Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My thrilling day

WARNING: ANECDOTE. Set Ustinovometer to "Stun".

Was at the BBC yesterday for a meeting (kids TV show - I know, me, unleashed on innocent, impressionable minds, what were they thinking?), and when I was finished, someone was assigned to escort me out. If you've never been to the Beeb, their buildings occupy an area the size of Spain, with millions of corridors, staircases, lifts, walkways, alleys, and catacombs. It is impossible to find your way around, so people have to come and get you. They lead you on a 4 hour walk through various strange areas, until you get to the person you want to meet. If you're lucky, neither of you has died of old age. I mean, they've got a TARDIS in one corridor, why don't they keep that at reception, and use it to quickly transport people around? Probably an abuse of the power.

Anyway. The nice lady who was escorting me out asked me if I was a director, or writer, or what. I'm a writer, I replied wittily. "Ooh," she said, and genuinely meant this: "That must be exciting!" So I just laughed. Really loudly. Couldn't help it. Then I realised that was probably an incredibly rude thing to do, so I explained that well, yes, sometimes it was incredibly exciting, what with having things made, or going on set and meeting famous, attractive people, but that a lot of it involved doing nothing, waiting, or sitting inside, alone, tapping at a keyboard, which was why I laughed. I may not have made that clear enough though, because I was desperately scrambling to avoid seeming like a git. So if you're reading this, nice BBC temp lady who escorted the babbling idiot to the door yesterday: sorry about that.

And then I had another media ponce moment - before I left, I had to phone a man about the secret TV outline thing (which should soon be a secret TV script thing), so I was actually standing in the BBC reception, talking on the phone with a bloke about a telly "project". All I would have needed to complete the wanky picture was a cappuccino. You wait, I'll have a fucking goatee soon, or something.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Blogging, brains, and music

Did a fun interview for sarahhatesyourmovie.blogspot.com, where, as it turns out, Sarah *doesn't* hate my movie, which is nice for me, nice for her, and nice for all the children in all the orphanages of the world (that last one may not be true). Anyway, it's here, so go over and stare at it in a scary internet stalker fashion. Update! - another version is here, with all different questions and stuff! Two for the price of one!

In the above interview, I make the lofty claim that I may possibly be the first UK screenwriting blog - my first post was on June 5th, 2003. I'm fairly sure that I was the first UK one, but if anyone knows otherwise, I'll happily correct that. Anybody have any idea what the first proper one was, UK or US or otherwise? I'm sure I wasn't the first, I remember back in around 98 or 99 I used to read the Wordplay site (which is still going, and if you haven't read every single column, get the hell over there now) - so if that counts as a screenwriting blog (and it was certainly an incredibly helpful resource), then maybe that was the first. The earliest post I can find on John August's blog is also June 5th, 2003, but I can't see a list of posts by date. He's arguably the daddy of scribobloggo people, as he'd been doing his IMDB thing before that, and started the blog to collect and add to the Q+As. If anyone knows more, comment away and let me know.

Got a cool mention in the Eat My Brains top ten list of 2006, over here. This is especially groovy because they did the best review ever of Severance, and just got every little reference and wink that we slipped in. But even more so when you see the other movies in the top ten - and let's face it, it's probably the only time Severance will be on the same list as Pan's Labyrinth and United 93. Go over to EMB and check them out, they know their horror, they appreciate movies, good and bad, and the Zombie Clubs are required reading for everyone. It's an honour to be on the list, thank you guys.

I always listen to music when I write, and make playlists for specific things - I've got 4 separate ones for Curfew, for different moods. But I realised the other week that I haven't actually listened to any *new* music for quite a while. I've imported most of my CDs, bought lots of old stuff from iTunes, and some new soundtrack stuff. But I've missed about a year or two of any sort of radio play, new bands, that sort of thing, just been listening to all my old stuff over and over. Don't listen to much radio, apart from podcasts with no music in, haven't been watching music channels either. So I'm out of the loop musically, purely by accident. Is there any great stuff from the past year or so that I really should be listening to? Anything that it'd be a crime to miss out on? To give you some idea, I like all kinds of different things, old and new, including (these are my most played according to iTunes): Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Korn, Metallica, AC/DC, Prodigy, Leftfield, Beastie Boys, Peaches, Radiohead, Nouvelle Vague, PJ Harvey, Public Enemy, NWA, Franz Ferdinand, Scissor Sisters, Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters, ska, punk, chilled out floaty stuff, fast dance stuff, crazy Japanese pop, cheesy old funky 70s TV themes, soundtracks, 80s stuff, and bizarre mashups. Any and all recommendations, bands, albums, or just songs, fire them over. I don't care if it's weird, as long as it's good.

And finally, from an eBay listing, this made me laugh - that's showbiz, folks:

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

First, I was afraid, I was petrified, etc etc

Okay, I'm getting on top of things, slowly but surely. The Secret TV Show Outline is just about done. Curfew is nearly done. The BBC thing is halfway done. I work on the Secret Movie Thing on Thursdays, occasionally Fridays. And the New Movie Thing pitch document will be slotted in whenever I can. There are a couple of other things to work on, but there is room. I can now concentrate on two things at once, and no longer soil myself when I walk. Things got a bit on top of me over the weekend, but I'm getting the hang of them now. Thank you to everyone for suggestions of herbal remedies, kickboxing, fetishes, exploiting Bulgarians, and chocolate soy milk - ultimately, it just came down to hanging in there and sticking it out. This is all good fodder for a long blog post about the perils of taking on too much work at once, but I can't be fucking bothered, so you'll have to imagine one instead. Okay, just a quick one then: don't take on too much work at once. There. Before Christmas, I had lots of things lined up, because as we all know, most projects just roll over and die, no matter how much we want them to happen. I thought I was being clever, getting plenty of stuff backed up, because most of it would just fall through anyway. Part of it was knowing that the tax bill was coming up in January, and that we needed money to keep going. There's no way they'd all become active. No way.

That sound you can hear is a sitcom-style, blindingly obvious punchline approaching at full speed. But it's true.

Of course, most of the projects suddenly sprang into life, because Fate hates a smartass. Remember those quiet few months leading up to November? When I had no work at all? Well, I went from that feckless, lazy procrastinator, to someone who suddenly had a shitload of writing to do, and fast. Then I got the space virus in December, which gave me two full weeks of space madness, and then before I knew where I was, it was the year 2-Bond. And that's when things just went crazy, my mind was going (I can feel it, Dave), and I was trying to keep several things floating at once.

Now, I know what you're thinking: damn it, Jimbo, how can I be as handsome and witty as you? Well, you can't, so forget it. The *other* thing you're thinking is: Fuck off Jimbo, I've got like, TEN things on the go, and I'm coping with them fine, and anyway it's only writing, it's not like you're doing shift work on a building site or anything, you massive pansy, how I hate your guts and wish you would go away and leave me alone. Fair enough, yeah, I only had about 5 things on the go at once - but they were all for people who were paying me to do them, so they had to be good, they had to be on time, and they had to be done RIGHT NOW. And while writing is easier than many jobs, it can be heavy on the mind. When your mind can't stop running around, you can't think straight, you can't sleep properly, you start going a bit crazy, and you write long, rambling blog posts questioning the nature of reality. There is no moral or lesson here, I want to do all the things I'm working on, I need to do them, and I love them all. It's just random chance that they all suddenly kicked off at the same time. So what am I saying? I have no idea. If you have learned anything from this post, then great. If not, well, it's not like it was a big surprise or anything.

And now, some Severance pics from my obsessive travels around the shops of London's fashionable West End. Here is the DVD, sitting loftily at Number 1 in the chart:

The fancy display stand in Borders:

And sitting nestled among friends in the Horror section in HMV:

Clickyclicky for biggybiggy.

This week, as expected, lots of new releases have pushed Severance down - to number 10, sadly. And guess who is at number 8? Yep. Vicky fucking Entwistle. But hey, who cares?? We were number ONE for a week.

The current issue of Total Film has a great review of the DVD, right at the front of the DVD section. It's not sealed, so you can read it in the shop if you don't want to buy it. But you may as well buy it, as it puts food in the mouths of the lovely Total Film people who have been really great to us, and they even printed my letter last year. Unlike Empire, who never mentioned it once all during production, gave us a sniffy 3-star review for the cinema release, and knocked off another star for the even-sniffier DVD review, the party poopers. If they're not careful, they'll be taken off my Christmas card list, and then they'll be sorry. I never actually manage to send any Christmas cards, but hey, it's the principle of the thing.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My brain hurts

I'm so spaced out at the moment, my head is in several places at once: the Curfew script, the Secret TV Show outline, the BBC One-Off Show outline, the script of Secret Movie Thing, and the pitch document for New Movie Thing. I feel like I've written more words in the past 2 months than the past 4 years. I'm not sleeping very well, can't stop thinking about everything when I go to bed, and I'm anxious, worried that I won't get it all finished. It's just like there's this massive *thing* looming over my head, whatever I do, wherever I go, it's there, a constant buzzing in my head saying "you're not finished, you're not finished, you haven't done that outline yet, even if you do, there's LOADS of other things to finish, these people are busy, they need you to do your part of the bargain, get on with it, you're not finished" - if I'm writing, eating, watching TV, or just walking with my iPod blaring in my ears, I can feel it, like someone has tied a Zeppelin to one ear. Whichever way I turn my head, it's just THERE.

And it's like *I'm* not there, just a hollow shell walking around and making conversation, but there's nobody inside. I keep wandering around the flat, stopping in the middle of the room, with no idea what the hell I'm doing, am I coming or going, have I just walked in, or am I heading outside, was I taking the bins out, or am I home from work, did I finish that outline, did I email that bloke, was there something else I was supposed to finish today, am I just imagining it, am I meeting those people this week or next week, if I change that subplot in the outline it might cock up the ending and mean a new one, did I add in that scene to the script or not, have I got time to finish that outline this week, or will it mean something else will be late, have I just got up or is it time for bed, have I eaten, am I hungry, what day is it, is it day or night, what is that buzzing sound, is something burning, can I concentrate on watching this TV show long enough to relax my mind, or will I just zone out and have to rewind to find out what happened, will I get any sleep tonight if I can stop my mind racing for 5 minutes, what is the nature of reality, am I even human or just a physical construct placed in a massive maze for some scientific experiment?

Don't get me wrong. I love writing. I love working on the things I'm doing. I'm just really tired and anxious. I will be so glad when I get everything finished. I'll need a break where I don't do or think anything. I wish you could just flick a switch and turn off your mind when you need to rest.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Number one with an ass-knife

As of today, Severance is the number one top selling DVD in the country. Yes, it went straight in as a new entry at number one, top of the charts, the official DVD charts.

Thank you so much to everyone who bought it, borrowed it, watched it, liked it, talked about it, mentioned it, linked to it, thought about it, walked near it, sniffed it, touched it, or otherwise had any kind of influence on it at all - you all made it hit the top spot. You rock!

It's fab to be number one, I can't quite believe it. It even hit number 3 in the play.com sales chart, and got as high as 7 at Amazon, which is amazing considering that that includes all their sales and pre-orders. It is SO weird seeing it in shops and windows. I saw it in WHSmith's today, and felt slightly detached from myself for a moment, and thought everyone would suddenly stop and stare at me (they didn't, thankfully). It's the strangest feeling. Once again, thank you all for the support, and for getting the movie out there. It's so cool to get feedback and nice messages from so many people, I'm really proud that you all liked the movie enough to let me know. All this, just because I felt like killing some yuppies one day...

*Pic from the BBC site with the official DVD chart listing

Character introductions

When commenting on Danny's post about keeping the script lean and fast, I realised that I've changed the way I introduce characters in scripts. I used to do lots of descriptive stuff, but now I just keep it simple - name, rough age, gender, and *maybe* an identifying characteristic. Usually just name and age (the gender is usually obvious from the name, at least, I try to keep it that way so the reader doesn't get mixed up). The way the character talks and behaves will give me all the description I need. The original draft (Jan 2004) of Severance that sold was much, much wordier and talkier than later drafts - nothing wrong with that, it just didn't need as much detail. It also had big, descriptive introductions for everyone. Gordon, for example:

GORDON is in his late thirties, and insanely cheerful. He wears a bright yellow and black striped rugby shirt, tucked into his jeans, which are pulled up way, way too high.

He's the sort of man who would wear an "amusing" comedy tie to the office party.

He sits as close to the front as he can get, straining at the leash and bouncing with excitement, genuinely looking thrilled to be there.


Fair enough - it's all stuff that can be implied, but a bit too much. I had similar introductions for each character. And because they all appeared at the same time, it was a whole page of description. No action, no dialogue, nothing happening. Now, in the finished film, a combination of redrafting and editing shortens his intro:- after Richard asks if anyone cares about the marketing strategy, we cut to Gordon:

Gordon, wearing an inflatable neck pillow and a compass, smiles and puts his hand up.

I care.

Job done. You see what he looks like, he says two words, and you get an idea of who he is. He cares about the marketing strategy, genuinely cares, but probably would have said it anyway to suck up. And he has a special neck pillow, which means he's probably got loads of special travel gear, like international plug adapters, travel Scrabble, matches, needle and thread, and so on. And a compass, which isn't much help on a coach, when going to a lodge, but there it is, around his neck for some reason.

When I said I'd learned a lot from seeing Severance acted, shot, and edited, this is probably the best example. Now I just briefly introduce them, and try and get across a rough idea of who they are from their first line(s) of dialogue, whether it's a line by itself, or, as in the above case, a reaction to someone else. The whole coach intro shows who everyone is - they're supposed to be watching the marketing video, but Steve's on the net surfing for escorts, Maggie's working, Harris is making fun of it, Jill is appalled by the crass message, Richard is working out how to suck up to the boss, and Billy is patiently writing down his suggestions without laughing in his face. It's shorthand, to get things up and running, but the idea is to then fill in more detail as the script progresses. And hopefully surprise people when they find out the truth behind the public exterior.

The best recent example I've seen is Serenity. How to quickly get across all these characters to people who've never seen the TV show before? Their relationships, attitudes, histories? In a beautiful sweep around the ship, we follow Mal, the cocky, charming rogue, as the ship rattles to pieces, seeing the confident, sarcastic pilot, the tough guy who wants to bring grenades, the cool, calm ("We crashing again?") fighter, the feisty engineer who keeps the ship together, the protective, principled doctor, the strange, psychic young girl. In their exchanges, we learn all the above characteristics, plus the fact that they regularly commit crimes to earn a crust, said crimes often go awry thanks to Mal's slightly ropey plans, there have been many injuries, the ship is falling apart, River is traumatized, can see the future, and the Alliance desperately want to find her. All in a couple of minutes of fast moving banter and action. Doesn't feel like exposition at all, but it packs a load in, seemingly effortlessly. We get a handle on them, then later things get complicated and messy, and they all reveal hidden depths, strengths and flaws. Master Whedon, again we salute you.

If you can get across a rough idea of who the person is with their first line of dialogue, or the first thing they're doing - preferably both - then everything else they say and do just builds on that, and fleshes them out. Works for me, anyway, and saves valuable page space. If it's not possible, then don't waste time on long, boring descriptions - what they say and do over the course of the script will show who they are. Again, this is all stuff that works for me, it's not a rule, just trying to shed some light on my working process. Now get off my blog and write something, you heathens.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The monster is loose

Well, my agent finally named his new puppy, and he is called... Paddington. Not Cujo, as I suggested. Anyway, as promised, here he is - behold, the fearsome hellhound that guards my agent's lair:

No, that's not his lunch, it's a pet. Anyway, we all know that agents eat babies, not puppies.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Severance available on Region 2 DVD now

Severance is out on Region 2 DVD right now!

Severance DVD
Buy it here, from Play.com

Or here, from Amazon.co.uk

Or anywhere you like, I guess. It's £11.99 on both sites, but Play has free delivery, and you can't put a price on that. Well, you can, I suppose. Just buy it, or I'll smash your face in.

Amazon chart latest: Severance has climbed to number 16 in the Amazon chart. But terrifyingly, after falling down to 34, Vicky Entwistle is suddenly right up at 25 - and poor Nell McAndrew has skidded down to 59. In the Play.com chart, Severance is at 12, which is pretty good. I'll keep updating when I can, and as soon as I get the official UK DVD chart. But we all know the main action is at Amazon, the bare knuckle fistfight between me, Vicky and Nell.

And finally, was out with the usual bunch of rascals, ne'er-do-wells and outright criminals last Saturday, when a guy came around selling pirate DVDs. I was utterly shocked and horrified - because he didn't have Severance. Honestly, you work your arse off creating something you love, and the dodgy blokes with sports bags full of pirated movies don't even have the decency to stock it. What is the world coming to?

Amazon update: Severance climbs to 13 - and Vicky fucking Entwistle jumps ahead to number 7... What's that all about? At least Nell has regained some ground, up to 45. Is anyone still reading this, apart from me? I feel like a lone warrior, fighting with obscure workout videos. Yes, I can see you, The Hotpants Workout, sneaking up to number 47. You'll never take me alive.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Two thousand and what?

Merry Nooyearrrr! Hope you all had whatever you wanted, and so on. The past few weeks have been a blur of writing, eating, drinking, sleeping, with occasional moments of falling over. Still haven't got everything finished, but just about keeping my head above water. Quite ridiculously busy though - got Curfew to finish, Super Secret TV Thing to do, Other TV Outline, and Other Secret Film Thing. With a possibility of another telly thing about to happen. All paid and contracted, so I have to do them, can't feign death again, they won't be fooled this time. There will be proper posts soon, I'm just trying to get stuff out of the way first.

Christmas TV was notable for its near total lack of anything worth watching, apart from that History of Light Entertainment thing, and the terrifying Fear of Fanny, which was fantastic. Give Julia Davis several hundred awards at once. As for my regulars, Torchwood has found its feet and hit its stride, capping off the season with a double bill of two confident, cracking episodes. And Christmas cinema was the usual fortnight of nothingness, unless you like shite, or are mildly retarded. So I've been mainly watching movies on DVD, and taking advantage of the online sales.

In the meantime, if you fancy getting hold of Severance on DVD (released this Monday!), you can get it from Play.com, or Amazon, or many other online places.

When I first checked Amazon, it was ranked 4000 and something in the DVD chart, it's currently at 26, which is quite exciting. I'll be watching that closely, not expecting to beat Planet Earth or Lost, but at the very least hoping to overtake Vicky Entwistle's Weight Off Workout. At the moment it costs £11.99 on both sites, but Play have free delivery, and a shorter website address which saves time when typing (these things are important). Of course, if you can find an unscrupulous shop who are selling the DVD early (Phil, I'm looking in your direction), then you'll be able to get hold of it before everyone else.

There have been some updates to the official site, including some Post-It notes, a game that isn't ready yet, and a Christmas card feature, which, er, also isn't ready yet. So that'll be one for Christmas 2007, then. The countdown starts here.

Amazon Chart Update: Shit! Amazon have nobbled us, by reducing Nell McAndrew's new workout DVD to £3.99. Nell has now stolen Severance's 26th chart place and knocked it back to 27. To be fair though, if I could pay 12 quid for a kickass horror movie, or 4 quid to watch Nell McAndrew jiggle around in bikini workout gear, I'd have to go for Nell. Shockingly, Vicky Entwistle has leaped up to number 21, outselling all of us, even outselling Children of Men. Stay tuned for more exciting updates...

Amazon Update 2:At 24! Dropped temporarily to 37, now back up again. It's all very thrilling. Although this is only the Amazon chart, updated hourly, including pre-orders, and bears no resemblance to the official DVD chart (which should be available next week). But I can keep refreshing it, so it's more unpredictable. Nell has dropped to 28, and the formerly unstoppable Vicky Entwistle has staggered down to 34. I can't stand the excitement.