Thursday, December 29, 2005

That was the year that was

Okay, 2005 is nearly over, so it's time to look back and do the whole summary thing that everyone else is doing. But because this blog is a journal of my writing career, this wrap-up will be concentrating on that. It's quite long, and all about me, but it's my football so I get to score all the goals.

Things I Achieved in 2005:
  • My first feature script, Severance, was filmed (okay, I didn't achieve the filming, but it's the biggest news of the year, so I'm counting it)
  • Sold a pitch outline/treatment for a movie - yes, the secret is out, Curfew sold, so I've been working on a new outline for the lovely people who bought it. If all goes well and they like what they see, it'll go to script, and then Another Big Movie will happen! Wahey!
  • Co-wrote a short film (should be filming in Jan/Feb)
  • Met other writers
  • Pulled out of an adaptation thing that was turning into a "hey, write it for nothing, we'll pay you later" type of thing - I really wanted to work on it, but wasn't prepared to be taken advantage of (I'll tell the full story next year, it's a shocker)
  • Pitched to a Very Big Film Company, got a deal, then pulled out because it wasn't what we'd agreed
  • Finally realised that I deserve to be In The Room (the movie-making room), and regained my confidence
  • Started getting some much needed exercise, walked a lot, and lost a stone in weight
  • Wrote some DVD extras and did my first DVD interview (for Severance)
I realise that two of these involve pulling out of deals, but they were two of the hardest fucking things I've had to do. The conditions were all wrong, so even though I really wanted both of the jobs, I had to walk away - and it turned out I did the right thing in both cases. I'm happy with the list, even though there aren't that many solid achievements - there's only one proper sale, but it was a really satisfying one. I'm so excited about Curfew, it's going extremely well at the moment - the New Film Company are great fun, and want to make it as cool as possible. I've also established some good relationships with industry people, one of which should result in a low budget movie next year, and a cool short movie. Fingers crossed.

Things I Messed Up:
  • The adaptation thing. Should have been firm with the guy right from the start, but didn't realise how dodgy things were getting.
  • My general behaviour - I've been far too obsequious and unassertive, and I've lost out because of it.
Not too bad, all things considered. Both items cover lots of other things, but I've learned from them. I won't be making the same mistakes again. I'll be making all new mistakes, hopefully - if you're not making new mistakes, you're not trying new things. But the passive behaviour ends here and now, in fact it ended a while ago. Obsequious Jimbo is dead. Long live Take-No-Shit Jimbo.

Things I Have Learned:
  • Characters and background first, then plot - it's so much easier that way round
  • It's a lot harder to sell an outline, than a script
  • Shorter, shorter, shorter - you can always trim more stuff out of a script or outline, it's always too long
  • Everyone else is pretty much making it up as they go along, too - not just me
  • No matter how nice movie/TV people seem - Don't. Fucking. Trust. ANYONE. Most of them are decent people, but some of them are fucking evil, greedy sharks in human form, that will slice open your kidneys with a homemade shiv if you give them half a chance. Even the nice ones who you're friendly with are looking out for their career, not yours.
Being able to say that I'm a writer is a huge step. It's vital to recognise your strengths, without bragging. And, of course, your weaknesses - but they're easy to see; being nice to yourself is much harder. As for that final bulletpoint, I am *not* exaggerating. It's a harsh, harsh world out there ("it's a shit business!"), but particularly so in MediaLand. I've learned the hard way that you have to be extremely tough and thick-skinned. Never climb into a shark tank without cast-iron underpants. You don't have to be a bastard to people, just don't let them walk all over you.

Things I Want To Do In 2006:
  • Become a better writer
  • Sell another movie
  • Write two full spec scripts, and just write more in general
  • Go to a film festival to plug Severance
  • Write an episode of Doctor Who (fuck it, aim high)
  • Do a DVD commentary
  • Get fitter, and lose more weight
  • Write shorter blog entries
I'm on the hustle. I want to get out there, show my face, put my name into hats (or something). Things move way too slowly in MediaLand - you make your own luck, and you have to push for what you want. I've wasted a lot of time this year when I could have been writing or outlining. 2005 was great fun, and watching the creation of Severance, from casting, storyboards, location scouting, shooting, to editing, has been an incredible ride. Seeing something get organised, filmed and edited can only improve my writing - already my stuff is shorter, snappier, and more effective. Except for my blog entries. They just get fatter and more self important. But hey, like I say, get your own blog, I'm in charge here.

Happy Whatever you celebrate, and if you don't celebrate anything, Happy Several Days Off Work. Let's kick 2006's ass...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Last few things

Okay, the tree is up. We have some fake snow from here, which is amazing. Most of the pressies have been bought. We have well over a case of wine already, and today 6 more bottles of Pino Grigio arrived. Along with a bottle of fizzy booze for Christmas morning (got two more as backup). And a bottle of Jim Beam Black for me (aged 8 years in oak casks, the sweetest, tastiest bourbon I know of). And two bottles of Limoncello, a lethal but gorgeous Italian liqueur (ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, and a punch in the face). Oh, and some vodka, pack of Stella, and a little bit of single barrel Jack Daniels leftover from last year. I think there's some Baileys coming on Friday, for Jo, who is currently sitting next to me, knocking back Nurofen and Limoncello to kill the pain of her braces adjustment. So obviously I'm having a glass too, it'd be rude not to. Plans for Christmas: Eat. Get wrecked on booze. Sleep. Watch telly. Repeat, rinse, hang out to dry.

We've kind of been caught unawares by Christmas this year. Why wasn't I informed that it's on the 25th? I'll be writing a stern letter to my MP. We've just about managed to get most things sorted, but purely by luck and determination. And that's why you're not getting a card this year - because nobody is. Nothing personal, I'm just shit.

I meant to post this earlier - it's a photo of me, taken by my friend Katie, who is a wicked clever pinhole photography expert. I had to sit still for 2 or 3 minutes, trying not to blink too much, so my expression is slightly tense, focused, and, judging by the comments on the pic, totally deranged. Pinhole pics freak me out a bit, they have that whole Victorian death photograph thing going on. Very cool though.

Christmas movies lined up: Muppet Christmas Carol, Patrick Stewart's version of Christmas Carol (the movie, not the one man show), and Elf. Got some others on the short list too. Couldn't get hold of Christmas Evil, maybe next year. The centrepiece of the viewing though will be the Christmas Day Dr Who episode, which I can't wait for. Finally, something decent on the telly during the festive season. Christmas music: A selection of Elvis Christmas songs, which are fucking fantastic (and bizarrely sexy), and a compilation of punk and indie versions of Christmas classics.

Oh yeah, and we watched Flash Gordon the other day. It's as silly, and as fun, as I remembered. More so. We had to wind several bits back over and over, like Tim Dalton shouting "Freeze! Ya bloody bastids!" And during the bit where the flying hairy men invade a rocket ship, I was convinced that Brian Blessed roars "WAHEY!" as he lands - so we wound it back, and yes, he really does. We checked out 5 minutes of his commentary, and already it is the greatest commentary track ever recorded. We learned that he suggested that Max Von Sydow use his hands a lot as Ming, that everything is marvellous, and that Sam J. Jones is heroic from *any* angle. I can't wait to hear the rest of it, it's just brilliant. Brian, if you're listening, you are a legend, and your thighs are truly mighty, as is your beard.

Blimey, this Limoncello is strong. I'd better pack this post in for now, it's starting to go off the rails already...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Gawblessus, everyone

Fantastic. Patrick Stewart is amazing. I've never seen a one man show before, and it was even better than I expected. He came on, dressed casually, with 4 props - chair, stool, table, desk - and immediately began narrating A Christmas Carol, doing all the voices and actions of the characters. Absolutely stunning. I wish I had half of his energy, the man is as fit as a butcher's dog. I must have seen (without exaggeration here) millions and billions of adaptations of this story, and yet it still manages to raise a sniffle here and there. The audience went bananas at the end, instant standing ovation. If you can manage to get along before it finishes, I highly recommend it. It's on at the Albery Theatre until 31st December.

The other thing that impresses me about the original book itself is how perfectly constructed it is, from a movie point of view - which is probably why there are so many adaptations (that, and it's a great story, obviously). Act 1 has all the set up, and ends when Marley warns Scrooge that he's in for some disturbing visits. Act 2 has the three ghosts, showing the past, present, and future, and ends with Scrooge at his lowest point. Act 3 has Scrooge changing the future by becoming a new man, and a satisfying ending for everyone. Nearly everything I read now, I find myself unconsciously trying to work out how to adapt it to a movie script - what are the main events, characters, whose point of view to come at it from, have to get that scene in, that ending's got to go, and so on. I'm not in a position to adapt anything at the moment, unless I get commissioned to do one, but it's good practice as a purely mental exercise - even when it doesn't work, it helps to figure out why.

There! Are! Four! GHOSTS!

I've been slacking off the updates recently - I'm working on a huge blog post, the look back at my 2005 that I mentioned before. It's getting a bit long and self indulgent, so I'm trying to trim it down.

Still haven't finished any of the other things I'm working on, they're taking longer than expected. I'm hoping to get them done by next week, so I can have a break.

Tonight though, we're going to see Patrick Stewart doing his one-man version of A Christmas Carol. The movie version he did was great fun, and I can't wait to see him tear the stage up tonight. Although it will take a while to get past the "I've seen everything" speech from Extras, which is lodged in my mind forever. How much do you dare me to shout out "Make it so!" during a quiet moment?

No extra points to any TNG nerds for guessing the reference in the post title, because it's too easy.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I'm alive!

Friday, the Space Virus raged on. It laughed at my pills, my tissues, my orange juice. I tried to stay slightly active while it fought me, so that I wasn't constantly glued to the sofa, mewling pitifully - although there was plenty of that, don't get me wrong. I don't know if that was the right thing to do, but it felt like a small victory when I did get up and do something. I even did a few pressups, just to spite it. I can't be sure, but I think that somewhere in its filthy, black heart, a tiny piece of it felt... fear. But it may have just been me having palpitations. Yesterday, I felt it dying slowly, growing weaker. I started getting my appetite back, and didn't have to blow my nose every 5 minutes. Today, my nose is okay, my throat is okay, I've still got a deep, chesty cough - though it's on the way out. Tomorrow - I'm going to go outside.

Got a meeting tomorrow afternoon, which I should be okay for, and two Christmas "do"s this week, one Wednesday, one Thursday, both fancy schmancy film company things, which should be cool. I have three things I need to finish soon, three separate outline pitches. One isn't going anywhere at all, so I have to start again from scratch. One is coming together, but I'm still figuring out the details. One I haven't started yet, because I've just heard about it. And they all need to be done as soon as possible, of course. And it's fucking December already, what the hell happened to 2005? I guess it's time for all the "best of" and "year in review" and "coh, 2005 eh" TV shows, every single one of them hosted by Jimmy Carr. Hmm, that's my next post, I think - a little summary of the highs and lows of my writing year, so we can all see what I've learned, and grow as people or something. Hosted by Jimmy Carr.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The space virus strikes back

The mutated space virus, as mentioned here, is back. The usual thing: shakes, aches, tingly skin, followed by days of sore throat, and then a full on snot/cough/sinus attack. I was in work yesterday, feeling a bit rubbish in the morning, and it went from "a bit poo" to "full on space virus attack" in just a few hours. And, just like last year, I was having a shit day at work where everything was going wrong, nothing could be fixed. So now, once again, I'm on the sofa, surrounded by pills, tissues, and all of the phones and remote controls.

Luckily, I finished the outline for Secret Project A the other night, just as the nanorobots were infecting me, so I have some time off. I've had to postpone a meeting tomorrow until next week, which is annoying, but I'm just totally fucked, I'd be no use to anyone. I feel like John Hurt's character in Contact, sealed up in my little space station, contacting people remotely when I need to. But without the weightlessness, or the shaved head. I'm starting to sound a bit like him, though.

I've spent much of the morning listening to archives of the Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant show on XFM, which is hilarious. I don't listen to much radio, but I should. In a while I might watch some DVD extras. Jo will watch one commentary and one "making of" for any particular movie, but quite reasonably thinks that is enough. I, on the other hand, will obsessively watch every single second of all the extras, the breakdowns of shots, test versions of special effects, interviews, diaries, the "we took four cardboard toobs" ones with pale, blinking CG artists, everything (except the photo galleries, where you have to keep pressing Next on the remote, very boring). If a DVD has more than one commentary, I go weak with excitement. Now I'm in the business of making them, it's really helpful to hear what decisions were made and why. But I've always enjoyed looking behind the curtain, I have to know how it was done - it never ruins the magic of a movie for me. I love DVD extras, and feel totally robbed if there aren't enough. Oh, and if anyone in the DVD creation business is reading: "interactive menus" and "scene selection" are NOT extras. They're things every DVD should have, a bloody menu and the ability to go to any scene, it's a fairly standard thing. An "interactive menu" is a menu where you can choose which option to press, so basically it just means "menu". Featuring loads of exciting extras, like: A box! A plastic thing to keep the disc from moving! A label on the disc so you know what movie it is! The ENTIRE movie on the disc! Including credits! The ability to put the disc in your player, and watch the movie! With your own eyes! (eyes not included)

One of the best DVD extras I've ever seen was the little editing feature on the Die Hard special edition - it gives you two scenes, with several angles of each shot, and you get to pick which shot to use, editing the scene yourself. It then shows you your edit, and you can compare it to the actual edit. It's quite basic and clunky, but really good fun.