Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Hammer Films - Alive & Kicking?

A little while back, I sent a speculative script to Terry Illot at Hammer Films. Although Terry wasn’t interested in the script as such (a Cronenberg-esque thriller with a couple of buckets of blood thrown in), he was still intrigued (or repulsed) enough to set up a meeting to discuss the sort of thing he was looking for.

Terry ran through Hammer’s extensive and illustrious history before settling on the fact that he wanted to see something with what he termed “franchise potential” – not necessarily another Dracula or Frankenstein (tried and tested Hammer staples of course), but a character strong enough to withstand a barrage of 'cross platform’ marketing opportunities. Well, that’s what I think he said – my notes from the meeting were extremely vague, mostly because I didn’t get a strong impression that Terry really knew what he was looking for. You know the sort of thing: you’re out shopping for that certain something – you don’t know what exactly, but by golly, when you see it, you’ll know. It’s a gut reaction, an instinct thing. Terry wasn’t prescriptive at all in his requirements, which was great. Sling me those loglines, he said – crank out those synopses and e-mail ‘em over, the more the merrier. Just like catapulting custard at a wall – sooner or later something was bound to stick.

As the meeting went on, Terry outlined a few of the projects that Hammer was attempting to get off the ground in a joint venture with an Australian company called Paradise Pictures (I think that’s what they were called). He was then off to Cannes, ostensibly to drum up a bit of funding I guess. The pitches for the projects he showed me seemed OK – ultra low-budget (single location, three characters maximum), although not necessarily scoring high on the Hammer ‘franchisometer’ (if that’s not a word then it should be).

I came away from the meeting excited and energised, but a little depressed. I knew damn well that the one thing I wouldn’t be able to do would be to create a Freddy Krueger type-character for Hammer to exploit at will. So I gave Terry something else entirely – a Nigel Kneale inspired synopsis about a haunted Wiltshire village seconded by the Ministry of Defence. I wrote what I thought was an intriguing synopsis and sent it to Terry, only for it to disappear into a vacuum. I chased it up a few weeks later, but the inevitable reply came back that Terry was too busy – probably putting the final touches to this, which came to fruition this year.

My synopsis? Well, I liked it, so what the heck – I went ahead and wrote the script, a script that seems destined to get stuck in the mud wherever it lands up (this is the same script that a few production companies have been using to prop open doors with for the last year or so – see the previous post).

I never heard how ‘Hammer in Paradise’ fared, so I can only guess that nothing came of it (a brief Google search turns up nothing of significance). I can only assume that Terry was busy managing Hammer’s vast back catalogue and running Bridge Media, his other consultancy sideline.

As of May 2006, Terry was heading up something called the Film Business Academy (FBA) and was no longer involved at Hammer Films.

An interview with Terry Illot and further links below:





Like it or not, looks like the MBAs are coming…

Monday, 30 July 2007

Fun With Marchmont Films

Back in the vague mists of 2006, you may recall a Feature Script Invitation thrown out by Marchmont Films. Myself and hundreds of others all piled onto their online submission form and battered them silly with loglines and sample pages. Memory fails me, but I must have done this around the end of July 2006, as I received an automated message stating that my entry would be reviewed by their ‘team of readers’.

By the time they emerged from the logline pile last year, I received this email on 26th October:

Thank you for submitting your script material to Marchmont Films.

I am writing to inform you that your entry has been reviewed by our script readers and has now been successfully recommended for further consideration. I am therefore writing to you to request that you now send us two bound copies of your full script.

Upon receipt of your full script, it will be read by our senior developers who will consider its potential against our original script brief. We shall contact you to notify you of the outcome of this within approximately 8 weeks.

OK. Two bound copies of the full script in the post - tick in the box. I can’t say that I’m massively excited at this point, but at least things seem to be moving in the right direction.

January 2007 comes round and I’m getting a little keyed up (no news is good news, right?). So, I drop Marchmont a line. No reply. Fair enough, I guess. My wife tells me to call them. I check the website, no contact number – unless you discount this one of course – 0800 234 6368.

So, on 17th January, I give them a call. Despite protestations that they only ‘share an office’ with Bloomsbury Weddings, I got the following e-mail within half an hour:

I just had a call that you have tried contacting us - I apologise, but we have been very busy and get 100's of emails! (Your script) will be read in the next few weeks (we only finished reading the 608 entries last Friday and yours is one of 23 selected). I expect to be able to come back to you in 6 weeks at the most.

I experience a pang of guilt (but only a tiny one ;-)) for burdening them with further workload when they are so obviously drowning under a landfill of scripts. Suitably chastened, I go back to banging randomly on my keyboard in the hope that something of undistilled genius will somehow materialise.

On March 12th 2007, the following email arrives:

Thank you for submitting your script material to Marchmont Films.

I am writing to inform you that your script has now been read in full by two of our senior script developers. I am pleased to inform you that it has been recommended to our producers for final consideration.

Although we are unable to comment on the likely outcome, we do feel that it is an exceptional achievement to have reached this stage and would like to express our sincere appreciation for your writing work.

Our producers will obviously be considering this against other recommended projects, but will endeavour to advise you personally of the outcome within approximately 6 weeks.

By this point, I feel as if I am trapped in a never ending circle of Reader’s Digest Prize Draws, where the dubious Tom Champagne breathlessly informs you that in order to be considered for the grand prize, you have to purchase books with titles such as ‘A Spotter’s Guide to M25 Roadkill’, and ‘Etch-A-Sketching for Fun and Profit'.

A few weeks later, I chase Marchmont again (just for the fun of it, you understand) . I receive the following on 19th April:

Hi we are nearly finishes (sic) reading so you should hear something in the next couple of weeks.

Yeah, whatever! The website hasn’t been updated since July 2006, so I guess there isn’t a lot going on in the world of Marchmont (apart from those cinematically themed weddings of course).

At the end of May, I chase them a bit more. This is becoming almost fun now in a gruesome kind of way, and I do it purely because I feel I have to rather than the fact that anything interesting is going to come out of it. Marchmont subsequently goes into deep slumber mode, and I consider ringing Bloomsbury Weddings again – however, I’m already married so I’m not sure what I’m going to say if they offer me the ‘Director’s Package with live webcasting’ (here’s that number again in case you missed it first time round: 0800 234 6368).

After hassling one of their development executives, on 17th June I receive the following email:

Apologies for not getting back to you sooner, however we are extremely busy at the moment with several projects and strategic developments. (Your script) is one of about 16-20 scripts which made it through to the producers desk, but I am afraid you will have to bear with us for further progress. In the meantime, we appreciate you may want to pursue other avenues, so please do not hesitate to keep us informed.

OK, so nothing happening any time soon.

From initial ‘pitch’ to date, it’s been nearly a year. I don’t really have an opinion on this, as it’s entirely up to Marchmont as to how they spend their time and money. Getting a script read in the UK is hard enough – getting a script read by someone interested enough to do something with it is obviously going to be harder still.

Since the great Marchmont showdown kicked off, I have received two consultants reports on the script and undertaken what I think is a relatively successful page one re-write. I informed Marchmont of these facts. They responded with another email, as follows…

Just kidding! They didn’t respond at all. But, as above, that’s their prerogative. And good luck to them. I would no doubt do the same in their position.

As for the genesis of my poor, neglected script, that will be the subject of a future post. It’s not such a frustrating read as the above (but I’m working on it, believe me). Suffice to say, if you want to know where NOT to send your speculative scripts, then stay tuned – I seem to have an almost supernatural knack for ferreting out production companies for whom procrastination is a profitable pastime!

If you happen to be in the same position with Marchmont, drop me a line – perhaps we can form some kind of mutual support group (either that, or a suicide mission). Don’t forget that elusive number – 0800 234 6368. Tell ‘em I sent ya!

Sunday, 29 July 2007


Over the last few years, I have gotten myself involved and/or entangled with a variety of film and TV production companies and literary agents in an effort sell my work (mostly screenplays and a novel). The result? Nothing sold yet. However, through all the apparent near misses and dead ends, I think there are some half entertaining stories to be told. So here we are.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see if this can be classified as career suicide or not, but that’s half the fun (which also supposes that people are actually going to read this). As I go, I may well drop in some top tips, which will mostly form the basis of a ‘How Not To’ guide. Please, on no account do what I have done – do the diametric opposite and I guarantee you might just get somewhere.

On the odd occasion, I will veer off on a wild tangent and write about anything that takes my fancy – that’s what a blog is about isn’t it? Wild, opinionated and directionless (a bit like Sonic Youth’s entire recorded output)? Random bits of white noise with the odd nugget of fun – that’ll do for me.


I consider all communications that I quote from within the confines of these pages to be in the public domain. If an e-mail sent to me does not have a confidentiality statement clearly marked, then it’s fair game. However, if you feel that I’m being unfair in quoting your communication or taking your comments out of context, please let me know – I would be happy to re-word or remove any posts construed as being offensive or derogatory. Alternatively, you could develop a sense of humour, and console yourself with the fact that most of what I’m going to be reporting on here can be filed safely under ‘career suicide’.

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I thank you.