Friday, April 27, 2007

I'm in the TV club

Right. This week has been... pretty crazy busy. So has last week. Getting bucketloads of TV meetings at the moment, for new and upcoming TV series - some are in early development, and want writers to help flesh the thing out, some are in full swing and want writers to do an episode. They might all want me on board, or they might all never contact me again, you never know. But all the meetings have gone well so far, and I'd love to be involved with all of them. Most of them involve reading through the material, which is cool because I get to learn all Teh Sekrit Stuff of upcoming TV shows, nyah nyah I'm not telling. One of them sent a show bible and 3 episodes on DVD, so I'll devour those over the weekend.

But still lots to do apart from that. I'm doing a rewrite for a horror comedy movie, and finishing some other outlines. In the midst of this, I had a meeting to discuss the notes for the next draft of Secret TV Episode. It went really well, excellent notes as always, lots of laughter again, fun time had by all. I was never sure though if my episode was actually going to happen, because I'm not on the main staff, I'm a freelancer - and on every show, things get moved around and sometimes held back. But today, I got the call letting me know - my episode is definitely in. I shouted "WAHEYYY!" over the phone at them, as you do, and jumped up and down a lot.

So. That was the good news. The exciting news was that, er, things are moving along rather more quickly than expected. Which means I will have to enter hummingbird mode, and finish the new draft for this Thursday. 6 days from now. And then on Thursday I can visit the sets, to get a feel for them before I work on the next draft (and keep working on it as much as possible). And then, very soon, like in about 5 or 6 weeks I think, they will start filming it. HOLY FUCKY BUM BANANAS.

I'm so excited, I can barely speak. I love telly. It's nice, it's fast, and your stuff gets made really quickly.

Out in the movie world, the Severance score has been nominated for an Ivor Novello award, which is great news, and I hope it wins.

Meanwhile, the Severance US release date approaches (18th May! Bring the whole family!) I've been reliably informed that there are now actual movie posters up in New York (and probably elsewhere, but the bloke was in NY at the time when he saw them). If anyone sees one, take a pic and email it in, I'd love to see it.

More updates to the blog coming soon, including a proper sidebar section with links to useful posts, so that people can find things more easily. I've updated the profile and other bits and bobs, so people can email questions in if they choose, or send in saucy photographs of themselves, or both.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Rated R for mild controversy

The US trailer for Severance is now up on the Apple trailers site - that means it's a proper movie and everything.

And it now has a US rating: Rated R, for "strong bloody violence, language, drug content and some sexuality/nudity." Nice. What better advert for a horror movie??

But with the rating, comes the unwanted attention of the MPAA, who according to this report from Fangoria have told the US distributors to remove certain "elements" from the official Severance site - mainly, the gushing neck stump, the escort girls' boobs (well, cleavage really), and anything relating to torture and blood. This is quite farcical, considering they allowed the Saw 3 posters last year - actual posters on billboards, no less, whereas the Severance images are only on its website. I've just had a look at the updated site - they've removed the gushing neck stump (which doesn't even look that real, for fuck's sake), the wallpaper download of Jill tied up, and cropped the pic of the two escort girls so that the one with more cleavage on display is no longer shown. Apparently, if they hadn't done this, they might have lost their R rating. Crazy.

Now I look around online, this is getting reported all over the place, and the general consensus is that it was a really stupid thing to do. Obviously the distributors have no choice in the matter if they don't want to lose their rating, which means hardly any cinemas would take the movie, and no newspapers would run ads for it - so I don't hold them responsible. But it's pretty dumb of the MPAA to pull this sort of stunt, considering that you can easily find plenty of websites with much gorier content online, surely the web is not in their jurisdiction? Yes, a five year old kid could go online, see the site and be traumatised. They could also go online and see people getting run over, having open heart surgery, or having sex with donkeys. A five year old kid isn't allowed to watch the movie, and that is the only decision a film ratings board should make. Fine, don't allow gory posters in public places, I have no problem with that. But get your stinking paws off the internet, you damn dirty apes. More reaction on the story at CinemaBlend, Twitch, and JoBlo. And if you're a US horror fan looking for the actual pumping blood graphic - IF YOU CAN HANDLE IT OMG IT TEH GOREEY - you can always have a look at the UK website here, which thankfully isn't subject to the whims of of the MPAA. Update: Chris' comment on the whole thing is here.

On the other hand - thanks MPAA, for all the free publicity! Good job!

Speaking of Fangoria, I picked up issue 262, which has a big spread on the movie - it's spoiler-tastic though, if you haven't seen the movie don't look. It was so exciting to see the name on the cover, I allowed myself a slightly insane giggle in the shop. It's in most branches of Borders now, if you want to have a look.

The list of US cinemas that will be showing Severance is updated, so if you live over there, have a look and see where it's playing near you. They're adding more cinemas all the time, so keep checking.

Some US reviews are coming in, to add to the already excellent Variety and Hollywood Reporter ones:

Rolling Stone - 'Watch out for that rocket launcher. I'm not going to tell you anything else.' - Cool little spoiler-free review.

Film Threat - '"Severance” is how “Office Space” would’ve turned out had Michael Bolton and Samir not been able to take their frustrations out on the office printer.' - Blimey, I wouldn't go that far myself, but cheers.

And finally, Film Journal - 'If anyone involved in this sloppy, inexplicable slasher flick had a notion of what they were doing or why, they've kept it to themselves. Severance is a murky quagmire from start to finish.' - hey, hang on a minute, that's a bad one, ignore it...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it goes

Kurt Vonnegut died today, aged 84. I'm really upset about that. Somehow I hoped he'd live forever.

He was one of my biggest influences when I was growing up. I found two of his books in the otherwise desolate school library, and they were like nothing I'd ever read before. For several years, all my short stories were bad Vonnegut ripoffs, as I tried to mimic his style. Eventually, I stopped doing this, and found my own style - but elements of his style remained, the irreverence, the sarcasm, the optimism and pessimism mixed together. I love his books, how they can be simultaneously important works of art *and* the deranged ramblings of a madman.

Halfway through reading Bluebeard, years ago, someone innocently asked me what it was about. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. After a long pause, I had to say: "I don't really know..." Many of the books aren't really *about* anything, not in the "a man needs to get X so that he can achieve Y" kind of way - they just present you slices of someone's life, hilarious slices, tragic slices, and it all comes together to thoroughly entertain you. They're about everything, they're about nothing. They just *are*.

One of my favourite Vonnegut moments is, strangely, in a Rodney Dangerfield movie, "Back to School". Rodney hires him to do a Vonnegut book report for his kid, and Vonnegut delivers it in person - the punchline is that the teacher fails the kid, saying "and whoever wrote this obviously knows nothing about Vonnegut!" Later, Rodney is on the phone, complaining to Vonnegut about the work, before finally shouting "Fuck me?? Hey Vonnegut, fuck *you*!" The man himself probably thought this was hilarious - he was very self deprecating, and hated pretentious literary critics. He deliberately wrote his books in plain language, so that nobody would be excluded from reading them. So when I picked up those books in the school library, when I was 12, I found them easy to read, but incredibly complex and deep at the same time. Plus he swore, and liked drawing pictures of "assholes", like this: *

He stayed sparky right to the end. His recent appearance on the Daily Show was hilarious, his mind as contrary and mischievous as ever. I hope to have even half his energy and wit when I reach that age. And I hope he had some idea of how many people he inspired and influenced over the years. He's a big part of the person I became. And you should all go and read all of his books immediately. This is one of my favourite quotes of his:

"Do you know what a Humanist is? I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that functionless capacity. We Humanists try to behave well without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. We serve as best we can the only abstraction with which we have any real familiarity, which is our community.

We had a memorial services for Isaac a few years back, and at one point I said, ''Isaac is up in Heaven now.'' It was the funniest thing I could have said to a group of Humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, ''Kurt is up in Heaven now.'' That’s my favorite joke.

I hoped I'd never get to make that joke. But Kurt is up in Heaven now. And the world is a sadder place.

Kurt Vonnegut Official Site

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New stuff, and backing up

Behold, the new US poster for Severance:

No, I don't remember the scene with the chainsaw either, but hey, it looks cool. Doesn't scream "horror movie" at me, given that the neck stump is tastefully covered up, but it's not bad. As usual, you may clickyclicky for biggybiggy.

And, the US website is up and running here - it's got all the stuff the UK one has, but with added info, clips, desktop backgrounds and all sorts.

Shiny new Macs have arrived at Spork Towers - it was time to upgrade, as the Powerbook had died a quiet death of old age, and my faithful little iBook was slowly filling up its 30GB hard drive. I now have a new 13 inch MacBook in pristine white, specced up to the max (2GB RAM! Phwoar!!), and Jo has a 15 inch silver MacBook Pro, similarly pimped. With the new machines came the difficult decision of what to call them. The old Powerbook was called Serenity, and my iBook was dubbed Vger, so we decided to stick to a similar spaceship naming scheme. My beautiful, sleek, white friend is now called Discovery, and Jo's silver dream machine is called Stargazer. Bonus points for spotting the excessively nerdy references (mine's easy, given my favourite director, the other one is trickier). I make no apologies for the geekiness of this paragraph, this is who I am, and you should just love me unconditionally.

Following on from that, I must point out something that you really all should know, but that many of you are probably not doing: back up your stuff. Regularly. Cause you never know when things will go bang. We'd just done a backup of both machines, about a week before the Powerbook slipped away in the night, so everything was saved. I can't emphasise enough the importance of backing up. I'm paranoid about this, because 15 years ago (I remember it vividly) I lost 4 pages of work that had taken me ages to finish. It's never happened again. Every time I finish something, I save it, make a copy of it, and email it to my Gmail storage account. And I do regular, full backups of everything on my laptop, to a portable hard drive. It's important for everyone to back up, but especially so for writers, because your life's work can be contained in a single folder that can be *so* easily lost or corrupted. It's not practical or environmentally chummy to print everything out, but your data is so fragile, you can't be too careful. You can get a 250GB portable hard drive for around 50 quid, which is a small price to pay compared to losing all your stuff. A big drive means you can have several backups on it at once, I try to keep three at a time in case I need an old version of a file - although whenever I do a new draft of something, I keep a copy of the old version anyway (told you I was paranoid). You'll also be able to back up all your music and digital photos, so it's well worth it. Most of the regular brands are fine, check reviews before you buy though, and if you can, get a Firewire version, it'll make copying files much, much faster - check that your machine has a Firewire port first, obviously. If in doubt, or you have no idea what any of this means, just take a photo of all the holes in your computer, print it out, show it to someone in a computer shop and ask them (anywhere except PC World though, they'll just tell you to do a virus scan and reinstall the operating system, even if you're trying to buy a keyboard). That was your public information announcement for today. Don't make me tell you again. Oh, and don't talk to strangers, unless they offer you sweets or a lift in their car.

And finally: be sure to check out the final episode of Life On Mars tonight, or I will come round your house and beat a confession out of you. And I'm sure we're all watching the new season of Dr Who, if not, then you can't be in my special gang.