Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 End of Year Thingy

Well, it's not the festive season without my annual ponce-fest, in which I look back over the year, and think about the highs and lows of my writing career. So buckle up, and prepare yourselves for the regular dose of self-indulgence, which begins... now!


Things I Achieved in 2008:

--Had my first ever TV episode broadcast, with my Torchwood episode "Sleeper", then followed it up with Dr Who, Spooks Code 9, Crusoe, and Spooks

--Had my first actual American TV credit, with Crusoe

--Wrote TV episodes for Torchwood series 3, Primeval series 3, Spooks series 7, Crusoe, Spooks Code 9, and Law & Order UK

--Wrote a draft of a new spec film script

--Got hired to work on a couple of new TV series in development, and wrote outlines for them

--Got something of my own picked up for TV (at outline stage, early days, might never happen, but still)

--Did my first convention, at Gallifrey (report to follow)

--Had a short story published for the first time, three in total

--Met Harlan Ellison

Yowza. I can't really argue with that. Career-wise, it's been the best year ever - my first ever TV credit, 5 episodes on TV, with 3 more to come next year. And now I'm getting TV work developed, I get a chance to help shape the direction of some brand new shows. And yes, if all goes well, one of those will be mine - a TV pitch I've been flogging around town has been picked up by a production company. Obviously that means *nothing* at this early stage - I'll have to do outlines, then if all goes well, a first script, then if all goes well, probably another one, then there are several people at the TV channel to convince, then *maybe* they'll commission more drafts, then *maybe* it'll get made... But still. It's an important first step.

Also managed to find time to write a new spec film script, which I'm very pleased with. I'm working on the new draft at the moment, so it's not in any state to read. But it's coming along nicely, and right now it's all mine. My 2 years of TV boot camp have served me well, I've learned a hell of a lot. And I'm incredibly happy to have had short stories published. They're much, much harder than writing scripts, and I'm very rusty in the format, but when they work, they're so satisfying.

And my first ever convention - what a blast that was, I had a fantastic time. I'll finish the full report soon (he said, hoping to get it done before the 2009 convention). Also had a great time at The Rift, the Torchwood convention. I love going to them, because you're surrounded by like-minded people for a couple of days, everyone's happy and excited, and you can have really geeky conversations in complete safety. While I'm on the subject, many people regularly ask if I'm going to this or that convention, and if not, why not: well, I can only go if I'm invited. If you want me at your local event, tell the organisers. They're not psychic, they don't know what you want unless you tell them. I'm easy to contact, just give them the blog link or the email over on the right.

I've already talked about meeting Harlan in detail on the blog, so you know the story. But it bears repeating how much of a big deal this was for me. Meeting one of your writing heroes, who then turns out to be wonderfully kind, funny and encouraging, is a fantastic experience. It also came at just the right time. I was overworked, tired, completely worn down (see next section), and he gave me the boost of energy and enthusiasm I needed. I had also just had a really bad haircut, and he was kind enough not to mention it. That, folks, is the true measure of a man.


Things I Messed Up:

--Took on way, way, WAY too much work

--Became stressed, overloaded, and didn't tell anyone with the power to help what was going on

--Lost sight of why I love doing this

As you've probably guessed from the first section, I had way too much work this year. Part of it was me being unable to say no - hey, want to work on a fun action show called Crusoe, with cool people, resulting in a US TV credit? Hey, want to work on Spooks, one of the top BBC drama shows, also with cool people? Can you imagine saying no to those? Impossible. Although I did actually say no to something, then changed my mind when they asked again... But that was purely my own fault, it's not like they forced me into it. I just couldn't resist. I thought if I said no twice, then they'd never offer me anything again.

When you get into the business, you are always convinced that it could all end tomorrow. Sure, there are some people looking at me now with contempt, wondering how the hell someone who has had my kind of year could *dare* to suggest that they might need the work. But you honestly never know when it could all go wrong. Most of us feel like frauds, that we're going to be found out, that we have no talent at all. It's a risky business, and writers are insecure too, which doesn't help. The more things I have lined up, the safer I feel. I just need to realise that saying no doesn't mean they'll never come back and ask again.

But I should have said something to someone - "I can't take on any more work, and I need more time for the work I have". I just didn't want to cause trouble, get kicked off, let anyone down. That was a mistake, and it hurt me, physically and emotionally. I was exhausted. For a month or two, it started feeling like a job, which it *never* has before, no matter how tired I was. I'd wake up dreading the arrival of notes, not wanting to start another draft. And that's not me. I love doing new drafts, I love getting good notes (and I've always been lucky to get great notes, due to working with great people), I love writing, usually. But for a while there, I wasn't enjoying it.

And I lost sight of why I got into this lark in the first place. I love writing, telling stories, entertaining people, it's what I've always wanted to do. But recently, I found myself muttering and complaining to myself (or to Jo) when I got a new job, because it would mean doing more work. That was even after things calmed down. Thankfully, Jo pulled me up on that - if I had been offered that same piece of work 2 years ago, I'd have *killed* to get it. It was paid writing work that will end up on TV, for a project I really liked and could do a good job with, and there I was sighing as if something bad had happened. Time to snap out of that shit. I am incredibly fortunate to be doing the thing I absolutely love, getting paid for it, getting it made and broadcast, and getting really good feedback on it all. This is my lifelong dream. And I need to never, ever take that for granted.

So I've had as much of a quiet period as I can, due to various things moving and finishing, and I've turned lots of work away, even though I had spare time. I have enough work to keep me going well into next year, at a pace which means I can have fun with it. It's only the past month or so that I've been enjoying the work again. Taking time out to work on a brand new spec helped, too. And I'm setting myself some limits, times when I'm on the clock, and when I'm not. Writing is what I'm best at, I love doing it, and I need to protect it.


Things I Have Learned:

--Saying no doesn't mean they'll never come back and ask again (see above)

--You can have too much of a good thing

--You have to look after yourself, because only you know how much you can handle

Most of this is covered in the previous section, so I won't go on at length (again). The year has gone by in a bit of a blur, I almost burned myself out, took on too much, lost my mojo for a bit, and had to go and find it again. It's strange how it can knock your confidence back too, when you feel like it's all getting too much - but you can't complain, because it's all fun and brilliant and exciting. Like I've said before, when it doesn't feel like a job, you don't realise you're working yourself to the bone. Which results in you getting frazzled, it starts feeling like a job, and you realise just how insane your workload really is. That's when you *really* start to panic.

Again, I feel weird saying all of this, because it feels like I'm moaning about having my best year ever - and I suppose I am, really - but I don't mean to. I'm certainly not fishing for sympathy or anything, just trying to reflect on how the year has gone, that's what this post is for. It was brilliant, but exhausting, and that's purely my own fault for not understanding exactly how busy I was getting. So be careful out there, kids.


Things I Want To Do In 2009:

--Become a better writer

--Finish the new film spec, and write another one

--Write more TV, get my own series commissioned

--Finish the bloody blog posts I keep promising (Gallifrey, Writing FAQ, Torchwood writing process, etc etc)

--Have a proper holiday, set (and keep) limits so I don't get overworked again, and stop saying yes to absolutely everything

Okay, I have to put up those blog posts soon, it's getting ridiculous - I just keep fiddling with them and trying to make sure they're all right. I should just stick them up, and correct them later if there are typos. So expect those soon. And the holiday is all booked for February, we're both having a couple of weeks off around the Gallifrey convention, seeing as we'll be there anyway. So that's all good.

Thank you again to all of you lovely commenters and readers and bloggers and viewers and conventioneers and colleagues and friends and family and other nutters. You're all brilliant and inspiring, and I can't tell you how great it is to hear nice things from you - it makes all the difference when I'm stuck halfway through something, worrying that I can't fix a plothole, or feeling like a fraud. Thank you also to those of you who don't like my stuff and criticise it in public - at least you're not ignoring me, and I can pretend it makes me controversial or something. Everyone's a winner. And thank you to Jo, for looking after me, telling me I'm cool, and giving me that verbal bitchslap that I needed.

Hey, I never thought of a "Two-Bond"-style name for 2008, I'll have to start working on one for 2009. 2009! Bloody hell. Madness. Someone should put a stop to this forward motion of time, it's extremely worrying. I might write to my MP about it.

And with that, cheers to you all for another year. Let's all get shitfaced for 2 weeks, and to hell with the consequences. Who's with me??

Monday, December 15, 2008

Links and items and thingies, oh my!

Behold! Links and items and thingies for your random pleasure! But mainly because I love shouting "behold!"

Thingy the first: (UK-only) Try and make Jeff Buckley's cover of Hallelujah the Christmas number one, instead of the X Factor abomination version. Included on the page are several download links, and if you're going to buy it, do so this week - use one of the links provided, they all count towards the official UK chart. I know Jeff Buckley's version is a cover too, but it's a really good one, and something you could gladly pay 79p for. I've just bought my copy. Even if we can't get the song to number one, at least it'll come close and show people who do terrible cover versions that... well, not very much, they'll still make shitloads of money. But it'll be cool!

Thingy the second: As we were walking home the other day - OMG! A van!


Couldn't resist taking a picture (phone number blurred out by me). Honestly, both Jo and I have been laughing about this for DAYS. We are so childish.

Thingy the third: Mr Paul Cornell is currently doing his annual 12 Blogs of Christmas, and today's one is about favourite Christmas songs of Dr Who writers, including a small contribution from me. Get over and have a look, there's loads of good stuff, including Kate Bush doing some amazing chair-dancing.

Thingy the fourth: Primeval series 3 trailer! Wahey! Haven't seen my finished ep yet, but I recognise several moments in there from my script - not saying which ones of course, that would be sheer madness. But I hear it's looking really cool, so I can't wait to see it.

Next post will be the end of year wrap-up, hoping to finish it before Christmas - but I've been struck down with the fucking mutant Space Virus again, so it may slip over into the limbo period between Christmas and New Year. Right now though, I'm heading to the sofa with some painkillers, booze and cake, and I'm not moving for the rest of the evening. Good day to you all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bit more Spooks stuff, Christmas, and Twittery goodness

Let's have a couple more Spooks links while I'm milking it: Mark Lawson enjoyed the episode, and so did Leigh Holmwood, both of them from the Grauniad.

While I'm on the subject, I've answered this in the comments, but it keeps coming up in various other places, so I may as well address it here. The thing everyone wants to know is: Why all the fuss when arresting Harry? I mean, SAS dudes through the windows? Bit over the top, no? Why did you do that, you monstrous buffoon? Simple, really. Because it's Harry. Harry fucking Pearce. Harry is ultra cool, old school, and a supreme badass. He's been in the service for *years* - and made it through 7 seasons of a show that quite happily kills off characters all the time. In the context of the show, if he actually *had* been a traitor, and he knew that they'd found out, Christ only knows what shenanigans he'd have set into motion to get himself out of it. He knows all the tricks, and the best thing to do is to take him down as fast and hard as possible. If it was my job to arrest him, I'd bring the army, the SAS, the Royal Marines, and some sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads. If anything, considering who he was, it was a fairly low profile, simple arrest.

On Tuesday I spent a delightful afternoon/evening out with Mr Jason "Arnoppapadopoulos" Arnopp, during which he forced me to have several drinks, cackling wildly the whole time. It was a slightly odd pub crawl, because to start with, we merely moved around inside the first pub we went to, sitting at three different tables. We then went to the coldest pub in the world, shortly before going to the warmest pub in the world. After that I murdered Mr Arnopp in cold blood, did sexy things to his dead body, and dumped him in an alley, before running home shrieking, covered in his blood. All of that is true. Any future blog posts by him are actually me, covering up what I did. I will even employ a look-alike in the event he needs to appear in photos. Unless the police are reading, in which case none of that happened.

Christmas has definitely arrived here in Spork Towers, and it's my solemn duty to share some of the festive glee. So behold! Our fabulous Christmas tree!


Yes, there is one there, under all the baubles. No, there aren't too many. Please do not ask silly questions like that. You can NEVER have too many baubles. And no, neither of us is religious, don't believe in God or any of that stuff - but everyone else is having a party, food, and presents, so why should we miss out? Besides, Christmas trees are nice. And so are presents. And roast potatoes. Mmmm, roast potatoes.

And finally, it's been a long, long wait for my contract to run out, but I have now upgraded and got a lovely new iPhone. Oh blimey, it's nice. It makes me feel funny in my tummy. It's also yet another way to procrastinate, along with new things like Twitter, which I've been experimenting with. Yes, I am now a Twitter Shitter, and you can follow me if you like here. I warn you now, it'll probably just be lots of swearing and random weirdness, but that's what you get when you peek into the mind of a madman. Either that, or I'll just forget to update it for days on end. Bookies are refusing to take bets on it, if that's any indication.

You may or may not have noticed that the Twitter thingy is also over in the sidebar on the right, and I've rearranged it slightly and got rid of all the Severance, DW and TW images. It needed cleaning up, as it was getting too cluttered. But I've moved all those images and links to a special new shop post, which contains all the shop links to things I've worked on. You can see it right here, just before this entry, and I'll update it as and when I have new things to flog.

I like a little shop

Here are all the various things I have worked on, or written, or had some sort of evil influence over, all with links to places you can buy them. The main section is a mini Amazon store, all for the Region 2 or UK-based products. Under that is a smaller links section with any Region 1 or US-based stuff. I do get a tiny kickback if you buy them through here, but buy them wherever you like, or don't, these are just so you can find them more easily. Shop smart - shop S-Mart.



Severance

Severance poster






Doctor Who


The Doctor Who season 4 Vol.1 DVD is at Amazon or Play.


Or you can get the entire season 4 boxset, from Amazon or Play.


Short Trips: Transmissions contains my short story Breadcrumbs, and is at Big Finish, Amazon, or Play.


The Doctor Who Storybook: 2009 contains my short story Grand Theft Planet!, illustrated by Daryl Joyce, and is at Amazon or Play.


Short Trips: Christmas Around The World contains my short story Companion, and is at Big Finish, or Amazon.


Torchwood


Torchwood season 2 is at Amazon, or Play.


Or you can get the box set with seasons 1 and 2 at Amazon, or Play.


Spooks


Spooks series 7 will be released in October 2009, and will be at Amazon or Play.


Spooks: Code 9


Spooks: Code 9 series 1 is at Amazon or Play.


Crusoe



Crusoe is only available so far on Region 1 DVD, from Amazon, or other Region 1 shops.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Spooks aftermath

So the BBC1 showing of Spooks got 5.1 million viewers, which I hear is pretty good, so I'm very happy about that. I always knew the death scene was good, but had no idea how well it would go down. But ever since I wrote that moment, I've felt incredibly guilty, a feeling which just got stronger and stronger until the episode was shown. Honestly, I feel awful about it - good drama aside, you're killing off a character that people love, and putting an actor out of a job. It's a huge responsibility. Obviously the actor will get other work, it's not like I actually killed them in real life, but it's still a big deal.

Having said that, I'm sure the actors know the score when they sign up for Spooks - nobody is safe, ever. That's one of the strengths of the show, every week there's no guarantee that they'll all make it out alive, and it brings a genuine tension to the stories. And I'm sure most actors love a good death scene, it makes for a memorable exit. People are still talking about the deep fat fryer from season 1, for example. Not saying my scene is up there with the classics or anything, but I'm sure it's no idle boast to say that it's a pretty shocking moment that many viewers won't forget in a hurry. But still - I wouldn't want to be in on that conversation: "Listen, we're killing off your character. So, basically, you're out. Sorry. It's a really cool scene though."

Although I must admit to being delighted when I saw the BBFC ratings for the different episodes in season 7 - they have various levels of violence and some torture, but all start with the word "moderate". The guideline for episode seven says "Contains one scene of strong gore". I am so easily pleased.

And my favourite comment came from my mate Phil, who said "Blimey, half an hour in your hands, and kindly old ladies turn into crazed killers..."

I've been answering questions about it in the previous post, so have a look there if you want to ask anything, to make sure I haven't already answered. Any new questions, stick 'em here in the comments, I'll answer as best I can.

Speaking of questions: no I don't know who the 11th Doctor is going to be. Please, please, please stop asking me... Even if I knew (which I don't) I'm hardly going to just tell everyone, am I? But I don't know. I also don't know yet if I'm involved in series 5. And I don't know David Tennant's phone number either. Those are the top three questions asked at the moment. The answer to all three is: I don't know OMG please stop asking.

Movie recommendation: Frost/Nixon. It's not out yet, but because I am special and amazing, I have seen it early. As soon as you get a chance, check it out, even if you think it's not your bag. It's one of those movies that is somehow utterly gripping and compelling, despite mainly being men in suits talking to each other in various rooms. It's mesmerising, a writing and acting masterclass.

I'm in the middle of finishing various things at the moment, so I might not get the long promised blog posts ready before Christmas, but I'll try. Obviously the work takes precedence over everything right now. I will do the usual end of year wrap-up ponce-fest thingy though, just in case you were worried that I wouldn't inflict my self-indulgent ramblings on you - rest assured, the ponce-fest will be on time. I'm also waiting to hear back about a couple of possible new jobs. Both are different to anything else I've worked on, and both are things I would absolutely kill to do. That's not a figure of speech. If someone else is ahead of me in the queue, I *will* kill them. I've done it before. I'll do it again.

And now it's cocktail time. Jo has got loads of the standard ingredients for different cocktails, and tonight we're going to sink as many of the bastards as we can while remaining conscious. Yes, it's Friday night.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Spooks. Tonight. BBC1. 9pm. Watch it.

Now then! Tonight is the main event, my Spooks (episode 7), BBC1 at 9pm. Please to be watching at your conveniences. Yes. Don't worry about the serial stuff if you've never seen the show, or this series so far, it all holds together even if you have no idea who is who (have heard from people who've never seen the show before, and they assure me this is true, so there).

Feedback on the early showing has been good so far, I'm very happy. The BBC3 showing was the most watched multichannel show of the day last week, with 1.02 million viewers. And one of those viewers was me, so I feel part of a big happy family. I'll talk more about the episode once it's been on - due to the twisty turny nature of the series itself, spoilers are even more annoying than usual, and I don't want to ruin it for anyone. So let's meet back here later. With crisps and fizzy pop.

It was a busy week last week, so I'm a bit shattered, apologies to anyone waiting for emails, calls, or rescuing from a burning building. Two meetings at the BBC on separate days (Monday and Wednesday), then I flew over to Dublin Thursday night, met up with friends for too many drinks, spoke at a seminar Friday afternoon, flew back home Friday night (got back at midnight), then was up early Saturday morning to catch a train down to Cardiff for the TW wrap party. Just got back yesterday afternoon, and now I have no idea who I am or what's going on in the world. Also, where the hell did 2008 go? What are you people up to? This is all an elaborate conspiracy against me. I know what's going on. I'm watching you people. I'm watching all of you. Through my special spy tube. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and sit in a cupboard, whispering to myself and carving wooden stakes for when the vampires come for me. What, you don't believe in vampires? Sure, whatever, you bury your head in the sand if you want, but me? I'll be ready.

I think I should go and sleep for a bit.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spooks, episode 7, tonight (and next week)

Okay, so my Spooks (episode 7) is on BBC1, Monday the 1st of December at 9pm - but they're doing early previews for all eps, which means you can see it tonight on BBC3 at 10.30pm, right after episode 6 on BBC1. I'll probably watch both the early one and the regular one too, because I can. That's just how I roll.

If you haven't seen eps 1-6 you may get a bit lost here and there with the serial stuff, but I'm assuming there'll be a "Previously on Spooks..." to clue you in to the most important bits. If not, you're all grown ups, I'm sure you'll be able to figure out what's going on. So watch it, or I'll send a thousand monkeys round to your house. No idea what they'll do. But they're bound to make a huge mess.

Anyway, it's quite an unusual episode in many ways, with plenty of shocks and surprises, and I'm very pleased to say that it does something that has *never* been done before in the series... No spoilers in the comments please, as a courtesy to those who'll be watching it next week - if you have plot-spoilery questions, send them in an email, or wait until after the BBC1 showing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Presents, filming, photos, and pumping

Christmas presents! Yes, my copy of Short Trips: Christmas Around The World arrived, and very lovely it is too. I have a story in there, "Companion", and I'm really proud of it. As I said before, this one is particularly special to me, partly because I wasn't sure if I could pull it off, partly because I'm really happy with the way it came out. The book has a lovely cover, and tons of great stories, although I've only read 3 others - the ones by Sir Jason of Arnopp, Lord Simon of Guerrier, and Dame Kate of Orman, which are brilliant. I'll get round to the others soon. It's released on the 1st December, and would make a lovely present for anyone in the world, ever. Even if they don't celebrate Christmas, or any of the many other end of year celebratory thingies (look them up yourself, that's what the internet is for). Call it a "year end" present, or something.

Speaking of presents, the Doctor Who series 4 box set is out right now, as we speak. Get yourself in on that action, you know it makes sense.

And I'm a guest on a podcast, The Chronic Rift, available here. It's a round table discussion, although I was at home, alone, talking to them on Skype, there was NO ROUND TABLE. There's your scandal, folks. I imagine you're probably feeling betrayed, confused, slightly aroused – that's okay. Just grab some flaming torches, and go burn down the nearest observatory, so that this kind of thing never happens again. But listen to the podcast first, it's good fun.

Back from Cardiff now, and yes, I was there to watch some filming. I can't say anything about it at all, so please try not to cause an international incident by asking. Don't make me get the UN involved. Because I don't know how. But! I do have a casting revelation - the latest sexysexual sex-recruit to the Torchwood team is a very handsome, talented chap called...


Oh, how embarrassing! It's me! Oh, okay, it's not me really, I just wanted it to be, but apparently the Beeb have "rules" about not letting scrawny writers with no acting experience ruin their shows by appearing on screen. Yeah, I know - kept down by The Man again. So I had some pics taken, partly for fun, partly so I can stop using that old pic of myself in the TARDIS any time I do an interview. Thank you to Brian for grabbing my camera and marching me around to the various cool bits in there. Although I jumped on to the invisible lift all by myself.

Obviously, I can't tell you anything about what I saw or heard on set, but suffice to say it was bloody good stuff. I can't wait for series 3 to be unleashed, it's going to knock quite a few socks off out there. There'll have to be an official BBC inquiry about the amount of people walking around, socks-less. Questions will be asked in Parliament. Questions like "dude, what's going on with the socks?"

While I was there, I took the opportunity to take the TARDIS for a spin around the universe. This is me, mid-flight:


"Hello? Captain Jack? ... ... Yeah, it's TV's James Moran here. Listen, I'm pumping this pumpy thing just like you did in Journey's End, but it's not working... ... Oh yeah? A twisting pump action, you say? Fair enough, I'll give it a go, you big sexy beast. Kthxbye."

What? What are you looking at? Hey, where are you all going?? I can be ten years old if I want, shut up.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Things, hair, and blorgies

Right, been a while, things have been catching up, some good, some bad, you know how it is. Sorry for neglecting you, blog-chums, I hope social services don't come and take you away from me. I can change! I'll get a job, and stop stealing your money to buy heroin! Just give me another chance!

Anyway. Every week, popular DJ chap Alex Zane presents a radio show on MySpace, and people can upload video clips of themselves to win the chance to be his co-presenter. If they get on, then people listen in, and can vote for them to stay for another week, or go. My nephew, also called James, got himself on, and is now there for a second week, which is fab. So go there and listen in, and vote for him to stay, not because I said so, but because he's skill and ace. Although he does have *way* too much hair on top of his head. Seriously, there's tons of it, about 5 times as much as most people. He's even got more hair than big-haired blogger James Henry, and that's just terrifying. But don't hold his massively high barnet against him, he only ever uses it for good, never evil. Vote for him now! Or his hair will come and eat you.

My Crusoe ep got just over 4 million viewers, as far as I can tell, and seems to have gone down well. It's quite bizarre to have something on in another country, before it's shown here, almost like sending off a message in a bottle. Ooh! See what I did there? In other telly and film news, I very much enjoyed the first ep of Apparitions, the new exorcism drama from Ultraviolet genius Joe Ahearne. If you haven't seen Utraviolet (the TV series) then get it on DVD immediately, or I will destroy you. Apparitions started off extremely strongly, explored lots of unexpected avenues, and gave me a real sense of creeping dread. Great stuff, if you missed the first ep, catch it on iPlayer, and tune in for ep 2 next Thursday at 9pm. Also tickling my fancy is Quantum of Solace, which I loved. I don't understand the sniffy reviews, I thought it was a superb Bond movie, a worthy continuation from Casino Royale, and delivered on the promise of that movie's final scene in the way that The Dark Knight failed to do for Batman Begins. Let me explain that briefly: CR and BB both reinvigorated tired franchises, and both had a final scene (a final shot, even) that left you desperately wanting more, and expecting certain things from the sequel. But whereas QoS gave me exactly what I wanted, and plenty more, TDK went off in an odd direction, and left me feeling unsatisfied. All in my humble opinion of course. But I *am* right.

I know I'm behind on all the blog stuff, so you'll have to hang on a bit longer for the Anus review and all the other stuff. I'm off to Cardiff for a day or two, so things will be slow for a bit longer. But when I get back, I promise to try and get all the late stuff posted. It'll be a blogging frenzy, a blog orgy, or possibly a "blorgy".

Thursday, November 06, 2008

My episode of Crusoe, this Friday

Okay folks, my Crusoe episode is airing this Friday, 7th November, at 9pm (8 central), on NBC, in the United States of America.

Yes, American folks, this time you get to watch it before anyone else. Oh, I know I go on and on about things I've got on TV now and again, and you get all excited, but then you realise it's only on UK telly, and not coming to your shores for aaaages, and the website won't even let you look at the preview clips, and it hurts. Of *course* it hurts. You want to see the fruits of my keyboard, and why wouldn't you, you're only human after all. But this time - it's all for you, baby. It's actually on one of your channels, first. A normal channel you don't even have to pay for. And if you miss it, you can watch it online, for free! Yes, you, and only you! I wrote the thing, and I can't even watch it online, cause I live in the UK! Doesn't that make you feel special?? Loved?? Needed? It should. Because you *are*. You're special, and wonderful, and you deserve this. I'm so happy for you. So watch the episode, and enjoy yourselves - because this one's for you. God, I love you guys. Except you, that guy at the back. Oh, okay, I love that guy at the back as well.

Mr Stephen Gallagher has some more details here, naming episodes, naming writers, it's a naming frenzy. There's also a great description of the kind of show it is, and the intentions behind it all. But most importantly, there's also a pretty picture of Philip Winchester holding a gun and looking all smouldery. Go on, you know you want to look.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Spooky do's

It's Halloween! Booga-booga-booga!

As is traditional, me and Jo will light candles, carve pumpkins, put on spooky music, then watch a selection of horror movies to celebrate the occasion. We watch The Exorcist every year, because it never loses its power. Some other classics get rotated every 2 or 3 years, so this year it's the turn of The Thing (Carpenter's version), because it's fantastic, and Halloween (do I need to say which version? I certainly hope not). I've also spent the past couple of months picking up new DVDs here and there, so we have a big stack to choose from, including Patrick, Road Games, Salem's Lot, Q The Winged Serpent, The Stuff (yeah, Larry Cohen double bill, that's how we roll), The Hidden, 10 Rillington Place (I'm counting it as a horror), The Amityville Horror (the original), and The Substitute. There are more, but I can't see them from the sofa, and I can't be bothered moving right now, I'm tired, shut up, leave me alone, etc etc. Probably won't get through them all, but at least we have enough to get us through the weekend. We've also got Halloween decorations - including spooky balloons - and will be making the superb blood cocktails again. Here's a pic of our Rope Of Weapons, which you may clickyclicky for biggybiggy:


Fear me! For I have plastic knives and stuff, and will be getting drunk! God help any kids who come to the door, I suspect it will suddenly cease to be fun for them.

Last year, I was a judge for the 2 Days Later short film competition - you get 2 days to write, shoot, and edit a complete short horror flick. I was a judge again this year, and my favourite of the whole shortlisted bunch was On Ice, which I'm delighted to see won Best Short Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Actress. The short looks great, is well directed, and is a nice, simple idea, well told. I look forward to seeing what they do next. In the meantime, you can watch the winning film here.

While you're watching things, why not watch this as a prelude to your Halloween shenanigans - the full length video for Thriller. Remember, Michael is not like other guys. In many, many ways.

So turn the lights off, stick on a scary movie or three, and have a scary Halloween. Otherwise I'll come round your house and brutally murder you, then flay you and run around outside wearing your skin, shrieking in Latin. And nobody wants that to happen. Except me, a little bit.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Moustache and tragedy

I'm recording all of Dead Set, and won't get to see them till this weekend, for various reasons, so I've only seen the first half of the opening ep - so please keep spoilers to yourselves for now. However, I loved what I've seen so far, and can't wait for the rest. Give Andy Nyman some sort of award or statue immediately, even just for carrying off that moustache with dignity.

Got a text last night, from a mate I'm currently working with, who had just finished watching the first episode of Spooks. No spoilers here, for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, don't worry - but for context, something... upsetting happened at the end. The text simply said:

Did you write this Spooks?

No, I replied, my one will be episode 7. Why?

That means I can still be friends with you.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Dead Set and new Spooks

Two new TV shows start today, which you should not miss, otherwise I will maim you:

TV Show the First: Dead Set, by Charlie Brooker, E4 at 9pm, and then every night at the same time until Friday. Zombies. Big Brother. Andy Nyman. And the possibility of lots of new swearword combos to enjoy. You quite literally cannot go wrong with this one. I can't wait to see it, it looks great.

TV Show the Second: Spooks, series 7, episode 1, BBC1 9pm. The second episode follows tomorrow night, then it carries on Monday nights. I was sure I'd announced this ages ago, but it seems I haven't, so... I've written an episode for this series. Yes, I know, is there any fucking TV show that I haven't had my grubby little paws on this year? Well, no, there isn't, sorry about that. Anyway, my ep is number 7, and will be on Monday 1st December. But you'll have to watch the whole series, because there's plenty of ongoing serial stuff, and you'll only get lost otherwise. So do as I say, or I'll make with the maiming.

That is all for now, internet chums. Go about your business, make merry, and keep up the human sacrifices in my name.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The writing song meme

I was tagged by Dom and Sheikspear with the following challenge: What song, to you, represents writing or what it means to be a writer?

As soon as I heard about this particular meme, I knew instantly which song I would go for. It's not technically about writing, or what it means to be a writer, but it had a big effect on me at a very important time, and says something about the whole idea of breaking in. Writing is a lot of hard work, and if you want to get into the business, you have to really push yourself, work hard, and make it happen. Nobody is going to do it for you. You have to write, write, and keep writing, then keep rewriting, over and over. It's not easy. But if you don't get off your arse and work at it, it'll never happen for you.

You may or may not know (or care) that my first produced work was a short film called Cheap Rate Gravity. The Sci-Fi Channel here had a competition a few years back, called Sci Fi Shorts - you entered a 10 minute short film script, and if it won, they made it into an actual short film. I didn't win the first year. At that time, I was going through a bit of a bad patch, writing-wise, and was beginning to think that I'd never make it, that the whole thing was a pipe dream. I actually stopped writing completely, for a good 6 months or so, felt like I was completely wasting my time and just fooling myself.

That first year of the competition, I wrote a ten page script, but didn't enter it, as I thought it was shit. So I binned it, wrote something else, sent it in, and it didn't win. The second year, it got to about 2 weeks away from the deadline, and I had nothing. But I knew that if I didn't enter *something*, I'd hate myself - and wouldn't be able to complain that they were ignoring my obvious genius. So I pulled out the script I hadn't entered the previous year, tidied it up, thought it wasn't too bad, and sent it in. Weeks, months later, I'd forgotten all about it. Then I got a phone call one day at work to tell me it had been shortlisted. Madness. Terry Gilliam was one of the judges for the finalists, so I thought, hey, at least Terry Gilliam will read my script - even if I don't win, I can say that one of the world's greatest ever directors read something I wrote. That script was Cheap Rate Gravity, and it won.

They made the short, I went on set, watched respectable actors like Phyllis Logan being hoisted up on wires by the guy who did the wire work for the Superman movies, and watched movie magic being made right before my eyes. It got released in selected cinemas in front of The Bourne Identity, Reign of Fire, and Final Destination 2. I watched it in the cinema several times, and thought, this is it, this is the fucking coolest feeling in the world. They didn't actually tell me it had been released, by the way - my mate phoned me up and said he'd seen it at his local cinema. I tried phoning the short film people, but couldn't get anyone on the phone. Oh well, I thought, they're probably busy.

There was supposed to be an industry screening of the finished short, with lots of invited agents and producers and other movie types, and the people behind the short said that I'd probably get an agent out of it. I was stunned. I thought this would be a flash in the pan, that I'd go back to my life with some interesting stories, but that would be it. Getting an agent meant that it was entirely possible to get another thing made. And then another. And then, maybe, one day, earn a living from it. I could break into the writing business. For real. Winning the competition was a validation, it meant that maybe I had something after all. At that point, one of the actors (thank you again, you know who you are) recommended me to their agent. This particular agency said yeah, sure, send in your stuff, we'd love to read it. I sent in The School, and something else. They sent me a standard, two-line rejection letter. Not for us, not what we're looking for (see, it's not who you know). Ha ha ha, fuck you, that other agency, I kept your letter and sometimes I get it out and look at it and laugh, and then I look at the massive, framed Severance poster above my writing desk, then laugh again.

So I waited for the industry screening. And waited. After a couple of months, the short film people stopped returning my calls completely, always in a meeting, always out, always busy. Should I keep waiting? Why wouldn't they help me out? Should I try and do something myself? But what? I wasn't sure what the right thing to do was. At that point, all I wanted was a bit of advice. Maybe I should wait for the screening? It was supposed to happen in November. Then late November. Then December, definitely. Then the New Year, definitely no question. It'd be easier to wait for that, and meet agents there, wouldn't it? Would anyone be interested in me and my stuff, after one short film?

As I dithered, wondering what to do, I listened to some songs on a playlist, recent stuff that I was enjoying. One in particular, I must have heard 20 times already, so it wasn't a surprise or anything. But it came up while I was thinking about all this writing and agency stuff. And as I listened to the lyrics, I realised that nobody was going to do anything for me - why should they? - so I had to do it for myself. You can't expect anyone to hand you a career, just because you've had a tiny bit of success. It was a valuable lesson. I had a small window of opportunity, a tiny chance to actually break in and get moving. If I left it too long, that would be it.

But as I listened to this song on this particular occasion, it really struck a chord. I felt a real urgency, something started gnawing away at my insides. There wasn't much time, and I'd have to start sorting my life out. It really got to me, in a way it hadn't before. The song was "Lose Yourself", by Eminem:


Whether you like his music or not, the man knows about pulling yourself up by the scruff of the neck, and working hard to become a success. He wasn't just handed everything on a plate, he made it happen for himself. And now it felt like he was telling me the same thing. "You better lose yourself in the music, the moment you own it you better never let it go, you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, cause opportunity comes once in a lifetime" - "you can do anything you set your mind to" - get a fucking move on, basically. And at that time, it couldn't have been more relevant to me. Although, obviously, I wasn't a struggling rapper living in a mobile home. But you know what I mean.

So I got to work. I played that song over and over and over as I figured out my plan, as loud as I could stand in the headphones, Eminem barking and snarling at me to keep going, don't fuck up this chance, you can do this. I finished all 6 episodes of The School. Wrote several drafts of Mirror, a horror film script. Scoured the web for up to date agency addresses, using a second hand copy of the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook as a guide. Drew up a list of agencies that might take me on, that had clients who wrote scripts similar to mine. Composed a query letter, printed out the scripts, emailed someone at the first agency to ask where to send film and TV scripts (thank you Michelle, for the friendly, helpful reply, you rock), then packaged them all up and took them in by hand to drop them off at their reception desk (didn't want to risk them getting lost in the post). That was a Friday. On the Monday morning, an agent called Jago phoned me up and asked me to come in for a meeting. And the rest you know.

Now, I probably would have come to that same decision to approach agencies myself. Although I might have waited until January for the supposed screening. Or I might have waited longer. And if I'd never heard that song, I'd probably still have got an agent. But I wouldn't have got off my arse with the same urgency, maybe wouldn't have taken my work in on that particular day, maybe it would have slipped through the net. I might have got a different agent. One who might not have been as good. One who might have picked a different idea from the seven I presented to him one day, the paragraph that eventually became Severance. Who knows? What I do know is, I'm incredibly happy with the way things went, and now have my dream job. It's not *all* thanks to Mr Marshall Mathers. But he definitely deserves a a sincere thank you. So: thank you. For inspiring me to get off my arse and grab the opportunity that I had. I still play the song now, when I need a boost, to remind myself of that time and how far I've come. It still works.

So there you go. The song doesn't really represent writing, but I think it has something to say about making your own luck, and working for what you want. Nobody's going to do it for you, nobody owes you anything, it's your life, so stop making excuses, and get on with it.

If I hadn't, I'd still be waiting for that industry screening, waiting to be handed a career on a plate, and expecting everyone else to do the work for me...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Crusoe

Okay, I have some news that hasn't been announced yet, but seeing as it's been on my IMDB and Agency page for ages, I may as well spill the beans. If you can really call it "spilling the beans" when technically, the beans are already on the floor, next to the overturned, er, bean tin. So I suppose I'm just spreading the beans around the floor a bit more. Or walking in them. Or something. Oh, make up your own metaphor, I'm off the clock.


Anyway. I've written an episode for the upcoming NBC series Crusoe, which starts this Friday 17th October, at 7 or 8pm depending whereabouts in the US you are. The showrunner is Mr Stephen Gallagher, a fellow writer, blogger, and man about town, who is incredibly cool to work with (apart from when he gives you a roundhouse kick for having bad ideas, which is the real reason for my black eye). I'm really excited to see the finished episodes, they have a great team, a fab cast, and the photos and designs look amazing. Here's part of the synopsis from the official site:

From Power, Muse and Moonlighting Films comes an ambitious adaptation of Daniel Defoe's masterpiece, "Crusoe," a new primetime series for a 21st Century audience. Following the novel and its treasured tale of adventure, this high-action, fast-paced, thirteen-part series will combine for the first time the pace and energy of network television while remaining faithful to the author’s original classic story.

The drama explores the perils and challenges facing the world’s most famous castaway as Crusoe (Philip Winchester, "Flyboys," "Thunderbirds") and his native friend Friday (Tongayi Chirisa) struggle to survive on a desert island with little more than their wits. Overcoming marauding militias, hungry cannibals, wild cats, starvation and apocalyptic lightning storms, Crusoe dreams of the day he will be reunited with his beloved family.


I haven't seen my episode yet, but there are some trailers on the Crusoe site which have clips from other eps, and give a good taster of what to expect. The short version: action, adventure, thrills, spills, punch-ups, sword fights, heaving bosoms, manly chests, exotic locations, cool gadgets, witty banter, and dastardly villains. Try this for size:



There are 4 more recent videos, but - and you US Torchwood fans may laugh at will - they're not available outside the US... One we can all access though is the webcam on the treehouse they've built on a New York street - they've stranded some poor guy in it, and you can go and look at him, and vote to make him do things for your own amusement.

Newsarama has a nice article about the show here, thank you to Mr.SFTV from the comments for letting me know.

So if you're in America, make sure to tune in this Friday, and catch Stephen's superb 2 hour season premiere. Unless I've got my dates wrong, my episode will be on the 7th November, but I'll be reminding you all every few minutes until then, so don't worry. For those of us in the UK, I don't know if there's a deal with any channels yet, but I'm sure it'll be shown here at some stage. Watch this space. This one, right here, at the end of this sentence. Yes. Watch it closely.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Screenwriting book

As usual, I'm the last to post this, but hey, better late than never, that's what I reckon. So you'll all know this already, but just in case you don't: Adrian Mead has written a book about getting your screenwriting career started. It's called Making It As A Screenwriter, it's £7.79 (about 9 quid including VAT), available from here, and all profits go to Childline.

Now, you all probably know I'm not a fan of screenwriting books. Things that tell you how to write, and waffle on about inciting incidents and third act reversals and all that bollocks, aren't worth your time or money. But this one doesn't tell you how to write, it assumes that you can write, that you have some talent. It tells you the things you need to know to break in - getting an agent, approaching companies, how many scripts you need, what a treatment is, re-writing, feedback, all that good stuff. Simple, straightforward advice from a professional writer.

If you're just starting out, or fairly new, then you need to read this - it'll save you a LOT of time. And even if you're an old hand, you'll probably learn a thing or two, or even just be inspired to get off your arse and do some work. I'm one of the many, many people who have given testimonials about how good the book is, so go and pick up a copy. It's for a good cause, and it will help you out. Everybody wins.

Note: It's based around the UK industry, just so you know - but a lot of the advice applies anywhere.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Guns, booze, and meat - my Texas adventure

Back from Texas, more or less in one piece, quite jetlagged, and the proud owner of a massive black eye. A black eye?? But Uncle Jimbo, you sit at a computer all day and make up silly stories! How could you possibly have got a manly injury like that?? Well, read on, and find out...

Things got off to a rocky start when the flight was 2 hours late taking off. This meant that we missed the connecting flight in Toronto, and nearly had to wait until the following day for the next one. But we managed to get put on an earlier flight, by the simple technique of lying on the floor, crying, and soiling ourselves. I recommend it if you're ever in a similar situation. So instead of one connecting flight, we had to get two, and got to Austin about 3 hours late, which wasn't too bad. While on the first flight, I entertained myself by putting a toilet paper seat cover on my head, so that I looked like some sort of demented, washed-out sunflower. And because you know you want it, here's a pic of that pivotal moment:


We got to Austin just in time for the outdoor screening of Mad Max 2, in the car park of the Alamo cinema, which was glorious. Vehicular carnage ahoy, and much beer was drunk. I was there with the scribo-bloggosphere-o-tron's Jason "Arnoppapadopoulos" Arnopp, Sean "the reasonably sensible one" Hogan, and Jay "I hate Macs, blogs, and all rational thought" Slater. Ian from FrightFest was there too, scouting for possible FF movies and trying to drink all of the beer in Texas. Here is some of the booze we had - beer with a small Jim Beam chaser:


Mr Arnopp looks on disapprovingly, as well he might. What you can't tell from the picture is, he's not wearing any pants, and is sitting in a bucket of frogs. True story. If you've read the blog posts about my last trip to Texas, you'll know all about how cool the Alamo cinema is. If not, then go here and read them (scroll down to "Austin, the arrival" and work your way up), I'll wait here. Go on. Okay, they've gone, I'm not going to wait at all, it was just a trick so we could be alone! The fools! The Alamo is the coolest cinema on the planet, each row of seats has a table in front, and a channel so that they can come and take your food/drink orders. It all works marvellously, and I wish they'd open a London branch. One of the best things is their STRICT no-talking policy. It's fine to laugh, cheer, clap, or whatever, they encourage that - but if you talk or let your cellphone go off, they come down on you, hard. If there's a noisy table near you, you can place an order card in the slot by your seat, and let the staff know. The management then comes and warns the noisy people. If they continue making noise, they get kicked out. No arguments. There are adverts before every single movie reminding you of this, and they're hilarious. Every one of the ads ends with "If you talk during the movie, we'll take your ass out." It is SUCH a breath of fresh air.

Movie highlights: "I Think We're Alone Now", a documentary about two people who, shall we say, really really REALLY like Tiffany. Yes, that Tiffany. Yes, they're stalkers. But it comes from a place of love. It's one of the most terrifying things I've ever seen, but at the same time, you grow to understand them a bit, and really feel for them. If you get a chance to see this, you must, it's mesmerising. Another great doc was "Not Quite Hollywood", about the Ozsploitation movies - low budget genre movies from Australia. Mad Max, Turkey Shoot, Road Games, Razorback, and a whole load of ones I'd never heard of but have to track down. The doc was gritty, funny, and had all the raw energy of the films it celebrates. Great fun, and a real crowd pleaser. "The Burrowers" was a really good horror Western, a nice slow burn with some really great characters and cool moments. "Alien Raiders" was a great example of low budget horror done properly, using effects sparingly and relying on tension, atmosphere, and some clever twists. "Spine Tingler", a documentary about the late, great William Castle, was enormous fun, and detailed all the fun promotional tricks and tactics he used to get people to see his movies. "JCVD" is Jean-Claude Van Damme's comeback movie - the story is fairly standard, and it goes a bit odd in the final act, but that's not the big deal, the big deal is Van Damme's performance. Jaw-dropping. He plays himself, and opens up on screen in a way that's quite hard to watch sometimes. He is absolutely amazing in it, it's one of the best performances I've seen for quite a while. And I never thought I'd say that about him. Lots of other cool stuff, but the above movies were my favourites.

Other highlights included the War On Terror question popping up in every single Q & A of the fest, a question that has dogged us all for several years now. "I was just wondering, some of the subtext seemed to be saying blahblahwaffleblah, and I wanted to know, is it a reference to the War On Terror?" No. It isn't. Please stop asking that fucking question. The final time it got asked, the audience actually sighed as a group, and someone just said "No," quite loudly. That person may or may not have been me.

Another nice thing that happened a lot, was people recognising me and saying how much they loved Severance. Made me feel proper famous, so it did. While DVD shopping, I picked up a second-hand copy of Severance, because I gave away all my copies, and I want a Region 1 version as it has a different cover. I know. Buying my own movie. Second-hand. Cheap-arse. Anyway, in the queue, our Alamo mate Devin pointed at the DVD and asked the guy behind the counter if he'd seen it. "What did you think?" asked Devin, smiling. The guy said "It was pretty good, I liked it. Thought the pot-smoking thing got a bit dumb after a while though." We all burst out laughing, and Devin pointed at me and said "He wrote it." The poor guy went bright red, and immediately said "it was very gory though, it was great". We all had a chuckle about that, though I felt bad for the guy, he looked quite embarrassed. Sorry, DVD-shop-bloke, if by some amazing coincidence you're reading this.

There were lots of parties, events, and cool moments with all the wonderful people there (hello Scott, Will, Jen, Liz, Ashley, Rae, Ian, Devin, Kier-La, Tim, Karrie, Brian, Eric), but the highlight for me was the last day, at the Alamo with most of the hard working cinema crew who were now able to relax and drink. We had a great time, they're all really cool people to hang out with. Special mention must go to my mate Rae, who got me a TARDIS notebook like the one in Silence In The Library (Doctor Who, season 4, The Moff). She really wanted one, and had to get it specially made, so she got one for me too, which was extremely cool of her. Here's a pic of the book:


Also on the last day, we went back to Red's Indoor Range, to shoot some more guns. Red's is an extremely cool place, with friendly and polite staff who know their stuff inside out. This time we had a .44 Magnum, a Colt .45, and an AK-47. Oh. My. God. The thing about guns is, they're terrifying instruments of death and destruction, but at the same time, they're incredibly exciting and fun, if used safely. If I lived in a country where they were easily available, I'd probably have several in each room, ready for (a) any psychotic, armed burglar who tries to break in, and (b) zombies. The Magnum was unbelievably powerful, the Colt was almost as strong but easier to handle, and the AK-47 was very cool but totally inaccurate at anything over 20 yards. Here is a video compilation of me firing guns and feeling like a big, sexy bastard:


Take that, evil exec who fucked me over so that I lost out on a huge deal several years ago! Take that, two-faced exec who lied to me, betrayed my trust and then didn't even have the balls to phone me and let me know that the whole project had gone down the toilet! Take that, dumbass production company who had no idea what a principal photography payment was, and thought it was "extra money" that they didn't need to give me! Take that, fuckwit "producer" who faffed me around, changed our agreement, tried to get me to write a script for nothing, and then acted like I was holding everything up! Take that! Take all of my bullets!

As we were shooting, the guy next to us had brought in his own guns to calibrate the sights. One was a fucking huge Weatherby Vanguard bolt-action hunting rifle with a scope on top and 7mm Remington Magnum bullets. It was his first time with this new beast, and he was very proud of it - he saw us all admiring it, and jumping whenever he fired it. We thought the AK was loud, but his was like a cannon going off. And then he loaded up a bullet, cocked it, and asked me if I wanted to give it a go. Fuck yes! Like a fool, I gladly jumped in and accepted. I couldn't turn that down.

I settled into the seat, lined up the sights, and carefully squeezed the trigger. I was so worried about the kick to my shoulder from the stock, that I wasn't paying attention to how close my face was to the scope. I fired, the rifle jerked backwards, and the scope caught me right in the face, above the right eye. It got me right on the bone under the eyebrow, drove my glasses (my proper glasses) back into my face, cutting my nose slightly, and bending the glasses alarmingly. My head flew back, and it felt like I'd been punched in the face - because, in a way, I had been. And because you know you want it, here's video of the moment itself, courtesy of Mr Arnopp:


I managed to bend the glasses back to their normal shape, but my eye already had a nice lump swelling up. Four days later, it looks like this:


Ouch. One of the other shooters came over to see what had happened, and when he realised, simply nodded wisely, and said "Ah, you got scoped," as if it were some ancient ritual that a boy must go through to become a man. I was okay, just a bit shaken and taken aback by the power of the thing. The rifle guy was glad that I was okay, and when he brought the target forward, he pointed out where I had hit it (phone shown for size comparison):


Right there. On a tiny target. From one hundred yards. Oh yeah. I am ready for the upcoming zombie apocalypse. The rifle guy pulled out a big hunting knife, cut out the section I hit, and handed it over to me. I was in pain, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't feel fucking cool. I felt like I had earned their respect, even if they were probably all thinking I was a feeble, pale, Limey bastard. So the lesson I learned that day was: be careful with guns. They could have someone's eye out. When I texted Jo later on to tell her of my adventure, her response was "I told you not to take guns from strangers..." This is the bullet I fired, so you can marvel at how ridiculously huge it was:


After that, we all went and got extremely drunk. And then I came home. The Fantastic Fest is an amazing festival, great people, a great vibe, and superb movies. I hope I can keep making movies regularly, so that I have a good excuse to go every year. And maybe next time, I'll try not to whack myself in the face with a huge rifle.

Jimbo gets scoped

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Books, books, books

Well, you've probably guessed by now, that I didn't manage to do another blog post before I left. You are most observant, sir or madam, and I salute you. I had a fantastic time, it's such a great festival. Now, I am back home, exhausted, jetlagged - and slightly damaged, which you'll have to wait until the next blog post to read about. Don't worry, there will be photos and everything.

Don't forget that this Saturday, 4th October, is the Doctor Who Storybook 2009 signing at London's Forbidden Planet megastore, 1-2pm. Come along and see me, Gareth Roberts, Keith Temple, Clayton Hickman, Gary Russell and Jonathan Morris, and demand that we write our names in your book. I am more or less able to write my own name, and I'm sure the others can do theirs too, so it should all go fairly smoothly.

Big Finish have now officially announced and released the cover for Short Trips: Christmas Around the World, which includes one of my short stories. I don't know if I'm allowed to say the title of the story yet, so I'll keep it under my non-existent hat for now.

It's my third ever published short story, and I'm extremely proud of it. I'm proud of all three stories I've done so far, but I wasn't sure if I could pull this one off, and was very pleased when it all came together. Halfway through writing it, I suspected that I needed to change it from first person to third, so I rewrote the first page - it didn't sound right at all, so I went back to the first person again. Sometimes you have to try these things, and if I hadn't, I'd still be worrying about it now, and thinking "I wonder if I should have changed it". The book is out on December 15th, in all good, bad and indifferent bookshops, both in the real world, the cyber world, and the fantasy world inside my head where I am King of Everything.

Another book on sale RIGHT NOW OMG is The Writer's Tale, by Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook. I have no financial or promotional stake in this, so trust me when I say this: it's absolutely enthralling. You get a fascinating insight into the mind of a writer, during a year in the life of a huge TV show. It shows what writing is really like - all the decisions, worries, late night writing sessions, second guessing, angst, mayhem, sitting at a desk and swearing until you can force the words out, then the massive joy of a story suddenly clicking into place at 4am. It's incredibly heartfelt, funny, and honest, and if you have the slightest desire to be a writer or see how the magic happens, then you absolutely must read this - even just so you can say "oh thank Christ, it's not just me who does that". Go and get it and read it, or I'll come round your house and burn your bum off with a flamethrower.

Austin shenanigans soon. Sleep and food now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Last minute links, when animals attack, and general silliness

Rapidly running out of time before heading to Texas, so I may not finish the big FAQ post before I go. Or the Asus review. Or whatever the other post was. I know, I'm useless. In my defence, I am also in the midst of a massive bout of the Space Virus, so I'm not quite in my right mind. This has been dragging on for a couple of weeks now, threatening to arrive, and now it's in full flow. So I'm desperately hoping it'll be on the way out tomorrow, as flying with blocked sinuses literally makes your head explode.

For now, here's a link to an interview in the latest issue of UK Writer, the magazine of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain - it's about writing for Doctor Who, and features Paul Cornell, Rob Shearman, and an extremely handsome, talented writer called-- oh, how staggeringly unexpected and embarrassing! It's me!

I'm a bit late mentioning it, but didn't want to let it go without saying anything: Sadly, Gregory MacDonald recently died, an author I've admired for years. He's best known for the Fletch series of books which, if you haven't read any, you must get hold of immediately. The first Fletch movie is quite good fun, but the books are light years better. Reading the first one is like getting a masterclass in writing great dialogue. It's fun, but hard as nails, has a clever, twisty-turny plot, and will instantly become one of your favourite books as soon as you finish it. Pick up a copy, and revel in some sparkling, rock solid writing. Trust Uncle Jimbo, now.

And on a lighter note, here's a reminder of what happens when you fuck around with wildlife. Apparently, they bite even harder if you are relentlessly cheerful at them. Oh, and if anyone can find a clip online of when Nigel Marven got bitten on the nose by a tiny, bright green snake, I will be your best friend forever, or at least for 10 minutes. It is absolutely hilarious, even better than the above link. I'm a sucker for videos of people getting smacked upside the head by animals. Leave them alone. If some idiot decides to jump the fence at the tiger enclosure at a zoo, don't bother rescuing him. He'll learn a valuable lesson, if he survives, and the tigers will fucking love it - live prey! That's *all* they are thinking when they see you staring at them in zoos: (a) how do I get out of here so I can eat that guy's head, or (b) I hope that guy jumps or falls in, so I can eat his head.

Oh okay, just because I'm in that sort of mood, and hepped up on goofballs, Benylin, and Nurofen, here's another silly video. Now, I am of the opinion that the Jeremy Brett version of Sherlock Holmes is the definitive portrayal. The Granada series is superb, I have the box set of the entire series, including the feature length ones, and it's just fantastic. However, you can always improve on a classic, with the simple addition of pasty white blokes rapping. This just makes me fall about in hysterics, and for several days this has been the funniest thing in the world for me. Sorry, but I'm very childish.

Okay, going to try and finish one proper blog post (the FAQ or the Anus review) before I go. If I don't manage it, then keep the internet clean and tidy while I'm away, don't talk to any strange men, and put some pants on, for God's sake. If you're in the Texas vicinity, come and say hello, and marvel at the drunken, meat-crazed spectacle I'll probably be making of myself.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Forbidden Planet signing for Doctor Who Storybook

Right, three more brief announcements before the next big post. Running low on time before I go to Texas, so things might slow down, he said, pretending that he does regular blog posts.

The writing team on Law & Order: UK has officially been announced. "Top writing talent"! And they're including me in that description! Clearly a typo, it should say "top writing talent, including TV's James Moran, who is also handsome and witty". Obviously I'll be sending them a letter to correct this. Written in crayon. On a piece of human flesh (not my own).

More guests have been announced for next year's Gallifrey convention in Los Angeles, which I am attending. Super duper guests include Nicola Bryant, Phil Ford, Keith Temple, and many others, at the link. Oh, and some bloke called Gareth something-or-other, apparently he plays a character called "Ian Toe" in some TV show about aliens and stuff, I think it's called "Touch My Wood".

And finally, the big Forbidden Planet store in London is having a signing session for The Doctor Who Storybook 2009, available in all good shops now etc etc. Several of the short story authors will be there, including one particularly striking, talented chap called... oh, how embarrassing! It's me! The signing is on Saturday 4th October, from 1 - 2pm, at Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR. From the website:

Authors on the day include: Gareth Roberts (The Shakespeare Code and The Unicorn and The Wasp), Keith Temple (Planet Of The Ood), James Moran (The Fires OF Pompeii), Clayton Hickman (Doctor Who audio writer), Gary Russell (Script Editor on Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures) and Jonathan Morris (Doctor Who book writer and audio writer).

This is particularly exciting for me, because I've attended several signings at Forbidden Planet in the past, mainly back when the shop was on New Oxford Street. The last one I went to there was Amber Benson, who played Tara in Buffy (damn you Whedon TO HELL for what you did, oh I can't stay mad at you, let's be best friends again forever, although I am still upset and will feel free to mention it again whenever we argue, kthxbye). So it'll be very cool to see it from the other side. Pop along if you're in the area, and get your books defaced with our squiggles.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Links, filth, and zombies

Some quick links of (mostly) shameless self-promoting while I'm coming up for air. I have a rough first draft of my Brand New Thing, and I'm very surprised and pleased. Surprised because a couple of weeks ago, it only existed as several pages of notes. And now it is a Proper Script. Well, it will be when I've gone over it to tidy it up. And then I'll have to leave it for a bit, and see how it feels in a week or two. Asus review is nearly done, it rambles on a bit, so I need to simplify it before posting. Nice. And now, these:

Link the first: Torchwood filming continues, with some shocking scenes ramming a heterosexual agenda down your throat. Yes, I can exclusively reveal that in at least one scene, a MAN and a WOMAN will share a KISS, right on the LIPS. Beeb insiders are preparing themselves for a flood of complaints. Pictured in the photos is openly straight actress Eve Myles, who was caught on camera performing the raunchy scenes. Passers by were shocked and stunned at the display. "I don't mind if these hetero types want to have a kiss and a cuddle," said Mr Realname McSpankles, "But I don't want it shoved in my face. Why do they have to put it in a programme that kids might see? It's fucking disgusting. I have cooked and eaten my own kids, just to protect them from this sort of filth." Oh okay, if you read the article, you'll know that it was just Eve and John messing about between filming. But still! The thought of it! Etc.

Staying on Torchwood, the radio play is on tomorrow at 2.15pm, on Radio 4 - it's written by Joe Lidster, so it will of course be brilliant. Full details here, and if you can't listen in at the time, it'll be available as an mp3 download for a week after the broadcast.

Link the second: The cast for Law & Order: UK is announced here. Feast your eyes on those names. For those who have asked, I haven't been blogging it lately because, like everything else I work on, I'd rather only mention what has been officially released. But don't worry, when it's closer to the time, I'll be going on and on and on about it, because it's very, very exciting.

Link the third: New iPods! Mmmm, iPods, naughty, sexy iPods, dancing around suggestively, whispering into my ear, dressing up in lingerie, and... Er, anyway, I've been hoping for an increase in storage size for the Nano, and they've doubled it, which is good news for me. I've managed to fill mine up, and have got new music to put on it. And blimey O'Reilly, once I've done that, who knows what'll happen next?? I'm a maverick, renegade iPod listener, me, I break the rules but I get the job done, goddammit.

And finally, link the fourth: Dead Set, a zombie thriller set in the Big Brother house, written by Charlie Brooker. Bit late with this one, but I don't care, it's fashionable, probably. Click on the big eye for a trailer. The magnificent Andy Nyman is one of the actors in it, and gets the best line in the trailer, which is a bloody good swearword combo - although I'd expect no less from Mr Brooker. Apparently they're proper, scary zombies, and it looks superb. Website goes live in 8 days. Stock up on shotgun shells, tinned food, and running shoes. I'll be fine tuning my shooting skills in Austin when I go over. You've got to stay alert for this sort of thing, the zombie apocalypse could start at any time.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Don LaFontaine

Very sad to hear about the death of Don LaFontaine - if you don't know his name, you'll know him as Trailer Voice Man. There are quite a few people who do trailer voices, but his was definitely the best, and most recognisable. I love trailers, sometimes they're so good you wish you were watching that movie instead of the one you're about to see. Of course, we all know that a trailer often bears no relation to the movie at all, but that's half the fun of it. A good, well made trailer can start the evening off perfectly - the Alamo cinema in Austin sometimes shows retro trailers before a new movie, just to get people in the mood, something that happens at FrightFest here in London too. And it's not quite the same without Don LaFontaine's voice booming over the images. Click here for a short video about the man and his career.

Also, since we're on the subject, I can never resist the chance to link to this. It's not Don doing the voice, it's another guy called Hal Douglas, but it's a hilarious celebration of trailers and Trailer Voice Men. I must have watched this trailer a hundred times, and it still cracks me up - it's for the documentary movie Comedian, and is 90 seconds of comedy gold.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Horror ruts, Torchwood, and a Brand New Thing

Back from FrightFest, only got slightly brain damaged, which was nice. A mixed bag of films, some very good, some very bad. Horror movies go through phases, but at the moment, many of them seem to be stuck in a rut. Everyone seems to want to make the same movie over and over: some stupid people get tortured and killed by lunatics for no apparent reason. Which is NOT a story, it's just people being brutalised for 90 minutes. I love horror movies, so I'm perfectly happy (oh, you know what I mean) watching trauma and gore, but if there's no story, then it's boring and pointless, I'm not invested in it. "Ah yes, but in life, there are no easy answers, sometimes bad things happen for no reason." Hey, in life, sometimes cats take a shit in your garden, doesn't mean we have to make boring movies about it. Write a story! Make it interesting! Is that too much to ask? The best films at FrightFest had stories, they had something to say, they didn't virtually tell you everything that was going to happen in the first 5 minutes. Time Crimes, Dance of the Dead, Freakdog, Let The Right One In, Martyrs - all proper movies, all crowd pleasers, all clever and interesting. None of them were a short film spun out over an hour and a half. Martyrs was about torture and revenge, but it had a lot to say, and kept you guessing for quite a while, it had a *point* to it. Give us something to think about, or at least show the characters trying to escape in a variety of ways.

Also, if you have several scenes where your main characters could get themselves out of trouble, easily, or just leave - then fucking rewrite it. We will notice. We are not idiots. If you have a scene where the main characters get themselves into the trouble in the first place - then fucking rewrite it. If you have a scene where someone comes across a load of potential weapons, but doesn't take any because otherwise the movie would end too early - then fucking rewrite it. There is no excuse for laziness. Even so, I'm amazed at some of the plotholes and logic fiddles that got through to the finished product. My agent would never let me get away with any of them. Here's a revolutionary idea for you: when you write your horror movie, why not pretend that it's a normal movie with normal characters who behave in a somewhat realistic fashion? If a killer chases them, they run away. If things go wrong, they call the police, or try to get help. I know people get scared and make mistakes in real life - but this is a movie, and you have to convince the audience. Rewrite it. Blimey. It doesn't cost you anything but time.

Anyway, fun time had by all, lovely atmosphere as usual, and lots of cool people to chat to. Hello to everyone I met, and hello to everyone I didn't meet, too. My Asus/Jesus/Anus came with us, and performed very well on the go. Full review coming soon, hopefully.

So my Code 9 came and went, and if you didn't catch it, you'll have to wait for the DVD which seems to be out next month. I mean, you don't have to get it, you don't have to watch anything just cause I say so, I'm just saying that it would be lovely if you choose to watch it, or rent it, or buy it, or something. And if you don't, I'll come round your house and kill you dead with an elephant gun. It fires thirty elephants per minute. Takes eight months to reload. I don't know where this paragraph is going.

Filming has officially started on Torchwood series 3! You may clicky clicky on the link for more details, fresh juicy details, get 'em while they're hot. I'm hoping to get along to see some of it soon, now that I have less of a hefty workload. Things are calming down, which means I can work on one thing at a time. It also means that I can soon start work on one of the 4 spec films I've been waiting to write. They're all outlined, ready to go, just dying to get out into the world. I'm going to start the first one very soon, while I have a break. And I can't wait.

Edit: I didn't wait. I started. I have a brand new thing. Nobody knows what it is, only Jo knows the plot, I haven't even told my agent. So right now, it's all mine. Nobody to give notes, no budget to worry about, no guidelines to stick to. Anything goes. Blimey, the power.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

FrightFest! Asus! Code 9!

Right, I'm off to FrightFest with Jo, 5 days of mayhem, movies, and silliness. If you're there, say hello. In between movies, we'll either be in the bar, or standing outside. Once again, the 30 minute rule will be in effect - if the movie hasn't interested us in the slightest by the 30 minute mark, we'll be out the door and in the bar. Hopefully the FF will get me inspired by horror again. It's been a bit of a dodgy year for horror movies - although I said the same thing last year, I'm starting to repeat myself. There are always a few gems in amongst the shite though, and many of them should be playing at FF this weekend. I've got a few spec movies all ready to write, so this should get me in the right mood for them. Next month will be the first time I'll have room to breathe, and I can finally start working on my own stuff.

My Asus has arrived, and is very lovely indeed. Although saying "my Asus" quickly can cause raised eyebrows, it sounds a bit dodgy. I'm thinking of calling it "Jesus", because, you know, it rhymes with Asus, more or less. Although The Arnopp has suggested that I simply refer to it as "my Anus", which I think could be the winner. If you have any similarly sensible suggestions, have at it. Although you'd have to go a long, long way to beat my Anus. Blimey! See? It's just brilliant, and so easy to work into double entendres. Anyway, I'll do a proper post about it soon, sort of a review, I suppose, which is frighteningly grown up, so naturally I will cram it full of filth.

Thank you for the questions so far, all very good, keep them coming. It will be a mammoth post, so I might have to break it up into separate ones, with an index or something. Christ, it's difficult already, and all my own fault for deciding to do it.

Don't forget my Code 9 episode is on this Sunday, 9pm, BBC3, featuring action, drama, witty banter, gore, and good looking people doing good looking things. No Torchwood-style slow motion team striding, though, which I feel every show needs. I visited the set while they were filming a different episode, sat in one of the chairs in the field office and pretended to be a spy. That probably tells you everything you need to know about me, good and bad. Oh! The preview of the first 10 minutes is now working, it's on this page of this website here, don't y'know.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Technology, Storybook, Code 9, and faq'ing

I am unsettled today, as one of the neighbours has chosen to play a Coldplay live album at full volume. According to the Geneva Convention, this is classified as "cruel and unusual punishment". I will pay him back by killing him with my mind - I'll send hateful thoughts through the wall, concentrating really hard, until I hear the scream and thud that indicate his brain has exploded.

Anyway. To calm my nerves, and yours, if you're a bit stressed, let's all enjoy a unique rendition of "Feelings", as performed by Beaker. Lovely.

Like everyone else in the world, I've been desperately trying to get hold of an Asus 901 Netbook, with Linux preloaded. I spent ages traipsing up and down Tottenham Court Road in vain, but now it looks like Amazon are sending mine this week. It's a "sub-notebook", which means it's tiny, light, has a minimal OS install (Linux in this case, and lots of open source software), and will let me get writing done and check email when I'm out of the country, without adding much weight to my bag. The other great thing about it is the solid state (flash memory, like memory sticks) hard drive, which has no moving parts, is quiet, shock-proof, and fast. So I can throw it into my bag and bring it over to Fantastic Fest without worrying about damaging my Macbook - I like to travel light, bringing the bare minimum, and this has everything I need for working on the move. Hard drives, like CRT televisions, are awkward, outdated technology, and not really meant to be portable. Recent advances in solid state technology are packing more and more into smaller spaces, so I look forward to the day when the clunky needle and platter combo is gone forever. Until, obviously, we get the holographic memory cubes, but I'm not holding my breath. Besides, Skynet will have launched its initial attack on us by then, and the survivors of the nuclear fire will face a new nightmare: the war against the machines. Naturally, I will be burning my Asus as soon as it arrives, to do my part in the struggle for survival. Damn you, the machines!

Pimping section: The Doctor Who Storybook is out now, in all places where items like this are traditionally purchased. It contains my story, Grand Theft Planet, beautifully illustrated by Daryl Joyce. In tellybox news, because Code 9 started with a double bill, my episode is on a week earlier than I thought - this Sunday 24th, 9pm, BBC3. I'll be at FrightFest though, so I won't be able to have a viewing party, which is a shame, but the 5 day festival of horror movies cannot not be ignored. Otherwise it comes round your house and eats you. You can watch the first 10 minutes of my ep on the official site - well, supposedly, it doesn't seem to be working for me. Anyway. A couple of people have asked about the co-credit, so just to clarify, it's because I took over the episode after an early draft had been done. I'll talk more about the ep once it's been on, obviously I can't say what was different yet, otherwise I'll give away what happens. I'm clever like that.

And finally, I'm working on a frequently asked questions post, because there are lots of questions that I get asked... frequently. I end up sending the same replies to people over and over, and it's eating more and more time every day, so hopefully this will help us all save time and possibly even enrich our lives. It'll be updated regularly, so if you have any questions that you worry are too obvious to ask, go for it, now's your chance. Contact info's over there on the right, or use the comments, or just shout REALLY loud. I'm also nearly finished part 2 of the Torchwood writing process thingy, so let's see which one gets finished first, eh? It'll be like the Olympics, but with words, and no weird outfits.