Friday, 31 August 2007

Fun with Marchmont Films, Part 2

Those naughty people over at Marchmont have been at it again. This from the Shooting People, Screenwriters Network mail out, issue 3081 (thanks to James for the tip off):

"Not demotivated exactly, Marchmont... From: Louise Bentinck Pennington

I felt the usual sympathy for Andrew Thackeray with regard to the ‘non-responses’ he has received for his script submissions and, as usual, thought ‘that’s part of script writing’. However, read this and see what you think –

“Thank you for submitting your script material to Marchmont Films (18 April)… 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 six weeks.”

I think I could be forgiven for actually anticipating a response of some kind at some point, but no, not even a ‘thanks but no thanks’.

I decided to contact Marchmont direct (last week) and Andrew Cussens in particular (he emailed me when I was short listed), and discovered it was virtually impossible to reach anyone at the company until I went through their ‘website form’ and finally received a reply back from someone called Iris No-Name (no offence, Iris), who proceeded to email the standard gumpf about ‘not taking any projects further at the moment…’

Frankly, I’m surprised that a production company like Marchmont with a good reputation would behave in this way, particularly as several of the production team have writing backgrounds themselves and know the score. However, perhaps there is a good reason for this ‘non response’, but having taken me thus far and shooting themselves in the foot with the phrase “will endeavour to advise you personally”, even a ‘personal email’ would have sufficed.

Part of Life's rich tapestry as they say. In the meantime, best of luck to all you scribes…"

Worry not, Louise, the wedding season is almost over!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Competition Frenzy!

Rightly or wrongly, I’ve entered three scripts for the Red Planet Prize – (just as well they changed the rules really).

I’ve spent 2007 re-writing all of these scripts, because – let’s face it – first drafts suck the big one (and so do my second and third drafts for that matter). In fact, I’m still ploughing through a re-write on one of these (it’s amazing what you discover when you run through a hastily written first draft: a three page telephone conversation! Argh! A five page monologue! Double argh!)

Anyway, here are the scripts I’ve submitted and some choice comments against each from reviewers far and wide:

NIGHTFALL: There were several things about it I did not fully understand.

DAMAGED: This has a first script feel to it - which isn't a bad thing. (Don’cha just love Trigger Street?)

SUICIDE’S SON: My fave comment of all - The title sounds like a goth band – change that. Thanks Oli – I’m working on it!

Damaged was a finalist here (they insisted on calling me "Christopher" for some reason), but I got bugger all exposure out of it, and every single agent I informed simply went, ‘Meh,’ and fell asleep. I also entered the screenplay competition at the Vail Film Festival, but heard absolutely nothing, even when I e-mailed them a very polite question – however, by then, they already had my $60, so screw you, Chip! Caveat emptor indeed.

All of which means I guess that you have to put your faith in the biggies – Blue Cat (hmmm, think I might’ve shot myself in the foot there), the Nicholl, Big Break, Slamdance, etc.

Problem is, these are all US-based competitions – not a big deal as such, but it would be nice if there were a few more homegrown competitions as well, which is the reason why Red Planet Prize is so welcome (and free to boot – my favourite price).

(There’s the British Short Screenplay Competition of course, but I’ve never entered – personally speaking, the prospect of writing a ten page screenplay fills me with total dread).

Red Planet aside, I don’t know about the whole competition thing to be honest – at least with Blue Cat you get coverage, but this can vary in quality, as Scott the Reader knows all too well. And now with Without a Box, there are literally hundreds of competitions queuing up for you to throw your money at, which simply leads me to the conclusion there’s a ton of money to be unlocked in all those spec screenplays in them thar hills.

I think in future when given the choice between $60 script notes and a $60 screenplay competition entrance fee, I’ll probably go for the script notes. It will almost certainly lead to a better script, which is surely the reason we’re all doing this – right?

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Planks of Bullshit

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS. (If you intend to watch Perfume or The Bourne Ultimatum, please be aware that the following post contains plot details from both films. And Poseidon as well – but I can’t imagine anyone in their own right mind who would want to watch that). I thank you.
One of the more entertaining aspects of movie going for me is to find a stray plot thread and to pick away at it until the whole narrative comes apart in your hands like some knackered cat’s cradle (OK, call me sadistic, but this sort of thing is fun). On watching Perfume over the weekend, I thought it might be amusing to go a little bit further and to formulate a theory (of sorts) to illustrate this general lack of narrative coherence, which I shall term Planks of Bullshit, or POB for short.

Tom Tykwer’s Perfume is a good example of a POB in action. First off, if you're not aware of the plot, check it out here...

OK then. Our serial killer protagonist, Grenouille, becomes enamoured with the daughter of Antoine Richis (Alan Rickman), and resolves to capture her ‘essence’ as the key note in his perfumed piece de resistance. Grenouille is slowly hacking and slashing his way through the town’s virgins (and the odd prostitute), and it looks highly likely that Richis’ daughter is next, given the furtive way that Grenouille ogles her and follows her about whenever he has the opportunity. Although someone confesses to the murders that Grenouille has committed, Richis gets wind of the fact that his daughter is next, so whisks her off to a monastery for her own protection.

It was at point I scratched my head and said, ‘Huh?’

When that happens, I know that there’s some major nonsense going down – to wit, how does Richis know that his daughter is next in line for a slice ‘n dice? Answer: he doesn’t. He simply ‘intuits’ this information as if it was somehow in the air waiting to be breathed in and learnt by osmosis. It’s a device that is intended to give this particular chunk of the plot a suitably ‘dramatic’ conclusion – but in the process of doing so, it turns into a creaky narrative conceit – in Chip-speak, a Plank of Bullshit (POB). With me so far?

Bear in mind there are two different types of POB – a POB (such as the example above), and an EPOB, which is an Essential Plank of Bullshit - an essentially unbelievable load of flapdoodle without which the narrative would not function.

In a handy fashion, Perfume also contains its own EPOB: in the film’s penultimate scene, Grenouille stands on the gallows surrounded by the good townspeople of Grasse, ready for the drop. But wait – what’s this? Grenouille pulls out a phial of his perfume, made from the ‘essence’ of the previously mentioned virgins (not forgetting the prostitute, of course): he wafts it across the crowd and, overcome with the heady brilliance of his perfumic masterpiece the townspeople descend into a rousing bout of euro-shagging.

But here’s the problem: Grenouille’s perfume is made from the essences of thirteen women. Rather than the men being solely overcome, the women are as well – er, why?

The only answer I have is the fact that Perfume is built upon an Essential Plank of Bullshit – i.e., a narrative conceit that isn’t designed to be analysed in any great depth.

Take The Bourne Ultimatum (somebody, please, take it): Jason Bourne is able to see into a building from a distance of about fifty metres and watch as the big bad CIA boss opens a safe, enabling Bourne to clock the combination (he’s not just superhuman, he’s bionic as well). Bourne then lays a false trail, which forces everyone out of the building – he is then able to waltz in (incidentally, no-one notices him do this), and crack open the safe: which of course, is all utter bullshit, an essential part of any POB.

I prefer movies that don’t solely rely on POBs or EPOBs to build their narratives, which made The Bourne Ultimatum such a huge disappointment for me. I don’t necessarily want to see movies that are ‘realistic’ above all else, but what I do want is at least the semblance of a coherent narrative, not one that makes you throw your hands in the air at the first sign of something that seems convoluted or just plain clumsy.

OK. So far, so good, right?

The following is a quote from The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood, by Joe Esterhaus:

If your movie wins an Oscar, they’ll probably “forget” to thank you.

On Forrest Gump, everyone involved with the film who went up on stage forgot to thank William Groom, on whose novel it was based.

And on American Beauty, the director and the star forgot to thank the man who wrote the original screenplay, Alan Ball.

Is this because the writer is held in such low regard, or is it more to do with the fact that story itself is?

You could almost make the assumption that these days it doesn’t matter whether a movie contains a POB or an EPOB: the simple fact is that, above all else, we go to the cinema to be entertained. In fashioning something that is predominantly seen as an emotional experience, the basic elements of narrative can often be discarded – and what’s more, no-one really cares or notices. For the most part, lip service is paid to the concepts of realism and coherence, because that isn’t what we want to see. We want to be entertained, to be emotionally engaged, rather than to understand.

If that’s what you want, that’s cool. But my idea of a good movie is not one where you have to switch your brain off in order to engage. And besides, if you regard realism and coherence simply as barriers to whipping up some fevered movie emotion, you end up with little more than a theme park ride – which is probably what the majority of people want these days anyway. And besides, I can easily start to resent films that manipulate my emotions for the sole reason that they are able to do so.

So there you have it. POBs and EPOBs exist not because writers and script editors can’t be arsed to do their jobs properly, but because the concept of story has become subservient to emotion. That’s my theory anyway.

Poseidon is another good example, although this time round both coherence and emotional impact have been sacrificed for vast swathes of CGI – the assumption being that if the explosion is big enough and loud enough, you won’t notice what a drab, uninvolving experience the whole thing really is.

OK, so the theory needs a bit of work.

Maybe I’m just getting tired of walking out of a cinema thinking, ‘What the flaming arse just happened in there?’ To my mind, POBs and EPOBs drag you out of the story by making you question the narrative you are attempting to follow, which in my book, is never good.

And as for Perfume? I think Kubrick was right to pass on it. It looks gorgeous, but it’s a load of nonsense.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Agent Bothering and Other Hobbies

I’ve been bothering UK literary agents for years with a spectacular run of what I like to describe as ‘ur-success’ (which is a lot like failure but stretched over a period of many years). Bear in mind the agents below are only the ones I’ve had significant exchanges with over the last few years.

So, in no particular order:

Brie Burkeman. I recently received a lovely e-mail from Brie saying that although 'technically' she is looking for new clients, she is simply too busy to dedicate any time to them at the moment. That said, her kind words are probably a euphemism for ‘feck off’. I think Brie used to be at:

Jonathan Clowes. These guys are the original big hitters. Clients include Len Deighton, Doris Lessing, David Nobbs and the Sir Kingsley Amis Estate. No email and no website, so you will have to approach by letter (unlike a lot of agents out there, JC always respond to initial queries, even if it is a ‘no thanks’).

Elspeth Cochrane. Now this is more like it. I can’t remember the name of the guy I dealt with here (a few years back, admittedly), but he was a rough diamond and make no mistake, guv’nor.

This agent (let’s call him Bob) expressed an interest in one of the first scripts I ever wrote – however, rather than taking me on as a bonafide client, he suggested that I reside on his ‘temporary list’ (something I suspected he had just made up on the spot). The concept behind this ‘list’ was that I should continue to market my script all by my lonesome with no assistance from the agency whatsoever – until I made a sale that is. Bob would then magically pop out of his box and slap a commission on whatever I had managed to negotiate for myself. Cracking deal, eh? I continued to market the script myself but without recourse to this obviously spaced out lunatic (me and about seven hundred other writers on his temporary list I suspect).

Six months later, I called Bob for an idle chat only to be told by Elspeth Cochrane herself (sounding delightfully cranky, like a dotty old maiden aunt in an Ealing film) that he had gone AWOL, and that she had no idea where he was (selling London Bridge to Japanese tourists perhaps?). By the way, she said, do you want your script back, or shall I shred it? What about your prestigious ‘temporary list’ I almost asked, but bit my tongue (that said, they’re the only agents to have done this to me. Everyone else has been thoroughly professional and eminently polite, even if they think my work is a load of plop).

Notable clients: Royce Ryton, Alex Jones and Robert Tanitch. Elspeth Cochrane appear to have had the same clients for about a million years, so god knows what they were doing toying with me (and on their high-status ‘temporary list’ to boot). I seem to recall they also counted Ernie Wise amongst their clients, but that’s not important right now.

They don’t have a website (I can’t find one anyway). How very post-modern!

Curtis Brown. I worried Ben Hall for a while when he was at AP Watt, and this tradition has continued since he moved to Curtis Brown. Ben writes very polite and encouraging ‘no thanks’ letters, which I receive with alarming frequency.

Notable clients: the prodigious Colin Bateman (just thinking about his output makes me want to go and lie down in dark room for a couple of weeks), Rob Grant, Harriet Warner.

Dench Arnold. The first port of call for screenwriters fresh out of the blocks these days, so it appears. They managed to kick me into touch after eight months and two scripts – always in a considerate and professional way, mind you. However, their email answering skills would occasionally fall into Marchmont type levels of inactivity. I’m not quite sure why it takes four months to respond to an initial script query, but there you go – ours is not to reason why.

Send Fiona Grant (Elizabeth Dench’s assistant) an email – she’d love to hear from you.

Notable clients: Peter Chelsom, Adrian Dunbar, Caroline Sax (the script supervisor for Underworld – like, wow, there was a script for that? You learn something new every day).

Futerman, Rose & Associates. Guy Rose was a thoroughly likeable sort, so I bothered him for a while to no avail. Barney Fisher-Turner as well – who also isn’t interested. Meh. Their loss.

Notable Clients: Toyah Wilcox, Brian Harvey (huh?) and Iain Duncan-Smith. There’s a nice picture of Toyah post-facelift on their website, which has got to be worth a visit.

Marjacq Scripts. What a beautiful front door!

We are always seeking to expand our talented client base and welcome new submissions.

Well, you don’t see that every day. Their website features potted biographies of the writers they represent, which should give you an idea of who they are looking for. Worth a punt, I reckon. Luke Speed is the man you need.

Peters, Fraser Dunlop: a tutor of mine at Cambridge is represented by Rosemary Canter (children’s illustration) – she put me in touch with Charles Walker a few years back. Charles was always polite and accommodating, so I continued to bother him for a while until I got the message. Jago Irwin was the next in line, another thoroughly decent chap with a sideline in carefully crafted automatic rejection emails. There are so many agents at PFD by the time you got round to being rejected by them all, you could probably start at the beginning again without Agent #1 recognising your name – a bit like painting the Forth Bridge I guess.

Notable Clients: take your pick really. Everyone who’s anyone. There are absolutely millions of writers, directors, illustrators and French polishers all available at handsome rates.

There is an excellent list of UK literary agents at the Bloomsbury website here.

Agents are, of course, looking for talented, prodigious writers with finely honed commercial sensibilities, which obviously means that I’m making a series of (rash?) assumptions about my ability that may or may not be true.

That said, give me a deadline and I’ll go at it like a fat kid after a doughnut – however, I’m sure that my ‘commercial sensibility’ could do with a bit of a buff. For god’s sake, my favourite book is Bouvard and Pecuchet by Flaubert. Perhaps I should catch up on all those Doctor Who episodes that I’ve been (deliberately) missing.

With all the above in mind, I don’t think that having an agent provides anyone with a gift wrapped solution. Friends of mine seem to get on perfectly well without representation – the percentage that the agent would have taken sits very nicely inside their pockets, thank you very much. At the very least, having an agent should widen the base of companies that are prepared to read your work.

As for marketing (when I can be bothered), my current hit rate comes in at about the 1 in 4 mark, i.e., for every agent that requests to see something, another three either don’t reply or simply send a brief ‘no thank you’ note - which I don’t think is too bad (that’s discounting all those offers I have to sit on prestigious ‘temporary lists’, of course).

BBC Writersroom - Broadcasting Event

This from the Writer's Guild e-mail bulletin:

Kate Rowland and Paul Ashton from BBC Writersroom will be in conversation with Tom Green, the Guild’s magazine and website editor on Thursday 13th September at the Writers’ Guild Centre in Kings Cross.

The event will be held from 7- 9pm and will focus on how the BBC Writersoom find and develop writers for radio and TV drama.

Tickets for this event will be £5 for Guild members and £7.50 for non-members. Please join us after the event for a complimentary glass of wine. Places are limited so please book in early and advance.

If you would like to attend please send a cheque payable to the Writers' Guild, to ‘BBC Writersroom event ’, Writers' Guild of Great Britain, 15-17 Britannia Street, London, WC1X 9JN.

Hmmm, sounds kinda interesting...

Friday, 24 August 2007

I Bin Tagged

Oli tagged me with this from Lucy Vee’s blog:

When I hear music I like I always imagine what kind of scene in a film it could go in, so that's going to be the focus of this meme: you have to imagine you're in a particular kind of movie as outlined below and what your soundtrack will be.

The deal is, you have to come up with five types of film… and tag five other other people.


1. If I was in a Slasher Movie: Happiness In Slavery, by Nine Inch Nails. Says it all really.

2. If I was in a Hip Hop/Urban Movie: Just Another Victim, by Helmet/House of Pain, or Ladyflash, by The Go! Team. Two songs – is that cheating?

3. If I was in Tron (that's not really a 'type' of film is it? Ah, screw it): Leyendecker, by Battles. Amazingly enough, this song sounds like a video game you’re actually winning.

4. If I was in a David Cronenberg movie: Dali, by Martin Grech. There’s only one word to describe this song, and that’s UNHINGED.

5. If I was in a Rom-Com: So Sorry, by Feist. My cuddly, torch singer side coming to the fore.

Right then. I tag:


Mr Andy G, who doesn't have a blog but hey, we can't all be perfect...

Georgia, who I just KNOW is lurking out there somewhere (Dali says 'hi', by the way)...

Oh, hang on, someone else tagged Elinor earlier - sorry, that’s ten songs she needs to come up with now (I’m not really getting the hang of this, am I?). So, I need two more… help… I’m kinda new round here and you Scribosphere lot look a bit weird to me ;-)

Thursday, 23 August 2007

The Bored Ultimatum

Am I the only person in the United Kingdom that didn’t like this (apparently not)? ‘Summer popcorn movie’ seems to be a critical compliment these days, but to me all it means is ‘big, dumb action flick’ (and I’m not all that keen on popcorn anyway).

Here are some choice reviews:

Greengrass uncorks some truly jaw-dropping action sequences and chases that had me on the edge of my seat. Relentlessly enjoyable. The Bourne franchise delivers a lot more entertainment bangs for your buck than any other action picture. - THE GUARDIAN

One of the year's finest pieces of moviemaking - THE OBSERVER

The action-thriller success story of the 21st century - THE INDEPENDENT

Unmitigated flapdoodle from the get-go - CHIP SMITH

The major problem I had with it is that I just didn’t feel emotionally engaged with it on any identifiable level. Some CIA bigwigs attempt to silence one of their own, who is by all accounts, a trained and dispassionate killing machine. Huh - let them kill each other – see if I care.

Admittedly, the opening sequence in which Bourne guides a Guardian journalist through Waterloo Station whilst being surveyed by a plethora of CCTV cameras is original and genuinely exciting, partially because someone other than a bunch of CIA operatives is involved. However, from that point on, we get the usual fist fights, incomprehensible car chases, and perfunctory nods to a coherent narrative. Not that it particularly matters of course, this being a ‘summer popcorn movie’.

It also transpires that Bourne has suddenly become indestructible, yet another pseudo-Bond who simply will not die. He emerges with hardly a scratch when he reverses a car off the top of a building, at which point a minor character states, ‘He’s just driven off a building’, just in case Paul Greengrass’ ‘kinetic’ (© every single British broadsheet) directing leaves you scratching your head asking, ‘What the arse just happened there?’

Honestly – what a load of flapdoodle.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Chip Gets the Script Editing Evils

Many thanks to my good friend Mister G, who convinced me to write this entry without naming names – there’s career suicide and career suicide he said in a sagely fashion (however, it does help if you have a career to ruin first).

A little while back, I attended a script workshop arranged by a notable media organisation and run by a script editor whom I shall call Nina (after the best popular song ever released, 99 Red Balloons).

The idea of the workshop was very simple: a week before, a script from a participating writer would be distributed amongst the eight writers or so taking part. Nina would then lead a critique centred on that script, the idea being that the writer went away with enough material for a rewrite. The fact that Nina was a professional script editor meant that the advice you would be getting with regards to your script was potentially going to be top notch. The price was a couple of quid so that croissants and coffee could be laid on. It sounded like a good deal to me.

My script was scheduled for about week 5 or 6, which was fine.

The scripts from the other writers started to come thick and fast. To be honest, I only really remember two: the first was a short, impressionistic script about conscientious objectors that was actually wasn’t bad. The writer had a couple of short films under his belt for which he had managed to wangle positively huge budgets out of various regional film bodies (£20,000 for a 10 minute short anyone? Yowsa!) – and good luck to him.

The second script was written by an ex-lawyer, so when the package thumped onto my welcome mat, I looked forward to a good read.

It was probably the most insane thing I have ever read.

The script was constructed from three completely disparate narrative threads which confusingly featured the same character throughout. Thirty pages in and the protagonist did a one eighty about face and marched into a completely different script that bore no relation to the thirty pages that had gone before. The same happened after seventy pages. To call it schizophrenic would be doing the word a disservice. About the only logic that applied was the fact that act three followed act two, which followed act one. I was convinced that if I kept reading it would make some sort of sense, but it didn’t – not one iota. I was confused. My head hurt. I had to go and lie down for several hours until my nervous system rebooted.

Whilst not exactly lavishing praise on the script, Nina was careful to extol its virtues and suggest some areas for improvement. The other writers in the group sat around looking stunned. Everyone had read the script and had come to the same conclusion as I had – it made little sense, and even bordered on being severely mentalist. I even said as much as well. Nina took my comments on board and moved on, unconcerned. I don’t know if it was just me, but I got the feeling that everyone felt a little intimidated, too afraid to speak up to say what they really felt about the script.

Ordinarily I would not slate the work of a fellow writer in this way, but this script was most definitely out there. It’s also handy to gauge reactions to this script in comparison to what happened to my own a few weeks later.

The script I had selected for critique within the group probably wasn’t that good (then again, that’s the point isn’t it? The whole reason I was attending was for the feedback). The Player and After Hours are two of my favourite films, so I had written a script that was essentially a mash-up of the two – a washed up American actor with a crashed marriage behind him visits London to promote a rubbish action flick. After absconding from an interview to get laid and wasted, he wakes up in a hotel room next to a dead body. The script follows the actor as he tries to clear his name with the help of a friendly dominatrix and an assorted cast of screwed up hangers-on.

Well, when I say that it wasn’t very good, at least it had what I thought was a fairly coherent narrative to it. It was my attempt at writing comedy – OK, so it may have been derivative and naïve, but it wasn’t as out there as the schizophrenic script, surely.

Nina hated it.

Perhaps ‘hate’ is not a strong enough word. She despised it. There was nothing in it that was redeemable, she stated, nothing at all. And to make matters worse, Nina stated that I was writing about a milieu I knew absolutely nothing about, which, in her book, was a crime akin to being a fully paid up member of the Hitler Youth. She gave me no suggestions as to how I should improve it whatsoever, so the whole morning was dedicated to the wholesale trashing of my script.

I came out of the room at midday feeling dazed. What on earth had happened? I felt victimised and humiliated. I had no idea why Nina had gone for me in such a way – in comparison to the ‘schizo script’, I thought mine would have had at least the semblance of a sympathetic reading, some suggestions for improvements or further development. But no. It got the exact opposite.

Later that evening, I had a call from another participant in the workshop who stated that Nina’s criticisms had, for whatever reason, gone completely over the top, and for no good reason. Had she been having a bad day? Was the journey in a complete nightmare for her? Or was it really my script? Was it really as bad as she thought? Or was it me? Did my accent wind her up? Did my haircut annoy her? Who knows?

As the good Lucy Vee states here, there’s a fine balance to be struck between being pragmatic and trampling all over something that someone has spent hundreds of hours writing and tweaking just because you can. For whatever reason, Nina got the balance wrong that day and decided to go for the jugular.

When it’s constructive, I can take criticism as well as anyone else – after all, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t expect what I write not to get criticised. When it’s not constructive, rightly or wrongly, it’s all too easy to take things personaly – when you’re face to face with a script editor who has apparently taken a pathological dislike to you and your writing, it’s difficult not to.

Nina has moved on to bigger and better things since that script workshop, to the extent that Mr G warned me against naming names – and that’s cool. Let’s hope that she doesn’t treat the scripts she comes across in her professional life with the sort of disdain she treated mine with.

Anyway, I took Nina’s advice and wrote a script about what I knew: a sci-fi drama about remote viewing with a tip of the hat to Cronenberg’s Scanners (yeah, okay, I’m joking). It’s still a script I use today, and has got me meetings with Hammer Films and September Films amongst others, so I know that I’m not a complete numpty (although I do have my moments). Besides, if I wrote solely about what I know, then everything I churned out would read like The Office on crack with a lot of premature death thrown in to lighten the mood, so I’m not about to do that at any point soon.

All the above said, I’ve just applied for METLAB this year ;-)

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Off on a Tangent (Part 1 of many)

The first of an occasional series that has nothing to do with screenwriting whatsoever. As I might’ve mentioned before, I might infrequently go off on a tangent and indulge in my tastes for noisy, obscure music that no-one else has ever heard of. To prove this, go to my ‘Profile’ page and click on the word ‘Slab!’ under music (second line). Go on, do it now, you know you want to.

Bloggers with favourite music that includes Slab! – No Profiles Found

No other person in the entire blogging universe lists this band.

I don’t think you can get more obscure than that.

Try plugging Slab! into Google and see what you come up with. Apart from a Brummie metal band who have nicked the name, not a lot.

In some respects, these facts make me feel incredibly smug, inasmuch as I know about this band and the rest of the world doesn’t. However, for the most part, I feel massively aggrieved that such a brilliant and essential record has passed people by without anyone noticing.

The following review is a sort of adaptation of the one on Amazon (I wrote that one too).
SLAB! – DESCENSION – Ink Records, 1987 (re-issue - Release Records)

Re-issued from a long deleted vinyl release, this is still one of the few records that I would unhesitatingly define as 'essential', purely because there's nothing out there either before or since that quite sounds like this.

Forget the scary looking band photo, all silly hats and mullets. This was originally released in 1987, so perhaps they can be forgiven.

Imagine Michael Gira from Swans waking up one morning with a nagging pop tune in his head, but only being able to play it with the volume turned up as loud as it will go. Or the scuzzed up, stroppy older brother of Material's Memory Serves. Or Trent Reznor slumming it without a major record deal, forced to record in the shittiest south London studios that his meagre dole money could afford. If any band melded together such a disparate range of musical styles, emerging at the other end with something that still sounds entirely modern, progressive and above all unique, then I wanna hear it.

Before this record, Slab had released three 12" singles, noted for their dedication to a particular type of Clintonesque groove, albeit somewhat scuzzy – slick, geometric basslines with bursts of jazzy horns all married to a droll vocal delivery. All very listenable, but very late eighties: a little contrived maybe – studied, over-polished perhaps. Slab! was a band with a plethora of members, so maybe a degree of democratic watering down was to be expected.

Nothing this band did before quite prepares you for the assault of Descension.

'Slab' just about sums up this record. Tunnel of Love, the opener, hits the ground screaming with a burst of white noise guitar sampled to sound like no other guitar you've ever heard in your life. If this is a statement of intent, it works. From this point on, there is no let up.

This is like the soundtrack to the scariest movie you've never seen. Undriven Snow melds a discordant two note guitar riff with a surprisingly melodic vocal, the bass bucking and warping, threatening to take the whole song down some dark alley and give it a damn good kicking.

Think of Descension as an industrial jazz record with all the stops pulled out.

This is dark stuff – drone laden, dubby, loud as hell, the classic definition of lo-fi. Put this band in a 48 track digital studio and they wouldn't make any sense. Slab! need that dirty, scuzzed out sound, that rough around the edges feel that you can only apparently find in cheap, decrepit south London studios.

Slab! rip into every song as if their recording time is on a meter. Everything sounds urgent, impassioned. Dolores is a huge stand out track, at once both paranoid and immense, the hushed verse giving way to monstrous beats, hesitant horns punctuating a fierce bass line.

Improvisation is high on the agenda on tracks such as Dr Bombay and Moosleand, where Slab slip effortlessly slip into a relaxed, scuzzy loungecore, improvising effortlessly around skittery piano notes and erratic beats – the sound of a band confident enough to know that they can get away with this and still make it compelling. Even the way in which the tracks have been recorded suggest an urgency. There is a real desperation to get this stuff down onto tape before the moment is lost – ticks and buzzes, feedback, strange industrial clankings, buzzy amps – all have their place here. Even the primitive samples are ragged, punched in when required, speed of the essence.

And all this is before you enter the paranoid, cinematic world that Paul Jarvis’ lyrics conjure up. The album’s openers – Tunnel of Love and Undriven Snow - read like narratives from serene but ultimately disturbing short films. Dolores is an unsettling dream of environmental collapse – “On the banks of a river, in a sweltering town, She can sense there’s great sickness in the water supply.” Vigilante justice groups roam the streets in Gutter Busting, kicking down doors and dealing drugs with impunity. If this sounds exhausting, it is, but this is exhilarating stuff. Music played by a band straining at the end of its tether, music teetering on the edge of collapse.

Two bonus tracks are included from the People Pie 12", but they already show a band retreating, as if the excesses of Descension were merely a freak aberration. As good as the reworked People Pie is, it can't disguise a move into a more commercial sound – backing singers, a guitar solo, a lot less of the ‘knackered studio aesthetic’ that their previous sound was rooted in – details that Descension does not concern itself with at all.

And why should it? Twenty years on, this sounds as good now as it did then.
In short, if you want to know where Trent Reznor gets the majority of his ideas from, check out this album.

Slab! released a further album entitled Sanity Allergy a year later, also on Ink Records. To date, this has not been released on CD – my vinyl copy is still playable, but only just.

Just for fun, look what happened to their bass player, Bill Davies.

On a screenwriting related note, the first script I ever wrote was called Descension. I sent it to Planet 24, who asked me, "Is Descension actually a word?" Well, no – technically it isn’t, but it’s a damn great record. It’s a crying shame nobody’s even heard of it.

Later in the week I'll be discussing the difference between a bitch slap (as administered by Gordy Hoffman in the previous post) and a pimp slap (as administered by a well known UK script editor), so stay tuned!

Friday, 17 August 2007

Blue Cat E-mail Tirade

Oops. I've just upset Gordy Hoffman (which means I'll have to shelve my Blue Cat acceptance speech for next year. Remember KLF playing the Brits a few years back with Extreme Noise Terror and an artfully placed dead sheep? It would've looked a bit like that).

I've just received feedback on an additional script I submitted to Blue Cat back in February and subsequently forgot all about it (which is the best way to be with competitions I think). On 15th August, a good few weeks after the top ten per cent, finalists and winners had been announced, my own feedback limps into my in-box.

Despite the fact that I'd forgotten all about the entry, I wasn't too impressed with this, so sent Gordy an email in which I threw my toys out of my pram plus a few more besides. This provoked a response from Gordy in which he basically bitch slapped me and told me to shut it - which, come to think of it, was a pretty fair response. Gordy stated that if I was dissatisfied with anything Blue Cat had done this year, then I could have a free entry next year. Very considerate (especially once you factor in my insulting email) - however, after my tirade, I don't think I'm welcome in the esteemed Blue Cat neighbourhood, so I shall slink off, all chastened and ashamed...

Anyway, the upshot of this is that Gordy sent me the marking criteria that Blue Cat use, which is reproduced below:


They mark each script out of 60, 10 for each category. My second script scored 26 (43%, good enough for an A level!), with a '2' for characterization! Wow. The winner scored 58 (which meant that the winner was more than twice as good as my own script!).

In comparison, I saw The Bourne Ultimatum last night, and using the Blue Cat marking criteria above (and, of course, my own rigorous standards of critique), I gave it a mark of 21 - which makes it a load of old flapdoodle in my book. And don't get me started on The Walker, Paul Schrader's latest. Perhaps I ought to send him an email to see if I can upset him as well...

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Planetary Problems

I have a problem with my entry for Red Planet, which basically boils down to misalignment and lack of time (and too many gigs on the horizon – Battles at the Concorde 2 anyone?)

Everyone knows about Red Planet by now, so I won’t bore my only reader (Hey! How ya doin’?) by shilling out the lowdown. Suffice to say, I think I’m fucked. I don’t think that either of the scripts I have ready to go are suitable (I’m fairly certain the nice people at Red Planet will not want to see a broadly generic horror script or an JG Ballard inspired sci-fi drama).

However, I have a script that might fit the bill. Problem is, it’s a complete drunk - in order to get it up and walking about, I need to feed it black coffee and walk it round the block, never an easy undertaking at the best of times. This is what I mean by misalignment. With every opportunity that comes along, I’m not convinced that what I have up my sleeve is suitable, or even good enough. So I obsess about the next script – this script it’s where it’s at, I tell myself - this script is the one. Problem is, it’s always just around the corner, waiting to be written and/or re-written, an alternating to and fro of hard work and procrastination. By the time it’s finished (well, inasmuch as any script can be said to be truly finished), the opportunity I had in mind for it has moved on, freeing up time for me to obsess about the next script. It’s like that hoary old saying about waiting for a bus and three of them coming along at once – in my case, the buses come along on time and all in a nice orderly line, but my script is too drunk to get on them, let alone flag one of them down (yeah, OK, so my analogy sucks, but you get the idea).

That said, I think I the first ten pages or so are pretty serviceable – but after that point, it all goes a bit Pete Tong. At the moment, my script looks like the backstage area of a gameshow – the pastel coloured façade of the first ten pages is all a big con – behind that sits a mess of cables, harassed production assistants and lots of gaffa tape (and to add insult to injury, someone’s drunk all the booze in the green room and eaten all the peanuts).

This is a script that’s been round the block several times now. A malicious script editor (stay tuned for more fun on that one) told me to write about what I knew, so I did – a script set in the buying department of a major UK airline. Problem was, 9/11 put paid to that. I had to wait three years before I could pick the script up again, dust it down and figure out what the hell I wanted to do with it. The solution? If I was going to rewrite it, I had to make 9/11 an integral element of the narrative – you could not have a script set in this industry and not mention it. In other words, a huge undertaking. Whether it works or not is something I’ll leave to the readers at Red Planet – that is, if I get the rewrite finished by October (assuming they even want to see it in the first place).

And that’s my second problem – time. A page one rewrite in two months? Hellfire. It takes me three hours to think about a half page conversation, let alone write it, so I need to generate some time from somewhere. And gigs of course - always gigs.

I ought to stop bitching and get on with it, right?

Friday, 10 August 2007

Anonymous in Toronto

Another episode from the “spec script sending out and waiting for something to happen” pile (gotta find a better way of expressing that at some point).

Back in September 2006, I sent a speculative email to a guy (let’s call him Jim) at Company X (I’m obstructed from saying any more due to confidentiality). Wanna read a couple of scripts, mate? Go on, go on, go on (RIP Father Ted).

The next day (5th September), Jim replies. Trousers, that was quick! OK, he said, send me a couple of hard copies.

On 11th September, Jim replies – he’s read them both. Good gravy, this guy is quicker than Superman on Ex-Lax! He states that he wants to send both scripts to his executive producer, who was en route to Toronto. Can I send him PDFs of both scripts and a short biography?

Send scripts in pdf format – no problem. As for a short biography – oh, Christ, I hate things like this. I was always taught that it was vulgar to talk about oneself, so compiling a CV is a complete nightmare for me. I know, I know, the whole point about this type of thing is that you should puff yourself up and bang your chest and get very excited about your ‘passion’ for scriptwriting and all suchlike related endeavours (then take a deep breath and relax). So I tell Jim what I do for a living in the hope that it will intimidate him enough so he doesn’t need to ask for another biography.

14th September, and things are moving apace:

Thanks for these… I’ve forwarded them to Toronto.

Wow. Toronto. I wonder what they’re doing over there?

A long silence follows. To Jim’s credit, I hassle him a few times and he always gets back promptly.

The scripts are in Canada.... you will have to forgive the time, but it’s ‘the process’.

Okay. ‘The Process’. In Toronto. Sounds mysterious, as if my poor scripts are being subjected to some weird Cronenbergian mind probe (either that, or Jim’s quoting the title of some Hollywood high concept piece o’ crap at me).

This arrives on 2nd January 2007 (Happy New Year by the way):

I don’t think your scripts are up to scratch... they’ll need a lot of work to get to a point where we can actively get sales potential involved. They lack structure which is not insurmountable, but they will need you to do some independent research. If you can provide us with script reports (independent reports), then we can, from a sales perspective look at them further.

Crikey! ‘Not up to scratch’, ‘no structure’. Everything’s gone pear shaped in the space of two lines (what happened in Toronto to my poor defenceless scripts?). OK, I can handle this. I e-mail Jim back and say sure, independent script reports are not a problem (I can imagine an unruly queue of script consultants forming round the block as I type), but surely you’d have some idea of how marketable you feel these scripts are, and whether or not they are likely to attract funding?

I get a reply the same day (I told you he works fast – you slackers over at Marchmont, take note):

…I cannot try to raise private equity funding from any of my collective of investors until a global sales deal is in place on a project. If and when that sales deal is in place, then I can bring the project to my personal financiers / private bankers. But to get it to this stage, any script consultancy report will help greatly, since if they are reputable, then they will have sales potential in mind.

Let me know if you’d be interested in getting some reports (for both if possible) and we can take it from there.

Jim then goes on to detail a huge list of requirements that he would need from me in order to ‘take things further’ – none of them are insurmountable, but all require a good degree of work, script reports notwithstanding.

Righty ho! I email Jim back to tell him that if he’s interested, all this might take a while. OK, he says, no hurry. A couple of re-writes later and I’m considering sending both scripts out for ‘professional’ coverage and then back to Jim to see if the initial interest is still there.

However, do script consultants really do this?

…any script consultancy report will help greatly, since if they are reputable, then they will have sales potential in mind…

Coverage I’ve received before refuses to comment on the ‘subjective’ concept of marketability (in that case I propose that structure is subjective as well J). Some of the ScriptShark coverage I’ve seen does briefly touch on marketability, but this entirely revolves around a script’s suitability within the current market – i.e., if you’ve written a time travel drama about the French revolution, chances are that ScriptShark will put the boot in (“A script featuring Marie Antoinette and her cyborg sidekick is unlikely to find funding in the current climate”). Then again, who knows? It’s all a lottery, right? (and bearing in mind some of the godawful British films that have been produced with lottery money, that’s absolutely true). That said, I’ve never gone as far as getting someone like the Script Factory to provide any of my scripts with feedback, which is probably something I should do, and pretty pronto.

At the very least, Jim sounds like a good man to know if you need someone to get the drinks in (he has his own coterie of personal financiers, no less).

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Unsolicited Submission Meltdown!

I’ve just realised (a bit slow on the uptake, me), that a blog is a great depository for all that stuff you should have a home for but just can’t get round to organising properly in any other format. From now on, if I have a sudden hankering to send scripts spinning out willy-nilly into the cyber-ether, all I have to do is to click on the links below (gleaned from pitching, submitting and pointlessly roaming about like the proverbial lemon).

Covent Garden FilmsWe are not accepting feature film scripts at present, as our development slate is now full. However, we will make an exception for science fiction.

Festival Film - Please note that we do accept unsolicited material as long as it is professionally presented and in an acceptable television or film script format.

Focus Films: Script Submissions to Malcom Kohll. Focus appear to be open to unsolicited submissions, but it would be a good idea to email Malcom first to check.

Gruenberg Film Gmbh - We are open to look at script and project submissions. Please drop us a short e-mail, we will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Olive Pictures – On-line submission, which is always handy – they seem to be looking for horror scripts (that said, they didn’t want mine. Well, they didn’t reply, which I guess is the same thing). That said, this site has been in ‘default’ mode for some time now, so I’m not sure how active Olive is as a company – details appear sketchy, so approach with caution.

Sensate Media – Looks like their latest script call is now closed, but it’s always worth keeping on eye out. Beth White writes an entertaining (and slightly psychotic) column for The Spectator, here.

September Films – Nadine Mellor used to be the Head of Production at September, and read a lot of unsolicited material (even though September were not involved in features production at the time). Nadine moved on a couple of years back and judging from the look of their website, September do not accept unsolicited submissions. However, might it be worth an email? Who knows…

Serendipity Films – Check the website for details. Nothing is listed for unsolicited submissions, but drop Jonathan Newman a line and ask politely (I did).

UK Screen has a Writing Forum page that occasionally offers up the odd writing opportunity. Always worth keeping an eye out.

World Productions - We accept all unsolicited material for consideration at World Productions so feel free to send me a hard copy of your project through the post. The company no longer operates a film arm. As you may know or have gathered from our web-site, we make drama for television and as such, tend only to consider material suited to that medium. We also prefer to read fully finished works as opposed to synopsis.

Yellow UK On rare occasions we will accept unsolicited material from unrepresented writers, but we will certainly consider projects for co-development from third party producers that fulfil certain criteria…

Danny Stack’s blog also has a good post on unsolicited submissions here. Most of the above are in addition to this list.

Public Service Announcement! Before you start battering these no doubt overworked companies with synopses and scripts, please take a look at their websites to see if your material would be a good fit for their company/slate profile.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007


Thanks to Lucy for the tip off on METLAB this year.

The email below from John Sweeney gives an outline of what to expect:

Thank you for your enquiry about the new Metlab course.

Here are the answers to the questions some of you have posed.

1) This is not a taught course. That is, we will not be teaching people the various formats and methodologies for writing scripts.

2) The aim of the Metlab programme is to develop commercially viable scripts, either from existing scripts or potentially viable treatments that adhere to the principles laid down in the book: Successful Business Models For Filmmakers. These principles are based on tried and tested formulas used by the mainstream film industry.

3) If the script is made into a feature film, the University will retain 2% of the gross income accruing to the film, after it as been released.

4) The writer retains all other rights to the script and the right to be paid.

5) To be considered for the programme, a one or two page synopsis/treatment for a genre based feature film must be submitted.

6) The closing date for submissions is 1st October 2007.

7) Final selection will be by interview, scheduled for October 2007.

8) The programme is free.

9) Writer must be willing to accept and carry out the changes to their script, as and when requested.

Thanks for your interest,

John Sweeney - Metlab Director

My application is already in, so we'll see what happens.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Blue Cat Feedback

Here’s my Blue Cat feedback from this year’s competition:

What did you like about this script?

Overall I thought the premise was relatively fresh, the characters were believable, and the pacing and tone were appropriate.

I found the general premise to be unusually interesting psychologically and unique for something of this genre. There were a few moments where I had a hard time suspending disbelief i.e. when the test patient's vein explodes violently, causing instant death. With just a little work I think "remote viewing" can become seamlessly believable, and I WANTED to hear more about the uses and effects. It is such an interesting concept to explore what it would be like to have this capability and to be exploited for it.

The two supporting characters served their purposes nicely. Emma was likeable, sympathetic character and functioned partially as a foil, which helped developed James. The most emotionally engaging portion of the story is when Emma dies. Forbes character is delightfully evil and predictable, which works for this piece. All the other characters are very one dimensional and function appropriately as catalysts and outlets for exposition.

I found the visual writing to be strong in many places. The writer has a strong command of action based language and moves us clearly and succinctly through his scenes. The mise en scene, including positioning of characters and body language is clearly communicated. Without being over bearing, they have framed some very nice composition and movement.

The pacing is appropriate and pleasantly surprising in its ability to create a feeling of paranoia. While one might be anticipating a typical action-adventure, what is instead delivered, through clever delays and sudden moments of silence and emptiness, is a Hitchcock-like anxiety laden thriller. The moment when John wakes up to Emma's dead body and just before he attacks Forbes are the two examples that come to mind immediately. By cutting between scenes the writer successfully builds the energy and anticipation.

What do you think needs work?

I would have liked to have seen James Marsh's character developed more. The nose bleeds were a nice technique to reveal moments of stress. It is also a disturbing concept that leaves the viewer feeling someone uncomfortable about how James' physical being is being exploited and damaged and therefore draws some empathy.

Otherwise, James character seemed relatively one dimensional and while, based on the premise of the story and his given condition, I wanted to feel bad for him, and side with him but it was difficult to summon the suffering and joy necessary to feel engaged. Because of the sterile environments James is placed in and the way his work treats him he naturally seems less human to viewers; it is very important the writer allow viewers to learn the opposite about James.

There is some attempt to unpeel the layers of James character as we learn about his past and spend intimate moments with him as he pieces together the events that shaped his life. However, for all these moments of intimacy that are poised to bring about epiphanies and character revelations, I never really felt that James character was delivered. I was not sure if we were supposed to view him as introverted, intellectual hero who is fighting a psychological warfare or if he was more a tough guy, gun toting secret agent.

We hear about his missing mother and his almost orphan status multiple times, but it's difficult to understand how this impacts him, except that he is searching. Because of this it is hard to find much meaning in the ending. There is much to be explored in the life and angst of James Marsh's life, but it is absolutely imperative that his character come through to be successful. Right now he seems like a ping pong ball more than anything. Let's learn more about him and grow to like him.

One other major point to be raised is that there are a few areas that are vague to the point of being distracting. Firstly, it was difficult to make the connection between Martin, Emma, and James. Therefore it was difficult to understand James' anger. Also, the script would benefit if the viewer had a better understanding of what exactly ConSec did and how James served them. It's completely unique and fictional so in this situation I would not rely on the viewers understanding of the concept by making brief references laden in jargon. It's okay to be a bit patronizing and expository here. Tell us about it.

I entered the competition earlier this year, and was the beneficiary of early advice (on 21st January). It came with the following email (extract):

Thank you very much for participating in this new program at BlueCat. We’ve heard from writers over the years how they wish they could receive their notes earlier, and this year we decided to give it a try.

Heather and I discussed the idea of letting you re-submit your screenplay in time for the March deadline, and while we love the idea, it wouldn’t be fair to change the rules midstream. But next year, we're considering ways for writers to intensely develop their screenplays over the four-month window of our submission period.

The reason I entered so early was to beat the increasing deluge of entries that Blue Cat was going to receive as the closing date loomed. That, and the fact that every entry had the benefit of written script analysis – I consider the coverage I received to be pretty good, especially considering Scott the Reader’s experience this year (my coverage weighed in at 745 words – Scott’s limped over the finish line with a mere 188).

I did not expect to do anything at all in this competition, so I wasn’t surprised when my entry did not trouble the top ten per cent. I entered it to receive the analysis which, all in all, I was pretty pleased about.

Blue Cat received over 2300 submissions this year – at $45 a pop, that’s $103,500 (that’s about £1.60 at today’s exchange rate)! Every year it attracts more entries than the year before, partially due to Gordy Hoffman’s spirited on-line marketing, and mostly due (I suspect) to the written analysis that every script receives. It might be interesting to see what impact such a huge amount of submissions has on entries for next year, especially if Scott’s experience is anything to go by.

And who’s to say that if the competition gets too popular they’ll simply stop the written analysis altogether? As Blue Cat grows in popularity, its reputation increases (well, that's the theory I guess). The more entries they receive, the more readers they’ll need to employ – if it gets much bigger, the logistics might mean that Blue Cat will go into some sort of reader shortage meltdown. Who knows?

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Jet Set Go!

I’ve always been of the opinion that the ‘jet set’ (i.e., rich, young and impossibly gorgeous Eurotrash who party all year long on Capri) is a purely fictional construct, something concocted by evil media conglomerates in a perpetual attempt to make us consume our own weight in shiny knick-knacks. In reality, we all know the real jet set are merely overweight contestants on an Eamonn Holmes lottery gameshow, gallivanting round tourist hotspots and gawking at the exotic locals.

But enough of that. I saw this in the Writer’s Guild bulletin back in 2006:


Outsider Film Sales is currently seeking to commission a professional writer for a black comedy entitled Stitched. As the project is in the initial stages of development, this is an opportunity for the right writer to be creatively involved in the project from its inception.

For a brief synopsis of the project, contact Adam Sydney, head of development.

The company is also looking for fully developed, well-written scripts of any genre that are smart, surprising and have something truly original to say. Feel free to send a one-page synopsis and logline for your completed script in word to the email address listed above.

So, I sent a synopsis. Adam Sydney wrote back and requested the full script (from a different e-mail address – something called The Jet Set Film Company). Duly sent.

Ten days later I get this:

Thanks for sending your script. I have to say that I enjoyed it. I like your writing and the central premise was promising. While it doesn’t quite fit into our slate right now, I’d be glad to give some brief notes, if you’d like.

Yeah, OK. I can live with that. The notes Adam supplied were surprisingly lengthy and pretty insightful. He signed off with:

I hope these notes help and I would be interested in seeing your next draft if you’d like to send it along— or any other projects.

Great! In return I offered him a ropy old gangster script which he (rightly) ignored.

On 14th March 2007, I got this:

We are looking to commission a writer on a new project here and I thought it might be something that would work for you. It’s a black comedy/thriller, basically.

Yeah, love to have a look. Wing it over, please!

Three days later, this arrives:

Thanks for the interest. Please find attached a one-act-and-a-bit synopsis for Stitched. We commissioned a draft of it a while ago, but the script wasn’t working, so we pared it back to the elements we liked, leaving it open-ended. This way, the writer will have much more creative input right from the initial stages of the project. If it’s something that fires your imagination, please feel free to jot down a few notes on how you might see the story going.

Back to where we came in (remember the initial Writer’s Guild query?). Despite some initial doubts (more of which below), I cracked ahead with two synopses at breakneck speed, which I sent across to Adam.

A couple of weeks later, I get this:

I apologize for not getting back with you sooner regarding Stitched. As often seems to be the case, the project is taking a bit longer than I had hoped. That being said, I’m glad to say that your proposal has made it to the shortlist here, and my boss is presently going through those synopses. I hope to have an answer for you soon.

And the next day, this:

Sorry again about taking so long to get back with you regarding Stitched, but it's taken a lot longer than I was anticipating and we got quite a few more submissions than I'd expected.

My boss just finished going over everything. Although we've decided to go in a different direction, we really liked your take on the story... Moreover, the tone was pitch perfect. Very nice job.

I will definitely keep you in mind on anything else we've got going here; I hope you'll do the same if you have a project that you think might be a good fit.

Another dead end. That’s fine (you’re going to get them), and all round, no big deal. Adam was exceptionally quick in getting back, and that’s refreshing.

However, I sincerely hope that whoever wrote the original draft of Stitched (of which the first act and a bit was apparently salvageable) got well remunerated for their work. Although I enjoyed it, I felt a little uneasy writing around someone else’s synopsis – not because I didn’t feel capable, but because I was aware that this was someone else’s baby, someone else’s idea. Of course, everyone knows you can’t copyright ideas, and that movies are often weighted down with several writers (how many screenwriters did The Flintstones movie have attached to it? Seventeen or some such lunatic number? And to think, it only took one guy to write Ulysses). Film making is a collaborative process after all. But even so: this wasn't a re-write or even a polishing-up exercise, but a full scale slash and burn of someone else's concept.

Perhaps I shouldn’t care. After all, most writers would pimp their disabled grandmother for a chance to write for Doctor Who, so to ride roughshod over someone else’s idea/synopsis seems a relatively minor issue. Forget I even mentioned it.

Suffice to say, there’s nothing on the net concerning the Jet Set Film Company, so I can only assume that Stitched never saw the light of day. The only thing I can really find for Outsider Films Sales is here. Looking for that ever-elusive start up money by the look of things. Perhaps they need to keep playing the lottery!

As a postscript, a friend of a friend of mine used to play in a band called Stitched Back Foot Airman. But that’s not important right now.