Thursday, November 30, 2006

Votes, votes, give us your votes

Okay, we've all voted (I hope) in the Total Film awards, now it's time to vote in the Empire awards. I present, for your consideration, Severance in the best horror film category, and/or best British film (because every other fucker will be voting for The Queen, because isn't she wonderful and ooh it's like looking into our own lives, they're so special and magical, the country would fall apart if it wasn't for them, here have some of my hard earned tax money to pay for the upkeep of your several palaces, I don't begrudge it in the slightest). Unless of course you didn't like Severance, in which case, obviously, vote for something else. If you did like it, go on, vote us up, they gave us a shitty review but gave Pirates 2 a great one in the same issue, despite both movies being 3 stars, but hey, what do I know about anything.

While you're there, give Pan's Labyrinth a shout out for best Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and London to Brighton a nod for Best Thriller. I leave the other ones to your discretion, so choose wisely. To refresh your memory, here's a list of every movie released in the UK in 2006.

Speaking of which, please go and see Pan's Labyrinth if you haven't already, it's a beautiful piece of work. And opening tomorrow is London To Brighton, written and directed by Mr Paul Andrew Williams, who is down to direct Curfew sometime next year, a horror by an up and coming writer you may have heard of around these parts. London To Brighton is fucking fantastic, and will rip your heart right out of your chest. Amazing performances, stylishly directed from a tight script - cashback. It's not a big 100 million dollar car chase extravaganza, it's a small story about real people, and it deserves to be seen. Go along and support both of these examples of passionate people putting their heart and soul into their work. Thank you.

Writing work, after a long dark period, seems to be on the horizon. Just got commissioned to do an outline for an exciting TV thing, just a single hour long thing, no guarantees etc etc, but it's promising. Got another thing that's just been approved, again no guarantees, but will at least result in one script, whether it goes anywhere is up to many other factors. So things are looking up. But as one door opens...

...another one slams in your face and nicks your pants. My 32 inch LCD TV has just died. Cost 999 quid, big fancy HD jobby, lasted just over a year. Minimum repair cost would be just under 400 quid, *not* including parts, which could be anything from a few pence to "several hundred pounds" on top of that. Madness. I have a 2-year guarantee in the box, which apparently shouldn't have been in there, only their kettles and things get that, so I'm currently fighting with them to get a free repair, seeing as I have the guarantee. Also seeing as ridiculously expensive shit really should last longer than a year. If Philips customer service continues to give me shit, then I'm posting the whole sorry tale here, otherwise I'll let it go. Watch this space. I'm really having trouble coping without a TV, most people would conclude this tale with something wanky like "and to be honest, my life has improved drastically" - well, mine hasn't. I need my fucking TV. I want it back so I can watch stuff. I can't stand it when people snootily insist that not having one makes them a better person, and yet they fucking download all the shows they want to watch or get the DVDs - you're STILL watching TV, just in a slightly different way, so shut your arse. God I wish I could stick to one topic at a time, how do people do that?

And this is the 298th post. We're nearly there. I think for the 300th I'm going to post an article about horror that I've been working on, but I might not finish in time - keep the suggestions coming anyway, just in case.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bouncy balls and splashy paint

Totally random, not writing or blogging related, purely crass commercialism, but interesting: Remember that advert, where all the computer generated superbouncy balls go bouncing down the hill? Pretty cool, wasn't it? Yeah? Except they weren't computer generated superbouncy balls. They tipped a quarter of a million of them down a San Francisco street. For real. And filmed it. Now that - is cool.

Same people (for the same product) came up with the other, more recent advert, with the exploding paint fireworks - I assumed, again, that it was all done with special effects. Nope, they actually blew up a shitload of different coloured buckets of paint, in the air, on the ground, and up the buildings.

Both links have downloads of the ads themselves, and the behind the scenes videos showing how they did it - well worth checking out.

Okay, this is post 297. Post 300 looms! And I still don't know what to do with it...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Birth of a scribo-bloke

Thanks for the great questions, keep them coming. Posting will be sporadic, as I have tons of stuff to write, but they'll still happen, for I am the king, the king of procrastination.

Potdoll says: how did you learn screenwriting? did you go to film school/classes or were you born like it?

I went a funny sort of roundabout way, really. In a sense, I was born like it, in that I could always write, but the screenwriting came much later. Ever since I was able to hold a pen, I've been writing short stories, but never really thought it would get me anywhere. Tried writing two novels, but abandoned them halfway through when I realised the sheer amount of description that was necessary. When I discovered the script format, I realised I'd found my medium - you only describe what is needed ("a room"), and can get straight to the story and character. Action, dialogue, bish bash bosh. This was in the late 90s - I had no idea that there were screenwriting courses. I'd heard of film school, but assumed that there were only 2 of them, and both were in America. I vaguely heard from a friend that there was one in this country, but apparently it was expensive, and I was broke.

So I started reading published scripts (more on that in a future post). That was a revelation, I realised how sparse they were - they said so little, and yet said so much. Why was that great scene not in the movie? Why was a different scene added? What works on the page, but not in the movie, and vice versa? I went on the internet, looked for more, and tried to find out everything I could about writing them. That's when I found the Wordplay website - a series of columns about the technical process, the nitty gritty of actually knuckling down and writing a script from your idea - not teaching you *how* to write, but giving you tricks of the trade. Later, I won the Sci-Fi Channel shorts competition, and my 10-page script got made into a short film. That gave me the confidence boost to decide to try to get an agent. I wrote a 6-part TV series ("The School", which still gets me meetings today) and a film script ("Mirror", which doesn't). The film script wasn't great, but not bad for a first try. Once my agent pointed out the flaws, it seemed really obvious - not much sense of direction, redundant scenes where characters would give other characters information that the audience already knew, etc. So I learned from that.

The next stage was the writing of Severance, formerly P45, formerly The Craw Lodge, formerly Primeval, formerly Mountain Man. That has been documented on this blog in terrifying detail. Reader's Digest version: I jumped in without an outline, plan, or ending, and wrote a bad first draft. My agent, in a long phonecall (the first of many) explained to me exactly why it was so bad: more redundant scenes, no sense of direction, characters all sound the same, ending doesn't work, tension doesn't build to the ending, logic flaws, plot holes, an entirely redundant character who is just there to help explain things I'm unable to, etc etc. Over the course of the year, I gradually figured out where I'd gone wrong, and figured out my story. I did an outline, figured out the motivations of the victims and the killer, worked out the backstory, got to know the characters, and generally fixed all my mistakes. If I'd done this to start with, it would have been easier - but because I was rewriting instead of starting from scratch, it took quite a while.

During that time, I read lots of screenwriting books, none of which were helpful, unless I wanted to know where the act breaks were in the *finished movie versions* of Chinatown and The Karate Kid. More - MUCH more - on screenwriting books in a later post. Short version: don't. Give me the money instead. You will be similarly unenlightened, but hey, you'll have got me drunk and saved yourself some time.

I also read many more scripts. And saw lots of movies. And listened to lots of DVD commentaries - not just writers, but directors, editors, actors, anyone with some insight into the creation of the movie. They all have different points of view, depending on their job, and it all helps.

But the most helpful thing ever was writing those two bad scripts. And then being forced at gunpoint (okay, agent-point) to rewrite the shit out of one until it worked, until it kicked ass and sold and made me into the fabulous, fierce diva you see before you. You have to make your own mistakes. I highly recommend it. You can be told something until you're blue in the face, but you won't believe it until it happens to you. "Pff! Know the ending first? Bullshit, man, you can't force your RULES on me, I'm an outlaw." Later: "Damn, I wish I'd had even a rough idea about the ending before I started this." (Obviously there are exceptions to everything, etc, what works for me may be illegal in your country, blah blah blah, mum knows best, etc). It's like when you fall for someone who's actually a crazy heartbreaker. Everyone else KNOWS they're crazy and will dump your ass for the nearest drug dealer and then shoot your cat, they try and tell you because they don't want to see you get hurt - but hey, they don't understand, they're just jealous, they don't see them like you do, you know they would NEVER do anything like that... until it happens. And it's so obvious in hindsight, you can't believe you didn't realise, if only you'd listened to your friends...

There are some things you just can't be told, you have to make your own mistakes and learn from them, so that next time you write something you will instinctively avoid the pitfalls that trapped you before - you'll feel it, because you've done it. And that has been the most valuable learning tool of all, Scarecrow. You're not going to be a genius overnight. You can be a damn good writer, but there is always stuff to learn. And (in my not so humble opinion) there's simply no substitute for sitting your ass down, writing and writing and writing, fucking up, going down the wrong paths, making all the same mistakes, learning from those, coming back stronger, continuing to write your guts out, until you get better at it.

Look, I know I've had one single movie made, and I'm not in any way holding myself up as an expert, I wouldn't do that - my opinion about everything isn't suddenly correct just because I've had some success. But this is my experience, and what I've found to be true for myself. Everyone's path is different. Maybe if I'd taken a class, I could have avoided many of the mistakes I made - but I still say there's no substitute for writing a lot, good and bad (although I understand that most of those classes actually make you write lots of stuff, which is good). And yes, I realise I answered the original question several paragraphs ago, but if you can't talk too much on your own blog, what is the world coming to? Hell in a handbasket, that's what.

More questions answered later! Exciting back-and-forth blog action! Also, this is the 296th post. I'd really like to mark the upcoming 300th with some sort of special, funkadelic post. Any suggestions, please to be communicating with me electronic-wise.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Snippage

Curfew revisions have begun. I put it off for a few hours, slightly intimidated by the mountain of changes I need to make. Where do I start? I'm a fraud, I have no idea what I'm doing, this is madness. So I put all the notes and printouts aside, and just started rewriting. This run through will be from memory, to get the feel of where I'm at. The first thing I did was chop 8 and a half pages out of the first 10 pages. It was all stuff I'd been thinking of getting rid of, and after we all talked about it today, we agreed that we just didn't need it. So... snip! Just like that. It was stuff I'd spent ages doing, working out, but it was in the way. See how I wave my magic wand? Truly I am a weaver of dreams. I'm now on page 8, which used to be page 18. So 10 pages are now gone. Quite refreshing, really, that I can do it painlessly. Some of the missing stuff will surface later as backstory, if necessary, much of it won't. Don't need it. Keep things moving along. Nice. Also I have removed two characters. It's like they never existed. Power, kids. Ultimate power.

The meeting went great today, Paul's a really cool guy, and is totally "on the same page" as me, if I can be wanky for a moment. We all talked about the notes, and what would change, and possible new changes, or refinements of old changes. Also saw some pieces of early concept art, which are incredibly cool. I'll see if I can get permission to post one.

Oh, and we saw Harry Enfield on the stairs, and all stood back so he could manoeuvre a stack of boxes in through a doorway. There was mild banter. So, for a tiny moment, it could be argued that we technically became his "chums". Both Paul and I were more excited about this than anything else, which I think bodes extremely well for our creative partnership.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Do not adjust your blog

Blogging is currently experiencing delays, due to leaves on the line, and about 100 trains trying to use the same bit of track. As expected, after a quiet period everything suddenly needs doing at the same time. Got the Curfew meeting tomorrow, and starting the revisions immediately after that. Need to finish an outline for another director (Hi Mr. H! Ooh, secret messages!) for a different secret project, carry on with another secret thing which is at script stage, rewrite my untitled comedy spec, finish my side of another semi-secret collaboration, finish off a new outline pitch that may turn into my next solo feature gig, start another outline which will a paid job thing, and come up with stuff for two possible TV things. Sounds exciting - and it is - but only one of these actually involves getting paid right now, the rest are all either on spec, on the off chance, or with agreements in place and nominal fees. So it's all good, and I'm very very busy, but most of it will pay off later on (which I'm cool with, and knew up front), and therefore there's nothing to really announce yet. I'm also working on some bigger blog posts to answer questions, hopefully the first one will be up tomorrow. And I need to return some phonecalls.

And I'm also waiting to hear back about 2 very good, big, important things which would totally kick me into another level of coolness. But if I even gave you a tiny, tiny hint, you would all be rounded up, tortured, shot, and buried in unmarked graves. In really stony ground. Somewhere cold. Ooh, was that a clue? No, it wasn't, sorry, I'm toying with you. Ooh! "Toy"ing - was THAT a clue?? Possibly... except it isn't. Haven't you learned your lesson by now? Hmm? "Lesson"?? Now that is definitely a clue. Nah, not really.

Quick Severance thingies: Nominated for a BIFA for "Best Achievement in Production", whatever that means. And if you fancy owning the actual costume of the killer that Maggie has a big fight with in Severance, someone's selling it on eBay - you can bid for it here, it's currently at just over two quid, post and packing is twenty quid. It is the real thing, I can confirm, they won it in a competition so it's all fair and square. Cheers to Dom for spotting it, presumably when he was searching for pirate DVDs of Severance, or nudie photos of Joan Severance. Either way Dom, I've contacted the police, so just give me any nudie photos you have, and we'll say no more about it. Update: The killer costume got re-listed, and eventually went for 33 quid and 2 pence. Bargain.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A development

So it turns out Saddam Hussein was guilty all along. Blimey. You think you know someone, eh?

Not much to report on the writing front at the moment, lots of things still being sweated over, or about to happen, and so on. Except - tada! - there is now a director attached to Curfew. His name is Paul Williams, he just directed the grittily fantastic movie London to Brighton, and he's fab. We're meeting up next week, and then I'll start the revisions to the first draft. Can't wait. No solid filming plans yet, very early days so far, seeing as I'm still writing the thing and Paul's got another movie to do first, so there are no other details to spill yet. Watch this space.

Halloween went very well, lots of movies were watched, lots of food and drink were consumed. I'm planning a couple of proper posts soon, sorry for the bloggy gap at the moment, there just hasn't been anything to report. It's a bit of a quiet month too, which doesn't make for exciting updates. If anyone wants to ask anything, now's a good time...