Generally speaking, screenwriters aren’t famous. Perhaps we become well known among our colleagues and maybe even within the industry, but the general public tends not to recognise us or even know which of us wrote their favourite films. Not unless the writer also directed or starred in it.

TV is perhaps a little different, but certainly in features the writer’s role is so minimised they’re barely mentioned. I don’t recall ever hearing a writer interviewed on Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, for example. Except, of course, for the usual caveat of they were also  the director or the star.

Scriptwriters are faceless and interchangeable, not worth talking about. The downside of this is the devaluing of perception leads to financial devaluing. Writers get paid less (a lot less) than actors, directors or producers because … well, we’re just not really an important part of the film-making process. We merely invent the whole thing from beginning to end, anyone can do that.

The only upside of not being famous is, well, being famous is a bit shit, isn’t  it? Why would you want people pointing at you and whispering to each other and asking for your autograph and generally bothering you every time you pop out for a pint of milk?

Not me. Anonymity is lovely, thank you very much.

And yet …

This Halloween I broke out (busted out?) my Ghostbusters outfit again.

To serious Ghostheads, the kind who spend around £2000 on building their proton packs, my ramshackle, dirt-cheap homemade equipment looks terrible …

… but most people who haven’t studied the films frame by frame just seem to think it’s amazing. First stop on Halloween was a kid’s disco at Eastbourne’s Tennis in the Park Cafe … and I got mobbed by children.

At one stage they were four-deep around me, trying on my goggles, asking questions about my equipment and generally being in awe. Adults were asking to take my photo, for selfies with me, wanting to know where I got the costume from or just to talk about Ghostbusters in general.

Everyone, it turns out, loves a Ghostbuster.

Trick or treating later that night brought a similar reaction from everyone we passed. People shouted “Who you gonna call?” or “Cool costume!” from across the street, crossed over for photos or just generally wanted to stop and chat … and you know what? It was intoxicating.

It was so intoxicating that when the night was over I put my equipment back on  to go to the takeaway up the road. I thought at the time it was an odd thing to do, but fuck it, I wanted to be a Ghostbuster for a little longer.

November the 1st I felt a bit down all day. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, I just felt flat and deflated, bordering on a little depressed. I couldn’t figure it out until well into the evening, but I think it’s because I was missing the adulation and admiration of everyone I walked past.

This is, of course, ridiculous.

I don’t crave fame. Greater recognition for my writing, perhaps. Greater remuneration*, definitely … but fame? No thank you. And yet, that tiny taste of what it’s like to be universally … not loved. Respected? Admired? Recognised? I’m not sure what the right word is. The point is that  tiny taste had  a measurable psychological effect on me, so how much of a mind-fuck must it be for people who are actually famous? No wonder they go off the rails or become a bit weird.

So maybe writers not being famous is a good thing? Maybe not being famous is what keeps us such a sane, balanced and well rounded group of individuals?

Yeah … maybe not?

My daughter made her own costume this year. I think she did an amazing job.

* Wow! I always thought this word was renumeration. Turns out I’ve  been using it wrong my entire life. Sort of.

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The Last Days of Jack Sparks


I know I’ve written about this before, but THE LAST DAYS OF JACK SPARKS has actually been properly released now.

And I’ve read it.

And it’s really good.

I mean, actually, properly, really, genuinely good and not just ‘hey, my mate wrote this thing and asked me to promote it, but I don’t really like it so I’m going to be quirky and noncommittal about the whole thing’ kind of good.

Not only do I think it’s good, but so do other people.

All these people, for example.

So hey, if I like and they all like it, maybe you will too? You can buy it here .THE LAST DAYS OF JACK SPARKS or maybe wander into town and buy it from an actual proper shop from a proper person?

You never know, you might make a new friend. Or at the very least end up with a damn fine book to read.

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

Odd numbers

Christmas is nearly upon us once again and another year is nigh on spent. Soon I shall be compiling my traditional (if you can have traditions after only five years) end of year blog round up; but until then, may I amuse you with an ill-thought out treatise on the highs and lows of the Classic Trek films?

I may? Why, thank you!

You must have heard of the ‘Curse of the Odd Numbered Trek Films’?


If you haven’t it’s probably because you’re not interested, and fair enough, but in a nutshell: of the original six films, the second, fourth and sixth films are great while the first, third and fifth films aren’t.

Some people expand the theory to fit the Next Generation films, but since they start mediocre and wobble off into mundanity fairly quickly (with First Contact being a partial exception), it’s probably safest to ignore them. Or at least, it’s safest if I ignore them for the purposes of this blog.

So, if the odd-numbered Trek films are bad (or possibly merely poor by comparison to their even-numbered cousins) … why?

What can we learn from this? What qualities do 2, 4 and 6 share which are absent from 1, 3 and 5? Or vice versa?

Personally, I think it’s to do with connecting the overall goal of the film to an emotional goal for the protagonist, Kirk.*

The main questions I think you need in order to ask to understand why some of the films work and some don’t are:

Does Kirk have to be there? Is this story personal and unique to him? What would have happened if Kirk hadn’t been there or got bored halfway through?

Breaking that down, into internal and external goals or dramatic questions:



Kirk struggles with his promotion, he’s given up the job he’s destined to do and feels a bit lost.

At the same time, something vaguely hostile is en route to Earth.

Do these things connect?

Yes, the something hostile is a macguffin which puts Kirk back in command of a starship; but … has he got anything personal at stake here? Do we, at any point, believe if he sorts this out he’ll get his command back; but if he fails … he’s destined to rot at a desk forever?

Not really.

What about if Kirk wasn’t there? Could anyone else have done the same job? Yep, Decker looks like a pretty sensible, decent guy. If Kirk hadn’t turned up … probably would have worked out the same.

Result: protagonist has no connection to villain, no need to be there and nothing really at stake. Bit dull really. Which is a shame, because there are some great character moments – this was probably better suited as the first episode of Star Trek Phase 2 or The Next Phase or whatever the series was meant to be called.



Kirk struggles with pretty much the same things as he did in the first film, plus he’s now getting on a bit – basically, he’s getting old and feels like he’s not resolved issues with his youth.

At the same time: a decision he made in his youth puts his ex-girlfriend, his son and his own life in jeopardy: a weapon of devastating proportions falls into the hands of a man intent on killing him and everyone he loves!

Kirk has no choice but to be involved – Khan is coming for him. His own issues are intimately tied in with his son and his ex and the villain and the theme and … it’s just great. Kirk’s life and his loved ones are in danger – it’s a film about him.

Result: awesomeness.



Personally, I don’t think this is a bad film. I like number three … mostly. It’s kind of halfway there; but I didn’t go and see it as a child because the title felt like a desperate and pathetic attempt by the film makers to write themselves out of a hole. I mean, come on! Spock’s dead! His death was awesome and seminal … and now you’re telling me it didn’t happen? Fuck. Right. Off.

But anyway …

Kirk’s newfound youth is torn from him when he learns his ship (his home for many, many years) is to be decommissioned and he’s being forced back into his desk job.

At the same time: he learns his living best friend has his dead best friend’s memories – a situation which might drive one mad and cause the other’s soul to be lost for all time.

This is a deeply personal problem … but it only peripherally affects him. Remember that in the first film, they hadn’t seen each other for years … so, yeah, it’s upsetting that his best mates are a bit screwed … but he could, theoretically, get over it. There’s no life or death threat to Kirk (apart from the Klingons, which is a mild irritant near the end of the film).

There are some superb character moments: Kirk’s going to lose his two best friends (one’s already dead, but he’s going to lose him again). He loses his son (but that’s never threatened until seconds before it happens, so not really a driving force of the film) and he has to sacrifice his ship, his home, the very symbol of the life he’s still mourning. On top of that, he sacrifices his career, once and for all turning his back on ever getting his command back.

All of these things are great, amazingly powerful scenes … but they’re just scenes. There’s no dramatic question which runs from the beginning of the film to the end.

Or rather, there is: will Kirk get Spock’s body back and save McCoy’s sanity?

Okay, so this turns into resurrecting Spock … but that possibility isn’t there for Kirk until right near the end. There’s little potential for loss – once he’s given up on his career and stolen the Enterprise, all he has to do is wander over and pick up the body. It’s a taxi run, pick up and drop off … not really the stuff of legends.

Could someone else go and pick up Spock’s body? Yes. Okay, sort of no because of the disputed territory argument, but … McCoy could have stolen a smaller ship and nipped off on his own. It’s McCoy’s journey with Kirk’s consequences grafted on.

Add to that there’s no danger on the journey, they just leave Earth and arrive at Genesis with no consequences … it feels like there’s something missing from the middle of the film.

The shame about this film is all the ingredients are there and they’re awesome … but without a strong through line, the film is less than the sum of its parts.



If Kirk doesn’t travel back in time and save a few whales, the entire planet will be destroyed! Everyone he knows (except his bessie mates) will be killed! Kirk is the only person who can do this because all the other spaceships are knacked!

There isn’t really a whole lot to say about this one. There is some personal stuff tied into the premise, but generally it’s just a whole ball of fun. True, it has a very strong through line and Kirk HAS to be the one to do it; but it’s really just a string of really good scenes hanging off a random skeleton. Luckily, the scenes are so good and so funny that the result is a film better than the sum of its parts.

It’s not a big, dramatic action picture this one. It has drama and action in it, but for the most part it’s a comedy and is therefore exempt from needing more personal/dramatic tie ins. Like I say, the dramatic question is there and runs from beginning to end; but it’s just a macguffin for the fun: if you swapped the probe/whales for aliens/goldfish or space-cloud/meatballs … you’d have the same film.



Kirk is happy, relaxed and his mates are all fine. He’s got his ship and his career back, so he can just kick back and go camping.

At the same time: someone’s trying to find God; but instead of organising an exploratory mission, gets pointlessly weird and steals the Enterprise.

If Kirk wasn’t there … the weirdo would have stolen someone else’s ship.

If Kirk doesn’t stop him … doesn’t really matter. In fact, he doesn’t stop him – they trundle along for the ride.

Anyone thrilled by this concept?

Yes, Kirk saves the day in the end. Or maybe Spock saves the day and Kirk is just the catalyst for the day-saving?

Nothing personal for Kirk and no consequences for … anyone. No through line at all, I think? Apart from a vague family theme?

As an aside, there are some great moments in this film and some superbly memorable lines. Personally, I love the moment when everyone’s praising God and Kirk puts his hand up to ask a question. I fucking love that! That’s what makes Kirk, Kirk – he’s the only asking the right questions. I want to be like that!

Thinking about it, this might be the entire reason I get so prickly about iPhone adverts and homoeopathy.



Kirk must deal with part of his raison d’être disappearing over night. There’s peace coming with his lifelong enemies and his place in the world disappears with it.

At the same time: someone frames him for murder and grants his wish by extending hostilities.

Kirk can’t not be involved – he’s been framed. If he walks away … well, he can’t walk away, he’s in prison. If he wasn’t there, it would be someone else; but since this is a ‘getting into trouble coincidence’ then it’s fine. It’s not like 1, 3 or 5 where Kirk could have stopped halfway through and handed the reins to someone else with no consequences – once he’s in, he’s good and fucked unless HE sorts out his problems.

He has to overcome his prejudice while at the same time fighting enemies who can’t overcome their prejudice. The theme and the story are the same thing and the result is a gleaming tower of immenseness with a beacon of fantastic on top.
All six films have something to say; but only 2, 4 and 6 tie the something to the plot and make Kirk the absolute central pivot about which everything revolves.

That’s what turns a good film into a great film: plot tied to theme and a hero who has to act or lose something personal.

If there’s ever a point in your script where the hero could just walk away, or tag in a replacement … you might want to have a rethink. Why is your story happening to this person at this time and what does he have to lose?#

There’s no odd-numbered curse (surprise, sur-fucking-prise), there’s just a level of thought or involvement missing from every other film.

“Why?” is a different question; but maybe it could have been avoided if everyone involved had a clearer overview of what makes a story worth telling.

At least, that’s my theory. What’s yours?

Here, have a photo of a green woman in her underwear:

Why? Because, that’s why.


*Incidentally, I think part of the reason ST:TNG films don’t feel so epic is because there are seven protagonists vying for screen time. True, Picard is the major protagonist throughout; but there are six minor protagonists as opposed to six supporting characters. Classic Trek has one major protagonist, two minor protagonists and a handful of supporting characters.

Seven story arcs is a lot to juggle and is much more TV territory. Maybe. I haven’t really thought that through.

#This is part of the reason I don’t really enjoy detective stories: if that detective doesn’t solve the case … someone else probably will. If no one else can, other people might die … but not people we know or care about, so … so what? If it gets a bit tricky in the middle, just give up and let someone else have a go.

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Secrets and lies

I warn you now, this post has a nugget of wisdom in the middle; but is largely a long, rambling witter. You have been warned.

I think it’s probably safe enough to talk about ‘Lost’ now, I mean come on, it’s been a couple of years. Hasn’t it?

Or one year, maybe?

Either way, if you haven’t seen it all yet, you’re probably not going to; but just in case you are, now is the time to stop reading.


I don’t really want to talk about ‘Lost’, I want to talk about mystery-driven shows and ‘Lost’ was the best I could think of under pressure.

I was going to talk about Season 6 of Doctor Who and the ‘Who is River Song?’ question; but since the answer had a limited number of possibilities (Doctor’s mum, Amy, Amy’s daughter) and I wasn’t really invested in the answer any which way because, well … so what? I mean, it’s hardly like Luke finding out his dad’s the font of all evil in the galaxy, is it? Whatever River’s origins turned out to be it would have had pretty much the same impact on the series:

Amy grows up to be someone quite cool.

Amy’s daughter grows up to be someone quite cool.

The Doctor’s mum is quite cool.

All three get the same response from me: “Oh, right. Cool.”

‘Lost’, on the other hand, was a show with mystery baked into the heart of it from the very beginning.

Okay, so Doctor Who has a mystery baked into the title from the very beginning; but … do you really want to know? It’s meant to be an unanswered question, the moment you answer it, it becomes less special. “Oh, right. He was a newsagent was he? Um … cool?”

‘Lost’ though – the mystery was the driving force of the show. It begged you to guess the answer because that’s what all the characters wanted to know and that’s the entire point of the series:

What is the island?

An open-ended mystery, it could be anything!

Okay, so the thought process behind it actually went:

The island is the afterlife where people who were special to each other meet up to travel onto the next life! Shit! People guessed it straight away! Fuck! Okay, let’s say it’s not the afterlife. Let’s pretend it’s … I don’t know! Fuck! Just trap them in bear cages for a season or so and make everyone do weird shit until we have a better idea. Hang on, what if instead of the island being the afterlife where people who were special to each other meet up to travel onto the next life, we let them off the island and then say the real world is the afterlife where people who were special to each other meet up to travel onto the next life. Does that make sense? Not really, but fuck it! Let’s do it!

The thing about creating a mystery is there are very few individuals who can out think a team of writers. Or even a single writer who’s clever enough.

I used to work in a cinema and regularly wandered in to watch the audience. If the premise of the film centred on a mystery, you could see people leaning forward in their seats as they tried to work it out. When they did work it out, you’d see them lean back, smug with their ‘Of course! Simple, really’ body language.

One or two individuals would sit back early on. A few at random occasions throughout and a good number a minute or two before the final bit of information. The majority of the audience wouldn’t solve the mystery until they were told the answer. One or two still didn’t know by the time the credits had rolled.

I’m guessing TV audiences are proportionately the same.

But there’s a difference. In TV, the audience have time to talk to each other. Whether that’s in the office round the hallowed water cooler or via the Internet, they have plenty of time to compare notes and theories. Especially if a show runs for five or six years – that’s ample opportunity for millions of people to unpick a mystery half a dozen people put together in a few weeks.

Simply put, I don’t believe mystery works in TV. In film, yes because you can’t really discuss it with the rest of the audience in the middle.

Well, I guess you could. People do, in fact. Annoyingly, they also discuss who Tasha was shagging at the weekend and whether or not Gary’s a better fuck since he had his cock pierced. Time and a place, people. Time and a fucking place.*

Theoretically though, people don’t talk about the film while it’s playing.

TV on the other hand …

It doesn’t work. You can’t keep a TV mystery mysterious for several years.

But does that mean you shouldn’t try?

Because, actually, this theory only holds up if you’re the type of person who goes to online forums or has a water cooler to chat around. I occasionally lurk on the former, but don’t have the latter. I’d quite like one though, just for the occasional gurgle and plop in the background.

The Internet though, it ruins TV. Ruins it, I say. TV shows are best experienced in a vacuum. Sneaky set photos and trailer analyses and script leaks and just a large number of people expounding their ideas ruins any mystery based show.

In fact, I’d go further – it ruins any show.

So, you know, I’m not going to do it. Not any more because, goddamn it, I want life to be mysterious again. Like it was when I was a kid, when a new series of Doctor Who kicked off and I had no idea who was in what episode or which enemies would be returning. If the Daleks arrive in the last few minutes of episode three, I want to shit my pants, not have preconceived ideas about how silly the new pantomime horse designs may or may not look.

(They do look a little silly, I’m sure there are two people in there now. Every time I see one of the new Daleks, I want to call it Dobbin.)

Spoilers, you spoil things. Kindly fuck off. Let me have my mystery again.


* Seriously though, what the fuck goes through some people’s heads?

“Shaz, I’s got a well wicked story to tells you.”

“Yeah? Best go buy some of them movie tickets so’s we can have us a proper natter, yeah?”

“Fuck yeah! Hey, has yous fucked Gary since he gone got his nob pierced?”

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I want to give you £25

Honest, I do.

No, really. And this isn’t to just one of you, this is an offer open to everyone who does or even doesn’t read this blog.

Okay, so there are a few provisos.

  1. Nudity
  2. Only kidding about number 1 *

This is the deal, the London Comedy Writers’ Festival is around the corner (April 9th and 10th, to be exact) and if you still haven’t bought a ticket (why not?) then you may be looking at the £149 price tag and quaking in fear.

Or trepidation at the very least.

£149 is not a lot of money for two days of Comedy Writing goodness; but it is quite a lot of money for you personally to stump up, I get that. Honest.

Some of you may have looked around and realised a plethora of bloggers are offering you a £25 discount, bringing the ticket price down to £124. Which is a good deal.

The more discerning and caring among you may even be looking at Michelle Lipton’s excellent blog in which she outlines the mechanics of the discounts (the blogger concerned gets paid £25 for every ticket they sell using their discount code) and has pledged to give her money to Comic Relief; which, let’s face it, is a lovely thing to do and anyone who hasn’t already bought a ticket should immediately buy one using her discount code of: michellelipton

For those of you who still feel £124 is too rich for your blood, then here’s where my offer comes in. Buy your ticket from me, using my discount code, and I will give YOU the £25 back. That means you only pay £99 for your ticket.

Basically, it works like this:

  1. Buy your ticket from this link. Use discount code JobbingScriptwriter and pay your £124.
  2. Send me an email (phill@phillipbarron.co.uk) telling me you’ve done it and include your home address.
  3. Attend the festival, laugh, learn from and mingle with your comedy heroes.
  4. After the festival, I get sent a list of who bought a ticket using my code and £25 per person. Upon receipt, I immediately send you a cheque for £25.
  5. Cash the cheque.
  6. Blow the cash on booze.

And that’s pretty much it.

Why am I doing this? Well, because I don’t agree with making money off my fellow scriptwriters who are trying to learn/get ahead. We’re all in the same boat and I don’t want to be charging people for life jackets.

Some of you may not trust me, and that’s fair enough. I have nothing to offer but a promise made in public and let’s face it you don’t know me from Adam. I can you assure you I am trustworthy (mostly) but if you’re in doubt, wing your way over to Michelle and make some of the world’s poorest children happy.

Alternatively, buy from me, trust you’ll get your £25 and then donate it to a charity of your choice so you can feel all lovely and scrummy inside all by yourself.

It’s up to you; but there’s the offer: buy a £124 ticket from me using discount code ‘JobbingScriptwriter‘ and I will give you £25.

There, doesn’t that sound lovely?

Spread the word.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to rub suntan lotion into my bikini-clad wife.

* You can send nude photos of yourself to me if you want, I don’t mind.

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Wrong Door day

I can’t see out of my right eye. For some reason it’s swollen up so much it’s completely closed.

I don’t know whether I’ve been bitten, got a sty or been inexplicably punched whilst asleep (for anyone thinking of punching anyone, while they’re asleep is the best time); but whatever the reason, I’m viewing the world in a monocular fashion without the benefit of depth perception.

I quite like it.

Apart from the pain.

But, none of that matters because The Wrong Door kicks off today. Tonight to be precise. 10.30 on BBC Three to be even preciser.

Here are some more reviews if anyone cares:



But hey, feel free to make your own mind up tonight.

Join me, go on, you know you want to; and if you want to totally immerse yourself in the same viewing experience as me – tape one eye closed and jab pins into your face whilst watching.

You know it makes sense.

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Multiple credits

Have you ever looked at the credits on a film and wondered how they can have got through so many writers? There’s a temptation to assume the first writer must have been shit and replaced with the second writer; but sometimes the list can include four or five successful writers – they can’t all be incapable of writing, surely?

Well, yes, sometimes they can. Part of the problem there, of course, is not everyone agrees on what ‘good’ writing is. We can all reel off a list of points: sparkling dialogue, interesting characters, a gripping plot … but all of these things are subjective and not everyone agrees on what they actually are. I’d say it’s easier to identify bad writing, but that’s not true either.

Not everyone likes the same thing.

On the other hand, some successful writers are absolutely fucking awful. They aren’t successful because they’re good, they’re successful because they sound like they’re good. They talk themselves up to such a point they get paid ridiculous sums for their work and when they deliver a pile of shit, it gets hushed up because the production company doesn’t want to admit they paid over the odds for someone who can’t write their own name. It could well be they were good at one point in the past, before their ego got in the way; or it could be they wrote one piece of absolute genius by accident and have lived off it ever since.

Anyway, here’s an incomplete and totally inaccurate list of why you end up with more than one writer on a film:


As discussed, sometimes this is the writer; but sometimes it’s the producer or director. Writer A might deliver exactly the script he was asked for, only to find out the people who did the asking had no idea what they were asking for.

“This script’s rubbish, it’s got a giant monkey in it – how shit is that?”

“Well, you did ask for a sequel to ‘King Kong’.”

“Yeah, but I meant something like ‘American Pie’ meets ‘Casablanca’.

At which point, Writer A gets fired.


Director A gets Writer A to write the script. Director A then falls out with Producer A and gets sacked. This usually involves someone sleeping with someone else’s partner. Director B loves Writer A’s script but because Producer A hates Director A and everything he touched, Writer A gets sacked. Writer B adapts Writer A’s script and does a half-arsed job but they’re still happy … until Writer B is spotted having a drink with Director A’s neighbour and Producer A gets into a strop and fires him.

Director B shouts at Producer A who then has a nervous breakdown.

Producer B sacks Director B to avoid being shouted at and hires Director C and Writer C.

By this point, no one can remember what the original film was supposed to be about, so they decide to play it safe and just remake something from the sixties … badly.


Writer A gets hired to write an Action film, because that’s what he’s good at. Producer A wants to sleep with Actress A, so he changes his mind and turns the film into a female led Rom-Com. Actress A refuses to sleep with Producer A who fires everyone and then has a nervous breakdown.

Alternatively, Producer A asks for a particular kind of script. Writer A delivers exactly what he’s asked for and everyone is very happy. Producer A then talks to his friends who convince him his original idea was rubbish and he immediately blames Writer A for not ignoring the original brief.


Sadly, sometimes a writer dies before finishing the script.

Sometimes, it’s not so sad and the world has one less talentless alcoholic.


Writer A has six months before he needs to start work on his next project. He thinks six months is loads of time to write a film, but has failed to reckon with the Producer and Director’s inability to reach a consensus. Director A thinks the script needs more emotional depth; Producer A thinks it needs more tits. By the time they’ve agreed that emotional depth can be delivered topless … Writer A has moved on and the whole fucking mess gets passed on to the hapless Writer B.


Sometimes Producer A will promise Writer A ‘X’ amount of money in advance and ‘Y’ amount of money on delivery.

By the time the delivery date is reached, so many people have had nervous breakdowns, died or slept with other’s partners there is no more money to pay the writer. Writer A refuses to release the material; but due to a bizarre contract clause, retains his credit.

Writer B is hired to write a new script for less money and no credit, so the Producer can retain the kudos of having Writer A’s name on the film. Because Writer B is rubbish, Writer A gets blamed for the appalling film and never works again. Conversely, Writer B goes on to run a major studio.

There are many, many other reasons why a film can have more than one writer; but strangely, the script not being good enough is fairly rare. The basic message is: at some point it’s going to happen to each and everyone of us. When it happens to you, don’t get angry, don’t get upset. Just accept it in good humour, make sure you can find someone else to blame and then follow whoever fired you home and key the fucker’s car.

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How to deal with notes

So you’ve finished the first draft of your latest script and sent it off. It was a difficult process fraught with many pitfalls and as the day of the deadline dawned you realised you hadn’t actually written anything.

After watching eight or nine hours of TV, you finally knuckled down and furiously scribbled whatever random words popped into your head in a blaze of panic induced creativity, finally emailing the script on time – because 11.59 pm is technically still the same day.

Well done, you can relax and fanny around on the Internet … until the notes arrive. Here’s a quick guide to dealing with notes. Once you’ve identified these simple steps you can move through them quickly and deal with the notes in a calm and effective manner:


How fucking dare they criticise your masterpiece? These fucking idiots wouldn’t know a good script if you shoved it up their arse and set fire to it. They shouldn’t be allowed to make sandwiches, let alone fucking films. You’ve a good mind to ring them up and tell them all what a bunch of talentless cunts they really are.


Once the fires of indignation have burnt out you can re-read the notes and consider them in a new light. Okay, so maybe some of the notes have some worth to them. Less than half, mind you; but they’re not all as stupid as they first appear. One of them even makes sense, in an odd sort of way.


Oh fucking hell, changing these things is going to mean actually doing some writing. Can’t these fucking people understand how difficult that is? The A-Team’s back on Bravo, how the hell are you expected to get any work done under those kind of conditions? They probably think it’s just a few hours work, but they don’t understand the creative process, once you add on all the procrastination this thing could take weeks. They’re fucking vampires, just because they’re paying you doesn’t mean they own your soul.


Apparently they do own your soul, it’s in your contract. You sit down and write notes on their notes, arguing against every point. The more times you can use phrases like ‘character arc’, ‘remaining true to the underlying theme’ and ‘intrinsic logic of the character’s psyche’ the better. Cite films which don’t bother explaining the character’s motivation or avoid the clichéd notion of ‘making sense’. The more detailed your notes are, the less likely it is you’ll have to do any real work. True, writing these notes takes longer than it would to re-write the script; but it’s the principle god damn it.


The nagging suspicion sets in that their notes make sense and are beneficial to the story. By dissecting them and arguing against them you’ve slowly realised their true worth: half of them add to the story, the other half are personal choice and make no difference whatsoever – except the person paying your wages wants them to be like that. When the producer rings you up to discuss your notes, you want to apologise for calling his mother names and reach a sensible middle ground.

However, that would mean admitting you’re wrong and there’s no fucking way that’s going to happen. Instead you discuss the relative merits of the script until you manage to suggest a third way forward – one which addresses his concerns without using his ideas. There’s nothing wrong with his ideas, but you’re not going to let the fucker think he knows what he’s talking about. That way lies madness and leads to producers writing their own scripts. Even when they’re right, tell them they’re wrong.


Oh for fuck’s sake! You’ve just talked yourself into doing the fucking re-writes. Okay, not exactly as they were first noted, but you’re still actually going to have to do some fucking work. This is fucking intolerable. There must be something in your contract which says you don’t have to do any more work. Why is life so fucking difficult?


You know you have to do the re-writes, you know the deadline is fast approaching but you just don’t feel like doing any writing. There are hundreds of TV channels, if you keep flicking long enough you’re bound to find something to watch. Maybe there’s an episode of ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ you haven’t seen more than twice? Ooh! There’s a documentary on the history of cheese on the Cheese channel, that might be interesting!

It’s not.

When you’ve watched as much Simpsons as you can bear, it’s finally time to retreat to the computer and knuckle down to some proper procrastination.

Write a blog post, browse for some porn, sign up to some random forums and slag everyone off. This is an important part of the writing process, it’s like a venturi, building up the twin pressures of guilt and panic until they erupt in literary genius. The longer you can avoid writing, the better it will be.


Holy fuck! The deadline’s in three hours and you haven’t written a fucking word. The most important thing at this point is to find someone to blame. If you’re in the house on your own, text someone asking them to ring you urgently then scream at them for interrupting you. You can always claim you sent the text two days ago and they obviously don’t care about your well-being. Finally – after one last check of the news, just in case there’s been some terrorist attack you can claim a friend died in; or perhaps a nuclear war has broken out and your script won’t be needed until next week? – you make the changes you were asked to do and deliver the script at 11.59 pm.

These eight simple steps are vital to the writing process. You need to pass through each one in order to reach your goal. Now that you know what they are, hopefully you can shorten how long you spend on each step and free up your time for more important things. Like sleeping fourteen hours a day, or looking up the origins of rude words … until the next set of notes arrive and the process begins all over again.

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Mixed Up

The first draft of Mixed Up is done and away.

As usual in these situations, I have three completely conflicting emotions:

  1. Pride: because the script is a fucking masterpiece.
  2. Shame: because I fear it may be the worst thing I’ve ever written.
  3. Resignation: because I know it will probably be fine and it’s just the first step in the development process.

Luckily, numbers 1 and 2 cancel each other out and leave me with the more realistic number 3.

Which is good enough.

This script has presented me with some new challenges and some old familiar ones.

The new stuff is keeping away from movie and TV references and trying to couch everything in terms of music. I tend to be more into film and TV as a cultural touchstone. We want to make this film very much of the moment, but it’s hard to do so without slipping into the wrong frame of reference.

I used to be very into music, back in the day when I played an instrument myself and hung around with a lot of other musos. Nowadays, those people are all scattered around the world, with a surprising amount of them dead or in mental hospitals. I’ve drifted away from music in general, primarily because writing has taken over. To be honest, the only time I listen to music is in the car and I tend to listen to things which would cause the teenage me to die of shame.

If anyone fancies a laugh, this is a video of my first band playing for only the second time since we broke up in 1991.

I am embarrassed, believe me.

One consequence of my decreased music interest is all my knowledge is out of date, so writing a script with music lovers throwing in current references takes a fair bit of research.

And it’s difficult to judge. If I want to mention a band everyone will know is great, but would be unknown to someone who only ever listens to chart music, it’s tricky to know which one to pick. I could do it easily for a ’90s flick; but a ’00s?

Basically, it’s not happening in this draft; but that’s fine. I’m reading, I’m browsing, I’m listening and I’m making notes – the names of bands and the stories associated with them can change right up until the last draft, so I’m not worried about it.


On more familiar ground, there’s always the challenge of making it funny. I like writing comedy, I seem to be good at it; but it can be stressful. Trying to get the balance right between a dramatic scene and the need to be funny can be trying, especially when you’re staring at the joke for weeks on end. It’s really hard to know whether something is still funny when you’ve been prodding it constantly, but sometimes you just have to trust your original instincts and go with it.

Which I have.

Now it’s just the agonising wait for notes.

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Spread the word

Or don’t, it’s up to you really.

If you’re feeling friendly, come over to the Mixed Up MySpace page and add yourself as a friend.

If you’re not feeling friendly, do it anyway.

If you’re feeling aggressive and downright abusive, still do it and stop whining.

Once you’ve added yourself, why not tell your friends?

I believe that’s how this word of mouth/social networking thing is supposed to work.

While you’re there, why not add your favourite song lyric?

I’m also interested in your favourite music trivia, anything funny, touching or vaguely interesting about your favourite bands. There’s no section for that on the page yet, but feel free to post any here.

So there you are: Mixed Up, MySpace, lyrics, trivia, add yourself – GO!


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