Sunday, 24 February 2008

Dark Future Trailer - first viewing...

Ross showed me the first cut of the Dark Future trailer yesterday and it looks fantastic. Back in August when we filmed it, we spent most of the day sorting out the lighting, dressing the set and setting up the opening crane shot. I can now say that it was definitely worth the effort. The combination of excellent cinematography, amazing make-up effects, tight direction and two outstanding performances from our leads has produced a very professional-looking promo. Also, my girlfriend, Andrea, features heavily as a corpse! I probably shouldn't sound quite so excited about seeing my girlfriend as a zombie, but I'm just glad she made it into the final cut as it was originally intended for her to be mostly off-screen. Anyway, I can't wait to see it finished now and hope it's done in time to go up on the big screen.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Dark Future Trailer is GO!

Had some fantastic news today. I got a call from Glenn who's directing the zombie project I wrote last year and he and Ross finally got down to editing the trailer today! Yes, I do recall writing the same thing about a month ago, but this time it actually happened! The visual cut is finished, but there's some ADR, grading and music to be done so it's still a while off. But the main thing is the project seems to be starting up again. Of all the things I'm working on at the moment I think that's the one I've enjoyed writing the most and the script is very nearly at final draft stage. Also, if the trailer is finished on time it will get it's big screen premiere in front of Ten Dead Men!

Now I just need someone to put it on IMDB so I can be level with Chris Regan (IV)...

Hit the Big Time on IMDB

Hit the Big Time now has an entry on IMDB:

This means Chris Regan (V) (that's me!) now has two IMDB credits:

One more and I'll be tied with actor Chris Regan (IV) who has three credits! I doubt I'll ever do as well as Chris Regan (II) who writes for The Daily Show and I've got no hope of beating Chris Regan (I) who's been color timing since the dawn of film. The big question of course is whatever happened to Chris Regan (III)? He doesn't seem to exist, so I wonder if I do get more entries than Chris Regan (IV), will I become Chris Regan (III)? Or will we all wake up in a village guarded by balloons one day asking 'Who is Number 3?'

Speaking of Hit the Big Time I've spent the last three evenings working on the feature treatment and have finally sent it along to the guys, hopefully in time for the funding application. It's far from perfect, but I didn't really have time to develop it properly so it will have to do. And despite not being polished I think the treatment clearly shows that the project has a lot of potential for character and story development. Anyway, it's far too much work for a project where I'm credited as one of four writers - something I'm debating over whether to raise before I start writing the feature script. I'm happy to let it stand for the short, but ultimately I'm not sure how much being one of four writers is going to help my career. And yes, that probably makes me sound like a credit-grabbing ego-maniac, but when you're talking about a good few months of work that I could be spending on a script for someone who is going to give me full writer's credit, it's a bit annoying...I think this is the first time in my career when I've actually thought having an agent may not be such a bad idea!

Other annoying news - the continuity script I did for Ten Dead Men isn't finished. Apparently I was supposed to timecode every line of dialogue and put in more detailed scene descriptions. Actually, I sort of knew that when I started, but it was so much work already I was hoping I'd get away without doing it. And to be fair I've been told what I've done is probably okay, as long as I can guarantee that every line in the script is 100% accurate. I think I can probably guarantee it's about 99% accurate, which means I've got to go through and check and since I'm doing that I may as well put in the extra timecodes and scene descriptions. Luckily the deadline isn't so strict this time so I've got a couple of weeks to do it.

Incidentally, I found out what the continuity script is for now - it's for putting subititles on the film. So it really does have to be 100% accurate!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Interviewed for 10DM DVD extras...

I was supposed to be recording the commentary track for Ten Dead Men today, but unfortunately we didn't have the studio for enough time to be able to do it. Luckily there was half an hour to record some interview footage for the making-of documentary my brother is editing. Pete has been waiting for some interviews to help break-up the raw footage for months so it's great to finally get that done. And I managed to have my say as well although I'm not sure how it looked - I'd come straight from work and wasn't expecting to be on camera!

Anyway, I did get to say a couple of the things I thought were important to mention about my part in the process - about my influences and the parts of the script I felt really worked in the finished film. Ross is still planning to do another commentary track at some stage (he did finish one today with Brendan) so hopefully I'll be able to get involved with that one. But if not I'm happy that at least my face will appear somewhere on the behind the scenes footage, hopefully saying something vaguely intelligent, as whenever I was on set I was either holding the camera or hiding from it!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Shooting script and various outlines…

Apart from deciding I hate going to the cinema, I did actually do some work last week. Mostly I worked on the shooting script for Ten Dead Men, which was fun but very time-consuming. The final cut is only 85 minutes but it took three solid evenings to transcribe all the dialogue and at the end of it the shooting script was only 40 pages long. I did keep the scene descriptions to a minimum, but what took a lot of time was noting down the timecode for each scene. I’ve sent it to Phil and Ross and am waiting to find out if there’s any more work that needs doing on it or not. If it does need to be more detailed or anything like that then at least the transcription part is done. Despite watching the film in such great detail I still think it’s great. I had a Word document open the whole time to note down any feedback or criticisms I thought of while I was doing it, and by the time I was finished all I had was a couple of suggestions about moving odd bits of voiceover that didn’t fit – otherwise I’m still really happy with how it’s turned out.

The other exciting 10DM news is that Phil sent me the first finished pages of the spin-off comic that I wrote ages ago. It's essentially a 22-page prequel in comic-book form, explaining how Ryan quit the business and why he owes Axel his life. I'd forgotten all about it, but the artwork looks great so I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished issue. I'm not sure exactly what will happen with it, whether it will go into print, or be a DVD extra or just go on the website, but it's something else with my name on and as far as I remember I was pretty happy with the script.

This weekend I’ve mainly been working on Vicious Circle – the script Phil wants me to write to take to Cannes and the reason the serial killer film has been put on hold. Today was the first time I’ve really worked on it and I’ve come up with loads of ideas already. Given the time constraints though I’m considering just going straight for a draft rather than bouncing treatments backwards and forwards for months. At least that way even if the draft is still a work-in-progress by May, at least there will be a draft for people to look at.

Speaking of treatments I finally heard back from JC and Helen about the Hit the Big Time treatment. Overall the feedback is positive, but JC’s main concern is the multi-million dollar budget the current treatment would require to be shot. So the main thing I need to do is tone it down a bit. Also Helen wants it to be more of a road movie – at the moment the characters spend most of their time in or around California and the original idea was to have them going across the whole of America. I’m hoping the ideas I’ve got already can just be adapted slightly to reflect a lower budget and longer road trip as I’ve only got a few days to rewrite it.

Short horrors are going okay. The one I’m directing is progressing at a steady pace. We did a camera test last week to see how the seafront would look at night and it seems fine. This week we’re meeting our director of photography and scouting the last couple of locations and then it’s just going to be a matter of drawing up a storyboard and finding a lead. The other one (on which I'm writer only) is slowing down a bit. There are 3 drafts now but I’m still not sure the director is happy with the script. I’ve suggested a fix and am still waiting to hear back.

And finally I’ve started to work on one of my own original projects again. There are a few reasons for this, but mainly because writing for other people can be hard work and I need to work on something that’s completely mine for a change. Also there was a moment a few weeks ago when I was asked if I had any scripts to show an accomplished director who happened to be looking and I didn’t have anything that was ready. Anyway, with everything else I’ve got to do work on this new script is going to be minimal, but I have started putting together an outline at least.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Why I hate the cinema...

This may seem like an unusually vicious rant for this blog, but I’m writing films because I love film and I used to love going to the cinema. I don’t anymore. I went to see Juno tonight. I thought it was great, really well written, brilliant characters, Ellen Page is fantastic, meanders a bit in the third act but overall I thoroughly enjoyed it. The cinema experience itself, however, was hell.

The screen wasn’t packed but we were surrounded by teenagers who’d obviously come to see it by mistake. I think they thought it was Knocked-up 2 or American Pie: The Pregnancy or something equally terrible. The marketing is partly to blame for this error, but aside from being pushed as a teen comedy it’s also been cursed by good reviews. The poster is covered in little rows of 5-stars that scream ‘see me now!’ so the morons who go to the cinema because they think it’s some sort of social gathering think ‘look, this one says it’s good’. I think maybe the reviewing system should change - that films should be rated on how much of an idiot you have to be to enjoy it. For example, Rush Hour 3, perhaps the worst film I’ve ever seen on the big screen, received universally terrible reviews and yet not only was the cinema full, the film actually received a standing ovation at the end. But none of those single star reviews were printed on the poster. Why not? The majority of the population can only appreciate 1-star films anyway so put the reviews on there, make it clear that this film is for them and let the rest of us watch the good films in peace.

I probably sound like a huge film snob, but part of the problem is that I’m not. I saw Cloverfield the weekend it was released in a packed screen and I loved every minute of it – because it was a film designed for big audiences and everyone sits there in silence, happy to be part of the mutual experience. Where it goes wrong is when you see a small film at the local multiplex, because people go and see things they’re not going to enjoy by mistake. Like the time I went to see Pan’s Labyrinth on a really busy night – not realising what they’d paid to see half the people in the screen walked out when they realised it was subtitled (at least they left). Again it’s partly the marketing – not only did it get good reviews, again deservedly so, but the trailer, like all trailers for foreign-language films, doesn’t have anyone speaking so people who don’t know better just presume it’s a good old American-language film, where people talk like what we do, innit. I wish they’d just put the subtitles in the trailer so stupid people wouldn’t go and see it in the first place – in fact just have a big disclaimer that says ‘If you’re struggling to read this sentence give up and go home before the film starts and you get really confused.’

The thing is, I hate art cinemas just as much but for different reasons (like when you see a film as truly terrible as Death Proof and the whole audience stands up and applauds at the end and you wonder what film they were watching and whether you actually slept through the whole thing and had a really self-indulgent badly written nightmare instead), and therefore can’t face the fact that the only choice I have is to see certain films at an art cinema and others at the big cinema, because I think that kind of high-brow/low-brow class system is what has messed up the film industry in this country in the first place. At the same time I don’t want to sit in the dark with giggling teenagers chatting and shouting crap jokes at the screen for two hours anymore either.

But as we left the cinema I did feel a bit sorry for them. I saw the main culprits gathered round a huge poster for Meet the Spartans - one of those terrible spoof-every-film-of-the-last-five-minutes films. They were pointing at all the characters and declaring loudly which ‘classic’ they were cleverly parodying, as if it made them supreme film scholars just for knowing. And I started to wonder if there was actually something seriously wrong with them; if what I took for ignorance and stupidity was actually some sort of mental illness; that maybe our spoon-fed culture in which no one actually thinks for themselves anymore had accidentally unleashed some sort of brain-eating virus. But while I told myself I was feeling sorry for the mentally disabled, I was also secretly hoping that all the screenings of Meet the Spartans had actually been converted into gas chambers, and that if they weren’t it was a really good idea and somebody should put it into practice and soon!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Remembering Roy Scheider

I thought rather than go on about how sad I am at the passing of another truly talented actor, I'd just mention a few of my favourite Roy Scheider performances. Obviously he'll always be remembered for Jaws, but as a kid I also thought he was great as the helicopter pilot facing off against Malcolm McDowell in Blue Thunder. For me he always outshone the leads in his two most famous supporting roles in Marathon Man and The French Connection. I also thought he was fantastic in Last Embrace and brilliant as an aging hitman in Cohen & Tate. But the one I'll remember most is his role as a desperate criminal in hiding in Sorcerer. That might just be because it's the one I saw most recently, but it really is an amazing performance and I recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen the film.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Las Vegas, London

Despite going out for more than a few drinks in Brighton on Friday and getting back quite late, I did manage to get up at 7am on Saturday morning and make it into London in time for the Hit the Big Time shoot. The location was at Academy Costumes, a huge costume warehouse not far from London Bridge that was going to double for backstage at a Vegas show. The exterior had been shot in Vegas but there hadn’t been time to shoot the interior, hence shooting it in London. In the script the two hitmen, Cooper and Crouch, go to Vegas on the promise of a job. They are introduced to Byron Richmond, an aging drag queen who once had a real shot at stardom, but a rival actor named Barry Brutowski stole it from him. Years later, he finally has enough money to hire someone to kill Brutowski and Cooper and Crouch get the job.

When I got to the location it didn't look like there was anyone around and there was no answer when I knocked on the door. I hadn't had much sleep, wasn't sure if I was in the right place and was considering giving up and going home. Luckily I was joined by Glenn Beck, the actor playing Byron Richmond, and after quick introductions I started to get really excited about the project. Glenn was perfect for the part, so perfect it literally felt like one of my characters had walked up to me on the street and introduced himself. There were also a few similarities between his career and that of Byron Richmond. He was an American actor working in England who had appeared in two Stanley Kubrick films - Dr. Strangelove and 2001. But although his character in 2001 was originally supposed to be one of the crew members on the ship, it was changed at the last minute to a much smaller role and he feels he missed out on a potentially career boosting performance as a result. That said, he’s doing pretty well these days – his last job was playing Abraham Lincoln in the new National Treasure film.

Anyway, we got inside and I finally met Helen (the director of the project who I’ve exchanged lots of e-mails with but never met) and Jason (the actor who played Garrett in Ten Dead Men and the other half of Cooper and Crouch). I don’t usually enjoy being on set when it’s a project I’ve written, because I end up just feeling like I’m getting in the way, but I wanted to meet everyone and I do enjoy getting more involved with the production side of the project. The problem is that when people do ask me to do something it’s usually to do with coming up with new lines of dialogue on the spot, which I’m no good at – I’m not very creative under pressure. Glenn asked me to change a couple of his lines to make them more American, but in the end I left him to it and he did a much better job than I would’ve done. Luckily there were loads of other little jobs to do so I managed to keep myself busy and hopefully didn’t get in the way too much. The production designer hadn’t turned up and Jason was dressing the set on his own so I helped out with that while everyone else was setting up, and later I took some production stills and helped out with the sound recording.

It was a nice surprise to find that a lot of the crew had also worked on Ten Dead Men and that I knew most of them. I’d met the make-up artist, Stefan, on a number of Ten Dead Men shoots and he also helped out with the make-up on the trailer we shot for Dark Future – he made my girlfriend into a zombie! I also knew the steadicam operator, James, as he stayed at my flat once during a Ten Dead Men shoot. And although I’d never met him before, the director of photography, Dominic, had also worked on Ten Dead Men and spends a lot of time in Brighton so we had a lot in common. It was great to be able to share my thoughts on the final cut with everyone who worked on the film and let them know that it’s come out really well.

The actual scene went really well – Helen has a very efficient and professional approach to directing that was really interesting to watch. It was also great to see JC and Jason interacting and developing their characters, and the dialogue between them and Glenn’s character came out really well. The set looked great and we even had a couple of glamorous showgirls walking around in the scene to give it a really authentic feel. Watching the scenes it was quite easy to forget that we were actually in the middle of London and not in the back of a Vegas club so it should cut together seamlessly with the location footage.

The shoot ran on a bit longer than planned, as they always do, so I had to leave before they were finished, but it was mostly all done. And by the end of today the shoot should be wrapped and they’ll be onto editing. Overall I’m really glad I went along, it was great to meet everyone working on it and to catch up with James and Stefan, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished short.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Ten Dead Men first impressions...

...are very good indeed. I could write pages and pages about what I liked about it, and a bit about the odd bits I didn't like (which are for the most part to do with the limits of the budget more than anything else), but I think I'd rather people see it for themselves. The main thing is that with a couple of small exceptions the finished film bears a very close resemblance to the script that I wrote, which is fantastic. I think everyone who worked on it has worked really hard and put a lot of time and passion into their various roles and that really shows in the finished film. I also think that the more stylistic choices - the slasher-film violence, the voice-over, the fact that the main character never speaks - will make it that little bit different from every other film in this genre. A lot of the more negative comments about the trailer were saying that it was just another action film, or another cockney gangster film or another Tarantino rip-off, but I don't really think it fits into any of those. I took my inspiration from pulp novels, comic books and horror movies and I think the mix of influences, mine and everybody else’s', has produced a film with a real edge to it. But I would say that, cos I wrote it. So just to make sure it was actually good I made my girlfriend watch it as well, and she really enjoyed it too! So overall I'm really happy with it, can't wait to see the finished version with full sound and with the image graded, am now really looking forward to seeing it on a big screen, and can't wait to find out what people who have no real connection to the production of the film think about it.

In other news I had another meeting with John about the horror film and we even scouted locations! I've written a script and the next step is to find a crew. I've also written two more drafts of the other short horror film I'm working on so that's all moving along quite smoothly. That makes it sound like I've written loads, but each draft is 2-3 pages!

I haven't had any feedback about the Hit the Big Time feature treatment yet but I did speak to JC about filming the last few scenes of the short this weekend. Turns out he wanted me to come along to be a corpse in the film, which would've been great if it didn't involve being in London at 6.30 on Sunday morning! At least at that time of day it wouldn't involve much acting to play dead. Anyway, I'm skipping that part, but might try and make it up to London at a more convenient time as it would be great to meet everyone else who's working on the film. But having spent all week writing I also plan to drink a lot this weekend, so we'll see how things go.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Here's how I did...

Needless to say I didn’t managed to get everything done that I was supposed to over the weekend. I did however spend the whole of Monday evening and tonight working and have just about finished, so I got there in the end. To summarise the Ten Dead Men synopsis wasn’t too hard – I’ve put so much work into that film over the last year and a half I can practically recite the script from memory so summing up the story was easy enough. The only problem is that at 700 words it may be a bit too long for an official synopsis, but after fiddling with it for a couple of hours I ended up adding more rather than taking anything out. The reason I’m concerned about this is that the synopsis is going to the sales agent for approval – hopefully it will be okay, but I expect I’ll be asked to cut it down and maybe to make some changes. For now at least it’s done and off the list.

The two short horror films I mentioned are both developing well – I wrote a script for one which I’m in the process of redrafting and I’ve exchanged some ideas with the producer John about the other one and I think we’ve settled on what to do.

The biggest job of the last few days has been the treatment for Hit the Big Time. I find writing a feature treatment hard work at the best of times, but writing one from scratch with only a few basic ideas of where it’s going to go was quite daunting. I think it worked out okay in the end; certainly the process of writing it was fine and actually a lot of fun, but whether it’s actually any good is another matter. Regardless of how good the ideas and set pieces in the treatment are I am quite happy with the structure and the basic story. It feels less like an extended short and more like a feature now so I’ve definitely made some progress on that front.

The exiting news is that I’ve been given a copy of Ten Dead Men to watch! The reason for this is I need to write a shooting script that reflects the finished film – essentially a transcription of exactly what’s on screen. More work, I know, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the film a couple of months before the premiere. It’s not the finished version – the sound hasn’t been finished and it hasn’t been graded yet, but it is the final cut and the voiceover and the majority of the dialogue are all there so it’s fairly close. So a year and a half after writing the first draft I finally get to see my first fully produced feature, and despite the fact that it’s five-past midnight and I’ve got work in the morning I can’t wait much longer. I’ll post my thoughts on the finished film as soon as I get chance.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Suddenly very busy!

To be honest I've not really been too busy since Christmas. I've done a couple of rough treatments, added to some idea lists, but most of my free time has been divided between watching Masters of Horror and Playstation. That ends this weekend.

First there's a lot more work to do on Ten Dead Men. Yes, that's the feature film that's finished, but in the run up to Cannes and attempting to get the film distributed Phil and Ross need a few bits of extra material. For example, I never actually wrote a synopsis, and if I had the script has changed so much since I started I would have to write a new one anyway. On top of that, they also want to take as many new projects along with them as they can, one of which is a finished draft of the first script I ever worked on for Phil & Ross, Brutal (a contemporary revenge western which I was really happy with, if only because it was my first attempt at writing American characters - I gave it to an American ex-girlfriend to proof read and she hated the script but said the dialogue was authentic which is good enough for me!). Brutal is fine as it is, but another script I said I'd write for them, Vicious Circle, is still in the development stages. Thankfully, Phil has put the serial killer film on hold while I work on the Vicious Circle draft so that gives me a bit more room. I also think taking a break from the serial killer film will really help when I come back to it. So that's Ten Dead Men and Vicious Circle - some more work to a script I thought I was finished with and an almost completely new project to be completed in a relatively short space of time.

Then there's Hit the Big Time - I was taking this one easy, just sitting back and letting the ideas come while JC and co. finished the short film. And the ideas were coming, slowly. Today I got a call from JC asking if I could get a treatment done in the next week or so, the reason being they want to submit it to a competition for funding and the deadline is Feb 22nd. A 5-10 page treatment isn't too much work, it just means I'm going to have to really pick up the pace with this one.

And finally, there's the two-minute horror film I mentioned in my last post, which has turned into two films now. More on that as it develops.

So that's what I'm up to this weekend - I suppose I should stop going on about it and get some work done!