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.