaven Sent/Hell Bent scripts.

There were meant to be more, but there wasn’t.

I didn’t even wish you a merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

There, I did it.

And so, with this year nearly spent, all eyes turn to the next one.

Hopefully it’ll include at least one blog about my new office:

And loads and loads about my next script to be produced:

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Happy New Year, let’s chat soon.

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Categories: #PhonePhill, Bored, Career Path, Christmas Crackers, Industry Musings, My Way, Progress, Publicity, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way, Sparkle, The Ties That Bind, Things I've Learnt Recently, Two steps back, Writing and life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2010

I know it’s traditional to do your end-of-year-blog-round-up at the end of the year you’re rounding-up, but I didn’t, so I’m doing it now.

And no, I haven’t caved in, bought an iPhone and then failed to wake up for three days in a row (although I do find it highly amusing and can’t wait to smile smugly at certain friends of mine whose most cherished and deeply held belief is ‘Apple products never go wrong’.); but I’ve just been excruciatingly busy with Persona … which the more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed completely failed to manifest itself two days ago. There is a reason for that, but it will have to wait.

So, what did I do in 2010 (which I can’t believe I’m talking about, it’s so last year)? Well, I did something rather like this …

JANUARY

I explained how to be happy, in a rather long winded post which went on for so long it annoyed the piss out of me; Lord knows how you felt about it.

I discovered there was a 5,50 in the morning, ate my first school dinner since I was 11 and became the world’s first, ginger Bollywood consultant.

Updated Quicktime.

Discovered a watched kettle does boil and took a video to prove it:

Equated ‘In the Night Garden’ to genital piercing.

Then ran head-first at a wall and played with some bunnies.

FEBRUARY

Posted lots of behind the scenes videos for ‘Just for the Record’.

Talked about Piers‘ Writers’ Social.

Got lost in America and had to ask where I was.

Updated iTunes.

Spend a weekend in a fabulous house on Anglesey (which may or may not have some connection to St Seiriol) with a Lord who taught me how to con money out of people on Waltzers and a young woman who tries to bring helicopters down by hitting golf balls at them (but is considering giving it up because she almost hit a car and feels that’s a bit dangerous), whilst working out a plan to invade the Falklands as the first step towards exploiting the untapped mineral wealth of Antarctica and being served dinner by William Wordsworth’s great-granddaughter … surprisingly, this wasn’t a dream and did actually happen.

Failed to get mentioned in The Sun, Broadcast and GMTV.

That was pretty much it for February.

MARCH

Wondered if Caprica would get any better – decided it wasn’t worth spending the time to find out. Did it get better?

Got given a note I didn’t understand.

Accidentally saw Superman Returns and got all shouty and upset.

Updated Quicktime and iTunes.

Explained how to deal with notes by wearing a skirt and letting other men in skirts stab you.

Broke down exactly how I deal with a thirty-day deadline … badly, is the answer, in case you were wondering.

Went to Piers‘ Writers’ Social.

The DVD for ‘Just for the Record’ became available to pre-order.

Remained unconvinced by 3D. I’m still not convinced – good idea or pointless gimmick?

APRIL

Got very stressed because I was working on five projects at the same time – five! How pitifully small that number seems now. My stress dissolved in the face of this pretty picture:

Which may or may not be in pre-production around about now. Probably isn’t.

Got held prisoner in France due to a dastardly plot involving my parents, British Airways and an Icelandic volcano.

Got a bit disappointed by the Daleks and their magic Easter egg.

Decided I don’t trust anyone’s opinion.

Updated Quicktime.

Got in a bit of a tangle about an exclamation mark!

MAY

Updated Quicktime.

Spent three days shitting myself here:

Stayed awake for 36 hours, whilst travelling eight hours across five time zones so I could get to here:

Just so I could attend the premiere of ‘Just for the Record’

Updated iTunes.

Went to see ‘Just for the Record’ in the same cinema I went to see all of the films which initially inspired me to be a writer. A film (based on) a script I wrote showing in an actual cinema! And not just one cinema, several across the country. Something I wrote got a theatrical release! … Shame it was a bit shit really.

Explained how cold reading helps get you out of holes you dig by being thoroughly unprofessional.

Realised IMDb ratings may be a slightly better work of fiction than the films themselves.

Was deeply surprised to find ‘Just for the Record’ in the DVD charts. Number 13, if you’re interested:

Updated Quicktime.

Went on a long and pointless rant about builders.

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Went on a long and pointless rant about isms.

JUNE

Was surprised to receive a smattering of complimentary emails.

Updated Quicktime and iTunes.

Stole some money:

Wrote my most popular post of the year: It’s not fair

JULY

Listened to two Jamaicans argue about the best way to spray paint an elephant.

Had a First Look at LVJ:

Got called a lying bastard for failing to recognise Apple as the true inventor of video calling.

Updated Quicktime.

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Pause/beat – not the fucking same.

‘The Wrong Door’ came out on DVD! No one bought it! Hooray!

Got angry about some spelling.

Updated iTunes.

AUGUST

Updated iTunes.

Promoted some random shit.

Updated Quicktime.

Saw some films.

Updated iTunes.

Failed to understand semi-colons.

Updated Quicktime.

Invented a new sport.

Failed to win at the sport I’d just invented.

Updated iTunes.

Got removed from a project for waiting too long for them to send me some feedback.

Updated Quicktime.

Made some robots swear:

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Swore I’d make the robots swear once a month, just for fun.

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Failed to make the robots swear ever again. This will probably be a lifelong failure.

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Got annoyed with people slagging off Richard Curtis.

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Someone set up a Twitter account in my name … still don’t know who.

Updated iTunes.

SEPTEMBER

Realised I don’t know what iTunes is or why it’s on my computer. I mean, I know you can use it to buy music and stuff; but what’s all the rest of it for? As far as I can tell it’s something which gets between your computer and an mp3 player or a phone and … makes it all a bit more complicated. A bit like a geriatric butler who insists on chewing your food for you. I mean, what the fuck is it for?

Decided to uninstall iTunes.

Got excited about a poster I haven’t seen for twenty-five years.

Liked ‘Roger and Val Have Just Got In’ even if no one else did.

Uninstalled iTunes.

Moaned about people fucking up my (admittedly poor) scripts by removing, changing or otherwise tampering with the protagonist AFTER the fucking script has been shot.

Uninstalled iTunes.

Updated Quicktime.

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Uninstalled iTunes.

Went to the theatre – nothing blew up, no one got naked and there was a surprising lack of giant killer robots; but it was actually very enjoyable.

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Expressed a desire to project a photo of my balls onto various people’s faces.

Uninstalled iTunes.

Uninstalled iTunes.

Updated Quicktime.

Uninstalled iTunes – what the fuck is this shit? Where does it keep coming from? I don’t want it. I don’t need it. Please, please fuck off!

Gave up and updated iTunes.

OCTOBER

Tried to name a space shuttle ‘Brian’.

Updated Quicktime.

Learnt there is such a thing as a one word pitch.

Updated Quicktime.

Had a warm gooey feeling because I did something uncharacteristically nice.

Updated Quicktime.

Got confused between my imagination and a piece of paper.

Updated Quicktime.

Tried to decipher the numbering system of a script competition.

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Realised iTunes seems to have given up asking to be updated.

Updated iTunes.

And Quicktime.

NOVEMBER

Confessed my sexual fondness for a cartoon character.

Updated Quicktime.

Ranted about working for two producers who hated each other.

Updated Quicktime.

Wished Apple would just make Quicktime work properly in the first place. Or at least the last place, since it seems to update every fucking two days and still doesn’t actually fucking work. What exactly is updating? Is inability to play any fucking file whatsoever?

Uninstalled Quicktime.

DECEMBER

Reinstalled Quicktime so I could watch a film trailer.

Updated Quicktime.

Updated iTunes.

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Updated iTunes.

Updated Quicktime.

Talked about the snow for fucking ages.

Updated Quicktime.

Realised I’d spent more time updating Quicktime than fucking breathing. In fact, I’d go so far as to say updating Quicktime is 80% of my social interaction with the world.

Talked about some loveliness.

Realised Quicktime hasn’t asked to be updated for a week. I miss that little guy.

Did something I didn’t want to do and enjoyed it.

Made writing ridiculous complex with all sorts of colour-coded formulas.

Where’s Quicktime? Why isn’t it talking to me any more? Have I upset it somehow?

Got really excited about the trailer for:

And began the nine day countdown to … nothing.

UPDATED QUICKTIME! HE’S BACK! HE DOES LOVE ME! … Bollocks.

And that was about it. There wasn’t a lot of actual blogging happening this year, primarily because 2010 was the year of taking on too many projects. 12 features in all. 12 – fucking ridiculous. Behind the scenes, unblogged, I managed to work my way through 9 of those 12 features – 3 of them are still waiting patiently in the wings; invented the format for, hired writers for, developed, wrote and script-edited Persona (which has been delayed, but is definitely starting in January this year); attended a lot of meetings; met the world’s most pretentious man; travelled 8402 miles in 16 hours just to wank into a pot; became a sort of Producer; was forced to interact with actors; set fire to lots of things which went fizz …. bang; ruined four rolls of really expensive wallpaper; loved my wife and my daughter and generally had an absolute fucking ball.

What does 2011 hold?

Well, Persona for one thing. Those last three films and then a break from films for a while. Probably. Maybe some features going into production. Twitter – maybe? I might just follow people for a while and see what happens. And … um … sleep. I need some sleep. Quite a lot of it, really.

Happy New Year!

Categories: BBC, Career Path, Industry Musings, Just for the Record, LVJ, My Way, Opportunity, Persona, Progress, Publicity, Rants, Sad Bastard, Software, Someone Else's Way, Sparkle, That Band, The Wrong Door, Things I've Learnt Recently, Two steps back, Writing and life | 2 Comments

Stress

I’ve always wondered how much I can take.

I don’t generally think of myself as a particularly stressed person, but it’s perfectly possible my self image is massively out of whack. I mean, does anyone think of themselves as an easily stressed person who finds it difficult to cope?

Hmm, yeah, well I guess they do. I think I know a few people who would happily proclaim that trait as part of their identity.

I find stress a funny thing, I’ve never really noticed I’ve been stressed until whatever’s been bothering me has wandered off, then I suddenly notice the absence of stress. Getting stressed is usually a slow, gradual process. One you don’t notice. The removal of stress tends to be instant and a sudden change. A bit like it slowly getting dark as opposed to switching on the light.

I’m working on five feature scripts at the moment, which is frankly ludicrous. Occasionally a project I thought was dead or finished with rears up and leaps into the mix, just to add a little more pressure. You know, something along the lines of:

‘can we have a character breakdown for …’

or

 ‘I need a bio for the press pack.’

or

‘I’ve had a completely pointless idea which in no way benefits the story. I think it’s a two minute tweak because I’m a director, not a writer; but in reality it necessitates a complete page one re-write for a project I haven’t been able to finance for three years now and have absolutely no hope of getting made yet I keep bothering you assuming someone will magically recognise my genius any day now.’

The last type is always the most fun.

My life right now could be summed up thus:

Imagine you’re standing on a boat in a storm, juggling five randomly shaped objects.

Each object contains an incredibly difficult puzzle.

In order to solve all of the puzzles you need to be (or be able to fake being) an expert in firearms, police procedures, European folklore, mythic animals, chronology of 2007, 2003, 1997, political history, the development of mobile phones, geographical layouts and historical knowledge of Loughton, Argentina, the Arctic, the Antarctic, Leamington Spa, London and somewhere I’ve made up, Egyptology, construction, swordplay in the Dark Ages, clothing from 1000 AD to present day, the music industry, BDSM, pet cremation, diamond formation, fair ground cons and monkeys.

Every time you solve one puzzle, you have to throw it into a hole no bigger than the object itself on one of five boats which are moving around you at different speeds and bouncing up and down in the storm. Assuming you get it into the hole, you have an unspecified period of time to work on the other four puzzles before the solved one gets thrown back with a more complicated puzzle. Sometimes it might be three or four weeks before it comes back, sometimes it might be within the hour.

Occasionally, another boat, one you haven’t seen or heard of for months, passes by and hurls you a smaller, simpler puzzle, expecting it to be solved and thrown back within hours. The number of objects you’re juggling may look like five, but occasionally it can become eight or nine before dropping back to the base level.

Oh yes, and everyone wants their puzzle solved first.

At first, it all seemed like fun. Five projects? Yeah, sure, pile them on. Easy.

I’m beginning to suspect that was a very stupid decision. Since committing myself to the five, I’ve turned down two paying projects (which galls me immensely) and may have to turn down a third (or should that be eighth?) which is staring at me from my desk right now.

For the first time I’m feeling stress while it’s present. I’m not sleeping properly, I’m getting styes, spots, I can’t focus properly, my hands are shaking and I’m beginning to drool. I’m getting the work done, but it’s a painfully slow business and I feel like I’m constantly disappointing people as I continually shuffle deadlines around. I’m beginning to hate my computer. Twice this year I’ve thought of jacking it all in and taking up a less time consuming hobby, like arranging every insect in the world in alphabetical order.

This isn’t fun, this isn’t what I signed up for.

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can’t

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any

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And then this arrives via email:

And suddenly it all seems worth it again.

Categories: Sparkle, Writing and life | 14 Comments

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