Thursday, March 29, 2007

Northeastern tights keep him hip

Some news and links, for your procrastinating pleasure.

A brand, spanking new U.S. trailer for Severance. I like it way, way more than the UK trailer, which gives too much away - oddly, this shows more, but doesn't spoil anything, which is clever. And it's got a Mr Voice on it, which excites me indecently (it's not *the* Mr Voice, but still, *a* Mr Voice). Plus it's got that slightly cheesy trailer feel, which is fun. The U.S. release has been moved to May 18th, by the way, which is a good idea - it was going to come out the same day as Grindhouse, which would have killed it dead. So if you live in the U.S. - and quite a lot of people do, it's a big place - go and check it out.

Severance is featured in the new issue (#262) of Fangoria, and even mentioned on the cover:'s on the left, in the middle, really small.. but it's there! It's a bit of a thrill for me - when I was a kid, it was the first proper horror magazine I'd ever seen, it seemed custom designed for the splatter geek that I was, and still am. So being on the cover - even in a tiny way - is great. Plus, it shares the cover with Tarantino and Kurt fucking Russell, which is amazingly cool. The magazine is out now, but might not arrive in the UK for a few more days, so make sure you don't grab the previous issue by mistake. Don't forget kids, Severance is released in the U.S. on the 18th May! Bring your friends!

There's a great interview here with an unsung screenwriting hero of mine, David Koepp. Never heard of him? You may have heard of some of the movies he wrote. Panic Room. Spider-Man. Mission Impossible. Jurassic Park. Carlito's Way. I don't know how he does it, I suspect some sort of Faustian pact is involved. The guy always knocks out tight, solid scripts, and is really nice and funny with it. He also directs, and did the superb Stir Of Echoes, which was undeservedly overlooked. He has a lot of interesting stuff to say, but mainly I'm relieved to hear that, just like the rest of us, he pisses around on the internet for hours before forcing himself to start writing.

Online anagram generator - yay, another site to waste time on instead of writing. Soon I will be able to fill 24 hours a day with messing around, and never have to work. Of course, I'll be living on the streets and starving, but hey, swings and roundabouts. Best anagrams for "the pen is mightier than the spork": "Apprehension might shit the trek", "Enterprising sheath kept him hot", "He hikes tight northeastern pimp", and "Northeastern tights keep him hip". Best ones for "James Moran" are "smear jam on" and "Joe's man ram". Obviously the longer the phrase, the more anagrams you get back.

Off to Dublin today, for a long weekend, so I'll be bloggo incognito until next week, at which point I promise to post the final Fantasporto day report. Talk amongst yourselves, don't look at any of *those* websites, and try and stay out of trouble - at least until I get back…

Friday, March 23, 2007

Some q's, followed by some a's

Going to do some quick questions and answers, clear the decks a bit, and push the depressing blog entry down a notch - thank you to everyone who sent nice messages, by the way, all very much appreciated. But now, it's time for quickfire Q+A action! I don't know about you, but that turns me on. Some q's require longer answers, so they'll get their own blog posts, which is why you won't see them here right now (like the useful scripts to read, what I think of script books, and others). Keep the questions coming, as they will force me to write informative, sensible blog entries - otherwise it'll just be secret this, blah that, rant rant, silly photo. Okay, let's go:

Jim: when I checked the PFD web site, their submissions page reads, "We do not accept unsolicited material." I'd be interested to know the approach you used to get your foot in the door, please. What did you do / say / send?

This was back when they accepted submissions (and many places still do, if you're not crazy, so always worth asking, even if their site says no). I sent one feature, one episode of The School, and a covering letter. I still can't find it anywhere, but it basically said "Hello, I'm blah, won a short film competition, etc etc, trying to make a go of writing as a career, seeking representation, here are some samples, what would you recommend?" It wasn't much longer than that, short and sweet - mention what you've done, what you want to do, what you've attached, and ask politely for help. That's pretty much it. And for fuck's sake, don't make jokes in the letter, although I think I may have made one. That just annoys them. Give the info, say what you want, end the letter.

Hotzappa: From your old posts I thought it was 6 episodes of The School not 1. I could be wrong? By the way, James. What was the actual feature you sent to PFD and what was it about?

I did write all 6 episodes, but only sent the first one in. I didn't realise at the time that you're only supposed to write one, then do a page outlining the rest of the series. And it was so much fun to write, I just got carried away, and did the whole thing. The feature was a horror/thriller about a serial killer and a man falsely accused of the crimes, stalked by said killer who has a grudge against him. It was a good concept, but badly executed - lots of scenes where people sat around and told each other what had just happened in the previous scenes, and moments of light comedy mingled in with utterly horrific murder (not like the horror comedy Severance did, I'm talking a bizarre mishmash, Silence of the Lambs crossed with a bad sitcom). I may still resurrect the concept and rewrite it from scratch, but probably won't be bothered. Although I have reused some ideas in another project, so nothing ever really goes to waste.

Anonymous: yo yo jam-es, is you full time now or do you still have the "other" job on the go could you blog about this because otherwise I will feel i must be completely unsatisfied in my job to write cool ass horror so will get a job at b&q or mcd's or something for experience also do you have a 25 hour day my friend does but then he is on the dole and can sleep however long he likes and scratches himself a lot but seriously we should all try longer days it becomes almost routine who said 24 hours was good anyway goodnight!!!

Yo yo Anonymous. I still have the day job, 2 days a week at the moment, because writing still doesn't earn me enough to pay all the rent and bills. Yet. I'm hoping that will change when things start picking up later in the year. And it's perfectly possible to write a cool ass horror while working a day job - I wrote Severance evenings and weekends while doing 5 days a week full time at the day job, a job where I had to write creative content for computer courses and manuals, so the *last* thing I wanted to do when I got home was sit down at another computer and start typing again. And it took a year of hard slog, endless rewrites, and I wasn't getting paid for it... If you want to write something, just start, there is always enough time to get something done. Give up TV for 2 months, and you'll have tons of time. I don't have a 25 hour day - if you're talking about one of those odd polyphasic sleep things. I've often thought about trying one, but I get incredibly grumpy and weird if I don't have enough sleep, so it's probably best that I stick to normal days.

lyhana8: i'm still waiting the list or really good horror movie

This was on the 7 deadly sins of horror post, where I went on (and on) about bad horror movie cliches. Blimey, really good horror? So many to choose from: The Thing, Halloween, The Exorcist, An American Werewolf in London, The Wicker Man, The Evil Dead, Hellraiser, all of Romero's zombie movies, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ring, Black Christmas (the original), Session 9, Candyman, Alien. All of these are prime examples of horror that works, that plays fair, that doesn't cheat. Thankfully, there are plenty more too.

provident360: In my opinion, UFOs in the Bible are angles and are referred to as a cloud, fire, star, etc.

I'm very glad to hear it.

And finally, some more bizarre search terms that have somehow led people here, presented without comment:

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nudie pens australia

i couldn't stop staring at her tits

teen objects pen pic

the screen then they pop up an ugly face and make a loud noise to scare you

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I get knocked down, but I get up again, etc etc

Major deadline limbo at the moment, hence the slight lack of bloggy goodness. Got several things to finish for this week, so I will re-surface when I can. Had some bad news on the movie writing front, a project that has gone wrong, but it was swiftly followed by some good news, regarding a new movie writing gig, so I guess fate is karmically balancing everything out. Can't go into the details of the bad news yet, until I know more, and I don't really want to discuss it anyway, while it's fresh in my mind, it's too painful (don't ask me to elaborate, I'm not allowed to yet). But it's one of those things that happen to writers all the time, I knew it would happen to me at some stage, and it will happen again, probably several times. Still feels pretty shit though, and has really knocked my confidence down. I'd been feeling pretty good about myself and my writing ability, took a lot of work to get my mind in that space, and now I've been thrown back a good few steps. Suddenly I'm second guessing myself again, looking at everything I write and wondering if it's really good enough, or if it's just a pile of shit, if I'm just a talentless idiot. And it's my duty to inform you about these things when they happen to me - it doesn't matter if you've just come off a successful movie and are a "name", it happens to everyone. It will happen to you. You will be sidelined, or ignored, or replaced, or overruled, or stepped on, or rewritten, or ridiculed, or misled, or misinformed, or lied to, or forced to make changes you hate. Probably all of those things. At the same time, if you're really unlucky. And maybe beaten with a stick, too. A shitty stick.

It's an insecure business, and nearly every single thing seems designed to bring you down, make you feel powerless and small, you have to fight against that all the time. For some reason, even though we're the ones who make the stuff up in our head, from nothing, we are treated as if we're not important, constantly devalued. Yes, I knew it would be like this, of course I did, but it's still a shock when it happens, particularly the casual nature of it, given the importance of our job in the business.

But hey, that's the movies, folks. TV? Different story. I've been having the best time working on the 3 secret TV things. Partly because they're all really nice people, partly because on TV, the writer is important. TV needs story and character and lots of it. And it needs it NOW, because the show is starting on a certain date at a certain time, and there are X amount of episodes and it's been advertised and people are waiting to start working on it because they need to get everything done in time - and if you don't have good, solid writers who can get the job done in time, you're fucked. You can mess the writer around or replace them, but the time is always ticking away, and you can't afford to waste it. So it's great to work with people who treat me like a human being and keep me informed.

A simple example: I got an email from the Secret TV People the other day, can't say exactly what it was, but it was just to let me know a new particular thing about the series that they'd just decided. Something I might not even have used in my episode. But they emailed anyway, just to let me know, in case it was helpful (it was). Just a small, helpful thing, but it really made me feel like part of the team, like I mattered. And that all filters through into the work. The current script is so much fun to write, because they've all helped me to get into that zone, been really encouraging, and wanted me on board because of the way I write. I can't even begin to explain how good that feels.

I'll keep doing movies, because I love movies, despite the things that go wrong. But I'm so glad that all the TV stuff is happening - it's keeping me sane, and is helping me to produce some great work. Work that (hopefully) will get made, and beamed into the homes of unsuspecting victims everywhere. And then, the secret code embedded into the dialogue will kick off a chain reaction in their brains, and I will have a vast army of zombified drones, ready to do my bidding. But don't tell anyone.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Happy Birthday to me

Yep, today I'm officially an old geezer. 35 years old. I have phoned the knacker's yard, and told them to prepare the glue-making machines. To celebrate, here's a photo of me at my sister's wedding, back when I was Ronnie Corbett:

I was about 10. I'd had a couple of drinks, without anyone looking, and was feeling a bit wobbly.

Report on the final day of Fantasporto coming soon, just waiting on a couple of photos to do it justice.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Fantasporto Day 6

I thought the previous days' hangovers were bad. But today's is making those look like a mild cough. I've had some really bad ones in my time, and can still remember the two worst occurrences. Both involved tequila. This one is probably the third worst. Woke up at 3pm, felt like shit. Dragged myself into the shower, went down to the cinema bar to get some coffee and see how I coped. The longer I was awake, the worse I felt. My head was killing me, and every now and again it felt like someone was ramming a spike through my brain. By the time the evening rolled around, I was feeling ten times worse than when I woke up. Not even a few beers helped, they just made me feel sick and bloated. So I bailed out at around 10pm, and came back to my room to sleep.

Everybody else is feeling okay, and are planning to go out again and have a late one. They are insane.

The festival got a writeup in one of the local papers, and mentioned me and my press conference, which apparently went down quite well. I'll post up a translation of the thing in a few days, when I'm sane again, along with some more photos. The bar last night had one room with a weird string sculpture running through the middle, so naturally we all pretended to get sucked into the vortex, and took photos of ourselves being silly. I'll post that one tomorrow, if I remember.

Tomorrow is the final ceremony, with the awards and things, held in the main cinema, so I need to be fresh and sober for that - there'll be press, TV cameras, and all sorts. After that is the Vampire Ball, which is supposed to be a crazy party. It's been a great week, the people here are really lovely and welcoming, even if they do try to kill you by overfeeding you with meat and beer...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Fantasporto Day 5

As expected, because yesterday was a quiet one, today was... not so much with the quietness. Started off slowly, we were all quite tired. Got to the cinema bar, had a few beers, and saw off Mike - it was his last day, so we were a man down. But we swiftly added another member to our gang, a jolly bloke called Phil, the director of The Listening Dead. Went off for some dinner, had several beers and lots of meat, and then it all went horribly wrong from there. In a good way. Called in at Colin's hotel and met up with Henry Thomas, who has been in lots of movies, his most famous role being Elliott in E.T. which is showing here at the retrospective. He's really nice, and came out boozing with us, which I think he's regretting today, because of the amount of drink that was sunk. We ended up at some crazy bar called Bad Habits, and started drinking and drinking and drinking. He kept up with us, and was great fun, joining in the madness whole heartedly.

Christ, we were so, so drunk. It's a miracle none of us woke up in an alleyway, surrounded by lots of smashed fruit items and a dead hooker. Although Jay has been hiding his face from any passing police officers, so he may not be telling us the entire truth.

It's St. David's Day today, which I remember because it was the day we moved to Ireland in 1983. This blog is rapidly turning into a late afternoon DJ show, with rambling anecdotes and interesting trivia.