Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Still crazy busy!

So last week I'm scrambling to get three treatments done and three script samples when I get another message from Ross on his way back from Cannes having had many more meetings. The message essentially says we need four first drafts by the end of June. I panic a bit at first, but then I start to think about it. I've still got Penalty King subtitles to finish and a few other bits and pieces so I can't start the drafts until June anyway. So that's essentially fours weeks - one draft per week. One completely new, good enough to be read by actual producers draft written in one week multiplied by four. No problem...

I then finally meet Ross and things aren't as crazy as I thought. The work has been divided up between a few of us - I'm working on two scripts, the two I've already started. So it's only two drafts before the end of June and I've got a head start. Of my proposed three treatments and three script samples I managed two treatments and no script samples. But they are two very good treatments (or at least, I'm very happy with them) so hopefully I'll be able to produce two very good first drafts. It's a lot of work and still may come to nothing, but I am really enjoying it. The part I'm not looking forward to is when we've sent the drafts and we're then stuck waiting around for people to get back to us, but that's four weeks and two drafts away yet so at the moment I'm trying not to think about it!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Crazy busy!

Ross had only been in Cannes for an hour when he phoned me asking for scripts! He'd had a meeting with a fairly famous producer (this is all a bit up in the air at the moment so I won't mention any names) who wanted to see some work. The problem is he wants to see it next week as he's got a couple of days put aside to read scripts. Problem two is we don't have any scripts yet. Problem three is I'm away next weekend at a wedding and was busy this weekend just gone, so I've essentially got four evenings and potentially bank holiday Monday to write a feature from scratch.

Except that's ludicrous and nothing produced in that time would be any good, so I suggested instead writing three treatments with three accompanying script samples - two based on Ross's ideas and one of my own. It's still a lot of work and may come to nothing, but it's work that needs to be done at some point anyway so I'm going ahead with it. I'll let you know how it went next week.

Friday, 16 May 2008

First print review!

The first print review of Ten Dead Men will be appearing in Impact magazine which I believe will be in the shops sometime next week. It's a very positive review indeed and worth getting the magazine to read the whole thing, but here's the bit about me:

'Chris Regan’s script never bogs the movie down with too much unnecessary exposition, but does give the characters individuality so we actually know who each of the major characters are and why they’re being put through the wringer. And anyone who can get a “Talking Heads: Once In A Lifetime” reference into a movie, delivered by the voice of Pinhead gets my respect!'

Admittedly Mike Leeder who wrote the review is credited as executive producer on the film so is no doubt a bit biased, but the review seems quite honest on the whole and never pretends the film is something more than it is. It's pretty special for me too as I know Mike Leeder from listening to commentaries on Premier Asia releases so it's weird and very cool to have him talking about a film I wrote. And he got my Talking Heads reference!

That's all the news I have for the moment. Ross is heading to Cannes this weekend so fingers crossed it will go well and we should have a better idea of where the future of the film lies next week. Otherwise I've mainly been doing subtitles on The Penalty King so haven't been doing that much writing recently.

I have seen a couple of good films this month. Iron Man was one, but I'm not going to talk about that because there are enough people saying how great it is. What I will say is that it's the closest thing to a near perfectly structured script I've seen in a long time.

Tonight I saw Doomsday which I loved despite a lot of negative reviews. I am a huge Neil Marshall fan anyway so I was never going to hate it, but I genuinely think it was a great example of a well-crafted British genre film. I'll try not to rant too much about it, but it was a brilliant love letter to John Carpenter and the action films of the eighties as well as being a fantastic British film and having a brilliant female action lead.

Now the first point is a personal taste thing - if you don't get on board with the eighties/John Carpenter thing then you're not going to enjoy the film. And I have to say, some of it was a bit too close to Escape from New York to not seem like an uninspired remake, but I'll let that go. Also, I think it's worth mentioning that when one arty film-maker pays homage to another arty film-maker (e.g. Steve Buscemi's Interview - there are probably better examples but that's the one I saw most recently) we all marvel at their creative genius, but when a genre director pays homage to another genre director we say they're lacking originality. I like to pretend this high-brow/low-brow rubbish doesn't exist anymore, but in some ways it's bigger now than it ever was. Anyway, what I'm saying is, I get why some reviewers didn't let Marshall get away with some of it. What I don't get is how anyone can ignore my second and third points.

Female lead first - to be honest I wish there were more of them in action films but all the films centred around female leads to date (Tomb Raider, Underworld etc) have been rubbish. Rhona Mitra's character in Doomsday really works without ever seeming implausible or exploitative, and along with The Descent I think Marshall is the only director around at the moment who can actually write good parts for women in genre films.

Last point, I'm not a huge nationalist and am quite happy to admit that America, along with most other countries in the world, always have and always will make better films than us. However, I do think we should support the films that try to take on Hollywood at its own game and Marshall certainly does that. Doomsday stands up next to the biggest Hollywood blockbusters in size and scope and yet at the same time is a very British film, as the casting of Hoskins and McDowall shows. Yes, I am biased, I want films like Doomsday to succeed because it means that there's a bigger chance of films like Ten Dead Men succeeding. But also I think it's a shame that we nurture the Ken Loachs and the Mike Leighs while the Chris Nolan's and the Ridley/Tony Scott's (and loads more I can't think of) have to go to Hollywood to make their films. It bothers me too because given the lack of support Doomsday has had I wouldn't be surprised if Marshall makes his next film in the States rather than here. And by lack of support I don't just mean the bad reviews - I had to go out of my way to see Doomsday because it wasn't showing in Brighton! As far as I can see the only films out other than Iron Man are a load of terrible looking rom-coms, and despite the stupid number of screens between them neither of the two cinemas in Brighton are showing Doomsday!

So go see it. You may not agree with me, you may hate it like a lot of the critics seem to, but the British film industry needs this film and as many others like it as we can produce, otherwise we may as well give up now. Rant over.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008


Finally finished the third and hopefully final (for now) draft of Dark Future this weekend. Despite taking forever to get it finished, I didn't rewrite that much in the end. I added a couple of extra scenes and cut a couple of unnecessary ones, but mostly it was an overall dialogue polish.

Part of the reason it took me so long is that I was toying with the idea of changing the script completely. This was partly due to recently seeing Flight of the Living Dead, Diary of the Dead and the rather excellent [REC] in that order (and also in that order of quality). What I realised from seeing those films was that I really didn't care about zombies anymore. The genre had been fairly limited to begin with and now even Romero had seemingly failed to do anything interesting with it. And while I do think [REC] was brilliant and innovative, I found the set up and creatures as tedious as ever - we've all seen zombie films, we're not surprised when the dead bodies get up for the tenth time. But the characters have to be surprised because in real life we would be too, and that's really the essence of the problem. While there's a case for arguing that similar sub-genres of horror such as the vampire film have managed to sustain itself over the years through constant innovation (The Hunger, Near Dark, Blade etc.) I can't say that's true of the zombie film. Which is a problem when you're asked to write one.

Back when I was asked to work on the film the first thing I did was read a lot about zombie films and the origins of the creature in Haitian folklore, and then watch as many of the films as I could. I saw a lot of bad films, and didn't really learn anything more than I already knew - essentially the only zombie films worth watching are White Zombie (the 1932 Bela Lugosi film), Plague of the Zombies (the 1966 Hammer film and my personal favourite) and Romero's first three films (which I don't think have lost any of their power over the years). There are odd films of note - some of the European zombie films (Zombie Flesh Eaters, the Blind Dead series) are worth seeing for their innovative use of gore and occasionally interesting ideas, the Romero re-makes aren't bad (Savini's Night of the Living Dead has some nice moments and Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead was a solid film), and even 28 Days Later which I personally never got on with, at least tried to do something a bit different with the genre. But really the only ones that you need to see, as in they would go on one of those daft list things like 1000 films to see before you die, are the five I mentioned first. At least I thought that was the case until I saw two films by Andrew Parkinson - I, Zombie and Dead Creatures.

Although they suffer from extremely low budgets Parkinson's two films were the first I'd seen that tried to do anything truly different with the genre. While Romero's zombies can be seen to represent the decay of civilised society, Parkinson's films were much more concerned with the decay of the civilised individual. I, Zombie tells the story of one man struggling to cope with the fact that's literally falling to pieces, Dead Creatures tells a similar story but this time about a group of women who are similarly afflicted. Bleak, challenging and original, Parkinson's films are the best thing that came out of my research into the zombie film and I only hope he goes on to make more films.

The effect this research had on the Dark Future script was to make it the first script I've ever written completely to the specification of the director. I toyed with the idea of crossing the traditional Romero-esque story with some of the I, Zombie ideas and having the main characters in a state of constant decay whilst also fighting for their lives. I also considered bringing in some of the ideas from the Resident Evil series and having the virus evolve beyond the walking dead into mutant creature territory (speaking of which I do think the first Resident Evil film is underrated - it's not a masterpiece and nowhere near as good as any of the other films mentioned here, but the creepy atmosphere and practical gore effects made it watchable. Also it was the first time we'd seen zombies on screen for a long time - without Resident Evil I doubt the zombie revival of the last few years would ever have happened). I included a bit of mutation in the script, but in the end both these ideas would have increased the budget and I was having trouble fitting them into the story we'd already decided on.

So I decided instead to put originality to one side for a moment and concentrate on writing a solid, entertaining horror film. Glenn had spent a lot of time on the synopsis meaning it had good characters and a nice structure before I'd even looked at it. The rest came out of discussions we had about the film. And in the end I think it works as a straightforward horror film - it's fast-paced, the characters are interesting and there's a lot of zombie action. Anyway, it's out of my hands now, although I haven't ruled out the probability of working on more drafts in the future. It's a script that will need a lot of time and money to film so it all depends on being able to get funding, but Ross is taking the idea to Cannes along with several others I might be working on, so hopefully I'll have some news in the next couple of weeks.