Monday, 22 December 2008

The Naked Civil-Servant

Ok, so now i'm writing with renued vigour- i've got a little 9-5 civil service job, which is working out nicely, and will bring in some money so i can now write guilt-free in the evenings. Also on the blogging advice from Danny Stack's blog (Screenwriting in the UK- which is an absolute Godsend, by the way- i've made some enquiries into script reading work, and have got a couple of positive responses. So i'm going to plow ahead with my script because i think it'll be good for me to get back into the routine and thought processes of writing, and as well, it'd be nice to have some more substantial examples of my work, should anyone request them.

As you may have read last time i was gutted when i found that the most up to date version of my latest script hadn't been saved, which meant i lost some of the best written scenes of the script...

So, anyhow, when i found out that the script was somehow lost in the innards of my parents computer (long story, but i'd been using their's to write on for a while) i set about finding ways to get this information back.

So i looked about for a bit and found some company that specialised in retrieving lost files. I decided that this seemed like a good idea, and told my folks about it, seen as technically it's their computer, and here's how it goes...

"Hey Dad, i'm thinking of taking the computer in to one of those file retrieval places in Manchester. Would you be ok going without your computer for a few days while i get it sorted out."

"Well, me and your Mother don't mind....But, are you sure you want some stranger looking at the computer?"

"Yeah, i don't mind. As long as it gets the files back, that's fine."

"Ok.......well, are you sure there's nothing on there that you don't want anyone seeing?"


(Alarm bells start slowly surfacing at this point. I'm thinking "I'm certain there's nothing dodgy on there-if ever i've been sacheting through a gentlemen's website I always do the old delete-the-history-trick)

"Look, i'm sorry to have to bring this up, but your mum was looking through the computer the other day and she came across was a picture of you with no clothes on"

(Oh shit. I remembered. I took a stupid naked photo over a year ago when i was messing around, and somehow i'd forgotten to delete it. Now, my parents are ultra conservative, and my upbringing was painfully stiff in regards to the birds and the bees. So much so that up until this point, my most embarassing moment was when my mum had two glasses of wine at Christmas and laughed at a rude answer on Blankety Blank.)

"Now, don't worry Son, we've all been there and done that.....and i've seen alot worse"

(Reassuring as my Dad's efforts were to aleave my embarassment, he goes on to make it much worse by carrying on trying to emphasise his own 'crazy experimental' youth. Even though i'm pretty sure his genitals pre-date the camera obscura. And so it is that in trying to to rescue my failing script, I turn my relationship with my father into some kind of straight to dvd American Pie knock off.)

and now my mum's seen my cock. Oh joy.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The Unbearable Dullness of Being

Ok, so after fiddling around on blogger for a bit it seems that there's loads of great blogs out there for people interested in writing/screenwriting.

I've now got a list of all these blogs on this page (on the sidebar). Check them out, they're mostly ace!

And here was me complaining that there were barely any resources for aspiring UK screenwriters!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Game on

Ok, so another long lay-off with no updates (and cruicially no writing)- but i think that i've turned another corner now. (Jesus, i'm 'turning more corners' than Lewis Hamilton).

Basically, i've managed to get a job. It's not a great job by any stretch of the imagination (and it's nothing to do with anything i 'actually' want to do in life, but it'll pay the bills, and it's one less thing to have to worry about.

So, i'm going to resume proceedings on my screenplay.

And now for the bad news....

About two or three months ago my computer crashed, and totally wiped everything out- all photos, music, documents, programmes, everything! But, i was sure everything was alright, because i had my work backed up on USB and i had a hard copy of my work so far. But, having decided to get the ball rolling on stuff last night, i've found that the hard copy and the backed up files are not the most current version of my script. As it turns out, the last (and wouldn't you fucking know it) best written scenes aren't in the version that's survived. Somewhere, floating through the ether (or trapped in my shit hole of a hard drive) are ten of the best pages i've ever magiced out of my chubby fingers. Gone.

Oh well.

Anyhow, i'm going to start back on it A.S.A.P- i read some great advice recently, spoken by Rob Long in Toby Young's 'The Sound of No Hands Clapping'

"Listen, you’re thinking way too much about this. Writing for the movies is easy.
There are only two rules: Make sure something interesting happens on
every page and make sure the character changes. The character has to
change. Don’t worry about the three-act structure or any of that
bullshit. And for God’s sake don’t read any of those goddamned screen-
writing books. That’s the kiss of death."

PS- Here's a link to a screenwriting forum which looks quite useful

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Wages of Fear

Ok, so yet again it's been an absolute age since i've last posted on here. Well, i came to a slight decision recently to put my writing on hold for a little while. You see, being a man i find it incredibly hard to multi-task. Maybe i should explain; At the moment, not much has changed from the last time i posted- I'm still unemployed and sort of stuck in a rut. But now, me and my girlfriend have a house in Cardiff, which is great. It's been bought and all the paperwork is going through now, and the estate agent estimated that we'll move in by the end of October. So with this in mind, i decided that i should shift the focus of my priorities a little; i decided that seen as i totally can't concentrate on more than one task at once, i should really concentrate fully on getting a proper job. Writing is not going to pay the bills anytime soon, so i'm having to work hard on trying to get a job instead for the meantime. It's taking ages to find a job as well- who knew that a degree in Film and Philosophy from a tiny University wouldn't see employers beating down my door to give me a job!?! So once i've got myself a job and the money starts coming in, then i'll be back on board with the writing.

As for the writing, i'm still labouring on the second act. It really is a quagmire in there. I need to really concentrate and strip away all the meat and get down to the bare bones of my story- i have to find what is the driving force behind the narrative, what makes the story my story. I came across a great quote from Bertrand Russell the other day which really seems to sum it all up;

"Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise"

When i started out on this story, i thought i knew it inside and out, but the more i try and examine it, the more it eludes me.

Anyway, in true 'me' style, i already have the basic outline for my next script (it would probably be a good idea to finish the first one first!), which will basically be a development of something i wrote during my degree. Yep, barely one script in, i'm already cannibalising my old ideas! The shallow well too soon dries!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Second Act Blues

Ok, so it's been a fair while since i last left a message. So, i'll give a quick update on what's going on....
Lots of stuff seems to have happened in my general life (was nearly evicted, lost my job, etc), but in my writing, not a great deal has happened.

So, i guess this must be my first real experience with writers' block. It's strange, i have this feeling like i know exactly how to solve my screenplay problems; they seem strangely tangible, like i could almost reach out and touch them. But the more i try, the more ellusive they become, fading away into nothingness.

I'm basically hung up at the start of the second act. I'm having a real problem nailing my ideas down. I think that what this mainly comes down to is my lack of preparation in the beginning. I feel that maybe my initial outline wasn't fleshed out enough, and that now, it's slowly slipping away.

The first act has changed a great deal since my outline- i've made lots of changes with structure, plotting, pace, and characters, which has all had a knock-on effect for the rest of the story. Now, what would've happened in the second, and third acts, is no longer valid, so i need to lamost go back to the drawing board, and really nail down in what direction i want this to go in.

You see, i'm almost in two minds as to how to proceed with this. I want the script to be commercial enough to sell, but i think that it might be becoming too 'genre', sinking into cliche-infested waters. But i'm having a real problem in making something which is largely intangible into something scary, which is why i think that i have snuck down the more obvious horror path.

Oh well, i think i'm just going to have to go back to the beginning, and really hold a magnifying glass up to the structure of it- maybe even go back and write another outline, based on how i have written the first draft.

Sometimes writing can suck balls...

Sunday, 10 February 2008

An Invitation to the Dance

Ok, so this weekend i decided to lay off the booze and avoid a repeat of last weekend's blackout.

Went out for a work friend's birthday, which was good fun- managed to have a decent time despite having to explain to a whole new bunch of people why i don't dance (The short answer is i look ridiculous, the longer answer is that i just DON'T GET IT?!?)

I hate the way people sometimes make you out to be no fun whatsoever if you don't want to dance! It's crazy, like the only way you can have fun is by dancing! For those of you who don't know me, i've never been in danger of not having fun. ever.

Anyhow, the writing's been going well. I'm up to around 28 pages- almost finished the first act. I'm pleased with some of the stuff i've got down- managed to go over some stuff, and insert a couple of needed scenes in there to provide character motivation. All in all, i don't think the dialogue's anything to write home about yet- but hopefully i'll get it a bit cuter and smarter in the re-writes. All i'm looking for now is words on paper, and for it to make some sort of internal sense.

So, i was feeling pretty good about myself, and then BAM! Phone call off my landlord- he's been hit with a bill for lots of money, and unless i can sort this whole Uni/registration situation out soon, i'll be liable for it. I'm hoping that it'll all get sorted out very soon, and i'm doing everything i can at the moment to hurry everyone along. But jesus, i feel like this'll be a close one!

Monday, 4 February 2008

Fear and Loathing in Lampeter or The Loneliness of the Long Distance Student

Had a few days off work in a row now, but only really got some work done today, due to the biggest hangover in the world yesterday. My girlfriend had a Laguna Beach/California themed party at her halls on saturday. Who knew it's not a good idea to sit next to a table full of cocktails all night?!? The last thing i remember is declaring my undying love for Bill Russell....
However, apparently i did a spot of hill climbing (see picture), invented a cocktail which we promptly forgot, and drank some manky wine and moonshine. And i also asked my girlfriend whilest in bed to "Dance with me...." She does well to put up with me sometimes, heh heh.
I have no memory of any of this. All things in moderation, including moderation...

I feel weird at the moment. I'm in a weird situation with this whole uni thing at the mo.

I accepted the offer from Bangor Uni to do my MPhil a long time ago (to start the course in January) but i haven't heard anything from them for a while. I know it's a distance course, but sometimes i feel like there's too much distance!

I need to chase them up about providing me with a certificate of registration for my landlord. Basically because it's a student house i live in, he needs confirmation that i really am a student, otherwise he'll get hit with a £1000 council tax bill, and i'll get evicted! Crikey. So i've e mailed Bangor today, and hopefully that'll all get sorted out. The last thing i want at this point is to have nowhere to live.

Also, i've been feeling a bit strange about the whole situation of me being here in Lampeter. You see- i graduated from Lampeter Uni summer 2007, but they wouldn't let me back in to study for my MPhil (hardnosed bastards)- basically the uni lost a load of my work, and i had no proof that they'd lost it. So, in a nutshell they fucked me over, and i ended up losing roughly a third of my final marks, and only barely got a passing grade. Which sucks balls. But, fuck them, because i ended up getting into a better Uni completely on my own merit. And anyway, as my Philosophy professor was quick to point out, i got into my masters course, so who gives a fuck about my BA. Which i totally believe in.

But sometimes i feel really out of place wandering around the Lampeter uni campus. I have no computer, and have to sort of sneak on their computers on campus to write this screenplay. It's just like Jason Bourne, except less espionage, more typos. I love the fact that my friends and girlfriend are here, and they totally keep me sane. But, at the same time, i'll be happy when i move away from here and get more into the real world. If you ever visited Lampeter, you'd totally understand.

Anyhow, enough moaning.

I'm happy with the way my writing is progressing. Although i have totally realised that i haven't done nearly enough medical-based research into my screenplay (the film is set in a teaching hospital). I'm sort of looking into things as i'm writing to try and make them more plausible from a medical point of view. All i can say is thank the lord for Google and Wikipedia! Heh heh. Maybe i should rent some ER. You know, for SERIOUS research...

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

You have to know the rules, before you can break the rules...

I just thought. One of the reasons i started writing this blog (apart from trying to motivate my lazy ass into doing some work, and maybe having a written account of my progress for my uni tutors) was that i've found it so hard to find anything about the writing process on the internet anywhere. So, maybe if i cover a little bit about how i've got to where i've got (which, as you'll discover, isn't very fucking far) it might actually help someone....if anyone actually reads this thing. Which i doubt very much. Anyhow.....

Yeah, like anything else i do, before i get to the meat, i procrastinate. In cases such as this, my procrastination might actually be fairly helpful, because i went out and bought just about every book on screenwriting i could find. It's funny, my girlfriend always takes the piss out of me for reading around subjects, because i think she's come to realise that i sometimes do more 'reading' than 'doing'....which might be true.

The books i've found the most useful have been

Screenplay by Syd Field
The Screenwriter's Workbook, again by Syd Field
Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger

Now, i've read other books on screenwriting, and although some have had useful tips in them, i feel that generally, they've not been worth the money.

Also, i read Story, by Robert McKee, and found it utterly pretentious. Now i know, it's meant to be pretty much close to The Bible for screenwriters, but i just couldn't read the fucking thing. He really goes on about 'story' in the most abstract sense (and having a degree in philosophy, i'm farily used to the abstract), which i didn't find useful to me in any practical sense whatsoever. But then again, he's a guru, and i've written fuck all, so what do you know!

As well, i just want to give a mention to How Not To Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flinn, which having read it, is going to be worth its weight in gold when i come to polish up the damn thing...

So, ok. I pretty much followed Syd Field's three act structure, which breaks down something like this


All the acts also have specific things which should happen in them, for example in ACT 1 the first 10 pages should set up all the main characters, and the dramatic drive of the script, then about 20-25 pages in should be the first plot point, which spins the story around into the second act.

I won't go into it in major detail, as Syd does a far better job than me in his books.

Once i knew pretty much what would happen in my story in terms of beginning, middle and end, i tried to make it fit into his paradigm- making sure all the plot points happen roughly where he suggests, etc. Don't get me wrong, this took quite a lot of fiddling about. At times it felt like a kid trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. You'd be suprised what a difference it makes if you make a certain plot point the main turning point of an act, rather than another plot point.

I know there's a certain amount of arguments about imposing such a rigid structure on a screenplay, and you can argue that many of your favourite films don't fit into it, but i felt like it offered me a certain amount of help, this being my first feature-length script. I guess it's the old cliche of 'you have to learn the rules before you can break the rules'...

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Scott and The Sopranos

Ok, so i'm going to try and get more writing done tonight, which isn't always as easy as it should be after a day of wage-slaving.

The thing i was saying about The Sopranos last time has got me thinking about how impressive their writing is in terms of character. In that programme the characters are so multi-dimensional and well-rounded; no character is entirely bad, or good- they each come from their own unique viewpoint, and have their own easily indentifiable dramatic needs. Each character is truely believable in the sense that their actions are entirely justified by what you've seen, and come to realise about their personalities.

So, i guess i'm hoping to have a little bit of that rub off on me and my writing (Jesus, and maybe some of their Emmys, and a bundle of cash too, while i'm at it!). Because, i think what has happened with me is that i'm thinking of my writing too much in terms of a robotical paint-by-numbers kind of approach.

You see, i've read so many of those Screenwriting books that at the moment i'm thinking in terms of, "Well, this has to happen by page ten, and this has to foreshadow that" that maybe i'm losing something of the freedom and art of writing. Hmm, it's just a thought anyway, and one of many, many things i'll have to clean up in the re-writes.

Also, one thing i'm hoping to do is have a definate theme running through the screenplay (Jesus, i'd better, or how the hell am i going to write a thesis on it?!?)

Before i first started writing this, i saw a really awesome documentary on Captain Scott (Scott of the Antarctic). It was one of those cheesey moments that makes a chap darn glad he's English. Believe you me, that doesn't happen too often. Basically it got me thinking about duty in the face of unassailable odds, and composure in the face of certain death. I must admit, i became a bit obsessed with the whole Scott of the Antarctic idea, and even suggested to my girlfriend that if we ever had kids we could name them either Titus (after Oats) or Falcon (after Scott)....heh heh, so maybe that's a bit too far. So i've instead resigned myself to naiming my screenplay characters after them instead.

A few weeks later i ran into my old philosophy professor (who may just be the single coolest person in the world, by the way) and chatted about my screenplay ideas, and he suggested i read Albert Camu's 'The Plague', which i had to ashamedly admit i had never heard of (maybe they were just handing out philosophy degrees at my University). So, hopefully with that in mind, i'll be able to nail down the tone of this writing...

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Much Ado About F*ck All

Wow, ok, so it seems like it's months since i set up this blog, and last wrote anything.

Ok, so updates.....

Well, not fucking much apparently.

I've finished the research of my script, which took quite a while. Then i took a little more faffing over things by writing a four-page outline of the main points of the plot.

Then broke this outline down in terms of the individual scenes i'd need on those little index cards, which is pretty handy.

So, now i'm writing the first draft script of the project.

And this is where things are slowing down significantly.....

I can't believe how slowly i'm writing, it's like i sit down at my desk to get started, and i can't bare to sit there writing for more than twenty minutes or so, and then i get this unbelievible desire to just get up and do something, anything much less productive. At the moment, this is coming in the form of The Sopranos. You see, i'd never seen it, and people kept going on about how amazing it is/was. So, now it's finally finished, i decided i should give it a go. Which is just like me, i might add, i never seem to be involved in current trends, and only really pay attention to things when they're dead and gone. I don't know what that says about me, but, anyhow.

So, i'm about halfway through the first act now, just after the first inciting-incident. All i really want though is to be done with the first draft though, and be able to start making everything better.

I'm sure that the first draft is going to be pretty terrible, i'm prepared for that. But it's the old 'blank page' cliche at the mo that's really slowing me down. That, and the fact that i seem to be struggling with the tone, and finding my own voice- i'm really in two minds as to whether to go the more high brow, cerebral route, or dumb it down to be more of a traditional genre movie. Decisions, decisions.

Anyhow, hopefully i'll have more to report in the way of progress next time....