Sunday, 29 June 2008

Dead Slow and Stop

My broadband connection ground to a halt on Friday (the AOL browser I use is essentially a virus, as it’s now decided to corrupt about a million drivers on my PC). What I’ve learnt from being completely internet free for the last few days is that the internet is a giant repository of sparkly things designed to pleasantly waste your time whilst giving you the impression you are being productive. I can get lost for hours in Wikipedia looking up obscure mental illnesses, all the time kidding myself that it’s all valuable research – that’s when I’m not stocking up on cheap CDs from Amazon or putting band posters up for sale on EBay or reading blogs or checking out what the hell happened to Danny Lloyd after he starred in The Shining (answer? Not a lot). I love the internet and I wouldn’t be without it, but when AOL decides to function, the temptation is always there to tinker, to read one more blog, to buy one more CD, to check one more fact.

Coupled with AOL’s all out war on my sanity, the deadline for the treatment I’m writing has just been pushed back to the end of August, so I now have the time to try and make it as bright and shiny as I possibly can. Ordinarily, this would mean a huge festival of procrastination, but as the internet is down, I’m forced to concentrate. And it’s actually going pretty well, partially due to the fact that I don’t have all the alluring bells and whistles of the web to tempt me. I’m in the fortunate position that I have a job that enables me to work from home a little bit, which means on the odd occasion I can shut down Outlook and actually hear myself think. Maybe there is some merit in trying to slow down a little and having an internet free day a week – but I’d like it to be on my terms rather than when my positively fundamentalist ISP dictates.

By Tuesday, my PC will be fixed and normal service will be resumed – which means more prevarication and the purchasing of more crap I don’t need. Hey ho.

Oh, I saw Nick Cave in Woodingdean on Friday morning... which was nice.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Sharps: Over and Out

Like Oli, David and the rest of the scribosphere, my Sharps entry did absolutely fup all, which doesn’t mean to say that what I submitted was a pile of unmentionables. Everyone who read it and passed comment seemed to genuinely like the concept, and it even made people laugh (intentionally, I hasten to add) - so all round, I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out. OK, so it’s been passed over this time, but there’s nothing to say that it can’t act as a valuable ‘calling card’/writing sample for something else – and let’s face it, thirty pages is much easier for a reader to gaily skip through than that dense 130 page sci-fi epic that you’ve been slaving over for the last decade (my own dense sci-fi epic that I’ve been slaving over for the last decade comes in at 94 pages, so I’m one up on you already. Ha! ;-))

In retrospect, I have a creeping suspicion that the first ten pages of my script did not do an adequate job of grabbing the Writersroom reader by the old proverbials right from the get-go – too much set up perhaps, too much of a slow burn before my cabal of sociopathic MPs went completely off the rails and tried hitching a lift to the nearest star system. That said, perhaps they thought it was shite, but I don’t care – it may sound terrifically arrogant of me, but I like it enough to use it again for something else. And as Lucy says over at her esteemed gaff, this game is pretty subjective – if you write something that excites you and that you believe in rather than what you think people want to read, I think you’re onto something pretty decent. It’s just that what excites you may not be the same as what excites and interests your reader – but when the two match up, that’s where the fun starts. But for the moment, I’m happy in my little transparent bubble.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

My New Favourite Film

Contains Spoilers for Session 9

This movie cropped up on the Sci-Fi channel recently, and what a little gem it is (something about the title rang a bell so I recorded it, only to discover later that Mr Arnopp recommended it on his esteemed blog last year – which means I’m only twelve months behind the curve).

I’ll try to give you a flavour without going all spoiler-tastic on your ass, but it’s a hugely effective horror cum ghost story. Filmed almost entirely on location in a deserted mental asylum (Danvers State Hospital, now apparently torn down to make way for swanky apartments), the emphasis is very firmly placed on character and a slow sense of creeping dread that will scare the bajesus out of you (well, it did me). Even though it is shot on digital video, the cinematography by Uwe Brieseitz is stunning – there is certainly more than a touch of The Shining about it, but where The Shining was filmed on a series of huge, purpose built sets, every location you see in Session 9 is real – which makes the whole thing that little bit more frightening. The cast – including Peter Mullan and David Caruso – turn in stellar performances, and the script is a veritable mine of ambiguity, where the major sub plot may or may not have much to do with the primary narrative (the sort of thing that would have script readers the world breaking out in mass cardiac arrests). The director, Brad Anderson, went on to make The Machinist, so you know you’re in safe hands.

Even if you don’t like horror as a genre (and let’s face it, Session 9 is certainly not your usual horror flick), give this a go – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised as well as severely creeped out – and who could want anything more from a film than that?

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Opportunity Knocks, Part 8

This is from the Writer's Guild weekely e-bulletin, always worth a read. Quite tempted to dust off a couple of short stories for this one, and at three quid a pop, it's a nice price too...

Grist – Short Story and Poetry Competitions

The judges for this year's new Grist competition are Joanne Harris (short fiction) and Simon Armitage (poetry). Grist publishes an annual anthology of poetry and short fiction, featuring the winners of the Grist annual poetry and short fiction competitions, as well as specially commissioned work from some of well- established writers.

Grist is interested in fresh new voices with something to say. By publishing emerging writers alongside established writers, Grist provides a unique opportunity for those starting out in their writing careers.

Joanne Harris is this year's Short Story Judge:

Grist welcomes short stories up to 3,500 words in length on any subject. All work must by 12 point typeface and spaced double or 1.5. Please number pages and ensure contact details are included.

Simon Armitage is this year's Poetry Judge:

Grist welcomes poems up to 40 lines in length on any subject. All work must by 12 point typeface and spaced double or 1.5. Please number pages and ensure contact details are included.

Entry fee: £3 per poem or short story. You may submit as many pieces of work as you like.

The closing date for both competitions is 30th November 2008.

The three overall winners in each category will receive a cash prize. The three winners and all runners up will be published in the next issue of Grist.

Submission forms and further information is available online at:

Please send your entries and payment to Grist, School of Music, Humanities and Media, The University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield HD1 3DH. Cheques are to be made payable to the University of Huddersfield.

For more information, please contact Michael Stewart on or Debbie Hoyle on

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Opportunity Knocks, part 7

This is from those lovely folks over at Moviebytes:

WRITERS WANTED: Gruenberg Film

At the moment we are looking for a mystery/horror script in the vein of the Grudge or Ring, already set in Asia or that could be set in Asia, with the possibility to bring in a mixed Western/Eastern cast and to be shot low budget (below 3 MM USD).

Gruenberg Film GmbH
Blankenburger Chaussee 84
Berlin, D 13125
Phone: 0114930-94 32 999

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

What's the Deal with Planet Terror?

Contains Spoilers for Planet Terror

Hmmm – Planet Terror: a fun, fast and furious homage to the old b-movie schlock movies.

One problem here: doesn’t Robert Rodriguez make B-movies anyway (El Mariachi, Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn)? So Planet Terror is a homage to... Robert Rodriguez movies? I’m confused, but let’s face it – it doesn’t take much.
There’s nothing wrong with Planet Terror as such, discounting of course Quentin Tarantino’s role as Rapist #1 (subtle it ain’t). The thing that intrigued me most about it was Rebel Rodriguez’s (Robert Rodriguez’s son) resemblance to Danny Lloyd in The Shining – it really is quite startling. Robert Rodriguez makes a throwaway comment about it here, but I’m sure there’s more to this than meets the eye. The only evidence that the reference to The Shining was deliberate is that Rebel’s character in the film is called Tony, which was the name of Danny Torrance’s alter ego. Also, given the fact that Planet Terror is a homage to the exploitation movie (many of these released at around the same time as The Shining) it might have been possible for Danny Lloyd to bag a part in one of these flicks (the fact that he didn’t is neither here nor there). If you’re in the habit of ascribing a huge degree of intelligence to a movie when in reality there’s probably none, you might come to the conclusion that Rodriguez enjoys fucking with his audience’s collective head – until the point that Tony shoots himself with the gun that his mother has entrusted to him, leaving that particular narrative thread to go nowhere. Even weirder is that the film ends with a shot of Tony, frolicking on a beach with various survivors in some kind of weird idealised daydream. I no understand.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Off on a Tangent, Part 16 - I Am Being Stalked by Myleene Klass.

Much in the same way that I was stalked by Stanley Tucci over the Christmas period, I am now experiencing the same with Myleene Klass (which is why there is now a photo of her on my blog – I mean, Jesus, she’s everywhere else, so why not here as well?). Not exactly an unpleasant experience you might think, but every time I see her, she is trying to sell someone something (all quotes taken from Myleene’s website):

Released under a multi-album series 'Myleene's Music' is compiled from the EMI Classics catalogue, with the tracks on each album united by a particular lifestyle theme. Each 2-CD set carries the added bonus of at least two tracks performed by Myleene herself on the piano to complement the theme of the album.

I love the mention of the ‘at least’ in the second sentence (as well as the dubious phrase ‘added bonus’). Doesn’t make me want to buy the album though, although people on anti-psychotic medication would probably like it.

With Myleene’s new born baby Ava came the opportunity to create a collection of clothes and accessories for children aged 0-3 years named ‘Baby K’. Myleene takes a very active role in the project testing zippers, fabrics and ensuring the highest quality on all product. This range is Myleene’s second baby and has been made with love for all to enjoy.

I don’t have kids (thank the Lord), so this passes me by as well. However, the thought of Myleene testing zippers is highly suspect. But wait!

Each month in Classic FM magazine Myleene brings you the new faces to watch in classical music. Singers, instrumentalists, composers and conductors – no-one escapes Myleene’s critical gaze as she combs classical music for its freshest, brightest talents.

With Myleene’s work in quality control and zipper testing, I’m surprised she’s got the time.

My Bump & Me is about everything Myleene did ‘wrong’ during her pregnancy, how her hormones turned her into a woman she hardly recognised, and how incredible it feels to be expecting a baby.

Pregnancy as a business opportunity: you gotta admire the girl and her get up and go attitude to rampant capitalism.

Myleene's natural charm on television caught the eye of the directors of M&S who quickly signed her up to be the face of their 2007 and 2008 advertising campaigns. Myleene now adorns billboards and M&S windows across the country as well as appearing in their TV advertising campaign...

And this is why you can’t get away from the woman. It’s a perfect storm of personal appearances, incessant advertising and compilation albums. Open any newspaper and there she is, grinning inanely back at you whilst trying to flog you travel insurance. I’m sick to death of the woman.

Friday 20th June: Myleene hosts Miss Ireland 2008 competition.


Friday, 13 June 2008

Getting 'It' Out There

In the comments section of Lucy’s post on MyVisualPitch here, Piers serves up a brilliantly cost effective and reliable method of promoting yourself and your screenplay to the world at large – which got me thinking (never a pleasant sight at the best of times). All the little baby steps I’ve made with my own scripts have mostly down to my own efforts – and by that I mean that I haven’t paid anyone or any website a single penny to promote my work. I tried Inktip last summer (see here for a summary) and got absolutely nowhere. I have no opinion as to why this was – perhaps my loglines didn’t inspire people to find out more, who knows? – and of course, you pays your money, you takes your choice (i.e., caveat emptor). But I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that if you - the writer - are in control, that’s got to be a good thing. And to be in control means doing it yourself.

Don’t get me wrong – I have absolutely nothing against sites like Inktip or MyVisualPitch (there’s no doubt that they work for some people). It’s just that – like Piers – I think there are far more cost effective ways of promoting your work and also retaining a degree of control regarding the process. Like most people I dislike cold calling, so I tend to lead with either a letter or an e-mail. If you come across as reasonably sane and intelligent, you’ll be pleasantly surprised as to who responds. You could do worse than start off with this list (on the bottom of the same post there’s also a link to a post on Danny Stack’s blog with similar information regarding different companies). Send ‘em an e-mail and see what happens! After all, it’s free. Add in a few script calls (the recent Sharps, for example) and the odd competition (if that’s your bag), and you should have enough to keep the promotions subsidiary of your screenwriting ‘business’ busy without bankrupting yourself. And if you really have a hankering to try and promote your work in the United States, try this website – it has more free information on it than you can shake an oversized stick at.

Absolutely 100% of all the opportunities I’ve gone for over the last couple of years have been pursued using purely traditional means: letters, e-mails (yeah, OK, ‘traditional’ in the sense that it’s still a letter per se) and phone calls. Judging from the very limited amount of marketing I’ve done, I’ve had many close calls, a few meetings and have been on a fair few shortlists – all for a minimum outlay. I’m working on a collaboration right now, which cost me absolutely nothing to establish. Besides, I don’t have the money to throw at things like Inktip, and what’s more, I’m a control freak. I want to know who might be interested in my work and who might want to read it.

In this regard, I find the internet a little disingenuous, as it seemingly offers up the prospect of instant success for a minimum investment of time. The problem here as I see it is twofold -cost: as the price of a lot of online services is often prohibitive, and lack of visibility: once your work is out there, you have very little idea how it’s doing, or how it compares to everything else in an already overcrowded market.

Piers’ idea of buying a copy of the Writers & Artists Yearbook is still a good one – go through it and make a list of everyone who accepts unsolicited submissions. Send them a letter, an e-mail, or even a script. It really is that simple.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

7 Songs

Oooh, I’ve been memed by the Target obsessed Mr Stickler (honestly, Rob: Starship Trooper featuring Sarah Brightman? Zoiks!):

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring.

Well, let’s see now:

1) Holiday in Cambodia - Dead Kennedys (picked out the first album today for a blast).
2) Create and Melt – Dali’s Car (don’t ask, please).
3) Love and Mathematics – Broken Social Scene
4) The International Tweexcore Underground – Los Campesinos!
5) Glasgow Mega Snake - Mogwai
6) Fucked Up Kid – Kevin Drew
7) New Year – Death Cab for Cutie.

(Thank God this meme wasn’t called 9 Songs, otherwise this post would have been another anti-Winterbottom rant).

OK, I tag Robin, Lucy, Elinor and Rachael, although I suspect they’ve all been ‘done’ already – so consider yourselves double memed! Or something.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Cheers, Big Ears! (Part 2)

After I unceremoniously dumped my first Sharps effort, I started a second. I think it’s a whole lot better than the first, but what the heck do I know about anything? So that’s where John Soanes, Rachael and the blogless Caroline came in – all hail PO3! As usual, the feedback process exposed a few flaws in my grand scheme (a subplot that didn’t need to be quite so pronounced, a face-off between the terms psychopath/sociopath and some banter on Scientology - always a pleasure!), so this post is a ‘tip of the hat’ to this intrepid trio of reviewers for finding the time to read and comment on my latest effort. Thanks all! I have still to return the favour for two of them, so all I will say here is: get your fingers out! The deadline of 16th June is fast approaching, my friends...

All in all, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the writing process for Sharps. Thirty minute drama is not something you see a lot of these days, but even so, as a writing sample it’s a whole lot easier to digest than a 100 page feature script. And if my entry doesn’t get anywhere, I have a piece of work that I’m happy with (doesn’t happy very often). I'll have to try more of these half hour things.

Right, I’m off to watch some football.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Off on a Tangent. Part 15 – Broken Social Scene, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 23rd May 2008.

Some cracked genius has decreed that Shepherd’s Bush tube station is closed for renovation, so getting off at White City, my brother and I had to figure out which way the Empire was (they used to film Crackerjack there, don’cha know). Just then, a bloke in a sari walked past – hmmm: I bet he’s going to the Empire – assumption correct!

The last time I was at Shepherd’s Bush Empire was for Helmet (featuring a stage diving Paul King – how bizarre was that?), and one of the last times my brother was there was to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, during whose set he dried his socks on a handy light in the balcony (as well as marvelling at the walking distillery that is Shane MacGowan, who was busy providing back up drunken roars, or ‘vocals’ as he probably calls them).

So, Broken Social Scene: I’m happy to report that BSS have regained a great deal of their ramshackle charm. Last time out, the touring band had been whittled down to an essential core, which meant that they came across more like a seasoned session band rather than a loose multi-headed pop thing, which is what they’re good at. This time round with Amy Millan and various members of the support band The Brunettes in attendance, BSS were back to their shuffling, tumbledown best.

At a guess, I’d say this tour was ostensibly to promote Brendan Canning’s album, Something for All of Us – not that you’d know it, as Kevin Drew leads from the front as he tends to. As Canning’s record isn’t out until July, you can only assume that these guys like touring to the detriment of everything else in their lives, the crazy eejits. That said, the couple of songs they play from Canning’s new record sound fantastic: instead of the usual BSS wall of bleeding sound, we get bass driven melodies with some much needed fuzzy space round the edges.

And then we get Charles Spearin’s Jazz Odyssey: the Do Make Say Think helmer unveiled a mini-collection of instrumentals that attempted to replicate speech patterns using just a gently strummed guitar and a wildly honking saxophone playing every conceivable scale known to man. I guess it gave the other members of the band some time off for a well deserved cup of tea.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Played Out Franchise

Contains Spoilers for Indy 4.

Bearing in mind the middling reviews that IJ4 has already received, I went along to my friendly, local multiplex not expecting to experience a landslide of narrative coherence. I mean, the words ‘Story by George Lucas’ is enough to make anyone spontaneously combust, but I was prepared: just entertain me, goddamn it! With a big marquee film like this, I don’t expect anything more than that.

One thing I just wasn’t prepared for was just how damn boring the whole thing was.

Mystery Man lays into the whole thing here better than I could, but the one thing he seems to miss is just how frickin’ dull it all was. The first fifteen minutes are a case in point: Indy and his chronically underwritten double/triple-dealing sidekick Mac find themselves prisoners of the Russian Army, forced to search an American military warehouse for the body of an extraterrestrial (don’t bother asking how half the Russian army have somehow ended up in the United States; you won’t understand – or even care about – the answer). OK, that much I can buy – it’s the heavy handed set up that really starts to grind. The three previous films hit the ground running – this one sort of limps out of the gate and has a lie down for fifteen minutes whilst it tries to figure out where the hell it wants to go. What’s more, the entire opening of the film is effectively made completely redundant by the fact that the narrative starts again with the arrival of Mutt (another crap sidekick). The scene in the diner is where the film actually begins, albeit with a landfill of boring and confusing exposition thrown in for good measure. Add in some pointless sub plots, far too many underwritten characters and a narrative that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and there you have it: the worst film of the quadrilogy by a long, long way – which brings me back to the whole problem of coherence.

I get positively autistic when faced with a narrative that doesn’t make sense, although I was quite prepared to temporarily suspend this debilitating condition in order to be entertained. Didn’t happen. Now I know that narrative coherence is not a luxury to be sacrificed in favour of spectacle: if you’re confused, you’re not involved - you spend half the time fretting away at a confusing narrative detail and not emoting, which is probably why Indy 4 has no discernible emotional intelligence to it at all. The first step should have been to make the thing actually make sense – everything can then follow from there. But then again, coherence is not something we’ve come to expect from George Lucas, bless him.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Let's Hear it for the Scriptwriters

An article in yesterday's Guardian here from Mark Lawson that might be of interest. What's more, a link in the comments section will take you here, where Donna Franceschild talks about Takin' Over the Asylum - there's also an intelligent debate further down the page that is well worth checking out as well.