Monday, 31 March 2008

10DM Comic is online, but only for US readers :-(

The Ten Dead Men comic is online here!

Unfortunately it's a US only website and as I doubt I have any US fans as yet this is pretty useless. If any Americans interested in comics do come through here, please feel free to click on the link above and tell me what you think of the comic. For everyone else, hopefully there will be a UK version soon!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Nearly there but no ending yet...

So I'm 80 pages in, my characters have ended up in Mexico, and I'm not sure what happens now. I've got the last ten pages practically written, and I know what needs to happen plot-wise for them to get there, but it's the details I'm missing. Luckily we've got people staying over this weekend which means I can't do anymore until Sunday so hopefully inspiration will hit before then.

As far as I know Ten Dead Men is very close to being finally, properly finished, but I daren't ask Ross or Phil because I imagine they're both really stressed at the moment with the sales agent deadline being on Monday. I've being trying to get an idea of how things are going by checking out peoples' statuses on Facebook and it all seems to be going okay. We're recording a commentary next week so I should know by then.

On a random note, anyone who's ever read any scriptwriting books or been taught scriptwriting should read John August's post about character motivation here:

It's nice to see someone with a qualified opinion deconstructing the favourite rules of the writing experts/teachers.

A word on Richard Widmark who died the other day. He was always one of my favourite actors of his generation, mainly because of his amazing performance in Kiss of Death as one of the best screen bad guys of all time, but I liked a lot of his other films too. Warlock, The Long Ships, The Last Wagon and Night and the City are the ones that I remember, and I always liked True Colors, the last film he was in. But looking at his imdb credits made me realise how many films he's been in that I haven't seen so I've added a few to my lovefilm list, including Pickup on South Street which being a Sam Fuller fan I should really have seen anyway. So while I can call myself a fan I can't really say I'm an expert, but I will say this - if you come across a film starring Richard Widmark it will always be worth a watch.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Halfway point.

I’ve been trying my best to pretend the other things I need to be working on don’t exist in an effort to get Hit the Big Time finished and so far it’s worked – I’m about 65 pages in. And while the jokes are poor and the dialogue needs some polishing, for the most part they’re 65 pages I’m reasonably hapy with and I certainly don’t feel like it’s been rushed which was my main concern. I have run into a few problems.

1. The page count. It’s 65 pages and I’m halfway through. That means the final draft is looking to be around 130 pages, which is way too long for a comedy. I don’t generally tend to work to a specific page count – anywhere between 90-120 is generally regarded as acceptable and my first drafts are usually around 100 pages long. But in this case I know it’s too long. I also know what I need to cut out of it as well – basically there’s a mafia subplot that has some nice ideas but ultimately doesn’t work. The problem is I’m unsure whether to risk losing the momentum by going back and removing it now.

2. At one point in the script Cooper and Crouch are trying to sell their life story to a producer and he tells them their story hasn’t got a good enough ending. This is also true of the script – I don’t have an ending either! Okay, I have the last ten pages worked out fine, but the last big scene before we get there, the most important scene in the entire film, just doesn’t work the way I've planned it. And as I’m going to hit that scene in the next couple of days I could do with working it out soon!

Otherwise it’s going fine, although I probably need a break as last night I started dreaming about it - never a good sign!

Film I liked most this week - Lasko Death Train. Monks on a train kicking terrorists! Who are also dressed as monks! With exploding helicopters! Films don't get much better than that.

Highlight of the week - Ten Dead Men was on Nuts TV again - this time Lee Latchford-Evans who plays Harris was being interviewed about the film, and they showed another clip!

Friday, 21 March 2008

On TV...

The exciting event of last week was that Pooja Shah who plays Amy in Ten Dead Men was on Nuts TV on Tuesday night talking about the film. She gave a good interview and mentioned the film loads, and they showed a couple of clips. Pooja has been a really strong supporter of the film and it was great hearing people talk about Ten Dead Men on TV – something which probably wouldn’t have happened for a while otherwise.

I finally finished the Ten Dead Men continuity script and sent it off, although I’m going to have to have another pass at it once the final sound mix is done. I’m now spending four solid days on Hit the Big Time and will hopefully make some headway into the first draft. Although at the moment I’m procrastinating by importing my ideal Hit the Big Time soundtrack onto my PC, which I keep telling myself is obviously an essential part of the process.

As usual there’s more work piling on. There’s a possibility of some paid work, but the deadline is so tight I’m not sure it’s going to happen. And on top of Vicious Circle, Phil is asking for ideas for an ultra low-budget film to shoot over summer. I’m trying not to think about it at the moment.

Finally, I don’t know if I’m going mad but I watched the Jet Li vs. Jason Statham film War the other day – a film that barely got a theatrical release and is generally regarded as being terrible – and I really liked it. Not even just ‘oh it wasn’t great but better than everyone said’ liked it, I really liked it. This was partly due to the amazing supporting cast. The film is about a war between Triads and Yakuza and if you asked me who would be the ideal actors to play the leaders of each group I would probably say Ryo Ishibashi and John Lone, who play them in the film. True, that’s because they are the obvious choice and have played those roles before, but the reason for that is they’re both really good at it and seeing them in the same film is fantastic. So for me Ishibashi vs. Lone was more exciting than Li vs. Statham.

Another reason I liked it, and this sort of justifies it being here although I may be undermining the legitimacy of this being a serious writer’s blog, was the script. The dialogue and characters were nicely written, it was well-paced and the story was a lot more interesting than your average shoot-em-up. Yes, there were clich├ęs and plot-holes as the twelve-year-old critics on imdb are fond of pointing out, but it had a better script than most of the other big-budget action films I’ve seen in the cinema the past few years.

Final reason I liked it – the Japanese characters actually spoke Japanese! With subtitles and everything!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Slow progress...

The Ten Dead Men continuity script is taking up much more time than anticipated and progressing very slowly. So far I've managed to get through 5-10 minutes of the film a night and should be finished next week sometime. I got an e-mail saying the sales agent was asking about it and I had nightmares of being asked to send it the next day (to be fair I did say I'd have it done by now) and having to pull an all-nighter. But next week is fine so I'll carry on at the same pace. What's taking the time is the scenes that jump around between locations - like if one character is on the phone to another but they're in two different places. In the rush-job, substandard continuity script I did before (which wasn't a complete waste of time as I copied all the dialogue from there, although I'm still having to check it all) I didn't bother differentiating between scenes in such cases, where as now every time the film changes location I'm splitting up the script and writing more scene descriptions. This probably sounds as dull as it actually is, but at least it might give you an idea of the actual experience of writing a continuity script in case anyone ever asks you to write one! But despite scrutinising every frame of the film for the second time, I'm not yet sick of seeing it which is a good sign!

Hit the Big Time is going okay - I'm still collating ideas and tightening up the structure but I hope to be able to start on a draft next week. It's not in perfect shape yet, but I want to get on with the script so I don't have to rush it. Also, we should hear whether the funding application we submitted was a success or not next week, although to be honest I was looking at the website and it's a very long and tedious process. You can read about it here if you're really interested:

Basically it's a competition so something like 15 pitches are chosen for interview. That's then whittled down to 8 who have to go into workshops to work on their ideas, that then becomes 6 (presumably two get voted off somehow!), then you submit another pitch and the four finalists are selected - it's now October 2008 by the way! The final four then have to go on stage and pitch the idea live at some big film festival up north and then the winner, who gets the £250,000 funding, is voted for by people. Just normal people like you and me. So after all that it comes down to a ten-minute performance pitch voted for by randoms. Sounds like a waste of time to me. That's not to say I won't be extremely excited if we win and I think we could get pretty far into it if we get past the first stage, but it seems like so much hard work for something that could in the end come to nothing. I'd much rather we got funding from some other source (and I know how difficult that is but surely no more difficult than this) - that way we could be filming by October rather than still waiting to hear if we've got any money. Anyway, I don't want to jinx it so I'll shut up about it now, but I'm putting my faith in getting some interest at Cannes rather than the competition.

I'm undecided over what to do with the two short horror projects I was working on. The one I was writing has sort of fallen flat - the director hasn't replied to my last e-mail but the fact that I've rewritten the 2-minute script 4 times suggests that we're never going to agree on what works best. If he wants to use one of the drafts I've already done good luck to him, but I can't afford to spend anymore time on it.

The other one that I was going to direct I will finish, it's just a case of when. The deadline is June so I've got a while yet, it's just at the moment I can't really spend much time having meetings about that project with all this other stuff I've got to work on. I'm meeting the producer next week though as I haven't been in contact for a while so hopefully we can talk about it then.

To sum up, I'm still really busy and now I'm off to Cardiff for the weekend!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Here's how it worked out...

I'm still working on Hit the Big Time and the filmmakers have agreed to giving me full writing credit as well as more control over the writing of the script. So it all worked out okay in the end! I spoke to JC (the producer and one of the lead actors) on Saturday and he understood where I was coming from and said he'd rather have me on the project. I've had a message from Helen the director since then as well confirming that everyone's happy with the situation. In some ways I think it may have been easier if I'd said my piece before agreeing to work on the feature, but then again I think the fact that I'd written the 10 page treatment for the feature and done a rewrite on it definitely worked in my favour. It's a lot of work - with Vicious Circle and Dark Future the number of scripts I need to finish before Cannes is now three, on top of the continuity script for Ten Dead Men. But Dark Future only needs a few tweaks to finish it and I'm pretty sure I know what I'm doing with Vicious Circle. So my plan is to concentrate on Hit the Big Time and the 10DM continuity script first, then write Vicious Circle and finish off Dark Future in April. And maybe there'll even be enough time for second drafts. So I'm going to be very busy, and the peripheral projects such as my own scripts are going to have to be put on hold for a while, but I've written scripts in less time! The good thing is I'm excited and enthusiastic about all 3 scripts which will definitely help.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Devil at the Crossroads...

Before I get into what is going to be a fairly lengthy blog, I've just posted a more detailed blog about the Ten Dead Men comic here:

Anyway, tonight I may have done something very brave or very stupid, depending on how you look at it. First here's some background explaining why.

A few years ago, when I was fresh out of university and eager for experience, I wrote a short script that became both my first independently produced film and my first experience of the pitfalls of working as an unpaid writer. The script was an original based entirely on my own ideas. I sent it to a director who claimed to love it, and after a trial by fire on another short he was working on (a long story which I won't go into here) he started pre-production on my script. The process was this - he would send me a draft with his changes, I would send back a draft with my changes. Throughout the process the story and structure remained the same - the only major development was the ending which we discussed in detail before I wrote a new ending. For the most part his changes were limited to odd bits of dialogue and the occasional reordering of scenes.

Then one day, on about draft 15, I got a copy of the script that had his name on it as well as mine. And this is where I went wrong - I washed my hands of the whole thing. I didn't say as much, I just didn't do anymore work on it, didn't go along to any of the rehearsals where no doubt more of the script would be changed, and avoided the filming itself. After what had happened with the first film we worked on, I didn't think it would ever get made. Annoyingly, it did get made and it was actually quite good (at least I thought so - others have disagreed). What was even more annoying is that the finished film was almost identical to my very first draft of the script. Despite this not only was the director credited as a writer, his name appeared above mine - and that wasn't even alphabetical order!

Although I was quite angry at the time, I was still really excited to have a short film made from my script and ultimately I can't blame the director for crediting himself as a writer (although I still think it was a bit cheeky to put it above mine!). I gave him that credit when I decided to stop working on the script. I decided that rather than make my feelings clear about something I had a very real problem with, I would just turn my back on the whole thing. And as a result a fairly good film got made that never has and never will do anything for my career. It's not something that still keeps me awake at night or anything, but I've always said I wouldn't let that happen again.

And here I am in the same situation with Hit the Big Time, except this time I'm one of four writers credited. I did sort of see this coming with the short film - I wrote the first draft of the script, came up with the story, structure and characters, wrote another draft or so then didn't see it for a while. When it came back to me it was something like draft 10. And again, aside from the dialogue, not much had changed except for some essential plot elements in the first act which I'll get to later. I did a final rewrite to fix the opening and that was it. And I knew that despite the work I'd put in at the beginning I probably wouldn't get any more of a credit than anyone else who worked on it. And I thought I was okay with this. Until I saw it on IMDB.

I did talk about this briefly a couple of weeks ago, and in part I am still happy for the credit on the short to stay as it is. But the feature is a different matter. As I mentioned before, I've already done a lot of work on this and the feature will involve two or three months of work at least. And during that time I have projects lined up that are just as likely to get produced only I will get full writing credit. I know I've been lucky with Ten Dead Men because despite Ross and Phil writing parts of that script it was never an issue that I would get full writing credit. But without that credit I just can't justify putting that much work into something that I'll ultimately never have any control over.

The reason I've waited this long before bringing it up is that it's a good project and I don't want to lose it. I got a call from the producer the other day asking if I wanted to meet with the American producer on the film who would no doubt be a great contact. But no matter how much I tried to remind myself of the benefits I kept coming back to the same point - I'm not going to enjoy working on this film knowing that I'm not going to get full credit for what I've done. Also I didn't know how to go about raising it with the film-makers. Some people I spoke to about it said I should cut my losses completely and just take a story credit, but I wanted to leave myself the option of still working on the project. But if I do lose the project it will be one less thing to work on which can only be a good thing right now.

Anyway, I could go one forever about this issue. I've sent an e-mail to the filmmakers and am now awaiting a response. The e-mail I sent was quite direct and to the point but hopefully presented a reasonable argument. I also made it clear I was happy for them to use all the work I'd done so far and would gladly proof read the script if they choose to write it without me. I'm a bit worried that some people will take it the wrong way, partly because despite this recent issue they're all nice people, but mainly because I'll have to see them all at the Ten Dead Men premiere. But if they do it can't be helped - I've been worrying about this for the last two weeks and now I need to get on with my life. I'll let you know what kind of response I get when I hear back.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Quick update…

Haven’t updated this for a while as my brother Pete was visiting last weekend. He was a finalist in a competition for E4 to design a new E-Sting (the bits of animation they play between programmes) so we went up to London to a big party where the results were announced. Pete didn’t win, which was really annoying as his was clearly better than a good majority of the others, but we had a good night and it was nice to see his name plastered all over the walls and big TVs in the Design Museum. And there was a nice moment earlier in the day when we saw a complete stranger watching his entry on a big screen and laughing in the right places. There was also lots of free food and booze so I was pretty happy! We spent most of the rest of the weekend watching films and discovered that Howard the Duck is not as bad as I remember it from seeing it as a kid but definitely much weirder.

While I haven’t managed to write much there have been a few developments on a couple of projects. I finally met up with Glenn on Saturday to discuss the final draft of Dark Future. Unfortunately I hadn’t had time to read the script beforehand so I’m not sure I mentioned everything I wanted to, but Glenn had some useful feedback so I’m confident I can get on with the next draft now. I don’t know whether the Dark Future trailer is going to Cannes this year or not, but I’m using Cannes as an overall deadline for everything at the moment. And it’s not that far away!

Not much Ten Dead Men news at present, although I did get a proof pdf of the spin-off comic which is fantastic. It’s turned out really well considering it was a bit of a rush-job on my part written at a time last year when I was busier than I’ve ever been. The script definitely would’ve benefited from another draft but for the most part it makes sense and should be a really strong prequel to the film. It features most of the major characters from the film and has some important story points such as how Ryan met Amy and how Axel saved his life. This will probably make no sense right now but it will once you’ve seen the film! Anyway, the comic will hopefully be going up on the Ten Dead Men website at some point so I’ll post a link when it does. Until then I've posted one page below and there are a couple of pages on the official blog here:

Other than that I’ve just been working on the Vicious Circle script which is coming along nicely. My main dilemma at the moment is whether to plan it out scene by scene to ensure a strong first draft, or to write a rough first draft based on what I’ve got so far and hope I have time to write a second. I’m leaning towards the latter although anyone who ever taught me scriptwriting would advise the former!