Saturday, December 23, 2006

2006 is dead, long live 2007

Here we go again, it's time for the end of year wrap-up. What glories, what defeats, has my writing career faced this year? Let's take a look into the magic bucket of fish...

Things I achieved in 2006

--My first movie (Severance, out soon on DVD, etc etc) was released in cinemas, did very well, and had all the cool stuff like posters, trailer, bus ads, and so on (not technically an achievement, as I'd already written it ages ago, but I say it counts)

--Did my first Q+A sessions - one for FrightFest, one for the New Producers' Alliance thing, and two for the Austin Fantastic Fest - and handled them very well, if I say so myself

--Got commissioned by the BBC for a one hour one-off thing *and* an episode of an existing series, and by C4 for a script for a new series

--Two separate places approached me to be a part of their project in development

--Recorded my first DVD commentary (one of last year's targets)

--Represented Severance at two film festivals (see above, another target met)

--Wrote a whole spec feature script (half the target met)

--Wrote first draft of Curfew

--Collaborated with Mr Stack and Mr Wilkinson on a TV show bible

--Wrote a bucketload of outlines, pitches, bits and bobs, including a rewrite/collaboration on first half a spec script (doing other half soon)

--Got hired to do outlines for 3 projects

--Did my 300th blog post

--Met loads and loads of cool new people

--Hustled like a hooker when the Navy's in town, got lots of stuff going, didn't let anyone walk all over me, and kept my shit together.

I've posted at length about the Severance release and FrightFest premiere, so you already know what an amazing time that was. It felt like a real validation of me and everything I believe in, and really gave me a massive confidence boost. Seeing buses go by with my movie poster on was fantastic. Doing the Q+As, being a guest at Fantastic Fest, and hearing the laughs, gasps, cheers and applause of the various audiences was the best feeling ever. I'm also pleased with how much stuff I wrote this year, more than I realised - and all of a sudden, at the end of the year, the commissions and gigs start coming thick and fast, people actually seeking me out rather than the other way around. The existing series commission means I get to play with someone else's toys - it's a gig I worked really hard to get, and I'm incredibly excited about it. I can now do the meetings without feeling self-conscious or embarrassed, I'm on the same level as everyone else. I really feel like I'm part of the industry, rather than a lucky tourist. As for hustling like a hooker - don't judge me, it was a slow month, I needed the cash, and the docks were lovely that time of year.

Things I messed up

--Let things get on top of me, worried so much about selling something, that I got creatively blocked for a while

--Last year's target was two new spec scripts this year, but I only did one - could easily have done another one, but didn't

--Didn't sell a movie (another of last year's targets).

Not bad I guess, considering. I'm annoyed at myself for not getting both specs done, but at least I have lots of other stuff to show for it, including a full draft of Curfew, lots of other projects that were a lot of work but that are now on the move, and several gigs for hire. If I'd been a bit quicker on the ball, I might have been able to sell a movie. I moved a lot faster this year and did a lot more work, but I need to do even more. I had a few months where things were really quiet, and I got worried that I'd never be able to come up with another original idea, or sell anything ever again. I tried desperately to come up with something, but that just made it worse, and my mind went totally blank. It was like trying to sleep when you're worried about not being able to sleep. Any smartarses out there want to come and tell me there's no such thing as writer's block? You can tell it to my Pimp Hand, which will Pimp Slap you. Of last year's targets, the spec and movie sale are the two that I could have done something about purely on my own, so they're the ones that there's no excuse for missing. But that's fine - accept what you did wrong, don't blame anyone else for it, face it, learn from it, then leave it and move on. Uncle Jimbo says so. Actually, that's something Kurt Russell said once in an interview, and I thought it was such a good attitude to mistakes that I adopted it as my own. Yes, I live by the Kurt Russell code. You got a problem with that? Kurt is the fucking MAN, man, and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise.

Things I have learned

--I need a better way of keeping track what I'm working on, for who, and when they're due

--There are many, many, many more tricks to learn, and every day that goes by you figure something new out, or learn it from someone wiser

--Reviews ultimately don't make a difference

--Philips products are shite, will break after barely a year, then their customer service people will fuck you around mercilessly, lie to you, and just be exceptionally incompetent until you give up.

One of Danny's recent posts mentioned some sort of database tracking thing, which might be a good idea. I'm going to check out the Mac software available, and see if anything helps - my brain is made of chicken wire and broken biscuits, I have real trouble keeping track of everything, and need it to be all in one place where I can see it. As for learning new tricks, I did the other day - watching a movie gave me a great idea into how to get across some vital exposition without making it obvious. The movie did it very cleverly, so I'm shamelessly borrowing (stealing) some of the techniques. Reviews, well, if good reviews equalled box office, Severance would have made 500 million billion quid - and yet, how come the only ones I remember are the few bad ones? I can quote them verbatim, and can't help but take them personally. Especially ones that miss the point of the film entirely, I feel like tracking down the reviewers and slapping them around a bit. I need to just remember that it's all subjective, all just one person's opinion - even the good ones. And as for Philips - I now have a large paperweight that cost a thousand quid. Well done, Philips, you win, you fucking useless, incompetent bastards. But I'll never buy anything of yours ever again. So I guess *I* win, after all. HAHAHAHAAA! Up yours, Philips!

Things I want to do in 2007

--Become a better writer (this always stays on the list)

--Sell another movie

--Write two more spec scripts (or scripts for hire, let's count those too)

--Get hired to do an adaptation (book or graphic novel)

--Get something shown on TV

--Do more insightful, informative blog posts.

I feel so lucky, it's been a crazy ride this year. I've learned so much, I look back on stuff I wrote a year ago and wonder what I was thinking, why didn't I do this instead of that. And I know I'll do the same thing a year from now. You're always learning, always evolving, always picking up new tricks. So it would be great to sell some more stuff, just to keep working, keep myself in the game, but mainly to see my work on screen again. It's addictive. 2006 has been fucking great, and I can't even imagine what 2007 might bring. Hopefully a naked romp with some celebs, and a mattress stuffed with cash. And yes, I need to do more of the Q+A type blog posts. I've got some lined up, proper ones, including a possible guest appearance which will be great if I can swing it. Watch this space.

Probably won't blog again now until January, as I've got a rewrite of Curfew, half a spec feature, and an outline for the TV episode to do in the next couple of weeks, in between orgies of food and drink. Good luck to everyone out there for next year, and I hope that during this festive time, you all get even half as drunk as I'm going to. Wahey! Have a good one, and keep on trucking, or writing, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Seven Deadly Sins of Horror (300th post)

Okay. I tried to play nice. Said I wouldn't slag off other movies. But enough is enough.

No more bad horror movies. I won't stand for it.

It is not the 1950s anymore. It's 2006. There are things you can NO LONGER DO. You don't see UFOs on wires in science fiction movies anymore, so why should we put up with the horror equivalent? We've all seen a lot of horror movies, we don't fall for the same shit that we used to. And yet writers and directors persist in treating us like fucking kids who've never seen a slasher movie before. Come on. We're adults. We're not stupid. So today, I bring you the Seven Deadly Sins of Horror, the sins that must never be committed again. I know, I know, there are many more horror movie sins than these, ones you really shouldn't be doing - but the ones here are the absolute worst of the worst, sins that there can be no excuse for. Filmmakers, consider yourself put on notice - you are all now expressly forbidden from putting ANY of the following in a horror movie:

7 - The grabbing hand: How many times have you sneaked up on a friend, walked silently right up behind them, and then suddenly grabbed their shoulder? Without intentionally trying to freak them out? And then been surprised that you scared them? Never. And yet it happens in horror movies all the time. There are no deaths coming up, but it's been 7 minutes so they need a fake scare. Oh my God! A killer! Oh, wait, it's just his friend grabbing his shoulder. It's ridiculous. Same goes for the cat scare, although I really shouldn't have to say that in this day and age. Sure, sometimes we still need the fake scare trick, to build up the tension, keep the real horror off screen for a while, but you've got to do something different.

6 - Sudden attacks of deafness: If you're in a building with someone, and they wander out the door, they will still be able to hear you if you call out to them. Especially if you then go wandering around, panicking, and screaming out their name at the top of your voice. They *won't*, however, completely fail to hear you, then suddenly appear out of nowhere and make you jump, usually by grabbing your shoulder (see above). Unless they're deliberately trying to scare you. If someone vanishes and doesn't respond to shouts, then they'd better be dead or unconscious.

5 - Magic, psychic killers: Oh thank goodness, the large breasted girl has managed to put some distance between herself and the killer. Oh look, she's found a car - and it's unlocked! And the keys are in the ignition! And the engine has started, first time! Hooray! She's going to escape! I hope that the killer hasn't somehow magically teleported into the back seat, where he will suddenly pop up to stab or garrotte her. I'm sure that won't happen though, because he'd need the aforementioned teleporting skills, plus the ability to psychically predict which car she would choose. And it would make no sense to hide in the back seat, wait until she starts driving, and *then* attack her. So he probably won't do that. Oh. He did.

4 - Cars that get scared: Oh dear, the car suddenly won't start - how inconvenient, being that I am, at this very juncture, being chased by a monster. Yes, the same car that drove me ALL THE WAY UP the fucking mountain, and has been working for YEARS, has chosen THIS PRECISE moment to break down, just as I'm trying to escape - as opposed to, say, Act One, for example. How come the car never breaks down just *before* the horny, doomed teenagers leave for their road trip? If a previously healthy car suddenly won't start, it had better be because the killer has mangled it, or stuffed a dead body into the engine.

3 - Sudden attacks of clumsiness: Run! Run like the wind! Run from the killer! Oh, you fell over. Well done. Because able-bodied adults fall over ALL THE TIME, don't they? Yes, I know you need the killer to catch up for the sake of the plot, but do something else. Throw a locked door, a trap, a speeding car in the way, anything. Just don't have them fall over. It's lazy and stupid. Same goes for someone hiding, trying to stay quiet, who just happens to knock over a display stand filled with 500 metal plates. If I ever need to hide from a killer, I'm going to be as careful as I possibly can, thanks. If the character who falls over is female, you lose even more points. If she is subsequently helped up by a male character, then your bus to the 1950s is leaving shortly, be on it.

2 - Miraculous recoveries: Can we please retire this one? Please? "He's dead... oh no, he's alive!" Having the killer pop back up was a genuine surprise when Michael Myers did it in Halloween, but guess what? That was nearly 30 years ago. It's finally time to end that tradition, it's been done way too often. Come on. We need a new thing. Just leave it alone. Right, I'm finished with this paragraph. No I'm not! Booga booga booga! Okay, I am now.

And the NUMBER ONE thing that you must NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER use in a horror movie again, ON PAIN OF DEATH:

1 - Characters who don't kill the killer when given the chance: I really, really thought we'd laid this one to rest, but apparently not. Imagine you're the character in the movie, and some crazy guy has repeatedly tried to kill you. It's terrifying, your life is in danger, he WILL kill you if he can, probably torturing and raping you beforehand, perhaps wearing your skin, perhaps eating your internal organs. But oh happy day, you get a lucky break and manage to knock him out, or immobilise him. When he wakes up or frees himself, he will continue trying to kill you, and will probably succeed. But right now, you have a few minutes. Do you (a) kill him, or (b) run away, giving him a chance to come after you again? The answer is, of course, (a). You kill him. By ANY means necessary. Your gun's out of bullets? Smash his face with it. Gun too small? Sharpen it and stab him with it. No gun? Hit him with a chair. Drop heavy objects on him. Set him on fire. Run him over. If you have nothing nearby, just fucking jump up and down on his head until the skull cracks, then keep jumping until it splits all the way open, then keep jumping until it's a bloody stain on the ground. You're fighting for your life, wouldn't you do whatever you could to save yourself? Sure, the killer can have the upper hand all the way through the movie, more weaponry, traps, that's fine. But if a character gets a chance to kill the killer, they had better fucking kill him, and make sure he's dead, preferably by decapitation, head-smashing, dismemberment, or exploding. No excuses. None. End of story. This is an INSTANT movie destroyer, because it yanks you out and makes you realise that it's just a plot contrivance to keep the story going for longer, while the whole audience is screaming "kill him!" in frustration. But some filmmakers are under the mistaken impression that it's okay, that we won't notice the glaringly stupid thing the main character has just done.

And there we have it. If you have the gall to allow any of these in your movie, then you obviously have no respect for us or yourself, and we will be within our rights to hunt you down and gut you like a fish, by Horror Movie Law. People like you are responsible for horror's bad reputation, for review quotes like "of course, we don't go to horror movies expecting a sensible plot". Don't think to yourself "oh, it's only horror, it doesn't matter", or "it doesn't need to make sense", or "only horny 12 year old boys will see it" - it DOES matter, it DOES need to make sense, and although the audience is made up of a wide variety of people, not just male, young and old, even the horny 12 year old boys won't fall for your shit. Times have changed. You'd better change with them, or make romantic comedies instead. Don't say you weren't warned.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Busier than a bee on National Bee Activity Day

I'm just realising how stupidly busy I am. I've got all of December off (sabbatical baby, 6 years of service at the office gets me a free month off), so I've got some time to get things done. And I need it. Got to finish the rewrite of Curfew, finish the 2nd half of a spec collaboration, do a paid outline for a TV one-off, finish another paid outline for a film, and possibly find time to rewrite the untitled comedy spec. Oh, and after the excellent meeting on Tuesday for the secret TV thing, I need to work on ideas for that, because it might possibly happen, which is cool. And an old, old project that I thought was long dead seems to have sparked some interest - more news as we get it.

Was in the BBC for another meeting the other day, and while being led through the insane labyrinthine corridors, passed by the TARDIS. Just sitting there, innocently. Naturally, I got a picture of myself in front of it, eyebrow arched enigmatically, pretending to be a Timelord. I touched it, too. It's the old one, so it's not being used. Except when I travel in it through time and space, of course.

The TV saga endeth: Spent 2 days trying to fax my details to Philips. Endless muppets on the phone insisted the fax was working, and that they had been receiving other faxes non stop - the machine was in a different part of the building, so it took them several minutes to go and check each time. One time, the bloke went off, came back, and said yeah, it's working. Is there paper in it, I asked. Hang on, he said. And went off AGAIN! Wouldn't you have checked that the first time?? Knowing that it's a long journey? Anyway, after 2 days of this, they finally said "oh, the fax is broken, has been for 2 days". So how come you told me it was working, and has been merrily receiving faxes the whole time? "Oh, don't know who you spoke to, but it's broken, sorry, the engineer is on the way, so if you try again just before 5pm, it should be fixed..." You're OBVIOUSLY lying to me, I spluttered. No answer. So I gave in, and posted everything off, with what I believe would be described as a "stinking" letter. Got a polite reply from Philips, saying that if I pay the first 300 quid of the repairs, they'll cover whatever the rest is. Only I have to pay it all first, then claim it back from them. Which means dropping several hundred quid just before Christmas. And you *know* I wouldn't see the refund till January. I refuse to throw good money after bad, so they can fuck off, frankly. I'm going to start renting again. It may be a waste of money, because you don't own the thing, but at least if the TV explodes they'll just give me a new one. The rental arrives on Monday, a fancy Toshiba 32 inch LCD thingy, HD ready, with a 4-slice toaster, and an oral sex adaptor (separate to the toaster bit, for obvious reasons). Any suggestions what to do with the old telly? Well, it's not old, it's just over a year old, a ridiculously expensive piece of kit that is now useless. I'm going to whip the back off and see if it's just some loose cables or something, in which case I can sell it. If not, then it's either for the bin, eBay, or the fires of Mount Doom. You reckon anybody would want to buy a telly that doesn't work? People buy any old shit on the internet, don't they?

On the plus side, the BAFTA swag haul is getting bigger - lots of free screeners for movies. Most of the first batch were shite (The DaVinci Code? For consideration in ALL categories?? Fuck off) but some good ones have arrived, like Pan's Labyrinth and Little Miss Sunshine. The only problem with them is that I can never ever give/lend/throw any away, because they're digitally marked - if they turn up on the web, they'll be traced back to me. They said that if I want to bin them, I'll need to cut the discs in half with scissors. DaVinci Code, you're first, mate.

New! Update! Don't forget, Severance is out on DVD on the 8th January, 2007, with a commentary featuring most of us, deleted scenes, making-of, outtakes, and all sorts of other extras, special bits, and thingies. If you go to RIGHT NOW you can pre-order it - you won't get it any earlier, but by jingo, you'll be a part of something bigger than all of us. It's also available on Amazon and every other online shop, and normal shops too. It makes an excellent post-Christmas present, January sales present, or just a standard Christmas present if you're not into the whole punctuality thing. Whatever you do though, check out the brand spanking new DVD cover:

Severance DVD

Clicky-clicky to go and pre-order, or just to look at the page, or just because it's fun to click things.

This is post 299. Are you as excited as I am??