Sunday, August 31, 2008

Horror ruts, Torchwood, and a Brand New Thing

Back from FrightFest, only got slightly brain damaged, which was nice. A mixed bag of films, some very good, some very bad. Horror movies go through phases, but at the moment, many of them seem to be stuck in a rut. Everyone seems to want to make the same movie over and over: some stupid people get tortured and killed by lunatics for no apparent reason. Which is NOT a story, it's just people being brutalised for 90 minutes. I love horror movies, so I'm perfectly happy (oh, you know what I mean) watching trauma and gore, but if there's no story, then it's boring and pointless, I'm not invested in it. "Ah yes, but in life, there are no easy answers, sometimes bad things happen for no reason." Hey, in life, sometimes cats take a shit in your garden, doesn't mean we have to make boring movies about it. Write a story! Make it interesting! Is that too much to ask? The best films at FrightFest had stories, they had something to say, they didn't virtually tell you everything that was going to happen in the first 5 minutes. Time Crimes, Dance of the Dead, Freakdog, Let The Right One In, Martyrs - all proper movies, all crowd pleasers, all clever and interesting. None of them were a short film spun out over an hour and a half. Martyrs was about torture and revenge, but it had a lot to say, and kept you guessing for quite a while, it had a *point* to it. Give us something to think about, or at least show the characters trying to escape in a variety of ways.

Also, if you have several scenes where your main characters could get themselves out of trouble, easily, or just leave - then fucking rewrite it. We will notice. We are not idiots. If you have a scene where the main characters get themselves into the trouble in the first place - then fucking rewrite it. If you have a scene where someone comes across a load of potential weapons, but doesn't take any because otherwise the movie would end too early - then fucking rewrite it. There is no excuse for laziness. Even so, I'm amazed at some of the plotholes and logic fiddles that got through to the finished product. My agent would never let me get away with any of them. Here's a revolutionary idea for you: when you write your horror movie, why not pretend that it's a normal movie with normal characters who behave in a somewhat realistic fashion? If a killer chases them, they run away. If things go wrong, they call the police, or try to get help. I know people get scared and make mistakes in real life - but this is a movie, and you have to convince the audience. Rewrite it. Blimey. It doesn't cost you anything but time.

Anyway, fun time had by all, lovely atmosphere as usual, and lots of cool people to chat to. Hello to everyone I met, and hello to everyone I didn't meet, too. My Asus/Jesus/Anus came with us, and performed very well on the go. Full review coming soon, hopefully.

So my Code 9 came and went, and if you didn't catch it, you'll have to wait for the DVD which seems to be out next month. I mean, you don't have to get it, you don't have to watch anything just cause I say so, I'm just saying that it would be lovely if you choose to watch it, or rent it, or buy it, or something. And if you don't, I'll come round your house and kill you dead with an elephant gun. It fires thirty elephants per minute. Takes eight months to reload. I don't know where this paragraph is going.

Filming has officially started on Torchwood series 3! You may clicky clicky on the link for more details, fresh juicy details, get 'em while they're hot. I'm hoping to get along to see some of it soon, now that I have less of a hefty workload. Things are calming down, which means I can work on one thing at a time. It also means that I can soon start work on one of the 4 spec films I've been waiting to write. They're all outlined, ready to go, just dying to get out into the world. I'm going to start the first one very soon, while I have a break. And I can't wait.

Edit: I didn't wait. I started. I have a brand new thing. Nobody knows what it is, only Jo knows the plot, I haven't even told my agent. So right now, it's all mine. Nobody to give notes, no budget to worry about, no guidelines to stick to. Anything goes. Blimey, the power.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

FrightFest! Asus! Code 9!

Right, I'm off to FrightFest with Jo, 5 days of mayhem, movies, and silliness. If you're there, say hello. In between movies, we'll either be in the bar, or standing outside. Once again, the 30 minute rule will be in effect - if the movie hasn't interested us in the slightest by the 30 minute mark, we'll be out the door and in the bar. Hopefully the FF will get me inspired by horror again. It's been a bit of a dodgy year for horror movies - although I said the same thing last year, I'm starting to repeat myself. There are always a few gems in amongst the shite though, and many of them should be playing at FF this weekend. I've got a few spec movies all ready to write, so this should get me in the right mood for them. Next month will be the first time I'll have room to breathe, and I can finally start working on my own stuff.

My Asus has arrived, and is very lovely indeed. Although saying "my Asus" quickly can cause raised eyebrows, it sounds a bit dodgy. I'm thinking of calling it "Jesus", because, you know, it rhymes with Asus, more or less. Although The Arnopp has suggested that I simply refer to it as "my Anus", which I think could be the winner. If you have any similarly sensible suggestions, have at it. Although you'd have to go a long, long way to beat my Anus. Blimey! See? It's just brilliant, and so easy to work into double entendres. Anyway, I'll do a proper post about it soon, sort of a review, I suppose, which is frighteningly grown up, so naturally I will cram it full of filth.

Thank you for the questions so far, all very good, keep them coming. It will be a mammoth post, so I might have to break it up into separate ones, with an index or something. Christ, it's difficult already, and all my own fault for deciding to do it.

Don't forget my Code 9 episode is on this Sunday, 9pm, BBC3, featuring action, drama, witty banter, gore, and good looking people doing good looking things. No Torchwood-style slow motion team striding, though, which I feel every show needs. I visited the set while they were filming a different episode, sat in one of the chairs in the field office and pretended to be a spy. That probably tells you everything you need to know about me, good and bad. Oh! The preview of the first 10 minutes is now working, it's on this page of this website here, don't y'know.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Technology, Storybook, Code 9, and faq'ing

I am unsettled today, as one of the neighbours has chosen to play a Coldplay live album at full volume. According to the Geneva Convention, this is classified as "cruel and unusual punishment". I will pay him back by killing him with my mind - I'll send hateful thoughts through the wall, concentrating really hard, until I hear the scream and thud that indicate his brain has exploded.

Anyway. To calm my nerves, and yours, if you're a bit stressed, let's all enjoy a unique rendition of "Feelings", as performed by Beaker. Lovely.

Like everyone else in the world, I've been desperately trying to get hold of an Asus 901 Netbook, with Linux preloaded. I spent ages traipsing up and down Tottenham Court Road in vain, but now it looks like Amazon are sending mine this week. It's a "sub-notebook", which means it's tiny, light, has a minimal OS install (Linux in this case, and lots of open source software), and will let me get writing done and check email when I'm out of the country, without adding much weight to my bag. The other great thing about it is the solid state (flash memory, like memory sticks) hard drive, which has no moving parts, is quiet, shock-proof, and fast. So I can throw it into my bag and bring it over to Fantastic Fest without worrying about damaging my Macbook - I like to travel light, bringing the bare minimum, and this has everything I need for working on the move. Hard drives, like CRT televisions, are awkward, outdated technology, and not really meant to be portable. Recent advances in solid state technology are packing more and more into smaller spaces, so I look forward to the day when the clunky needle and platter combo is gone forever. Until, obviously, we get the holographic memory cubes, but I'm not holding my breath. Besides, Skynet will have launched its initial attack on us by then, and the survivors of the nuclear fire will face a new nightmare: the war against the machines. Naturally, I will be burning my Asus as soon as it arrives, to do my part in the struggle for survival. Damn you, the machines!

Pimping section: The Doctor Who Storybook is out now, in all places where items like this are traditionally purchased. It contains my story, Grand Theft Planet, beautifully illustrated by Daryl Joyce. In tellybox news, because Code 9 started with a double bill, my episode is on a week earlier than I thought - this Sunday 24th, 9pm, BBC3. I'll be at FrightFest though, so I won't be able to have a viewing party, which is a shame, but the 5 day festival of horror movies cannot not be ignored. Otherwise it comes round your house and eats you. You can watch the first 10 minutes of my ep on the official site - well, supposedly, it doesn't seem to be working for me. Anyway. A couple of people have asked about the co-credit, so just to clarify, it's because I took over the episode after an early draft had been done. I'll talk more about the ep once it's been on, obviously I can't say what was different yet, otherwise I'll give away what happens. I'm clever like that.

And finally, I'm working on a frequently asked questions post, because there are lots of questions that I get asked... frequently. I end up sending the same replies to people over and over, and it's eating more and more time every day, so hopefully this will help us all save time and possibly even enrich our lives. It'll be updated regularly, so if you have any questions that you worry are too obvious to ask, go for it, now's your chance. Contact info's over there on the right, or use the comments, or just shout REALLY loud. I'm also nearly finished part 2 of the Torchwood writing process thingy, so let's see which one gets finished first, eh? It'll be like the Olympics, but with words, and no weird outfits.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Links, Code 9, meat, and Knorks

Some links, for your linky pleasure, seeing as I'm off to Cardiff today and won't be online tomorrow to do my Friday link thingy. Also because I missed my own deadline for the previous one. So now, a day early, we can all kick back, and rub hot, tasty internet links all over ourselves. Is there no end to the depravity?

Joe Eszterhas Q & A - this is an hour long question and answer session from two years ago, when he released his book, The Devil's Guide to Hollywood. It's great stuff, full of useful info, and there's plenty more in the book. Also highly recommended is Hollywood Animal, his autobiography - half about his screenwriting career, half about his childhood, it's all fascinating, hilarious, and moving.

Spooks: Code 9 starts on BBC3 this Sunday, 10th August, 9pm. Funkier! Edgier! BBC3-ier! Set-five-years-in-the-future-ier! My ep is number 4, so should be shown on the 31st August. I will of course remind you all again closer to the time, so don't you worry your pretty little heads about it. The official site is here, which has lots more info, including the first 10 minutes of the first episode. You can also upload a pic of your face into a mission video, which can be quite disturbing. Look at this suspicious looking chap:

I know, it's quite creepy. Don't look directly into his eyes, in case he eats your soul.

Now. It's been two years. I have finally got the last piece of meat out of my digestive system. It's time to return... to Texas. Yes! It's fantastic... it's a fest... it's the Fantastic Fest, in Austin, Texas. I'll be there from the 19th to the 26th September, at the Alamo Drafthouse (South Lamar) and various pubs in the area. Obviously, I shall be fasting from now until then, so that I don't explode from the amount of meat they'll be forcing down my neck. If you're in that neck of the woods, and will be at the Fest, come and say hello. You know it makes sense.

And finally: mightier than the spork... *and* the pen? Surely, you cry, such a thing is impossible? No, children. Bow your heads in awe, at the majesty of... the Knork! It's a fork... that also cuts like a knife. Oh yes.

It's the descriptions that kill me: apparently you can "dine on the cutting edge", because "in reality, this beautiful utensil is unlike anything else on the market", thanks to products like these, which "aid in the chaos of today's on-the-go society". That's right, today's society is so chaotic and fast, you simply don't have time to use both a knife *and* fork at the same time. Use a Knork, and your other hand is free to make those important business calls, type important emails, punch people in the face, or tickle the arse of passing strangers. Thank you (I think) to my sister Jools for alerting me to this news. She knows that I live for this nonsense.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Here in my car, I feel safest of all

Jo is learning to drive, so that we won't be helpless on future visits to America, but also so we can go for adventures in the countryside here (preferably involving ham sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer). Why am I not learning to drive, too? Because I'm an absent minded, unobservant, daydreaming buffoon, and don't tend to notice things like traffic lights, signposts, pedestrians... I'd mow down about twenty pensioners before I realised I was even on the pavement. Also, because ads like this used to scare me as a kid - if I make a mistake, how do I know a giant hand won't actually come out of the sky to take me away?

Anyway. The Highway Code is proving to be a great source of amusement to us, because of all the common sense rules and guidelines that they really shouldn't need to say. The best one so far, is this, taken from the print version, but also available on the online version (Rules for pedestrians, section 4):

Young children should not be out alone on the pavement or road (see Rule 7). When taking children out, keep between them and the traffic and hold their hands firmly. Strap very young children into push-chairs or use reins. When pushing a young child in a buggy, do not push the buggy into the road when checking to see if it is clear to cross, particularly from between parked vehicles.

Noooooo, Chav Sleeper, noooooo!

There you go, I'm a good person, I wasn't deliberately killing a baby, I just hadn't read my Highway Code. Although... it doesn't say you can't just let the buggy trundle into traffic while walking away. So I'm probably okay.

By the way, just to remind cyclists: it is AGAINST THE FUCKING LAW to cycle on the pavement. Look, section 64:

You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement.
[Laws HA 1835 sect 72 & R(S)A 1984, sect 129]

See? Capital letters and everything, in the book it's even printed in red. Which is why I shout at cyclists when I see them doing it, but also partly because several twats have nearly knocked me over, on the pavement, where it is ILLEGAL for them to be. Oh, and by the way, a red traffic light means stop, some of you don't seem to understand that, and I have again nearly been hit by cyclists suddenly appearing from between cars and casually zooming through a red light as I'm using a crossing. Next time, I won't dodge you, and will throw myself under your front wheel, hopefully sending you flying over your handlebars to smash your stupid face in. Thank you.

And yes, I am aware there are stupid drivers, stupid pedestrians, and perfectly well behaved cyclists. I'm not talking about those right now, neither am I talking about, for example, giraffes, astronauts, or baked beans. Just thought I'd clear that up.