Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 in words and pictures

2011, eh? It's been a strange year - and by "year", I mean an arbitrary measurement of passing time that doesn't actually change anything when it "ends" and is essentially meaningless - of highs and lows.

Highs, obviously, are the two movies I had made: Cockneys Vs Zombies, and Tower Block. One of those two movies features a specially-written song by Chas and Dave - can you guess which one? Both written at different times, but ended up getting made only 3 months apart. Sometimes it happens that way, sometimes you make one movie in 2006 and run off to do loads of TV for several years. Speaking of Severance, it was on TV several times recently, and it was cool to see it still entertaining people. I always got lovely messages from people having a laugh with it. Every time, the title and Danny Dyer trended on Twitter, which warms my heart considering it came out so long ago.

The two movies were great fun to shoot, I had a lot more input than usual, and was a co-producer on Tower Block. Both teams have kept me closely involved with every stage of the process, it's been creatively rewarding and a real education in filmmaking. Once again, I recommend working with nice, clever, fun people, and you will always have a good experience. I still can't believe what an amazing cast we got for both of them, and it was so great to see them at work, acting their socks off.

Cockneys Vs Zombies also meant I got to make two tiny cameos in the background, as "Bank customer", and "Zombie outside bank". Obviously I was SO good, they had to limit my appearance on screen, so as not to embarrass the other actors, which of course I understand. Being a zombie was brilliant fun, if slightly sticky. Here's a photo of me, before I got my zombie makeup on. No, wait, AFTER I got the zombie makeup on.

My first steps into audio work were released this year too. Volume 2 of the Big Finish Short Trips CD had a story by me, read by Sophie Aldred, and the 2nd season of Big Finish's Highlander plays (on download or CD) featured The Promise, by me, starring Tracy-Ann Oberman, John Banks, Toby Longworth, and Methos himself, Peter Wingfield. I had no idea if I'd even be capable of working in the audio field, but I had fun, learned a lot, and was very happy with the results. Torchwood Consequences, which contained my story/novella/bookette Virus, became a techno-magic Kindle version. 

I went back to the Gallifrey convention after a year away, and had a fantastic time. Did my first Hub convention, which was brilliant, full of really lovely people. Attended a screening of The Fires of Pompeii at the Guildhall, in their Roman amphitheatre. And went into space! Well, the Leicester Space Centre. Which is close.

I also found a little shop in Hell, and saw the best chequebook ever.

Girl Number 9 appeared on the FEARnet website in America, and their VOD channel - it's still there now, American folk, so if you haven't seen it yet, go and check it out.

The print world was very good to me this year. I've written a comic for new anthology Dead Roots, and a short story for prose anthology World's Collider, both of which should be out next year. I also wrote, with Ian Livingstone, a mini, Fighting Fantasy-style adventure for the Game City newsletter. Cockneys Vs Zombies was featured in the SFX zombie special, with an on-set report. And I wrote an article for Broadcast magazine, on the BAFTA TV awards and how I think they sideline writers. I'm hoping to do more comics work, so as always, editors, I'm available!

I wrote and directed a short film for FrightFest, called H33 - it's a spoof trailer for a terrible sequel to Halloween, and I had an absolute blast doing it. It's online here, excuse the odd colours, something went awry in the uploading/compression process. I'll try to get the normal version uploaded soon. Which reminds me, I still need to write a post about the whole process, and what I learned from it.

Some pretty huge, amazing highs, then. When I wrote last year's post about my long term hopes and dreams, two of them were "write comics" and "write a non-DW or TW story". I've now achieved those two (hopefully the first of many), and assuming they don't shred my contributions you'll be able to read them next year. I've also been signed up to do lots of other exciting projects, and fingers crossed they'll all happen at some stage.

Lows? Obviously it seems churlish to complain about what didn't happen or what went wrong, but it's my blog and my life so I'll do it anyway. In my other previous year-end summary post, I was full of hope for a TV project that took 2 years to get to first draft stage. Meetings, outlines, notes, scripts, research, interviewing people, more research, more notes, etc. Well, it didn't get picked up, and that - unfortunately - looks like the end of that. 2 years of work, love, passion, and energy, and it might never, ever see the light. This happens to everyone, WAY more often than you might expect. It's heartbreaking, because you give your all to the characters and stories, and then they just get put into a box forever. But all is not lost - it could be re-pitched elsewhere, at some other time, anything is possible.

2 out of the 3 movies I wrote the scripts for last year haven't been made yet. I'm sure one of them will, but the other probably won't. It's quite expensive to make, and difficult (physically, unless you do it cheaply and don't mind if it looks terrible), so it's a tricky sell. None of the TV things I've worked on have been made yet - these are new shows where I'd be the lead writer, some of which I created, some I came in afterwards to flesh out an initial pitch owned by a production company. TV is slow, because it's a huge investment of time and money for the powers that be, even more so than movies, with less chance of making their money back. So I get that they have to be sure this is the right show to make. But blimey, it can drag on forever. Two of them are getting close to being made though, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

The industry is still a bit quiet, which means there are less jobs for more writers. I've taken on a huge number of things this year, in the hope that they'll get made. Ever since I started writing full time, I've never lost that constant feeling of panic, trying to plan ahead to make sure I stay employed without overextending myself. I think most writers have the same fear. You never know when things will suddenly go quiet for a few months in a row, so you have to line up as much stuff as you can. It feels a bit like when I was temping in various offices - I never knew what I'd be doing the following week, or even if there'd be any work for me. Sometimes the work is fun, sometimes you're answering calls on the complaints line for the refuse collection department of a local council (STILL not the worst job I ever had). It's strange that a year where I have two movies made can still be a fairly quiet year, overall. That's just how it goes sometimes.

But things seem to be picking up - it certainly seems like there's more of a market for low budget genre movies in the UK, which is great news to those of us who aren't snobby about movies that audiences might actually want to go and see on a Friday night (coughTheGuardiancough). Weirdly, it feels easier to get a movie made than a new TV series, although that's probably just based on simple financial factors at the moment.

So let's see what 2012 will bring. I've spent the past 3 years or so mostly in development, working in the background, trying to get things set up and made. It feels like this year I'm starting to see the results of that work, and hopefully next year that'll keep going. It'd be nice to have a steady flow of things on the go, so I can feel secure, knowing that the year will look after itself.

Things to look forward to: the release of Cockneys Vs Zombies and Tower Block. The slim chance that I might get a TV series picked up. The fairly decent but still slimmish chance that I'll get to direct a movie. And the possibility that having two movies released will open some more doors, and end this looooong development stage for the other projects.

That's all for 2011, folks. Have a spiffing New Year's Eve, and a marvellous 2012! OR ELSE.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tower Block news and new pics

Brief Tower Block update - it's almost finished. They're doing the sound mix right now, at Creativity Media (click link for details and a photo). They also have the movie on their list of projects, so if you click here you can see three more pictures - one you've already seen here, one logo, and a new pic of Sheridan Smith.

And finally, another quick pic, this time featuring Julie Graham and Harry McEntire on the screen, while directors Ronnie Thompson and James Nunn strike a pose in front. Yes, they are very silly. But they get results, dammit!

It's weird to think that this time last year, I was meeting Ronnie for the first time, and he told me that he could get this movie made. A year ago, the movie didn't exist. It didn't even exist 6 months ago, we hadn't started shooting yet. And now it's in the sound mix. I can't wait for it to get out there so you can see what we've made.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Silent Night of the Living Dead

You may have seen this reported on some movie news sites, but I'm mentioning it here anyway, because I'm really excited about it: I'm working on another zombie movie. This one is directed by Paul Davis, the man responsible for the "Beware the Moon" documentary - he can also be seen as Danny, the man with low-slung pants, in my H33 FrightFest short. It's a different vibe to Cockneys Vs Zombies, more of a Fulci meets Gremlins sort of thing, and is called "Silent Night of the Living Dead". I mean, how the hell am I supposed to resist that title??

There's a report on the movie here, which reveals that two of our stars are AJ Bowen and the absolute legend Tom Savini. There's also a fantastic teaser poster, so go and check it out.

Obviously it's very early days yet, I'm still working on the outline, so there's no sense in asking about parts, jobs, dates, etc etc. When we know, and can say, then you'll know. But yes, we'll probably need lots of zombies. Details when we have them, later in the year.

World's Collider interview

I mentioned earlier that I've written a short story for the World's Collider anthology, edited by the lovely Richard Salter. He's been conducting interviews with all the writers, and now it's my turn - except he didn't interview me, because he was too busy working out how to DESTROY me, probably. So he asked Elise Hattersley to do the interview instead. She's another of the writers in the anthology and has not, as yet, tried to destroy me. As far as I know.

The interview is here, so go and read it and be enlightened. If you want. It's a free country, after all, unless you live in an oppressive regime, in which case, why the hell are you risking your life reading THIS blog?? Read something useful!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The BAFTA TV awards situation

I'm feeling strangely respectable at the moment, because I've written an article for Broadcast magazine. It's in this week's print edition, live on their website now, and reproduced below with permission. And yes, I really do love America's Next Top Model. And Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model. You should see me during makeover week. Anyway, comments are open on this, for debate, links, etc, but I will be wielding the Meat Hammer of Deletion for any trolling, derailing, or devil's advocate time wasting. Here's the article:

New award for reality shows is an insult to writers, says James Moran.

Bafta must recognise wordsmiths

17 November, 2011

Each year, Bafta has two awards ceremonies to celebrate the best of UK TV. The televised event features glamorous actors in posh outfits; the Craft awards, however, aren’t screened as they feature the people who viewers supposedly aren’t interested in. Like writers. You know, those unimportant people who make up stories in their heads from nothing.

The televised ceremony heaps praise on the nominated shows, and many of the winners talk about the brilliant scripts that got them excited about the project. But you won’t see the writers at the awards, unless the producers allow them to come up on stage, or if the writer is a producer. There’s the Dennis Potter award, for ‘significant writing contribution to television’, but nothing for the creators of shows that might sweep the televised awards. Even Dennis Potter himself, if he were still alive, would be relegated to the Craft section.

TV is driven by writers. You can’t make a soap, a drama, a comedy or narrate a documentary without a script, so it’s baffling to be sidelined like this. Maybe they think we’re not photogenic enough. That’s clearly nonsense. Lots of writers have got that smouldering, broody artist thing going for them. Because that’s what’s important, right? Looking good on the red carpet? Don’t worry, we’ll scrub up and dress nice for you, Bafta.

Worse still, in the Craft awards, there is only one writing category. There should be at least two, to separate drama and comedy. You wouldn’t make Downton Abbey and Peep Show compete for ‘Best TV Show’, because they’re completely different experiences, so why lump all writers into one box?

In the main show, there are six acting awards in total. Drama and comedy shows are rightly split into single drama, drama series, mini-series, continuing drama, comedy and situation comedy.

Directing, while still hidden in the Craft awards, gets three categories – factual, fiction and multi-camera. Sound and editing get two each. But we just get ‘writer’, one award to cover the entire spectrum. What sort of message does that send?

Last time this issue came up, John Willis, then chair of Bafta’s TV committee, said there were “a finite number of categories for each ceremony”. If that’s true, why have they just added a new category for reality shows?

I have nothing against the genre – I love America’s Next Top Model – but you can’t claim there’s no room for writers and then squeeze in an extra category. The “finite” number of categories should be allocated more evenly.

It all affects how writers are perceived, and Bafta seems to be saying that writers aren’t important. I’m sure it doesn’t really think that – Bafta does lots of fantastic events with screenwriters, for example – but it really does need to address this issue.

Sure, in the great scheme of things, it’s hardly genocide. But writers get devalued and ignored enough, without getting left out of the one event where they should be celebrated. British TV features some of the finest writing in the world. It’s about time Bafta recognised that, in public.

➤ James Moran’s credits include Spooks, Torchwood, Doctor Who and Primeval and the horror film Severance. He blogs advice for writers at

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Free writing seminar blog post in a box

Thinking of going to an expensive writing seminar?? Stop! And read this instead!

You're probably aware of my feelings about how-to-write books and seminars. Short version: not a big fan. If you're just starting out and want a general overview, any one of the (cheaper) books is fine, they all pretty much say the same thing. As for seminars, there are some that can be useful, but I'd strongly advise against the ones that charge new writers several hundred pounds for a bunch of platitudes and common sense principles. Especially the ones delivered by people who aren't working writers - if you're going to pay someone for writing advice, at least make sure they've written stuff that got made. I don't like seeing people get ripped off.

Some of the bigger, so-called "script gurus" go on tour with their seminars, charging large amounts for stuff you can find out online for nothing. One of them is in the UK now, charging over £500 (not including VAT!) for a 3 day seminar. Whether you feel you get something out of it or not, that's a lot of money to hand over. But many actual, working writers happily answer questions and share their knowledge on their own websites, for free. They could probably make a lot of money selling their advice, but they know how hard it is when you're starting out, and want to help.

And that's where this blog post comes in. It's a free seminar! A seminar in a box! Except it's not a box. Or really a seminar. It's mostly links from my past blog entries, because I know them, with links to other essential sites and articles. But it's free! It's not a 3 day seminar, but you can read it over 3 days if you like. And it won't cost you several hundred quid. If you find it useful, and think it was worth something, why not send a few quid to your favourite charity?? I'd much rather places like Cancer Research, Lifeblood, Children in Need or the Red Cross got the money instead of some rich "guru" who likes taking cash from people who earn a lot less. Update: Childline could really do with some help right now, Adrian Mead's book below gives the profits to them, and/or you can donate to them directly here:

So, welcome! Sit down. No, you two can't sit together, you'll just chat - you sit there, and you go over there. Quiet at the back. If you see me drinking from a bottle inside a paper bag, that's just water, I swear. Let's start!

Starting and breaking in

My big writing FAQ, featuring how to get started, how to get better, getting an agent, feedback, and my writing routine:

How I taught myself screenwriting:

Finding inspiration, trying to break in, and how Eminem helped me keep going:

How I got an agent:

General meetings for writers - what to do, even what to wear:

Phill Barron on common writer complaints:

Adrian Mead's book on the nuts and bolts of starting a writing career (profits to Childline):

Writing the script, and the writing process

Kurt Vonnegut explains, very simply, the big secret of how to tell a story:

How I got the Torchwood job, my initial episode idea and how I developed it:

Summary of every screenwriting "how-to" book, ever:

Introducing characters on the page:

Naming minor characters in the first 10 pages:

Writer's block - what is it?

Writer's block - how to deal with it (also covers my writing process):

Restructuring a script using notes and a skeletal outline to keep things clear:

Things to avoid when writing horror movies:

Backing up your work:

Jason Arnopp on the magic of Draft Zero:

Chuck Wendig's 25 ways to plot, plan and prep your story:

Antony Johnston's fantastic article on his writing process:

Bill Cunningham on structuring a 90-minute genre script:

Paul Cornell's short story tips:

Script frenzy - a fun way to motivate yourself and write a script in 30 days:

Getting your work out there, and working in the industry

Doing drafts and getting notes:

Pitching (including several links to other writers and their pitching tips):

Dealing with rejection:

My 5th blogthday revelations - things I've learned along the way:

My busiest ever two weeks, or "what happens when you take on too much work":

The panic that sets in when you first get paid to write something:

Getting slightly well known, or "internet famous":

Jason Arnopp on the myth of "luck":

Chuck Wendig's 25 questions to ask yourself as you write:

Danny Stack on getting your script read:

John Rogers on pitching:

Guest speakers

BAFTA Guru is a new site full of interviews with writers, directors, actors and crew who make TV, movies and games. It's a goldmine of expertise and information: is a new site from John August, answering screenwriting questions - how to format a script/montage sequence/slugline etc:

Joss Whedon's top 10 writing tips:

Danny Stack's screenwriting articles, and PDF files on how to be a professional writer (read ALL of these):

John August's blog, full of writing advice:

Collection of story writing tips from many more authors, on the SFX site:

William C. Martell's free script tip per day, and excellent Blue Books of writing tips (the Blue Books aren't free, but are well worth it):

And there we have it. Plenty of stuff to get through, and take you through plotting, writing, re-writing, breaking in, and working as a writer. Every other website mentioned has got plenty more stuff to read, so have a look through the archives and find out even more. Check out the links on their sites too, there are many, many more professional writers out there, giving free advice. So save yourself some money...

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Screenwriting questions and answers

John August, who already has a fantastically helpful and interesting blog, has launched a new site answering basic screenwriting questions - what is the proper script format, how do you show a montage sequence, what's a slugline, etc etc. It has tons and tons of stuff, all incredibly helpful and free.

You can even submit questions if there's something they haven't answered yet. If you write scripts, or want to write scripts, or even if you've been writing scripts for ages and think you know it all, go check it out!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Severance on BBC3 tonight at 10pm, and Sunday 30th 00:35

Subject line says it all, really. But I'll ramble on anyway. Yes! Severance is on telly again tonight in the UK, on BBC3 at 10pm. You should already be watching BBC3 at that time because you'll have just finished the finale of the brilliant The Fades, at 9pm. So stick around on the channel and check out my first movie, made back when I was young and beautiful, as opposed to slightly-less-young but still beautiful.

It's repeated again Saturday night/Sunday morning at 00:35, same Bat-channel, and will be on iPlayer for a bit after that. So you really have no excuses if you want to see it, it's been on telly loads now, for free. Record it, watch it, iPlayer it, do what you have to do. If you want to, of course. And are in the UK. And alive. And not dead. And have a head.

If you're outside the UK, it's still very cheap on DVD, and I think the USA has it streaming free on Netflix or XBox Live or SpaceMagicSuperMovieFunWeb or whatever legal service is offering it at the moment. Watch it legally, kids! Support low budget UK movies and we'll get to make more of them for you! If you watch it illegally... well, nothing will happen to you, I'm not interested in criminalising someone who wants to see something of mine, but it will hurt me and people like me. Is that what you want?? Note: if it is, please don't do it anyway. I've got a cold, be nice.

Update! Severance is now available on iPlayer, until Sunday 6th November. No excuses!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Fades

If you're not watching The Fades, currently showing on BBC3 here in the UK, you are *really* missing out. It's written by Jack Thorne, and it's fucking fantastic. You want more great genre TV, made with love, passion and intelligence? Well go and support it when it happens. Episodes 1 to 4 are on iPlayer for the rest of this month, go and catch up now before episode 5 airs next week (updated to include episode 4):

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4

Please support a proper UK genre show, go and give it some love. Show the channels that there's a huge audience for this kind of thing, and hopefully we'll get more of it.

Monday, October 03, 2011

World's Collider and GameCityNights

Some news! Some actual news! Behold:

I'm writing a short story for a new anthology called World's Collider. It's a really cool shared world anthology, and I'm in very impressive company. The editor is the brilliant Richard Salter, who gave me my first print short story commission ages ago in Short Trips: Transmissions. Click here to go to the Facebook page for more details, and click here to see the table of contents with the story titles and authors. And when I say "I'm writing a short story", I obviously mean "I will be writing a short story, hopefully sometime before the deadline arrives, and before Mr Salter shoots me in the face with a Deadline Gun." I'm really pleased to be part of this, and can't wait to get started.

GameCityNights, the gaming event in Nottingham, has invited me back again, having clearly not learned its lesson from the last time I was there. I'll be there on Friday 28th October, for their Fear Friday event, talking a bit about Cockneys Vs Zombies (just a bit, no spoilers), and taking part in a panel discussion about horror. There are lots of other guests, including Charlie Higson, who will be reading from his new zombie novel, and politely listening to my drunken Ted and Ralph impressions later in the evening until he can escape. I recently did a playable newsletter for GameCityNights, which you can pick up for free in many of Nottingham's "bars, venues, cafes, shops, and other establishments". It's a Fighting Fantasy micro-adventure called "The Tentacled Horror", written by me and Ian Livingstone, so see if you can track down a copy.

In movie news, sonar-emitting mole-people are still working away in darkened rooms on Cockneys Vs Zombies and Tower Block, doing editing and soundy and effecty things. No news yet on release dates, but I will of course be shouting about them when I know.

Nothing else to report for now, or at least, nothing I can talk about. Still doing lots of in-development stuff, embryonic new shows, possible new movies, too early to mention yet.

Oh, and one other little thing: I was recently made Emperor of the Known and Unknown Universe, forever. So yeah, I've got that going for me now. Please don't bow, there's no need for that. Just nod and smile.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SFX Zombie Special and CvsZ

The latest SFX magazine special is out now, and this one is all about zombies. It features a rather splendid set report from Cockneys Vs Zombies, by the intrepid Ian Berriman, who was one of our zombie extras. There are several photos, including one of all the zombies together - see if you can spot me and Jodie, all zombified and ferocious.

It's a brilliant magazine, well worth getting, even more so if you're dying to find out stuff about CvsZ. As always, there are some spoilers, but nothing that gives away the ending or anything. Go and grab yourself a copy now.

The playable newsletter

Now that it's available, I can finally talk about it - I've written a Fighting Fantasy-style mini adventure with the fantastic Ian Livingstone. It's in the pages of the latest GameCityNights newsletter, so you can read the newsletter and then play it. You can get it by going to one of their events in Nottingham. The next one is this Thursday 29th September, all details here.

GameCityNights is a regular games event, and really good fun. I went to it last year for the Doctor Who Adventure Games, and they tried to murder me by FORCING me to drink lots of Doctor Who themed cocktails. They forced me by showing me the cocktail menu and saying "would you like some cocktails?" I was so terrified of this threatening behaviour, I drank as many cocktails as I could, before escaping. So just be careful if you do go along. You WILL have a great time.

I'm so thrilled to have done this, I always loved the Fighting Fantasy books. And after years of guilt, I was able to confess to Ian about my "five finger bookmark" method of hedging my bets when playing the books. But I'm sure I wasn't alone in that...

Friday, September 02, 2011

Halloween: H33 - online now

The FrightFest short that I wrote and directed is now online! It's called "Hallow33n: H33", and is a fake trailer for a terrible sequel to Halloween. The idea is that it's 33 years later, Michael Myers is much older and grumpier (and chattier), and has been moved to England to try and calm him down.

It's very silly, very gory, very sweary, and not at all suitable for children, or the elderly, or anyone in between. It's not rated, but would probably be about a 15 (or "R" for US folk) - there's a lot of naughty words and violence, but all for comic effect. Don't say I didn't warn you. Also, it's not region locked, so everyone in the world can watch, for free, right now:

It was a huge amount of fun to make, and I learned a lot from directing. In a week or two, I'll start doing more blog posts about the process, maybe even taking you through it from beginning to end. Or I might just do one big post. Depends how I feel at the time. And as there are no comments allowed, I can pretend that you all just instantly agreed to whatever I decide! Ha! Take THAT, imaginary internet people!

I'm trying to get all the credits on IMDB, but it's being very slow, so I'll probably just post them all on here once I have them all double checked. In the meantime, that's the amazing Sarah Douglas as Dr Loomis, the superb music was specially composed for us by Sam Watts, and the fantastic gore effects were provided by Dan Martin at 13 Finger FX.

Hope you enjoy it, and if you want to ask questions about it, fire them at me through Twitter or my Facebook page. I'll answer as many as I can on here, in the next post.

Who and where I am

Hello, new people! Welcome! I'm James Moran. I write stuff.

The things I'm probably best known for are Severance, the horror comedy starring Danny Dyer and Laura Harris, the Pompeii episode of Doctor Who (season 4, David Tennant, Catherine Tate, big volcano, kaboom), and episodes from seasons 2 and 3 of Torchwood. I've done lots of other TV too, and have just finished filming two new movies - the first one is Cockneys Vs Zombies, starring Michelle Ryan, Harry Treadaway, Rasmus Hardiker, Ashley Thomas, Alan Ford, Honor Blackman, and Richard Briers; the second one is Tower Block, starring Sheridan Smith, Jack O'Connell, Russell Tovey, Ralph Brown, Montserrat Lombard, Julie Graham, Nabil Elouahabi, Kane Robinson, and Michael Legge. Both movies will be out in 2012. My full list of credits is here.

This is my blog, which is self explanatory. You can also find me on Twitter, and my official Facebook page is here.

Comments are switched off on the blog, because they take too much time to moderate. I see everything on the Facebook page, and sometimes respond if I get a chance. If you want to get in touch, *please* read the FAQ first, and also the information on the Contact page. I'm more likely to respond on Twitter, because it's fun and easy and short.

Thank you for following, or liking, or subscribing, or clicking, or cyber-whatevering, etc! This means we are INTERNET MARRIED, and by even glancing at this page, you accept any evil terms and conditions that I may invent at any time. Thank you and good day.

Monday, August 22, 2011

FrightFest short

Okay, the info is starting to leak out, so I may as well come clean. People following me on Twitter will have probably guessed this, but... I've written and directed a short film. It's part of a series of 5 that will be shown at this year's FrightFest in London, as a tribute to the movies of John Carpenter.

UPDATE! It'll be shown before Fright Night 3D on Saturday 27th! Come see it! It'll be shown before one of the main evening movies, not sure which one yet, I'll update this as soon as I know. You can see the relevant info here, on pages 13 and 15 of the FrightFest brochure. My one is based on Halloween, it's a fake trailer and stars the amazing Sarah Douglas, who has been in many things (Superman 2, Conan the Destroyer, V The Final Battle, Stargate SG-1, etc etc), including my Doctor Who computer game "TARDIS" - she had hardly any lines in that, so I've made up for it by giving her lots in this one. Although it's *terrible* dialogue (deliberately), so hopefully one day I can give her lots of decent lines instead... That's all I'll say for now, the fun of it is in the surprises.

At the moment, we're all trying to get it finished in time - we shot it on the 14th and 15th of August, giving us a terrifyingly short 10 day post production schedule. It's edited, the sound is almost done, and I'm checking the grading tonight, so we're nearly there. Would have shot it earlier, but various things delayed us (long, boring story so I'll pretend we were all attacked by aliens), the main one being a sudden attack by aliens, which totally happened and isn't made up at all.

Once it has screened at FrightFest, it'll be going online fairly soon after - I'll let you know where and when. I have a whole load of blog posts lined up to talk about the planning and making of it, so once you've all seen it, I can start talking about how it was all done. I think I'll be able to put the script online too, as we're not selling this due to it technically being a parody. I have the script, rough storyboards, photos, and all sorts. I learned a lot from directing again, it's been a while since Girl Number 9, and I hope I've improved since then.

The main thing I've learned from directing is being ruthless with my own stuff. When you're the writer, and a director is trimming bits out, you think "oh no, they're taking stuff out of my script". When you're the director, and you're the one trimming it out, you think "oh good, I can lose these bits that are ruining my film". It's a great mindset to have, and helps you decide what's best for the finished product. You're also responsible for every tiny detail, and if you don't tell people what you want, you won't get it, as they're not psychic.

Here's a sneak peek from the storyboard, of a lady screaming in terror:

I drew it myself. And I've never had *any* art training! I've just always been able to draw like that! Those are her arms, by the way, as she puts her hands to her face in shock, not boobs.

But that's all to come later. In the meantime, I've got a short film to finish...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cockneys Vs Zombies article and photo

Cockneys Vs Zombies is International Project of the Week at Screen Daily! The article is quite spoilery, you have been warned, so be aware before you click. However, there's a nice photo at the top that you can look at, if you want to avoid the text.

I have no more news on it right now, the edit is almost finished, but no idea of an actual release date or anything like that. All depends how it takes to finish the rest of it. But if you look at the photo again, squint, and jiggle your computer screen around, it *might* feel like you're watching a bit of the actual movie.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tower Block article and photo

The Evening Standard have done a really nice writeup about Tower Block, with an actual photo from the filming - the text is *slightly* spoilery, so read with caution. Or just read the first 3 paragraphs, and stop before the one beginning with "Smith", that's where the mild spoilers are. But they're only spoilers from the first 25 minutes or so. The photo is of Sheridan Smith and Russell Tovey, in character - click underneath the main photo to see it. Now you've been fully warned, click here to see the article.

And yes, I was there that first day, and saw it happen. And in fairness to Sheridan, who says in the article she's not sure how brave she'd be - she got patched up, and came straight back to carry on filming! I'd have probably run off home and needed a week off. She's been fantastic.

Filming finishes soon, and then it's off to the edit. Can't wait for you all to see this one.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Brief updates

Well look at you, sitting there, reading this! Please, put some pants on, it's not right, this is a family blog.

So, yeah. Blogging is slow(er than usual) at the moment, it's an insanely busy month as several things have sprung into action at the same time. Good things, thankfully, just means I have less time to compose blog posts that start as small snippets then balloon into huge epic rambles.

Tower Block is in its final week of shooting, it's looking fantastic, the gang have pulled off some amazing stuff. CvsZ is almost out of the edit stage, and will then most on to sound, effects, music, etc etc. I should have more movie news next month, hopefully.

I'm also working on some potential TV things - well, to be clear, I'm always working on potential TV things, and usually have several TV and movie things on the go at any one time. But development is slow, and it can take a long time before anything happens. Right now, some of those TV things have moved to the next stage, which is partly why I've got a lot of work to do. Long way to go yet, but very promising.

And I'm very excited to be part of a new zombie comic anthology, Dead Roots. Contributors are listed here, including Lord Arnopp, Andrew Ellard, and the mighty Gordon Rennie. Can't wait to see how it looks.

Finally, Richard Salter, the editor of Short Trips: Transmissions, who was the first to publish one of my short stories, has a new anthology in the works. Go here and find out about it - because submissions are open to all! Yes, you heard me. Go and check it out.

That's all for now, just wanted to do a quick update. You may remove your pants again if you wish.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dealing with rejection

People often ask me how to deal with rejection, and I'm never quite sure how to respond. I don't have some magic formula to minimise the pain. It still bothers me, it still hurts. I don't think you ever really become immune. But there are things you can do that might take your mind off it.

First, and most obvious, is to get drunk. Properly, seriously drunk, the kind of drunk that destroys families and starts wars. It'll work perfectly until you sober up, but then things will be even worse - your work will still be rejected, but now you'll also be hungover, broke, hated by your family, and possibly facing a war crimes tribunal. Nobody wants that. So by all means, drown your sorrows for a night, but don't expect it to help in the long term.

Second, and just as obvious, is to write a big blog post ranting about the stupidity of the people who rejected you.

Do NOT do this. Trust me.

It's embarrassing and awkward for everyone, and the people you're ranting about will probably find it and never speak to you again. Also, it's very unprofessional. If you're so good, why are you wasting time ranting on a blog when you could be writing works of genius and selling them? Nobody wants to read a load of bitter ranting about how everyone else sucks, it's just boring and pointless. And nobody wants to *hire* someone who constantly whinges, either. Making movies and TV shows takes a lot of hard work, the last thing they need is a miserable bastard dragging the mood down.

Third, and almost as obvious, is to contact the people who rejected you, and demand to know why.

Again, don't do this.

*Maybe* a polite follow up requesting feedback is appropriate, if they seem approachable, but usually not. Just back out gracefully. They're not going to change their mind if you shout at them, and if you do, they'll probably put you on a special list of Mad People To Avoid Like The Plague.

So what can you do? Well, not a lot. Did they give you feedback? If so, listen to it. Maybe they're right, maybe they're wrong. But listen anyway. If several people say the same thing, maybe it's an area to address in a rewrite. Lots of rejections could help you become a better writer, if you're getting insights into where you can improve. If so, then you'll end up with a better script - hey, they're not rejections at all, they're free notes! High five!

Rejection feels very personal, even though it never is. You put your heart and soul into creating something, so when people reject it, you feel like they're rejecting a part of you. I could tell you not to take it personally, but we both know I'd be wasting my time. And it never goes away, no matter how much stuff you get made, it always feels like a kick in the teeth. Sorry about that. But it's normal. Writers, by our very nature, are insecure creatures, desperate to be loved and/or to take revenge on anyone who ever crossed us. Hey, at least you're not an actor, they get it even worse - nobody will ever say "hmm, I like the script, but his nose is too big and we're looking for writers with darker hair." They'll only ever be cruel about your work, not your appearance.

The best thing you can do is have a lot of projects on the go. If you're working on five things at once, then it won't hurt as much when one comes back - you're busy anyway on all this other cool stuff, so you can just send it somewhere else and keep working. The other things haven't been rejected yet, that means you're ahead of the game. But if you want to break in, you'll have to start piling up rejections to get to the prize.

It's a bit like asking people out. If you don't ask anyone out, nobody will ever turn you down. But you might have to ask ten people out to get to the one that says "yes". Does that mean you're ugly/stupid/smelly? No. Those people could be attached, or busy, or not in the mood, or not into your type, or have just broken up with someone, or whatever. But if you want someone to go out with you, you have to try several people first. If you get turned down, that's cool, move on, try someone else.

You can't think of a rejection as the end of a script, either. So it got rejected at one company, so what? Nobody likes everything, just look at the IMDB message boards for proof of that. Some people hate The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Star Wars, Alien - and they don't just hate them, they *despise* them, the very existence of those movies makes them shake with fury. Such anger! Such bile! Does it mean those movies are shitty, and terribly written? No, of course not.

Not everything is for everybody, it's all subjective. If one person hates your script, maybe someone else will think it's the best thing they've ever read in their life. I'm not saying a rejection means you've just written something as good as The Godfather, but it doesn't automatically mean it's bad. Back when I had Cheap Rate Gravity made, an agent offered to read The School. I sent it, and got a standard two-line rejection back from them. I stopped sending it to anyone. Three years later, when I was determined to break in, the exact same script got me snapped up by my agent, and then got me ALL of my meetings for a year. I still sometimes get meetings based on it, and every now and then, someone tries to get it made. It just wasn't right for that agency at that time.

Or maybe your script just isn't ready yet, maybe it needs another rewrite, or some freshening up. Obviously, yes, it *might* be shit, but you can't automatically assume that. Send it somewhere else. And keep going. And write lots of other stuff. Don't pin all your hopes on one thing. The path to success is paved with a lot of rejections. A lot. Collect them. And if you ever manage to break in, make sure you regularly look at all your old rejections and laugh at them. I do.

Before I sold Severance, probably around draft 10 (of about 20), an opening came up on the Basil Brush show. I needed work, and was willing to try everything, so I sent in my sample script and outline, but got rejected. There was no feedback, but when I think back, maybe doing an extended spoof of Casablanca wasn't the best idea for a kids' show about a talking fox. Lesson learned there: you're not too clever for the show, *any* show, and don't ever think that you are.

When I finally finished writing Severance and the script was sent out for sale, to several production companies, one of them left a copy on a bus. On a bus! Someone found it and called the agency number on the front to tell us. And whoever lost it never contacted us to request a replacement, they must have hated it that much. One company told us they wouldn't even read it, unless it was by a "big name". That is some serious rejection right there - they rejected my *name*. And I'm not even including the standard rejections - of which there were many - from the people who read it and then turned it down.

But Uncle Jimbo, you shriek, surely someone like you who has had stuff made doesn't get rejected anymore? You've had a film made, and done telly, and stuff! Surely now you can simply write anything, and angels will descend to take your words directly to the screen? Once you're "in", isn't it all magic and fancy biscuits and fellatio??

Nope. Sorry. In fact - and here's the terrible truth - you get MORE rejections, because you have more opportunities to pitch for things!

Yep. When you get your career going, jobs and companies that you wouldn't previously be considered for are suddenly open to you. You need to have a lot of meetings, pitching your "take" on their projects, or trying to sell your own projects, and most of the time you won't get the job. There's a lot of competition out there.

And you have to do lots of work to earn each of those rejections, too. When you're pitching your take on an idea of theirs, you'll have to read their material first. Could be 2 pages, could be a full outline or script. Obviously you need to have something to discuss, so you prepare a lot of notes, what you liked, what you didn't like, and come up with at least three solid ideas for episodes or sequences. You work out what to say, then go in and pitch your arse off. If it goes well, they will probably ask you to "put something down on paper, just a page or so". You do this, usually giving them more than they asked for, because you want to get the job, sometimes two or three pages. If that goes well, you might get a call or email to talk it through, maybe do another version of the "just a page or so", then if THAT goes well, they say they'll show it to their bosses or financiers or whoever, and will let you know the decision as soon as possible, either that day or the day after.

9 times out of 10, you will never hear from them again.

Either you didn't convince them, or weren't good enough, or didn't have the right "take", or their bosses/financiers weren't keen, or you weren't "big" enough, or they decided to do something else, or it got shelved, or fell apart, or the finance vanished, or the company went bust, or the producer exploded, etc etc. And you will probably never know. It's a sort of slow rejection - as the weeks and months go by, you gradually realise that it's not going to happen.

Happens to me all the time. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to do the work to get the job, it's great experience, and they need to know what I plan to do, I know that they can't just hand over lots of cash without any kind of assurance that I can do the job. And I know I can't get every single job I go for. But when they don't even bother to let me know I didn't get it, it's infuriating. Most of the time, my agent has to pester them to get a response once they've gone quiet. It's not only a rejection, it's one that you have to *ask* for!

I understand it, of course. Nobody likes giving bad news, and they don't *need* to let you know because you can't do anything for them now, they gain nothing from it and are horribly busy on a million other projects that are actually happening. But it's very frustrating. Side note, to people who do this: If I've invested several days of work into trying to get the job, but haven't got it, do me the courtesy of taking 60 seconds to let me know. I'm a grown up, I can handle a no, I'm not going to burst into tears and leave you long, drunken voicemails. As my Girl Number 9 co-conspirator Dan Turner often says, the best response after a "yes" is a fast "no". At least a fast "no" lets me get on with other stuff. End of side note.

You can get rejected at any stage, too, even after spending several years working on a commissioned script. At any moment, they could just say "no thanks, don't like it", and that's the end. If it's their project, then you just have to walk away and start something new. If it's yours, at least you can try and set it up somewhere else, but then you begin a whole new cycle of possible rejections.

Sometimes you get pre-rejected. When I met one company for a writing job, they opened by saying "we're very much a director-led company." Wow, thanks - I haven't even said anything yet, and you've already let me know that essentially, I and my whole profession don't really matter to you! Again, I did a big pitch, sent them a typed up version, never heard back, not even a cursory no. Maybe if I'd been a director, they'd have taken the time to send me a one sentence email. Still haven't heard back, 4 years later. Hey, maybe I got the job! Should I start writing the script??

And the rejection doesn't necessarily stop for a script, even after it gets made. You'll get bad reviews, negative comments, people emailing you to tell you how bad your work is (I had one from a guy who listed his qualifications to "prove" that his opinion carried more weight than regular TV viewers), and how you should never work again. I've seen reviews picking up on my racist, right wing agenda, and others about my leftie, liberal handwringing - all referring to the same episode! If you try to explain that you can't possibly intend every single interpretation, you'll just be told that it doesn't matter what you intended, it only matters what *they* decide it meant. Don't get into that argument, because you can't win.

I even had a meeting about a project where the guy suddenly turned to me, told me he didn't like the script for Severance, and rejected it when it originally went out - and that when he saw the finished movie, he was *doubly* glad he'd rejected it. Double rejection! Thing is, most people in the business are aware that Severance did well, so he was essentially saying "I hated your movie so much, I'm glad I didn't make any money from it." I still don't know why he felt the need to tell me that, while meeting for a totally different project - which he also turned down. Triple rejection combo bonus!

See above, where I said not to rant on your blog about someone who rejected you? Yeah, that's why. Do as I say, not as I do. I'm not looking for sympathy, I love my job, I get paid to make up stories and mostly have a fantastic time doing it. These things are nothing compared to the troubles some people face. This is merely to illustrate that whatever the rejection, it could always be worse - and probably will be, one day. But the high points so, SO make up for it.

I realise none of this is really helpful, but I just wanted to show that rejection doesn't stop when you "break in", whatever that means. You are going to get rejected, many, many times, even after you start working professionally. But they can't hurt you, they won't kill your career, they're just part of the process, an essential part of being a writer. Yes, there's a reason I'm posting this now that I've got several movies and other things happening. Yes, it still hurts. But having lots of stuff in the pipeline soothes the pain. So, make sure you have plenty of projects on the go, don't give up just because of what one person says, and collect rejections like badges of honour. Each one is a vital step towards the next success. Wear them with pride.

And try not to take them personally. Even though we all do.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Things they don't tell you in the screenwriting books, number 812:

What to wear at script read-throughs.

You don't want to look like you're keeping an eye on people, so don't dress too smart. But then you also don't want to look like a tramp, so don't dress too casual.

It's usually your first time meeting the actors, and you want to make a good first impression, but everyone else will be there too, and they *know* how you normally dress, so anything too different and you'll get comments. You don't want comments. Comments make you stand out and people will Look At You.

I usually pick the most presentable version of what I normally wear, which is jeans and a t-shirt, with a shirt on top that can be removed if it's too warm in the room. And then I change it 3 times, at the last minute.

Hey, we're writers, we obsess over pointless, tiny details. This is just one of many, many things we worry about that we don't really need to.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tower Block announced

The secret is out: I've written another movie. Well, I've written several, but this one is getting made next week. It's called Tower Block, it's a dark, gritty action thriller about a sniper attacking the residents of a tower block (hence the name), and it starts filming this Monday, 18th July.

Okay, it wasn't *really* a secret, we just didn't want to announce it before we had everything in place. Also, I get paranoid that I'll jinx things by mentioning them too early, so I've kept quiet about it until now. Don't get me wrong, I'm not superstitious - it's just that if I don't follow my own irrational routines, then the WORLD WILL END.

Tower Block stars Sheridan Smith, Jack O'Connell, Russell Tovey, and Ralph Brown, and is being co-directed by Ronnie Thompson and James Nunn. There are more cast to announce, but I'll wait until the publicity people reveal them. I'm so excited that it's getting made, with such a fantastic cast and an amazing directing duo, and I'm dying to see what madness and mayhem they achieve on screen. I can't wait to sit at the back of the cinema and watch the audiences when it's out, too - this one's going to be a nail biter, it's relentless.

You can see more details at various sites which are picking up on the news, starting with the sterling folk at Den of Geek, who have more plot details. It's also featured on Screen Daily, who for some strange reason *don't* have a photo of me. Stick with Den of Geek, they know what the public want - pics of me. I'll update more when I can. In the meantime, I look forward to scaring your socks off when it comes out...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

General meetings for writers

When you start out as a writer, after you get an agent, you'll get sent on lots of general meetings. I regularly get emails from people about to go on their first meeting, and they have no idea what to expect.

The meetings I'm talking about are the general "meet and greet" type - they've probably read your scripts and want to get to know you. They like to put a face to a name, so that at some point in the future, they might be able to match you up to a project, or decide whether or not to buy your latest script.

But, I hear you shriek, doesn't my writing speak for itself? Who cares what I'm like in person?? I'm a writer, not an actor! Well, it makes a bigger difference than you might think. Basically, they want to see if you are (a) mad, or (b) an idiot, or (c) an obnoxious wanker. If they hire you to write something, they'll have to spend several months in a room with you, working, collaborating. They need to know if those months will be creative and fun, or a complete nightmare. At the same time, you want to find out what they're like, if you share similar tastes. It's a bit like a job interview, except there isn't an actual job yet. But then one day, *years* later, you might get called back. And they'll always go by that first impression. They want to know that you're a professional, that they can hire you and be sure you'll get the job done.

Always over-prepare. When you're just starting out, most of your meetings will just involve getting to know people. But sometimes they'll be considering you to write their new project, based on their one page pitch. Even if they've been *very* clear that they'll be explaining the concept, and all you have to do is sit there and nod, you must still over-prepare. Because you'll walk in, ready to hear them pitch it to you, and they'll say "So, what do you make of it? Where do you see it going? How would you approach it?" And you'll look like an idiot. Sure, they should have told you that's what the meeting was. But you should have over-prepared. Read it several times, make lots of notes. If it's a TV show, think about what would you do with it, how you see the overall series, the finale, and three good, solid episode ideas. If it's a movie, work out what sort of feel you want it to have, how it starts, the rough storyline, and at least three big scenes. That way you will always have more material than they'll ask for - you'll feel confident, prepared, and there's nothing they can ask that you won't have an answer for. And look at it from their point of view - they only have an idea, but now a confident, keen writer has just walked in, overflowing with ideas, knows the material inside out, and will be able to generate a series/movie out of their one page concept. But unless you're told otherwise, you're just there to make friends and get to know each other. Double and triple check first, though. Just in case.

Research the company or person before you go there. They won't test you, but it helps to know something about them. They may say "do you have anything you'd like to ask us?" - I never do, my mind always goes blank, but it never hurts to have an intelligent question or two. And research your journey, too. Work out the minimum travel time, then add 30 minutes. Then add another 30 minutes. You can never be too early. Except the time I was a week early for my first Severance meeting. True story. I got the date wrong, because I'm an idiot. You MUST NEVER be late. EVER. Production companies like to live inside buildings with no bloody name or number on the front, so you'll still have to allow 10 minutes to find the place once you're at the actual address. If you get there *way* too early, wait around the corner, go to a cafe. You CANNOT be late. I can't stress this enough. Of course, they will probably be late themselves. Doesn't matter. Don't give them any shit about it, just smile and say "that's okay!" if/when they apologise for being late.

Wear casual clothes, but not too casual, i.e. jeans are fine, but no big shorts or flipflops. Don't wear a suit. That'd be weird. Dress as if you're going to a friend's barbecue, and their parents are going to be there.

On my way to a meeting, if I'm feeling a bit nervous or wobbly, I have a quick blast of some music on my headphones. Something fast, heavy, and uplifting, just to help get me going and give me a boost of energy. If the meeting is about a specific project, I'll put on music that matches it to get me in the right mood - if it's one of my projects, I'll use the custom playlist I made before I started writing (I always do this, sometimes I'll spend days on it).

When you arrive - and I really shouldn't have to say this, he said, looking sternly over the top of his glasses - BE NICE AND POLITE TO EVERYONE. Mainly because there are enough douchebags in the world without you adding to their number. But also, partly because that "unimportant" assistant you just curtly dismissed?? Might be the boss in 6 months. Yeah. And they remember the douchebags.

You'll be offered a drink (downside of several meetings in one day: a very, very full bladder). Have a still water. Tea/coffee might be too hot to drink at first, and there won't be much of it. Fizzy drinks can make your throat sticky, and give you hiccups or burps. With still water, you can keep sipping if your mouth/throat go dry. This sounds like a silly thing to make a point about. But you want to be confident and relaxed in the meeting, and not worrying about your mouth sticking closed or doing a big Coke burp. You'll be asked to take a seat until someone comes to get you. Calm down. Read a magazine, clear your mind.

So what happens in the meeting itself? The first minute or so will be full of general banter like "have you travelled far" and "did you find us okay" or "blimey, how about that weather, eh?" Then it'll settle down into the actual meeting. They'll probably ask you about yourself, how you got into writing, how you got started, how you got your agent if you have one, what kind of things you like to write, what kind of things you like to watch, and so on. They'll talk about your script, praise it a bit (hopefully), then tell you a bit about themselves, projects they might have, things that you might be suited for - if one of their projects sounds good, tell them, and maybe they'll offer to send it over, to see if you like it.

They'll usually ask if you've got any other stuff they might be interested in. *DO NOT* pitch something there and then, unless you've specifically gone in to pitch for something and have rehearsed it beforehand - even if they mention their giant robot project, and you've got the *perfect* giant robot idea or script at home, don't pitch it. You won't be ready, you'll forget something, stumble over it, and look like a mumbling idiot. Mention that you have something along those lines, and can come back to pitch it or (preferably) send them the outline/script. Then go home and work it out properly. There are always exceptions, of course - one time I had an instant idea based on something they wanted, and just went for it. They loved the idea, and asked for the outline (they later passed on it, but still, it was a good experience). But this was after several years of similar meetings, so I was used to the whole thing. Don't risk it!

You probably won't get any offers in that first meeting, so don't expect anything. Just be yourself, be enthusiastic, but professional. You don't have to be a sycophant or a performing seal, there's no trick to it, no catch, just try to come across like a nice person (which, hopefully, you already are). They want to like you! They're normal people too, just trying to meet new writers to make sure they don't miss out on the next big thing.

*DO NOT* slag off any movies or TV shows, because they'll have probably worked on them, or know someone who did (I speak from experience) - if they specifically ask, you can say what you thought didn't work about something, as long as you mention what you liked about it first. You don't want to sound like a bitter, negative downer. Similarly, don't say things like "I don't really watch TV" or "I'm not really into recent movies" - you should be keeping up with what's out there, and if you really don't like any TV shows or movies, how will you know that your idea hasn't already been done a million times?

Sometimes the person you meet will be an idiot, or a douchebag, or just plain wrong about everything. Pretend they're your partner's mum or dad. Smile politely, don't rise to their douchbaggery, be the better person. Later, you might learn that they're actually really nice, but just seem weird in meetings, or their cat just died, or they're not good with people. They're probably just a douchebag, but you don't know that. Remember, you're a professional.

Towards the end, they'll ask you to think of them next time you've got a brilliant script to send out, and you will graciously agree and say they'll be one of the first to read it. And then there comes the point when it's time to leave. You'll know it. Usually they'll say something like "okay, then" or "well, thanks for coming in" or "okay, well it was great to meet you". Don't start up a new line of conversation! When the meeting feels over and they've given you an "out", thank them for seeing you, finish up the banter, shake their hands, say goodbye, then leave gracefully - even if you've forgotten to mention something. You can always follow up in an email. Speaking of which, you don't have to email to thank them, unless you're supposed to send them an outline/script or something, in which case, you can thank them for the meeting while sending it. If they send *you* a thank you email, reply to it (and say thank you, obviously).

Once you get home, think back over the meeting. If you promised to send them something, do it now. If you did something stupid or embarrassing, and the very thought of it makes you cringe, don't beat yourself up. Remember, they want to like you, and will understand if you're a bit awkward when starting out. Work out what you did wrong, figure out how to do it better, and don't do it next time. Learn from it. Then forgive yourself, and move on.

Don't get your hopes up that something will come of it, you're just laying the foundations for later. Even if they said you're *perfect* for their current project and will *definitely* send you the details and want to get started *immediately* - it means nothing, and you might never hear from them again. Happens all the time. Maybe it fell apart, the financing fell through, they got fired, their boss got fired, the company got bought out, they started a brand new project that occupies all of their time, someone better than you got hired, their heads exploded, etc etc. If so, their priority is their current workload, not you. Harsh, but true. Nobody owes you a job, and everyone looks out for themselves. Leave it a month, then get your agent to follow up, or send a polite email yourself asking how they are and if they're still interested in Project X. It's always worth checking, just in case - you're cheap, and eager, and they'll be very aware of that.

That's it. The next meeting you have, you'll be much more prepared, and will do it better. And so on. And so on. Just like writing and re-writing, the more you do it, the better you get.

Friday, June 17, 2011

All episodes of Girl Number 9 on FEARnet now

The final two episodes of Girl Number 9 just went live at, so the entire series is online now for you lovely Americans - and Canadians! Yes, it works in Canada too, I'm reliably informed. *Don't* read the very spoilery text next to the episodes, as I think it gives too much away, just jump in to episode 1 and start watching. There are 6 episodes, spread over 2 pages on the show site.

I keep meaning to do a big post about making the show, as lots of people ask about how we did it. I learned a lot, about writing, directing, producing, and promoting, so it'll be good to have it all in one place. As always though, work and real life come first, so it may be a while before it appears here… In the meantime, American folk can watch the show online for the rest of the summer, then it'll go onto FEARnet's VOD service. I'll let you know if/when other regions air the show, we've done several deals around the world so watch this space.

If you liked the show, please pass it on to your friends, enemies, anyone at all, and I will be eternally grateful. And when I say "eternally", I literally mean it. My gratitude will live on, forever, even after the heat-death of the universe, my gratitude will still be there, floating around, silently thanking you for forwarding the link. Such is the depth of my love and respect for you, lovely Link Forwarding People. Seriously, thank you to everyone who has helped spread the word. See?? It's already started! The gratitude love train is on the move! All aboard! Choo choo!

Update: I've noticed that the show has been uploaded to several file sharing sites. *Please* don't do this, or download it - we made the show independently and paid for it ourselves, so if you illegally download it you are *directly* hurting us, not some faceless corporation. It'll damage upcoming distribution deals, and maybe even prevent it being shown in some countries. Sure, you'll still have it, because you downloaded it, but you'll make sure that other people can't see it, and prevent us from making anything like it again. It's free to watch online, so please do this where it'll count. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Girl Number 9 in America now

Girl Number 9 is now playing in The America! And The Canada, I think, and other places that get USA-based content. It's just started on the FEARnet website now, and continues all week. This link will take you to the first two episodes - but DO NOT READ THE TEXT ON THE PAGE! It gives away FAR too much! If you want to keep everything a surprise, then just watch the videos.

The dates and times are as follows (from the site): FEARnet will air the first two episodes on Tuesday, June 14th, and then release one episode per day on Wednesday and Thursday, with the two concluding suspense-filled episodes airing Friday, June 17th.  After the initial airing on, Girl Number 9 will be available at a later date on the FEARnet On-Demand network and FEARnet's emerging cable channel.

It'll stay up all summer, then go onto their VOD service, so you'll have plenty of time to watch. No excuses. Or Vincent Boylan will come to get you. You silly sausage. Go! Watch! Tell your friends! Tell your enemies! Tell everyone!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Girl Number 9 in America June 14th

Americans! America-adjacent folk! Canadians! People who can access American-region-locked-web-stuff! Girl Number 9 is coming your way, next week!

Yes, I know lots of you have had to wait a while for this, but Vincent Boylan will finally unleash his madness upon you next week, only on FEARnet. I haven't linked to the article mentioning it, because it's *very* spoilery - so if you'd rather not know one of the big twists, don't go and read the article! You have been warned! I'll link to the page when it goes live, though.

The dates and times are as follows (from the site): FEARnet will air the first two episodes on Tuesday, June 14th, and then release one episode per day on Wednesday and Thursday, with the two concluding suspense-filled episodes airing Friday, June 17th.  After the initial airing on, Girl Number 9 will be available at a later date on the FEARnet On-Demand network and FEARnet's emerging cable channel.

I'm really excited that it's going to be hitting America in a big way, and gaining an even bigger audience. Airing it on FEARnet will hopefully mean that a lot more people will get to see Matheson and Lyndon crossing swords with Boylan, and the carnage that ensues. I'm told the episodes will stay on FEARnet for the summer, and then will go onto their VOD. So pass it on! Tell your friends! And enjoy! Well, maybe "enjoy" isn't quite the right word for a dark, brutal thriller about a demented serial killer, but you know what I mean. Be thrilled! Be afraid! But most importantly, be on FEARnet next week!

You can read more snippets of info about Girl Number 9 (and lots of other stuff I've worked on) thanks to Stargate SG-1/SGA/SGU big cheese and lovely chap Joseph Mallozzi, who has very kindly given me a Q&A on his fantastic blog, linked here. He got in touch back during the online kerfuffle that happened here in July 2009, as he's had his own share of online kerfuffles, and wanted to let me know I was not alone (read his original post about our online meeting here). He's a very cool, funny gent, and I'm honoured to be featured on his blog. He's currently making a TV series based on the Transporter movies, which I'm dying to see, and has also been looking back at his years on SG-1 in a series of fascinating posts. So go and read the post about me, then read everything else. Don't go there if you're hungry though, there are a LOT of posts about food which will drive you insane if you have nothing to eat nearby.

I don't yet have any information about a UK release, or any other countries. When I know more, you'll be the first second third people *very* near the top of the list to know!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Liquid Lunch, Stormhouse, CBeebies

Been a while since I've posted here before today, had lots of stuff to do, and travel, and the usual mayhem. So it's time to catch up on essential things, like what me old muckers Danny Stack, Jason Arnopp, and Dan Turner have been up to.

First up, because it's airing right now, is Danny Stack's new comedy web series, Liquid Lunch. The tale of two dreamers who get together in the pub to talk nonsense and make plans, Danny wrote and directed it, and it's on right now. Catch up on the episodes at the official website here, the Facebook page is here, and the Twitter feed is here. After you've seen it, go to Danny's brilliant blog to get all the behind the scenes info, script drafts for episode 1, and all sorts of secret shizzle. Or else. Here's a trailer for the series: 

Now for those loveable scamps Jason Arnopp and Dan Turner, who have made an independent horror feature film. It's called Stormhouse, it's a proper brutal horror film, and it'll scare your very organs out of your body and send them shooting out the nearest window. What's it about? How's this for a pitch: "In 2002, eight months before the invasion of Iraq, the Military captured and imprisoned a supernatural entity at Stormhouse, a secret underground base. This film documents the final four days of that experiment." That's all I'm telling you, it's best to go in as fresh as possible. For screening and release details, go to the official site here, then go and give them some love on Facebook, and on Twitter, and check out their blogs for more - Dan's blog is here, and Jason's blog is here. It's screening at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 23rd and 24th June, and if you fancy going, you can get tickets here. Now check out the brilliant teaser trailer:

There's a lot of talk about how it's impossible to get anything made these days, and sure, it's difficult, no question. But instead of using their energy complaining about it, Danny, Jason and Dan focused on making something themselves. Different ends of the scale, one involved an investor and full cast and crew, one involved borrowed cameras, borrowed pub, and a few people pulling together. But both required a lot of hustle, hard work, and enthusiasm, all things you can easily supply yourself, for free!

The rest of it doesn't have to cost much, or anything at all. You can write something. You can borrow a camera (you can, one of your friends will have *something* you can use, or a friend of a friend, or you can even hire something for a day). You can get free editing software (don't ask me, just Google "free editing software", use a bit of common sense!) You can get friends to help, you can even get experienced people to help, if you just ask on Shooting People or do a Twitter/blog shout out. The thing is, there are no more excuses, if you want to make something, go and make it. List all the things you have, and write something around them. Ask if you can film in your local pub, or shop, or mate's house. If you really want this, you'll get off your arse and you'll do it. If you don't, you won't.

In the meantime, CBeebies are running a writing competition. It's for UK based writers who are 18 or over, the deadline is Thursday 14th July, they want a script between 20 and 30 pages and a series outline. The website has script samples and video clips to help you out. Get on it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kings Cross GladOS

The female synthesised announcer voice on the underground at King's Cross station really sounds like GladOS. Or am I just imagining things?

ITV news and Chas & Dave

Final post before I go to the Hub tomorrow, hope to see you there if you're going.

Found this ITV News report on the Cockneys Vs Zombies filming from last month - obviously it's a bit spoilery if you don't want to know anything, but they get half the plot wrong so don't worry about it too much.

And while I'm on the subject, you may have seen this tweet from director Matthias Hoene yesterday:

Yes, I have heard it. Yes, it is the BEST THING EVER.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Suddenly" news, and general things

Small snippets before the next big post, which will be a long one. It'll either be about dealing with rejection, or taking general meetings as a new writer, whichever one gets finished first. Or possibly something else when neither of them gets finished.

As you can see, I've changed the template and fiddled with it a bit, because the old one was getting a bit cluttered. I've had lots of Blogger "Pages" for the contact details, about me, credits and so on, but they've been buried in a messy links sidebar. Now they're in a shiny new menu at the top, thanks to Blogger being nice and easy to use. I had a separate information page at, but I got rid of it and have pointed the domain to this blog. Now that I can have all the info pages here, there's no need for another site.

One of my new projects has just been announced in Cannes, a remake of the 1954 movie "Suddenly", which originally starred Frank Sinatra in an electrifying performance. It's a cracking thriller, and one that lends itself really well to a new update, so I'll try my best to do it justice. Update: It's also mentioned in Variety, with its wonderfully terse sentence structure.

I've completely locked down my personal Facebook page, because it's for friends and family only, and I'm not comfortable with people I don't know seeing private stuff - but my public Facebook page is open to everyone, and you can go and "like" it here if you fancy that sort of thing.

Should have another big piece of news soon, which I'm extremely happy about, so keep an eye out. Not that you'll need to, as I'll be shouting it from the rooftops when I'm allowed to talk about it. Only, not *actual* rooftops, that's a bit dangerous. Internet rooftops.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Girl Number 9 in America

Americans! People in or near America, who can get access to such things! This post is for you! Yes, Vincent Boylan is coming to America, and he's not interested in seeing the sights. Well, he might be, who knows how his mind works. Although in fairness, when he looks at tourist attractions, he probably imagines people strung up on them, in agonising pain. But I'm rambling.

The lovely people at FEARnet have done the unthinkable and let Boylan into the USA. Girl Number 9 will be showing on their website and VOD this summer. Yes, that's right, not only will it be on their website, you'll also be able to watch it on your TV through some sort of whizzy fancy trickery (details here). For the full story, go to the FEARnet website links above and read all about it. You'll also be able to watch Psychoville in August. It has nothing to do with me, but I'm mentioning it because you need to see it, it's brilliant.

The GN9 team have known this for a long time, but we couldn't say anything until the official announcement. I'm so glad more of you will get to see our work, I'm really proud of it. Have a stiff drink or nice cake (or both) ready for afterwards though, it's a dark, twisted tale. Unless you like cheery musicals, in which case, it's one of those! It's whatever you want it to be! Except *that*. That's just weird.