Sunday, November 29, 2015

Crazy For You award

Crazy For You, the short film I wrote and directed starring Arthur Darvill and Hannah Tointon, has just won the Best Horror/Sci-Fi award at the Crystal Palace International Film Festival! Look at the lovely trophy:

The awards were presented by Mark Steel, who was hilarious as always. He was amused by my rambling, random speech, ordering all future winners to be "just as surreal".

The final night was the awards show, but before that was a selection of comedy shorts, where my partner Cat Davies' short film KEEN-wah had its world premiere, which got loads of laughs and cheers. This is us with our friends Michael and Stuart - Michael was visiting for the weekend, Stuart was the cameraman on KEEN-wah and Ghosting:

Photo by Michael Gill - check out his gorgeous photos at his website here.

It was a great night, although the hangover the next morning was biblical (there was a LOT of gin and wine). Thank you to lovely organisers Roberta and Neill for putting on a fantastic event, the festival is a month-long series of screenings and very, very cool. If you're a company that wants to sponsor a great local festival, go and check them out.

Thank you also to the amazing backers of Crazy For You, who helped make it a reality, producer extraordinaire Jen Handorf, who worked miracles to bring it to life, and the entire cast and crew who pulled off the impossible every day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Crossing Lines

This has been in the works for a while, but now the details are up on the Big Light website: I've written an episode for season 3 of Crossing Lines!

It's a US/European co-production, shot in Europe, with an amazing cast: Goran Visnjic, Elizabeth Mitchell, Tom Wlaschiha, Lara Rossi, Stuart Martin, Naomi Battrick, and Donald Sutherland. Yes, THE Actual Donald Sutherland. I know! Trust me, when you're writing a speech for THE Actual Donald Sutherland, your fingers tingle with excitement.

Season 3 was showrun/showran/showrunned by Frank Spotnitz. I was in the writers' room, with several amazing writers, all of us breaking stories, coming up with characters, writing index cards, and helping to put together the entire season. It was a really fun, exciting, creative time, and I loved working with Frank and the team.

My episode is number 6, called "Executioner". I don't want to give anything away, as it's very twisty-turny, but there's lots of tension and death, as you'd probably expect from me. Oh, and a few jokes too, as you'd also expect from me. Spoilers! Death and jokes! There's a trailer for the show here, mainly featuring the first episode of the new season.

But where can you see it? They're currently doing an on-demand rollout in selected territories, so have a look here to see how you can watch it. Details for the UK and US will follow soon, so watch this space. I'll update when I know dates and stuff.

So that's what I've been doing for some of last year and a chunk of this year. And that's why I put on half a stone in 2 weeks last year - the writers' room was well stocked with sweets, crisps, and biscuits, and I am only human.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Writers on their Writing Process

Hello, you! Have you done something with your hair?! It looks lovely! And it's moving-- oh god, it's not hair, it's SNAKES, RUN AWAY FROM THE SNAKES-- oh, sorry, my mistake, it's just the wind moving your hair. Not snakes. Probably.

As you may or may not know, I've been doing a (very) irregular series of videos, talking to other writers about their writing process. I did one last year with Amber Benson, which you can watch here, and I've just uploaded a new one featuring guest writer Mr Jason Arnopp, which you can watch here.

You'll know Mr Arnopp from his work in the worlds of Doctor Who, Friday 13th, The Sarah Jane Adventures, the horror movie Stormhouse, and his fiction (Beast in the Basement, A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home), but he's also got an exciting new book coming out next year, called The Last Days of Jack Sparks. You can find out more at his website here, which probably doesn't have mutant cyber spiders primed and ready to leap out of your computer screen.

If you do visit his site, you can find out about the FREE BOOKS he'll be giving away regularly. They're linked to his brand new Patreon page, with a video I directed on a long, silly day in Brighton - but there's no obligation, the books will be free to download either way. I'm seeing a lot of writers and other artists using Patreon, it lets you make ongoing contributions to help support the people whose work you like. I'm always in favour of writers getting paid for their work, so this is a Good Thing. Whatever you do, watch his video, because we spent blimmin aaaaages on it, and it's a right laugh.

We had a lot of fun chatting, and as always I found a couple of things that I can apply to my own process, which is partly the goal of this series. His process is quite similar to mine though, so there was less stuff for me to steal. What a selfish bastard he is!

Sorry about the terrible audio in the video - it's still audible, just very rough. My useless, cheap microphone didn't pick up much, so I had to boost it artificially in Final Cut Pro. It's a bit hissy and quiet, so turn your volume up and/or put on headphones. I've since invested in two proper, professional microphones, so this won't happen again.

While you're watching stuff on my YouTube channel, why not teach yourself to play the ukulele in 15 minutes? Or watch some short films? Go on, I dare you. Subscribe to the channel if you want to get updates when I post new stuff, which I will be doing more often now. Go! Share! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Margaret Jean Moran, 1932-2015

I lost my mum in July, just a few days after her birthday. She was 83. I’m not posting this for sympathy, I just want to mark the moment, and celebrate her. I want people to know a bit about who she was.

She was evacuated from London during the second world war, something I can barely imagine dealing with as an adult, never mind a young child. Later, she left school when she was 14, and pursued her dream of being a dancer - working during the day, taking lessons by night, persisting through sheer hard work and determination, eventually finding herself on stage in several musicals, where she met my dad. Things weren’t easy for her, and much later she lost my dad to cancer when I was 5. She was funny, independent, strong, smart, and quite unlike anyone I ever knew.

Before I left home, I didn’t always appreciate what she did for me. Sometimes (many times) I was an idiot and thought she just wanted me out of the house. She didn’t, she just wanted me to sort my life out, to be safe, to be provided for. She was the one who found the first college course (that I failed), the second one (that I passed), who brought me back when things went wrong, and helped get me over to London when my sister found me a job. She did everything she could to provide for me and make sure I could stand on my own two feet. She drove me utterly bonkers sometimes, she was no saint, nobody is - but she worked her arse off to protect me and give me a good start in life.

She loved a good laugh, and would instantly be reduced to a helpless, shrieking heap by Marty Feldman’s “bishop of no fixed abode” sketch, Julian and Sandy, or anything by Morecambe and Wise. If a TV show looked like it was about to feature male nudity, she’d lean forward with glee, announcing “ooh, willies!”

Over the last few years, she developed dementia, and we had to watch as a strong, independent woman who raised 5 kids slowly lost more and more of herself. It was horrifying seeing her anger, frustration and fear at losing memories, words, and her sense of self. It’s such a cruel illness, she was always smart but as it ate away at her faculties we had to talk to her as if she was a child, purely to stop her getting scared or upset. My amazing sisters and equally amazing brother-in-law bore the brunt of this, as they lived close to her, and rarely got any thanks - she didn’t realise she needed help, and would get angry at them for interfering in what she saw as her perfectly normal life.

Towards the end, she needed constant care, otherwise she would forget to eat. This all had to be paid for, as the care assessment insisted that she didn’t need medical care provided, just social care - despite the fact that she’d have been dead within a couple of days if nobody went around to feed her. The way it’s set up leaves a lot of people in the position of having to piss away everything they’ve ever worked for, just to get some basic medical help. When they’re destitute, *then* the system steps into help. It’s shit, and I don’t know how the people involved can sleep at night.

In August, we gave my mum a great sendoff with a lovely funeral service. We felt like we’d already lost her several years ago, due to the dementia, so I’m glad she’s not in any more pain or distress. It was awful to see it gradually erasing the person we once knew, so now we get to try and remember her the way she was.

Maggie in Severance is named after her, as was Peggy in Cockneys Vs Zombies. My mum’s name was Margaret, Peggy was her nickname (which she didn’t like, so of course we used it a lot to wind her up), and both characters are a shout out to her - strong, funny, capable women who you’d want on your ass-kicking team. She was very pleased at being played by Honor Blackman, which was fitting, as they are both Cockneys by birth.

She always looked out for me, tried to give me the best life possible, and would have taken a bullet for me (and probably argued it back into the gun). Goodbye, mum. And thank you. And I'm sorry for reposting this pic of you with a sparkler in your dessert, about to down a flaming sambuca at your 77th birthday party:

Reader, I'm proud to tell you that she downed that flaming sambuca like a champ. With the waiter chanting "sucky-sucky!" at her. It was a moment.

If you’re in the mood for charity donations, while you’re here, please consider Carers UK (supporting carers who often look after relatives unpaid with no help), the Alzheimer’s Society, Kirkwood Hospice (who looked after my sister Julia at the end of her life), and Thrombosis UK (who do vital research into a less well known condition that kills more than 33,000 every year).