Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Ten Dead Men and the BBC...

When I were a lad, probably around 10 years old (although my memory is rubbish so this maybe happened later than that, like last year or something), I was on a family day out at a farm when we were approached by a local news team looking for people to fill up a shot. All I had to do was stand in a bakery looking at cakes - that was it. So they set the camera up behind the counter and I just started laughing - I could not keep a straight face at all. Subsequently the only footage of me that appeared in the item when it was broadcast was the back of my head in a wide shot and my shoulder, whilst Brother Pete who took direction much better than me and was able to keep a straight face, had a full on close-up all of his own.

So on Friday I was interviewed by BBC South East Today about the release of Ten Dead Men, along with director Ross and actors Brendan and Pooja. This was my chance to finally overcome the failure of that first local TV appearance and to have my say on the state of independent British filmmaking broadcast to the whole of the South East! This is what it looked like:

That's me in black, strolling around in the background and throwing rocks into the sea. And that's all I got. Once again foiled by the insistence of local news teams to only show the interesting bits!

To be fair, it was quite a nice little piece about the history of films that have been made in Brighton. There were some really good clips of Ten Dead Men that made it look and sound like a proper film, like we made it with money or something. And it was cool to be factored into the canon of famous Brighton-shot films such as Quadrophenia and Brighton Rock. In a way it seemed a shame that it wasn't part of something larger - not because of us, but because there really is a rich history of filmmaking in Brighton going all the way back to the days of silent cinema and one of the first ever film studios. There's a documentary in there somewhere. Or you can go to Hove Museum where you can learn all about it.

Ten Dead Men isn't in Hove museum though - not yet anyway.

I fared slightly better on the the radio for BBC Southern Counties today - it being live I couldn't be edited out. I talked a bit about writing the script and our influences, then left it to Ross and Brendan to talk up the film.

It is cool to be involved at this level and to have a more public presence in relation to the release of the film, but at the same time I can see why writers do often get sidelined when it comes to publicity - particularly more general publicity like local TV and radio. For example, one of the questions I was asked for the TV interview was 'how do you go about writing a script?' - there just isn't a straightforward, dynamic answer to a question like that, although there probably is a witty one I couldn't think of at the time. And there's a constant nagging in the back of my head about whether this is interesting to anyone who isn't a writer. As with a lot of things, I'm maybe a little too self-conscious for some interviews, although I'm not so bad with the more film-centric ones.

Ultimately, it's great that the film is getting some pre-release attention and it's nice that's it's local. It's also weird in that I'm leading much more of a double life at the moment between the day job and film stuff. I was lucky today because the Southern Counties studio is just down the road from where I work, so I was in the office one minute, popped out for half an hour to do the interview, then came back. Cool in a kind of superhero, secret identity kind of way (although being on the radio isn't particularly secret so that analogy doesn't work at all really) but not so cool that I want to keep doing it like this forever.

The Tenant...

Just watched The Tenant for the first time and am now too scared to go to bed, particularly because a) Andrea is away and b) I just looked out my bathroom window and the view is spookily similar (if a scaled down version) to the view outside Polanski's window. Scariest toilet scene in cinema history. Excellent film - one I really should've seen before now. Check it out if you get chance.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Ten Dead Men UK release news...

It's late and I've got loads still to do so I'll make this quick.

Brit Films have been super busy promoting the UK release of Ten Dead Men and there's now a cut down trailer online:

Also, the press release went out today which caught the attention of Gay Times.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Best film ever...

...I'll get to that.

Ten Dead Men was rated 18 by the BBFC for 'very strong language, strong violence and sex' - awesome.

Went to the THEATRE last night to see Waiting for Godot with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, plus bonus Simon Callow (which is about as THEATRE as you can get hence the capitals). Excellent stuff and much funnier than I expected having never read the play. It also has a kind of perfect mix of abstract and straight story-telling - so you can just experience it as a piece of art and see what it does to you, but at the same time there's enough to hold onto in the characters and the dialogue for you to try and make sense of it if you are that way inclined.

I'm not sure I can go from Waiting for Godot to Shark in Venice, but Andrew Skeates who was present for the epic bad film marathon in Bristol the weekend before last has written in depth and very funny reviews of some of those films on his blog.

And speaking of reviews I wrote one for the best film ever, Gun Crazy, for Close-up Film. Okay, best film ever is perhaps too much of a generalisation, but it is genuinely one of my top three favourite films and definitely worth checking out. As you can see I pretty much didn't say anything bad about the film at all, but I think you're allowed that when it's on your top three list. It has recently been re-released by the BFI which I hope means there will be a Region 2 DVD on the way at some point, but until then you can get it on Region 1 import. No trailer, but here's the shortest clip I could find:

Friday, 20 March 2009

What do I do again?

So it seems like ages since I actually posted about writing. That's partly because I haven't done much recently. There are things going on in the background, but mostly they are things I either can't really talk about or don't want to jinx by talking about here. How cryptic is that?

But I did actually finish something this week - the second draft of a treatment for a horror film that I think I was referring to as Jimmy House. It's not perfect but I've been working on it on and off for about three weeks so I'm just glad it's finished for now. More specifically it was finished at 2am this morning. There is a sense of triumph when you finish something at 2am in the morning, as if you're at the end of some kind of epic writing montage like in Misery. It's not the same when you finish something at 4pm in the afternoon on a Saturday - 2am in the morning feels like you've worked for it. This is swiftly crushed by the realisation that you have to be up for work in 5 hours. That's how it goes for me anyway.

Other Jimmy Scripts:

The Jimmy Fight treatment has been approved and is currently with Brother Pete for draft one.

I haven't made any progress at all on Jimmy Horror which is my fault. It's at second draft treatment stage. Essentially Jimmy Fight is one of my projects that Pete is helping me out with, and Jimmy Horror is one of his projects that I'm supposed to be helping him out with. My part isn't going too well at the moment.

Jimmy Sci-fi is still in no position to be discussed in depth here but hopefully there will be news on that in the next month or so.

This weekend I need to redraft Dark Future - the zombie project that like its namesake refuses to die. I promised the producer/director I'd get it done ages ago but other things kept coming up first. It's not a major rewrite, more like a character pass, so hopefully that will be done by next week.

That's where I am at the moment - yes, this has mostly been for my benefit.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Let the Right One In...

I'm not a fan of vampires. I like Dracula as a monster, I like the performances of Max Schreck and Christopher Lee who both portrayed the character as pure monster, but I'm not a fan of the gothic love story that has him as a tortured romantic hero. As I understand it, all this comes from the 1924 stage play (it's certainly not part of Stoker's novel), but I'm going to stop myself before I get into huge generalisations about things I haven't really researched. The point is I could never get behind the vampire as sympathetic character - all that moaning about living forever. Connor MacLeod dealt with that in a couple of flashbacks and then got back to chopping heads off. There are exceptions - The Hunger is ace, and my personal favourite vampire film has always been and still is Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark. But generally, not a vampire fan.

So for me to enjoy a vampire film as much as I enjoyed Let the Right One In means it's something special.

I'd been hearing a lot about this film from the US where it was released last year - why are we so slow at getting the big foreign language films over here? I'm sure there are long and complicated reasons for it, maybe the distributors just don't have enough money, maybe there just aren't the right distributors around anymore. A film like this would've been perfect for Tartan. If anyone knows why this and Inside have not been released in the UK yet please let me know. Ultimately it doesn't matter - thanks to the internet and multi-region DVD players the fact that UK distributors are slow to catch on has never really stopped me seeing the films I want to see.

And this one is worth seeing. I don't want to ramble on about it for fear of putting people off, but the thing I liked most was that it makes the audience do a lot of the work. There are no big exposition scenes, there is hardly any dialogue at all in fact, and yet the minimum that you need to know is clear while the rest is left for you to work out. It's an approach that's very easy to get wrong and something that is usually frowned upon in mainstream scriptwriting - it's certainly more daring than anything I'll ever write. But it pays off, it works, and it's so much better for it.

It also has one of the greatest single take scenes in horror film history at the end of the film.

Unfortunately it is one of those films that non-horror fans will want to insist is not a horror film because they couldn't possibly admit to liking something that comes out of an exploitation or low-brow genre (unless QT is making it post-modern and ironic), much like non-comic book fans insisted on saying that Dark Knight wasn't a comic book film. But those people will be wrong.

Despite it's gentle pace and minimalist dialogue this is, when it needs to be, a brutal, gory and sometimes quite horrific film. It also sticks very closely to the vampire mythology and even explores an aspect of that mythology that other films never really get into.

It will be remade - I think it's already in progress. And fair enough, it's based on a book so perhaps it will simply be a different take on the source material that happened to go into development just as this adaptation became a huge critical success. But I doubt it, and this is one that really won't be improved upon in any way by a big budget remake. Like Rec (annoyingly when I search for Rec on imdb the remake comes up first) and Inside I think this is one of those films that is kind of perfect as it is.

So if you get chance to see it as it is, either on import or by waiting for the UK release (which really can't be far off) then do so as it really is a unique and effective piece of horror art.

Monday, 16 March 2009

What I learnt in Bristol...

First off, since the UK Ten Dead Men DVD became available to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk a couple of positive reviews have appeared from people who caught the film at SENI last year. I'm not sure what prompted this but it's fantastic to get so much support in advance of the release so if any of the reviewers are reading, thanks very much!

Speaking of which, I feel a bit cheeky asking after the amazing response I had to the IMDB comment appeal, but if anyone who has seen the film would like to help support it further we really could use your reviews on Amazon.co.uk and/or Play.com.

Anyway, I just spent an excellent weekend in Bristol with friends watching tremendously bad films. Here's what I learnt:

Stryker taught me that smoke grenades are the solution to any and all problems.

Shark in Venice taught me that there are no sharks in Venice, but there is one in Bulgaria.

Executioner Part 2 (note - there is no Executioner Part 1) taught me that you can get away with being a crazed vigilante killer as long as you were in 'Nam with the cop on your trail.

Witchcraft taught me that not all horror films require dark photography, and not all films need to be watched all the way through.

Unstoppable taught me that the quality of straight-to-DVD Wesley Snipes films is at least doubled when viewed immediately after Witchcraft.

Day of the Panther taught me that the Secret Panther School should just be called the Panther School.

Lionman and the Witchqueen taught me that a hero can sometimes appear so unlikely that even the cameraman can forget which one he is.

The Violent Breed taught me that there's always time for another briefing, bullet extraction needs to be discussed for at least 20 minutes before going ahead with the procedure, and the best way to take on an army single-handedly is to confuse them by hiding the grenades and ducking in and out of the same building at least thirty times.

If you happen to track down any of the above I seriously recommending not watching them alone (with the exception of Day of the Panther which has excellent fights and Unstoppable which is actually quite a competent thriller) as you will permanently damage your sanity. But they are excellent for shouting abuse at the TV with mates.

I also learnt that Starhyke is a rather excellent independently produced sci-fi/comedy that you must must look out for when it airs later in the year:

Friday, 13 March 2009


I wasn't going to get into this but seeing as I just posted my thoughts on Lucy's blog I figured I may as well expand on them here. I liked the film, more so the more I think about it. I do think it was too long and I really would've liked to have seen more of an adaptation. But I get it - it's a huge, culturally significant title and there is a fear of messing with that. Then again, changing the ending was a brave move and a completely understandable one - it would never have worked as a film otherwise.

I think that if it hadn't been a comic first it would be one of my favourite films now, but it was and I did have that
Sin City thing of not really getting anything new from it being a film. On a personal level, I enjoyed it, especially the ending, but I did lose interest during that middle hour. But on a general, objective level, as a piece of art I think it's fantastic - it looks amazing and has a definite style and a clear tone. Generally the performances were great, particularly Jackie Earle Haley and Patrick Wilson. I think Zack Snyder is building up a really strong body of work and the film also reminded me that Alex McDowell is perhaps the greatest production designer working in cinema today. I like that it was a proper film about ideas and characters and wasn't afraid to make its audience think. I do believe that the faction of the audience who laughed every time naked Dr. Manhattan appeared are too stupid for Watchmen, but as long as we keep getting films of this intellectual standard then maybe there is hope for them too. Although that's not what Rorschach would say.

This has been posted all over the net now, but it's funny enough to be posted again here:

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Slightly displaced...

No computer access the last few days as Brother Pete moved in and due to laziness I couldn’t be bothered moving my PC out of the room that is now his until half an hour before he arrived. This then led to me throwing everything randomly into the bedroom and not being able to sort it out until tonight. Things are now sorted, but having the PC in the bedroom does pose a problem for one who writes at midnight (as Andrea, who does not write at midnight, tends to be in bed before then). So I’m experimenting with alternating between the bedroom and using the laptop in the lounge. So far it’s going okay. But so far this blog is all I’ve written.

Also, I’ve never used a laptop before and keep getting distracted by exciting features such as the webcam:

Random stuff – there’s another nice Ten Dead Men review here.

Speaking of which, the UK release has been pushed back to 25th of May now.

For anyone who listens I was co-hosting the AMR movie show again last week which you can download here.

Right, actual work, must do actual work...

Friday, 6 March 2009

The Midnight Meat Train...

I'm always reluctant to post about specific films for fear of turning this into a review blog, but this one deserves a special mention. I first read Clive Barker's short story The Midnight Meat Train when I was far too young to be doing so, squinting at the pages under torchlight as it was way past my bed time (always the best time for horror stories). It terrified me and excited me at the same time. I became an instant fan of Barker's work, but more relevant to this blog, it was one of the many things that made me want to be a writer. That mixture of fear and excitement - I wanted to do that to people.

The first I heard there was to be a film version was in a poster shop in LA that had a load of pre-release artwork on sale for films that were still in production. I was kind of excited by the thought, and a little frustrated - like Ghost Rider and Constantine it marked another of the adaptations I always wanted to write someday that would now be forever crossed off my list. Then I started thinking - in my imaginary version it would be part of a portmanteau film with my other favourite Books of Blood stories - it would never work as a standalone feature! Then I realised how easy it would be to get wrong. After all, on the surface it's a story about a killer on a subway train - cut the super-scary final scene, have him chasing a bunch of teenagers and it's ruined. The revelation that Vinnie Jones was to play the killer did not help matters.

Then I found out that one of my favourite Japanese directors, Ryuhei Kitamura, was directing it. This changed things. If you don't know Kitamura you should certainly check out Azumi - his masterpiece. And if you like that, go back and check out Versus, Alive, Aragami and Sky High (Godzilla: Final Wars I could do without, but I was never a huge Godzilla fan anyway - although the first film is really very good and much better than all the sequels). Anyway, now I was interested.

So I just finished watching it and...

...I really liked it. I thought it was ace. It's not perfect - it takes a while to get going and there's too much CGI among other things. But it does the story, faithfully, right to the end. The writer, Jeff Buhler, makes just enough changes to make it work as a feature, but ultimately everything from the story is there. Even the final scene that scared me so much as a kid.

It reminded me a lot of The Hitcher - just set in a big city instead of the desert. And like that film, the best thing about it was that it's a proper horror film, with a story and themes that make you think. The last two horror films I saw were Friday 13th and The Unborn - both terrible, the second one more depressing because of it. They were films about pretty people jumping at CGI shadows. Midnight Meat Train is a film about characters and ideas. It's about isolation and loneliness in a big city, and it's about two people finding each other in spite of that. I'm deliberately making it sound like a love story, because it kind of is really - a dark, miserable, gore-splattered love story but an effective one all the same.

Tomb Raider: Underworld and narrative games...

I'll keep this brief - I'm supposed to be reading a script on this lunch break.

So last night Andrea and I completed Tomb Raider: Underworld on the PS2. Note the PS2 bit - what I'm about to talk about may well be different on other, more-advanced platforms. If so, please let me know.

I like games with stories. When they have good stories I think they can be more involving and even have more emotional depth than films or books - a huge generalisation, but the important word is 'when'. Most of the time the stories are rubbish. They usually just steal ideas from films (although as Andrew pointed out on the radio show the other night, The International marks perhaps the first occasion of a film stealing a set-piece directly from a game) and they very rarely make use of the immersive level of story-telling that direct audience interaction provides. Here are a couple of good examples of what I mean before I get onto the bad one.

In Hitman: Contracts there's a mission where you have to get up to the high level of the building, pick up the sniper rifle that's been left there by your contact and take out a target standing in the window of the opposite building. But when you pick up the rifle to take the shot you realise it's empty. And the moment you realise this you notice about fifty guards entering the building from below - it's a set up. But there's no cut scene to tell you it's a set-up, no voice-over, no text on the screen. You realise this important story point yourself in the moment it happens and then you have to deal with it.

There's a similar moment in the second Splinter Cell game. You're being led around town by a double-agent who's helping you get past various guardposts. But when you get to your destination your superior calls and tells you to shoot her. He won't say why, just do it. And I did. And the level ends and you never find out why. Now it could be that if I hadn't done it and just waited around the contact then pulls a gun and shoots you instead - I've never gone back to find out (the game as a whole wasn't that great really - the first one is better). But for one moment I understood what that character had to live with every day - the consequences of blindly following orders without question.

So those are old examples, but to me they represent what can be great about narrative story-telling in games. Anyway, Tomb Raider: Underworld did not do that. Instead it did the classic game thing of having three big story points. So you get a big chunk of story at the beginning, then you play through some levels, then another chunk of story, then finally at the end it seems like all you get is story. But these are cut-scenes - essentially short pieces of film in which the player has no control and just watches the character do stuff without their input. So basically you're watching a film (that to be honest isn't that well written to begin with) in which every now and again you get to make the character run around a bit.

A few years ago I was at a digital media conference where someone from a games company was talking about how game companies were starting to employ more and more people from the film industry - designers and special effects people and so on. And I'm sure they get proper writers too. But in a way that's the problem - writing a game shouldn't be like writing a film. It needs an understanding of the full potential of the medium and the sooner we get writers on games who understand that the sooner we can start thinking of games as an art form rather than distractions.

Oops, there goes my lunch break.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Ten Dead Men UK release details...

So the big exciting thing that happened last Wednesday was meeting Nick and Amir of Brit Films who are distributing Ten Dead Men in the UK. We had some photos taken and did an interview which went well - nice to be interviewed by a third party instead of us interviewing each other like we did for the behind the scenes. It's great to actually have some communication with the people releasing the DVD too, as with the US and other releases it's been completely out of our hands. Brit Films have a posh website at http://www.britfilms.tv/ and the announcement about Ten Dead Men is here. I also recommend checking out their podcast which is pretty well produced and quite funny.

I did go off an have other adventures in London that day but it seems like months ago now and luckily other more relevant stuff has appeared that means I won't have to bore you with all that. First off there is a review at Flash Bang: Action Movie Reviews
here. I was saying for ages that if people didn't get the voiceover they wouldn't get the film, whereas those who did get seem to genuinely enjoy the film as a whole. However, there have now been a couple of reviews from people who didn't get the voiceover but still liked the film, which is good to know. This one is notable also for outing Parker and Garrett.

Apologies for turning this into one big fat advert, but the release date for the UK Region 2 DVD is 04/05/09 and you can now pre-order it from
Play and Amazon. Here is the rather spectacular list of special features:

- 30 page graphic novel entitled `Ten Dead Men: The Last Job'

- Commentary #1: Ross & Chris (director & writer), Commentary #2: Ross, Brendan & Phil Hobden

- Music videos: Curvy Cola Bottle by Chico (with Intro by Phil & Ross), Miracle by The Latch (with Intro by Phil & Ross), Adrenaline Rush by Tommy Gunn (with Intro by Phil & Ross)

- Outtakes (5 mins)

- Deleted & Alternative Scenes (5-10)
1. Speedboat Deal (Deleted)
2. Speedboat Kill (Deleted)
3. Ryan Gets Photo (Original Version)
4. Body Delivered and Axel Talks To Ryan (Deleted)
5. Chop Shop Fight (Long Version)
6. Projects Manager Meets Franklin (Original Version)
7. Notting Hill Kill (Deleted)
8. Odeon Kill (Deleted)
9. Parkour Chase (Deleted)
10. Random Kills (In Full)

- BTS Photos Video Montage (To Music)

- Press Photo/Image Montage (To Music)

- 10 Min Video EPK with Interviews

- BTS Documentary - 55 mins

- Filming At Cage Rage Documentary - 10 Mins

- Trailers x2- Sales Agent & Story Trailer

- MOCK Film festival Intro (with caption into titles)

- EDMD trailer on the DVD (as it was in the film).

- LFD trailer for the DVD

That 55 minute documentary is the one Brother Pete put together that I keep going on about. Even if you have no interest in the film whatsoever, you have to admit that this is going to be an awesome DVD.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Burn the mirrors...

...just something I learnt from a film I saw tonight.

Also learnt from another film that you can't dance on someone's grave. Bad things happen when you do.

So it feels like I haven't really stopped since last Monday night, and it's mainly been doing non-writing stuff, which is good but am very aware that's it's March now and my output for 2009 is pretty poor so far. Busy the next few evenings too so that's not likely to change anytime soon, but it's all fun stuff so that's okay - as always if I could afford to sacrifice anything it would be the day job.

Must stop moaning! I realised that when I last didn't post for a while then decided to randomly post something a couple of weeks back for the sake it came out as pretty negative which can't be much fun to read. And despite not having done any writing I did have an excellent weekend in Cardiff with Mr D'Arcy, primarily to see Dead by Dawn - a theatrical reimagining of Evil Dead 1 & 2 that Geraint had helped design, produce and generally add touches of aceness to. It was pure gore-drenched spectacle and very cleverly handled with all the big moments from the films there on stage including a rather excellent Henrietta puppet that got a round of applause from the audience. I wish more theatre had exploding heads and purple vomit.

This was followed by an evening of drinking far too much and me ranting unnecessarily about the Dark Knight until 4.30am, then a day of watching a mixed bunch of films and learning the above lesson about dancing on graves. We also saw the following trailer for a film that can only be amazing. Unfortunately the only version of the trailer I could find is in German with a dodgy soundtrack, but that only makes it more awesome. All you're missing is the crucial information that Warwick Davis plays a character called Plates (who throws plates that kill!) and the weird baby mutant is called Octobaby - surely a film in itself:

More cool stuff - Geraint's fiancee Jeanette has had a story published in issue 2 of New Fairy Tales which you can read here. Jen's story is Jorab the Selfish and, as the magazine's title suggests, is a new and original fairy tale.

Ten Dead Men director Ross is interviewed by Forces of Geek here.

Episode 73 of the AMR Movie Show which I co-hosted last week can be downloaded here. I reviewed Push and was a bit mean about it and vowed afterwards to be a bit nicer in future - after all, I know all too well what it's like to get mean-spirited reviews, although I doubt Paul McGuigan was listening. I now have a bit of a dilemma - I'm doing the show again this week and actually really really disliked the film I'm reviewing, much more than I disliked Push (which probably is an okay film if you're not currently writing a film with a similar premise). I'm really struggling to think of anything good to say about it, except for how much I like the writer's previous work. Luckily there's a guest on so I'll have to make it quick.

I will post about last Wednesday's adventures at some point so that people will know how it went down.