Saturday, 21 February 2009


'The Turk'
Written by: John Wirth
Directed by: Paul Edwards

'He's just a geek with a hobby. But the computer chess program he developed may be the start of something ominous.'

This shiny episode of T:TSCC opens with three very big taboos - voice over, dream and flashback. The opening is kind of a mix of all three. In TV, this is allowed (more so than in film) but it's still best avoided. And to do something like this on episode 3 of your series, you're taking a big risk. There are a lot of people out there who hate these taboos. It has to be justified. And is it?

The opening flashback/dream addresses the theme of the episode and sets the tone. So we can tick the box headed 'the teaser should let us know what is in store'. It's a textbook device.

In this case, the theme is - 'is it justified to kill people in order to save others?' We are reminded of the creation of the A Bomb and how that has messed up our way of life - the threats it poses etc. But were the people who created it 'innocent'? Did they really know what they were doing? Sarah's thoughts foreshadow the direction this episode will take. In the dream, she shoots the creators of the A Bomb, showing she is prepared to do 'what's right'. But those men promptly turn into terminators. This shows how she's feeling. No matter what she does, she can't stop the terminators. Even if she kills the innocent people, the end will still come.

So the theme is set. And it's a very dark, 'make you think' kind of theme. As is the case in a lot of TV, this dark main plot is balanced with a lighter comedic subplot.

We see Cameron trying to adapt to her new life as a 'teenager'. As a terminator, this isn't easy, so there are various witty conflicts that add comedic value. On a more serious note, she is trying to fit in with everyone else. She doesn't understand her place and the situation isn't helped by John calling her a "freak" at every turn. This takes us to the realms of a machine's feelings - something that T:TSCC likes to discuss. Can we really feel for a character that we know has no feelings? It's a hard topic, but this episode does it well. On a similar note, there's hinting at a possible intimate relationship between John and Cameron. This is something that season 2 of the show (now airing on Virgin 1 every Thursday at 9pm) seems to have forgotten. I miss it.

Back to the main plot and we see Sarah with Miles Dyson's wife (from TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY). Anyone who knows the story will know that Miles died in the film trying to destroy the machines. But here they are again. This reinforces the theme of the episode - can you stop the machines at all. Despite Sarah's words "no one dies in vain", we can see she's feeling otherwise.

On another point, the season arc is developed through this episode. We see James Ellison pursuing a case that he believes is linked to Sarah. Despite the weirdness, he carries on, when other cops would dismiss it out of hand. This shows good character development - we realise that no matter what, Ellison is going to get to the bottom of things. Not unlike...

...Cromartie who is walking round in a terrifying get up that is a cross between a chav and a hockey player. Just like Ellison, he is fixed on his mission. He marches into a hospital in order to gather the supplies he needs to fit in (so he can pursue the Connor's). It's worth noting the theme of machines fitting in with the human world here. In an epic moment, Cromartie hurls some poor suspecting porter through a door and flattens a security guards face. He doesn't care about being subtle - he has a mission and he'll do it. Just like Ellison. It's a good character comparison.

Meanwhile, Sarah learns of a man who is a threat to the world. She should kill him, but wants to make sure. Cameron continues to learn about teenage life in the more lighthearted subplot that regularly cheers us up and takes us away from our own moral dilemma - should Sarah kill an innocent guy because there's a chance his action will be dangerous?

T:TSCC is primarily aimed at a teenage audience which is what makes Cameron's subplot so compelling. She is experiencing natural teen problems like how to fit in with everyone else at a new school. While the constant battle of robots - sorry; cybernetic organisms - may not be an issue teens deal with, fitting in is.

As Cromartie continues to get himself ready for the hunt, Sarah kids herself that she is in control of who lives and dies. All the time, we can see her realising that killing Andy would be the safest and most logical solution to the problem. But she is refusing to let herself see that.

In the final act, the comedic subplot takes a serious turn as a girl tries to commit suicide at school. John wants to do the hero thing and help her, but Cameron stops him. She talks about "not being a freak" and "fitting in". She has now learnt how to fit in - you don't draw attention to yourself. As a result, the girl commits suicide. So the question is posed - is fitting in the right thing to do? This is where the subplot ties in with the Sarah's story. The two become linked with a common theme - death for the greater good.

At the same time, Ellison's story becomes linked with Cromartie's. Both are pursuing their missions relentlessly and focused.

As the ending draws in, Sarah is left with the ultimate moral question - should she kill Andy? She knows he's a threat. She knows she should, but will she. No. Instead, she burns the house down, thus destroying the computer. But we all know - Sarah included - that she is merely attacking the symptom and not the disease.

We end on a voice over (as we started) as Cromartie is revealed to be fully repaired. He is now ready to continue his mission - kill John Connor. The scientist who helped him with this is killed and Sarah's words haunt the episode - "now we are all sons of bitches!"

Shew knows she should have killed Andy but didn't. She has her morals and (at the moment) will not cross them.

This is a fine example of TV writing. It uses a few taboo techniques but they are done well and therefore pay off. That's the key - only use taboo devices when you have to and only when they are done correctly. Don't abuse them and they won't abuse you.

Friday, 20 February 2009

TV Analysis

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be analysing some shiny TV episodes. I like to do this every now and then because I can no longer watch TV without analysing. So why not put it to good use? I'm going to attack some shows that I know very well. Episodes that I've seen a fair few times and already have an opinion on. So this stuff won't be 'up to date' but it's TV analysis nevertheless. Now to the DVD cabinet...

First we have BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. There seems to be an infinite amount of excellent television to choose from here, but some are better than others. I'll probably end up analysing various episodes that show different kinds of writing. Some that show good series development, character change, dialogue, action, twists, act-outs. All the usual stuff.

The same goes for ANGEL. Five years of television gold with so much variety to choose from. Comedy, action, happy times, sad times, very very dark times and pure silliness. Expect a few episodes from here.

FIREFLY - While there are only 14 episodes, we have some of the greatest material on TV. Probably only one episode from this gem, but trust me; if you didn't like FIREFLY before, you will after this.

Going back a few years, we have DARK ANGEL. I'm not going to pretend the writing is of a Whedon quality, but it has its moments. James Cameron fires out some killer episodes that are well worth looking at.

SUPERNATURAL is a show that's still on the go. Probably some of the best writing around today and brilliantly executed. I have one episode in mind - 40 minutes of some of the best TV ever - but I might use more.

Finally we have TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. This was a slow burner but again, has its moments. There are some great episodes and the thrill is seeing the timid John Connor grow through the series. I only have season 1 on DVD so I'll be choosing an episode from there and tearing it to shreds.

Along the way, I might come across a bad episode of TV, so I might as well explain that as well.

Needless to say that if you're intending to watch these shows, there will be spoilers, so I'd stay away. I'll say what season the episode is from though, so if you're only on season 2 of SUPERNATURAL, I don't advise you to read the analysis of a season 3 ep. You have been warned.

Hopefully it'll make interesting reading and if not, it'll at least help my own writing and hopefully some unsuspecting passers by. If you find something I've said that you disagree with, feel free to say so. All comments are welcome, no matter how critical.


Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Throw him in the bin

I've been trying to decide whether to write this post. After a long think (of about 5 minutes) I decided to go ahead. It may lead to somewhere bad, but we'll see. Hopefully no-one mentioned will be recognisable.

So let's say I was talking to someone you would expect to be well-versed in the screenwriting know-how. We'll call him Professor X (not to do with X-Men, just a name for name's sake).

So in a certain situation, Professor X is talking to some young folk about screenwriting. He gives a prime example of a treatment. I'm assuming we all know what a treatment is. But what does it look like? What should it contain? It's subjective right? It depends on the writer. The treatment is there to aid the writer in their process. Some writers need a 10-page treatment, some need a 3-page and some need nothing at all. So why then should one have to produce one? In the real world of screenwriting, the script is what matters.

What do you think about flashbacks? Professor X may like them. Professor X may think they are a valuable tool for screenwriting; which they are! But what Professor X may or may not know is that if a novice screenwriter hands in a script that has a little flashback or dream sequence at the beginning, Mr Producer will throw it in the bin. This is because the tool gets done so badly so often. So it's assumed that everyone does it badly.

Next we have the biggest taboo in my book - camera directions. If you put camera direction in your scripts (and are not told to, allowed to or going to direct said feature) STOP!

Think of it this way -

You're a director. Your whole job is about deciding where to put cameras and how to organise the film. You read a script that is littered with things like PAN ACROSS TO REVEAL and MOVE DOWN TO SEE or even ESTABLISHING SHOT. You're telling the director what to do. It's not your job! There are plenty of ways of hinting at what you want the director to do without insulting them and their art. Stick to your own job.

This sort of shit is in the basics of screenwriting. Pick up any book and you'll get told this. So why does someone not seem to know when they are in charge. One would expect them to yes?

Friday, 13 February 2009

Web shows

I came up with the idea of creating a web show the other day. It was after I'd watched the latest episode of Felicia Day's shiny comedy THE GUILD, that can be watched online here.

I love the idea of a web drama, because it seems there are no rules. Because it's only been about for a few years, there are no restrictions like there are on TV. No topic is off limits. This will change soon I'm sure so I'm trying to get in now.

The biggest problem with web shows seems to be the episode length. I like the idea of writing loads of 3 - 10 minute episodes, but it means you need to keep the viewer interested. You need to have an act-out every few minutes or so.

I got in touch with fellow writer Michelle and we're brain-storming some ideas. So far we have one that is standing out, but who knows? I'm sure that between us, we can hammer out something half decent.

Does anyone else know about web dramas and how to get them made?

Wish us luck!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Dialogue Peeve

So this is a little thing that annoys me. It happens mostly in TV drama.

A character (we'll call him Logan) will say something like: "I'm going to punch you in the face".

The other guy (Derek) will respond: "WHAT?!"

A perfectly natural response, but then comes the annoying bit. In response to the "what", Logan will simple say: "I'm going to punch you in the face"

And that's what annoys me. Don't just repeat the line. That's boring! Very very boring. Besides, the probable reason Derek said "what" is because he doesn't believe Logan. So ask yourself this; which is more shiny and convincing?

LOGAN: I'm going to punch you in the face.
DEREK: What?!
LOGAN: I'm going to punch you in the face.


LOGAN: I'm going to punch you in the face.
DEREK: What?!
LOGAN: I'm going to knock your teeth down your fucking throat!
DEREK: *Pisses his pants*

The second is clearly more exciting and powerful. It may seem obvious, but it's surprising how often I notice it happening. Only a few weeks ago I heard it in DEMONS. No-one wants to hear the same line repeated; they want to hear something bigger and better. It's something that really pisses me off when I'm watching a film or TV ep.

Think about it....

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Oscars

Don't forget to check out The Academy Awards or Oscars on 22nd February, to see who gets the top recognitions this year.

Thoughts on who should get what?

What was the shiniest film of 2008?

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Friday, 6 February 2009

MR - funding update

Hi folks. This is a funding update for the movie I co-wrote; MICHAEL'S RESIGNATION.

Our shiny target is £50,000 and we've so far raised £3851. Not a huge amount, but it's early days. We do need a lot more though, so I thought I'd just ask you to take a look at our site and maybe give me your opinion on the film. Maybe even decide to invest?

What we really need is for people to tell their friends. Maybe you can't invest, but you may know someone who has a rich father? You get the idea.

Any help or publicity you could give us would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, 4 February 2009


By sub-titles, I mean the extra bits on movie titles, not the things you read at the bottom of the screen.

Sub-titles most often appear in sequels; TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, UNDERWORLD EVOLUTION, FANTASTIC 4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER etc. They say something about the film. For example...

You've seen THE MATRIX, but now comes along THE MATRIX RELOADED. You think you've seen the Matrix? You ain't seen nothin' yet. This second installment is going to be twice as hard and action-packed as the last film. Make no mistake! That's the general message the sub-title gives.

Sub-titles can also be used to manipulate the viewer; they can force the audience into a state of mind. They can trick people into viewing the film from a particular angle or assuming that the film is better than the last. For example...

UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS tells you something. It tells you that while you may have sided with the vamps before, you'll like the Lycans in this one. The audience is forced with the predisposition of siding with the Lycans in the third installment. Trickery.

The sub-title for LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING is interesting. What's LORD OF THE RINGS about? Some little hobbits trying to destroy the Ring right? No. This movie wants you to focus on Aragorn. Think about it. Who is that film about really? What are they all about really?

Of course, some sub-titles just tell you more about the movie you're going to watch.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END tells you that we're going to the ends of the earth. You know what is going to happen.

STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH tells you that snotty little Anakin is about to take revenge and such.

X-MEN 3: THE LAST STAND tells you that the X-Men are taking...a last stand. While X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE tells you that there are (probably, depending on WOLVERINE'S success) going to be several films. And that this one is going to be about Wolverine.

So sub-titles are something to think about. In my humble opinion, I'd stay away from sub-titling feature films unless they're sequels. They make the title longer and more complicated. However, they also hint at a series - possible future money. Take TENACIOUS D AND THE PICK OF DESTINY. That suggests there will be more D films. Don't think there will be, but maybe we'll see TENACIOUS D AND THE DRUMSTICK OF JUSTICE or something. You never know.

Of course some shiny sequels don't have subtitles; SPIDER-MAN 2, BLADE 2, get the idea.

Have a think people and let me know what your opinion is on the matter.


Monday, 2 February 2009

MR on Myspace

You can now become a fan of MICHAEL'S RESIGNATION on Myspace. Chat to us here.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Writing Interviews

This is my back-catalogue of writing interviews. Most are with writers, but there are also some directors, actors and producers in the mix too. All contain some useful information about writing. Enjoy.....

  • Joss Whedon ('Buffy the Vampire Slayer') on serial television, character development, writing methods. Watch interview here.
  • Don Roos ('Marley & Me') on his unique writing method, which includes just an hour of work a day. Watch interview here.
  • David Goyer ('Blade', 'Batman Begins') on story development, film school and being approached for work. Watch interview here.
  • John August ('Big Fish', 'Go') on breaking story conventions, character development and rewrites. Watch interview here.
  • Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant ('Night at the Museum') on the collaborative process, character voice and comedy writing. Watch interview here.
  • Darren Aronofsky ('Requiem for a Dream', 'The Wrestler') on thinking of directors, actors etc when writing. Watch interview here.
  • Neil Marshall ('Dog Soldiers', 'The Descent') on the blending of genres and the practicality of on-location shooting. Watch interview here.
  • Paul Haggis ('Crash', 'Million Dollar Baby') on the fear of failing, inspiration and the difficulty of the 'next scene'. Watch interview here.
  • Blake Snyder (Save the Cat) on character progression and genre. Watch interview here.
  • Robert McKee (Story) on the importance of setting and the limitations of the worlds you create. Watch interview here.
  • Callie Khouri ('Thelma & Louise') on writing for demand, working from experience and what a good writer can do. Watch interview here.
  • Sheldon Turner ('The Longest Yard') on procrastination, alone time and the importance of theme. Also on why people who write good outlines write bad scripts! Watch interview here.
  • Ed Solomon ('Men In Black') on confidence, scene description and how to influence direction. Watch interview here.
  • Jim Uhls ('Fight Club') on outlines, character voices, adaptations and voiceover. Watch interview here.
  • Shauna Cross ('Whip It') on action vs emotion, the film business and it's importance, as well as tips for aspiring writers. Watch interview here.
  • Ed Burns ('The Wire') on 'Generation Kill', the number of characters, and war conflict. Watch interview here.
  • Michael Halperin ('Star Trek: TNG') on the importance of the second act and character development. Watch interview here.