Friday, 31 October 2008

Happy Halloween...

So everyone has cool Halloween-related posts and I feel I should post something cos I like Halloween but I don't have any real plans. Last year we were in LA and did lots of cool Halloween stuff. This year we are in Portslade (or West Hove) staying in. I will probably watch the end of Dead Set which I'm enjoying and then it's a toss-up between Wait Until Dark or The Grudge, although Andrea might make me watch a Thin Man because she likes to be rebellious at times like this. Anyway that's not very interesting so go to Geraint's page instead where there is a cool zombie poem and a link to Brother Pete's instructional zombie video.

Meanwhile, this is not Halloween related but it certainly put a smile on my face:

Thursday, 30 October 2008


This is barely worth a blog post but it was on imdb news today and made me laugh (the funny part is in italics in case it's just me that finds this weird):

'Dreyfuss Says W. Made Bush "Shockingly Empathetic"

29 October 2008 2:30 AM, PDT

Richard Dreyfuss, who portrays Vice President Cheney in Oliver Stone's George W. Bush biopic W., has faulted the film for making the president appear "shockingly empathetic." Appearing on ABC's The View Tuesday, Dreyfuss made it clear that he was unhappy working with Stone on the film, despite the fact that he and the director share similar political views. "You can be a fascist even when you're on the left," Dreyfuss remarked. W., he maintained, was only "6/8 of a good film." (It was not clear why he represented the fraction in eighths.) What was missing he said, was "us -- because we were all terrified of our own president." For that reason, he added, "I question whether the film will have any historic legs."'

I like the idea of some poor imdb researcher being really bothered that Dreyfuss rated the film in eighths. So bothered, in fact, that he thought the rest of the world would be perturbed by this strange method of rating films and felt it necessary to include the disclaimer.

I think Richard Dreyfuss should start his own review site where he rates everything out of 8. Not just films - everything.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Too old for Slipknot...

Before I go off on a rant about music, if anyone has come here looking my script the links are in the post before this one and I'm going to try and get some links up on the sidebar too.

Anyway, after a few weeks of indecisiveness I recently bought the new Slipknot album which got me thinking about music and stuff. There will probably not be much film talk here so film people may want to skip this post. However, if you're a fan of The Shining you should definitely check out the music video I'm planning to add to the end of the post if I can find it.

When I was twenty or thereabouts I worked in a farm gang one summer with a bunch of misfits made up of asylum seekers from all over, a couple of drug dealers and a few penniless students like me who took the job by mistake. One such student was called Maurice, although that wasn't his real name, but that's what we called him (only I didn't cos I hate it when people have daft nicknames and they're like 'everyone calls me Bobbly-head cos I'm crazy' so usually insist on calling them by their real name at every opportunity - only I've forgotten Maurice's real name). So we're having a drink in the pub after a day weeding fields (which I was rubbish at) and we've just finished the most epic game of pool I've ever played (because we were both rubbish at it) and we start talking about music. I guess Maurice was about ten years older than I was and this was when I was properly into punk and metal and I'd literally go straight into town every Friday when we'd been paid and spend the lot on cds. So I was ranting about the importance of Slipknot, Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down and Maurice says 'You'll grow out of it eventually'. He was determined to make me grow out of that music right then and there. He made me a mix tape of plinky-plonky dance tunes figuring it would convert me and I would be saved. Strangely enough, that was his idea of grown-up music - a suggestion I have worryingly encountered on more than one occasion. It didn't work.

At that moment I decided no, I wouldn't grow out of it. It wasn't the scene I was interested in, it wasn't that the music was angry and the lyrics had rude words, it was the fact that the music that came out of the height of the nu-metal period was the first original art I'd experienced in my lifetime. Before Slipknot my favourite bands were (and still are) Velvet Underground, Iggy & The Stooges and The Residents (and a bit of Talking Heads, although my proper Talking Heads obsession came much later) - I was convinced I'd found the only bands I'd ever really like and no new band would convince me otherwise. Slipknot was one of the bands that did convince me otherwise, and yes, I am going to compare them to Velvet Underground, but more on that later. At the time I decided that I would remember this moment in the pub with Maurice telling me I'd grow out of my love of these bands and do whatever it took not to grow out of them just on principle. In case I ever bumped into him years later and then I could say 'Ha! I still like Slipknot even though I'm 84!'

You can see where this is going. I'm listening to the new Slipknot album and I'm thinking, 'this is all a bit silly really - I'm too old for this'. But I think it's them, not me.

I truly believe those first two albums have an avant-garde quality - the first album was raw and experimental, the second weird and pushing the boundaries. Both were and still are difficult to listen to and it was this that reminded me of Velvet Underground and those other bands I liked. It sounded fresh and challenging. And there were nine of them in the band. Nine people, all making noise, sometimes sounding like a band, sometimes just pure chaotic noise. Final point - they were the best band I ever saw live. I saw them at the Leeds Festival (I forget which year - 2000? 2001?). I went as close to the front as I could get before they came on. The guy next to me had a massive cut on his lip after being hit by a bottle during an earlier set. 'The first aid people said I should go home' he said, 'But I only came here for Slipknot'. They did not disappoint.

Then it started to go wrong. The masks kind of became a problem. I like masked bands, but I think you have to not be mega-famous to sustain it. The Network, Mushroomhead, The Residents - they all kept it up and it never did them any harm. I think it turned Slipknot into cartoon characters. They went the way of Kiss. By the time the second album came out twelve-year-olds were wearing Slipknot T-shirts. And there was me trying to compare them to Velvet Underground. I continued to defend them throughout my twenties, still making outlandish comparisons, despite the fact that I never bought the third album. I kind of lost interest in music for a while, and am still only slowly getting back into it.

So here I am listening to the fourth album and to be honest, I'm not completely disappointed. It sounds fine. I'm sure the kids are loving it. But it's not fresh anymore. The chaos and the noise have gone - they sound like a three-piece. A three-piece doing other people's songs. The one thing you could definitely say about Slipknot was that they didn't sound like anyone else. Now they do. I probably haven't given it enough of a listen, although I am trying, but it's not very exciting. I guess Maurice was half-right - I did get too old for Slipknot in the end. Half-right, because I also think Slipknot got too old me for me.

Rather than ending on that depressing note, let's celebrate what was great about Slipknot with one of the best music videos ever made:

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Dark Room

I'm a bit drunk after a night of networking and possibly having my first feature script optioned so what better time to share the first ten pages of my action-horror Roadhouse meets Nightbreed epic with the world. At the moment the purpose of this is mainly to prove that all this time I was blogging about writing I was actually writing something and to get feedback on said ten pages of something. If you do read it and make it to the end and would like to leave me feedback feel free to e-mail me at:

Or leave the feedback in the comments. Negative feedback is okay, but if it's mean I may delete it.

Anyway, here is the first ten pages of the script in Word, Final Draft and PDF formats:

The finished draft of the script isn't properly finished yet, but if you read the ten pages and would like to read more send me an e-mail letting me know who you are and what you thought and I'll add you to the list of people I'm going to send the full draft to. When I finish it. Which will be soon.

Morning after edit: As drunk blog posts go I'm quite impressed. Yes, I sound like a bit of an arse at the beginning and to be honest I didn't do much networking last night beyond rambling to random people about random films (although I did find a pocket full of business cards this morning so it can't have been all bad). However, I did manage to upload the script in three different formats and they all work (I think). In my excitement I may also have e-mailed the ten pages to some random people so apologies if you received a rambling e-mail. But the fact is that if I hadn't posted it last night I probably would've put it off for ages so I think it turned out alright.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Sunday already?

So this weekend didn’t really play out the way I planned it. A couple of drinks after work on Friday ended up with me not getting home until the early hours of Saturday morning, which meant the first half of Saturday was pretty much a write-off. Then I made the mistake of going to see Saw V – that’s seven quid plus 90 minutes of my life I’m never getting back.

Saw V was bad enough to get it’s own little rant. Okay, what was I expecting from the fifth in a franchise that only really had one film in it to begin with? Well, to be honest I’ve enjoyed the other sequels. Yes they get progressively less interesting with each film, but each one managed to do something cool with the story by the end and usually featured some good performances. Also, I kind of liked it that there was a new Saw film every Halloween – it made me feel like there was some order to the world. And I think Darren Lynn Bousman did a great job to get a perfectly functional film made in a year, three years in a row. If you’ve ever watched any of the behind the scenes stuff on the DVDs it was clearly a nightmare working to such a tight schedule. But I’m not going to attack the director of Saw V, David Hackl, as it was his first film as director and, to be honest, the problem wasn’t with the direction, it was the script.

First off, it was very, very dull. A continuation of the previous film only you don’t care about any of the characters and you’re not given anyone new to identify with. It’s also not as clever as it thinks it is. And it thinks it’s way cleverer than the audience, so much so that the characters have to speak aloud their thoughts to themselves whenever they work out a part of the plot, just in case we didn’t get it from the flashbacks they’ve shown us a hundred times. And the flashbacks are the worst thing about this film. It plays like one of those flashback episodes in TV shows when they would use a weak framing device to play clips from previous episodes. That’s what most of Saw V is, because we obviously were all dying to know how they set the traps in Saw 2 so really want a ten minute scene explaining it.

Terrible film. Will I go and see Saw 6 next year? Probably.

Okay, where am I with writing? I finished the rewrite I was doing last week and everyone seems pretty happy with it so that’s good news. Andrea read The Dark Room and it is good, but perhaps not as perfect as I was hoping it would be. Most of the criticism she had was as I expected – it has suffered from me not planning it out like I usually do and despite being a really tough first draft it looks like the second draft will be even tougher as a result. Also, there was one terrible oversight on my part – what I thought was a film about three characters is actually about two. And it’s not something I can sort out easily.

At first I was thinking maybe I’d rework the script before getting more feedback, but actually I think I’d be better off getting as much feedback as I can first then doing a proper rewrite. So I’m going to spend today making some tiny amendments and then I’ll hopefully be able to post the first ten pages later on. That way I might at least manage to something productive this weekend.

Just as I'm finishing this blog I noticed Neil Gaiman's latest post is titled Saturday? Already? although I suspect we have different reasons for feeling time is moving too quickly at the moment.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Procrastination meme...

I thought I'd better do this while on a lunch break at work rather than at home over the weekend at which point I'd be procrastinating by writing about procrastinating and the irony would be too much. Although that's probably the point.

First off, since it won't fit anywhere else, I watched All That Jazz last night and was properly blown away by it. I know I keep going on about films I like and sometimes I probably do exaggerate a bit, but this one really is amazing. As well as Roy Scheider's performance, which is perfect, it's got some fantastic visuals and really plays with the cinematic form in a way we see too rarely these days. So go watch that, although seeing as it was made in 1979 and is really famous most of you probably already have. In which case, you should've been telling me to watch it sooner!

Right, back to this:

List the top five ways you distract yourself when you should be writing and then procrastinate some more by sending it to all those other writers who should really procrastinate more often (so we can all catch-up!).

1) Internet. I'm including everything under this one heading - checking e-mail (then refreshing 5 seconds later just in case someone sent me something really important that second), Facebook, MySpace if I'm really desperate. Also reading blogs, watching trailers, spending ages looking for cool stuff on YouTube then choosing to watch a monkey doing karate or something daft instead. Endless hours wasted.

2) 'Research'. This is sort of included in the above, but I'm also talking about watching films for 'research'. There was this great period when I was at the end of my Scriptwriting MA and I'd managed to blag some funding for the last couple of months so I could quit my part time jobs. And I was sitting on the sofa watching films about witches and magic to 'help' me with my script thinking 'this is what it must be like to be a real writer'. Since then, anytime I want to watch a film I call it research, like I am actually working even though I'm clearly not. Sometimes I'll get stuck and think 'I know, I need to do some research' and I'll seek out a vaguely related film and watch that instead. I do that a lot.

3) Computer games. I love my Playstation 2 and my borrowed Xbox, despite being ten years behind everyone else. I truly believe that narrative games are the next art form and can provide a level of emotional involvement far greater than any film, or they would if they had any decent writers working on them. It does happen though - try playing Project Zero in the dark on your own and I guarantee you will be a hundred times more terrified than you ever could be watching a film. I would also really like to write for games one day. The problem with games is that while it takes 2-3 hours at most to watch a film, a game will take usually 2-3 days at least. And they're really addictive. So I quite often think 'oh I'll just have a go of this' then five days without food or sleep later I'll get up and go back to writing. Lethal.

4) Seeing what Andrea is doing. Usually she's doing something more interesting than what I'm doing as I'm quite often doing one of the above. Then I might have a bit of a moan about how hard I'm working and the plight of the struggling writer with a day job. Then she'll suggest doing some kind of mutual activity instead and I'll say 'no, I couldn't possibly, I've got far too much work to do', then I'll go back to doing one of the above. Unless Andrea's reading this, in which case I never procrastinate, I work super-hard all the time, honest!

5) Listening to music. Or listening to a piece of music on repeat. Okay, specifically, listening to the intro of a particular song on repeat over and over again while visualising it playing over the opening/ending credits or trailer to the film of the script I'm writing. This usually follows lots of alcohol. I was going to include drinking in my 5, but worried that a) it would make me look like an alcoholic and b) it's not really procrastinating. Sometimes I find that if I get stuck on a script and don't know where to go next drinking a lot and writing any old rubbish will get me over the bad bit into safe territory again. Usually I then have to go back over it all and delete most of it, but at least I'm over the bad bit. However, drinking while writing almost always ends with me listening to songs on repeat. Or occasionally watching the opening scene of a film on repeat, usually Streets of Fire. I bet no one else has this one on their list.

So those are my five. I'm tagging Rich Badley presuming he hasn't been tagged already.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Don't Fear the Reader...

Yay for horrible blog title puns! 

Before I get started, I just got back from the Dr. John gig which was amazing. He is very, very cool and it was definitely one of the most enjoyable and perfect sounding performances I've been to. Also I wasn't the youngest person in the room as I suspected I would be - there were lots of Brighton trendy folk there too, leaving me feeling both too young and too old at the same time.

Anyway, the blog title is more than a mere pun in reference to the recent script reader condemnation and subsequent defence raging along on Shooting People at the moment - it's actually an unrelated revelation. Some time ago I mentioned my fear of script readers following some particularly soul destroying coverage. Or I might be imagining I mentioned it as I can't seem to find the entry to link to - I need better labels! Anyway, the story goes that the only time I got proper script reader coverage was when I paid to enter a scriptwriting competition, the name of which escapes me, a good few years ago. So I submitted the shiny new third draft of the script that I'd written as part of my MA and at the time was pretty happy with. Some people even rather liked it. I didn't win, obviously, but I did get my coverage and it was quite mean. And stupid. I'm better at taking criticism than I used to be and I'd like to think that perhaps I would not react so badly if receiving the same coverage today, but my problem was more that the reader quite seriously missed the point. The film was about a young woman who sells her soul in exchange for a successful music career in a rock band, written in the days when I used to listen to new music and went to more than one gig a year. It was suggested by my reader that I was behind the times and that it would be more suitable if my white, occult obsessed heroine should pursue a career in rap music instead. Because that's what all the kids are listening to these days.

So I decided not to bother with competitions for a while and developed the aforementioned fear of the script reader, although I knew that I would have to face my fear one day as it's an inevitable part of the business. And I was even coming round to the idea of sending The Dark Room to a professional script reader, partly to get over my fear, partly because I could do with some strong notes to take it forward in the quickest possible time. Then last night I get a script report on one of the other features I wrote earlier this year. And it was quite good.

We're in the realms of not being able to say much here as it's all still up in the air, but I knew the script was with a production company and after some time had pretty much given up on the idea that they would take an interest in that particular project. Then I got the script coverage. It wasn't glowing, but the criticisms were things that had been brought up in the feedback I got recently so I was prepared for most of it. What I wasn't prepared for was that I got pretty good scores at the end of the coverage and a tick in the box that says 'recommended'.

I've just read that back and realise I sound like an arrogant arse. I'm basically saying don't worry about script readers unless you've got a bad script, which mine obviously isn't cos someone said so. I think I'll shut up now.

Another random recommendation which most people probably know about anyway - you can now get Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog on iTunes. Even if you are anti-iTunes it's worth selling your soul and getting an account just for this. Unless you're waiting for it to come out on DVD, which is probably more sensible. Anyway, I think it's one of the most perfect pieces of story-telling ever created, which may sound like excessive praise for a comedy musical about super-villains. I won't go on about it too much - if you've seen it you know what I mean, if you haven't you need to find a way to see it now.

I am aware that Contains Nuts has tagged me with his Procrastination meme but I need time to think up witty and/or honest answers. Or rather I need time to decide whether to be witty or honest. So I'm working on it.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Poundland link again...

The latest entry is perhaps the funniest yet, mainly on account of the New Age lighters:

Friday, 17 October 2008

Gloopy horror...

The biggest problem I have with horror films is that too many of them are rubbish and daft people like me will watch anything with 'blood' or 'massacre' in the title in the hope of finding a good one. Stephen King once made the insightful observation that horror fans develop an immunity to bad films. The reasoning behind this is that for every truly great horror film there are a hundred bad ones, but the truly great ones are so brilliant that they make trawling through all the rubbish ones worthwhile. However, since I'm often paying actual money to watch bad films I occasionally lose my patience and boycott anything that isn't specifically recommended to me.

Every now and again a film comes along that restores my faith in the genre and makes me wonder what I'm missing, leading me to add loads more bad horror films to my list. Films like Fragile, The Mist, The Abandoned, and Wind Chill - all underrated and rather brilliant horror films that put most of the usual big budget horror films to shame. To be fair, The Mist did get a theatrical release over here so perhaps shouldn't be included in a post that is primarily about straight-to-DVD horror films, but The Mist is so good it's almost worth mentioning in every post.

Anyway, the point of all this is that the other night I watched Isolation, a British/Irish co-production that's been around for a couple of years but I avoided because I was going through a phase of zero tolerance on straight-to-DVD horror films. Then some friends recommended to me so I decided to give it a go, and now wish I'd seen it when it came out so I could go around recommending it to people as a new thing instead of sounding like I've only just caught on.

What's great about Isolation is that it's a reminder of what horror films and, in particular, the monster movie, used to be in the pre-CGI days. At the same time it's a neat little film, very well shot, acted (Sean Harris is amazing as always - makes you care more about his backstory than the main plot in places), and produced. And the effects are fantastic. This is a gloopy horror film - lots of blood and fluids with things writhing around in them. There is a creature, but I don't want to go into great detail about that for fear of ruining it. What makes the effects so great is they are pretty much all practical (I say 'pretty much' because I don't know enough about the production to say for definite - I certainly didn't notice any CGI at all). Not only that, they are lit and shot really well - never showing you too much, but always enough to make you believe what you're seeing. I therefore wasn't surprised to see Bob Keen's name on the credits as he designed the make-up for the Hellraiser films. As much as I love The Mist, and as much as I realise the monsters in that film are not the 'real' monsters, if the creature effects in The Mist were as good as this it would be the Citizen Kane of horror films.

So watch that if you like gloopy horror films, or just want to see a British film that isn't rubbish. Some random musing - it's getting colder which means people are less interested in the Brighton seafront which is good news for me. I love Brighton, I love living by the sea, but I hate large gatherings of people and unfortunately for me large gatherings of people also love Brighton, especially when it's warm. Or even when it's not warm, but could potentially be warm as they're all in search of this mythic British summer we occasionally have by accident. So I like winter because Brighton empties out, which is good for writing. Long walks are an essential part of writing for me and luckily I have a necessary one to and from work everyday. But it's not so helpful when walking through town with a billion people, or along the seafront in summer also with a billion people. In winter it gets empty and emptiness is good for ideas. Not that I'm allowed to have any at the moment - too much other stuff to do.

Still planning to have the first draft of the as-yet-still-titled The Dark Room script ready by next Friday. Read through it the other night as an experiment and it reads okay, even the bits I thought were rubbish. By okay I don't mean it's any good, but it's good enough to start getting feedback. Nearly. Also doing a rewrite which I've started and the other feature for a producer which I mention every month and haven't yet started.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Title stress...

So originally I was thinking I’d just post the first ten pages of the dark room up here by the weekend, but as no one at all has read any of it yet I’m not past the ‘this could be so embarrassingly bad I’ll get banned from writing forever if it gets out', so I’m testing it on a sympathetic guinea pig first. Said guinea pig happens to have a day off next Friday so I'm setting that as my first draft deadline and will aim to post the sample up here the weekend after this one. In theory.

In the meantime, I might have to change my title cos of this:

I can’t really be too angry because I met Mike Hurst in LA last year and he’s a) a really nice guy and b) had already made his Darkroom at that point while I was still thinking about mine. So fine, he can take it. Now I thought I'd checked The Dark Room at imdb before, but obviously not because as well as Mike's film there are four others, one released last year. Bugger.

To be honest I was never that attached to the title anyway (and I’m not just saying that because I might be changing it). I’m fairly rubbish at coming up with titles generally. In this case it was extra hard because I wanted to come up with a title for a franchise. That may sound over-ambitious, but I’ve got enough material on these characters to take it far beyond one film and haven’t ruled out trying to do it as a comic or, depending on the feedback I get, possibly a novel (a very scary thought, but I’m not there yet). Anyway, The Dark Room clearly isn’t a franchise title but it sounded inoffensive and un-cheesy so I ran with it. Essentially The Dark Room is the nightclub which the story is based around. I came up with other, more cheesy club names which would also be the name of the film, like The First Circle (as in the first circle of Hell – pretentious and bad) or The Strangler’s Chord (which sounds like a bad thrash metal band) but I don’t think any of them sound like films. I’ll have to have a think. For now I’m a long way off running into any rights issues so it can stay as it is.

On a random note, I was talking to a friend in the pub the other night who hadn't seen any of Brother Pete's animation so, since I only just figured out how to post YouTube videos in my blog (which is pathetic, I know) I thought I'd post this here. If you like it go to YouTube and watch his others:

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Doing the 'finished the first draft' dance...

Finished the first draft of my tell-it-all script The Dark Room tonight. It came in at 98 pages which isn't bad. It definitely needs some work, but at least it's finished and I can put it to one side for a bit and hopefully come back to it with fresh eyes in a week or so. Overall I'm really happy with it - it's probably been the most difficult script I've written to date but, contrary to what I might have said about second drafts in the past, I think in this case it was the first draft that was the hardest and now that's done the rest should be a bit easier. Or so I'll keep telling myself.

I always want to celebrate when I've finished the first draft of a script, have a drink and a smoke like James Caan in Misery, but given that it's half-twelve on a school night and there's not a drop of alcohol in the house I'll have to save my celebrations for the weekend. By which time I might have read back through the script and not be feeling so good about it. Maybe I will just ban myself from reading back over any of it for at least a week. I'll see how it goes - I am also eager to have a couple of people read it as soon as possible and it needs to be in way better shape before I can do that.

Completely missed this before, but there are a load of new Ten Dead Men videos on YouTube. Some are quite pointless (I'm really not sure why you'd want to watch the end credits of the film, unless you're in them, like me, and even I think it seems a bit pointless) and most if not all will be on the DVD which you're obviously all going to buy when it comes out. But if you want to see my actual face doing some actual talking I'm in the EPK (although it's not as good as the hour long documentary Brother Pete did, currently showing on some random TV channel in Ireland):

Monday, 13 October 2008

Unfinished but not too far off...

Yesterday I was feeling pretty bad about the script as it was in kind of a mess. Next time I say things like ‘developed organically’ and ‘no planning’ remind me why that never works. Unfortunately this time I reminded myself when the strands of my story all came out at different places as I went into the 3rd act. Rubbish. Well, actually not rubbish because I think it was my lack of planning that helped me get on with it. Or rather, I kept putting off working on this script because I didn’t like the idea of going through the epic notes I’ve been making over the last few years to put together a half-decent structure. So I ran with it and while I’m slightly regretting it now I don’t think I’d even be working on this script if I had spent weeks planning the whole thing out.

So today I did the thing I should’ve done at the beginning and went through the epic notes. I rediscovered some cool ideas I’d forgotten to include and more importantly reminded myself what the story was about. Then I went through the draft and tweaked it a scene at a time to sort out my 2nd into 3rd act break. It’s still all kind of short hand so nothing’s perfect, but it did make me feel better about what I’d written Friday night. After my tweaking the script was 74 pages and I managed to get it to 81 by the time I was done. So I reckon one last session one evening this week should do it.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Minor badness...

First off my throat's gone weird which probably means I'm getting Andrea's cold.

Secondly, there was supposed to be another Ten Dead Men screening in Brighton this month but it has been inexplicably cancelled. Or postponed. Not sure exactly which yet, but it's annoying anyway as I'd told people about it and some people had rearranged plans and stuff. Rubbish.

The Dark Room has hit a decidedly bad patch. The last ten pages I wrote were all set in a kitchen. It may need more work, but for the moment I just want to finish the thing as I have other stuff to get on with.

There is some good news, although not writing related.  I saw In Bruges last night and really liked it. It was teetering on the edge of becoming one of those films where so many people had told me it was amazing that I found it impossible to enjoy, but luckily although I felt it lost its way a bit in the middle the ending won me over. So go watch it, but pretend I'm not one of those people telling you it's brilliant. In fact, pretend I'm telling you it's really average and then you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Also bought tickets to see Dr. John which I'm really excited about. Dr. John played at my university in my first year but I didn't go because despite being a huge fan I'd spent all my money for that year on beer and cigarettes. This is something I always regretted, especially since I presumed he had died. I think I thought this because a few people I did see at university (Joe Strummer, Ian Dury, Joseph Heller) did die shortly after me seeing them, so I guess I presumed Dr. John died as well making the fact that I didn't go see him even more tragic. But he's not dead, he's in Brighton the week after next and I'm going to see him!

On a random note, I was convinced I'd seen Warren Ellis on my way to work this morning. I have seen Warren Ellis in the flesh before, so have some grounds for recognising him. However, I can find no reference to Warren Ellis being in Brighton this week and it's not mentioned on his blog so I am probably mistaken. How interesting was that?

Speaking of blogs, it's about time I added Warren Ellis to the list since I check his blog regularly, although there's usually too much interesting stuff to keep up with.

I have also added Amanda Palmer's blog even though it has nothing to do with writing, but she is very cool.

I foolishly agreed to go into work tomorrow which is no good, so unlikely to do much writing as we are doing fun stuff in the evening. That leaves Sunday to finish the script. I'm 70 pages in and have stopped at a point where I have a major dilemma about where to go next. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Writing and stuff...

I said I was going blog crazy.

Had a few late nights in a row so quite tired. Also this may seem slightly incongruous having posting my new york diary yesterday, but I actually wrote that on Monday then uploaded the photos/videos in stages cos it takes forever. Apologies to anyone who ended up with a video of me on the Wonder Wheel on their ipod - I accidentally made it a podcast. Which did make me realise that should I decide to go that way video podcasting might not be too difficult after all.

So this week I've been ignoring everything and concentrating on The Dark Room . I wrote loads Monday as I said in the last post. I didn't mention that I initiated the rather productive tactic of completely disconnecting from the internet until I was done writing.

Tuesday I went to Moviebar which was cool but there weren't many people there. We had two teams for the quiz, and at one stage one of those teams was Andrea and me on our own. Still a great night - the quiz movie was Bullitt so we watched the car chase on a big screen - very cool. Also chatted to the regulars and met a couple of new filmmakers which is always good. I think the problem is that because it's a pub anyone can walk in so you need a large amount of people in there to make Moviebar work - otherwise you just get large groups of random people talking through all the short films. Then again, I can't really complain as I haven't been to one in a couple of months. I think it hit a peak for me just after I'd finished the part-time course at the film school in Brighton as it always felt like I knew half of the people in the room and could happily chat to the other half, which I haven't really experienced since I was at university. Still, these things always move on and usually evolve into something better so I'm sure there's still hope for the event yet.

Also there's nothing wrong with a core group of people turning up to the same thing every month. When I was at university I somehow ended up taking over the Creative Writing Society which at the time was massive. I pretty much hated the job as despite my love for writing found it very difficult to organise a group and give people exercises etc. With my experience now it would be okay, but back then I had no idea what I was doing - I was only in my second year. So the usual weekly sessions would go like this - I'd turn up, see there were only one or two people there, and declare it not worth doing that week, maybe next week. Then I'd go to the pub. I did this for a year, not willing to let the whole Society disappear completely because I was rubbish but also not caring enough to put any extra effort in. Luckily I often had help in the form of my good friend Geraint who I somehow conned into becoming Treasurer or something so I'd have someone to go to the pub with after cancelling each session. Anyway, when we started the third year we got billions of new members and I decided to give it a better try, and although the numbers started to drop off after the first few weeks we ended up with a really good core group of people which made it okay again.

I have no idea what my point was.

So back to this week, there's also been exciting news that I can't really talk about, and don't want speculate as it might not be as exciting as I think it is. However, a meeting I had with a producer a few weeks ago may not have been the waste of time I thought it was, so that's good news.

Last night I did loads more writing and also watched Death Warrant, which is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, I worked on script earlier this year that was really similar and am now really glad I hadn't seen it at the time as I think it would've really skewed my take on it. The second interesting point is that it's written by David Goyer who's a writer I really admire and it's great to see that he started out in action cinema then went on to write action-horror stuff like The Crow 2 and the Blade films (and there's a strong horror element in Death Warrant). Seeing as action-horror is kind of where I'm going with The Dark Room I'm taking it as a sign that I'm on the right track. Or something.

Speaking of which, last night I got to page 60 and I'm just at the 2nd/3rd Act changeover so despite my lack of planning the structure seems to be working out okay. Except the 3rd act may well be epic - I'm having trouble imagining it being under 120 pages. I'm hoping that at a push I can finish it over the weekend. It definitely feels like a bit of an exorcism writing this script - like it's been bugging me for years and I just need to get it out of my system. In a very enjoyable way, of course - I'm not vomiting explicit scenes out or anything.

It is starting to get complicated and I had some problems last night. I'm having real trouble with action scene dialogue, which is ironic because I gave a friend some script feedback a couple of weeks ago saying they needed more dialogue in their action scenes. So all my dialogue in the action scenes is terrible and needs to go. There are also some very unoriginal Buffy/Angel/Harry Potter moments which I'm not very happy with but they're kind of acting as short-hand where I haven't quite figured out the mythology properly yet. They need to go eventually.

My biggest worry is that it's a story that relies heavily on audience curiosity at the moment. There are 60 pages of setting up questions and presumably 30 more answering them, but it really does depend on the audience actually wanting to know the answers enough to care. So that needs some work. I'm trying to second guess the inevitable criticisms. One thing I do know people will say is the two lead character names are too similar, but because they're characters from other I've written scripts I can't imagine them with different names. That will also probably have to change.

Since I've decided to talk about it here (and after working on so many things I can't talk about it's quite refreshing) I'm going to post the first 10 pages when I'm done for people to look at. I eventually want to set up a website or somewhere I can store writing samples permanently but as it will be a first draft sample I'll stick it up here temporarily. This is partly because I don't feel I can ask for feedback from a lot of people on this as my usual readers went well beyond the call of duty with my last batch of scripts. So I'll put the sample here and if anyone is interested in reading the whole thing I'll forward it on.

Okay, I'm done, having a night off tonight, then back to the script on Friday.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

New York non-dairy...

Okay, going a bit blog crazy at the moment but I promised a New York diary and, well, I’m not going to do one. I started writing it on one of my lunch breaks last week but the first day alone was epic and that was just getting the plane! And who cares, really – people have been to New York before, and I certainly don’t have aspirations to be a travel writer (or even to travel again anytime soon, no further than Cardiff anyway). Plus most of the people who might actually care know me in real life and will be subjected to long stories and reams of photos in the near future. So as actual writing has started to take over and New York seems like months ago (even though it was only a couple of weeks back) I’m skipping the whole full-on diary thing and thought I’d just talk about my two highlights instead.

However, if you want to see photos with occasionally funny captions you can check out my facebook galleries here:

Gallery One

Gallery Two

And yes, even you non-facebook people can check them out too via the links above.

So, best thing I did in New York was go to Coney Island. For me it was the place I was most looking forward to, partly because it features heavily in The Warriors, one of my favourite films ever. Anyway, we got there far too early and it all looked shut which was rubbish but we hung around and went to the Aquarium and luckily stuff started to open later. We actually got to go on the Wonder Wheel which was excellent, and fair play to Andrea who agreed to come on with us despite the fact she hates heights:

We also went on the Spook-o-rama:

Not as good as the Brighton ghost train which you can see a video of here.

We also saw a good old-fashioned sideshow that was very cool – people setting themselves on fire and sticking power drills up their noses:

You can check out lots more cool stuff about Coney Island here:

I would recommend it to everyone, whether you’re a fan of The Warriors or not (it features in other films too – the final shot of Cloverfield is from inside the Wonder Wheel). It's kind of like a tacky English seaside town that remembers better days but where everyone seems really proud of both its former glory and its tackiness combined. I'm clearly not selling this at all so moving on...

Second highlight wasn’t so much about a place but more to do with the excellent company. It’s unfortunately not that often that I get to spend time with Andrea and my two brothers at the same time so spending the whole week together was very cool. The best part of that was the night we went out drinking. After searching for all the cool bars in the guidebook and deciding they’d all shut down we settled on this place:

Which was essentially a nice little pub with about twenty TVs all showing different sports. Despite the fact it was loud and there were shouty people watching the twenty different sports we decided to stick around. We were also sitting on a table with useful crayons, which we used to list the topics of conversation over the course of the evening:

We almost called it a night when Pete accidentally asked for the bill (not sure how when the rest of us has asked for more drinks – the waitress misheard, but then must’ve assumed that as Pete wasn’t drinking alcohol he was declaring that the rest of us we’re too drunk to continue and we just wanted the bill). Anyway, being polite English-folk we stressed about the etiquette here for moment – could we carry on drinking after effectively declaring we’d finished for the night? Then the bartender came over and gave us some raffle tickets for free, saying there would be a draw after the football game and we could potentially win a CD player. So then we had to stay, and etiquette be damned we bought more beer. Anyway, as the night progressed, the football game went on and on as American football always seems to and people lost sight of the prize so we ended up with other peoples’ abandoned raffle tickets. This is how many we had by the end of the game:

And guess what? I’ve never seen anyone quite as excited as Tim was when he held up his winning ticket and claimed his prize:

Those are my highlights. I’m now firmly back in the real world and doing pretty well. Am 50 pages into The Dark Room, my own script which I shouldn’t be working on as I have other stuff to do, but is also going really well. It’s interesting as despite the pages and pages of notes it’s developing organically as a script – i.e. there is no meticulous structure planning, I’m just writing it as it comes. Which will surely backfire at some point, but for now it’s working just fine.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Writing Song Meme

Rich Badley tagged me in the following meme that's been going round the writing blogs recently:

Find a song that sums up what you think it means to be a writer and post the lyrics on your blog and why you’ve chosen it. NB: It doesn’t have to be your favourite song, it just has to express how you feel about writing and/or being a writer. It can be literal, metaphorical, about a particular form or aspect of writing - whatever you want. Then tag 5 others to do the same (reprint these instructions).

My first choice was We are all Prostitutes by The Pop Group. I know you're supposed to go with the first thing that comes into your head on these things but it didn't seem quite right when my last post was all about enjoying a lack of cynicism. So I picked this instead:

So back when I was at uni my dad used to send me compilation tapes (for anyone under twenty-five it's like a playlist on itunes only it works through a complicated system of pulleys and gears and has to be clamped into an engine run on steam to be played). On one of the tapes was Chet Baker playing You Don't Know What Love Is with a note that said if anyone ever asked me what the coolest song in the world was, play them this:

You don't know what love is
Until you've learned the meaning of the blues
Until you've loved a love you've had to lose
You don't know what love is

You don't know how lips hurt
Until you've kissed and had to pay the cost
Until you've flipped your heart and you have lost
You don't know what love is

Do you know how a lost heart fears
The thought of reminiscing
And how lips that taste of tears
Lose their taste for kissing

You don't know how hearts burn
For love that cannot live yet never dies
Until you've faced each dawn with sleepless eyes
You don't know what love is

You don't know how hearts burn
For love that cannot live yet never dies
Until you've faced each dawn with sleepless eyes
How could you know what love is
What love is
What love is

I know, I wasn't asked what the coolest song in the world is, but it is a song about dealing with rejection and that, as we all know, is unfortunately a huge part of being a writer.

As Rich says it seems like everyone's done this now so I can't tag 5, but Contains Nuts doesn't seem to have done one yet. Over to you, sir.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Cool live stuff...

Okay, this isn’t necessarily writing related, but I have done some cool stuff worth talking about the last couple of evenings. For what it’s worth, I think doing things other than watching films (i.e. going to gigs and seeing shows) is a good way to recharge creative energy. Doesn’t matter whether it’s seeing people perform live or even going to short film nights/festivals and hearing filmmakers talk about their work – the fact that these people produced some art and put it out there always manages to give me a creative kick up the arse and reminds me why I’m doing this. I guess that’s kind of a contradiction as film isn’t live at all and there’s no immediacy with writing a script, but I do think the creative energy that comes off something like that is infectious.

So Friday I went to see the Babes with Blades show in London, primarily to support Cecily Fay who played the dominatrix in Ten Dead Men (and was criminally underused although no one was to blame for that – as well as the problems on set that day the scene in the script was the most difficult to write in the whole thing and was probably the most rewritten, which led to the dominatrix character being practically written out), and also to support Ten Dead Men director Ross Boyask who was filming the show. I went along thinking they’d need as many people as possible to fill up the theatre but I needn’t have worried about that – it was practically full and there was a great atmosphere. The show was fantastic – having never really seen a martial arts show before I had no idea what to expect but they did a great job of making it entertaining as well as technically impressive. And having written a number of scripts recently with lead action heroines it was very cool to see that stuff being demonstrated on stage and definitely helped me visualise some of the scenes in the scripts. I think a couple if not all of the girls have the potential to be the next Cynthia Rothrock, I only hope I get to write the scripts. As much as I love China O’Brien, it does contain a line where the bad guy says to Richard Norton ‘You’re crazy!’ and Richard Norton replies ‘Yeah? That’s how people get!’ If I could go back in time and change one thing it would be to rewrite all the dialogue in China O’Brien.

Anyway, check out the Babes with Blades website here:

It was also a good night because John Rackham who played Axel in Ten Dead Men (one of the main characters) was there. John stayed over at my place during one of the shoots and as a fellow writer and film fan we got on really well, but due to the craziness of the film premier I didn’t get to chat to him much then so it was great to catch up. John has a very cool, if infrequent, blog which I’ve added to the links:

Speaking of blogs, another one I’m adding to the links (mainly so I remember to keep up to date with it) is Neil Gaiman’s blog:

I’ve been a Gaiman fan since the Sandman days, and Death: The High Cost of Living has managed to cheer me up at several times when I badly needed something to do so. Anyway, I was reminded of his genius when Amanda Palmer played a song that he had written the lyrics for at the gig I went to with Andrea earlier tonight. Amanda Palmer was one half of the Dresden Dolls who I’ve been a huge fan of since they started and she has just released a solo album. She has also done a music video for every track, all of which are on YouTube. This is my favourite:

Anyway, it was the best gig I’ve been to in ages. To be fair, that’s partly because I’ve kind of lost touch with new music over the last few years and haven’t been to see that many artists I’ve been this enthusiastic about, but it was everything I always wanted from a gig and never usually got. The music was great and the performance excellent, but it was really bolstered by some excellent theatrics performed alongside the music. And the best entrance I’ve seen at a gig ever – zombie Amanda walking through the audience to get to the stage where her own funeral was being acted out. All very cool. Even better, Amanda stuck around after the gig to sign stuff so we queued up in the rain to see her. Then I got all starstruck and shy and just shoved my ticket in her face to sign then ran away. I'm still rubbish at stuff like that - how I ever managed to string a sentence together when working with Doug Bradley I'll never know. But despite that I came away with the same feeling I had after seeing The Dark Knight earlier this year – it’s great to be able to enjoy something good for a change and not be cynical about it. I enjoyed my rare moment of awe and it definitely boosted that creative energy I was talking about earlier.

So here I am, spending that creative energy on my blog as it’s slightly too late and I’ve drunk just too much beer to write anything productive.

The plan for October is a little sketchy – I mentioned in the podcast I have two projects on the go, my own script and one for another producer that’s been at outline stage for months. The one for the producer has suddenly picked up momentum and needs to be done ASAP, but after a telling off from Andrea about how I keep putting off the personal projects I think I’m going to try and do both, which may or may not be crazy. But, that’s how people get.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Writer by Night Screenwriting Podcast Episode 4

Fourth and possibly final (for now) episode in which I talk about second drafts and rubbish films.

Podcast disaster...

So I recorded the fourth episode of my podcast last night only to find that the free file hosting website I was using has conveniently deleted my account and removed all my files. Nice. The reason for this is apparently because it's been inactive for 45 days, which can't be true seeing as I uploaded the last episode at the end of August. So I panicked a bit, tried to find a new file host, then gave up and decided to upload all the files onto a new account on the old host so all the links would be the same. By then it was late and the little man who runs my computer was tired so it was taking forever to upload the first episode. So I gave up.

What I've decided is I'll upload the fourth episode that I recorded last night but then I might give it a rest for a while. Not saying I'm giving it up completely, but it takes up time I can't really justify anyway so when there are technical difficulties on top of that it makes it even worse. The blog however I can update on lunch breaks so that's not so much of a problem.

A few other things contributed to this decision. One is blog posts like this one where I talk about podcasting which isn't the most interesting subject in the world. Also, I was complaining in the podcast about not having enough time to write the script I wanted to write. The irony of this suddenly became painfully obvious.

Then there was this post on Phillip Barron's blog:

I have written 5 features this year so I don't have to feel too guilty (maybe I can get a badge or a special hat?), but I still haven't written the feature I want to write and I am seriously in danger of becoming that person who talks about writing instead of doing any. Have I got enough experience to justify doing that? No, not really.

Speaking of that elusive super-script (not that I'm setting my sights too high or anything) my notes are reaching critical mass. There's one fairly pivotal scene that has about ten pages of notes already and it's only supposed to be 2 pages long in the script. But I have now figured out a) a major plot point and b) a way for the ending to make sense. So I think I'm ready to get going with it again, only for various social reasons I can't start until Sunday now.

Random unrelated film news, I watched The Orphanage last night which was cool. It wasn't quite the film I wanted it to be, and I thought Dark Water dealt with a similar story much better, but it did have a lot of excellent moments and was very well produced overall. Definitely worth a watch.