Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Weekly Interview (2)

This week's interview comes from MakingOf, which is a brilliant site featuring hundreds of interviews with writers, directors, actors et al.

This is a talk with Don Roos (MARLEY & ME) where he talks about how to get work done. If you're struggling with getting that script finished, maybe Roos' method is right up your street. Strangely, it includes only an hour of work a day. Share your writing methods in the comments section. Enjoy.....

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Weekly Interview (1)

From now on, every week, I'm going to try and post an interview (either transcribed or on video) with a writer/producer/actor/director - any interview that can be remotely useful or interesting to us screenwriters.

The first interview is a segment from Jeffrey Berman's The Write Environment and is with TV master Joss Whedon. He needs no introduction, but for those who don't know, Berman does a mini-bio of his work. Enjoy!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Characters in Exile

I thought I'd go through all the characters in my story for Exile. If not just for my own benefit but for the weirdos out there who care too.

Roman's a depressed vampire living all alone in a dodgy London flat. Running from his dark past, he has a strong friendship with the local Butcher (who he gets blood from). He also has a possible love interest in Chloe, a woman across the street.

As his name would suggest, King thinks he is one! He'll do anything to annoy the vampire-hating society, including dressing like a 70s punk. He's a good friend of Roman and is the only one who knows about his past.

Roman's love interest, another vampire who saves his life in the heat of battle. A member of Logan's gang, she spends most of the movie uncovering Roman's past, healing his present and setting up his future.

Logan is a tough, take-no-shit guy who heads a gang of resistance vampires. When Roman comes in and puts the entire group in danger, things inevitably kick off.

Another member of the vampire gang; a young man who wants everything too fast. As the rest of the group give him less important jobs, he begins to feel insignificant which brings out his Judas side...

A military General hunting Roman across London with a band of mercenaries. For what reason? That's a secret...

The vampire-hating, human-loving priest who attaches himself to Curtis' band of mercs, desperately trying to ensure that no innocents are hurt.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

CBBC script

Been a bit quiet on here recently. The reason being my CBBC script.

I found out a lot of useful information at the Q&A last Monday but didn't intend to submit anything for the competition (none of the ideas I had were appropriate).

Nearly a week later, on Sunday night, I watched John Carpenter's VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. You know which I mean - the one where all the women are knocked out and knocked up then give birth to those blond alien, psychic kids who make everyone do things they don't want to (such as put their hands in boiling water or light themselves on fire).

Anyway, those kids are damn scary! After that, I watched the season finale of SUPERNATURAL (which was awesome by the way). I was expecting to see evil demon Lilith possessing that freaky kid, but alas, it wasn't to be.

That night, I couldn't get to sleep. Instead, I lay awake thinking of a show about a bunch of psychics. Then I thought they could have different powers. They could be kids. They could spend every episode saving their school from other (evil) psychic forces.

So I woke up on Monday morning and started making notes. I usually like to have an idea in my head for a bit before I jot anything down - give myself chance to ponder on who and what the story's about. But I didn't really have time if I wanted to submit it the CBBC competition (deadline is a week today)

So I took the page of scribblings I had and started to write the script. I spent most of the day writing the first two acts, then stopped for a break. I restarted at 11.30 and carried on until 1.30am (keeping myself going with a mixture of soft mints and smarties).

Yesterday was spent getting people to read through the script and redrafting. Today I fixed all the typos, plot holes and dialogue shittiness that comes with every early draft.

The script is done now. I still need to check (again) for typos and print it out. Then I'll bind it and post it off to CBBC tomorrow. I don't expect to win - there are plenty of better, more experienced writers entering. I'll be absolutely thrilled if I managed to get shortlisted in the top 20. Here's what's potentially up for grabs:
A shortlist of 15-20 writers will be invited to a masterclass in July 2009. The final 8-10 shortlisted writers will then be selected and spend an intensive residential week developing their work, improving their craft and pitching to CBBC in September/October 2009. The final shortlist will receive CBBC mentoring from the development team and a £300 bursary.
The shortlist will be announced on 10th July - which just happens to be the day after I get my uni results back for year 2. So it could be either a very bad week or an amazing one. Let's hope for the latter, yes?

Good luck to everyone else entering the competition and happy writing :)

Friday, 19 June 2009


This three-part war drama is definitely the best thing to come out of the BBC in recent years. Superb writing from Peter Bowker is what really drives it home. An incredibly powerful and original story, combined with Nick Murphy's clever yet subtle direction are a perfect combination.

Then there's the acting - perfectly executed. Great performances from James Nesbitt (as always) and Stephen Graham, as well as Warren Brown, who deserves a special mention for some particularly emotional scenes - his agent's phone is going to be ringing off the hook now!

The story seamlessly skips in time, often showing 'three months later' etc. When this happens so often in shows, people can become confused and lose connection with story and characters. In OCCUPATION however, this is not the case. Rather than throwing layers of exposition and lesser moments at the audience, the story remains fast-paced throughout. At no point do you feel cheated in what you see, as the audience is given the freedom to resolve certain story elements for themselves.

It's a must-see for everyone (war fan or not). Packed with great characterisation, strong storytelling and powerful emotion, OCCUPATION is a landmark in British television. Hopefully there will be many more dramas like it in the coming years (and if we're very lucky - one of them will be mine!)

Note: you can still catch this on BBC iplayer here.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

London & CBBC Q&A

As you'll know, I went to London yesterday to meet up with Michelle. We've been friends for about a year but only spoke yesterday - weird I know! Anyway, after getting up at 6am (to make the most of the day) I got on that tiring train to London. On the way, I saw some interesting people. At 8am, the three blokes at the table next to me broke out their first cans of Stella. Less than two hours later, they had consumed 10 between them.

I met up with Michelle and we faced navigating London. We may have gotten lost a few times but we made it. We also got a fair bit of exercise walking all over the place, including from King's Cross to Oxford Street - go us!

Before then, outside King's Cross, I saw a few police cars and ambulances. I also saw a cop getting kitted out in anti-stab gear and whatnot. Caught my interest to say the least. Then we saw about 4 police vans racing around, packed with fully-armoured cops. They seemed to be sectioning off an area outside King's Cross. Not a clue what it was about, so if anyone does, let me know.

Where was I?

So after getting lost a few times in London and walking for miles, we made our way to Sloane Square and chatted for a bit, while sitting by a pretty fountain thingy. There we saw this random bloke shouting insanely loud into his phone. Was quite funny. Another guy appeared at the fountain, took a handful of really dirty water and either drank it, or used it to do his hair (we didn't see). Either way - freak!

Then we met up with Katie inside the Royal Court Theatre, had a good natter about writing and went into the CBBC Q&A. This is the part where I'd go through what happened in there but other bloggers have beaten me to it. So I'll link you to Jason's post - he links to other people who have talked about it.

But they haven't covered everything. [Note: I put 'anything' here originally. Supposed to be 'everything'. A complete typo I assure you - no insult intended. Good links] So I'll just bullet point a few things that should help with children's writing and drama in general. They're not particularly organised, but some useful info here:
  • Steven Andrew (new head of CBBC drama) has the vision of making kids see the world in a different way. Write something that shows the world differently.
  • Never patronise the kids - they know when you're doing it.
  • On that note, be careful. There are some issues that are out of bounds and shouldn't be dealt with too much. Some things they're not looking for are; relationships (bf/gf) and sport.
  • They see kids' TV as having 5 genres: action/adventure, morality, fantasy/sci-fi, comedy, multi-cultural. They also seem interested in mental/psychological issues, but only if it's done right. Research before attempting! Know that schizophrenia is not Multiple Personality Disorder. Attack one of those areas. Do it well and - most importantly - differently!
  • Don't just write a drama about saving the world etc. Make sure things are grounded. Show the kids' real problems. Eg - they worry about exams etc.
  • In kids' drama, the kids need to do the main things - it's no good having an adult think of the thing that saves the day. A child needs to do that - it's their show.
  • Don't write the kids into every scene - they can't work all the time (for legal reasons). So have some scenes with just adults to even things out.
  • You can do stranger, weirder things with kids because that's what they like. Have some insane, bizarre events.
  • Go with the standard conflict & resolution process: someone needs to get somewhere. The car breaks down. Their friend gives them a lift. They get a flat tyre. He steals a skateboard. It breaks. He finds a bike..... you get the idea. One problem is solved and they're faced with another.
  • Be careful what you show kids doing. The BBC can't condone dangerous behaviour without consequence. If someone climbs a tree, they need to get hurt top show the kids at home it's dangerous. Similarly, if someone breaks the law, they need to get caught.
  • Remember the core of the story/show. In BUFFY, it was about her slaying vampires. The finale still had that. Your show should know what the purpose is and stick to that above all else.
  • Provoke a reaction to a character - make the audience care about a character and make them respond to their actions.
  • Action vs dialogue. Kids like action, not lots of talking. Don't tell when you can show. Anyway, kids can't remember pages of dialogue. They can, however, remember where to walk.
  • Have a small cast to save money.
  • Keep the perspective from the child. As soon as you're not telling the story from the child's POV, it becomes an adult drama.
Those are the majority of things I took away from the session. As I've said, check out other bloggers, especially Michelle, because she'll be posting more no doubt (probably tonight). Katie has also done a vlog about the night here.

After the CBBC session, we hung out in the bar at the theatre (where a lot of celebs go, including Matt Smith - the new Dr Who)

After a few drinks, we made our way to King's Cross. On the tube, we saw some females devouring a bottle of vodka and some beer. To be honest, they looked more like orcs than women!

After leaving Michelle and Katie, I got on my train and collapsed. I fell asleep, woke up, got off the train, got ripped off for a taxi and climbed into bed dead on midnight.

Looooog day. Worth it though - I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Happy writing folks.

Monday, 15 June 2009


As this post goes out, I'm in London (it's a scheduled post). I'm sure I'm having lots of fun with Michelle, taking pics of random buildings, visiting museums, book stores and - most importantly - talking about writing. Chances are we'll throw around tonnes of ideas for our projects while drinking one cup of coffee as the person behind the till glares at us for not ordering anything else even though we've been there for more than an hour!

At 5pm, we'll be heading to the CBBC Q&A which looks to be pretty awesome. Talking to Michelle yesterday, she encouraged me to think about submitting something for their half-hour drama thingy. I didn't think any of my ideas were anywhere near ready but I think I might try and speed out a script before the closing date.

Anyway, the purpose fo this post is to let everyone know that I'll be posting something tomorrow (or Wednesday) about the Q&A. For all you poor souls who couldn't make it to the session but wanted to, fear not - I'll be making frantic notes. I can make them insanely fast but only I can read them (it's a wonder to me why MI5 haven't offered me a job yet). So every single thing of use I get from the Q&A, I'll repost here. I'm sure the BBC will love that so to cover myself, there'll be no direct quotes - take that possible complainers!

If you live in London, you can probably get to events for 5pm (if you take some time off work) but how is everyone else supposed to get there on a Monday? I'm very surprised it isn't on a weekend to be honest. I'm only able to go because I've finshed uni until September and have next to nothing to do.

So because not everyone can make it and because some people are frantically working every hour the gods send so that later in life they can not work so they can write....I'll post all the useful information in my next blog post.

Happy writing people,


Sunday, 14 June 2009

Buffy vs Buffy


This is a great article about TV BUFFY vs movie BUFFY. With news that they might reboot the franchise with none of the original cast and no Whedon, we're all furious! Cassandra Evanas explains all here.
Five out of five times, the Buffy TV series annihilates the movie in terms of characters, fight sequences, and overall quality. Clearly, a Buffy without Whedon is no Buffy at all, and who wants to fork over ten dollars to see the poor man’s version? Given the choice, I think most fans would rather see their beloved vampire slayer rest in peace.
Amen to that!!!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Stack it up - Get Your Movie Made!

Danny Stack is probably one of the more well-known bloggers in the scriptwriting world. He's recognisable enough to feature on my university's blackboard page as the blogger to keep track of. So if you're not following him, go do that now - he has given invaluable information on screenwriting and over the years - tonnes of advice on the subject. And I mean tonnes!

As a way of saying thank you to Danny for his support, I decided to invest in his short film. You can donate as little as £5 if you wish. Donating more will get you 'thank to' credit and so on, all the way to 'Associate Producer' status. But for the £5, you receive something great - a booklet entitled 'Get Your Movie Made!'

It features the lists of 20 production companies in the UK that take feature film scripts. Not all of them accept unsolicited material (you have to wait for them to ask for your script) but in the booklet, Danny explains how to get round that. He also offers sound advice on how to approach the companies - who to talk to, what to say, how far to push etc.
Full contact details have been listed (where available), plus website info, key personnel, previous credits...
In the list, you'll find the people who produced SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 28 WEEKS LATER, ST TRINIAN'S and the HARRY POTTER films.

It really is an invaluable resource for any writer out there and easily worth the £5 needed to get it.

So I ask....nay, demand you to take a look and consider investing in Danny's short. Go now!!!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Action - this is how it's done

After my mini attack on the WOLVERINE movie yesterday, I thought I say that one aspect of the film was very good. The final action sequence between Logan, Victor and Weapon XI. Why is it so good? Well, that's down to British martial artist Scott Adkins who pulls off moves I didn't even know were possible, all without the use of wires. It helps that he looks a lot like Ryan Reynolds (who played Deadpool/Weapon XI).

Adkins has also shown off his taekwondo and MMA skills in the Jet Li movie UNLEASHED. He's also starred in THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM and THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL alongside Van Damme. Oh and HOLBY CITY as well(?)

Take a look at the work he did for WOLVERINE. Every time I watch this, I know he's going to be a huge martial arts star in just a few years. He's working in the US though, which says something about the state of British action films:

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Wolverine Violence

When I heard they were making a Wolverine movie, I was as excited as every other geek. They released posters and trailers - my excitement grew. Then they released the movie. A jumbled plot, ridiculous, unrealistic action, horrible unnecessary CGI and a general massacre of the Wolverine legend. Oh and criminal overlooking of Deadpool (not unlike the way they overlooked Colossus in X3)

One thing that really annoyed me was the degree of violence. Wolverine is a brutal killer in the comics and they had the chance to show the true Weapon X here. They did ok in the X-MEN films, but didn't go far.

They made WOLVERINE a 12A and as a result, people get shot and don't bleed, metal claws appear from hands.....no blood. The list goes on.

What they should have done is made the WOLVERINE movie an 18 and made it how it should have been. Of course if they had done that, fewer people could have seen it and it would have made less money for Mr Jackman. Coincidence?

Had they done the movie how so many fans suggest, they would probably have produced something like this - X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Official game:

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Exile Fortnight - day 2

For those of you who don't know what EXILE FORTNIGHT is, you can read up here. Basically, it's my battle plan for writing EXILE - the script I'll be submitting for uni next year. By Saturday 13th, I plan to have the treatment written (working from my crappy first draft script), then by the following Saturday, I hope to have the second draft of the script.

As things stand, I've written 3 pages of the treatment and am about to start Act II. I'm on target and thinking the final treatment will probably level out at about 15-20 pages.

This is the opening to the treatment:
'Exile' is a feature film set in a futuristic London, revolving around a vampire named Roman and his desperate fight for survival. In a world where his kind are hunted down and slaughtered, Roman is pursued by a military general hell-bent on revenge for an unknown crime. Roman runs for his life, but deep down, he knows he must face his past if he is to ever find any peace in his life.
More updates coming later in the week.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Exile Fortnight - two week battle plan

For those of you who don't know, I'm at uni studying English. I'm entering my final year in September which means one thing for any student out there - dissertation time! [insert dramatic music here] However, I'm not doing a 10,000 word essay on Shakespeare, or Gothic tales, or the change in the representation of women in literature from 1700 to 1900. Instead, I'm attacking a creative writing portfolio.

I'm going to submit the first screenplay I ever wrote - EXILE. I wrote the first draft a year ago (give or take a month). And it is shite! Nevertheless, I love the concept and the story I got from it. I think it's my strongest idea to date and while it may not be original, the message I sent at the end of the script is a powerful one: one of hope, which diverts away from my norm. Make no mistake though, it's good and violent.
Exile is a story of oppression, survival and revenge...that just happens to be set in the future, with vampires.
Over the next two weeks, I'm intending to make some serious progress on the idea and have a decent draft to show my tutor, Linda. She's the one who got me into screenwriting in the first place (by handing out two pages of The Screenwriter's Bible - David Trottier). So it's rather fitting that I've got her as my tutor again. Actually, I requested her. She's primarily a novelist, but what Linda doesn't know about story development and character conflict isn't worth knowing! My idea is in safe hands.

At the moment, the idea is in one form - a terribly basic, forced, expo-filled, dull screenplay. From this, I've got to beat out a decent story and write a killer script. Hopefully this will get me a decent mark at uni (my last piece for uni is tipped to get a confident 1st) but as with every script, the idea is to sell it and write a story worth telling. This is my white-board of ideas I threw around at the weekend. It's filled with little things like: "More action when they visit the supermarket" and "Develop Asha more. Not just a love interest - she has a story to tell."

Below is my battle plan for the next two weeks as I work on my all-time fav idea. I've dubbed these two weeks 'EXILE FORTNIGHT'
  • Mon 8th - Sat 13th -- Treatment (15+ pages)
  • Sun 14th -- Relax and dwell on ideas
  • Mon 15th -- Spend the day in London, hanging out with Michelle and attending the CBBC Q&A
  • Tues 16th - Sat 20th -- Write second draft of script
  • Sun 21st -- Collapse and/or die
So, not a lot to do there then. If I keep to that schedule, I'll be happy. Two weeks to get something good enough to show my tutor isn't bad. The whole project isn't due in until May next year so I have time to work on dozens of drafts and beat out a pretty decent story.

Of course, I'll no doubt be blogging left, right and centre. Moaning about how I want to give it all up one day, then shouting about how well everything is going the next. Thus is the way of the writer.

Happy writing fellow scribes!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

6th June - Take a minute

It's 6th June. 65 years ago, tens of thousands of British, American and Canadian men stormed the beaches of Normandy. The Americans handled two of the big guns - Omaha and Utah. The Brits took care of Shield and Gold, while the Canadians took Juno beach.

Approximately 150,000 Allied troops assaulted Normandy that day, by sea and air, facing more than double that number in Nazi Germans. The Allies lost more than 10,000 men that day alone. Working with the French Resistance, the survivors marched on, beating back the Nazis until they had liberated France. Along the way, they worked with Poland forces, Greeks, Norwegians, Belgians and Czechs.

This mission was part of Operation Overlord and is one of the largest Naval assaults in history. The attack was initially set to take place on June 5th, but due to weather conditions, it was put back a day. The Airborne would never have been able to drop behind enemy lines had they not.

The beaches were heavily armed with anti-aircraft weaponry. The planes took evasive action and as a result, there were mis-drops everywhere. Nevertheless, the Airborne sabotaged enemy communications and power and linked up with ground troops in France.

65 years on, there is a huge celebration taking place in France to recognise the sacrifice made by the Allied forces.

Take a minute and spare a thought for those brave men who sat in those planes and boats, preparing to fight for our freedom.

June 6th 1944 - D-Day.

As Churchill said - "we shall fight on the beaches"

Friday, 5 June 2009

Avengers Assemble - Thor, Cap, Hulk, Ant Man

On the Live for Films blog, there's a very interesting interview with Marvel Master Kevin Feige. He chats about the AVENGERS movie and who we might see in there; specifically commenting on how THOR will be done. If you're a huge comic book geek like me, you'll go slightly hyper while reading.

They seem to know what they're doing and the film has the potential to be the biggest and best superhero movie of all time. It's guaranteed to play heavily on the Ultimates comic series. Is it a coincidence that in that series, Nick Fury looks just like Samuel L Jackson and they even say that he would play Fury in a movie of their lives......and....guess who's playing Fury (as we saw in IRON MAN) - Sam Jackson. Make no mistake, I'm confident Marvel have been planning this movie for a long long time - a good 10 years. That's why it's going to be huge.

At the very least, it looks like we're going to get Robert Downey Jr, Sam Jackson and Ed Norton in the same film so that'll help matters. But what do you think about the possibility of Will Smith playing Cap? Here's a segment of the interview:

I think it's going to be very much a Marvel superhero movie, but I think to the movie audience it's going to expand that definition more and more. Again, we've got a forty four year old guy who's going to be a superhero in a movie and he puts on an armored suit. That didn't necessarily mean superhero to people. In that same way, I think, someone who's got superpowers coming to Earth and dealing with other character from his realm will come off very much as a big ass superhero movie. But it's going to expand that definition, I hope, in a way.


Our movies aren't about saving the world. Iron Man doesn't save the world. Hulk doesn't save the world. Captain America, a little bit. But it's not about these comic bookey “I will save the world” things. The Avengers is about saving the world because there's no other reason for characters that powerful to band together. So I think the scope and the scale will feel like a much bigger thing. So whatever you had seen - whether Starscream was your favorite character or Megatron is your favorite character or Soundwave is your favorite character - you're going to see the experience of that epic thing together. I think it'll be the same thing. Clearly I hope it'll all work. I hope that people will, like they've done with the comics for years and years, argue about who their favorite is and who would win in a fight and all of that fun stuff.


It'll be big. It'll be something that no single hero can handle.

Full article

Screenwriting Goldmine

Most writers will be aware of The Screenwriting Goldmine by Phil Gladwin. You can visit the site, the blog and sign up for regular (priceless) updates on all things screenwriting. You can follow Phil on twitter and I strongly urge you to sign up to the site updates. Here's a segment from the latest email - 'How to Think About Writing Period Drama'

More importantly, as a writer were you influenced by what you read during your research? Not so much the history books, but more the contemporaneous writing: diaries, letters, newspapers, official records and reports? Did you consider how language and the written word were being used at the time you were researching?

Another question. How much of what you learn about something today is actually just from the words used? And how much of it is conveyed by visual or aural imagery?

The way we perceive and understand events and what makes the news in the world is heavily dominated by the images we see on a screen - rolling TV news channels, website graphics, YouTube or clips taking on hand cams or mobile phones.


You are not the director or an actor; you can't submit your screenplay to Hollywood as a video or recording of a reading (well not yet). Instead, you have to be as persuasive as you can on the page using only Courier 12pt to convey what it is that you want the audience to see - and the script readers and producers to imagine.

So here's a thought: if you have great visual ideas, but find it difficult to marshal the thoughts in your head into words on paper: take a look at writing from an age when television, or sound recording, or moving images didn't exist.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Mass clearout for writing

I've spent the last 2 days clearing out my room, doing the usual spring cleaning thing. I'm notoriously untidy and this proves it - I found papers lying on my floor from year 1, semester 1 of uni; I start year 3 in September! I wish I'd taken before and after shots because now my room is all tidy-like. However...

...it won't stay that way.

I'm just not a tidy person. People don't usually understand it, but I know where things are. I'll dump things in a pile and when I need it, I know exactly where it is. Granted, it might take me a while to sort through the pile, but I'll find it.

My room usually lasts a couple of weeks before becoming a tip again. We'll see how long it takes this time.....

In the clearout, I had to reorganise my bookcases. What with being an English student and all, I've got to buy a fair few books. At the moment, both bookcases are full and there are two boxes next to them with some more boring books I've had to read for uni.

It all looks very neat but as soon as I buy more books in a few weeks, it'll all need redoing.

One shelf is dedicated writing books. And they are protected by Wesley: Guardian of the Books. If anyone tries to steal one of my writing books, they are well and truly buggered! He may be a small fella but he packs a punch! You've been warned!

Anyway, now the clearout's done, I can slowly recover and get back to some writing. I've just about worked out how to use twitter so there's not too much distracting me.

And because it's such a warm, sunny day, smile as you listen to Satriani's Summer Song:

Monday, 1 June 2009

If in doubt, blame a woman

I finally gave in, after saying for ages I never would. I've joined twitter. You can blame Michelle for this - it's all her fault!

Anyway, I have no friends or buddies or whatever the hell you have on twitter so please follow me (I think that's right).

Let me know your twittery things and I'll follow you too. Actually, I think I'll call it stalking - following just seems to be hiding something. Let's be open about this!