Friday, March 17, 2006

Movie updates

Today was another Curfew meeting, trying to finetune it and get rid of any dead areas or ideas. It's getting better all the time, and I can't wait to start the full script. Don't know when the outline will be finished properly, but hopefully soon.

Today is also Jo's birthday, and St Paddy O'Irish Day, so remember, if you catch a leprechaun, he'll give you the pot of gold at the end of his rainbow. Make sure he's a leprechaun though, and not a mugger. Rainbows aren't down dark alleys.

Yesterday was a screening of Severance for some suits - traditionally, suit types sit in a stony silence, caressing the tiny black lump of coal that is their heart, occasionally staring up from their Blackberries and muttering "it's dark in here, what is that moving image in front of me, I fear the loud noises". So we packed out the screening room with loads of real people who haven't seen it - when you're watching a comedy or a horror, it always plays better with a full house. I invited loads of mates, and various scoundrels, and it went down a storm. Everyone had a great time. I was really nervous beforehand, I mean, I'm really proud of the movie, don't get me wrong - but now they were seeing the finished version, and would decide if they like it or not. It was almost like I was in a play or something, and they were in the audience. But it was great, they were all really enthusiastic, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm still buzzing from it, it was such a good feeling. Thanks to all of you for coming and supporting it, I really appreciate it. Anyway, the suits all liked it, so it's looking like it might be released after summer - spring is pretty much over now, and apparently there's some fucking football competition on during the summer, or something. I'll let you know when there's a definite decision either way.

Some quick links now, because it's Friday, and I'm in a great mood, if still slightly hungover.

Live action recreation of the Simpsons intro - some people clearly had a lot of free time, just look at the attention to detail. All together now: Theeeee Siiiiimpsooooooons...

At last! The official Snakes on a Plane trailer is here! All together now: "Enough is enough - I've had it with the snakes!"

Christian rap version of Baby Got Back - Baby Got Bible. Yep. They thought the best way to spread the word about Christianity would be a cover of a song about big asses. And yes, they replaced "me so horny" with "me so holy"... All together now: "I wanna get wit'ya - cause your bible's got pictures!"

The original pilot for Buffy, never shown on TV - it's only 25 minutes, a bit rough and ready in places, and Willow is played by someone else, but you can still see what a great idea it is, and how much potential it has. I'd always heard the original pilot was unwatchable, with terrible makeup effects, but it's really good fun. So go and watch it before YouTube gets hit with a cease and desist.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear meee-eee... happybirthdaytome

Today, 5th March 2006, is my birthday. I am now 34 years old, but still feel like a confused 19 year old most of the time. Thankfully, at least I now know what I want to be when I grow up.

Here's the birthday card my loving sister Julie sent me:



It's a cry for help, I reckon. She wants the police to catch her, to stop her before she kills again.

Friday was a very busy day. "Did" lunch with Sir Danny of Stackshire (or 'stacks of Danny', if you prefer, I'm still not decided yet), then had a quick meetup with Chris and Jason, and went straight on to the Curfew meeting. The outline is going nicely, we talked about the tweaks and changes necessary, for several hours, making sure we hadn't missed anything. Got home at 9pm, thanks to tube delays, throat dry from talking all day, and tucked into a Subway sandwich before watching the end of Life on Mars again.

It really got to me, that final episode - I'm a sucker for anything where someone has lost their dad, because I always wonder what life might have been like if mine hadn't died when I was 5 years old. Would we have been best mates, would he have turned me into a footballing geezer with loads of swagger - or would I be exactly the same person I am today? I'll never know. Don't get me wrong, I'm okay about it, it was such a long time ago I'm not wracked with pain or anything. I barely knew him really, I was so young. But the moment where Sam finally unlocks his buried memory, realises what's going to happen, and the piano on the Bowie title track kicks in, I was just a mess. I literally sat on the edge of the seat for the rest of the episode. In the back of my mind, I knew how it was going to end, how it *must* end, but secretly hoped that it could all be fixed, that everything would be okay. Life isn't like that, though, it's horribly unfair, and sometimes there's just nothing you can do about it. Maybe I'm just a soft target for this sort of thing, but I haven't been able to get the episode out of my head since Monday.

Anyway, it's my birthday, so cash donations and/or luxury items to be sent, on a postcard, to the usual address. There is booze and cake in the house, even some multicoloured straws, and not many people can say that. I'm the birthday boy - who wants to touch me? I usually go to the cinema on my birthday, so today we went to see The Matador, which was a great laugh, quite touching, and contained a rip roaring performance from Pierce Brosnan. He was great as Bond, but I'm glad he's free to do movies like this now, he's clearly having much more fun. Go and see it, it's top stuff.

Jo got me the best birthday present ever - The Stanley Kubrick Archives. A fuckoff big book filled with photos, articles, interviews, and scans of items from the ridiculously large Kubrick archive - script notes, letters, diagrams, private photos, absolutely everything you could possibly want to know. It's the ultimate present for the ultimate Kubrick nerd, I'm so happy with it. He was the greatest director who ever lived, and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise. I had to take some photos of it, so you can understand just how massive it is. It came inside a special cardboard suitcase, with a carrying handle. It didn't have gift wrapping paper, it was placed inside a massive gift *sack*. Jo had to help me turn the pages, it's that big. Each section on each movie has a little tab so you can find it easily - the great man himself would have approved, I'm sure. The icing on the cake is a twelve frame film strip from a 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of Kubrick's own copies. I had to take some pics of the book, check them out here.

There's a fascinating article on the archives themselves, on the special boxes he had made to store them, and on his legendary attention to detail (including the room that at first glance is the library, but only contains books about Napoleon). It goes some way to explaining just why his movies were so layered:

"Somewhere else in this house," Tony says, "is a cabinet full of 25,000 library cards, three inches by five inches. If you want to know what Napoleon, or Josephine, or anyone within Napoleon's inner circle was doing on the afternoon of July 23 17-whatever, you go to that card and it'll tell you."

"Who made up the cards?" I ask.

"Stanley," says Tony. "With some assistants."

"How long did it take?" I ask.

"Years," says Tony. "The late 1960s."

Kubrick never made his film about Napoleon.


Check it out here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Writer's block - the reality

I've seen a few writing blogs lately discussing the "myth" of writer's block. They all pretty much say the same: there's no such thing, and if you really can't think of anything to write, you're lying, lazy, or just trying to avoid doing any work.

Great news, eh? No such thing! It's a myth! Perpetuated by lazy writers! What a relief!

Fuck that. Okay, so there probably aren't any times when you simply can't write about *anything*, when no matter what you sit down to do, there are no words, you have no voice in your head and can't make *anything* up. That's very unlikely - not impossible, but unlikely. I suspect most cases of the dreaded block are really procrastination in disguise - it's not a blockage, it's just a lot easier to do nothing, and most of us have it down to a fine art. That's not to say it doesn't exist though.

But you can usually think of *something* to write about, even if it's just an exercise to get your fingers moving. The thing is, that's not always helpful, is it? If I'm stuck trying to figure out how to get the good guy to kill the bad guy (whoops, gave away the ending for 96% of all movies), then doing a writing exercise about my favourite childhood memory isn't much use. Sure, it'll be *writing*, but not the writing I need *right now*.

Maybe there's no such thing as writer's block, in the sense of a complete and utter inability to write anything. But does it exist in any other sense? Oh yeah. And it has many different forms:

--I have no idea what happens next
--I can't figure out how to end this
--I don't know where this is going
--I have the beginning and the end, but how the fuck do I come up with a middle bit to connect them?
--I'm doing the middle bit, but I'm just making shit up to try and connect acts 1 and 3
--I'm halfway through this, but it's shit
--60 pages in, and I've run out of story
--I have nothing to say with this script, it's not about anything
--I need character A to be in location B, but the way I've written it, character A would *never* go to location B, and I can't just do it for the sake of it, so how the hell do I make it convincing?
--I've had about a hundred ideas over the past year, and every single one has been shit, didn't go anywhere, and was a complete waste of time
--I've spent months working on this outline/idea, but it's just fallen to pieces and won't work, so it was a complete waste of time
--I can't think of anything good, interesting, or original
--I have 8 weeks to write this, no more, and if I'm not finished it by then, I'm fucked, oh shit, 3 weeks left, I haven't even started properly yet, where the hell do I begin?
--This ending isn't working, and I don't even know why, I just know it's no good
--I've solved all the problems, it's technically perfect, but it's just not interesting or "alive"
--They're going to hate this, it sucks
--I suck
--I'm ugly, too
--They're going to realise I'm a fraud, I lucked into this whole thing, I'm a big, sucky, ugly fraud

…and so on. Basically, writer's block can be anything that means you cannot continue writing right now, anything that stops you going to the next scene. Anything that dents your confidence, stops the flow, fucks your story up.

Writer's block is the constant voice asking "what happens next?", and you not having an answer.

Writer's block is just being fucking *stuck*. I've experienced all of those things up there on the list at some stage, and I'm sure I'll get them again. Some of them are easier to fix than others**. Some may even be helped by writing exercises, or brainstorming. But some can't. Sometimes, you just have to sit there, wracking your fucking brains, trying to force an idea out of nothing. Sometimes you have to stop thinking about it, and hope that the solution will magically pop into your head at random. Sometimes you just have to let it go. Maybe you'll come back to it, maybe it'll just sit in your old ideas file for years, and every now and then you'll stumble across it, and think hey, why didn't that ever work. Maybe then it'll fix itself, or you'll have a brainwave. Maybe it can't be fixed, ever - the killer is, if it can't, you'll never know. If you do fix it, then you'll know, but if you don't, you won't. And it'll just sit there, the one that got away, mocking you. A better writer could have fixed me, it whispers. A better writer wouldn't have got stuck in the first place. A better writer wouldn't have failed. Because when it comes right down to it, much of the time writing isn't some magical creative alchemy, it's just sitting down and working out how to get from A to B to C without making it look too obvious. And the first five answers you think up will turn out to be either unusable or unconvincing, so you need to come up with another way.

No such thing as writer's block? Yeah. Sure. Never been stuck on something? Always know what happens next? And it's always brilliant, is it? Well good for you. You've been lucky. So far.

And when you're days away from that incredibly important deadline, desperately trying to figure out how to begin or end or link something, slowly getting that sinking feeling that it's all gone horribly wrong - think back to this post, think back to your chipper "no such thing" post, then look me in the eye and tell me writer's block doesn't exist.

** In the next post, some tricks to get out of those sticky, stuck situations...