Sunday, February 27, 2005

Razzies and Oscars

I've always admired Paul Verhoeven as a filmmaker. His movies - Robocop, Starship Troopers, Total Recall, Hollow Man, and many more - have always had balls, a certain something that many Hollywood movies lack. He is never afraid to test the limits - and then say fuck it and drive over the limits in a big tank decorated with hardcore porn photos. He doesn't care about holding back, or worrying that something might offend someone, and his movies are all the better for it - people get horribly maimed, their balls blown off, or their whole bodies covered in toxic waste. Bullets don't just make you wince, they take huge chunks of meat out of you. If someone elbows you in the face, it's as likely to break your neck as your nose. His movies rock. They're tough motherfuckers, and you never know who is going to make it, or what is going to happen. I've always admired him for that. So in 1995 when he actually turned up at the Razzies - the Golden Raspberry Awards for the year's worst movies, presented the night before the Oscars - and accepted his awards for Showgirls (Worst Picture, Worst Director, and 5 more), I was even more impressed. He made a cheesy, bad movie, but fuck it, he's got a sense of humour, and was quite happy to send himself up. Nobody had ever actually turned up to the ceremony to accept their awards before he did. Hollywood doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humour about that sort of thing. A few years later, Tom Green turned up to accept his Razzies for Freddy Got Fingered - apparently he has always wanted to win one, and seemed to enjoy the whole experience immensely. A few people have accepted awards - Bill Cosby for one - but apart from Verhoeven and Green, none of the other "winners" has ever gone along to take their punishment.

Until this year, when Halle Berry made a surprise appearance to accept the Worst Actress award for Catwoman. And the guy who wrote it, John Rogers, turned up to take the Worst Screenplay award for the same movie. I always thought Halle was throwing away everything she'd gained to do Catwoman - she has an Oscar, for fuck's sake. Do comic book movies, sure - X-Men and X-Men 2 were great - but Catwoman just never escaped from the stench of dodginess that enveloped it from the start. It got panned, really badly panned, in print, on the web - everybody absolutely hated it. If everyone involved with the movie had just gone into hiding for a year or two, you could quite understand it. But fair play to her and Rogers, they went along, let everyone laugh at them for a while, and took it on the chin with extremely good humour. It takes a lot of bottle to do that, but it's also the best way to deal with it - take the piss out of yourself first, before anyone else can do it for you. Or, in this case, if you can't beat them, join them, and then they'll find someone else to make fun of. I'm very impressed with both of them. It's very rare these days that you find anyone in that position who is willing to let themselves be taken down a peg or two. Especially the night before the Oscars. For the record, if I ever win a Razzie, I will definitely go to the ceremony and accept it.

Now bring on the self-congratulatory, back-slapping wankery of Oscar night. I'll be taping it, not staying up to watch - if I wasn't able to fast forward through the songs, interpretive dance and other awfulness, I'd probably stab myself in the eyes and ears with frozen badgers (I keep two in the freezer for just such emergencies).

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson, 1937-2005

I just heard that Hunter S. Thompson, Raoul Duke, Dr Gonzo, committed suicide. I don't know what to say. His writing and general antics are one of the influences on me, my writing, and my creatively foul mouth. A lot of people are saying things like that today, so you probably won't find anything original here from me. Major influence, genius, crazy, guns, drugs, blah blah blah. So why am I even writing this, if it's completely redundant? I suppose I just want to add my voice to the general lament. To some people, he was just a crazy old guy who wrote vulgar rants. To those of us who understand, he was a crazy, depraved genius, a violent poet in a wilderness of pigs. Sure, he was a little bit crazy, nobody would deny that. For much of his later life, he was holed up in his "fortified compound" in Colorado, shooting innocent inanimate objects with a variety of guns, taking lots of drugs, smoking, drinking, watching several TV news channels at once, firing off crazed faxes to various people at 3 in the morning, and, yes, still writing, still spitting the words out, the fire never diminishing for a second. A crazy shut in? No. I say he was the one person who *really* knew what was going on, and that's why he lived the way he did. That's why the general feeling of sadness and bitterness that pervades his words got stronger as time went by. Probably the same reason he took his own life (if he really did, and if it wasn't just some crazy new invention or gun game gone wrong, and I'm sure that there were more than a few close calls). He had seen the world for what it truly is, and it is fucked up beyond belief. It really is a horrible, degenerate playground for swine and imbeciles, and the pigs have taken over. I know I sometimes feel like going to live in a secluded place with lots of guns, drugs, televisions and communication devices. The world really is that bad. And he always told it like he saw it. But the difference between him and any other number of insane, survivalist gunheads, was the writing.

Oh sweet jesus, the writing.

It's like nothing you've ever seen before, or ever will again. A bizarre concoction of depravity, poetry, hilarity, and anger. One minute you're laughing at some exotic escapade, the next minute you're stunned by an insight so crystal clear it almost hurts. Many have imitated the style, none have even come close. Read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. Read Hells Angels. Read Better Than Sex:Confessions of a Political Junkie, Trapped Like a Rat in Mr Bill's Neighbourhood. Read any of his books. Read any of his books of letters. Read any of his columns. Read fucking anything he wrote. Now come back and tell me how many crazy gun nuts or junkies write like that. Shit, tell me how many clean and sober best selling writers write like that. Nobody. There is fucking nobody to touch that magnificent bastard. And there never will be again.

The world just became a more sensible place. I can't think of a worse fate for it.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Another meeting

Met a cool guy at BBC Films yesterday - he'd read Severance and the first episode of The School, and just wanted to see what I was up to, what I was all about, and what other sort of things I liked to write. I really enjoyed it, we talked for an hour about what we liked, what they did, what I did, and all sorts of other stuff. They do book adaptations as well as original stuff, and are always on the lookout for up and coming writers. He said that they might have a project I'd be interested in, but couldn't remember exactly what it was - he's going to find out and let me know. It was very promising, I think we got on well, and I wasn't the shambling mumbler that I can sometimes be. They made Dirty Pretty Things, which I absolutely loved, and Code 46, Iris, Billy Elliot, and many others, so I'd love to do something with them.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Unprofessional wankers

Severance is going fine, before anyone panics. The title of this post refers to other people...

You know, I knew going into this business that there'd be dodgy dealings, people who'd try to fuck me over, and lots of general underhandedness. But I didn't expect sheer, blatant unprofessional behaviour. When me and Pat took Harvest to the Very Big Film Company, everything ran smoothly, we dealt with a really cool guy there (who is still cool, none of this is his fault), and we were very clear that (a) I would be writing it, (b) Pat would be directing it, and (c) we were open to any suggestions. We even changed the storyline at their request (and, er, it was a good idea). We met with the guy the other week, and he said he'd try to get the lawyers to hurry up the contracts.

So. They come back to our agents with a deal. A bad deal. I'd get less money than I got for Severance - which was a newbie spec script, not something you get huge amounts for - and Pat would get hardly any money at all. Oh, and he wouldn't be able to direct. No way. Oh, and they could kick us both off after the first draft. Forever. With no more money forthcoming. Oh, and he couldn't even have input during the first draft. Apparently, the cool guy's boss suddenly pretended that she hadn't known about Pat directing, that it was a huge shock to her, and said "no way, he's not doing it". Even though she has known very well, the whole time - that was half of the point of this whole thing, he specifically came up with an idea for him to direct. But now he'd simply be removed, with hardly any money, no creative input, just a story credit. What's in it for him?

So. Pat, rightly, decided to tell them to shove it. As the whole thing was his idea, it was down to him to say yes or no, so the deal is off. I'd have been okay if it had gone through - a decent amount for the draft, and a fairly decent amount for the full payment (assuming it got made and I wasn't kicked off) - more than decent, but still less than the Severance money - but I totally agree with Pat's decision. I'd have done exactly the same thing in his position. They just wanted to squeeze him out and buy the whole idea out from under him for very little money.

So. We walked away. We have turned down a deal with one of the biggest film companies in the UK.

And you know what? Fuck em. We brought them something really cool, really commercial, something different and exciting that would have made them a shitload of cash - and they played silly games and messed us around. Anyway, we've still got Harvest, and we're still tweaking the outline and pitch documents, so it'll be all ready if anyone else shows any interest in the future. When we are a bit more well known, we can get it out again - and if it does get made, and is a big success, and the Very Big Film People wonder why we're not working for them, I'll tell them exactly why.

In the meantime, the first character who gets killed in my next horror script is going to be named after a certain person at a Very Big Film Company.

Update from the future: Ironic, considering the title of this is "unprofessional wankers", as it's possibly my most unprofessional blog post. I was younger, naive, and idiotic, and sound like I expected to be just given a deal on a plate... Up and coming writer bloggers: don't do this. EVER. I'm leaving the post here (with some of the more unpleasant phrases removed) as an example to others of what not to do. I had no right to expect any amount of money, or even a deal, and the "kicked off after first draft" clause is used quite regularly for people who have hardly any credits (me, at the time), just in case they flame out. The exec in question *did* know Pat was supposed to be directing it, so it was still annoying - but I should never have written this ranty blog post about it. Complain about being treated badly, fine, but not to this level of detail. It's a sure fire way to damage your career and reputation - and sound like a whiny, entitled, unprofessional wanker. Dear 2005 Me: you're an idiot. No love, 2012 Me.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Casting, meetings, new things, and slack-arsed lawyers

Met up with Pat and the Very Big Film Company people to have a preliminary chat about Harvest (the scifi action thing). Went very well, they're excited about it, we're excited about it, everyone's excited about everything. It was a bit of a last minute thing, they kept rearranging it, but it finally happened, so we're hoping to get things going soon. If the bloodsucking lawyers can sort their shit out, obviously, as long as it doesn't interfere with one of the 38 holidays they have per month. I'm in the wrong fucking business, I really am...

Severance is moving along. Casting is fully underway, and I've seen the casting tapes so far. Had a bit of a freakout when I saw famous Ac-torrrs reading my lines, actually acting out my dialogue, it was SUCH a headfuck. It was great. Seeing characters I've lived with in my head for 2 years coming to life on a TV screen was amazing. I don't think anything has been decided, but I do know they are either about to offer or have already offered one part to a well known American actor (2 parts are American, unless we change one to English). The big name actress they were thinking of for another part isn't available - apparently she liked the script, but her schedule was having none of it. The sales agents are all jumping to get involved, and there's been a really good response from UK distributors - there's a lot of interest in this one. I'm excited and terrified at the same time.

The new horror thing is coming along too. I've been working on the outline for a week or two, but came at it from a different angle this time. Normally I have an idea for a cool plot, then try and fit the background and characters into it somehow. This time, the idea was for the background, or the setting. I spent a while coming up with all sorts of ideas for cool things that could happen, or that had already happened, working out "the rules" of it all, and then came up with some characters who might be involved in some of those things - instead of making up some paper-thin people and shoving them in just so that the story would have someone to happen to. I didn't even try and come up with a plot for it. After a while, the story just started coming naturally from the characters and setting, it was really cool. I've never done it like that before, and it really made a difference. I always get stuck trying to think of a cool story - but if your background and characters are good enough, the story will look after itself. It doesn't need to have a high concept or amazing twist, as long as it's satisfying and does what it needs to do (a horror needs to scare, comedy needs to make you laugh, and so on). I finally started putting the story together on Friday, and finished it a couple of hours ago tonight. I'll keep tweaking it, see what my agent makes of it, then hopefully it'll be ready for action before too long.

The book adaptation is still stuck in contract limbo. I'm hoping they get their legal people on the case, because I would really love to write it. They want me to write it, I want to write it, it's just all waiting for - as is always the case - the lawyers to get their fingers out and actually do their fucking jobs, maybe write a fucking contract or something. I'm not the biggest fan of lawyers. One day they're just going to suck all the joy and vitality out of the whole world, and the entire planet will crumble away into dust. Don't come crying to me when they do. I warned you. I warned you all. Watch those shifty fuckers. They're evil.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Casting, and buzz

Things have been quiet on the Severance front, as they're getting on with their side of things, and I'm not needed for anything right now. Got a phonecall from the film company to update me on what has been happening, and there are quite a few things:

Casting is going well, some cool people have been auditioning (they've got the casting director from Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, so that's pretty exciting). I'm going to call in on Wednesday, and they'll show me the audition tapes. Can't wait. They're very close to actually casting one person, and are waiting to hear back from another who was reading it recently. They're famous, proper actors. It's mad.

They've also had a good response from the sales agents - I was slightly wrong about what they do: they sell the foreign distribution rights on our behalf, they don't buy them themselves. But they have to read it and be interested first, they need to believe that they have a chance of selling it. They've all responded very positively, and really like the script. Apparently there's a "buzz" about it at the moment, people have been calling up to ask to read it - including someone from a large American film company that has made some classic horror movies, some excellent recent horror movies, and a certain recent movie trilogy... So that's all really cool to hear. 2007 Update: The big American film company was New Line Cinema. No idea why they wanted to read it, or what happened, but at least someone there read it, which is cool.

Contracts for the scifi action thing and the book adaptation are still being sorted - my agent is locked in mortal combat with the various legal people, which of course he will win, because he's a tough bastard.

And I've finally come up with a new idea to work on, after being stuck for a while. I decided to avoid doing another horror script for a long, long time, as it's really difficult, and you always seem to write stuff that has been done a thousand times before, then you abandon it, and spend ages trying to come up with something cool. So that's it, no more horror for me, I said. The next two ideas I had were for horror movies - both about serial killers, both different types of stories, both impossible to sell, both something that nobody would even want to watch in the cinema. And then last week, I finally came up with another idea, a really cool one, that works. It is, inevitably, a horror movie. But not the same sort of "something is lurking in the shed" type of horror movie, it's more an action thriller type of horror. So that's all right, then. Another story I've been working on for a while, which was a really cool story Jo came up with, has finally sorted itself out, too, and I've knocked the outline together. It's also a horror movie. So I guess I'm doing a horror movie next. 2007 Update: Aha! This was Curfew. Just a bare, embryonic idea at that stage, it had yet to develop...

And after that, I really, really need to do a comedy.