Monday, 28 January 2008

Short film gets shorter and the problem with too many outlines...

Met up with my friend John tonight who I met on the evening class at Brighton Film School. He produced the short film I directed there, Souvenir Detective, and we've been talking about working on something else ever since. We started out talking about working on a feature film but given how much time and hard work has gone into Ten Dead Men I wasn't ready to commit to something that huge when there was only two of us involved. We were then going to work on a twenty minute short based on one of my old scripts, the idea being that we could put a crew and a group of local actors together and if it worked out well use the same team for the feature. That never really happened either, and again it was down to me never really committing to it. I wanted to rewrite the script we chose but with all the feature work I've been doing, plus trying to find a new day job, I never actually got around to it. So tonight John suggested a 3 minute horror film instead, which is a great idea. Depending on what we do, 3 minutes can ideally be filmed over a weekend and edited over a week so shouldn't get in the way of the writing too much. Now we just need to agree on an idea.

Directing is something I would like to do more of and definitely something I would like to get better at. I like the idea of having more control over my scripts and while I find the actual directing process hard work I like seeing how it all comes together afterwards and the sense of achievement you get from putting the hard work in. But it is hard work and that's why I'm reluctant to devote too much time too it. I made a decision a long time ago that I wanted to concentrate on writing, but I'd still like to keep my hand in directing just in case the right opportunity comes up someday.

In other news I got some feedback on my last treatment of the serial killer film I'm writing for the producer of Ten Dead Men. This idea has been going back and forth between the two of us for about three months now which isn't really that long, but it feels like its been going on for much longer. It's getting there but still needs a bit more work. Phil still isn't quite happy with the story, but I'm getting to the point where I just want to get writing. I don't really have a system that I use for every script - each one seems to work a little differently. Sometimes I think it pays to put the work into the front end and develop the story until it's close to perfect before going into the script. Sometimes, as was the case with Hit the Big Time, I think it's easier to go straight into the script and see where the characters take you. With the horror film I think it definitely needs the development as it's potentially a very complicated story, but I also feel like I need to get into these characters a bit more and give them some room to develop, especially since it's a two-hander. So I think I can manage one more pass at the treatment, but then I really need to get these characters into a script to see what they say to each other.

Also as I'm writing this I'm listening to the Brent Hanley (writer of the amazing Frailty, one of my favourite films of the last few years) commentary on his episode of Masters of Horror and he's just said he doesn't like doing too many outlines!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Zombies and LA

Spoke to Glenn tonight, director of Dark Future, the zombie project I'm working on. We had to postpone another meeting but the good news is he's finally going to be able to start editing the trailer next week. We filmed the footage for the trailer months ago (so long ago I forget which month...August/September?) but there were a few delays in getting the footage - far too long a story to go into here. It shouldn't take too long to edit although with the effects shots that need working on and music to be done after that it's probably about a month off being finished, but the main thing is I'll finally get to see it. And then we just need to finalise the script. I did read through the script quickly last night though and I don't think it's too far off.

The other exciting news is that I got an e-mail from JC Mac - the actor who plays Parker in Ten Dead Men. It was JC who got me on board the spin-off short Hit the Big Time which follows a variation of the Parker and Garrett characters as they take a job in LA. When JC initially said he wanted to set it in LA and he'd been talking to a producer out there who wanted to work on it I have to admit I wasn't completely convinced. I wrote it anyway and didn't hold back when it came to locations or characters - in the end I was really happy with the script but I wasn't sure it would ever be filmed as it was written. But today I was happily proven wrong. The LA portion of the shoot is finished and apparently went really well! The photo below is from the shoot. There are a couple of scenes to shoot in the UK but then it's finished which means it wins the award for 'project I've worked on with the fastest turnaround to date'. Then the short will be taken to Cannes to try to raise money for the feature, which is a bit of a problem as I haven't started writing it yet! But knowing how much everyone working on the project has already achieved has definitely boosted my confidence in it so I'm hoping to get a treatment for the feature done in the next week or so - now I just need some ideas!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

RIP Brad Renfro and Heath Ledger

I can't quite believe that two such talented and inspirational actors have died so young and within a few days of each other. I've always admired and been impressed by their work and am very sad that I'll never get to see the no doubt amazing performances that they would have gone on to do. My thoughts are with the family and friends of both.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

A V P V Writers

Met up with Ross, the director of 10DM tonight (we went to see Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem – more on that later) and the final cut is very close to being locked which is good news! Apparently the structure has changed a lot which I’m a bit worried about, as it’s something I spent a long time getting right in the script. Then again so much has changed since shooting started anyway that I didn’t expect it to turn out exactly as written. Also, I know from my short films how much can change during editing so I’m sure it will be a better film for it. From what Ross was saying it sounds like the flashback structure has been removed to make it more linear and easier to follow. I can’t see that this will hurt the film in any way – the non-linear narrative had been cut back and simplified so much by the final draft anyway (for good reason) that it wasn’t essential to the film – I just hope that the voiceover still works. Hopefully I'll be able to see for myself soon!

Anyway, A V P R – not bad, better than the first one, but as usual could’ve been made loads better with a decent rewrite. The dialogue and characters are all fine; it’s just that the stakes aren’t high enough and the writer obviously didn't think that it mattered too much. There’s a moment where the characters are on their way out of town – perfectly sensible thing to do since everyone else is getting picked off by monsters, although at this point they don’t really know what’s happening – and they get stuck in traffic. So they just decide to go back into town. No real reason except for the fact that if they did leave at that point it would be a much shorter film. All it needed was for someone to say ‘We can’t get out – the bridge is down’ or some such excuse and it would be fine. Instead it’s a classic case of the characters looking stupid because they miss an obvious opportunity to escape.

Then at the end the survivors are getting onto a helicopter and the main guy tells the others to go ahead. Why? No reason, he just wants to shoot some aliens. Which he does, then gets on the helicopter anyway having achieved nothing except killed some time and used up more of the effects budget. It wouldn’t have taken much to give him an excuse to go back for something - one of the others gets left behind and he decides to try to go back for them. Instead, he came off looking stupid. Again.

I don’t want to turn this into a film review site, but I feel it’s important to point out when big-budget films are messed up by writers who are getting paid a lot more money than I am – and as I’m not getting paid at all at the moment they’re earning loads more and should learn to do a better job!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Here's what I've got lined up for 2008...

So far I have three scripts pending and one short film. The scripts are as follows:

1) Dark Future – A zombie film currently at 2nd draft and looking good but at present far too expensive to shoot without funding.

2) Hit the Big Time – A Ten Dead Men spin-off, currently shooting a short in LA.

3) Untitled Horror – A serial killer film developed with the producer of Ten Dead Men.

These are the scripts I’ll be talking about over the next few months, along with a couple of extra projects I’m hoping to work on this year too…

2007 wasn't bad...

Here are the film-related highlights of last year:

1) The evening class at the Brighton Film School. There were good things about it and bad things about it, but I did make some good friends and get a short film made which you can see here:

2) I made another short with film school friends. It’s from an old 15 minute script that I compressed to 3 minutes, filmed in one night and then spent about 6 months editing. Here is the result:

3) The highlight of last year and my career to date didn’t happen until December. The producer and director of Ten Dead Men managed to get Hellraiser star Doug Bradley to play the narrator of the film, and I got to be there when he recorded the dialogue. It’s amazing because I’m a huge Hellraiser fan and it’s one of the films that made me want to start writing in the first place. More importantly, he did a fantastic job and I can’t think of anyone more perfectly suited to the role.

Mild-mannered office worker by day...

I’ve been meaning to set up a blog for ages but kept putting it off and now find myself having to skip past a lot of stuff that is probably quite interesting. But as it happened ages ago I can’t really go into it now and write about it like it was yesterday. If anyone is interested in the work that got me here a good place to start would be the as of right now still standing Night Warrior website at Following that how I ended up working on my first feature is well documented in the production diaries at

Which should bring you up to date. My first feature as a writer is currently in the latter stages of post-production and will be screened in Brighton in April this year, and will hopefully get a DVD release by the end of 2008. I am now frantically trying to decide what I’m going to do next! Which is what this is all about – rather than actually do any writing I’m going to write about thinking about writing and therefore kill some time whilst simulataneously wasting someone elses.

And partly I've been inspired by James Moran, writer of the excellent Severance and of the best writing blog on the net at

The real reason I’m doing this is because aside from Mr. Moran, no one ever really talks about writing at this level – one day they were working in some sort of trendy retail establishment vaguely related to their career, the next day they are international megastars. What happened in between? Usually they networked at parties. Not that I’m due to become an international megastar or have any idea what networking really involves, but whatever happens I’ll record it here and it will give me something to do on my lunch break at work. Enjoy.