Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The secret is out

Okay. If you head to your nearest newsagent, and have a look at the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine, on pages 4 and 5 you will see an interesting article about oh bollocks I can't be all calm about it, I'M BLIMMIN WELL DOING AN EPISODE OF DOCTOR WHO! Wahey!

I'm more excited than an excited little boy, hepped up on fizzy cola bottles and Tizer, who's just found out that he's been given his own pet dinosaur. Yes, *more* excited than that. I've been watching the show since I was a kid, love it to bits, and all I can think of right this minute is seeing my younger self sitting scrutinizing the end credits of each episode, being terrified when that bloke's mask came off revealing his spaghetti face and his one big eye, being inconsolable for months when it became clear that no, Tom Baker wasn't coming back, and yes the new bloke really did unravel his scarf to find his way around the TARDIS. I actually screamed at the TV - "it's NOT YOUR scarf, you CAN'T DO THAT". (Later I got over this and appreciated Mr Davison for the brilliant Doctor that he was, and bear him no ill will at all. However my fragile mental state, once fixed, was again shattered when Adric got snuffed out and they had those silent credits over his little broken gold star-- excuse me, think I've got something in my eye...) I love the new version, it makes me feel like a kid again, and I'm incredibly grateful and excited that I get to be involved. I've also been unable to stop singing this song over and over since I heard the news, and why not? Doctor Whooo-oo, Hey! Doc-tor Who, Doctor Whooo-oo, Hey! The TARRRRRDIS!

But that was New Precious Thing - what about Secret TV Thing? Well, that is Torchwood, the spin-off of Who, which I'm also doing an episode of. Got the TW gig in December, and just handed in the latest draft, although there'll be more tweaks right up until filming, which starts this weekend sometime. I only got the Who gig 3 weeks ago, so it's all still shiny and new and not quite real yet. I've been doing TW for a few months now, so am more relaxed and calm about it. Until Friday, when the handsome actors will do a read-through and possibly look at me, making me feel all nervous and unattractive.

I'll be posting about various parts of the process in a *general* way (how I got the jobs, where I'm at, etc), but obviously I cannot say anything about the content, or the general storyline of any of the other episodes of either show, so please don't ask me, the Beeb would place my head upon a spike at their gates as a warning to others. You know me, I'm not a spoiler-boy anyway, but this is especially top secret, so you'll get nothing. In fact, I might kill you just for asking, in case you do a Derren Brown and intuit something out of my involuntary facial movements. So be careful.

Hello to any new readers who will probably arrive here now that my dirty little secret is out! I promise to try not to make a mess of either TW or DW, so don't kill me or anything. Who the hell am I? I wrote Severance, a slasher horror with some funny bits, and am working on several other movie and telly things at the moment (don't worry, my TW or DW eps won't be Severance-style horror-comedy slashers, that would be silly). I love all genres except romantic comedies which make me violently ill, I watch more telly than anyone, too many dodgy movies, documentaries about things that explode or fall over or fall over then explode, and base my moral code on the interview quotes of Kurt Russell and the cop characters of John "woolly jumpers" Saxon. This blog covers my writing exploits, random mutterings, and interesting new swearword combos. It contains much bad language (I've toned it down for this post, but from here on in, you have been warned, I'm not big or clever). I sometimes answer questions on the blog, when I remember to. And I eat too many Marks & Spencers wafer curls. They're just so crunchy and yummy. Dip in, look around, but don't touch my wafer curls, or I'll have you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

And relax

Okay, I'm rested up a bit now. Stepped away from the keyboard Friday evening, and just had a long weekend of doing nothing. Watched some House, some Firefly, some CSI, two Amicus movies (The House That Dripped Blood, and And Now The Screaming Starts), and Die Hard 2. And about 40 minutes of Cutthroat Island before the pain of the bad movie overwhelmed us, and we had to lunge for the remote control to stop it. We nearly didn't make it, by that stage we were just convulsing on the floor, foaming at the mouth. It's a really, really bad movie. I thought it would just be a bit crap, but fun, like most supposed flops. But it's shite. The script is bad, the direction is all over the place, the acting's not much better, and everyone speaks in this really weird, speeded up half-Errol Flynn half-American accent, as if every sentence ends on an exclamation mark, like kids doing an impression of the Princess Bride banter or something. Geena Davis smashes through a shop while being chased on a carriage (somehow), and mid-chase, she shouts to Matthew Modine, who looks embarrassed by the whole thing, "I must visit that shop again, when I have more time!" Yeah, you do that, love.

Also lounged around a lot, read some scripts and two graphic novels, and went to the cinema to see 28 Weeks Later (very good, nice and gory, nowhere near as amazing as the first one but it never could be, I love the first unconditionally, but this one had a few annoying plotholes that I just can't overlook now I'm a jaded, cynical movie insider type bloke).

So basically I did nothing all weekend. Didn't even think about writing. And I felt no guilt at all. I'm now refreshed, fighting fit, and ready to crack on with work again. On my way to a script meeting now for New Precious Thing, and as soon as I've finished this blog post, I'll be getting on with the movie rewrite gig. Got a proper "deep tissue" massage booked for next week, to sort out my back muscles and shoulder trouble. Scared of the term "deep tissue". I hope it's not some big German bloke who beats me up.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Time out

When you're busy, I mean REALLY busy like I've been recently, you don't really "do" weekends or Bank Holidays. It's pretty much a 24 hour gig. Wake up, write, eat, write, look at clock, it's 1am. Crash, rinse, repeat. Weekends? Weekends schmeekends. They're a golden opportunity to get 2 days of solid writing done. But it's probably a good idea to take a break now and again, or you'll just fall apart, like I did when the Space Virus hit me the other week. I always seem to get it when I'm this busy, or when I'm handing in a really important draft of something. I'm rambling now, let's skip to a new, clean paragraph.

There we go, much better. Anyway. I've handed in the latest draft of Secret TV Episode. There won't be any notes on that till next week. Also handed in outline for New Precious Thing. Will have a meeting about that on Tuesday. Handed in the outline for the new thriller movie pitch, which I'll call Thriller Movie Pitch for clarity's sake - there are interested parties, and I'm working with them on it. They'll get back to me in week or two, when they're back in the office. I've got a week to finish the horror-comedy movie rewrite, but it's nearly done so it won't take that long. I should start the TV Pilot script that I'm being paid to do, but the contracts haven't been signed yet, so I have a bit of time. I need to meet another production company next week about a new TV series they've chosen me to help develop. Got another meeting coming up about another TV series I might be joining up with. This is apart from the two meetings next week to do with my existing TV episode gigs. And I've been headhunted to do an episode for a new Beeb series, handpicked by the team specifically, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, and quite handsome and dashing, bizarrely. But that will need an outline. Soon. I also need to meet the producer and re-draft the outline for another movie we've been working on. (All of this stuff is paid work, by the way, but only one of the payments has come through so far, everything else is either being negotiated, or I need to deliver stuff). And on top of everything else, I need to redraft my comedy spec from last year that nobody's read yet. And write a brand new, exciting spec before September - I've just come up with the basic pitch, and want to have it all shiny and cool by then, because I have a Special Plan that I want to put into action in that month. That's 8 full, proper projects on the go at once, if you don't count the specs.

But you know what? It's Friday night right now. Everything can wait until Monday. I haven't had a weekend off since... I don't remember. Honestly. My whole right arm hurts, my right shoulder and the area of my back under my right shoulder is all achey, and the muscles are all tense and twitchy. I had a lymph cluster lump thing on my neck, from the bad posture and stress, but it's nearly gone now. I called it my Stress Lump, and I'm sure it'll come back, if it doesn't it means I'm not working hard enough. Work it, Stress Lump.

So this weekend, I'm going to stay away from the keyboard, watch some telly, some movies, veg out, and not think for two whole days. I might even go to the cinema. Crazy! I know!

Was going to make bacon sandwiches tonight, as they're the easiest thing to make in the house right now. But I can't even be bothered to do that. I'm drained. So I've ordered a fucking pizza. Yeah. I might not even bother to use my hands, I might just smash my face into it, and eat my way out. See you all on Monday, if I survive my pizza face swim...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

TV prep continues

So the space virus hit last Sunday week, and kicked in full strength on the Monday morning - as I was halfway to another big Secret TV Episode meeting. By the time I arrived, I had the shakes, tingles, head bunged up, all that fun stuff, but had to sit and deal with it because there is no time to waste at all. Got the rewrites added in that Thursday. Spent the weekend working on the movie rewrite, and an outline for New Precious Thing.

Yesterday got lots more notes for Secret TV Episode - the whimsy of the script is now smashing face-first into the hard rock of Filming Practicalities. Which was actually fine, most of the big, splashy stuff is intact, but surprisingly small things turn out to be impossible, or too time consuming or dangerous. Very interesting, and educational. When the ep has been shown, I'll do up a list of the things that are easy/hard to do on TV (have to wait till then, or I'll spoil all the plot developments!) Anyway, yesterday's notes need to be done by tomorrow morning - this close to shooting, changes need doing *fast* so that all departments have the latest version. There are some dialogue tweaks too, but nothing major so far, just constant checking to make sure it's as good as it can be. And I've been sent a revised version of a design for one of the crucial technical things in the story, and it looks fucking cool.

The script read through will be next Friday, 1st June, and as far as I know, they start shooting the next day. So I imagine there'll be some last minute changes Friday night, based on how the dialogue plays in the read through - it *always* throws up spanners when you hear it out loud, some lines are great but sound stupid, and vice versa. In fact, on Severance one line turned out to be unintentionally funny out loud, but it never occurred to me all through the drafts because I'd never said it: "Harris, I want you and Jill to go up the hill and see if you can get a phone signal." Looks normal, but out loud, all you hear is "you and Jill to go up the hill". Immediately we all laughed, and realised the problem. But then we thought, no, don't change it, Richard isn't good at public speaking, he'd probably make that sort of mistake. So we made a feature of it, and showed him stumbling over his big speech. Sure, not the crucial moment the entire film relies on, but a nice little character bit, thanks to the read through.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the whirlwind of telly and pre-production and madness. I feel like I haven't stopped at all since January, and I really haven't - particularly over the past few weeks, when I have been writing all day, every day, and into the night sometimes. For a lazy bastard like me, it's exhausting. Anyway, that's the latest. Don't forget, all will be revealed at the end of next week...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Severance out in US and Canada today!

Hey kids! Severance opens in America and Canada today, 18th May! Wahey! Etc! Comedy limb-lopping, decapitation and flame-deaths ahoy! With some political subtext, of course - but political subtext smeared onto a fork and RAMMED INTO YOUR EYE! Ooh, that smarts!

Here's the US trailer, with violence and funny bits!

Check out the great review in Fangoria, here! "Delightfully funny and frightful", apparently. They love a bit of the old comedy ultra-violence!

Not convinced?? Why not watch the first 3 minutes online here?

Once you've done that, run, don't walk, over to this page here for cinema dates and places!

If you live in the US of A or the Canad of a, try and check it out. If you do, please let me know what you thought, and/or what the general cinema reaction was. It's opening small and "going wide" gradually, so be patient, it'll get to you eventually. And yes, "going wide" does sound rude, don't think I haven't thought of several jokes about that already.

Whatever you do, get yourself to the nearest cinema showing it, and have a rollicking good time! You know it makes sense!

Disclaimer: Your definition of "rollicking good time" may differ from that of the screenwriter, Qwerty, Pathe, Magnolia Pictures, cinema staff, and the guy who coughed into your popcorn when asking if you wanted extra butter or if you were content with merely the 4 cups of butter already in there. Severance the movie is not a toy, and should not be ingested, used in a non-ventilated area, or given to children. In case of contact with skin, wash the contaminated area, lie down, cry, and soil yourself. Comedy limb-lopping, decapitation and flame-deaths are performed by trained professionals, and should not be attempted without a safety net, biscuit barrel, or trained ostrich-wrangler. Do not feed the screenwriter. Objects in mirror may be KILLER MONKEYS. Dryclean only, do not wash with the tears of innocent children, except on Tuesdays. Not to be used to dispose of corpses, whether dead by natural causes or murder. Void where prohibited, or naked. Never, unless always. Touch me, touch me, I want to feel your body, your heart beats next to mine, touch me, touch me now. Severance the movie is not your friend, but it cares about you. Severance the movie is not a substitute for a calorie-controlled diet. Consult your doctor before doing anything. Do not sneak up on Severance the movie, unless you have naughty intentions, in which case wear The Special Outfit. Do not operate heavy machinery while watching Severance the movie. Severance the movie will not make you more attractive, in fact it may disfigure you for life. In the event of disfigurement for life, Severance the movie is not liable for any life-disfigurement you may experience. Severance the movie may cause incontinence, gigantism, rain, and sideburns. Your statutory rights are very much affected, and will never be the same again. Any resemblance to anything is merely coincidental, you just imagined it, and probably have some sort of mental illness that causes these types of hallucination. Severance the movie is provided for entertainment purposes only, any sexual favours provided are between you and Severance the movie, and not legally binding. Screenwriter is not liable for any injury, maiming, death or destruction resulting from watching Severance the movie, unless screenwriter directly causes it, like that time he chopped a guys arms off for using a mobile phone in the cinema. By reading this disclaimer you hereby absolve screenwriter of any responsibility should he ransack your house, hold you for ransom, or kill your friends. Disclaimer ends.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Severance US release this Friday

Severance opens in America and Canada this Friday, 18th May! Wahey! Anybody wavering can check out the first 3 minutes online here - you'll need to convince the incredibly high security that you're old enough, by - get this - entering your date of birth. OMG! WTF? ETC! and so on.

Here's the current list of where it's playing in America - looks like it's playing in quite a few places, so if you're near any of them, please do go and check it out. For me. For your Uncle Jimbo.

And you can check out the official Palisade Defence website here, while you're waiting. I mean, do other things too, you'll probably see everything on the site in a few minutes, don't spend the whole week staring at it.

Will probably post again on Friday - got another big draft of Secret TV Episode to finish for Thursday, an outline for New Special TV Thing to do straight after that, and the movie rewrite to finish by 25th May. Not to mention the Space Virus, which has returned at just the right moment to fuck me over, and is making it very difficult to do anything except sit shaking on the sofa, skin tingling, bones aching, head feeling like someone's hammered several nails up my nose into my skull, and nostrils red raw from having to blow my nose every 12.3 seconds. Damn you, Space Virus - damn you to hell!

And just to update you on the secret TV stuff: all will be revealed at the end of this month. Just over 2 weeks from now. Yes.

Friday, May 11, 2007

TV pre-production

Imagine, if you will, a world where the writer is treated like a human being. Where they are invited to meetings, kept informed of everything, shown concept sketches, preliminary designs. Imagine a world where they get to sit in a big meeting with all the people who do the effects, costumes, makeup, designs, graphics, stunts, etc etc. Where, in that meeting, they will get asked questions like "what do you think", or "is that how you imagined it", or "what do you like better". Where the answers they give to said questions are listened to. Where their opinion counts. Where they are an important part of the process.

Well, you don't have to imagine it. It's real.

It is a world that I like to call "TelevisionLand".

There were sandwiches. There was tea and coffee. There were even biscuits. Someone brought me a glass of water, without me even asking. And all through it, I was part of the team, my opinion was valued. Crazy! I know! Whatever next?? Rain will go up, and the sky will be green!

What an eye opener. It's amazing, seeing what you can and can't do on TV, what is easy, what isn't. Things you would expect to be simple turn out to be awkward, and vice versa. For example, say you wanted to explode a building, you'd think it would be easier to just do it with computer graphics - but no, first they would have to map the building in 3D so they can do an overlay that will explode, effectively recreating it in the computer. So it would be a big effects shot, that might take longer than just building a false front on a building and blowing that bit up. Another example - it's cheaper to blow up a car than to just have lots of ordinary cars just driving around. Lots of cars in a street means blocking the street, police, crowd control, hiring *each* car per hour, plus drivers - whereas blowing up a car means you buy 2 cheap, identical cars, and just blow one up, preferably somewhere out of the way.

Basically we just went through it, scene by scene, and discussed how to do things, and what the departments needed to do. Scenes involving characters talking on their normal sets were fine, and needed no discussion. Pretty much everything else had some sort of trickery, even ordinary scenes, because they might have something on a television in the background, for example. Several concept sketches were passed around, for various things I had written. One was completely different to what I originally meant, but it turned out to be much cooler, so I was quite happy. It's so exciting, seeing the designers take something you described and run with it, making something that looks exactly right. It was a long day, but everyone was really jolly so it went very quickly.

Exhausted now. 5.30am start to make sure I caught various trains, and a long day of talking and thinking and eating biscuits. But it's brilliant fun.

Sorry to keep being so secretive, but all will be revealed soon, you've all been very patient. Once I'm allowed to say what the show is, I'll tell all, and I can go into a bit more detail about the nuts and bolts of doing an episode of someone else's series.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Welcome to the machine

Sorry for the increasing gaps between posts, but it's been quite hectic. All the TV stuff is kicking off, and I need to finish the movie rewrite by the end of May, too. Got the new TV episode draft done by the Wednesday night, and went in for another meeting last Thursday morning. It was great fun as always, and I got some more notes (which needed doing by Tuesday morning). After that, it was the set visit - they were filming on some of them, so I had to wait until lunch time. When they were done though, I got to walk around and touch things that Actors had touched, which meant that I became that bit more special and sexy. I even saw 3 of the actors as they came out for lunch, they said hello but kept walking - if I've learned anything from film and telly, it is that you DO NOT waste any of your lunch time. The days are really, really long, and there's always a queue, and the sooner you get your lunch, the more time you have to chill out for a bit, before the madness continues.

The sets were amazing, I'd seen them on TV and assumed they would feel much smaller, but they actually seemed 3 times as big. The attention to detail was amazing, tiny things on shelves that you'd *never* notice on screen. Everywhere looked totally real, metal and stonework was all made from the same stuff, and you only realise it's fake when you touch it, the illusion is seamless. They showed me the new bits they'd built, and I even got to see a couple of shots being filmed on the monitor before lunch. After that, we went into the props warehouse, which was like a giant toyshop. I tried sneaking several large items out, but they wouldn't fit into my pocket. They did give me some actual toys from their other shows though, one of which is sitting proudly on my shelf right now, staring at me. It later prompted the following brief conversation:

Jo: Oh, they gave you a free toy?? That's cool.
Me: It is not a TOY. It is a scale-model diecast replica figure. CHILDREN play with TOYS. I am an ADULT.
Jo: I see. How silly of me.
[Jo doubles over, shoulders shaking, both hands clamped to her face.]
Me: What are you doing? Are you laughing at me?
Jo: No, I'm… having a seizure.
Me: You've been getting those a lot, lately.
Jo: Must be the weather.

Handed in the revised draft Monday evening, and am going back to see them tomorrow, where there'll be another meeting, an all day one this time. All the department heads will be there (effects, stunts, makeup, etc), and there'll be a big discussion on how they're going to actually make the episode, and what it will look like. There should be some preliminary designs for various things from my episode, which I'm dying to see. It's such good fun, and really great to be involved in the whole process all the way through. It's exhausting (half 5 alarm call to get the train up there, writing non-stop since Thursday and all during the bank holiday weekend to get the draft done, and probably more revisions all the time until shooting), but it's incredibly exciting, and I tend to thrive when the pressure's on like this, it's like being part of some big, crazy machine. This is what I was born to do, and I'm having a blast.

Although I do NOT play with toys. I want to make that absolutely crystal clear.