The Summoning

Mixbag

A few random things which have happened in the last few days:

        1) Completed the rewrites to the five day feature, they only took half a day. Not because I was moving at lightning speed, but purely because there were very few notes on the original draft. I could take this as a sign of my blossoming genius, but I suspect it’s more to do with the producer reading the script and giving notes on the same day. The further I get from it, the more little flaws I keep finding; there’s bound to be a few major ones somewhere.

 On the positive side, the producer emailed the revision (which is really the first proper draft) to the money men without reading it. He says he has enough faith in me to know it’s good enough to send out.

Which I thought was jolly nice of him.

        2) Had a meeting with Martin Kemp, Gary Kemp and Jonathan Sothcott about ‘The Summoning’ and other stuff. An intense, short meeting which was basically four people shouting ideas at each other until we had too many. Now I’ve just got to try and sort them into a reasonable order.

        3) Wrote out a list of a dozen sketches for the, as yet untitled, BBC sketch show, and had just sat down to write them when I got a phone call from the producer asking me to tweak the selected sketches from the 30-odd I wrote at the beginning of the month.

The great thing about this was I got to see which of these particular style of sketches are currently in the running (it may change, who knows?) and I get to tweak them so there’s a story which runs through them. Basically, because they were all written as individual sketches, one of the characters gets a little repetitive after the third week. Now she has a bit more to her – assuming the changes are acceptable and don’t get the entire series of sketches binned.

The bad thing about this is I was asked to write them to the specific format they use on this show. That’s not a bad thing in itself, except I was struggling to work out what the format is. It seems to me to be fairly random and to change from page to page. Plus, I had to amend word scripts, so I couldn’t use Final Draft (or Sophocles or Movie Magic. I tried importing the script into all three and they just got confused) which meant I had to type all the character names out by hand.

And the scene headings.

And format everything individually.

Very retro.

Very annoying.

I’ve never really realised how much slower it is to write without proper screenwriting software, it’s a fucking nightmare. By the end of a long day’s work, I’d only managed to tweak the twelve scripts and write two new ones. I think under ‘normal’ circumstances I’d have managed to write at least another five or six.

I finished the day in a blaze of swearing and a resolution to buy the BBC a copy of Final Draft.

        4) The BBC then redeemed itself by telling me who they’re approaching to play the lead in my sketches.

I’m not saying who it is, because he may not do it; but suffice it to say, I was excited enough to shit myself.

        5) One change of pants later, I realised my list of twelve new sketches was mostly shit anyway. So it’s probably a good thing I spent the day swearing at Word instead of committing them to paper.

        6) One of the feature films I’m working on is no longer a feature, it’s something much, much cooler.

        7) I read a script by a guy who’s just had one of his other scripts optioned by one of the top Hollywood producer/directors. Ignoring the fact it was full of passive tense, wrylies, unfilmables, camera directions and bland characters … it was still a bit shit. Good premise, badly done. I read the script he had optioned by said ‘big cheese’ and that was even worse. It didn’t even have a good premise.

        8) I read another script by a guy who used to be in a soap of some kind and that had absolutely no formatting whatsoever. Dialogue was sometimes in bold, sometimes in brackets and seemed to float around the page. Action wandered about all over the place. Sometimes it was full page width, the  it would be in brackets in the centre, then it turned up inside people’s dialogue.

Honestly, you’d think this guy had never seen a script before, instead of having been (or maybe still is?) an actor in a long running soap. Unless, that’s how they write their scripts and all these formatting rules are an Internet myth put about by bored readers who just want to confuse people? I mean, seriously 3) , 7) and 8) – all three scripts by people who should (and probably do) know better – not one of them has anything remotely like the format the gurus tell us to use.

I’m still sticking to these ‘rules’ because I happen to like them; but really, does anyone else give a shit?

        9) Made up a feature pitch on the spot. It went down well. Now I’ve just got to find the time to write it.

And that’s it. That’s been my week. A lot of little bits and bobs with no cohesive whole.

A bit like most of the scripts I’ve read recently.

Categories: BBC, BBC Sketch Show, Industry Musings, Progress, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard, Someone Else's Way, The Summoning | 3 Comments

Stupidity

Someone mentioned Adele Silva is in the new series of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. I have zero interest in this series, but for a moment I got quite excited: someone I know is going to be on the telly!

Then I remembered: I don’t know her, I’ve never met her and she’s been on the telly for ages.

Since 1989 in fact.

The momentary confusion was because she’s in ‘The Summoning’ and she added me as a friend on Facebook.

It turns out I can’t tell the difference between the Internet and reality. I feel quite foolish and more than a little pathetic.

Categories: Sad Bastard, The Summoning | 4 Comments

Back to work

I had a day off yesterday, and very nice it was too. It’s been a long time since I did nothing all day, or at least intentionally did nothing. I’m not counting the odd days I have when I sit at the computer and completely fail to achieve anything – they aren’t days off, they’re just annoying. Fortunately they’re few and far between.

I finished the second draft of ‘Kapital‘ on Sunday, just waiting to hear back from the production team now. I’m curious to know if it makes any sense. It does to me, but getting the balance of exposition right can be quite tricky when you’re working on a project. Particularly when said project is designed to be the first of a trilogy and events in the second and third films have to be foreshadowed here, without confusing people.

Although there is one overall story, each film has to be self contained. We don’t want to go for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ thing of only giving you a third of a story at a time.

There’s a meeting scheduled for Thursday, hopefully it won’t revolve around the rest of them calling me names and swearing at me.

The second draft was a massive pain in the arse … and the fingers, back and eyes.

It’s taken me longer than any rewrite ever has, I’ve been working on it non-stop from 8 in the morning until 11 at night, every day for ages.

Except when I haven’t.

Like when I went to the pub last Thursday – but even then I worked on the train on the way up and back. The first outing for my gay laptop, I might add. An outing which proved no one wants to sit next to a bloke with a pink laptop. One guy sat down, but after a brief glance at the sheer pinkness of the thing, he upped and left.

Space to stretch out on a train, sheer luxury.

But the second draft’s done now (until the next lot of notes come in) and it’s time to move on to the next project. Jason Arnopp asked me when the last time I worked on a spec script was, and I honestly can’t remember. As appealing as it is, it’s difficult to find the time amidst the list of the things pending for other people.

As it stands today, the list, in no particular order, is:

  • Cast Report for ‘Kapital’.
  • Go through my files looking for sketches suitable for two women.
  • Read and consider a rewrite to a short film
  • Watch the latest edit of ‘LVJ‘ and make notes about possible changes.
  • Write a new segment for ‘The Summoning’.
  • Write a comedy short for an DoP I’ve worked with before.
  • Rewrite a feature which may or may not be going into production soon.
  • If there’s any time, write some sketches for ‘The Treason Show’/‘NewsRevue’.

And there’s something else. Something I know I’ve forgotten which is lurking at the back of my mind. Something someone asked me about writing for them …

Nope, no idea. If you’re reading and I’ve left you out – I will remember, I promise.

For anyone whose work is on the list – rest assured YOU are top of the real list. YOUR project is much more important to me than anyone else’s.

Honest.

Categories: Kapital, LVJ, NewsRevue, Progress, The Summoning, The Treason Show | 3 Comments

The first hurdle

My gay laptop got its first real test this week – I’ve been away from home for four days and I can report it completely failed to be of any use whatsoever for three and five sixths of those days.

I got exactly one sixth of a day’s work out of it – one battery charge – before it packed up and stopped working. It turns out one major component failed to operate in a reasonable manner and it rendered the whole thing useless.

Me, I failed to operate in a reasonable manner – I forgot to take the power cable with me.

There’s a technical name for this sort of behaviour, in an uncharacteristic display of non-swearing I’ll let you fill in the blanks.

Suffice it to say, the ultra portable laptop suddenly seems a lot heavier when it’s no fucking use to anyone.

Luckily, I haven’t got anything I desperately need to do – like, for example, a feature re-write, a music video to outline, a perfume commercial to write, a batch of replacement ideas for ‘The Summoning’ and a new short film to tweak; otherwise I’d have got really upset.

Categories: Kapital, The Summoning, Two steps back | 2 Comments

The Summoning – the first segment

The first segment of ‘The Summoning’ was shot over the weekend: Martin Kemp directed, with Gary Kemp and Adele Silva as the leads. Here was my view of the filming:

Roof

If you look really closely at the left hand side, through that wall and then about 540 miles due south you might just be able to see it.

If you’re lucky.

Okay, I admit it. I wasn’t there. This was for two reasons:

  1. Being on set is quite dull. Being on location is even worse because there’s nowhere to sit down.
  2. They, rather selfishly I thought, scheduled it on a day when I already had other plans.

For me, being present at the filming breaks down into three phases, probably best characterised as Wow! Oh. and Hang on! Let me give you an example, from one of the first shoots I attended:

  • Phase 1: Wow! People are saying my lines!
  • Phase 2: Oh. People are saying my lines wrong.
  • Phase 3: Hang on! These aren’t my lines, some bastard has re-written them.

Or even worse, people start improvising. Don’t do that, please don’t do that. When actors start improvising, what they’re in effect saying is: ‘I can think up a better line off the top of my head than you can if you spend several months thinking about it.’

The defence is: some of the best lines in movie history were improvised.

This is true, but so were most of the worst ones.

Honestly, I did want to go and see at least one little bit of the shoot; but it just didn’t fit in with my schedule. It’s not a major worry, I’m sure I’ll be able to see one of the other segments. And even if that’s not possible, I’m not going to get upset about it.

I am itching to find out how it went though. The sketchy reports I’ve had say it went really well. I’ve been sent a load of stills which look fantastic, but I’m not allowed to show them to anyone yet.

So don’t even ask.

Regardless, the film is off the ground. It’s officially moved from pre-production into production, and that can only be a good thing. There were a couple of the obligatory last-minute disasters to do with personnel and locations, but apart from that it apparently all went very smoothly.

One down, five to go.

Categories: Progress, The Summoning | 4 Comments

A sticky situation

I’m busy at the moment, very busy. Work is piling up, which is great, and I keep looking for (which is sensible) and accepting (which is very stupid) more.

Does that sentence make sense?

It does to me, but then I’ve been up since bastard early yesterday morning.

I had a lot planned for today, I’ve got a load of odds and ends to tie up before I start work on ‘Kapital‘, which is the new working title for the action/thriller feature ‘K-Past’.

I started off by writing up a report on a feature script I read last night. One of the questions the producer asked was: What could I do to make it better?

The answer is simple: I could burn the screenplay, that would improve it 150%.

To be fair, it wasn’t that bad and there were a number of things (apart from a good fire) which could improve it immeasurably.

Like wiping my arse on it.

No, it wasn’t that bad – it’s all fixable. Honest. Pay me enough and I can fix anything.

Next up was writing the elusive sixth segment of ‘The Summoning’. Producer Jonathan Sothcott and I came up with the idea at our last meeting on Tuesday. It’s a voodoo tale, so the first half of the morning was research; then it was down to work.

I tend to start with a two page outline, nailing down the salient points of the plot and odd bits of dialogue. I was about halfway through when I poured a can of Diet Coke into the keyboard of my spanky new(ish) laptop.

Funnily enough, my dad always warned me about the dangers of having a drink next to the computer; but I never believed him.

He was right. Sorry, dad.

After feverishly mopping things up with handfuls of wadded toilet paper, I was able to assess the damage.

It’s still working. Hasn’t gone ‘bang’ or ‘fizz’ or anything. I suppose I should have unplugged it and let it dry out, but I haven’t got time. Onwards!

Now, I have a complicated system of typing where I press twice as many keys and then delete the ones which aren’t needed.

Don’t ask me why, I don’t know.

The backspace key is the most used key on both my computers, I hit it almost every other keystroke. Which is a shame, because that’s exactly where I poured the Diet Coke. Two letters in, I hit backspace and watch in horror as it deletes the last letter and just keeps on going.

All the way back, to the top of the page.

Meanwhile I’m shouting NO! a lot and trying to find a spoon to prise the key up.

Why a spoon? No idea, what can I say, I’m complicated. Suffice it to say, there was no spoon in the vicinity of my laptop and I lost all of the text.

All of it, every single last paragraph, sentence, word and character.

I think ‘deeply miffed’ covers how I felt.

But wait! The ‘redo’ button! That beautiful little right facing arrow of joy.

Nope. Doesn’t do fuck all.

Start again.

Oh, and I’ve just realised I’ve got a spoon in my back pocket which has been there since breakfast. Joy beyond measure.

I prise the button up, hoping it won’t break. Clean it all out, then panic because I can’t get it back in. It’s an incredibly complicated affair with springs and clips and little plastic things which fly out when you look at them.

But I persevere and I prevail. Oh yes, no computer will ever best me.

Except now it’s shut down.

Why has it shut down? Shit! Is it death by Diet Coke?

Nope, there’s a power cut and has been for hours –  the batteries have died.

I’m going to have to do this the old fashioned way – pen and paper at the ready. Can I even remember how to use a pen? It’s been a while.

Fortunately, the power came back on and stayed back on; and apart from one little backspace mishap (two lines!) I was able to finish the outline without incident.

Next comes the script which flows out beautifully – even if it is a little on the long side – 19 pages as opposed to an average of 14 for the other 5 shorts.

A little trimming is probably in order; but after a read through, I decide against it.  I think it reads well, but I’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the official verdict.

I’ve even managed to invent a new language for the ‘voodoo curses’. It’s got a solid grammar, logical rules and is almost pronounceable. I just hope no one works out what it says – it’s not very voodoo.

I’d arranged to meet people for dinner, and I finished the script at four minutes to. How’s that for timing?

If anyone cares, dinner was Thai and it was very nice.

Oh, and I almost forgot – it looks like I’ve had another screenplay optioned. The contract has been agreed; I haven’t signed it yet, but since the details have appeared on the company website, I guess I can mention it. It’s a twenty-something comedy called ‘Geeked’, optioned by Black and Blue Entertainment.

That means I’ve got seven features in development now.

Seven!

That’s one for every dwarf!

I’m a little worried that having one of my scripts in development is becoming a fashion accessory, are people even reading these things? Will I fall out of fashion next month? Who knows? I don’t, but it’s going to be fun finding out.

Categories: Geeked, K-Past, Kapital, Progress, Sad Bastard, The Summoning | 12 Comments

A lovely day

Another day in London yesterday for meetings about ‘The Summoning’ and ‘K-Past’, which is definitely going to be called something else any day now.

I got a new phone the other day …

Bear with me, this is relevant.

Sort of. 

… it’s a Nokia N95, which has built in sat-nav. This plays on two of my greatest weaknesses: a love of gadgets and an awful sense of direction.

The prospect of fiddling with a gadget which actually leads me to where I want to go is very exciting. That the place I want to go is to a meeting with people who want to make one of my scripts is even better. That I get on with, and actually like, two out of the three people I’m meeting is about as good as it gets.

You’d be forgiven for thinking I don’t like the third person; but that’s not true – I just hadn’t met him before and was therefore unable to say either way.

The meeting was with producers Jonathan Sothcott and Gillian MacGregor, both of whom are lovely (Jonathan says I have to write he’s “dashing, witty, urbane, charming and phenomenally well endowed” I wouldn’t like to vouch for phenomenally well endowed and I don’t know what urbane means (something to do with houses?); but I’ll give him the rest) and Martin Kemp, who’s going to direct one segment and, I think, star in another and actually is dashing, witty, charming and really fucking tall.

Or maybe that’s because I got there first and was already sitting down?

After having had the meeting, I can say with some authority, he’s lovely too.

There were some notes given (and since actioned), some risotto eaten and it was time to move on.

Time for the sat-nav again.

Now, I know the second meeting isn’t too far away and with the power of my new gadget I should be able to quickly plan a route between …

No, actually all I’ve managed to do is wander into a lamp post. It turns out my third weakness is not being able to read and walk at the same time.

At least not walk in a straight line.

It also occurs to me that walking around holding a brand new phone at arm’s length and squinting at the sky is akin to holding a sigh which reads: PLEASE MUG ME.

So I pocket the phone and take the tube, since I already know where I’m going for the next meeting anyway.

Which is with Don Allen and Emma Dobinson about ‘K-Past’; and in the interests of fairness, they’re both lovely too.

All in all, it was a lovely day. I’m not the kind of guy who uses the word ‘lovely’ that much, but it does accurately describe how I feel about yesterday.

Apart from actually having to go into London which generally makes me want to punch people and scrub myself with Vim.

When I got home last night I had a couple of interesting emails. One from the American company I was talking to in Cannes asking if I could change the ages of the characters in the ‘Narnia style thing’ I’d pitched them. They felt 12 was too young, which is fair enough. I think I’d originally conceived them as 16, but since Narnia was mentioned as a reference point I thought I’d put them at the same age as the kids from ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ (8 – 13).

Of course nowadays, by 13 most kids are more interested in fags and Bacardi Breezers than having whizzo adventures in a wardrobe – and anyway, they have to get home because their babies need feeding.

Or so The Daily Mail would have you believe.

Regardless, the fact they’re inquiring about changing the ages of the characters has got to be a good sign.

The other email was from a producer I met out in Cannes and had dinner with a couple of times called Becky Adams. Becky was the only person at dinner who wasn’t producing one of my scripts. Of course I gave her my card so she could rectify this appalling faux-pas.

In her email, she points out we’ve already had dealings with each other last year.  She was looking for scripts and I sent her the synopsis for one of mine. She politely declined and I thanked her for her time – which was lucky. If I was the kind of guy who sends angry emails after each rejection, dinner would have been quite interesting.

She assures me now she’s met me she’ll be in touch about working together after she’s finished her current project. It’s nice to have this offer after a face to face meeting, it’s obvious to me that, having met me, she’s realised I’m ginger and need all the help I can get.

I knew it had to come in useful one day.

Categories: K-Past, Progress, Random Witterings, The Summoning | 2 Comments

A good place to be

I tend to lie a lot.

Not important stuff and never to friends (except when it is and I do).

I do, however, tend to be a little economical with deadlines. I don’t know where this compulsion comes from, but I don’t seem to be able to stop.

When people ask if I can have something done in an unreasonably short period of time, I always say yes – knowing damn well I can’t.

Then I somehow manage it anyway. Panic is a great motivator.

When people give me a short, but realistic, deadline, I shout about how it can’t be done and then do it in half the time.

It’s a pathetic writer’s version of Scotty’s ‘multiply repair times by four’ strategy.

When I was asked if I could finish the full draft of ‘The Summoning’ by the end of the week, I quickly denied it was possible – fully intending to have it done within two days.

Unfortunately, events and my own monumental stupidity have conspired against me. Through an embarrassing oversight I’m not really prepared to admit in public, I’ve suddenly found the twenty or so hours of writing time (excluding time for sleeping) I had reduced to ten – if I don’t sleep at all.

Bugger.

Still, that’s not impossible (in my deluded world) and I set off at a cracking pace (for a one legged asthmatic spider carrying a heavy load).

Then came an email – one of the six shorts which make up the film (ironically, the one which got me the job in the first place) is no longer deemed suitable. Can I come up with something else?

I argued the merits of the story, not because I believe in it, but because I’m too damned lazy to write a new segment.

They are, of course, absolutely right.

Did I say ‘bugger’ already?

So now I’ve had to abandon the linking scenes and go back to the ideas stage. Which maybe isn’t as bad as it seems, since I no longer have to forego my much needed sleep; but means my already full schedule just started to pile up.

As far as I can tell, the effects aren’t going to really start hitting me for another week or two yet, but I can already see the looming traffic jam on the horizon.

Do you know the really sad part about all this?

Apart from the monumental stupid thing which caused the initial fuck up?

I love it. I absolutely love it. I love the pressure, I love the hassle, I even love the lack of sleep. The potential to disappoint two or maybe three different producers is a great feeling.

Why?

Because a year or two ago, I would have been idly picking at the keyboard, wondering what to write next. Now I rarely have that luxury. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a spec script – they’re all on commission or request or at least for someone who’s expressed an interest in a particular type of story.

Yes it’s tiring, yes it’s stressful; but god damn is it a good place to be. I’m no longer writing into the void, wondering if anyone’s ever going to read anything I put on paper.

Everything I write these days (except, perhaps, this blog) has someone waiting to read it. Someone who knows roughly what it’s about, likes my work and actually wants to like the script.

Does life get any better than that?

Categories: Progress, Sad Bastard, The Summoning, Two steps back | 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

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