Monday, June 30, 2003

Why, when you so desperately want the phone to ring, does it stubbornly refuse to do so?

A deathly silence has descended upon the flat. I am working at home, I have the phone next to me, it's working (I've checked it several times to make sure), I also have my mobile in front of me, fully charged. Two phones! Two! And how many calls do I get? None, that's how many.

I'm remaining calm. If I've learned one thing about the TV/film industry, it is that it's painfully s l o o o o o w...

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Might have my first writing gig, fingers crossed. It's a UK/Ireland/France co-production, big action adventure animation thingy, they want someone to do a quick pass through the script, touch it up, so to speak. They biked the script, brochure and trailer over to me at work, I felt all important and writery. The trailer is gorgeous, like moving paintings, shockingly good. The script is great fun, but just needs the dialogue polishing (some of it feels like it's been mistranslated), and the ending made bigger, more exciting. Other than that, it's pretty much there - everyone learns a lesson, grows as a person, blah blah blah.

So anyway, there were 4 of them, it felt like a job interview. They asked me what I thought of the stuff - thank God I'd read the script the night before - so I talked a bit, suggested possible ideas for the ending, etc. They nodded a lot, smiled a lot. One asked what I had done before, which was a bit embarrassing, because I'm new to the game, but I just told them the sort of thing I'd written, and they seemed okay, I think. It was all over in 15 minutes, which was unusual, so I thought I'd fucked it up. Two rays of hope - one, they said they were in a hurry, and would I be able to start straight away; two, they said that it would involve going to Paris (!) for a day initially, then more trips up till September to work with "the creative team", and would that be a problem? Not at all, I smarmed.

I think I did okay, it was all very quick, but I was honest, I was myself. They agreed with me on the dialogue, and said that most people agreed the ending needed work. I still think I ballsed it up though, but then I always do. They'll be in touch with my agent (hark at Mr Fancy) to let me know the score. My fingers are crossed so hard, they're going bendy...

The coolest thing was where we had the meeting - the Radisson Edwardian Mountbatten Hotel in Covent Garden (or rather, "ten minutes of wandering aimlessly around weird higgledy-piggledy streets away from Covent Garden"). It was gorgeous, and the lifts actually had those old dials with the moving pointer, which I thought was the coolest thing ever:

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Was supposed to meet up with the scifi director again yesterday, but he had to go to Spain suddenly, as you do. So we're meeting next Friday instead. But, as these things have a way of working out, I got an email the night before from my old English teacher from secondary school - he was arriving in London the next day. So I met up with him yesterday. Just to explain: I didn't enjoy school, at all, but he was one of the few teachers who appeared to know what they were talking about, who I liked and respected very much. They were great classes, I learned a lot, and he really inspired me to do my best in writing, and not just trot out some lazy shite even though most people would think it was okay. I wrote to him recently, just to let him know how much he had inspired me, and that at least one of his pupils had got something from his class, because I imagine it's a terrible feeling knowing that most of them will just ignore what you're trying to do. It was great to get in touch with him again, we went to a pub, and had a long chat about life, school, writing, English, movies, teachers, priests, the media, and tons of other stuff. We talked about the music teacher (who is still there), and how his face would just be filled with despair at the philistines in his class - although he's one of the main reasons I love classical music now, so he can pass that message on to him too, that there's always hope, you'll always reach one person. Although I have no such messages for my history or geography teacher, whose idea of teaching was to stand in the classroom dictating reams of arse for us to write down.

Oh yes - last night, at half past 1 in the a.m., I finished the 9th draft of Primeval - now renamed The Craw Lodge. It's a pretty big change, mainly the ending, but two characters have been overhauled to make them more interesting. Sent it off to Jago today, and may God have mercy on his soul. Though he can't possibly be as sick of reading it as I am. In the process of doing a draft, I probably go through it 2 or 3 times, unless it's a hefty rewrite - so an average of 2 reads per draft makes 18, plus the time I read it to write out the story, then the index cards, then the timings, makes 21, then another couple of times to figure out what the hell I'm doing, and all the times I read a line several times over - 25 times, conservative estimate. It's probably closer to 50, considering I have to think through each line several times before I actually write it. Feels like a thousand... Hopefully this will be it...

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Met a director on Monday who liked The School, and wants to chat about a big scifi action film he wants to do. It sounds really cool, right up my alley - he's similar to me in the kinds of movie he wants to do, entertaining, popular, genre (horror, scifi, etc), but intelligent too. He's a nice bloke, and his idea is really good. We started buzzing off it straight away, so we're going to meet up next week to spend several hours talking about it, then hopefully I'll get to write it. It's good because (a) it should pretty much write itself, it's that good, and (b) it's not Primeval. I am so fucked off with Primeval, I can't even find the words. But I've come up with a different ending - all the others end in more or less the same way, just changing the big bad, etc, which was just predictable. So I moved that so that it happens just over an hour into it, then it goes in a totally different direction. It seems to be working so far. This will be draft 9. Why does some stuff come out really easily, but some stuff has to be dragged, kicking and screaming? Actually, I know the answer, it's because I didn't plan it out properly. I've learned a lot from the process of fucking it up, which is one good thing, I suppose. Still could have done without it.

In other news: I have realised a lifelong ambition: either to have a Swiss bank account, or, failing that, to know someone with a Swiss bank account. I have now met someone who has a Swiss bank account - two Swiss bank accounts, actually. At least. And I really can't tell you any more that. Sorry. That's just the way it is. Hey, it's *supposed* to be mysterious. That's half the fun...

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Rewrite hell

Finished the new surreal comedy script thingy yesterday and sent it off. It went soooo much easier than Primeval (working title). Spent the rest of the day planning out what to do with - yipe - draft fucking NINE of Primeval. Planned it out using some formula exercises, which helped, and made it clear that everything's shite after about page 50. Still stuck on the final baddie, the revelation, working it into the main story. It sucks. I'm so fucking sick to death of this script, I wish it would just go away, I just want to sell it and let someone else rewrite it, even if they make a shit film out of it, I wouldn't care, because I wouldn't have to do it, and I'd just get shitfaced with the money and at least it would be bringing me some fucking enjoyment. Sigh. But I can't leave it, not after all the work I've put into it. I'm dreading starting yet another draft, though. Why doesn't it work? Why won't you work, script?? Why won't you let me live???

Thursday, June 05, 2003

How it all started - getting an agent, and the first projects

This blog is going to keep track of my writing efforts, daily life, and any silly things that happen. To put things into perspective, here is The Story So Far, or How I Got Into The Business:

As you may or may not know or care, in 2002 I won the Sci Fi Channel's Sci Fi Shorts competition. This meant that my 10 minute script would get made professionally into a proper, 10 minute short film, and released in front of Men In Black 2 in the cinemas. It all turned out very well, although it didn't get released with MIB2 - it came out with Reign of Fire, The Bourne Identity, Halloween Resurrection, and Final Destination 2. Not a bad result...

Anyway. The upshot of all this was, the film people said I'd probably get an agent out of it all, when the industry screening was held. This was supposed to be September 2002. Then it was late September. Then it was December. When I asked again, it was "Oh, January, early, definitely." So I stopped asking - I realised that I couldn't expect people to give me a career, and if I wanted to make a go of this writing lark, I needed to do something about it myself. I've been writing for years, but this was my first foot in the door. I needed to kick the door open, murder the owners, rob them blind, and burn down their house with their children screaming from the bedroom windows. So to speak.

So I planned out my, er, plan. I had a script called The School, a 6 part TV thing, which I was very proud of. I also decided to write a full length film script, and then start approaching agencies. I bought the Writers Yearbook thingy, checked out many, many websites for agent details, and drew up a long list. I would submit my scripts to them, one by one, changing and editing if I got feedback along the way. If I got to the end of the list with no acceptances, then I could just forget about it, face the fact that I'm shit, and kill myself.

The first agent loved The School, and wanted to sign me up straight away. He's been busily whoring the script all over the place, I've been meeting producers, and all sorts of exciting stuff. That's the short version of the story so far; I've left out all the Sci Fi Channel stuff. But to briefly fill in the end part: short film got made, I was on set to watch, great fun, it came out, blah blah, got a copy on video and CD, all was lovely. I've also been keeping track of my writing, and what I'm working on. Here are the full details, or How I Got My Agent:

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October - November 2002

Finish first drafts of The School, episodes 2 to 6. Come up with lots of film plots, some of which even make sense. Decide to go with the strongest - Mirror.

December 2002

Complete first draft of Mirror.

January 2003

Do second draft of Mirror; get feedback from wise, witty friends. Polish off the third draft. After much dithering and searching through agents' websites, decide to approach PFD first - they're big, therefore powerful, but kind of chummy and friendly, not off-putting, which is good. When I'm ready, I'll send them my things.

Tuesday 4th Feb

Print out the stuff I need, compose a letter of such heartbreaking genius they can't possibly reject me. Or at least, they'll have to be polite. Or maybe not. I don't care. Bastards, what do they know?

Thursday 6th Feb

Finish printing everything off, get Mirror properly bound at work, because despite me having the strength of ten men, I can't get a staple through 106 pages. I decide to take it round to PFD by hand. Not that I don't trust the post office, I just don't trust myself to put the correct address on. Strangely anticlimactic; I arrive, hand it in, am thanked politely, and leave, all within 30 seconds. Okay, it's done. The result of nearly 6 months' work, in their hands. The die is cast.

Monday 10th Feb

Get a phonecall from Jago at PFD. He has read my scripts (already? yikes) and liked them, especially The School, which is a surprise. Would I like to come in for a chat? Er... fuck YES! Jump up and down for a bit. This is all going very quickly. By the way, isn't "Jago" a cool name? Sounds all streamlined, cat-like and dangerous. I shall never speak to him of this.

Wednesday 12th Feb

Meet Jago. He's really nice, funny, clever and keen to represent me. He loves The School, and thinks it's one of the strongest spec scripts he's seen. He tells me all about what an agent does and doesn't do, and generally fills me with excitement. Would I be prepared to write episodes of existing shows? Only if I like them, I say. Good, says he - if you don't like them, there's no point, better to say no than to hand in an inferior script. I like this guy. He also says that because The School is so strong, I probably won't have to go the whole Eastenders/Holby City/Emmerdale path to prove myself, thank Christ. That would have sucked, because I don't like or watch those shows, and wouldn't know how to even go about writing an episode of them. He wants to know if I want him to represent me - inwardly I'm screaming "YES! PLEASE!", but I try to remain calm, and agree to call him the next day to see how I feel.

Go outside and jump around in Covent Garden for a bit.

Thursday 13th Feb

Phone Jago and say yes.

He says he's going to get photocopying and send the script out to a few people, put out feelers. He's very cool - finally, someone who says they'll do something and actually does it, with no messing around. I now have an agent. I can actually say the words "my agent" and it isn't a joke.

Monday 17th Feb

Phone message from My Agent - a producer has got back to him already. He doesn't mess around, he said he'd send the scripts out, and he did. The producer of The League of Gentlemen emailed him, saying she really liked the script, and wants to know if she can meet me.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

I fall over myself to phone back, leaving a message on My Agent's machine, emailing him, his assistant, and his mum just in case.

Tuesday 18th Feb

It's all set - the meeting is on for Tuesday 4th March (the day before my birthday) at some club in the Strand. Do you say in the Strand or on the Strand? Who cares? 4th March. Christ. It doesn't seem quite real: I am meeting the producer of The League of Gentlemen, to talk about my script that she really likes.

I get some more feedback from My Agent (novelty hasn't worn off yet, saying that) about my other ideas, too, which is really helpful, he knows his stuff. He loves the woodlands story, and thinks it could be something really sick and funny. I'm going to develop the characters and work out how they all fit into it. I've also got an idea for a kickass TV thing set in London, that I don't think has been done quite this way before. Finally, it all seems to be a bit more real than before. I've got an agent. Blimey!

Rest of Feb

Start work on first draft of woodlands thing (2006 edit: this is Severance, which was known as Primeval, then Craw Lodge, then P45, then Severance - look how I travel through time)

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And now, June 2003.

At the moment, The School is getting sniffs from one or two people, hopefully there'll be some news about that soon - the producer tried pitching as animation to some telly bloke, but he wasn't having any of it. She's busy filming for a while now, but there are other irons in the fire, melting away - they're plastic, you see. The woodlands movie thing I've been having trouble with. The ending just won't work, and it's driving me crazy. Just finished the 8th draft - about to start the 9th, but have ploughed through two Syd Field books which weren't hugely helpful, although they did make me realise that the script has one major structural problem: it doesn't have an actual structure. It has a beginning and a middle, but it doesn't have an ending, it just stops. I've been trying to tack on endings, which have no relation to what has come before, among other things. Anyway, I think I know how to fix it.

But I'm taking a break first, writing two TV things, one surreal mystical science fiction comedy, one mystery scary horror stuff. I've met lots of producery type people, which has been great, and they've all been really positive. That's more or less everything so far. And now, our story continues... in the next post. Whenever that may be. I'm going to try and update this every day or so, but if there's nothing to say, then I won't. The world will just have to cope, somehow.

How do you get an agent, then? Send some scripts to them, with a covering letter explaining who you are and what you can do. Make sure the scripts are the very best you can do, keep the letter short, and follow the submission guidelines. Worked for me, anyway.