Wednesday, 31 December 2008


As a regular reader of Danny Stack's screenwriting blog, I noticed that he's had quite a successful year. A lot of this seems to be due to his advancement in kids' TV. He's created a kids' show and pitched some ideas for another show. Congrats with that!

I quite like the idea of writing for children. It's not something I'd like to do long-term, but I would like to write something that my kids (if I had some) could enjoy. I'm thinking all the violent, action-driven stuff isn't really child-friendly.

And there's a serious problem with kids' TV. Back in the day (all those many years ago), we had some great kids' stuff. We're talking Thundercats, He-Man, Power Rangers and Biker Mice From Mars (my personal favourite.) This stuff just doesn't happen anymore. Am I afraid of liking decent kids' stuff? Hell no!

This sort of thing - the lack of solid kids' TV - needs fixing, if you ask me.

So the other day I came up with an idea for a kids' TV show. It's not overly complicated (and it shouldn't be) but it does demand a certain level of intelligence and concentration. In short, I'm trying to challenge the 'young' audience, rather than patronising them.

This being one of my ideas, it's action-driven with a supernatural twist. That's the sort of thing I was interested in as a kid and if anything, kids are getting more and more violent, so there should be an audience for it.

I would probably kill myself if it ended up as a 'live action' show, with 'real' actors (kids of 16) running around with dodgy special effects. It could work as animation, but that tends to limit you in terms of dialogue. I picture it with CGI - think of Max Steel (if you know what that is).

To get an idea of what I'm talking about, check out this clip from Max Steel. Probably best to skip to 6 minutes in - which is what I'm aiming for. It's not too violent and it's far from patronising.

So with an audience in mind as well as a medium, I suppose the next stage is to write the bastard (leaving out words like 'bastard' of course).

So write it I shall. Hopefully it'll turn into a shiny kids' show one day, but only time will tell.

Happy New Year everybody!


Monday, 29 December 2008


I got bored and happened across some very good writing quotes. So here's a sample -

"Whenever you write, whatever you write, never make the mistake of assuming the audience is any less intelligent than you are." - Rod Serling

"I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it." - Toni Morrison

"Screenwriting is like writing in the sand with the wind blowing." - Frances Marion

"I loved Feydeau's one rule of playwriting: Character A: My life is perfect as long as I don't see Character B. Knock Knock. Enter Character B." - John Guare

"Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment thereafter." - Jessamyn West

"The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say." - Anais Nin

"The first draft of everything is shit." - Ernest Hemingway

"A movie is not a book. If the source material is a book, you cannot be too respectful of the book. All you owe to the book is the spirit. Everything else-- just tear that motherfucker apart." - Richard Price

"A writer is someone who can make a riddle out of an answer." - Karl Kraus

"Writing is the hardest way of earning a living with the possible exception of wrestling alligators." - William Saroyan

"If writers were good businessmen, they'd have too much sense to be writers." - Irvin S. Cobb

"Literature is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none." - Jules Renard

And now my own shiny quote -

"I would be amazed if I passed someone in the street one day and they said 'Aren't you that bloke who wrote that thing?'" - Neil Baker.

City of Sins

The other day, I watched Sin City. I remember when I first bought the film. I sat down and watched and really didn't know what to think. I didn't like it. I didn't dislike it. I seemed to have no opinion. I think it was Miller's unique visual style that threw me. Anyone who's seen the film (or 300 for that matter) will know what I'm talking about.

Initially it seems that it's in black and white. But it isn't. There are slithers of colour throughout - women are often in colour and peoples' shoes, as well as blood etc. This is an important part of the film - our focus is diverted - a clever storytelling technique.

So after my first watch, I got Rachel (my sister) to watch it too (I think the only appeal for her was Mr. Bruce Willis). She didn't like it. She didn't dislike it. But now, many views later, we're agreed that it's a great film.

A few years ago (before even hearing about Sin City) I wrote a short story. If memory serves, it begins with the line - "My last breath escaped me in the blink of an eye. Or so it seemed." And that was the line that drove the story. It was about a police detective that rushes into a hostage situation and dies. But then he is brought back (by some higher power?). He takes on the killer and wins, saving the hostage. Then he disappears off into the night. I hint at his abilities throughout the short story.

When it came to prose fiction at uni last year, I produced this short to my tutor. Her first words - "It doesn't work as a story. It's the start of one." And right she was. So I adapted the story, adding a hell of a lot of other stuff, and ending with the original scene, done a bit differently.

The result was not pretty. In short, it was a complete mess. I went over the word limit by about 3000 words and it still felt rushed and forced. I have no problem admitting that the thing was a pile of fei-oo.

So that was abandoned until I discovered screenwriting. I grabbed the shitty story, ripped out all the 'shit' bit of it and put it as a short screenplay. It's littered with voice over, much like the Sin City stories. No, I'm not comparing my abilities to Frank Miller but it does create a similar atmosphere - that sort of present tense thought-telling.

So, after watching Sin City the other day, I was compelled to dig out that little screenplay. I had a read and it's not bad. Then I mapped out several future 'episodes' if you like - four more shorts that would follow on from the original. Then it occurred to me that the first could act as an origin tale - more like a blueprint for the future shorts.

So I have the next few all mapped out. They'll each last about 15 minutes and be littered with voice over (that big taboo in the writing biz). I have no idea where I'd sell them, but that's not really the point. I'm going to write them because I want to, because it's fun (and quite easy).

So there we go. At the moment, the series is called 'Detective', but that's a working title.

So does anyone have an opinion on shorts? Is there any market for what is effectively a TV series of short (shiny) films?

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Kids film in the making

I decided to start writing a kids' film the other day. I have the first scene, some characters ideas and a very basic plot that will change like mad before it's concrete.

I have my good writer friend Michelle Goode to thank for this endeavour. We were talking the other day (on facebook) about the lack of good children's TV shows out there and that inspired me. It's about time we got some decent stuff out there for the young folk. I'm talking about the likes of the (original) Power Rangers, Thunder Cats or - my one of my favourite kids shows - Biker Mice from Mars. Those were the good days!

I'm currently reading Philip Pullman's 'Northern Lights' (yes, the one that was made into The Golden Compass). It's in readiness for next semester at uni, where I'll be studying children's language and literature. Hopefully that will give me some useful information when it comes to writing for that age group.

So watch this space people. I intend to (at some point) write a kids' film and killer TV show that appeals to all ages!

Shiny times,

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Thrilling thrillers

I know I don't have many readers, but six kind people voted on their favourite film genre. And it seems that 'Thriller' takes the lead, stealing half of the votes. It's my fault in part, because 'thriller' is a huge, broad genre to choose.

It encompasses so many features - action, mystery, horror and even comedy. Whereas something like comedy generally doesn't feature much horror and sci-fi films aren't know for their mystery.

So thanks to those who voted on the poll and I now have a new one - what is your favourite of my top underrated films (that I blogged about last week)? This assumes you've seen them of course, but if you haven't I can't urge you to enough!
You can vote at the right hand side of this blog. Please do!

Happy voting and writing folks,

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Chaos Lost

I saw an advert for some documentary about survivors of a terrorist take-over and I was instantly inspired. I thought I might like to challenge myself and write a thriller about a group of people who are taken hostage by terrorists.

I thought of the Chaos Theory or "butterfly effect" - a concept whereby everything may appear random, but in actuality, everything is predestined to happen. That's my (very basic) understanding of the theory anyhow.

So what if a bunch of characters who are (seemingly) completely unrelated find themselves in this bitch of a situation - hostages? Would make an interesting story methinks. Is everything predetermined, or do these character have free will - the slightest control over their own lives? If you assume everything is determined already - that fate will win out - then whatever you do makes no difference. If I just lie down and not move, eat, drink.....will I live? If I'm supposed to live today, then I will live. Something will happen to keep me alive. If fate exists then no matter what I do, my destiny is set.

So how will my characters get themselves into this situation? The answer - they won't. If it's predetermined, then no matter what they do, they will get caught up in the story. Only with certain knowledge of our fate can we avoid it - a contradiction in terms?

I also thought it might be interesting to think about who would survive this situation. Along the lines of fate, whoever dies was always going to die, no matter what. So what's the point of doing anything? I've decided that the characters must be together to survive. If any one of them didn't get caught up in the terrorist attack - and wasn't there to help the others - they would all die.

Now the name. I initially wanted to call it 'Chaos Theory', but alas that is taken. So after reading John Milton's Paradise Lost, I thought about Chaos Lost. What if the characters managed to destroy the Chaos Theory and seize control of their own lives? What if I just leave the message completely open and let the audience deduce their own interpretation? Might work, might not!

It's a confusing idea and in the very early stages. It will be a challenge for me to write it and will take a lot of planning. But with the Chaos Theory in mind, as well as the reliance on others, I think it could make for an interesting story.
Oh, and I might just through a guy called Calvin as a little nod to anyone who knows about the belief in predestination.

Does anyone have any opinions on this (shiny) idea?

Monday, 15 December 2008

Underrated Movies - part 4

Directed by: Jonathan Hensleigh
Written by: Jonathan Hensleigh and Michael France
Based on the Marvel comic book

This is one of my favourite Marvel movies, because it doesn't pull any punches. As far as comic book movies go, this is one of the most merciless and brutal. Thomas Jane is perfect for the role of Frank Castle - the brooding vengeance-fueled vigilante out for revenge against Howard Saint (John Travolta).

With a great supportive roles from Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Will Patton and the super-versatile Ben Foster only add to the depth of the movie, providing humour and subplot.

The Punisher is a very violent movie, but it's all justified. With a powerful catalyst that sets the tone of the movie and kicks Castle off on his revenge trail, and a killer finale, this is one of the best action films out there.

Despite being a very dark and angry movie, it doesn't take itself too seriously. In a lengthy fight sequence with 'The Russian' Frank Castle is beaten to a very bloody pulp and you really think that might be it for him. But after getting back in the zone, The Punisher becomes bigger and badder then ever.

In a violent action-crazy finale, Castle takes on a building full of opponents and confronts his nemesis. And the result is a visually amazing as the iconic Punisher logo burns brighter than ever.

Now I'm completely pissed off that Thomas Jane isn't returning for the second film Punisher: War Zone. The skull has been taken up by Brit actor Ray Stevenson. This initially looked like a huge mistake because for me, Jane will always be The Punisher. But the trailer looks quite good. And Julie Benz (of Buffy and Angel) appears to be taking on the role of Castle's love interest. I have high hopes, but I just don't think it will live up to the amazing revenge story that is The Punisher.

"Those who do evil to others - the killers, the rapists, psychos, sadists - you will come to know me well. Frank Castle is dead. Call me... The Punisher."
-Frank Castle

Directed by: Florent Emilio Siri
Written by: Doug Richardson
Based on the book by Robert Crais

I first watched this when my sister got it for her birthday. And I was amazed. Bruce Willis stars as Detective Jeff Talley - a cop who sets up home in a small peaceful town. naturally it doesn't stay peaceful for long. A bunch of teenagers rob a house but find themselves in very deep water. A full-scale hostage situation breaks out and it quickly becomes all to clear that Mars - played by the amazing Ben Foster - is not just a petty crook.

Bruce Willis is one of those actors that gets better with age. He seems tougher now that he was in the first Die Hard movie. I think it's the lack of hair that does it - I don't care how old the guy gets, I would never like to take him on! And this performance is easily as good as his Die Hard masterpieces.

More of a thriller and an action film, a brilliant supporting cast provides subplot as everything takes hold. With a terrifying twist about a third of the way in, the film becomes all the more serious. The tension increases and the stakes are raised as Talley is forced to confront his past mistakes to save those in need.

The opening is one of the best filmed. We see Talley in a hostage situation, trying to negotiate the prisoners' release. And he makes one crucial mistake - an error in judgement. He tries something that doesn't work. He takes a risk and falls on his arse.

In a super-tense slo-mo scene, Talley races to the rescue and fails yet again. That's right - Bruce Willis fails in the opening scene! And I think that's part of the reason it's so powerful. It's a stunning opening that haunts you throughout the movie but is never bettered.

Hostage is one of those movies you'll watch again and again and always be on the edge of your seat. I don't know why so few people have seen it, I really don't! This is definitely one to see. Oh, and it doesn't pull any punches, as you'll see from the opening bit of dialogue below:

"I need to talk to that motherfucker! You hear me? I want to talk to that fucker right now! I want that motherfucker!"
Shiny times,

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Underrated Movies - part 3

Directed by: David Von Ancken
Written by: David Von Ancken & Abby Everett Jaques

I saw the trailers for this film on the internet and was looking forward to its release, being huge fan of Westerns, revenge stories, Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan. So you can imagine my anger when it didn't come out where I live. I was thoroughly pissed off! So as soon as it came out on DVD, I raced to HMV and grabbed the film that was described by Empire as having "great performances, looks splendid." And splendid it was.

I was first of all tickled by two Irish lads playing American war veterans and they did great jobs. I was worried that their accents may leave something to be desired, but they were completely on the mark. Never once was I unconvinced by their performances.

Gideon (Brosnan) has one hell of an introduction. He is hounded by General Carver (Neeson) and his band of mercenaries through the freezing Western landscape. Brosnan shows some of his finest acting and is simply amazing when surviving Carver's endless assault. If you ask me, it's an Oscar-worthy performance.

Your sympathy instantly lies with Gideon as he is chased across the West, but as time goes on, you learn a little more about how the chase started. At no point do you hate Gideon, but you gradually begin to realise the truth and sympathise with Carver's position. This is done through the use of flashback. There has never been a better example of justified use of this technique. You're given just enough information to keep the story moving and at no point do you feel as though exposition is just puked onto the screen.

The plot is simple enough - a man out for revenge, chasing down his enemy. But the film is so much more than that. It's not your typical Western - it's more of a story that just happens to be set in the American West.
The direction and cinematography is reasonably simplistic and it makes the most of the surreal surroundings and landscapes. But this doesn't distract from the story itself - there is a perfect blend.
Later in the film, the characters are stripped bare. Physically, they both begin to lose their clothes, but also their souls. As the movie progresses and we learn more and more about these troubled men, their scars are left bare for all to see. This is a brilliant effect that is put to good use when an usual twist emerges at the ending of the film. I won't give it away, but it's bloody good.

You don't have to be a fan of Westerns to like this movie - it's not like any I've seen before. An amazing film, with purely convincing performances and brilliant storytelling. I fully recommend this to everyone, no matter what your tastes.
Gideon: "Time was, you said your war was over."
Carver: "Only the dead can know the end of war, Captain."

Written and directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Based on the Marvel comic

I'm assuming most people have heard of Daredevil. It stars Den Affleck and is based on the Marvel comic book. The theatrical release was slated for it's poor special effects, but that didn't really bother me. I had heard that the Director's Cut was bigger and badder, so I bought it. And I'm glad I did. It's a vastly superior film to the theatrical release, with over half an hour of extra material. There's a whole subplot explored that just adds depth to the story. And the climax of the film has a very different feel. Rather than seeming like a 'who killed my girlfriend' revenge battle, it's more of a 'I do what's right' story.

I'm no huge fan of Ben Affleck, but I have to give him his props in this film. As Matt Murdock, he possesses subtle humour and creates a great presence on screen. And when he takes on the role of the 'Man Without Fear', he slips into a dark, hard vigilante.

The supporting cast is also on top form. Jennifer Garner is convincing as Elektra, even if her transition into superhero/vengeful warrior seems forced at times. I don't know where it went wrong for her, but it was sometime after Daredevil and before Elektra. Michael Clarke Duncan is scary as hell as the Kingpin and fits the role perfectly. The only thing more terrifying than his huge stature is his booming voice! I was a little put off by Colin Farrell's Bullseye, but once you get use to it, he really takes hold. I think I might have tried to read too much into his character where it isn't necessary.

Daredevil is an excellent coming-of-age story and vigilante action epic. We are able to identify with both the character of Matt Murdock and his alter-ego Daredevil at the same time. This is something that was always lacking (for me) in the Spider-Man movies - I was unable to empathise with Peter Parker. I didn't really care about him as he did nothing to help himself. This movie excels where Spidey failed. And the final voice-over from Daredevil seems to have influenced the similar scene in the Dark Knight

As one of the harder, more bad-ass Marvel films, this is a must-see for comic book and action fans alike. The Director's Cut takes nothing away from the theatrical release; it only adds depth and story to the film.

"Hell's Kitchen is my neighborhood. I prowl the rooftops and alleyways at night, watching from the darkness. Forever in darkness. A guardian devil."
-Daredevil/Matt Murdock
"They say there's no rest for the wicked. But what about the good? The battle of Good vs. Evil is never-ending... because evil always survives... with the help of evil men. As for Daredevil, well... soon the world will know the truth. That this is a city born of heroes, that one man CAN make a difference."
-Daredevil/Matt Murdock

More reviews (probably) coming soon. Stay shiny folks,

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Underrated Movies - part 2

Directed by: Peter Hyams
Written by: Andrew W. Marlowe

I first caught this film a long while ago. In short, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Jericho, a cop-turned-bodyguard, who gets caught up in the Devil's rising power. So yes, this is an Arnie movie. But it isn't like any other out there. This isn't about Schwarzenegger running around with miniguns shooting endlessly at thousands of bad guys. It's a unique role for him.

If I remember correctly, the role was written directly for him. Schwarzenegger had recently had surgery and there was a lot of worry as to whether Arnold could still cut it in the action-hero world. So what better way to destroy the rumours than to take on Lucifer himself?

This is different to any other Arnie movie for one simply reason. Rather than playing a 'larger than life' hero, Schwarzenegger portrays a deep, troubled man. This is by far his best acting performance, simply because the writing enables him to do it.

The direction is good and the introduction of Jericho (Schwarzenegger) could not be more powerful. We see his shitty apartment, as he sits alone in a darkened room. He picks up his Glock 9mm and is about to blow his own head off when his comedic mate turns up. It's still one of my favourite introductions to a character.

Finally, you can't talk about a Schwarzenegger movie without mentioning the one-liners. While there is no "I'll be back!", we do have some great dialogue. As an atheist, I was particularly amused by what the Devil had to say about things, so I leave you with a few of my favourite lines from the movie.

Jericho (about God): "We had a difference of opinion. I thought my wife and daughter should live. He felt otherwise."

Devil (about God): "Let me tell you something about Him. He is the biggest underachiever of all time. He just has a good publicist, that's all."

Jericho (to the Devil): "Oh, you think you're bad, huh? You're a fucking choir boy compared to me! A CHOIR BOY!"

Father Kovak: "Satan's greatest trick was convincing the world he doesn't exist."

Jericho (to priest): "Between your faith and my Glock nine millimeter, I'll take the Glock."

Directed by: Wilson Yip
Written by: Edmond Wong
Based on the comic book 'Dragon and the Tiger Heroes' by Yuk Long Wong

A lot of foreign films don't get known simply because they're not in English and people can't really be bothered to read subtitles. I get this, but if you don't check them out, you're missing out on a huge range of entertainment. This is one such example. Based on a comic book, this Chinese martial arts movie stars Donnie Yen as an ass-kicking bodyguard. I won't reveal too much of the plot, because there's not a lot I can say without spoiling it.

The direction is pretty unique. One particular action scene is shot from above and it works brilliantly. It means that you never get bored of the action, which is often the case in many martial arts movies.

I don't know how much about the comic book, so how much of the story is due to the screenplay, I don't know. The plot is pretty basic, but it doesn't need to be that complicated at all. There are some great moments and it's pretty hard to tell where the story will progress. I was gripped throughout.
Onto the stars. Donnie Yen is the highlight of the piece, showing off his expert martial arts moves and legendary kicks. He's merciless throughout and this is easily one of his best roles. Then we have Nicholas Tse. "Who?" you ask. He's unheard of here and even in America, but in China, he's pretty well-known. His martial arts skills rival that of Donnie Yen and it would not surprise me if this 28-year-old becomes the next Jackie Chan or Jet Li. He's that good.

Ultimately, it's important to remember that this is a comic book movie. It's a mistake to take it too seriously, but that being said, it's far from 'silly'. While films such as Fantastic Four and Hulk are purely about the fact that it's a light-hearted comic book, Dragon Tiger Gate fits into the darker and deeper comic book movies. It's up there with Daredevil and X-Men for sure.

So, if you're a fan of comic book movies, martial arts or just fantastic storytelling, this is one movie to check out. My only annoyance is that it's in Chinese, but I have no doubt that if this had been a Hollywood movie, it would be talked about for years to come.

"We train in martial arts to protect people, not to hurt them. No matter what happens, we must never use our skills to do bad things"
-Dragon Wong (Donnie Yen)

More shiny, underrated movies on the way folks, watch this space,

Friday, 12 December 2008

Underrated Movies - part 1

Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: William Wisher Jr.
Based on the novel 'Eaters of the Dead' by Michael Crichton

I started watching this film about half way through a long time ago when I was half asleep. It woke me up instantly. I was always fascinated by Norse mythology and all things Viking, so this was one hell of a film for me! First off, the film is based on a novel by Michael Crichton (yes, that Jurassic Park guy), so a lot of the credit goes to him. It is said to be a take on the Beowulf legend, but apart from the names and the appearance of a person known as 'Wendol's mother', it seems very different to me. It was ages before I decided to get it on DVD, but now it sits there very comfortably.

The acting is incredible. Antonio Banderas is excellent as the Arab poet-turned-warrior, but for me, the film was made by the appearance of Vladimir Kulich. He plays a great Norse warrior and his voice is what fits so well. Little bit of trivia - he also played the Beast in Angel.

The direction is also good. A fight scene inevitably features at the film's climax, it being a Norse adventure after all. The whole fight is shot in slo-mo and it works very well. While the fight is quite short, I think that the point was that you weren't sure exactly how long it lasted. It's more about the characters than what is happening.

Now the writing....I'm not sure how much of this is due to the book, but in a lot of these movies, the dialogue seems forced and weak. This is not the case in The 13th Warrior. There is a fair bit of fore-shadowing throughout, so if you have half a brain, you can tell who's going to survive.

All in all, a great movie, yet so few people have heard of it, never mind watched it! And I finish with a quote from the film, that sums up the whole Viking way of life:

"Lo there do I see my father. Lo there do I see my mother and my sisters and my brothers. Lo there do I see the line of my people, back to the beginning. Lo, they do call to me, they bid me take my place among them, in the Halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live...forever."

Written and directed by: Stephen Sommers

Stephen Sommers has a reputation for using fancy special effects at the expense of story. I really don't see where this comes from. Yes, his films feature a lot of special effects, but you can hardly say the story is lacking. This film is heaps better than the first - more action, more intense, more humour, more adventure!

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Brendan Fraser has taken on some pretty crappy roles in his time, but this is not one of them. He's a very capable actor given half-decent material, as this film shows. And the re-appearance of Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep is brilliant. I felt kind of cheated by his lack of action in the first movie, but here he gets to unleash it. After losing his powers, he spends a fair few minutes kicking the shite out of Fraser. And make no mistakes people; if the Scorpion King had not appeared, Imhotep would have finished the job.

If I had one problem with this movie, it would be the appearance of The Rock. He was clearly used because of his American appeal, but he almost ruins it. Not quite though, as he doesn't feature heavily.

The musical score is also one of my favourites. It works so well with the action and just adds to the adventure.

All in all, this is one of my favourite adventure movies. While the Mummy saga has always been in the shadows of Indiana Jones, this one beats the hell out of them all. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor on the other hand....don't ask. Surprisingly, the third installment received no input from Stephen Sommers and it lacked everything that made the first two great.

"My dad is going to kick your arse."

Installment 2 (End of Days & Dragon Tiger Gate)
Installment 3 (Seraphim Falls & Daredevil: Director's Cut)
Installment 4 (The Punisher & Hostage)

Stay shiny readers,

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Character Descriptions

There always seems to be a bit of disagreement as to how much detail you should go into when describing your characters. Some writers say as much as possible, so the reader gets a real image of the character. Other writers say as little as possible, so the reader can form their own idea of the character. I'm inclined towards the latter method, although i have to admit, I'm often urged to do the former.

I think the best thing to do is say what is needed. Don't say your character has blue eyes unless it's relevant. And don't put all the info in at once. Be brief with the initial description, then go into more detail where relevant.

For example, say you have a complete (classic) geek character. You probably won't he's geeky until he falls over his own feet or blurts out some random physics fact in front of a nice lookin' lady. So use it when you need to to develop the character.

I thought I'd include some of my character descriptions just to see what people make of them.

The moonlight from the open window lights up KING's face. He's a middle aged man, wearing clothes you'd expect from a 1970s punk rather than a 2040s man. He has a deep cut on his forehead and dry blood covers part of his face.

So clearly this screenplay is set in the future, but that's irrelevant. What I tried to do here is give the reader an idea of how King looks. I've said he's a punk...nothing more needs to be said. Everyone pretty much knows what a 70s punk looks like. So it works.....I think.

The figure steps into the light and is revealed to be KAYDEN - 21, athletic, with short black hair. He looks at the Professor with a sinister smile.

So this fella above is not a nice bloke. We know this from the sinister smile. (Note to self - sinister smile = evil). I've put an exact age (as opposed to "early 20s) because it's key to the plot. Again, I think the above description works quite well. We don't need to know anything more about Kayden than we are told here.

Now here's an example of too much description. I did it because I had a very clear picture of what these two characters were like. before I try and sell this screenplay, I will probably trim down this particular description. It will hurt me to do so, but it has to be done!

There's room for two people at the console. Sitting at it are MARS; 30 with light hair and a thick jumper, and NOVAK; short, early twenties, wearing a white shirt. On top of his head, in place of hair, is a skull tattoo that gazes up at the ceiling of the ship.

Do we need to know that Mars has light hair? No! That will probably get changed in casting, anyway. And do we need to know that Novak is wearing a white shirt? Of course not! I think I might leave the head tattoo in though, just cos it's pretty cool.

So, that's my opinion on character descriptions - enough to give a sense of what the character is like, but not too much so you seem to be dictating who would play the role.

Shiny writing,


Saturday, 6 December 2008

Difficult dilemma

Howdy folks. I've spent the last 5 days not writing. This is because I've come to a little problem in my pilot script. I need my characters to obtain the address of a university student. They are going to do this by going to the receptionist at the uni and asking. Obviously he/she won't give it out just like that.

See, I've spent ages thinking just how can they get this information??? I was initially going to have one of my characters turn on the charm and persuade the nice female receptionist to hand over the details. Oh my God!!!! Sexist-much? "Oh, yes I am a woman and therefore with the promise of one drink, I'll run the risk of losing my job just to accommodate your plot!"

So needless to say, that will not be happening now. I was also tempted to not show that scene. They go there, then come out with the info. The audience is left wondering how. That's a gamble; one I'm not prepared to take!

Now it's only just hit me (yes, as I was writing that last sentence) that they could bribe the receptionist. Everyone needs money right? Can't believe I didn't think of that before. And now I think that will happen. In fact, they will need to bribe her with the money they earned on their last job, adding to the whole theme of the show!

I was going to ask you if you had any suggestions, but it's fixed now, so never mind. Thank you very much reader, for seeing this extremely pointless blog post, but it's helped me!!! Mwa haha, the script goes on, as they say. Shame it's taken me nearly a week to work out that money is the answer to everything.

And while I'm here, I'd like to hint at a future message I'll be posting about the feature film I co-wrote - Michael's Resignation. A lot has happened and I'll be talking about that in the next few days. Watch this space!

Cheers, shiny readers (thanks for helping me with my pilot dilemma),

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Know your audience

Hi folks. I came up with a TV show idea yesterday and mapped out the pilot episode today. It's quite a dark concept, with murder and genuine peril. My 'hero' is a raving alcoholic and not a very nice bloke. The sort of characters I've created demand a mature audience. This isn't a show for the kids, that's for sure!

So my pondering ( that a word? Oh well, it is now) is where and when it would fit in the world of British television. It'll have some strong language and the pilot is about a rapist. So obviously it would have to be after 9pm. But what channel would be interested in a show like that?

C4 aren't afraid of the bad language, but they focus mainly on a teen audience, and this isn't really that sort of show. It has a supernatural element and I know the BBC don't mind that; they're currently airing Apparitions on Thursday nights. Then we have ITV. They seem to be more into every day pre-watershed drama as well as reality TV. And a lot of the post-9pm stuff are 5-part serials. Channel 5.....well they just seem to take everything from America and Australia and ignore British TV all together.

I'm getting way ahead of myself of course, but I think it's important to know your audience when you write. If you have the intention of writing a teen drama all about sex, then C4 is definitely the place to go. Sometimes it might be necessary to 'tone down' your idea in order to sell it to a wider audience.

I'm suddenly thinking of the upcoming film Wolverine, telling the origins of everyones favourite X-Men. Hugh Jackman is starring and producing and decided to make it a PG-13 (or 12A I suppose). The only thing I didn't like about the character of Wolverine in the X-Men films is that he wasn't quite violent enough. Anyone who has read the comic books will know that he is merciless and gruesome. And it doesn't take a genius to work out that a guy with claws is going to leave someone looking pretty bloody messed up when he's done with them.

Jackman says he wants it to be available to a wider audience - he wants the people who liked the character in X-Men to be able to see him again. Aw, isn't that sweet? Of course it also means that the lower the certificate, the more people can go and see the film (by definition) and the more money Mr. Jackman makes. Huh...isn't that an interesting coincidence?

So I expect the film to lack on the creative side so that Hugh Jackman can make more money. Not to say it's not going to be a great movie of course. I;m going to see it and I hope everyone else will, but I think the film would be better if it had an 18 certificate. Oh well, we'll have to wait and see.

Stay shiny dudes and dudettes,


Wednesday, 26 November 2008


Hi folks. I recently managed to catch the first episode of Legend of the Seeker; a new TV show. It's really good in my opinion. It's got some good action and a great storyline. Anyone who likes fantasy stories should definitely check it out.

Anyway, that got me in the mood for writing a screenplay I planned a few months ago. I had a character and basic plot. Last night I managed to break down everything that would happen in the film and flesh out characters. And today, I managed to write a fair amount of it. Probably about half, but my first drafts always fall short of the full feature length. A good effort though, I think.

So that just goes to show that sometimes, by watching something even remotely similar to what you want to write, you can really get the ball rolling. Does this mean that if you want to write a love scene you should watch some porn first? I'm not sure!

Stay shiny people,

Monday, 24 November 2008

Current Projects

Hi readers. I thought I'd run through a few of my projects and ask your opinions on which you like the look of.

"A tale of oppression, revenge and survival...that just happens to be set in the future, with vampires."

This is a feature length screenplay set in futuristic London, where vampires are known to the world. We follow the story of Romen after his home is destroyed by a human mob. He is chased by a human General and must find way to live his life despite the persecution from the human world. It is currently in it's first draft.

Rain (working title)

This is a TV show I'm creating about a young man with special abilities, that roams a futuristic world, hunting the forces of darkness.

Verona (working title)

A feature length film about the crew of a spaceship who are captured by a Medical Cruiser that soon becomes the home for a race of savage aliens. Can they escape with their lives? I am currently writing the first draft.

Cage Fight (working title)

A short screenplay telling the story of an unusual man who is forced to fight in a cage.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Writing from experience

Everyone seems to say that you should write from experience. I've always thought that to be sound advice, but it's far from necessary right? Many great films can't be written from experience. Are you telling me George Lucas went up into space before he created Star Wars? Or that Joss Whedon hung out with vampires before making Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The short answer is no! You don't have to live something to write about it. But there is no substitute for experience right? The more you live, the more you learn and the more you have to write about.

Last night, I found myself in an interesting situation. I get the train from Sheffield (where I go to uni) to Doncaster (home) almost every day. It's usually fine...until the trains are cancelled because a tree falls onto the track! So we had to get a bus service. It was just hitting rush hour (or slow time as we now call it) so was going to take at least two hours to get there. We got on the bus at about 4pm and off we went. Alas I get travel sickness, so you can imagine how I felt at the back and top of a double decker bus. Didn't take long for me to feel unwell and it wasn't helped by some tit lighting up a fag right next to us. Basically, the guy was a complete tw*t!

Anyway, in the end, I had to get off the bus because I didn't think I'd last much longer on there. The driver told me I was in Mexbrough and directed me to the train station (I figured the trains might be back on - silly me). So I followed the directions, but couldn't find the station anywhere, then of course I couldn't find where I'd got off so I could either! After over half an hour of running round Mexbrough I decided to approach an elderly couple. It's pitch black at night and I have to approach old people. Great(!) I was half expecting to be beaten with walking sticks.

"Do you happen to know where Mexbrough train station is?" I asked.
"," they started. "But since you're in Conisbrough, we know where that one is."

So, apparently I had walked from Mexbrough to Consibrough, or (more likely) the bus driver didn't have a clue where he'd dropped me off. They gave me loads of directions and I set off. One of these directions was the "safe" route, which involved a field. All I can say is that if that was the safe route, the other route must have been through Hell of something! I came to the field that was on a really steep slope. And it was pitch black. Complete darkness. There was a path, but I didn't see it. I very carefully made my way through the field. I was about half way through when I hear.....wait for it......howling! That's right, that sound werewolves make in all the horror movies. Then I hear another and another. 'More than one werewolf' methinks.

Then my imagination went a bit wild. You know all those American cannibal movies - The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn, etc? Some people get given directions that is a 'shortcut'. Then the cannibals attack and everyone dies! Well I started thinking this was the Conisbrough equivalent. Some poor student asks a nice elderly couple for directions and they sacrifice him to the werewolves that prey in the dark field! Despite the thoughts of general fear and terror, I couldn't help thinking - 'this would make a good movie.'

I eventually found my way through the field and found the train station (mini-cheer please). I went under a shelter and saw two people. The first was a girl probably about 15 and the other was a very large hooded bloke. So, we can guess which one of them I felt safer standing next to.
So I wander over to the girl and do the standard 'this is a shit night' nod. It was freezing cold and we were both shivering, but Mr Hoody wasn't moving an inch. And he didn't for the next 10 minutes. We shall dub him Statue Demon. Anyway, the girl suddenly started whispering to me. She said that Statue Demon had been looking at her funny and asking her where she lived. She then asked me if I could wait with her until her dad picked her up. Doing the brave manly thing, I said "sure". It's not like I had anywhere else to go. But what the hell was I going to do about Statue Demon? The guy was huge!

A bit later, the girl got picked up, leaving me all alone with Statue Demon. I hadn't seen him move once the entire time. Not once! Then, 10 minutes later - without warning - Statue Demon stood up (standing at a nice 6'4" easily) and walked off into the night. Very strange!

So I was left all alone. Then I hear more barking and howling. AHH THE WEREWOLVES ARE BACK! I heard them for about 20 minutes, then realised they were behind a gate. It turns out the werewolves bore a striking resemblance to your standard dogs! Deceitful fiends!

Anyway, it was Dad to the rescue. He finally found Conisbrough train station and picked me up. YAY! All was well again!

So, that was my night. Needless to say it was an experience. I battled werewolves, old folk, Statue Demons and the cold. Go me!

I think that's what they mean by writing from experience. Prepare to see a script with those exact events coming soon!

Stay shiny folks,

Unlock your creativity

Below are a list of articles from They're pretty useful methinks -

Here's an interesting one about writing from your dreams -
Jen Frankel talks about weaving those creative threads -
So folks, what do we think - opinions?

Monday, 17 November 2008

Open with a bang!

Earlier today, I was thinking about movie openings and the impact they have on the film. You usually go to see a film at the cinema for 3 reasons -
  1. The trailer made you want to see it and/or you like the sound of the film.
  2. You want to see some of the actors, the director or writer etc
  3. You can't be bothered to do that essay, so the cinema is the best alternative

But if the opening of a movie doesn't grab you, you might walk out. I've only ever wanted to walk out of a movie three times (I never have). The first case was when I went to see Silent Hill. It was such a terrible thing and I didn't have a clue what was going on. The second incident was Pirates 3 - so long and boring - crap compared to the first two. The third movie was (the worst film I've seen in ages) The Mummy 3. It had nothing that made the first two great - the wit, the action, the adventure. This is clearly because Stephen Summers had nothing to do with the movie (he wrote and directed the first two). Anyway, away from the point.

When I'm watching a film on the TV, I have the 15 minute rule - if I'm not interested in the movie in the first 15 minutes, then it gets turned off! I'm sure that a lot of other people have this philosophy as well. So openings are pretty bloody important then.

A good opening should grab your attention from the off. All the screenwriting groups tell you that something major should happen in the first 10 pages. If you don't interest the reader of your screenplay (the movie execs) early on, they'll throw it away - they have a lot of screenplays to get through). Most of the experts say it should be the catalyst/trigger. The catalyst is the part of the movie that kicks everything off and sets the events in motion (Arnie and the gang heading to the jungle in Predator, the army guys attacking the school in X-Men 2, Peter Parker being bitten by that tiny spider in Spider-Man.) It's common sense really - you need to grab the audience's attention ASAP, so that they stick around. The same goes for prose fiction. I often pick up a book and licking through the first few pages. If I'm bored, I don't bother with it.
So the question becomes - How do you create an opening that grabs the audience by the throat and won't let go?

In an action film, this is fairly simple - open with some amazing action that (usually) introduces the main character. In horror or mystery/detective, have a brutal killing - most horror movies don't feature the protagonist in the opening, the show the killer. That's because the protagonist is the killer - no one cares about the girl who survives at the end, they care about the killer. (There are, of course, exceptions to this rule.) When you get out of the action-driven films however, things get more complicated (part of the reason I don't want to write them). How do you open a romantic comedy? I don't have a clue - I never watch them! I suppose you establish the characters, but how do you hook the audience? (Not a rhetorical question)

My other point about openings is that they should say something about the movie itself. In a sense, they should set the tone for the next two hours and possibly show the theme. If you think about the openings of certain movies, that seems to be a preferred method.

In X-Men, we open with Magneto at a Nazi concentration camp. He (and the rest of the Jews) are being persecuted. Persecution is the theme of the film - Magneto believes that one day will come when humanity will treat mutants the same way the Nazis treated the Jews. So it sets the tone and theme for the movie, while at the same time introducing the antagonist and showing the driving force behind his actions. It also features some good action. Three birds, one stone - clever eh?

In The Terminator, we see the future as it may one day become. This shows what is at stake throughout the film - setting the jeopardy and tone of the movie - 'This is gonna be one hell of a fight!'

The Matrix establishes one of our core characters (Trinity), showing her unusual strength and power, while at the same time showing the superior power of the antagonists - the Agents. And was I the only one (on first viewing of The Matrix) to assume that Trinity was one of the bad guys and that 'the nice friendly Feds' were the good guys? I'm not sure if that was intentional, but I suspect it was. Goes without saying of course, that it opens with action that establishes the tone for the movie. we see slo-mo, big jumps, shooting, martial arts and deception - everything that The Matrix is about.

So, I've rambled on for ages about openings and not really said much, I'm sure. But what I'm trying to say is that even if you have a killer movie, if your opening is crappy, then you've got little chance of getting it made, never mind watched! So discuss away gentle readers (sorry to steal from Jane Espenson) and think about how to write a great opening.

Comment on this post if you agree or (more likely) disagree with anything I've said. I far from know it all, so feel free to tear me to shreds!

Stay shiny

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Musical Inspiration

Hi readers, I thought I'd spend a few minutes talking about musical inspiration when it comes to writing. As I write this, I'm listening to 'One' by Metallica (which ironically was inspired by a movie). When I'm writing essays for uni, I have to have some music on. It's impossible to work in silence. The same applies to my writing. My routine is - get laptop out, stick some music on, write.

Generally, I listen to soundtracks, namely the Firefly - Greg Edmonson, Buffy - Christophe Beck or Angel - Robert Kral. I also like to listen to Immediate Music - they do loads of stuff for film trailers etc (I was introduced to them by my friend James - thanks!). I think soundtracks are a great source of inspiration when writing because they fit perfectly the scene they were written for. I sometimes even stick a track on repeat for the scene I'm writing. For example, If I'm writing a piece of action or epic battle, you can't go wrong with 'Epicon' by Immediate Music, or 'Final Fight' by Christophe Beck.
Similarly, for a soppy, sad scene, I'll put on 'Hero' (Kral), 'Slayer's Elegy' or 'Remembering Jenny' (Beck). And not forgetting 'The Funeral' (Edmonson).

If I'm writing no particular scene in general, I might put a few tracks on that fit the theme of my work. If my screenplay is about a poor old, unloved soul, then what better musical inspiration that any of the 'Unforgiven' songs by Metallica'?
So, what does everyone think? Am I the only person who listens to music while I write? What does everyone else listen to?
Shiny times,

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

What's in a name?

Hi readers (assuming there are any), I thought I'd spend a few minutes talking about character names. When writing, it's got to be one of the first things that you think about, right?

Most people probably don't think too much about names, and I don't know when I started, but I believe they're very important when it comes to the writing game. A name can say a lot about a character, literally in fact. Let's say you were watching a movie and you came across a character called Judas. No doubt you'll be thinking "Hmm...something fishy about this bloke. 50 quid says he's going to betray someone." Or there's a guy called Icarus. You'll probably be thinking "Gonna go flying are ya? Mind you don't go too close to the sun!" Or Oedipus.....I ain't touching that one! Similarly (and a little less on-the-nose), I've read a few Harry Potter books and the name Albus clearly means 'white', so it's only right that the guy has white hair. Even J.K.Rowling isn't cheap enough to directly rip off Lord of the Rings and call him Albus the White (sorry, just had to get a little dig in at Harry Potter there).

This isn't to say that giving characters names like this is a bad idea. It is interesting to give a character a name that makes people say "Oh, he's going to be this sort of person", then turn their expectations upside down. For example, if a character is called Achilles, everyone will expect him to be an expert fighter and possibly get an arrow in the foot. What you can do then, is make him the complete opposite - turn the audiences expectations around - make Achilles a weak guy who is killed in standard fashion (or maybe not even at all).

Away from the 'names have historical meanings' area, every name means something. The name Neil means 'champion' (something I'm rather proud of). When creating an character, I like to think of what sort of person they are before I name them. If I have an old wise character, I may call them Nestor or something similar. I may name a tyrannical lord Nero, or a strong character; Goliath, Ajax, Spartan or (god forbid) Stone. Get the idea? Names say a lot about someone. So when I come up with a character, I think of their dominant trait, then stick it in this particularly useful tool - Through this site, you can enter a character trait and see what comes up. For example - if you have a character who is a natural hunter, type 'hunter' into the thingy and see what you get.

I like obscure names for my characters; for some reason, ordinary names just don't excite me. I keep a little book of names that I like and to reveal a few, we have Valentine, Gideon, Priestman, Cesar, Kyra, Balder, Attalia, Merrick. These names aren't exactly common, but I feel they add depth to the characters. They become unique, even if the characters themselves aren't. So in a sense, dare I suggest that you can deceive the audience into thinking that your characters are purely original? Of course this ultimately won't work if your characters are blatantly crap, but what the hell!

The great Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly) seems to be a fan of obscure names. Buffy isn't exactly a name you come across often (not before the show, anyway). To me, it seems like a classic blond bimbo name. But alas Buffy is far from that, which is the point of the whole show. Then we have Gunn and surprise, he's a tough guy. If you hear the name Faith, you're probably comforted - she must be a nice person. But when Faith first came into BtVS, she was far from nice. In Firefly, we have a character called Book, and alas he carries the Bible around with him everywhere - coincidence? "Jayne is a girl's name", but Jayne in Firefly is far from a girl. He's about as manly as we get in a TV show. Of course, you couldn't talk about characters in the Whedon-verse without mentioning Spike - what a name! Anyway, enough about Joss.

Thanks for sticking around to get to this point of the post - you're doing well! What I've been trying to say (as you may have gathered) is that NAMES ARE IMPORTANT! My creative writing tutor Linda Lee Welch says so, so it must be true. Basically, take some time to think about the names you give your characters, then you'll know them better and write them better. Also, if you're stupidly bored one day, google character names from some of your favourite films or shows and see what comes up.

(PS - while I'm here, I'd like to direct everyone's attention to the right side of this site, where you'll see a collection of other blogs (very useful, better than mine) and screenwriting resources, including books and software.)

Stay shiny folks


Saturday, 1 November 2008

Extracts from my work

I thought I'd post some extracts from some of my screenplays. There's only a sample from a few feature scripts & TV pilots. They focus mainly on my strength - shiny action.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Contact me

Feel free to get in touch. Any feedback, networking, friendship etc welcome. I should say - there are several ways to contact me. The first (and probably most convenient) method is by this thing called "e-mail."
E-mail -
Now e-mail is for the people who like things easy. The more adventurous among you will no doubt thirst for something a little more challenging. I emplore you, then, to use facebook. This involves clicking the below link and sending me a message or (if you're feeling particularly adventurous) adding me as a friend. Go on, I dare you!
Facebook -
Last but not least, there is a third way to contact me. I should warn you in advance - this one is for the hardcore communicators! Seriously, only if you really need to get in touch should you even contemplate such a method. Still willing to give it a shot? Yes? You're sure? Ok....don't say I didn't warn you!
  1. Acquire a set of Nordic runes. To the uninformed these will strongly resemble pebbles.
  2. Take said runes/pebbles and hurl them as high as you can into the air.
  3. As fast as possible, think your message (yes, think - the gods need no words). Please note: it is very important that you think fast - for when the runes land, your message is over. Twitter - eat your heart out!
  4. Wait. For a very long time. The gods will eventually pass your message along, but they are very busy folk: slaying giants, fighting wars, triggering Ragnarok and whatnot.
When I receive your message, I'll be sure to reply. Probably by the above method, but possibly by picking up this thing called a "telephone".

I look forward to hearing from you!