So August was supposed to be one last push to clear my slate before my two weeks of holiday next month (during which I'll be visiting Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Bristol and New York, in that order). It didn't really work out that way. One of the points of doing the blog was that it would encourage me to write so I'd have things to put on here. Instead I'm aware that I now have no reservations about blogging about doing nothing. If you, dear reader, could perhaps leave me the occasional comment telling me off for not working hard enough that might help. Maybe for like a week, then I'd probably start blogging about that too.
I feel I have achieved something with my two podcast episodes and will try for a third to make it a trilogy. My aim was always to do three first off just to establish it then look back and decide whether it's a worthwhile pursuit. It certainly kills time, but actually it's time I'd usually spend staring at a blank page or browsing the internet so I don't think it's really had an effect on how much (or how little) writing I've done this month. Anyway, in true Lucas style if I make it to the trilogy I'll consider not doing another for 20 years or so, release a few special editions of the 3 current episodes, then finally get around to doing new ones that will be better produced but with terrible scripts. Or something.
Speaking of which, the second episode is available to download in the previous post. I'd suggest getting it direct from the blog as people seem to be having problems downloading it from iTunes, me included. Although my PC says it doesn't like it when the episode has downloaded in iTunes but then it plays fine. Who knows what's going on - I certainly don't have the time or the technical knowledge to work out the whole iTunespodcasting thing right now, but if I do continue the podcast I may try and work out the kinks at a later date.
There is some news - it's not all about doing nothing! There's an excellent write-up of the Phantasmagoria festival (which includes a rather complimentary paragraph about Ten Dead Men) in Impact magazine written by Andrew Skeates (who also writes the Cool Target: Action Movie Reviews blog which you can get to via the link on this site). Impact is usually available in Borders.
So I'm away next week doing the rounds of the various families up north, then back for two weeks when I really will have to try and get some writing done before heading off again.
The excellent zombie podcast Mail Order Zombie read out my rather lengthy rant about the genius of I, Zombie in Episode 30 so I feel they deserve a recommendation here - especially since I threw in a cheeky plug for Ten Dead Men. It's a very well produced show and Brother D has a nice approach to reviewing low-budget films, being honest about the negative aspects but always making sure to draw attention to the positives. Definitely worth a listen, and it's entertaining whether you're a zombie fan or not.
Speaking of podcasts, iTunes put mine up on the store despite only having one episode, no episode information and bad sound quality. Now I feel under pressure to do another one!
It's been a busy week - Wednesday I went to see Brighton Wok at Hove Cinema Club. It was cool seeing another low-budget Brighton-based martial arts action film, and this one definitely made more of the Brighton location than we did. It also had fantastic production values - amazing what fitting a zoom lens to a DV camera and an hour in a helicopter can do for the look of a film. As a film it could've done with a tighter script but it's amazing achievement considering how young the filmmakers are. You can find out more here:
Thursday I met up with a director/producer I know to exchange feedback on scripts - really productive although one of my scripts I thought was near final draft quality may be a bit further off completion than I want it to be.
Am in the process of getting feedback on a number of scripts I wrote this year which has been an interesting process. Usually I just give them to one person at a time, but this time I've send the scripts out to a fair few people in the hope of getting an overall picture of what I need to work on. The results so far have been really interesting, but once again I seem to be dividing my audience - a problem I've had ever since I started writing. There's a lot more feedback to come in so more on that later.
There will also be another Ten Dead Men screening in Brighton soon, probably in October. More on that when I get the dates.
As you can see below I finally got around to recording my first podcast. You can download the mp3 by clicking the title of the post, or you can subscribe to it manually in iTunes by clicking 'Subscribe to Podcast' in the dropdown menu and pasting in the following URL:
It's also on Google Reader and I'll try get it linked to a few more places.
Just a warning first of all - it is really quiet. It's fine on a home PC but if you're listening to it while on the move it's pretty much impossible to hear. I'm working on that - it is partly because I speak quietly (I realise now that most of the other podcasts I listen to are done by shouty Americans), but also I need to get some proper audio editing software really. If I figure out a way to make the next episode louder I'll amend this one too and upload it again.
I also realise I could do with more upbeat music at the opening. I wanted to put something there but fearful of copyright violations I used the only piece of music I have permission to use, which is a piece my brother composed for a short horror film I directed. The only copyright-free music I've managed to find so far is 1920s Ragtime music, which may or may not work out better.
What I thought would be the hardest part, actually recording the thing, was fairly easy. I ended up talking for way longer than I thought I would and I mumbled a lot, but otherwise it was fun to do. The problem is it took forever. Recording it took about an hour and a half (yes, there were out-takes, but not very interesting ones). Editing it took another hour. Then figuring out how to a) post it on the web, b) link it to my blog and c) get it to show up on iTunes took hours. I am quite tired having gone to bed in the early hours of the morning. And I still haven't figured out c) yet. I've submitted it to iTunes but I think it may get rejected as it's not really of a listenable standard yet, and there's only the one episode. So you can subscribe to it manually as mentioned above but I might not be able to get an official listing for a while.
Anyway, it took ages, meaning my one free night of the week I spent talking about writing rather than actually writing anything. Which is fine at the moment, I just hope it gets quicker and easier otherwise it will be a writing podcast about doing a podcast, because that's all I'll be doing...if that makes any sense. Just like this is a writing blog about recording a writing podcast.
So please do download the episode, I apologise for the length and the volume but hopefully I get that right next time, and feel free to leave me feedback in the comments.
I know, the first film made money so let's make another one and it'll make even more money, I do get how these things work.
But why can't they do it with better plots:
Picking up from where the last movie left off, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) escapes the cave and seeks refuge at a local gas station, where she collapses and is rushed to a local hospital. Not being able to speak because of the horrific events that have mentally scarred her, a search and rescue team take Sarah back to where the horrible events happened to find any possible answers and survivors. However, whilst down in the cave...things don't go to plan as the group fight for their lives against the crawlers and find an unexpected survivor from the last film.
Why ruin a perfect ending to a perfect film? Why?!?!?
I'm off to write Citizen Kane 2 in which the butler remembers that Charles Foster Kane actually didn't say rosebud at all, he said 'chicken & waffles' which leads to a whole new investigation into his past.
I wrote an article for Close-up Film on the Phantasmagoria festival. Some of the stuff about the films is repeated from what I wrote here, but there's some good interview material from Justin Richards who organised the event. You can find the article in the features section at www.close-upfilm.com or I've linked to it directly here:
Might be worth submitting something as it sounds like a really interesting project. Could also be one of those things that comes to nothing, but there are always people looking for short horror scripts so it's not going to be a total waste of time. I just recycled an old project for submission, which probably means it won't get anywhere as usually the laziness shows through.
Second thing - what's with people dying this year? Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac in the same week!? On top of Brad Renfro, Heath Ledger, Roy Scheider, Richard Widmark, George Carlin and Anthony Minghella!?!?! This is been one very sad, depressing year in terms of people I like dying and I am seriously hoping Paul Newman makes it through as I'm not sure I can cope with another one.
Speaking of sad and depressing, I saw an amazing but also sad and depressing film the other night - All About Lily Chou-Chou. It's a Japanese film about two high school kids who have the most messed-up youth possible. I guess it's a bit like Kids, only more disturbing. It's also about music (Lily Chou-Chou is a fictional popstar in the film) and how it can bring people together and isolate them at the same time. Here's a cool music video from the fictional popstar:
Anyway, it's two-and-a-half hours and depressing as hell, but definitely worth putting yourself through it if you get chance.
And yeah, I've pretty much given up on this not being a film review blog. It's mainly a writing blog, but as I keep seeing cool films that I can't rant about to anyone in real life without them getting bored I'm going to rant about them here.
Finally hit my limit this weekend. On Friday I was 30 pages into The Dark Room, the spec script that I'm pretty much writing to get out of my system and to convince myself that I can still develop an original idea. I wanted to get to get it done as soon as possible so I figured if I spent Friday night then the whole weekend working on it I could just about get away with putting off everything else I was supposed to be working on until the following week - everything else being two rewrites (one due this weekend, one already a week late) and one feature due at the end of the month.
So I sit down on Friday night and get started. Then I get a call from a producer/director I haven't spoken to in a while suggesting we meet up. Never one to turn down an excuse for a drink I agree to go out for a couple of drinks, and spend most of the time talking about how much work I've got on. This is a mistake as he then mentions a project he may possibly want me to be involved with, only I've just put him off by going on and on about how busy I am. And it's a really interesting project. Anyway, I get home about 10.30 and am now a bit drunk so spend a good hour ranting to Andrea about various things, mainly about how great Dark Knight is again (I'm going to see it again on Tuesday so hopefully that will get it out of my system) and at around 11.30 I start working on the script. At 3.30 in the morning I'm on 36 pages and I'm pretty happy with it. Then I remember I'd signed up for overtime at work the following day - which is crazy considering everything else I've got going on, but I need the money for New York next month.
Four hours later I'm getting up to go to work, all the time still trying to sort through all the ideas I've got in my head for this script and trying to work out what's going to go into Acts 2 & 3. Unlike everything else I do I haven't outlined or written a treatment fro this one and I'm literally just piecing the ideas together as they come. Not advisable, but it's another reason I need to write this script just to experience doing it a bit differently for a change. And by this time I'm starting to worry about the other projects - can I really put them off until Monday? Even if I do, can I write 60 pages over what remains of my weekend? I've done it before - the results were not good.
When I got home the lack of sleep and the thought of spending the next 36 hours at a desk finally got to me so I gave up. The spec script will have to wait unfortunately, but I am further along with than I have been so far and at least the 1st Act is out of the way so I'm at a good stopping point. I finished the first rewrite today, the one I mentioned in the last post, and I'm pretty happy with it. I am a bit scared by how much I've cut out - it's about 15 pages. In the end it wasn't just cutting either - I made a couple of fairly fundamental plot changes, but I think they were necessary. And it's one more thing I can tick off the list - sometimes it is better to get the smaller things out of the way first, my only worry is that more smaller things will come along before I can finish off the bigger thing!
This week I'm rewriting another writer's script which is a new one for me. The script is really good, which helps, and all I'm really doing is some really brutal editing as it's a bit too wordy, but the process is making me wonder how I'd feel about someone doing the same thing to my scripts. It has happened to me before, but for the most part it's been done by directors or producers on projects that are either in production or just about to go into production. Once on a short film I wrote I was really bothered by some of the changes, but generally at that stage I'm happy for people to do what they want as long as it gets the film finished quicker. I'm doing it as a favour so I'm not taking a credit - at this level, where no one's really getting paid, I think the credits are the most valuable thing you can get from a project so I'd never interfere with that (which has happened to me a few times before and it's quite annoying). But if I think of the spec script I'm writing right now, which is very self-indulgent and probably overwritten, I'm not sure I'd like someone ploughing through it with the delete key like I'm doing on this writer's script.
I think what it comes down to, in this case especially, is dialogue. There's this funny and unfortunately rather prevalent idea that all writer's really do is write dialogue. I've come across this so many times at the independent level of the industry, but to be honest I think it's worth probably about 30% of the work a writer does. The bulk of the work is in the structure and the pacing and the character development (through actions as much as words). To me that's the difficult stuff, but the problem is that in a good script all that work, essentially the mechanics of it, should be invisible. And if you succeed and it is invisible people who don't know any better come along, tweak a few lines of dialogue and then credit themselves on the script!
But despite what I know about scriptwriting, I think dialogue is the part of the script even I'm most precious about. I know from having a feature and some shorts produced that the dialogue you write will usually be adapted and changed on set anyway. And yet I'm still bothered by dialogue getting cut or changed. Ultimately I think it's a way of claiming ownership of the film. When Ten Dead Men was being edited I was worried that the structure was changing so much that even that part of my script would be lost. So I held onto the lines of dialogue I knew were in there and I knew were mine, thinking of them I suppose, like a signature. As it happened, the structure didn't change massively and it was still recognisable as my script, but the fact is that for a long time the thing I was most proud of was getting a couple of interesting lines, a couple of bits of me, into a film.
So now I'm going through another writer's script and I'm not so much trimming the dialogue as going at it with a chainsaw. And I worry that the writer will look at it and think that I've taken out everything that was his about the script. But the fact is the hard work - the story and structure which in this case is solid - will still all be there, and that's the stuff that's important.
Okay, I think I've justified that to myself successfully enough now. I'm aiming to finish the rewrite this weekend, but the self-indulgent spec script I keep mentioning is starting to take over. It's going really well so far, I've no idea if it's any good, but there's a good chance I might even finish it this month. Depending on what else comes up.
This is the last post about The Dark Knight, I promise - otherwise I may as well turn it into a Dark Knight fan blog. In my defense I'm rarely this enthusiastic about any new film so you should really make the most of it while it lasts.
Anyway, a couple of posts ago I mentioned some of the mixed reviews the film got. This was partly due to me mistaking the current uproar over the 12A certificate for negative press. There were however a number of specific reviews I was referring to, so in the interests of equality (and the hope of making other people as angry as I was) I'm posting the links here:
As we now know from The Congo Review (www.congoreview.bravehost.com) this would suggest the film is three times as good as Congo. Actually that's probably accurate. Here's another one. After going on for weeks about how all super-hero films were rubbish due to the emphasis on spectacle and CGI nonsense Mark Kermode had this to say about the film that should finally have lived up to his expectations:
Actually, it's great that the film has mixed reviews. A good film should have mixed reviews. As I've said before what I liked most about the film is that it's challenging and it takes risks - if as a result of that all it got was unanimous praise then it would've failed in what it set out to do and I probably wouldn't have liked it as much. But just to balance the above, here's what Peter Bradshaw thought of the film:
Well done to Philip French for mentioning the Shane reference - one of my favourite moments. And while we're linking to reviews, here's my favourite ever Philip French review and perhaps my favourite review of all time. In what was either a moment of madness or pure clarity, this is what Philip French thought of Ghost Rider:
Knew I'd miss some stuff, like all the Ten Dead Men links! Have now added these, plus a link to my YouTube channel where there are three of my short films (please comment on these if you get time because so far no one has!) and a link to Night Warrior - the online comic I used to write for (sadly only two arc issues and one short made it onto the site - I wrote at least a dozen more that were never finished).
There are also links to the two film websites I used to write for, Close-up and 6 Degrees, and a few more blogs. Finally I've also added a link to my brother Pete's YouTube channel where there is lots of cool stuff, especially Jonny the Pessimist, and there's a link to the Modern Life? YouTube channel which has lots of making-of videos for Ten Dead Men, most of which Pete edited.
First off, I finally added some links to the page! Have probably forgotten loads of people but will update it as I go. For now, be sure to check out my brother's Congo Review page and my dad's Poundland page - both very entertaining.
Anyway, I’ve noticed that whenever I have a week not doing anything I then suddenly find myself really busy the following week. Actually, that’s just logic, not a huge revelation, but it did feel like a revelation this weekend. So as usual everything’s kicked off again just as I was starting to watch films and work on my own spec scripts for a change. Actually, the workload hasn’t changed, I’ve just suddenly realised that as I’m on holiday for most of September I’ve only got until the end of this month to finish everything off. At present, ‘everything’ is one full feature and two rewrites.
Thing is I have lost a bit of enthusiasm recently. Not for writing, quite the opposite, but I have really started to miss developing my own ideas. It’s been a very long time since I wrote a script that wasn’t based on someone else’s outline. Also, I was starting to think about podcasts and planning that out and I suddenly realised if I had free time to do that maybe I should use it to do some actual writing instead (that's not to say I've scrapped the podcast idea completely).
So I’ve got this script, at the moment unimaginatively titled The Dark Room, that I’ve been working on for years. The Hollywood pitch would be Roadhouse meets Hellraiser. Basically, I took all the best elements of my old scripts – characters I really liked, cool ideas, odd scenes – and mashed them into one story. The result of that has been three main characters that I can fit pretty much any of my ideas around. So anytime I’ve had a crazy idea for a scene or a story that doesn’t fit into what I’m writing at that moment, I write it into my ideas for this script. Currently the longest document containing these ideas is 15 pages long. That’s 15 pages full of 1 or 2 line ideas. And there is more than one document.
For a long time the whole thing was too big to write as a film script. On the one hand it would need a huge budget, and at the same time there was simply too much going on for one film. I tried writing it as a novel, but my skills as a prose writer have long since eroded and to be honest they were never that great anyway. When I was writing Night Warrior, the online comic, I thought about doing it as a comic. The difficulty there was you had to find an artist ready to commit to it and the artwork is ten times more effort than the writing of the comic. Also, everyone on Night Warrior had their own ideas for future titles and some were much more dedicated to the cause than I was so I never put mine forward. Unfortunately Night Warrior did not become the revolutionary cult hit we desperately wanted it to be so that ceased to be an option. The other option was TV, but there was no way it would be made in the UK, I’ve never written a TV script, and I don’t watch much TV anyway. That left film.
It’s become my George Lucas-style trilogy – a sprawling mess of characters and storylines that I’m hoping one day someone will make enough sense of to make into a film. Actually, at the moment it’s not about it getting made. I need something to show to people when they ask, and at the moment the most recent script I have that’s all of my own is a few years old and badly in need of a rewrite. Yes, it would be faster and easier to rewrite that one, but even that was trying to fit into a current trend (well, less current now as it was a few years ago). This script is all me.
That’s the other reason to do it – I need to do something that’s completely mine, that says if I had an unlimited budget to make any film I wanted this is the one I would do. Final reason to do it – I’m loving every minute of it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy everything else I’ve written this year, because I really have, but this is different. It’s also taking up a lot more time than the others, and though I am tempted to scrap everything else and push this one to the front of the queue I’m not sure that’s practical. Still, I managed 10 pages the first time I got bored of writing for other people, and I wrote another 10 the weekend just gone. I will get there in the end.
Two other reasons that made me pick it up again. I listened to an interview with LucBesson where he talked about writing Subway. He said he was struggling to fit the characters into a story, which is the same problem I was having with mine, so he decided to scrap the story and write a film where you get to spend time with these crazy characters. Sounds like a plan to me - I love Subway!
The other reason was seeing Dark Knight. I honestly haven’t had that excitement about seeing a film for a long time. I’ve seen great films on DVD, I see at least one I add to my favourites list every month, but seeing something that big that I actually thought was daring and challenging and very well produced was a huge inspiration. And Ledger’s Joker really made me think about characters in contemporary films – it’s like he says in the film ‘This town deserves a better class of criminal’. After that I think cinema needs a better class of villain – I don’t think it can be bettered, but there hasn’t been a character that good on the screens for ages. So much of it was in the performance, but the dialogue and the story elements of that character were amazing too and it made me think that I’d really like to push a character to that level.
Speaking of Dark Knight I just want to state for the record that in the wake of mixed reviews that followed my early praise, I’m sticking by my opinion. I still think it’s the best comic book film ever made, with the exception of The Crow. For years comic fans and most of all general film fans have been asking for a film like this – a big fat Hollywood film that doesn’t compromise on it’s story, themes and characters. Now we’ve got it and most critics are complaining. ‘It’s too violent for the kids!’ they cry. How long have comic fans been telling people that the majority of comics are not for kids? Now finally there is a film that references the source material in full and people are realising that this might actually be true. Another one is, ‘It’s too long!’ I’ve used that criticism before talking about Lord of the Rings. ‘Oh no,’ said the fans, ‘You can’t say that. They had to be long to fit all the stuff from the books in’. So The Dark Knight crams 60+ years of comics into two-and-a-half hours and manages to sum up the complexities of characters like the Joker and Harvey Dent, but in doing so is too long. Yes, you could shave 30 minutes off the beginning and it would still probably still be just as great, what annoys me is when it's one rule for some films another rule for others. This is why I should never listen to film critics. They make me angry.
Sorry, that’s been bugging me. You are allowed an opinion of course. You don’t have to like it just because I do and went to the effort of posting my opinion here. I guess I'm just mad because normally everyone loves the big hyped up films and I’m the one who hates them. I just don’t like it being the other way around. Maybe I should learn something from that and move on with my life.
So I’m slacking again and my ambitious plans for this week are becoming more and more unlikely. I don’t know whether it’s getting used to the new surroundings or the fact that I was writing non-stop for nearly two months then went straight into moving flats, or just that I’m lazy – probably the latter. Either way, it’s not really happening this week. Which is why I’m spending precious time updating this thing rather than writing any of the many things I’m supposed to be writing. I’m also becoming slightly obsessed with the idea of doing an audio blog, but my plans were substantially hindered by the revelation that you need proper equipment to do such things. My idea of just plugging a cheapo clip-on mic into my pc didn’t quite work out. I also bought the cheapest MP3 voice recorder I could find with the idea of being able to record my thoughts from exotic locations. The cheap MP3 voice recorder makes all locations sound like the inside of a washing machine, exotic or not. So the cheapest ‘podcast ready’ microphone is around £50, but do I really want to spend that much on something I may use only once? And should I learn from this that maybe I shouldn't keep buying the cheapest of everything? Actually, it’s not just the money that puts me off, it’s the idea of having this professional microphone set up on my desk that I never bloody use. And people saying, ‘What’s that for, then?’ and me making up some story where I found it on the street or I’m looking after it for a mate, ashamed to admit to my ill-advised pod-casting aspirations.
The whole thing reminds me a bit of the time I decided to learn to play guitar. I was much more interested in music back then and the thought of it really appealed to me. So one day I picked up my brother’s guitar, laid it out on the bed, opened his ‘how to play guitar book’ and that was it. I just sort of looked at the diagrams in the book and then stared at the guitar and then decided I should give up and stick to writing. Without meaning to sound like an idiot, I know I’m good at writing. I’m not saying my scripts are the best in the world ever, otherwise I’d have a few more credits, but I know how to do it, I know how it’s supposed to work, I know that no matter the content whatever I write will look and read like a script. Not so with this other stuff. Anyway, my other option is to buy a cheapish but better mic than the one I’ve got so I can at least do a test run that I can listen back to and actually hear. If I get that far I shall attempt to post it somewhere for feedback.
I did read a really bad script this week, which made me feel better. Before I go on, it’s a script that has nothing to do with anything I’m working on or anyone I’m working with right now so don’t worry – I’m not talking about your script. This was something I was sent a while back. It was being developed by an actual production company and came with their script reader’s coverage. Now the writer wasn’t terrible, odd moments of dialogue and character were okay and there were some funny lines. His main character was supposed to be American but was written cockney, but I’ll overlook that. The main problems were that the film started on page 50, the protagonist never really seemed interested in anything that was going on and so much was happening in the last twenty pages (of an 80 page script) that it was mainly exposition. But I’m not doing this to put down another writer – there were some great moments and the writer obviously has a lot of talent. The point of this is the coverage was good! Not glowing, not green light this now, but generally positive while still recognising the faults I raised above. The reason this made me feel better is I’ve got a fear of professional script readers. To be fair I only ever got professional ‘coverage’ on one of my scripts, but it was so soul-destroying I vowed never to go through that again if I could avoid it. I can’t avoid it, obviously, but as long as I never have to read the coverage that’s okay. But reading the coverage for this script (which is bad etiquette by the way - I think they’re supposed to be confidential unless you’re directly involved with the film) made me think maybe script readers aren’t all bad, and maybe I’ve got a chance of getting past them after all. We shall see.
Okay, writing, yes, that’s what this is about, back to it then!
I'm a writer with a day-job which means I don't usually get down to writing until around ten in the evening, hence the blog title. My first feature as a writer, Ten Dead Men, was released on DVD in 2009. I'm currently working on a series of short horror films following the adventures of a witch called Jenny Ringo. There are currently three films in the series - Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw, Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret from Hell and Jenny Ringo and the Infinite Spellbook. You can find out more at www.jennyringo.com. I live in Worthing, which is a bit like Innsmouth.