Monday, November 16, 2009
Edward Woodward, star of The Wicker Man, Callan, The Equalizer and Common as Muck, to name but a few, has died at the age of 79.
I feel terribly sad at the loss of someone who has been a screen presence throughout my life, and has left such a fantastic body of work behind them.
Edgar Wright on Edward Woodward
The weekend went well. I failed to complete the first draft of The Preservationists but will do so in the next few days. The reason for non-completion? Mainly that weekends are perhaps not the best time to lock yourself away in your writey den. I knew that certain jobs would need doing, and that was fine, but Sunday afternoon became a casualty of necessary maintenance on the garden, and whilst it's true that I could have stayed up and worked into the small hours I was happy enough that I can finish it this week not to bother.
Friday saw 13 pages written, a respectable start.
Saturday was another 13 page day.
Sunday saw only five pages written.
So that's about 31 pages written of a likely 60.
I'm out laughing at Eddie Izzard on Tuesday night so I'm unlikely to get any work done then but the rest of the week looks good. If I were a betting man I'd bet on wrapping on Wednesday night.
I'll keep you posted.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Medium - You know, it's funny. I was always aware of Medium. I knew it existed. I knew it starred the lovely Patricia Arquette. Somehow I never bothered watching it though. I think I may have made some assumptions about the nature of the format and/or the quality of the show, based on what I don't know. Anyway the twittering of Mr and Mrs James Moran inspired me to take a look at the first episode. The first episode inspired me to watch the second episode. The second episode - well you get the idea. Medium is excellent and I'm happy to tell you why... The relationship between the main characters is totally believable, they are very real, rounded, flawed characters. Patricia Arquette and Jake Weber portray a couple who don't always see eye to eye but love each other deeply, and usually find a compromise together. There is a variety in the stories that I didn't expect. Most of all though I enjoy the interaction between the characters, and those unexpected shocks they slip in sometimes. It's a great series and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Come back soon for more stuff what I've been watching!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Hello and welcome to a new update on my blog.
Despite the acceleration of 2009 (I suspect we may have skipped September altogether) the year continues to go well. I am almost completely treatmented up and ready to write the first draft of my new script. It's intended as a pilot and has the working title of "The Preservationists", in fact I like that title so much it may stick. I've booked Friday off and my intention is to write like a bastard for three days before collapsing onto the sofa on Sunday night with a glass of wine to have my pants scared off by The Waters of Mars. If all goes well this project will be the long awaited (by no one in particular apart from me) follow up to BBC writersroom's request to see my next work.
"So how come you're so enthusiastic about your work again?" You're probably not asking. I'm glad you asked. It's because there's something I haven't told you, dear reader. A couple of months ago I left my employer of some ten years for a job that allows me more flexibility, a shorter commute, and some hope of having the energy to work when I come home of an evening. I was sad to leave the old firm, they've been good to me and I will always be fond of them, but there are changes on the way and it was a prudent move. Happily my new job has been a terrific success. I'm home much earlier in the evening and writing most evenings.
I'm feeling positive about the future for a lot of reasons, but particularly because I've worked on my writing more, and harder, for the last few months than for a long time. There have been a lot of changes over the last couple of years; leaving Cardiff, Emma becoming a teacher, buying a house, and so on. My change in jobs feels like the last piece slotting into place. Finally I can commit all my energies to making it as a screenwriter.
As long as nothing else comes along and demands all my attention...
Saturday, October 17, 2009
This is a Dyson.
One of these is useful for getting the dust, dead skin cells and bits of chilli heatwave doritos out from between your laptop keys. One is not.
Use the wrong one and your laptop will end up looking like this;
Although to be honest there isn't really any point going through the tightly wound knots of dust, human hair and spiders-which-fell-prey-to-your-wife looking for the 'k' key as the retainer will be lost forever. And the sellotape look is so not chic. Save yourself the trouble and buy one of these;
Better yet, don't use a dyson to hoover your laptop keyboard.
Monday, September 28, 2009
I've been working on one feature script all year, in between changing jobs and other scary/exciting real life stuff, so it feels good to put that aside and work on something new. One skill I seem to totally lack is the ability to juggle numerous projects at the same time. I have to crack that. The revised target for this year is to hit January with three new specs, feels like I'm on course for the first time in ages. Very exciting.
There seems to have been some grumbling recently from writers who want to get into TV but don't want to write for Doctors, or Casualty or the soaps. There's nothing wrong with those shows you know. Chances are, unless you're incredibly fortunate, you'll have to write for something along those lines before anyone decides to film your magnificent octopus so don't get too precious. No one is too good for Casualty or the serial dramas, and those shows are going to look pretty damn good on your cv. Here are some gob-smackingly excellent writers who started out on these shows;
Tony Warren (Corrie)
Jack Rosenthall (Corrie)
Paul Abbott (Corrie)
Frank Cottrell Boyce (Corrie)
Paul Cornell (Corrie, Casualty)
Matt Jones (Corrie)
Gerry Davis (Corrie)
Barbara Machin (Emmerdale Farm)
Tony McHale (Eastenders)
Catherine Tregenna (Eastenders, Casualty)
Ashley Pharoah (Casualty)
Keith Temple (Casualty)
And some fella called Tony Jordan (Boon, Eldorado, Minder, Eastenders).
If it was good enough for them (and many more) then it's well good enough for me.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Watching The Blair Witch Project and The Haunting in the same week has highlighted to me that the two films, though very different in execution, use the same techniques to render the viewer terrified.
In neither film do you ever see anything truly supernatural or horrific. The tension and scares come from hearing the history of Hill House, or the urban myths of Burkittsville as locals recall stories concerning the history of the town.
Even when the forces of evil strike you still see nothing. The presence of evil is demonstrated purely through the terrifying sound effects and reactions of the cast, building on what you have learned from the films characters.
So sometimes it does pay to tell, not show.
Friday, September 25, 2009
It's a web series called Girl Number 9 which will be available internationally from here at 9pm GMT on October 30th.
The press release says...
Sounds exciting, n'est pas? There is a Facebook page and if you're on Twitter (aren't we all?) you can follow the characters right up until the first episode becomes available. How modern!
Those Twitter links are...
Girl Number 9
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Mighty Adrian Mead has filmed a series of awesome free podcasts for The Scottish Book Trust about building a career as a professional screenwriter. The intro to the series is now available here.
If you get something out of the podcasts why not download Adrian's excellent book, Making It As A Screenwriter. All money from the book goes to the UK charity Childline. I've recommended it before, as have many others.
That is all.
Friday, September 04, 2009
The series is about this chap in the year 2030 telling his children how he met their mother. Each episode is a flashback to his youth and a particular incident in his ongoing (up to four seasons now) saga of romance and friendship. Here are three of the reasons why I love How I Met Your Mother...
- It never tells stories in chronological order. There is always at least some jumping back and forth in time. A bit like Coupling used to do.
- The scripts are funny and clever, and touching without making you puke.
- Legendary womaniser Barney Stinson may well be one of the funniest characters on television. Not for nothing does NPH keep getting nominated for Emmys. Check out Barney's Blog.
E4 will be showing How I Met Your Mother every weekday at 7.30pm (a little early if you ask me) so it may be one for your PVR to collect.
Now SUIT UP!
The Official CBS site (Beware SPOILERS!)
Friday, August 21, 2009
Go now, and learn why badgers don't dance. Then join the facebook group to get further updates. Then tell all your friends to watch the trailer too. Splendid.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Here is the man himself selecting his twenty favourite films released since he became a director. It's great to see him still as enthusiastic about films as he was way back when he made Reservoir Dogs.
Inglourious Basterds official site
The Quentin Tarantino Archives
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Had a bit of a John Carpenter retrospective, re-watching They Live and Assault on Precinct 13 and (incredibly) watching The Fog for the first time. Followed those up with some New York films, The Warriors and the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three. The Warriors is so stylish, so exciting, just a great film. Pelham One Two Three blew us away though. The characters were so real, and so quickly established. I loved that everyone looked like real people, no beautiful Hollywood faces. Why don't films look like that any more? And that ending! They're running trailers for the remake on TV that make me want to weep!
Finished the third draft of The Quiet Night Inn on Monday night (Tuesday morning) so that's good. Quite a lot of little changes made and a lot of pages cut. Course now I've had a brilliant idea which involves a massive change to the script so draft four starts as soon as I get my strength back.
Unfortunately returning to work after two weeks off is taking it's toll at the moment. I'm a zombie by five pm every day. Not in a cool way though. There's also some quite major real life stuff going on which I'll be able to mention soon. It's not directly related to my writing but will have a big impact on it, in a positive way I mean! More news soon.
Feeling very motivated at the moment, probably due to a combination of watching loads of films, revisiting James Moran's blog from the very beginning, and just being excited about what I'm working on again. Nice.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Saw The Children a couple of weeks ago and thought it was absolutely stunning; atmospheric, creepy and not at all afraid to deliver on it's promises. Written and directed by Tom Shankland, The Children is about two families spending Christmas together who find their children begin to behave oddly.The cast are uniformly excellent (even the children) but special mention to Hannah Tointon as the rebellious teenaged daughter who is the first to see something is afoot. Tense and genuinely scary, The Children is the best new horror film I've seen for some years.
Eat My Brains
Speaking of awesome horror films...
Eat My Brains
Thursday, July 23, 2009
So where the fuck did Children of Earth come from?! There was I all ready for five nights of gallivanting and rude jokes. What do I get instead? Probably the most impressive and affecting drama event British television has seen for decades. Make no mistake this was landmark event sf happening on six million screens every night for a week. I don't know if I'm happier about the TW production team beating the shit out of Britain with such a hard hitting and devastating story or with the British public for sticking with it all week (it's ratings were not only excellent but consistent!).
Of course then the Torchwood 'fans' had to go and leave a nasty taste in every one's mouth by having a pop at TV's James Moran, hardest working screenwriting blogger in the world. Apparently they have an issue with something that happened in the story. Twats. I didn't like it when Apollo Creed died in Rocky IV but I didn't get in Stallone's face about it. Grow up. James Moran appears to have been a victim of his own availability, and the result is that we regular readers of his blog are the one's who will now miss out while the Woodies all piss off to argue amongst themselves or burn RTD in effigy. Arseholes.
If you haven't seen any of Getting On (Wednesdays, BBC4) it's well worth checking it out on the I-player. It's a very, very funny sitcom written by and starring Jo Brand, Joanna Scanlon and Vicki Pepperdine and directed by Peter Capaldi. The BBC describe it as a "darkly comic drama series about life on an NHS geriatric ward", which is accurate.
Last recommendation for today is Chuck (Mondays, Virgin 1). This is a great series about a young chap who works in the equivalent to a Curry's store and finds himself drawn into the world of international spies. It's great fun watching Chuck balance the demands of the NSA and CIA against those of his employers and his big sister. It also benefits from co-starring Adam Baldwin of Firefly fame who is hilarious as a hard-as-nails NSA hitman posing as a shop assistant. Check it out.
There are a lot of films missing at the moment as the site is still pretty new. In particular non US films are currently under represented (which explains why Hell Drivers in uncharacteristically absent from my favourites).
You're also able to look at charts reflecting the choices of all flickchart users. You can view the best films of all time, or even select genre's, directors, decades etc.
I recommend you check it out, better clear an hour or so though as it's fiendishly addictive! More than the charts, or the rankings, I just love being presented with films that I'd forgotten existed (for example Megaforce or Sssssss).
Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Fawlty Towers Reopened
Last weekend there was a terrific new documentary about Fawlty Towers on (what used to be called) UK Gold. Knowing cable I'm sure there will be opportunities to catch this again if you missed it. It's well worth keeping an eye out as there were a lot of insights into the genesis of the programme, and how John Cleese and Connie Booth wrote it.
Says (not) UK Gold...
To help celebrate its 30th anniversary, G.O.L.D. is throwing open the doors of TV's most famous hotel once more after a lengthy absence.
New and exclusive, Fawlty Towers: Re-opened gathers cast and crew together to retrace the history of the sitcom from a rarely seen insider point of view. The one-off special leaves no English Riviera stone unturned in its search for trivia and nuggets of information from the Fawlty Towers guestbook, together with in-depth interviews with John Cleese, Andrew Sachs and Prunella Scales, as well as Connie Booth talking about her memories from the show for the first time in 30 years. Just don't mention the war.
Meanwhile, on ITV3...
There's a series called Beyond a Joke looking at how the British sitcom has reflected society over the years, with insights from the writers and actors (plus some irrelevant pundits). You can catch up on this with ITV's catch up telly widget here.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Here's some more info straight from the man himself...
Breaking into the film and TV industry
How are you going to get your break and advance your career as a screenwriter or filmmaker in the midst of an economic downturn?
The idea for a day about career building came from a spate of calls I've had recently from new writers and filmmakers who were ready to give up trying to build a career. Despite gaining qualifications, reading numerous websites and sending out scripts nothing had changed for them.
My answer was simple and brutal, "If you haven't achieved what you want yet, then you aren't really putting all that knowledge into action. Knowing isn't doing."
Think back to January. You were all fired up about breaking into the film and TV industry, "This has to be the year when I make it happen!"
So, how has it gone? What have you achieved so far? Be honest, didn't you make that same speech last January, maybe even the year before that? So why are you trapped in your own version of Groundhog Day?
In order to find the answer you first need to recognize a huge and fundamental truth.
Knowing isn't doing
Knowledge doesn't change things. Action does.
Already some of you will have been lining up your excuses, "The film and TV industry has changed massively in the last six months. I don't know where to start now. I mean, what's the point in trying to break into an industry besieged by cancellations and budget cuts?"
In fact you couldn't be more wrong. This is a great time to be a new writer or filmmaker trying to get your break. Seriously. If you know where to look there are numerous new opportunities available to you because of the economic downturn. Yet most of you will miss them as you continue employing a half-hearted, outdated and now redundant approach to advancing your career.
Take action and join me at THE SCREENWRITER'S CAREER GUIDE to discover what you need to do in order to break into the film and TV industry today.
This will be a day jam packed with the very latest career building opportunities for screenwriters and filmmakers. No screenwriting theory, just a clear guide to the shape of the Film and TV industry as it is now and how it is likely to develop.
The once standard approach you used even three months ago is now redundant. Everything has changed. You need to do the same or get left behind. These are exciting times filled with opportunities for new writers and filmmakers who know where to look and are ready to adapt and collaborate. THE SCREENWRITER'S CAREER GUIDE will teach you how to take action that will build contacts, find money and build a career.
THE SCREENWRITER'S CAREER GUIDE will be presented by Adrian Mead. If you have attended one of Adrian’s classes before you know to expect the most up to date information from a working professional.
We work hard at creating a fun and friendly atmosphere and this will be an excellent opportunity to forge links with fellow creatives and extend your network of contacts. This event is sure to sell out early and here's what participants of Adrian’s previous classes have said -
I found the course absolutely invaluable. Adrian avoided the well trodden ground of screenwriting theory and instead concentrated on how to actually get finished manuscripts into the hands of producers and agents.
Adrian delivered the lab in a charismatic and professional manner. Giving clarity and focus to the sometime daunting task of making it as a writer.
The course was amazing. I gained a real insight into the industry and now feel enthused to pursue my goals with vigour and boldness!
When and Where
The next course will be held on 4 July 2009 at a central London location.
The course fee is £ 70 + VAT (EARLY BIRD UNTIL 15 MAY). The fee includes all materials and light refreshments.
To book go to http://www.initialize-films.co.uk/ and check out THE SCREENWRITER'S CAREER GUIDE.
You can view testimonials for Adrian's sell out classes and acclaimed e-book MAKING IT AS A SCREENWRITER at http://www.meadkerr.com/
In the confusing forest of screenwriting books here is a sturdy oak: simple, honest and true. Highly recommended.
Screenwriter and Producer
Co Creator of Life On Mars, Ashes To Ashes
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Tonight's South Bank Show is on William Goldman, screenwriter extraordinary and author of Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell? (amongst others).
When you see tonight's programme is about the screenwriter William Goldman, you may wonder if he has a film coming out. He hasn't. This is a free-standing, plug-free South Bank Show that simply revels in Goldman's insights (he's famous for saying that in Hollywood, "Nobody knows anything") and allows him to cast an eye back over a career that includes Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man and Misery. It's a joy to watch some of his great scenes - the knife-fight challenge in Butch Cassidy, the hobbling scene in Misery - and hear Goldman's comments, as well as contributions from screenplay guru Robert McKee and Hugh Grant. We hear how Steve McQueen nearly played Sundance, but his agent and Paul Newman's couldn't agree on who would get top billing. And we get Goldman's perspective on directing ("the brutal labour of it") and stars ("very frightened people"). But strangely, neither he nor Melvyn Bragg ever mentions The Princess Bride.
I guess it'll be on the ITV eyeviewer type thingy after the fact. Personally I'm gonna tell my swanky V+ box to record it because I'm sooo high tech.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Caught this at the Electric on Friday and was very pleased with it. I heartily recommend the film, and no prior knowledge of The Thick of It is required.
I think this is half way through it's run now but as I always seem to promote Charlie Brooker's television exploits why break the habit now? Here he uses his razor sharp wit to cut right through the media flim-flam and get at the guts of how the News works. If you haven't been watching you can catch up here, for now at least...
They're back, and they're making some brave changes to the set up. I'm a big fan of the show and series three continues to deliver. If you like Saturday night family drama then check it out.
Law & Order: UK
This has been fantastic, and has lost none of the pace or tone of the original in the transatlantic shift. I think we're in a mid-series break at the moment but you can see previous episodes here. Episode seven from the sixth of April has been the best of the bunch so far. I understand they made thirteen episodes for series one so hopefully it will be back soon. It can be strong stuff though, so be warned.
Waiting for Godot
My favourite Beckett, well it's everyone's favourite I suppose. Caught this in Malvern in March and was a bit blown away. The production hits London April 30th, you could do far worse than get yourself a ticket.
I finally got around to buying Adrian Mead's Making It As A Screenwriter last month. Embarrassingly I hadn't bought it because I no longer have a paypal account (don't like or trust paypal after nearly getting badly burned a few years ago). I decided to open a new account just to get the book only to discover you didn't actually need one. D'oh!
Anyway if you haven't got it (and I'm pretty sure you have) then you really ought to snap it up. It's a bargain at £7.79 and the dosh goes to Childline.
I used to buy a lot of books about screenwriting but stopped because they all had more or less the same amount of useful advice in them. Also most were written by people whose names you never see on a screen, large or small, which says something, eh?
Mead's book is different. It's relevant, filled with example documents and clear, simple advice, it's witty and motivational. If you're serious about screenwriting this is the tool you need most urgently, click here to buy it.
I've been having a go on Trigger Street at last. Response to my script has been encouraging, and there has been some very useful notes. Towards the end of the month I'll compile a list of points raised and get ready for a rewrite next month.
I didn't realise quite how the credit system works, which is my own fault, but it turns out it's quite a lot of work to get credits so that your script get's reviews. It is if you're going to put your full energy into reviewing someone's submission anyway (which is only fair if you're going to expect the same in return). I now know that it takes me a good hour or more to read a script (more if I'm not enjoying it), and probably the same again to write up some notes. That's two hours per script, and for me it's coming out of writing time (unless I pick up a netbook or something, then I can do it on the train). That's quite a drain on your time, though worth it for the feedback.
I don't think I'll be putting all my energies into TS. It's fairly rare for me to work on a feature anyway and they have no forum for television scripts. It has been very useful with this specific script, if you're after unbiased feedback I recommend it. Doing a lot of recommending today!
Heartfelt congratulations to Jason, Dave, Oli and William for securing positions on the Red Planet workshop with Tony Jordan. Congrats also to Mark Wilkinson, the winner of Red Planet 2009.
You may have noticed I'm updating this site less often. This is only because I'm being much stricter with myself as regards usage of time. All my energy is being put into writing at the moment.
When I sit in my nice shiny chair in my (Lamont Cranston-style) Sanctum I sit here to write, not to blog. Blogging isn't working, so it has to come second. In fact it's further down than that because it comes after planning too. Ahh, poor blogging.
Also a lot of this blog used to be television reviews, and me spouting off about telly in general. In fact that was initially how I intended to use it, I started blogging about my writing only when I saw others were doing it (No sheep jokes puh-leeease!). Since I read Making it as a Screenwriter I'm somehow less keen to do this. I should be building bridges here. It's not like I'd go into work at the day job and email the MD to tell him his latest idea is shit, is it? I don't want to piss him off.
I'll still update as and when I can, and trust me - if I have news I'll be here like a flash. In the mean time though, I'll see you when I see you.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Whatever it was I thought, "This looks dire, I'll give it a miss and if the reviews are good I'll catch up." It's a lazy technique but it's served me well before, and I don't have time to catch up on the shows that ARE worth watching never mind soiling my eyes with stuff I know I'm going to hate. I might as well watch The One Show, or paint drying, if there is a difference.
The reviews weren't good. They were scathing.
OK. So I made a good call. Go me! No down side. Except...
They were really scathing. So scathing that I hear they've postponed the third series of Primeval so people can forget about Demons first. You know, because the idiots that watch ITV programmes might not be able to tell the difference between two different TV shows. Or something.
This is proper, card carrying, hitting your own head with a mallet, nuts. Primeval is great. It's imaginative, original, exciting, varied, fresh, but most importantly of all it's the only Doctor Who stand in so far that actually gets Saturday Night/Family drama.
When I was a kid Saturday night TV was all about Doctor Who, Robin of Sherwood, The Tripods, The A team, Knight Rider, Manimal, Automan, etc., etc. Where is the variety now? It's no good just cloning shows about legendary characters or ripping off successful series from the nineties! We need some actual ideas.
Let's think about this for a second. Since Doctor Who did what they said couldn't be done and proved that British society hadn't slipped so far into some Anthony Burgess vision of the future that the whole family couldn't watch television together on a Saturday night without Graham Norton, Cilla Black, Noel Edmonds or Dale Winton staring dead-eyed back out at them there have been several further attempts at Saturday Night Family Drama.
Robin Hood. OK on the one hand this was the first effort, thrown into production as soon as Saturday night was resuscitated. On the other hand it was made by the BBC who might be expected to get it? In fairness I didn't mind Robin Hood. Most people though seemed to be a bit hung up on the non-period costumes and language but I liked it's Xena-ish tone and thought it was good enough fun. It's no substitute for Who though. The third series has been so long coming now that I wonder if anyone will even notice when they follow up killing Marion off by having Robin leave the show.
Primeval. We'll come back to this.
Merlin. Putting aside my previously mentioned issues with the retelling of the Merlin story (or rebooting of Arthurian legend), Merlin worries me for a number of reasons. It's another BBC effort. It's another period set show. It's another myth/legend poured onto our screens for family viewing. It's Robin Hood 2 isn't it? It's 'Here's what we learned from making Robin Hood by the BBC: We took out the anachronistic costumes'. Bit lazy isn't it? Isn't there any more imagination than this planning our TV schedules? What next? Beowulf? William Tell? Jack the Giant Killer? People in forests with swords volume 3?
Demons. I can't really comment on this as I didn't watch it. The fact that it appears to have failed says enough though. Clearly it didn't get Saturday nights.
What has Primeval got that these other shows haven't? I'll tell you. It mixes the every day with the fantastic. It has a different setting every week. It has a strong sense of humour. It doesn't take itself too seriously. Remind you of anything else?
But what this post is really about though is this; There are massive opportunities for people who do get it to create fresh, exciting family drama for Saturday nights. Just thinking of BBC1 and ITV there are 104 potential slots per year. At present only a fraction are occupied. The powers that be may not know this yet but if they get enough fresh, exciting ideas for family drama from talented new writers maybe they'll look at one and say, 'Hey, the eight million or so people who watch Doctor Who every Saturday night would watch this!"
Whatever you do don't tell any other writers though or they'll all be at it. Must dash, I've a family drama script to finish. You'd love it, it's period set...