Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Guns, booze, and meat - my Texas adventure

Back from Texas, more or less in one piece, quite jetlagged, and the proud owner of a massive black eye. A black eye?? But Uncle Jimbo, you sit at a computer all day and make up silly stories! How could you possibly have got a manly injury like that?? Well, read on, and find out...

Things got off to a rocky start when the flight was 2 hours late taking off. This meant that we missed the connecting flight in Toronto, and nearly had to wait until the following day for the next one. But we managed to get put on an earlier flight, by the simple technique of lying on the floor, crying, and soiling ourselves. I recommend it if you're ever in a similar situation. So instead of one connecting flight, we had to get two, and got to Austin about 3 hours late, which wasn't too bad. While on the first flight, I entertained myself by putting a toilet paper seat cover on my head, so that I looked like some sort of demented, washed-out sunflower. And because you know you want it, here's a pic of that pivotal moment:

We got to Austin just in time for the outdoor screening of Mad Max 2, in the car park of the Alamo cinema, which was glorious. Vehicular carnage ahoy, and much beer was drunk. I was there with the scribo-bloggosphere-o-tron's Jason "Arnoppapadopoulos" Arnopp, Sean "the reasonably sensible one" Hogan, and Jay "I hate Macs, blogs, and all rational thought" Slater. Ian from FrightFest was there too, scouting for possible FF movies and trying to drink all of the beer in Texas. Here is some of the booze we had - beer with a small Jim Beam chaser:

Mr Arnopp looks on disapprovingly, as well he might. What you can't tell from the picture is, he's not wearing any pants, and is sitting in a bucket of frogs. True story. If you've read the blog posts about my last trip to Texas, you'll know all about how cool the Alamo cinema is. If not, then go here and read them (scroll down to "Austin, the arrival" and work your way up), I'll wait here. Go on. Okay, they've gone, I'm not going to wait at all, it was just a trick so we could be alone! The fools! The Alamo is the coolest cinema on the planet, each row of seats has a table in front, and a channel so that they can come and take your food/drink orders. It all works marvellously, and I wish they'd open a London branch. One of the best things is their STRICT no-talking policy. It's fine to laugh, cheer, clap, or whatever, they encourage that - but if you talk or let your cellphone go off, they come down on you, hard. If there's a noisy table near you, you can place an order card in the slot by your seat, and let the staff know. The management then comes and warns the noisy people. If they continue making noise, they get kicked out. No arguments. There are adverts before every single movie reminding you of this, and they're hilarious. Every one of the ads ends with "If you talk during the movie, we'll take your ass out." It is SUCH a breath of fresh air.

Movie highlights: "I Think We're Alone Now", a documentary about two people who, shall we say, really really REALLY like Tiffany. Yes, that Tiffany. Yes, they're stalkers. But it comes from a place of love. It's one of the most terrifying things I've ever seen, but at the same time, you grow to understand them a bit, and really feel for them. If you get a chance to see this, you must, it's mesmerising. Another great doc was "Not Quite Hollywood", about the Ozsploitation movies - low budget genre movies from Australia. Mad Max, Turkey Shoot, Road Games, Razorback, and a whole load of ones I'd never heard of but have to track down. The doc was gritty, funny, and had all the raw energy of the films it celebrates. Great fun, and a real crowd pleaser. "The Burrowers" was a really good horror Western, a nice slow burn with some really great characters and cool moments. "Alien Raiders" was a great example of low budget horror done properly, using effects sparingly and relying on tension, atmosphere, and some clever twists. "Spine Tingler", a documentary about the late, great William Castle, was enormous fun, and detailed all the fun promotional tricks and tactics he used to get people to see his movies. "JCVD" is Jean-Claude Van Damme's comeback movie - the story is fairly standard, and it goes a bit odd in the final act, but that's not the big deal, the big deal is Van Damme's performance. Jaw-dropping. He plays himself, and opens up on screen in a way that's quite hard to watch sometimes. He is absolutely amazing in it, it's one of the best performances I've seen for quite a while. And I never thought I'd say that about him. Lots of other cool stuff, but the above movies were my favourites.

Other highlights included the War On Terror question popping up in every single Q & A of the fest, a question that has dogged us all for several years now. "I was just wondering, some of the subtext seemed to be saying blahblahwaffleblah, and I wanted to know, is it a reference to the War On Terror?" No. It isn't. Please stop asking that fucking question. The final time it got asked, the audience actually sighed as a group, and someone just said "No," quite loudly. That person may or may not have been me.

Another nice thing that happened a lot, was people recognising me and saying how much they loved Severance. Made me feel proper famous, so it did. While DVD shopping, I picked up a second-hand copy of Severance, because I gave away all my copies, and I want a Region 1 version as it has a different cover. I know. Buying my own movie. Second-hand. Cheap-arse. Anyway, in the queue, our Alamo mate Devin pointed at the DVD and asked the guy behind the counter if he'd seen it. "What did you think?" asked Devin, smiling. The guy said "It was pretty good, I liked it. Thought the pot-smoking thing got a bit dumb after a while though." We all burst out laughing, and Devin pointed at me and said "He wrote it." The poor guy went bright red, and immediately said "it was very gory though, it was great". We all had a chuckle about that, though I felt bad for the guy, he looked quite embarrassed. Sorry, DVD-shop-bloke, if by some amazing coincidence you're reading this.

There were lots of parties, events, and cool moments with all the wonderful people there (hello Scott, Will, Jen, Liz, Ashley, Rae, Ian, Devin, Kier-La, Tim, Karrie, Brian, Eric), but the highlight for me was the last day, at the Alamo with most of the hard working cinema crew who were now able to relax and drink. We had a great time, they're all really cool people to hang out with. Special mention must go to my mate Rae, who got me a TARDIS notebook like the one in Silence In The Library (Doctor Who, season 4, The Moff). She really wanted one, and had to get it specially made, so she got one for me too, which was extremely cool of her. Here's a pic of the book:

Also on the last day, we went back to Red's Indoor Range, to shoot some more guns. Red's is an extremely cool place, with friendly and polite staff who know their stuff inside out. This time we had a .44 Magnum, a Colt .45, and an AK-47. Oh. My. God. The thing about guns is, they're terrifying instruments of death and destruction, but at the same time, they're incredibly exciting and fun, if used safely. If I lived in a country where they were easily available, I'd probably have several in each room, ready for (a) any psychotic, armed burglar who tries to break in, and (b) zombies. The Magnum was unbelievably powerful, the Colt was almost as strong but easier to handle, and the AK-47 was very cool but totally inaccurate at anything over 20 yards. Here is a video compilation of me firing guns and feeling like a big, sexy bastard:

Take that, evil exec who fucked me over so that I lost out on a huge deal several years ago! Take that, two-faced exec who lied to me, betrayed my trust and then didn't even have the balls to phone me and let me know that the whole project had gone down the toilet! Take that, dumbass production company who had no idea what a principal photography payment was, and thought it was "extra money" that they didn't need to give me! Take that, fuckwit "producer" who faffed me around, changed our agreement, tried to get me to write a script for nothing, and then acted like I was holding everything up! Take that! Take all of my bullets!

As we were shooting, the guy next to us had brought in his own guns to calibrate the sights. One was a fucking huge Weatherby Vanguard bolt-action hunting rifle with a scope on top and 7mm Remington Magnum bullets. It was his first time with this new beast, and he was very proud of it - he saw us all admiring it, and jumping whenever he fired it. We thought the AK was loud, but his was like a cannon going off. And then he loaded up a bullet, cocked it, and asked me if I wanted to give it a go. Fuck yes! Like a fool, I gladly jumped in and accepted. I couldn't turn that down.

I settled into the seat, lined up the sights, and carefully squeezed the trigger. I was so worried about the kick to my shoulder from the stock, that I wasn't paying attention to how close my face was to the scope. I fired, the rifle jerked backwards, and the scope caught me right in the face, above the right eye. It got me right on the bone under the eyebrow, drove my glasses (my proper glasses) back into my face, cutting my nose slightly, and bending the glasses alarmingly. My head flew back, and it felt like I'd been punched in the face - because, in a way, I had been. And because you know you want it, here's video of the moment itself, courtesy of Mr Arnopp:

I managed to bend the glasses back to their normal shape, but my eye already had a nice lump swelling up. Four days later, it looks like this:

Ouch. One of the other shooters came over to see what had happened, and when he realised, simply nodded wisely, and said "Ah, you got scoped," as if it were some ancient ritual that a boy must go through to become a man. I was okay, just a bit shaken and taken aback by the power of the thing. The rifle guy was glad that I was okay, and when he brought the target forward, he pointed out where I had hit it (phone shown for size comparison):

Right there. On a tiny target. From one hundred yards. Oh yeah. I am ready for the upcoming zombie apocalypse. The rifle guy pulled out a big hunting knife, cut out the section I hit, and handed it over to me. I was in pain, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't feel fucking cool. I felt like I had earned their respect, even if they were probably all thinking I was a feeble, pale, Limey bastard. So the lesson I learned that day was: be careful with guns. They could have someone's eye out. When I texted Jo later on to tell her of my adventure, her response was "I told you not to take guns from strangers..." This is the bullet I fired, so you can marvel at how ridiculously huge it was:

After that, we all went and got extremely drunk. And then I came home. The Fantastic Fest is an amazing festival, great people, a great vibe, and superb movies. I hope I can keep making movies regularly, so that I have a good excuse to go every year. And maybe next time, I'll try not to whack myself in the face with a huge rifle.

Jimbo gets scoped

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Books, books, books

Well, you've probably guessed by now, that I didn't manage to do another blog post before I left. You are most observant, sir or madam, and I salute you. I had a fantastic time, it's such a great festival. Now, I am back home, exhausted, jetlagged - and slightly damaged, which you'll have to wait until the next blog post to read about. Don't worry, there will be photos and everything.

Don't forget that this Saturday, 4th October, is the Doctor Who Storybook 2009 signing at London's Forbidden Planet megastore, 1-2pm. Come along and see me, Gareth Roberts, Keith Temple, Clayton Hickman, Gary Russell and Jonathan Morris, and demand that we write our names in your book. I am more or less able to write my own name, and I'm sure the others can do theirs too, so it should all go fairly smoothly.

Big Finish have now officially announced and released the cover for Short Trips: Christmas Around the World, which includes one of my short stories. I don't know if I'm allowed to say the title of the story yet, so I'll keep it under my non-existent hat for now.

It's my third ever published short story, and I'm extremely proud of it. I'm proud of all three stories I've done so far, but I wasn't sure if I could pull this one off, and was very pleased when it all came together. Halfway through writing it, I suspected that I needed to change it from first person to third, so I rewrote the first page - it didn't sound right at all, so I went back to the first person again. Sometimes you have to try these things, and if I hadn't, I'd still be worrying about it now, and thinking "I wonder if I should have changed it". The book is out on December 15th, in all good, bad and indifferent bookshops, both in the real world, the cyber world, and the fantasy world inside my head where I am King of Everything.

Another book on sale RIGHT NOW OMG is The Writer's Tale, by Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook. I have no financial or promotional stake in this, so trust me when I say this: it's absolutely enthralling. You get a fascinating insight into the mind of a writer, during a year in the life of a huge TV show. It shows what writing is really like - all the decisions, worries, late night writing sessions, second guessing, angst, mayhem, sitting at a desk and swearing until you can force the words out, then the massive joy of a story suddenly clicking into place at 4am. It's incredibly heartfelt, funny, and honest, and if you have the slightest desire to be a writer or see how the magic happens, then you absolutely must read this - even just so you can say "oh thank Christ, it's not just me who does that". Go and get it and read it, or I'll come round your house and burn your bum off with a flamethrower.

Austin shenanigans soon. Sleep and food now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Last minute links, when animals attack, and general silliness

Rapidly running out of time before heading to Texas, so I may not finish the big FAQ post before I go. Or the Asus review. Or whatever the other post was. I know, I'm useless. In my defence, I am also in the midst of a massive bout of the Space Virus, so I'm not quite in my right mind. This has been dragging on for a couple of weeks now, threatening to arrive, and now it's in full flow. So I'm desperately hoping it'll be on the way out tomorrow, as flying with blocked sinuses literally makes your head explode.

For now, here's a link to an interview in the latest issue of UK Writer, the magazine of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain - it's about writing for Doctor Who, and features Paul Cornell, Rob Shearman, and an extremely handsome, talented writer called-- oh, how staggeringly unexpected and embarrassing! It's me!

I'm a bit late mentioning it, but didn't want to let it go without saying anything: Sadly, Gregory MacDonald recently died, an author I've admired for years. He's best known for the Fletch series of books which, if you haven't read any, you must get hold of immediately. The first Fletch movie is quite good fun, but the books are light years better. Reading the first one is like getting a masterclass in writing great dialogue. It's fun, but hard as nails, has a clever, twisty-turny plot, and will instantly become one of your favourite books as soon as you finish it. Pick up a copy, and revel in some sparkling, rock solid writing. Trust Uncle Jimbo, now.

And on a lighter note, here's a reminder of what happens when you fuck around with wildlife. Apparently, they bite even harder if you are relentlessly cheerful at them. Oh, and if anyone can find a clip online of when Nigel Marven got bitten on the nose by a tiny, bright green snake, I will be your best friend forever, or at least for 10 minutes. It is absolutely hilarious, even better than the above link. I'm a sucker for videos of people getting smacked upside the head by animals. Leave them alone. If some idiot decides to jump the fence at the tiger enclosure at a zoo, don't bother rescuing him. He'll learn a valuable lesson, if he survives, and the tigers will fucking love it - live prey! That's *all* they are thinking when they see you staring at them in zoos: (a) how do I get out of here so I can eat that guy's head, or (b) I hope that guy jumps or falls in, so I can eat his head.

Oh okay, just because I'm in that sort of mood, and hepped up on goofballs, Benylin, and Nurofen, here's another silly video. Now, I am of the opinion that the Jeremy Brett version of Sherlock Holmes is the definitive portrayal. The Granada series is superb, I have the box set of the entire series, including the feature length ones, and it's just fantastic. However, you can always improve on a classic, with the simple addition of pasty white blokes rapping. This just makes me fall about in hysterics, and for several days this has been the funniest thing in the world for me. Sorry, but I'm very childish.

Okay, going to try and finish one proper blog post (the FAQ or the Anus review) before I go. If I don't manage it, then keep the internet clean and tidy while I'm away, don't talk to any strange men, and put some pants on, for God's sake. If you're in the Texas vicinity, come and say hello, and marvel at the drunken, meat-crazed spectacle I'll probably be making of myself.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Forbidden Planet signing for Doctor Who Storybook

Right, three more brief announcements before the next big post. Running low on time before I go to Texas, so things might slow down, he said, pretending that he does regular blog posts.

The writing team on Law & Order: UK has officially been announced. "Top writing talent"! And they're including me in that description! Clearly a typo, it should say "top writing talent, including TV's James Moran, who is also handsome and witty". Obviously I'll be sending them a letter to correct this. Written in crayon. On a piece of human flesh (not my own).

More guests have been announced for next year's Gallifrey convention in Los Angeles, which I am attending. Super duper guests include Nicola Bryant, Phil Ford, Keith Temple, and many others, at the link. Oh, and some bloke called Gareth something-or-other, apparently he plays a character called "Ian Toe" in some TV show about aliens and stuff, I think it's called "Touch My Wood".

And finally, the big Forbidden Planet store in London is having a signing session for The Doctor Who Storybook 2009, available in all good shops now etc etc. Several of the short story authors will be there, including one particularly striking, talented chap called... oh, how embarrassing! It's me! The signing is on Saturday 4th October, from 1 - 2pm, at Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR. From the website:

Authors on the day include: Gareth Roberts (The Shakespeare Code and The Unicorn and The Wasp), Keith Temple (Planet Of The Ood), James Moran (The Fires OF Pompeii), Clayton Hickman (Doctor Who audio writer), Gary Russell (Script Editor on Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures) and Jonathan Morris (Doctor Who book writer and audio writer).

This is particularly exciting for me, because I've attended several signings at Forbidden Planet in the past, mainly back when the shop was on New Oxford Street. The last one I went to there was Amber Benson, who played Tara in Buffy (damn you Whedon TO HELL for what you did, oh I can't stay mad at you, let's be best friends again forever, although I am still upset and will feel free to mention it again whenever we argue, kthxbye). So it'll be very cool to see it from the other side. Pop along if you're in the area, and get your books defaced with our squiggles.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Links, filth, and zombies

Some quick links of (mostly) shameless self-promoting while I'm coming up for air. I have a rough first draft of my Brand New Thing, and I'm very surprised and pleased. Surprised because a couple of weeks ago, it only existed as several pages of notes. And now it is a Proper Script. Well, it will be when I've gone over it to tidy it up. And then I'll have to leave it for a bit, and see how it feels in a week or two. Asus review is nearly done, it rambles on a bit, so I need to simplify it before posting. Nice. And now, these:

Link the first: Torchwood filming continues, with some shocking scenes ramming a heterosexual agenda down your throat. Yes, I can exclusively reveal that in at least one scene, a MAN and a WOMAN will share a KISS, right on the LIPS. Beeb insiders are preparing themselves for a flood of complaints. Pictured in the photos is openly straight actress Eve Myles, who was caught on camera performing the raunchy scenes. Passers by were shocked and stunned at the display. "I don't mind if these hetero types want to have a kiss and a cuddle," said Mr Realname McSpankles, "But I don't want it shoved in my face. Why do they have to put it in a programme that kids might see? It's fucking disgusting. I have cooked and eaten my own kids, just to protect them from this sort of filth." Oh okay, if you read the article, you'll know that it was just Eve and John messing about between filming. But still! The thought of it! Etc.

Staying on Torchwood, the radio play is on tomorrow at 2.15pm, on Radio 4 - it's written by Joe Lidster, so it will of course be brilliant. Full details here, and if you can't listen in at the time, it'll be available as an mp3 download for a week after the broadcast.

Link the second: The cast for Law & Order: UK is announced here. Feast your eyes on those names. For those who have asked, I haven't been blogging it lately because, like everything else I work on, I'd rather only mention what has been officially released. But don't worry, when it's closer to the time, I'll be going on and on and on about it, because it's very, very exciting.

Link the third: New iPods! Mmmm, iPods, naughty, sexy iPods, dancing around suggestively, whispering into my ear, dressing up in lingerie, and... Er, anyway, I've been hoping for an increase in storage size for the Nano, and they've doubled it, which is good news for me. I've managed to fill mine up, and have got new music to put on it. And blimey O'Reilly, once I've done that, who knows what'll happen next?? I'm a maverick, renegade iPod listener, me, I break the rules but I get the job done, goddammit.

And finally, link the fourth: Dead Set, a zombie thriller set in the Big Brother house, written by Charlie Brooker. Bit late with this one, but I don't care, it's fashionable, probably. Click on the big eye for a trailer. The magnificent Andy Nyman is one of the actors in it, and gets the best line in the trailer, which is a bloody good swearword combo - although I'd expect no less from Mr Brooker. Apparently they're proper, scary zombies, and it looks superb. Website goes live in 8 days. Stock up on shotgun shells, tinned food, and running shoes. I'll be fine tuning my shooting skills in Austin when I go over. You've got to stay alert for this sort of thing, the zombie apocalypse could start at any time.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Don LaFontaine

Very sad to hear about the death of Don LaFontaine - if you don't know his name, you'll know him as Trailer Voice Man. There are quite a few people who do trailer voices, but his was definitely the best, and most recognisable. I love trailers, sometimes they're so good you wish you were watching that movie instead of the one you're about to see. Of course, we all know that a trailer often bears no relation to the movie at all, but that's half the fun of it. A good, well made trailer can start the evening off perfectly - the Alamo cinema in Austin sometimes shows retro trailers before a new movie, just to get people in the mood, something that happens at FrightFest here in London too. And it's not quite the same without Don LaFontaine's voice booming over the images. Click here for a short video about the man and his career.

Also, since we're on the subject, I can never resist the chance to link to this. It's not Don doing the voice, it's another guy called Hal Douglas, but it's a hilarious celebration of trailers and Trailer Voice Men. I must have watched this trailer a hundred times, and it still cracks me up - it's for the documentary movie Comedian, and is 90 seconds of comedy gold.