Saturday, October 31, 2009


So, was I ambivalent about SWF'09?

I can see why one might think I was.

I'm no newbie when it comes to living (old fat bastard might be more accurate) therefore I have opinions, very strong opinions. Sometimes those opinions differ from the expressed opinions of people who supposedly "know" - and I don't care. (Old fat and opinionated.) And sometimes I know I'm right, so I get annoyed because people who don't know the truth are getting conned.

The trouble is that as I spent most of the time tired (mostly because of the hotel bed) my annoyance tended to stick and be expressed out of proportion to the good things.

There is no doubt that SWF is incredibly valuable as a networking opportunity - my last blog should have demonstrated that.

But I think the most valuable factor is being with other writers. We are the creators without which drama would not exist in any form, but what we do is fundamentally lonely. A room full of writers, or even a table full of writers, is a phenomenal thing and a very encouraging thing.

So, from that viewpoint, SWF is actually vital. The fundamental factor required for success isn't talent (unfortunately) it's persistence. And it's easier to keep at it when you've met a bunch of like-minded people.

Any apparent ambivalence stems from personal disagreements with specific people.

I am not ambivalent about SWF.

What's on the turntable? "Mortal Kombat"s on the TV...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fiesta - Day #4

It's too long. Four days is just too long but then if it hadn't been four days perhaps certain things wouldn't have happened...

I made no notes today. None. Nada. Zilch.


Not exactly because no one said anything interesting, more because the first session was about "Classic" Dr Who, the second session was New Who, the third session was the second part of Phil Parker's "Dynamic Universes" and nothing new was said.

The evening was Stephen Moffat talking about being in charge of Dr Who.

Much was said but nothing of major significance. But things happened on a more personal level.

I had my meeting with the "important development person from Kudos". It was a very good meeting, she loved Monsters, the whole world creation thing that I do automatically and really without a lot of thought (things are like "obvious" you know?) well apparently this is a rare skill. I know at least half a dozen other people who do universe creation without batting an eyelid - is it really that rare?

The detail was the thing that impressed her (apparently).

So will I be writing for Spooks, Hustle or MI High? Not in the near future. Why? Because I have written series and not serial. Neither Monsters nor Air demonstrate the ability to write story-of-the-week so she cannot judge whether I can pace something like that correctly. So can I submit a script that does? I asked.


Kudos have a strict "no representation = no sendee scriptee" so even that personal contact with a script that demonstrates an ability to write well is not enough. They're a tough audience.

Curiously she seemed surprised that I had no representation when Monsters was such a brilliant demonstration of writing skill (ahem). I said "catch 22": can't get an agent without a credit ... can't get a credit without an agent. She didn't think that was really true, and we parted on reasonable terms - though it felt a little "awkward".

Later I spoke to Jon Peacey who had seen two (or was it three) agents as part of his speed dating, and every single one of them told him they wouldn't consider anyone unless they had a credit. (Jon had a better time later with producers.)

Hm. I think I believe the horse's mouth.

This next bit takes some explaining: Among the "Classic" Who line-up was Bob Baker who (among other things) invented K9 and, it was mentioned, wrote the incredible kids TV series Sky, back in the 70s. I have mentioned Sky before, it was weird and it was scary and apparently called "Kafka for kids" - but I hadn't known Bob wrote it. And there he was.

During one of the informal "Scriptbites" I had a word with him and told him what an influence it had had on me. And that my script Air was inspired by Sky (the name similarity is not a coincidence).

Anyway the Daughter had agreed to spread my business card among the guest speakers she came into contact with (she's a good girl). It just so happened that Bob was presenting a session about his new "K9 and Friends" series - in the venue the Daughter was responsible for. Not many people were there and it was very informal and chatty - and it turned out that they were looking for British writers for the series. So she got an email address for me to contact them.

When she told me, I grabbed one of the computers in the Internet cafe and popped an email over to them asking if they had guidelines for story idea submissions, and attached the one appropriate script I had been carrying around on a memory stick: Air.

Serendipity is cool.

After Stephen Moffat's presentation we went to the wrap party and chatted, then I returned to the hotel and here I am.

I'm going to bed.

What's on the turntable? "Show Biz Kids" by Steely Dan from "Countdown to Ecstasy"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fiesta - Day #3

Shall I start by saying I'm tired? Seems a bit obvious and repetitive - this time I was woken by someone in the room above me stomping in at 2:00am and I came completely awake - even thought it might be time to get up.

It wasn't.

I tried really really hard not to be the first person in this morning and I think I wasn't. I was still the first person to pay for a coffee ... the nice coffee-serving person knows what I like now. (Fat double-shot mochachino with plain chocolate and no chocolate dusting.)

As the noble Piers has already mentioned we were into TV territory today in a big way with lots of bigwigs from the BBC plus Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes co-creator Ashley Pharoah.

(Ohmigod, the cursor has disappeared, that's rather disconcerting. Ah, sorted it.)

My first stop was the Web Thriller session with the mighty, and self-effacing, James Moran (Severance, Dr Who, Torchwood:Children of Earth) with his director Dan Turner. Together (and with some other quite talented people) they have produced Girl No. 9 which is a 6 x 5min cop thriller. They showed us episode #1 (yes folks, we've seen it twice - they showed it again at the end) and then answered questions from the floor.

They told us that they did not know what the cost of production was - because they refused to listen whenever the Producer wanted to tell them - however they also pointed out that it was an expenses-only production. They also explained how liberating it was to produce something for the web, completely free from the constraints of the established distribution channels. This, interestingly, tied in with Simon Beaufoy's comments yesterday that smaller budgets increased creative freedom.

They do intend to monetize the product but the first showing, and for a period, it will be free - which follows Joss Whedon's Dr Horrible. You can watch it online for a fee or buy the DVD.

They are also using other platforms for distribution - like Twitter where the characters have their own accounts. There is already a fan base and the characters talk to the fans.


I went to the talk with Christine Langan, Creative Director of BBC Films. It was mildly interesting inasmuch as we learnt that if the BBC invests in a film they want some editorial control which reflects the BBC's purpose. And they don't accept unsolicited material from mere writers (well, you can't blame them for that) but will look at stuff submitted from agents or from production companies.

We had lunch and the bloggers indulged in enormous silliness and raucous laughter in the cafe.

I just could not bring myself to listen to Ben Stephenson, Controller of Drama Commissioning at the BBC. Why? I was tired and I'd probably heard it all before.

However I thought I'd try Kate Harwood, Head of Series and Serials at the BBC, on the subject of solving the problems of TV drama under the current climate. Can't say I was enormously impressed with that either. She compared the current situation with TV in the 70s when no money was being spent yet we had fantastic TV like Boys from the Blackstuff and Pennies from Heaven. And pointed out that it was just quality writing, and that's what we need now.

Yeah, I think we can all agree that quality writing is a good thing.

Finally there was Ashley Pharoah and Stephen Volk, in a session chaired by the same Kate Harwood, on the subject of Writin' USA.

Essentially it was about covering the differences, why the US are always trying to grab UK TV formats (although they also plunder Australia and anywhere else they can find stuff). Why those formats don't always work - and what it's like to work in the US compared to the UK, as a writer.

Life on Mars USA was cancelled after 17 episodes. Ashley thought that if they had been willing to listen to some of his suggestions it could have lasted longer. But he was not allowed to make suggestions even though, technically, he was a consultant.

On the other hand, The American Office has gone from strength to strength, but Ricky Gervais is Executive Producer on it.

The question arose: Are the Americans better at writing than the British? The consensus was that, at the top end, they are about the same but at the low end the US are slicker but not necessarily better.

In the US, a series must get to 100 episodes in order to break even (once they get to 100 they can syndicate and the money pours in) until then a series is always produced at a loss. This means that the pressure demands a certain formulaic (or perhaps stylistic) writing in order to keep up the ratings. The scripts are polished but, except in rare cases, unemotional.

Which means that the financial restrictions in the UK, limiting series to around 6 episodes, is actually a bonus to the quality of writing (cf, Simon Beaufoy and James Moran on budgets and creativity). However it means that a powerful 6-part UK drama which has a beginning, a middle, and an end, translates poorly to the US 100+ going-on-forever episode structure. (But comedy always operates under different rules.)

All three panellists agreed that they had heard US writers complaining that the US broadcasters look to the UK first for new ideas.

One of those is Being Human , the powers-that-are in LA cannot stop talking about it, one company got the format, the others are grinding their teeth and wishing they'd offered more. And that is a format that will work for long running series. (Though it'll be like Friends meets Buffy, I imagine.)

On a personal note I finally found out who I'm meeting for the ScriptMarket prize - tomorrow, I get half an hour with an important development person from Kudos. Exactly what I wanted. (Also, Monsters does fit the 100+ episode model, as well as the UK 6-episode model, I'm just so clever. Air doesn't, Tec does, Clones does.)

What's on the turntable? "Bambele" by Santanna

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fiesta - Day #2 - Bonus

I took some piccies today, of the Ladies College rather than people.

What's on the turntable? "Super-boogie/Hong Kong Blues" by Santanna

Fiesta - Day #2

Slept much better but basically still very tired (I need to catch up now).

The morning began much the same which meant I arrived far too early - I honestly tried to arrive later but getting up with the Daughter means I have a long time to kill. I'll try harder tomorrow.

Although I tend to discuss the things I've seen there are, of course, lots of other things going on, there's always at least two things running simultaneously and if you want a real clue, go to the website and look at the programme.

So today we started with Simon Beaufoy. And what an nice intelligent guy he is. He was talking about the screenwriter as diplomat, there hoops you have to jump through to keep the project moving because it's the stalled project that doesn't made.

Useful takeaways included: if you're in a major project and you're going to be getting notes from the suits (and they do have a right to give them - it's their money and they are rarely stupid) then make sure that those notes are prepared in advance into one document and sent a week before the meeting.

As a writer you are entitled to insist on this, and it means several things: (a) they don't hit you with the notes unprepared; (b) you can get upset and calm down in the privacy of your own office; (c) they have to make sure the collected notes make sense and aren't self-contradictory. These are all good things.

He also pointed out that the smaller the budget the more creative control you, as the writer, have. Kind of self-evident, but only when you think about it.

He's also managed to do a couple of low budget movies where the finance, and even casting, was in place before he even started writing the script, which was very liberating.

An interesting point about making Slumdog Millionaire with Warner Brothers was that he, with Celador, were perfectly capable of financing the entire project themselves if they wanted to - but they wanted the US distributor on board. It meant that they could walk away at any time if they didn't like it. But it mostly went well.

Then I went to a seminar with the development head and sales head of Ealing Studios Why the Market is important to Writers. This was a curate's egg (good in parts) mostly they talked to each other which gave you a feel for the interplay between them. They also took questions as they went along. All very nice and unstructured.

But I was forced to be rude. The finish was 11:15, theoretically. At this time they seemed to have no intention of stopping, nor any attention on the clearly visible clock. By 11:20 they still seemd to have no intention of stopping. At 11:24 I decided I would give them one more minute - because I wanted to get to the next item, and I could see other people getting edgy.

As the second hand hit 12 (11:25 exactly) I stood up and walked out - followed by another three people and, soon after, a stampede. I hate being rude but there was no other option. And that is the problem with unstructured events.

I moved to the main hall where Tessa Ross, head of TV and Film development for Channel 4 was to be interviewed. She seems a very nice person and has a tiny budget (only £8m), but works hard to help interesting film projects (including Slumdog Millionaire, of course). She's not interested in making copy-cat films. But even given that they only take "solicited" scripts they still have to get through a pile of 50-60 a week and can only assist 3-4 projects each year.

As for TV they, like all channels, are looking for the successful continuing series (like Shameless) but don't bother sending stuff on spec, it won't get read.

That was me pretty much done for the day, I had very little interest in anything except Son of a Pitch which is run by 4-Talent through the year with the final at the end of the day.

So, I chatted to a guy who wasn't a writer, he runs a nightclub and restaurant in Bristol, but he'd had an idea for a film and had someone write it for him and was looking for guidance. I offered to look at the synopsis he was carrying around.

All the usual newbie problems, although actually the first two paragraphs were great and I think if I were a producer I'd be interested. There was also some script which had been laid out in Word by someone who'd looked at a shooting script. It wasn't rubbish, there was some good stuff but it needed a lot of work.

So I suggested he find a decent script consultant (I suggested a couple) and get some hard graft done on it to knock it into shape. It had some excellent promotional potential - and notice I'm not giving away any of the details because it really was a clever idea.

My good deed done for the day I wiled away the afternoon chatting to people including Tim Clague who was a Son of a Pitch finalist. Then I did some work on my Phil Parker homework, and chatted with Liz about some of the ideas I'd put in, and finally met up with Philip Shelley my script consultant.

He's another nice guy and he's been feeling really bad because he hasn't managed to get me an agent yet. But he said something we can all learn from: "I've got a lot of people I work with who have one good script, only a couple, including you, have two good scripts - and that's important."

Two good scripts means that you can do it again - and agents need to know that. (As do producers if you want them to give you a commission.)

So I went to Son of a Pitch I listened, I laughed, I applauded. To be honest no one was really bad, which is just as well, they had had intensive pitch training the day before. The winner was Office Gothic a comedy zombie movie, Tim Clague came second with his Delete Friend? jointly with Man of Colour.

This evening I took the Daughter to dinner, at Pizza Hut, really splashing out. The staff are very pleasant indeed which is one reason I went back.

And that was that.

What's on the turntable? "Guajira" by Santanna

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fiesta - Day #1

I'm tired. The bed is really bad here and I woke every hour last night, or so it seemed. Though perhaps it was the excitement - or maybe the coffee.

I don't usually drink coffee after 3 in the afternoon (caffeine stays in the body for 10-12 hours, so if you drink it too late, you sleep badly, then the next day you need coffee to stay alert but then... etc) but I only had a mouthful. It wasn't the actual coffee, it was the taste - it was foul. Disgusting.

I hadn't rinsed out the kettle before boiling water and I think either the tap had rancid water, or the kettle did. Maybe it was that.

Anyway, I didn't sleep well. And then woke early.

Had breakfast with the Daughter though she had to rush out to be on site by 7:30. I followed a little later and located the entrance at about 7:45. I hadn't actually meant to be that early but I wasn't entirely sure how long it would take to walk. Not very long, is the answer.

So, not only did I buy ticket #1, I arrived first (I think) got given the first delegate's pass (they spelt my name wrong, they always do that), picked up a pack and got the first coat-check ticket. It's true, I am Numero Uno.

So there I was, 8:00am with people beginning to trickle in and no coffee. (This is not a criticism of the catering company, they'd been on the road since 5:00am.) First rule of conferences, dump all extraneous material - well, I didn't actually dump it, I put it in my backpack. All you really need is a map and a schedule. And a trusty notepad, then the map and schedule can be folded and put into the notepad. Lovely.

What can I say about Cheltenham Ladies College? It's a conglomeration of buildings through the ages, some very old, some disgustingly 70s. And it has a main theatre to die for (the Daughter drooled) and apparently they're having a new theatre built over the road. Gosh.

The main buildings almost completely surround two central quads - a sort of digital figure of eight - but our access is extemely limited and the individual rooms for the various seminars, lectures and events are spread out all over the place. This does detract from the event somewhat, all the events I wanted to see took place in a single room, away from everything else.

Not to say I didn't move around but it was a bit weird.

More ScriptMarket winners turned up and several of them did not know who they were going to be meeting and almost all didn't know when. I felt slightly happier about than previously but it's very awkward - makes planning tricky and how are they going to find us when they do know?

First up was the keynote speech from Chris Jones who delivered a mini-version of his two-day seminar but was essentially a "you are brilliant, do it" speech. Good stuff.

Something he said that is very important, well, I think it is because I absolutely 100% agree: The first thing you have to do is decide that you're going to make your film (short or whatever), because it is after you've decided that things will happen and finance will arrive. If you just "wait for the right time" it will never happen.

Hard on the heels of that was Doug Chamberlin, (successful) US movie writer now living in the UK (the mad fool) and his explanation of how to get into Hollywood who spent his allotted period explaining how the myths about Hollywood are unhelpful and replacing them with his own rules and the explanation that if you imagine Hollywood is just High School where image is everything it all makes sense.

Interestingly he also expressed the opinion that everyone in Hollywood is terrified which also helps to explain things - a concept I first heard last year from Kraitt and Leys, more on that later.

He did say that Hollywood is about who you know, and not your script - talent won't get you in to Hollywood, but it will keep you in. What you need are champions; people who will say "this guy/gal is great" and then everyone will agree with them, and so that's what you are. You work your way up like this getting newer and bigger champions.

He ended with a quote from someone who I forgot to note the name of but it goes like this: The road to Hollywood is littered with dead bodies - and they're all suicides.

In other words, don't quit.

Next up I went to Phil Parker's Dynamic Universes talk. Phil is one of the most powerful script consultants in the world, I jest not, and he's been at it for 20 years. His new project is to start with the writer (and other creatives) who create a universe from which multi-platform products can be derived - but with the original author keeping IP (intellectual property) rights. Unlike the traditional model.

We became guinea pigs for his experimenting and were arranged into groups for creating universes. I ended up with Liz Halliday which came as no surprise since we both write SF and Fantasy. We were temporarily also teamed up with another couple writers but decided to split with them because our imaginings were too disparate.

We now have until Thursday to come up with a coherent universe and some key characters. Excellent, it's what SF/F writers (and role-players which we both are) do for fun.

As a rider on this it occurred to me later that the Monsters universe also fits this new model perfectly as well so I tracked down Phil and his business partner Richard in the evening and we discussed it, they were interested, we exchanged cards and I left them with a Monsters DVD. Lovely.

I had lunch - I like to try to space out the seminars as much as possible - and then went to Rob Kraitt and Kate Leys follow-up to last year's "How to be Good", this time "How to be Better". I had been recommending them to anyone who'd listen and the room didn't even have standing room (not that I think it was all me doing that).

They covered much of the same ground as last year, but they make a great double act so it's worth it. Important things they covered were the "everyone is scared" factor, and it's actually up to you, as the writer, to help them and make them feel comfortable and confident. Otherwise they say stupid things and do stupid things - it's because they're scared of failing.

They also briefly commented on networking which they suggested is not schmoozing people you despise and who are all talk and no trousers - it's finding people you can talk to, people who like the same stuff you like.

I took another break. I could have gone to see Armando Ianucci, but decided not to, I had suddenly flaked out and couldn't face it.

When I got my Scriptmarket script report I knew immediately that the reader had not really read the script. Yes, I know, that's what writers say when they're rubbish and don't want to admit it. But there were giveaways like the description of the length of the work being incorrect (some of his criticisms would have been right if Monsters was 2 hours long - but not if it was 6 hours, which it is).

Plus the fact that Monsters had been through people with far more TV drama experience than this reader. The report was just wrong. (And it seems mine wasn't the only one.)

Then I got an interview with two industry peeps - honestly, the wrong two, I got the film people and not the TV people. It wasn't a good interview really, I disagreed with them, a lot, but then their comments were based on the reader's report (though even they had noted the timing error).

It was these two who gave the "Spec Scriptmarket" talk that I, and a lot of the Scriptmarket entrants, attended. They remembered me. The idea was to go through the typical flaws found in the Scriptmarket entries, and really they were just the same as the flaws found in most scripts: bad pitch documents, characters without purpose, genre confusion, etc.

To be honest things were said in this seminar that made me seethe with anger. It's just as well that Liz wasn't there because she's more volatile than I am - I was recording it for her and I'm sure I heard an explosion a few minutes ago.

I detest people who express their personal opinions and bias as if they are incontrovertible facts. It's a display of ignorance and arrogance. (As you can tell, I'm getting worked up just thinking about it.)

I commented on this to one of the other attendees on the way out, he said: "They all do it." He was commenting on one of his screenwriting lecturers. Well, that certainly doesn't make it right.

Anyway one good ting had come out of that interview I had back in July at the BBC with the Scriptmarket people - I decided to do something about Monsters, and then our Director Chris contacted me. (Which is a perfect example of what Chris Jones was talking about: the decision comes first.)

After that I hung around a bit, met Phil Parker, wandered in the direction of the hotel, stopped of at Pizza Hut and had a nice meal.

Got back to the Hotel about 8 and I've been doing email and writing this blog ever since - apart from an hour watching Flashforward - my word, they are really burning plot. Brilliant.

What's on the turntable? "Touch to Remember" by Jean-Michel Jarre from "Téo & Téa"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pre-Fiesta Bash and other bananas

It's 10pm and I have returned from the official pre-SWF get together. Partly because I am very tired (my body thinks it's 11pm and I've had a long day), partly to write this blog and partly because the website was demonstrating the same symptoms as yesterday despite being completely rewritten.

Which is odd. Apparently the block of servers that host my site are unwell, which means it might not actually be my fault. So I shall reveal the website, because it is functional (having said that the hosting company are taking them offline sometime in the next 24 hours to see if they can fix them).

Monstrous Productions

However you still can't watch the Monsters segment because it's not there yet. Soon I hope.

Addendum: Sooner than I expected - the video is there, not currently DV but it will be.

What can I say? I went to the bash (with the Daughter) at The Queen's Hotel and it was very jolly and quite official, we had our own room set aside, and a SWF'09 sign outside.

The Queen's Hotel is quite large but we managed to not find it at first and circumnavigated the centre of Cheltenham a couple of times before locating it.

I met people who I met at last years event, and people I met at the ScriptMarket event back in July (Liz, Lee, Darren, Robin, to name a few - and the Piers and the Jason, of course). Slightly worryingly most of the ScriptMarket peeps knew who they were talking to as their "prize" but both myself and Maria had not heard. I'm glad it wasn't just me.

Of course I took some pictures, but they were really rubbish because I had the camera set to macro. Oh well. Mostly it was lots of people drinking.

Tomorrow things will be more exciting.

What's on the turntable? "Souvenir of China" by Jean-Michel Jarre from the same


I discovered two things this morning:

(a) My train was leaving and hour and a half later than I thought it was, and
(b) The two tickets for self and the Daughter on Friday are the wrong direction, Manchester to Cheltenham instead of the other way around.

But I had already packed and it seemed weird to break out the computer again, so I watched TV instead - X-Files, and a sweet little episode I'd never seen before.

On the train I re-built the website I had so carelessly destroyed yesterday - I'm going to have a go at uploading it this evening. I rebuilt it in such a way that this time there should be no problem.

I should be meeting the Daughter presently and then we'll be off to the semi-official pre-event scribomeet.

What's on the turntable? "Geometry of Love - Part 1" by Jean-Michel Jarre from "Geometry of Love"


So, a couple of hours before I start travelling down to Cheltenham for the Fest (the Daughter has been there for the last couple of days as she's a runner).

I have burned a bunch of Monsters DVDs and printed out DVD labels and stuck them on. I have business cards. I have a copy of the Monsters scenes on a memory stick so people with a computer can watch directly.

I spent all yesterday on the website and then tried to get it up on to the server.

At which point everything went terribly wrong. It wouldn't work and then, in an effort to fix it, I managed to mess up my local version. Ten hours work wasted. Well, not entirely wasted, just mostly wasted. I shall have to rebuild it, better than it was before. I have the train journey for that and the hotel has WiFi so uploading shouldn't be an issue.

Now I have to pack which I appear to have forgotten how to do after all those weeks of weekly commutes. Strange.

See you the other side of the journey.

What's on the turntable? "Evacuee" by Enya from "Shepherd's Moon"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Final cut (not the software)

My preparations for the Cheltenham Screenwriters Festival hit a climax this evening.

The new business cards arrived, they look really good, and match the website perfectly (no, that's not a coincidence). And that was nice.

But then I began to download the two parts of the DVD image of the final cut of the Monsters scenes. This took some time, partly because the two parts are both rather large, but mostly because the free file service ( has download restrictions.

Now I don't blame them, they are in it to make money and kept pointing out that if I paid them money I'd be able to download right now, very fast. However I wasn't going to and as a result had to wait an hour before I could download the second part.

Various other things had to happen including moving to the Teacher's computer which has the Burn DVD capability and fetching some other specialised software. This all went smoothly.

So I burned the DVD.

Then I watched the DVD.

You know, it's not perfect ... but I thought it was bloody brilliant.

And that, I can tell you, was a huge relief. I knew it wasn't totally awful, the previous cut had been "OK". But I hadn't been overly excited about handing out copies or pointing people at it on the website. It would have been just "OK".

But the final work the team did, down in Coventry, pulled all the loose ends together, sorted all the little things that needed sorting and they came back with something that's really good.

Now I have no qualms whatsoever about handing out copies or having it playable from the website.

I am thrilled. Honestly I wanted to watch the rest of the story, I wanted to know what was going to happen. (Okay, I know what's going to happen but that's not the same as seeing it.)

I showed it to the Teacher, yes, I know she was never going to say anything bad, but she did say "Is that all? I was just settling in." Which I think is a good sign.

The Daughter tried not to watch the bits with her in - which is most of it. But even she admitted it was okay, at least the bits without her in. (She's one of those who doesn't like to watch themselves.)

It took 10 weeks and less than £500.

Not bad.

What's on the turntable? "Airborne, Part I" by Mike Oldfield from "Platinum"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Good idea, Piers

The great Piers Beckley has referenced his 2008 posts about last year's Screenwriters Festival. I posted quite a lot too, so click to fetch it all to your screen.

Things are moving along, we have a final cut of Monsters so it will be available at Cheltenham - which is a bit scary, since I have to put the production where my pen is.

Or something.

Website is coming along, should wrap that up tomorrow.

Haven't seen hide nor hair of the business cards, I hope I don't have to use my old ones.

For those going along to the pre-event get together at the Queen's Hotel, I will be there, but I think so will about ten million screenwriters. We may have to just wave across the room.

Excited? Oh yes.

What's on the turntable? "Down South Camp Meetin'" by The Manhattan Transfer

Sunday, October 18, 2009


So..... I saw Up today. It is an exceptionally good movie.

But I have to say that this is not a kids' movie. Really.

This is not to say that child from, say, 8 up isn't going to enjoy it, they will. But this is not a kids' movie. There were a lot of children in the auditorium who were under 8 (of course! It's Pixar, it's about an old man, a kid and balloons).

I'm not going to say a lot about it, so much has been said by others, I will say that if you haven't seen it then I recommend taking tissues, you'll need them in the first 10 minutes, and maybe a couple of times after that. I did.

The imagery of this movie is so powerful that I can't even think about those first 10 minutes without welling up again.

This is a film about character, every one of them is beautifully drawn, and every one of them, even the animals, have their needs and goals. It's also a perfect example of how to build conflict into every scene naturally (even into the stair-lift scene). It has excellent set-ups and pay-offs throughout.

And, the Teacher and I agree, this is a devastatingly sad movie.

If it hadn't been Pixar this would never have been made.

Absolutely not for kids.

See it.

What's on the turntable? "Chanson d'amour" by The Manhattan Transfer

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pit stop

Pressure of work has meant I haven't blogged for days. Sorry about that.

The second cut of the Monsters scenes was hugely better and we have a little way to go on that, the music is being composed as we speak (yes indeedy, original score too). I have designed and ordered new business cards.

Oh, I finished the treatment of Clones last night and popped that off to the collaborator. After all the prevaricating it took a mere 45 minutes to wind up - I was really cooking by the end, I love writing action sequences.

I've been working on the new website, I need to get something in place by next week.

And because of the screenwriters festival I have had to compress three weeks of the day job into two weeks, I'll be in Cheltenham when they do the next launch. Eeek.

And finally I got sort-of good news from my accountant - my business did so well in 2008 I have a huge amount of corporation tax to pay ... damn.

What's on the turntable? "Tour de France, Etape 1" by Kraftwerk from "Minimum-Maximum"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rough cut

I have now seen the rough cut of the chunk of Monsters that we shot.


The producer expressed pleasure that even this initial rough cut was better than what she's used to seeing. And it seems that we were all pretty much agreed on what needed to be done - in my case I knew something needed to be done but didn't quite know what it was. I'm new to this part of the game.

We have two weeks left and are planning to get it finished in one. I say "we" but there's not a huge amount I can do now. We've decided to have a little explanatory text at the start because coming into these scenes ignorant of the story could be confusing.

One lesson I have learned: If you're writing a piece of dialogue where Speaker A gets interrupted by Speaker B, then write a good chunk (if not all) of Speaker A's interrupted speech. Otherwise you get the situation where Speaker A trails off waiting for the interruption, instead of actually getting interrupted mid-flow. With the whole speech in place Speaker B can just interrupt as needed, and really do it.

Once again there was discussion about cutting lines - they were kind enough to ask if it was alright with me? Depends on the line, of course, but generally I am not bothered. As long as the heart of the scene stays in place (and it works as a whole) it doesn't matter.

There are, of course, things that we don't have enough coverage for, but as far as I can tell that's par for the course.

So it's onwards and upwards. Two weeks to Cheltenham. Eeek.

What's on the turntable? "Do It Again" by Steely Dan from "Can't Buy a Thrill"

Thursday, October 08, 2009

National Poetry Day


I've been quiet all week, you may have noticed, work pressure is one thing because the Cheltenham Screenwriters Festival clashes with the next release of the website and I have to get stuff done a week earlier.


Yes I do that sometimes. How about my shortest poem in the world?





I think I've posted that before - but it's quick. How about this one...

Sticky Sweet

When her hand brushed mine, time

Caught its breath and the memory of it stuck

Like bubblegum, sweet and sticky and overpowering.

Forbidden thoughts welled up, ideas

That could not live in the day flooded in

And I drowned in their sweet, sticky ecstasy.

It is not love, cannot be love, how

Can I love you, the object of man's desire

And I am just a sweet, sticky friend of a friend.

But the thought of it, the taste of it, the

Fire, the heat and the burning desire–from a touch

Of your hand, that gentle brush that flames in my mind.

Next time, next time I will stretch out, my hand

Will touch yours and the heat that is mine will toast

Your desire and your sweet and sticky world will be mine.

Best read out loud paying particular attention to punctuation and line endings - I write them to be spoken because I hear them as I put them down.

Anybody else got some kicking around that need airing?

What's on the turntable? "The Speak-Up Mambo" by The Manhattan Transfer from "Anthology"

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Searchamafaction #5

I'm at a ceilidh, I wonder if I'm enjoying it! I wrote this yesterday and did the clever "deferred posting" thing.

It's been 3 months since I last did this, I get relatively few visits to the site from searches nowadays, it's all direct or from redirects off other blogger sites - which is nice. So I left it this long to get some differentiation...

So, from the most popular search terms:
  1. BBC's Merlin - I wrote a lot about this originally, but haven't bothered to watch it since it offends the Teacher.
  2. "I am a mime..." - the classic sketch by Rowan Atkinson from "Not the Nine O'Clock News". It is not on YouTube.
  3. "Go Go Google Gadget - Progress Bar" my sooper-dooper progress bar which suddenly stopped working, people would really like one that works.
  4. My daughter's first name is similar to the name of one of the kids in that reality show "Young, Dumb and Living off Mum". So I get hits for that. The fundamental problem with that show was that the problem was that the parents needed fixing, not the kids (if the parents had been fixed the kids would have changed).
  5. The CBBC writing competition which I entered and got into the second round. I didn't get any further (assuming the writing was good enough) because my characters were too old - like the most successful drama on CBBC currently (Sarah Jane Adventures) which breaks all the CBBC rules about what's acceptable. Bitter? Me?
  6. Inktip.
  7. Celtx.
  8. "How to be a loser" - is this a personal comment?
  9. "Dry white wine" - um -
  10. James Moran

What's on the turntable? "Going Under" by Evanescance from "Fallen"

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Picture this

The Director has sent me a still from the Monsters shoot.

Looks like real TV (except it's not moving, of course).

Is it bad form to include it here? I can't think it is, so I'll take the risk. Click for the big version.

Those of you who have read the script will be able to figure out the scene and hence the characters. The actors were great - perfect in fact.

It took quite a while getting this shot right, the car is pointing directly into the sun and it was very strong indeed. But it kept disappearing into cloud for a short while.

There will be a website and I will provide a link. (Was that last bit redundant?)

What's on the turntable? "Picture this" by Blondie from "Parallel Lines"