Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Some stuff wot happened to me in 2009...

Having a break from rewriting to finally round up 2009...

It was an odd year which I think the blog has probably reflected. I was posting fairly regularly for the first six months, mostly because I wasn't that busy but there were a lot of things happening. Then in the last six months I got really busy with writing and stopped blogging so much. There are still a few writing-related things I can't really talk about here (a couple of bad experiences but mostly good) which is part of the reason for the lack of posts. But a lot of good things have happened that I can talk about which I've listed below:

- The Ten Dead Men DVD release which I talked about a lot as it was happening, first with the US release in January and then with the UK release in May. It seems so long since I worked on the film (it was in post-production when I first started this blog in January 2008, and I'd finished my work on the script months earlier) it sometimes feels like someone else's film that I have some vague connection to despite the time I invested in it while it was in production. At the same time it has certainly opened doors and helped move my career along and I'd recommend the independent production route to any writer in the same position. It's also nice to see that all the work everyone involved put in led to something that hopefully benefited us all. It is by no means a perfect film, but it works, it moves along and we've even picked up some glowing reviews from those with the patience to look past the budgetary constraints. Overall I couldn't be happier with it and feel really lucky to have been a part of the experience. And that may be the last time I talk about it for a while, although I've broken that promise before.

- My first script option for a project that's still very much in development so I can't really say anything about it at the moment. But a lot of the things that I'm involved in right now are happening because of that script, briefly codenamed Jimmy Sci-fi, which I wrote in two weeks in the middle of 2008 (it has since gone through a few rewrites!). At the moment I'm trying to draw a line under working unpaid - it's led to a lot of wasted time this year and if faced with the same situation again (at the time I agreed to two scripts in the space of a month) I'm pretty sure I'd turn it down. But that just reaffirms what I think about unpaid work - it's 50/50 on whether it's worthwhile or not but really it's up to the individual to make that decision. Sometimes it's the wrong decision, but with this script it really worked out for the best. Hopefully I'll be able to talk a bit more about it later this year.

- Going to Cannes. My diaries were a little negative in the end, but I felt it was important to maintain some degree of honesty about the experience. That said, I don't regret going and while it may have made me question my career choices in the long term I still had an excellent time while I was there. At it's best it was an awesome holiday with some of my best friends where I also got to see lots of new films and spot celebrities. I definitely learnt a lot from going and I met loads of cool people. Would I go again? Probably not under the same circumstances, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out completely.

- Hit the Big Time screened in LA which was awesome, although I can't say whether the film is awesome or not as I haven't actually seen it, but friends who went to the screening assure me it's pretty good. I hope it leads to a feature someday as the script is one of my favourites and you can never tell - every time I think the project is dead it seems to get a new burst of energy, which is exactly what happened with this screening. Hopefully I'll be able to post the full short film here eventually.

- Other writing stuff - I tried writing prose again and am clearly out of practice but it felt good to finish a fairly lengthy short story and very liberating after working within screenplay format/structure for so long. Also entered the 15 page script competition and didn't win, but came fourth in my heat which was something, plus I really enjoyed doing it. Most recently I wrote my epic Mr. Wong blog as part of the Boris Karloff Blogathon - again the kind of thing I haven't done in a long time and really enjoyed.

Other awesome stuff that happened...

- I went to Paris and got engaged!

- Went to Phantasmagoria which was as awesome as last year, but unfortunately still not as appreciated as it deserves to be. I'm pretty sure the organisers are going to attempt one more festival next year and I wish them the best of luck with it. There really is nothing else like it for such a low cost, I met some awesome people there and saw some excellent films I probably wouldn't have seen otherwise. Their website is here.

- I discovered my evil twin is alive and well and has followed me to Brighton.

- Son of Moviebar was a regular highlight this year as I've mentioned pretty much every month. It's a very slick, interesting and entertaining event now and I've met some fantastic local filmmakers and seen some excellent films there over the course of the year.

- Went to some awesome gigs including Devo, Alice Cooper, Amanda Palmer, Birdeatsbaby and Bitter Ruin which leads me onto Brother Pete's music video and the launch night - another highlight of the year.

- Best films I saw in 2010...

Martyrs - Technically this was 2008, but it was released on DVD in 2009 (the same week as Ten Dead Men!). One of the best horror films I've ever seen with almost every essential element crammed in - it was creepy, gory, surprising, atmospheric and ultimately very disturbing. But the best thing about it was that it was a film about something, that it deliberately attempted to provoke thought and discussion about the darker side of faith and family and the secrets we lock up in the basement. It's a film I still find myself thinking about months later, although I am reluctant to watch it again. But enough ranting about how awesome it is - go get a copy if you're interested. If nothing else it will certainly surprise you.

Paranormal Activity - My second favourite horror film of the year. I even enjoyed the full-on cinema full of screaming teens experience - it felt like a theme park ride. A few people have criticised it for being 'not scary', which is fine, it depends on the individual. But I do think with horror films, indeed with all films, you have to go along with the experience - you have to want to be scared. Otherwise it just doesn't work. But aside from that I also thought it was perfectly executed and very cleverly constructed with a script and performances that were far superior to any of the other big cinema films last year.

Moon - Saw this really late but I thought it was fantastic. I think a lot of critics were right to say that it's a callback to the sci-fi films of the seventies, but I think all that really means is that it's a really good sci-fi film - something we haven't seen for a long long time. Sam Rockwell's performance is the best of the year and should definitely win awards.

Inglourious Basterds - I'm generally pretty open-minded and it bugs me when people go to see films with too many expectations, positive or negative, but I honestly expected to hate Inglourious Basterds. I didn't. And when I'd thought about it, I realised I actually really liked it. I don't think it was the film anyone thought it was going to be, it was certainly frustrating for screenwriters seeing someone get away with all the things we've been told we can't ever do and doing it well, but on its own merits I think it is a really different and excellent film. I think maybe it's the different part that really got me - the more I find out about the film industry, the more I'm coming to appreciate the people who do break the rules. And Tarantino certainly does that.

Midnight Meat Train - This was one of those films I was super-excited to see, an adaptation of my favourite Clive Barker short story directed by one of my favourite Japanese directors - how could it not be awesome? Then it seemed to disappear and went straight to DVD (the full story behind what happened here is detailed with appropriate venom by Barker and Kitamura on the commentary) which made me worry. But I actually think it ended up that way for being too good. It wasn't a teen slasher film, despite the fact that the premise could so easily have been squashed into one. It was a thoughful, atmospheric and disturbing horror film with a surprisingly excellent performance from Vinnie Jones (something I never thought I'd say).

If you're still with me, that's it for 2009.

Film I'm most looking forward to in 2010?

This one...

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