Friday, June 25, 2010

Belies the point

So, Jimmy McGovern felt it acceptable to attack playwrights as being useless at writing stories for TV or film?

Well, no, actually he didn't. As one comes to expect nowadays he was misquoted. He didn't say all playwrights don't know how to write stories, he said some. And he'd be right. Just like some people can't tell the difference between "all" and "some".

And then Alan Plater died. Playwright, scriptwriter for TV and Film. Successful at both.

I don't generally get upset when people I don't know personally die. But I cried when John Peel died; and when it's someone who has made me laugh as much as Alan Plater did - I am saddened. It is a loss.

But I doubt he'd want anyone to be maudlin, so if you've never seen The Biederbecke Affair go out and buy it now, and learn how real dialogue is written. While laughing a lot.

As a side note, the Daughter appeared in episode 1.3 of Jimmy McGovern's The Street for about 3 seconds in extreme closeup, her script name was "Smelly Girl".

What's on the turntable? "O.O.B.E" by The Orb from "U.F. Orb" (You'd never catch me in a club [assuming they'd let me in] but I do like a bit of ambient house.)

Monday, June 21, 2010


Over the past couple of weeks I've been working my way through the version of my TV detective story Tec (Draft 4) which I'll be submitting to Red Planet. I'd got feedback about a year ago but I've been distracted by other writing so only just got back to it. (I do have an aborted Draft 3 but I decided to start again rather than continue that one because of new ideas.)

And I've just been reading Alexandra Sokoloff on Plans. She knows her stuff. Interestingly this has always been something I do (or it became what I always do after I learned the important lesson that the antagonist is the most important character in a story).

And, you know, much as I enjoyed Wall-E (and I really did) I felt there was a fundamental story problem which nobody else seems to have commented on: the protagonist does not solve the problem at the end. He is not the one that defeats the antagonist. He's not even there.

Say what? Are those two paragraphs even relevant to one another?


I was thinking about the characters' plans in Tec and how at the end my plan was to let the police step in and save the protagonist from being killed by the antagonist who is much bigger and stronger than she is - and seriously motivated to murder. Her plan is to prove the bad guy did it, his (revised) plan is to kill her and get away with it.

But she's the protagonist, she needs to be the one that beats the bad guy: not just by being very clever in figuring out the bad guy's plan but then needing help at the end to deal with the physical threat. But she needs to beat the physical threat as well - by being very clever.

One thing I love about writing action scenes and sequences is the good news/bad news aspect and putting the protagonist in an impossible position - then figuring out how they can get out of it, and ultimately win.

So I thought, she needs to beat the bad guy. How? And I realised I had the perfect set-up in the first 10 minutes - in an early scene she defeats the bad guy in a confrontation over office security, and with that set-up I could bring in a great pay-off right at the end. Lovely.

Of course, I can't actually say what it is, you'll just have to believe me - it's great.

What's on the turntable? "Watch her ride" by Jefferson Airplane (Spotify)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Island

You know how it is ... it's evening, too late to start anything significant, too early to go to bed so you just mess around on the computer ... load up Google Maps ... wander down to Australia ... decide to take a look at some of the smaller islands ... find one you've heard of ... look closer ... discover a sheet of metal bigger than a football pitch.

Normal sort of thing.

Sheet of metal bigger than a football pitch?

Yup, and I have the pictures to prove it:

What is this?

What's on the turntable? "ME262" by the Blue Oyster Cult ( )

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Kid in the Front Row...

...asked these questions and since I love talking about myself I decided to answer in my blog and if you;re a screenwriter with a blog, you can do it too (you can find the Kid here).

1. What project are you currently working on or thinking of working on?
A steampunk web series called Winter.

2. Why is it important to you and why is it needed in the world? (Feel free to ramble at length)
Because it says something about people, their rights and abuse of those rights.

It's also about love - and corrupted love.

And it's about the suppression of women.

And war and terrorism.

And crazy steampunk machines.

And explosions.

And action stuff.

Set in 1913, in Manchester (the capital city of the British Empire).

I think these things need talking about.

3. What obstacles are you facing or anticipating facing?
Um - well, as it's going to be completely greenscreen CGI sets (like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and Sin City) the main problem is going to be getting the money to pay for things that have to be paid for, and getting the graphics created.


The two main problems will be getting the money, getting the graphics and shooting it.

The three main problems...

4. When will this project be completed? (Must set a date!)
Yes, we really must. You're asking me? I'm just a writer, dammit! Ask the Producer.

Realistically we're looking at a year I'd say.

What's on the turntable? "From Gagarin's Point of View" by the Esbjörn Svensson Trio. Yum.

In case you hadn't heard...

Red Planet prize is go...

Two months to the deadline - which is good for focussing the mind, I'll need to zap through a page 1 rewrite of Tec which was my original plan.

Got my second set of feedback on Running from BlueCat which was interesting. If you resubmit you can choose whether to use the same or a different reader, I chose a different one - the more viewpoints the better in my opinion.

The differences in emphasis are worth mentioning: The first reader commented a lot more on structure and balance of characters; while the second, who's clearly an action movie fan, was more about balance of action (comparing it to District 13 which is good since that's the target market) - though mentioned the lack of character development, which was fair comment.

Anyway it gives me something to work with - I doubt very much I'll make even the semis for this BlueCat competition, Running needs a lot of work.

In other news...

The Daughter has arrived in New Zealand, and in another day she'll have reached the place where she'll be doing volunteer work - still no idea what she's actually doing. We received regular text updates as she crossed the world. We're planning on making an Earth sandwich at some point.

The Boy took part in the Saddleworth Whit Friday Band Contest last Friday - being (almost) a teenager he expressed a complete lack of enthusiasm but had a great time. Even had a taste of beer apparently.

What's on the turntable? "Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel. Quality.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Bechdel test - do I pass?

John August has been reminding everybody, who doesn't already know, about the Bechdel test which assesses the presence of women in movies. The questions are simple:
  1. Are there two or more female characters with names?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. If they talk to each other, do they talk about something other than a man?
This is relevant to me because I've just completed the page one rewrite of Winter and popped it over to the Director who is quite enthusiastic - which is nice.

So, does Winter pass (even though it's only about 30 mins long)?

Yes, two female characters with names (40% of the named characters but one of them is the protagonist) . They do talk, albeit briefly, and it's not about men.

Quick run through of other stuff I've written: Monsters passes (TV); Air passes TV); Unit X passes (TV) ; Babel passes (film); Une Nuit a Paris passes? (I think) (film); Tec passes definitely (TV); Running fails (film). So, not too bad.

And Running wouldn't be too hard to fix - several characters could easily be female.

Which leads to the question: why are they male in the first place, if it doesn't matter? Essentially because I was just following stereotypes. If I can manage two females in Unit X which is World War II US Army (okay, one's a doctor and one's a nurse); I'm sure I can manage more women in Running (in fact just thinking about it introduces some interesting possible dynamics).

How do your scripts stand up to the test?

What's on the turntable? "Soultrane" by John Coltrane. Nice.