Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year I Became Angelic

Traditions are for fulfilling so here's my look back at 2011.

In many ways it's not been a great year. Nor has it been a bad year.

There have been bad things though not on the screenwriting front. I've had two bad contracts this year - one of which cost me money. I could take time going to court over it but frankly it's not worth the effort. I went down that round years ago when I ran a design agency and we were ripped off by someone who said to our faces "If I can get out of paying you, I will".

Here's a tip: If you choose to take legal action against someone to get money you're owed: Get the biggest legal firm you can - even if it means that you'll lose most of your money in fees. Why? Because you'll win, and that's more important than the money.

But here's another tip: Think long and hard about taking legal action. It's very stressful, very expensive and seldom really worth it.

Mmm. Cheerful. Let's move on.


Early in the year I met with an agent. They liked what I could do but it just wasn't quite ... enough. Later in the year I made the Talent Connector through Industrial Scripts and had two bites from other agencies. They read my stuff but it wasn't quite ... enough.

As mentioned in a previous blog I am competent. But nothing I currently have has sufficient spark.

Not writing

I spent a lot of time not writing this year. Partly because of the contracts I was working on and partly because of the travel time to and from work. And partly because of a web site I've been working on for a while now, though it's finally coming together. Part of my plan is to make myself less reliant on the day job but since I have a family, mortgage and credit cards to support I can't dedicate myself 100% to the writing, which would be what I'd like to do.


But I did go to the BBC's writing festival in Leeds which was very good indeed. And where I made a contact with a major US TV writer and producer (a legend in the TV SF world) currently working on something for the BBC. I have his email address and he's reading my stuff :-)

I almost didn't go to the London Screenwriters Festival. But I did and what happened? I got onto the advanced mentoring session with Gub Neal. Awesome.

But curiously that leads into something else which will be in my "Next Year" post coming up tomorrow.

The LSF also taught me something very very important: Rehearse pitches. I pitched at Gub Neal's session, the speed-pitching and, on the spur of the moment, the Pitch Factor. For Gub I had rehearsed the pitch and narrowed it down to a set of reminder cards that just kept me on track, though I barely used them. The speed-pitching was hastily written and only slightly rehearsed, while the Pitch Factor wasn't planned at all.

Result: From Gub "Good pitch" and from the others no kind words at all, and some critical ones. This also becomes relevant for the future (in the obvious way but also a less than obvious way).


I always do ScriptFrenzy and write a feature script in April. And this year was no different. Except I wrote a Steampunk story in the same universe as the Winter project.

ScriptFrenzy has been going five years which means I have five feature scripts I wouldn't otherwise have. Of course they need work but they're out in the real world.


This web project has been in development for three years now - you can read the potted history of that developing on the Voidships blog and if you're a Google+ person you can circle the Voidships page (and please don't believe the anti-hype about G+ being quieter than the grave - that is truly bollocks).

Two months ago the pressure I'd been building up internally to rewrite Winter suddenly kicked in and the story poured out. I zoomed it off to various readers and a month later I had all the feedback - which wasn't too bad and the areas that need work were agreed on by all readers which is a clear sign of what's needed.

Angels One Five

When we make the Winter project happen a lot of it is going to be crowd-funded. I could take the attitude that, well, we'll find the people and they'll pay. But that's not fair, really, is it? How can I justify asking people to pay money towards my projects if I take no notice of anyone else's? There are other filmmakers (and other creatives) who are trying to get their projects made.

What goes around comes around. As ye sow so shall ye reap. Treat others the way you'd like them to treat you. Stuff like that.

So I started funding projects - short films and book. Those on a personal basis.

Then, as my business, I became an investor in Piers Beckley's Red Table stage productions.

Let me say this: If you're in it for the money, or the rewards, forget it. That's not what it's about. What it's about is supporting creative people because they are the ones who make the real difference in the world. (Not that I want to give the impression that Piers' Red Table does not give ROI, but that's not the reason why.)

Summing up

It wasn't a bad year, much of it felt like treading water. There were a few good things and a few bad things, but the coming year is shaping up to be totally awesome and I will speak on that anon.

What's on the turntable? "Tubular Bells" by Mike Oldfield

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Crimble post

This is not a look to the past or really much into the future, that'll come later in the week. This is just this week.

I got back from London on Friday afternoon, picked up by The Teacher from the station and home. She's managed to get most of Christmas organised with the help of the Daughter and The Boy - who are both tremendously helpful and neither had the terrible teens the way that they are supposed to.

The Boy has no gigs over Christmas, which is nice, and the Daughter's friends are all local so apart from providing a taxi service it's almost as if she never leaves the house.

Christmas Eve brought a trip to a local village where we each had £10 to buy stocking fillers for one other member of the family. It worked very well. A good new tradition we shall continue if we can, though it's possible the Daughter will be in the USA next Christmas. Which would be sad.

The kids were taught the proper meaning of Christmas in the evening by being required to watch the Morecambe and Wise Christmas compilation - including the full Andre Previn incident. ("You're playing all the wrong notes" "I am playing all the right notes! But not necessarily in the right order.") Both found them to be extremely funny. They've been brought up proper.

Christmas Day. Presents. The entire Buffy for the kids, the entire Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes for The Teacher and I. We don't buy chocolate because the Teacher is bought tons of it by her pupils. I got the Lis Sladen autobiography and started welling up just looking at the cover. How I'm going to be able to actually read it I have no idea. The death of someone I didn't know has never affected me so strongly before.

Boxing Day is movie day. We shut the doors and windows, close the curtains turn off the lights and watch wall to wall films, belonging to a series. For three years we did only the Lord of the Rings, 12 hours solid. In recent years we have branched out - all the Die Hards for example; this year we're doing Harry Potter - well, no, not all of it that would take two days. We're doing episode 1 and then 6, 7 and 8.

Wednesday is role-playing day - we're doing Victoriana with a select group of friends (the kids love role-playing games, as I said, they've been brung up proper). Thursday nothing specific but probably a big walk if it's not raining. Friday we head off for family visits down south - my sister even invited the dog so she'll get everything she deserves.

That'll do. I'm being called downstairs for a game of Cleopatra.

I hope your yuletide exceeds your expectations. And, regardless of all else, remember the wisdom of Bill and Ted: "Be excellent to each other!"

(And party on, dudes!)

What's on the turntable? I can hear Mama Mia on the DVD downstairs...

Monday, December 19, 2011


I just want to say at this point that if I get told I'm a "competent" scriptwriter just one more time I think I may skweem and skweem and skweem until I make myself sick.

Seriously, I think it's four times this year that someone who knows what they're talking about (different someone's in each case) has described my writing as "competent".

Unfortunately competent doesn't win you any competitions. Or get you commissioned.

You will now be returned to your normal scheduling.

What's on the turntable? "Too Fast for Love" by Motley Crue from "Greatest"

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Over on the Voidships channel

There's a new entry on my Voidships blog about how I came to write Winter so it's a blog that probably also belongs here 'cos it's about writing.

I have an entry for the Red Planet prize which I'm just sprucing up - how's yours?

What's on the turntable? Something by Tangerine Dream