Monday, 28 July 2008

Shiny new workspace!

So I go through that whole rant about Geraint's blog last week going on about how he's a proper writer and stuff and completely forgot to plug his books!

There is a story of his in the rather special looking Barren Worlds anthology:

And you can get his very cool book of poetry here:

Anyway, I'm finally settled into our new flat and filled it full of junk. It's only really taken just over a week to move in (although to be fair Andrea sorted out most of it before we'd even started) but it seems like months. No broadband yet but I have found my good old dial-up modem so am able to update this from home for a change rather than work. As cool as the flat is, we have annoying downstairs neighbours, in than they get annoyed very easily and complained about us hammering at 8.30pm. I know that’s late, but they literally complained as soon as we started and in my experience it helps to have a bit of tolerance when you get new neighbours. I have spent far too much energy ranting about that in the real world so I’ll stop there. The flat is otherwise okay – the building is a bit Rosemary’s Baby and has one of those old lifts where you pull a gate across which is cool.

Tonight is the first night in over a week I’ve been able to sit down and do proper writing, putting the final touches to the script I wrote with my brother, and I have the photos to prove it. Rather than just taking an anonymous photo of my new workspace Andrea offered to take one for me. Fifteen photos later I still wasn’t really happy with the results and I’m starting to wonder if I’m too self-conscious for anything other than regular writing bloggery. I was worrying about anyone actually listening to the radio show last week and was horrified to discover my parents had listened to it, desperately trying to remember if I said anything inappropriate which I probably did. Anyway, enough about that, here is me at my new workspace:

Not much to report writing-wise – lots to do this week but mainly finishing off old projects. I set myself a deadline of the end of July to finish Hit the Big Time draft 2 but it’s likely to be the weekend now. I really, badly want to start work on my own scripts this month but with another feature to write in August and the holiday in September it looks like that’s going to have to wait a while.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Help save the internet!

I don't really want to keep blogging about the act of blogging as that will make this whole thing a bit redundant, but it appears that just as I was having my own crisis of confidence about this blog this week a friend of mine was going through the same thing:

While I think his latest post is perhaps the best and most insightful blog post I've read to date, I generally disagree with the sentiment. Okay, all the facts are true - the internet is jammed full of idiots who think their opinion matters over anyone else's. And if I'm pushed I probably couldn't justify the existence of my own blog in the grand scheme of things - as I stated in the last post most of my reasons for doing it are selfish ones and at the moment I'm not really sure of the value of my own contribution to the vast stockpile of internet 'content'. But that's precisely why I think blogs like Geraint's are important.

The fact is, despite calling myself a writer I'm not too good with words. That's why I quickly gave up writing prose and moved onto screenplays. I like to think I'm good at storytelling and structure and I'm starting to develop a fairly decent ear for dialogue (although all of the above still need improving) but a master of the English language I am not. To be honest, even my grammar is pretty poor so I can't even say I know how it works properly. Geraint is not a screenwriter, or a blogger or a participant in any of the new and wonderful ways technology has allowed us to tell each other how great we think we are. He's a genuine writer and poet and someone who really does understand how the English language works and how to use it to good effect. This is something we should be celebrating - this is an example of the very people who should be writing blogs and filling the internet with content! If not; if it's left to me and a good majority of the rest of us, the blogs of the future will all be written in text speak and we'll lose everything that's great about language forever.

So I urge everyone reading this to go check out Geraint's blog, firstly because it's a great read, and secondly to leave him a comment of support. Because one day when we're all rambling in nonsensical abbreviations and random numbers we'll need bloggers like him to teach us how to truly express ourselves again.

In other, completely unrelated news, I went to a midnight screening of The Dark Knight last night. It was a brilliant experience - loads of people dressed up and it was great to sit with a full audience who were all just as excited as each other about seeing the film. The film is kind of like the Godfather 2 of super-hero films, but as I'm not a fan of the Godfather films that's not a comparison I should really use. Anyway, Ledger's performance does need to be seen to be believed, but he's on a par with Bale, Oldman and Eckart who are all fantastic in the film. Nice to see Eric Roberts in a proper film too. What I would say, as I doubt it will get much of a mention in the mainstream reviews, is that the script is excellent throughout, and though credit should definitely go to the actors it should also be shared with the Nolan brothers who crafted an excellent character piece from a film that really should be rather silly.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Warning: This post has a theme!

Before I get into a rather lengthy ramble about the nature of blogging I have to point out that I will be appearing on the AMR Movie Show tonight at 9PM. You can listen to it here:

You can also download the show from the same website if you don't catch it tonight.

We recorded the show last night (not sure if that's supposed to be a secret, but if it is it ties neatly into what I want to talk about later) and it was good fun, although it was difficult to contribute sometimes as I hadn't seen any recent films due to moving flats and writing. But I did talk at length about writing Ten Dead Men and name checked some cool films.

Apologies to the listener and competition winner I accused of being a stalker. It was late, I was tired and every time I managed to get a word in I tended to ramble on in order to make the most of it, without really thinking about what I was saying. But this does lead me onto the main subject of this post. It struck me after recording the show how easy it is to forget that it wasn't just a bunch of mates chatting about films, but people could actually be listening to the whole thing. The same applies to this blog.

When I started the blog one of the things that annoyed me about other writers' blogs is that once they reach a certain level of success they would stop talking about the scripts they were working on and just talk about 'the secret project' or 'untitled big movie deal'. That's something I vowed never to do, but despite being quite far from that level of success I am finding myself in the same situation. I've had to skirt around a couple of issues already, and a few I've delved into a little deeper. I've always accepted the fact that people I know and people I'm talking about in the blog may well be reading it. I thought I was okay with that, but now I'm not so sure and what I don't want is for the things I write here to affect my career. Hence my posts about the films I'm currently working on are becoming more and more vague, I can't talk about certain projects due to related delicate situations, and as a more specific example I can't show the Hit the Big Time teaser because it's a work in progress that I've probably already talked too much about here.

The problem is I sort of wanted it to be the opposite. The best commentary I ever heard on a film is Joe Berlinger on directing Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. It's a bad film, he knows it's a bad film, and he's happy to explain why and dish out blame. That's not to say honesty has to mean being negative about an experience, but that's kind of where the problem comes in - so far I've been very honest about the positive experiences I've had, not so honest about the negative. In fact mostly I've omitted them completely. And that's what can be frustrating - some of the most interesting stories about Ten Dead Men do require a level of disclosure that I'm really not supposed to go into.

So I've been thinking about this and about what I wanted from this blog. Originally it was just for me, to keep a record of my career and to remind myself of how I felt about certain developments in case I ever needed reminding. For that it's already proved useful - reading back I find that one week I'll be championing one project that I feel really good about, the next that one's not going so well but another is really taking off and I seem to forget how I felt about the former. The other reason though is that I do want people to read about it. Partly for the reason that I'm in rather a unique position in the industry - I'm an unpaid writer without an agent, but with one feature already in the can and more in development. It's a vulnerable, scary and quite often exciting position to be in and once that I hope will change, but also one that I want to share with other people who may find themselves in the same place someday. And I wanted to be honest about it, because people in this industry rarely are, but as I'm now discovering it's often for good reasons. There are also selfish reasons for the blog, of course. As much as I despise reality TV and our current celebrity obsessed culture I guess I too want my 15 seconds of fame just like everyone else. This way I get my fix for free and at the moment without having to subject the rest of the world to my ego if they're not interested. I knew that too when I started this, because otherwise why not just keep a diary? There had to be an audience, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to summon the enthusiasm to do it.

But faced with the fact that I actually do have an audience, albeit a small one so far, has made me reconsider the nature of what I'm writing about. I did start this intending to be as honest as possible and I've decided I need to find a way to do that without causing any unnecessary problems for my career. So what I'm hoping to do going forward is to keep names of people and projects out of the blog where at all possible in the hope of maintaining a level of honesty about things that are happening and how I feel about them. At the same time I don't mean it to sound ominous - I'm not going to start attacking people or whinging about everyone, but I do want to talk about some of the situations a writer gets into at this level in a bit more detail than I have done so far. I'm also not going to go over stuff that's already happened, this is purely to be applied to future experiences.

So for now that's the compromise. Obviously at the moment a new reader could go through the archives and my imdb page and work out who I'm talking about, but hopefully as time goes on that won't be so apparent. I guess what I'm saying is I'm not going to start going through old posts censoring them. I'll also probably continue to talk about projects I've already named like Hit the Big Time and Dark Future because it would seem weird to start talking about 'the secret hitman project' or 'exciting zombie script' at this stage.

Bringing it back to the radio show, it has made me think that maybe I would like to experiment with audio or video blogging, but maybe I'll reconsider after I've listened back to the show! So far I've done 2 Q&A's, this radio appearance, plus the dvd extras for Ten Dead Men and while I'm pretty happy with how they all turned out I do think it's something I could get better at. I am also going have a go at making the blog a bit more interesting and adding links and stuff - something I've been meaning to do for ages.

Anyway, if anyone's still with me after that, well done, enjoy the radio show if you get chance to listen to it, and I hope to see you in the next post!

Friday, 18 July 2008

50th post!

Do I get a prize? Probably not. So I'm still moving, but spent last night and this morning desperately trying to finish off the script I was working on with my brother, Pete. He wrote the first draft, I was rewriting it and last week I told him it would be done by last Wednesday, a week and a half ago. Then he never heard from me again and thought I must have been completely reworking the whole thing. I wasn't, I've just been lazy. So I was up til 4am working on it last night (or this morning more accurately) which is crazy! And it still wasn't finished, so I got up at 9am (even more crazy!) to finish it. Which I have now done. Amidst calling various utility people about changing address.

Of the slate of six action films we're putting together I've written two and now co-written a third, so hopefully there's a good chance that something I've worked on will get made, or at least get into the hands of someone who can give me more work. Speaking of those first two scripts, the feedback so far has been great considering I wrote each one in two weeks. Yes, I am going to point that out every time I get chance until someone gives me a badge or a hat or something.

Before I move flats, I noticed some other bloggers taking photos of their workspaces so I thought I'd share mine, partly as a reminder for myself of the place I spent many a late night writing about dead men and ninjas:

And finally, here's a photo of the leaky ceiling, now with a hole in it, that is the reason I'm moving flats in the first place:

The reason I'm putting this here is that I find holes in ceilings quite scary. You can't tell from the photo but it's quite a big hole. There's a TV movie called Don't be Afraid of the Dark about these midget creatures who come out of cupboards and stuff to get people, and it kind of reminds me of that. If anyone wants to write a short film or story about things coming out of holes in ceilings I offer this picture as inspiration, because can't be bothered to write one myself.
As further evidence that we need to leave this building, I was interrupted at 10pm the other night by an aggressive banging on the door. This was no gentle rapping at my chamber door, this really sounded like someone trying to break in. So I get up and open the door cautiously, wishing I had one of those chain things and half expecting a masked killer to kick the door in and gut me with a machete. Instead it's the bloke from the flat upstairs holding a fish wrapped in newspaper. 'Do you want a fish?' he said. I was a bit confused so said yes, I did want a fish. He explained he had been fishing and had caught lots of fish that day so had some spare. I didn't thing things like that still happened - suddenly it felt like we were living in some kind of medieval farming community rather than a flat in Hove. I thanked him and took the fish which are now in my freezer as I'm not really sure what to do with them when they have heads and eyes still attached and stuff. Unfortunately I didn't have any dead things to offer him in return but he didn't seem to mind.
So it turned out sort of normal in the end, but it's not every day someone bangs on your door at 10pm and hands you a fish.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Moving and stuff...

Have been a bit slack this week due to preparing for moving flats this coming weekend. Not that I've actually done much preparing, but thinking about it takes up a lot of energy. Also went to see Chris Cook's recut Penalty King on Tuesday, drank far too much, stayed out far too late talking about films, and was then far too tired the following night to do anything useful. Also spent a good few hours writing up imdb comments for some of the films I saw Phantasmagoria hoping that some of the other filmmakers would do the same for our film. They haven't. In fact the only imdb review is a reprint of the review that appeared in Combat - yes, the one that credited the producer and director with writing the script. So if you're reading this and have seen the film please consider posting a comment on imdb as we could do with a couple more. Then again, I suppose we'll be inundated with comments once the film is released on DVD, and probably not very nice ones either.

Speaking of Phantasmagoria, there is a brief article on the festival that appeared on Swindon Web here:

Which includes a photo of me on stage which I've nicked:

Monday, 14 July 2008


Must watch more films! Am now quite addicted having spent the whole weekend in Swindon Arts Centre watching action and horror films as part of the Phantasmagoria festival. That was quite literally all I did from when we got there on Friday to Sunday afternoon and it was a bit of a struggle trying to adjust to reality again when I got home. Huge thanks to Justin Richards who organised the festival and was kind enough to let me stay at his place over the weekend. Also met some fantastic people there including a few other film-makers.

As usual I took my camera but hardly took any pictures except when we first got there. Here's Ross outside Swindon Arts Centre as we rushed out to grab some food before the first film:

And here's me seconds after we arrived getting really excited about seeing my name on the poster:

The Ten Dead Men screening went really well, but before I get into that here are the highlights from the ten features I saw:

Broken Path - This is the My Dinner with Andre of action films. It's one long fight in one location that lasts 90 minutes. Some people found the superhuman resilience of the seemingly invincible characters a bit off-putting, I just saw it as live-action anime. It's definitely not for everyone but it really is action cinema at it's most experimental and I found that incredibly exciting. The website with the trailer can be seen here:

Contour - Another martial arts action film, this was the most fun I had all weekend, and probably the most fun I've ever had watching a film as the whole audience was loving every minute. It looks cheap and the structure is a bit off, but this is a film with a lot of heart. Also the action is amazing and the humour really works making it impossible not to enjoy. You can find out more here:

Dead Wood - An ultra-low budget British horror film about a group of young campers who get lost in the woods but thankfully don't get picked off by a man in a mask. Instead what starts out as a fairly standard slasher setup turns into a creepy and rather effective supernatural horror film. It's actually pretty scary in places too! You can find out more here:

Room 36 - A black comedy loaded with twists and turns despite being set almost entirely in a hotel room. The film-makers shot on a rare type of black-and-white film stock and suffered for their decision as the film took something like ten years to complete. The result is definitely worth it as the visual look of the film is stunning. And there is a great score by Scott Benzie who also composed the score for Ten Dead Men. Website is here:

My favourite film of the weekend was Albert Pyun's Mean Guns which has to have the greatest set up for a film ever and features fantastic performances from Ice-T and Christopher Lambert. The director wasn't able to attend as planned unfortunately, but he did send over an uncut print which was cool.

Anyway, onto Ten Dead Men. The screening was due to start at 3.30pm on the Sunday but the previous film ran late and I barely had time to down a beer before we were rushed back into the cinema to watch the film. When we got there the short that was playing before our film had already started - a rather sick zombie film that even I thought was a bit wrong. Because we came in late we sat at the front rather than at the back, and although it was cool to be that close to the action it meant we had no idea how the audience was reacting. The audience itself wasn't huge - probably between 40-50 people - but it was one of the biggest audiences of the festival and more importantly it was an audience of people who had no connection to the film and knew nothing about it.

I spoke to a few people sitting at the back of the room afterwards and was reliably informed that everyone seemed to be enjoying it. Problem was I didn't know that when we got on stage to do the Q&A and was incredibly nervous as a result. I stumbled through the first couple of questions, but soon realised that people seemed to be genuinely interested in the making of the film and they were even asking me questions about writing. It was also difficult trying to remember everything that happened over the course of making the film as it's been a long time since we started the project. Ross was on top form as always and we also had Chris Jones on stage with us who was at the festival with the makers of The Silencer in which he plays the lead bad guy. He was also one of the stuntmen involved in the garage fight in Ten Dead Men and talked a bit about the stunt work on the film. The best part was being asked what I was working on next and talking about Hit the Big Time - the audience responded really well to the idea of Parker and Garrett getting their own film so I really need to get that script finished! Unfortunately we had to rush off right after the screening so didn't get chance to speak to anyone about the film afterwards, but hopefully we'll get some feedback later on.

So that's it for Ten Dead Men screenings for now which feels a bit weird, but hopefully it will get a UK/US DVD release soon as that will be the real test. It definitely felt weird coming back to reality and going to work today, not just because of our film screening but also because I spent two days watching people kicking each other and dying horribly violent deaths. Having been so busy recently it's been ages since I watched a film in one go, let alone several films in one day so it was a great excuse for a break and definitely what I needed. Hopefully there will be another one next year!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Moviebar Screening

Last night was the 3rd public screening of Ten Dead Men (and the 2nd I’ve been to) as part of monthly short film showcase Moviebar at the Cornerstone pub in Brighton. I was a bit worried about this one at first – being in a pub I figured everyone would just be chatting all the way through and there would be random people walking in and out all through the film. Much to my relief it was a huge success. Just the right amount of people turned up which was great – I was thinking it could go either way, and that there would either be three people or three hundred. Instead there was just enough to fill the pub without anyone having to stand. There were a lot of familiar faces there which made things easier and the majority of them hadn’t made it to the Odeon screening so were seeing it for the first time. There were a couple of randoms in the audience, including one drunk old man who walked in halfway through then left soon after muttering ‘It’s absolute rubbish!’ – can’t please everyone!

Luckily everyone else in the room seemed to really enjoy it. We started late, around 9 o’clock, so everyone had been drinking for a while, but as soon as the film started the whole place quietened down and everyone just concentrated on watching the film. The only person really making any noise was me creeping up to the bar to get more drinks in preparation for the Q&A afterwards. I managed not to drink so much to make a complete fool of myself, although I’m not sure what I did say was that coherent – luckily Ross did most of the talking! It was good practice for Swindon next weekend though.

After the screening a few people stayed around to chat about the film and we got some great feedback. We got some criticism too but that was actually quite refreshing, although I need to start working on better responses than ‘we had no money’ and ‘there wasn’t enough time to get that bit right’. But overall the feedback was positive and it was nice talking to other film-makers about the film as they really understand how hard it is putting something like this together. So all in all a huge success, which makes me even more excited about the screening next weekend.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Remakes confuse me...

I try not to rant about remakes too much. Everyone knows they happen, everyone knows they're usually pointless and bad, but every now and again one comes along that really confuses me:

Okay, so Bad Lieutenant is one of those love-it or hate-it films that a fair few people are divided on, but whatever you think about it the fact that Harvey Keitel delivers one of the best performances ever can't be argued. Why would you want to try and recreate that? Also, it's not even like it's a high concept idea - why not just make a film called Messed Up Cop or something and steal the ideas. I'd watch it and probably say it was a great homage to Bad Lieutenant. So on first reading this news I was quite annoyed at the pointlessness of it all.

Then I find out Werner Herzog's directing it. What? Crazy! Now I want to see it, hence the confusion.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Genre article...

Some of my comments on genre appear alongside those of proper writers in Lucy Hay's article here:

It's a subscription site (it's the online version of what used to be ScriptWriter Magazine), but if you register now you get a free trial.

Not quite finished...

So technically my two drafts in four weeks writing marathon should have been finished by now but it's not quite. I managed to do a rewrite on the first script so that's been finalised for now, and I did finish the first draft of the second script so I'm not completely off target.

Still not entirely happy with the second script - read through it last night and lost interest halfway through which can't be a good sign. There is a lot of action in it which may be a good thing when it's a film, but right now it's a really dense script full of scene descriptions which is generally frowned upon. Also there are a couple of fundamental problems with it that could be solved by using the obvious solutions, but I decided to do the opposite, not simply to be different but because it suits the character. That's kind of the problem - it's an action film that's primarily character driven rather than plot/action driven. Also, she's a rather mean and unsympathetic protagonist on a self-destructive downward story arc which doesn't help matters. Anyway, I await feedback but have a feeling I might be sent back to the original brief, from which I have deviated quite drastically.

Anyway, on top of that I've been working on a third script from the same slate which my brother is writing - he's done most of the work which is good but now it's my turn to take a pass at the draft. And I really need to finish Hit the Big Time this coming weekend, but it's looking more and more unlikely. We're moving flats in a couple of weeks so I've set this weekend as my final deadline on everything so I can concentrate on tidying and packing etc. We'll see how that goes. But while it has been difficult, I have learnt that it is technically possible to write an okay first draft in two weeks whilst also having a day-job, which isn't bad!