Thursday, 29 November 2007

Hooray for everything!


Since last posting, the following things have happened, which I post in order of coolness, from least cool but still cool, to very fucking cool (this is a cool post).
  • 5 more pages of Nightshift written this morning, in a scene that handily links two other scenes that were squirming away in nothingness;
  • I passed my driving test;
  • My girlfriend and I booked a church for our wedding.
Kick. Ass.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

It's only polite (Solidarity)...

Spec Monkey am on strike!
UPDATE: Blog mascot Spec Monkey has got in on the striking. He's a monkey of principal.

Thought for the day: What if Diagnosis Murder had been called Prognosis Murder? Totally different show.

Dick Van Dyke would have had to deliver lines like "You've got about six months to live, before you get murdered."


Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The Night Train...


At the risk of boring Chip, this is a draft update.

Good things for writers: Long train journeys.

I get some of my best writing done on long train journeys, probably because there's nothing else to do. Procrastination is a curse upon us all, but the minute you get on-board a Great Western you might as well be in a shapeless white void for all the entertainment they provide.

Day job meeting in Exeter yesterday meant five hours on the train, and, with a couple of plotholes that need filling in excepted, acts one and two complete. So, hurrah.

Some of the SF elements are still a bit lacking, but once the plot's served and steaming on the plate of my script, I can drizzle on that vinaigrette later*.

Bad things for writers: Halo 3 on Xbox Live.

Oh, the wasted hours.

* The Deleted Scenes, stretching metaphors to breaking point since 2007.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Million Dollar Babies...

Already knew I hadn't got into Metlab, which I was disappointed about, honestly, because I'd submitted what I thought was a very well suited pitch - right sort of genre, good set up and hook, low budget...

I was almost right. Their very nice feedback arrived this morning. There are two babies involved in the script, which is important for this to make any kind of sense:
"The writer has a definite flair for story telling and this has a strong genre feel and hook (see? - Oli). In terms of Metlab's remit of budgets between £300,000 and £800,000 however, much of the budget will be taken up with baby wrangling and chaperones etc. meaning I do not think it is viable for the course."
Baby wranglers*? Hadn't even crossed my mind. I always figured that as long as you didn't have any Star Destroyers, you were golden, budget wise. Still, as far as feedback for a course I didn't get onto goes, that's a smile and a learning experience. So, bonza.

* Do they wear Stetsons? Do they protect the babies from baby rustlers?

Friday, 16 November 2007

Conversations overheard on the morning commute...

For these to work, they have to be read with utter sincerity, and very, very fast.


Paul’s seen loads of celebrities since he’s been in Plymouth.


I’m thinking of moving to Plymouth.


So, oh, right, guess what Simpsons episode was on last night when I got in?


Oh, God, which one?


The really funny one!


Oh my God!


It was the one where he screams for like 10 minutes. It reminds me of you, because of your screaming.


I could fully just climb through that window, and run through all the trees in a proper ‘The Hills Are Alive’ thing. I’d never make it to the other side though, there’s a gypsy camp there. I’d just get murdered.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

This post may be offensive to bikes...

Embarrassing? Certainly.

Deviant? Absolutely.

Illegal? I'm failing to see it.

From the Cornwall Tourist Board...

To mask the fact that I don't have any Nightshift news, I bring you a postcard promoting my hometown of Redruth. I think you can see why I choose to live there.

Click for big! Send to friends! Construct sentence proper!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

From the glamorous Truro high street...

Supersoft Luxury Socks, any 2 for £5

Shop around. You can't beat that price.

So, Potdoll was right...

NIGHTSHIFT PAGE COUNT: La la la, I'm not telling.

Last night was a bust. Ran into major story problems. Problems that, yes, Potdoll, I probably could have avoided with more outlining.

I got away with it in Seven Spires, which involved throwing fun characters at a basic plot, so whenever something was a bit creaky, I'd just plaster more character stuff over the top.

Nightshift, at least the pilot, is a different beast, flipping the 80/20 on the plot/character Pareto. Which is not to say I don't like the characters, just that pure Seinfeldy character stuff, which was about half to three quarters of Seven Spires, only works if it accounts for about a fifth here.

Anyway, the plot gets a bit squiffy in the third act, I can't throw character stuff at it, so I had a bit of a claustrophobic freakout in Final Draft and reorganised my CD collection instead.

Does anyone else get claustrophobic in Final Draft? It's so directed to just doing screenplays, it feels very restrictive if you're trying to do anything other than slugline-action-dialogue-dialogue-action.

Like typing 'AAAAAAAAARrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhh STUPID FUCKING PLOT WHY DON'T YOU WOOOOOooooooorrrrrrkk' in 72 point Arial*.

I've gone against my usual practice of writing from the beginning through to the end, and just started writing scenes as they seemed fresh in my head. Which is fine for some people, but what I hadn't noticed before was that writing from the start, you build up a momentum, like a gigantic motherfucking Perfect Storm wave chasing you, so that you're constantly swimming as fast as you can to get away from it, until you find you're grasping sand on the shore, you've made it, and someone from the on-beach bar hands you a Strawberry Daiquiri.

Well, writing out of sync is like that from every fucking direction. Each way I swim, another monolithic wall of water, boxing me in. You can't swim away from that. You just drown.

... that was all a bit dramatic, wasn't it?

So, to continue with my mighty simile, I've decided to drain each wave into its own paddling pool. That way I can splash around in it till its done, without worrying about the rest of the waves. Or... I'm running back to Word, and working on each scene as a separate document.

I promise tomorrow's post will be free of similes, metaphors and hydrogenated fats.

* 72 point Arial is not recommended for most scripts.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007



Work on Nightshift continues at the designated speed... but ye gods am I tired. Lots of empathy with characters now. Losing track of days a bit. Could have sworn today was Thursday. On the plus side, I thought yesterday was Wednesday, so at least I'm consistent.

Something Jon brought up in the last comments thread, and which is essentially the crux of my current self torture: What do you do when they ask to see something and there's nothing to see?

If that's genuinely your position, you do what I'm doing - work from 9-5 at day job then 8-2 on writing in order to get it finished. On the one hand, I wouldn't recommend it. On the other, this is probably how I'll have to work all the time if I should get something commissioned.

I'd always recommend having two or three things ready before sending any one thing off; I thought I was covered with a couple of feature specs and the pilot. Dealing with someone who works almost exclusively in TV, this is of course bollocks.

If it hadn't been for Seven Spires rewrites, I probably would have done the sensible thing - and to my very minor credit, what I'd originally intended - write another spec pilot whilst waiting for people to get back to me. The advantage of waiting for months for a response from companies and agents is that's plenty of time to bolster your portfolio before they get back to you. Or, in my case, not.

Aside: Has everyone seen this - I really, really hope it's a joke. If not, it's perhaps the saddest thing I've seen that didn't involve orphans.

UPDATE: Okay, apparently it is a joke. So that's cool.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Working the Nightshift...


So, I'm not going into specifics, because my girlfriend, family and friends have already had their ears bent about it, and that's set me up for a fall quite enough, thank you very much.

Someone important liked Seven Spires quite a lot. I'm always pleased to get feedback, but when that feedback includes the words "gripping", "balances tension and wit" and "complex and believable", I'm grinning till the next rejection (which like most people, came Friday).

They're passing on Seven Spires because of the serial aspect, and because they think I overdid the horror a bit at the end (they're right). But, they want to see what else I have. Which is lovely.

Downside is my past six months has been spent between researching/writing spec features and rewriting Seven Spires into the ill fated miniseries version. This doesn't leave me with anything that I want to send them.

Anyone who's been reading this humble blog since the beginning (so, me then) might remember that I got excited about a telly idea called Nightshift back in May. I got an outline done, and wrote a few pages of the script, before I got sidetracked rewriting Seven Spires. Now I find myself badly in need of it.

This isn't a massive surprise (Writers have to write? Dear God!) or replanning exercise. I was going to finish writing the pilot for Nightshift this year anyway, it's just going to be a lot sooner than I'd planned.

The new plan is this:
  1. Blitz the splurge draft of Nightshift from my outline over two weeks (I'm one week into the plan and hoping to hit 30 pages this evening, so we're on track);
  2. Do a pass to make sure all of the SF elements I planned are present and correct, without devoting whole scenes to explaining them to the audience;
  3. Do a story pass to make sure the plot both hangs together and is worth writing in the first damn place;
  4. Do a character pass to make sure everyone's as charming and/or reprehensible as they should be;
  5. Proff reed Proof read.
  6. Get it off into the ether.
Ideally I'd like to get it back to them within one month, but I'm going to take my own advice on this and not send anything unless I absolutely love it. Every time that I screwed myself on an opportunity, I've always known in my heart of hearts that I had. I don't want this to be one of those times because a) I'm getting pretty sick of doing that and b) This is the biggest of the big opportunities I've had.

Will be working through the upcoming nights till I've seen this through. Which is all sorts of ironic.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Not lame at all...

UPDATE: Because most of my hits are coming from people looking for Red Planet news, for the all round avoidance of doubt and for not wanting to sound like a jackass, this isn't anything to do with the Red Planet Prize. I've heard nothing from them yet. Which means if I do hear from them, double ace, and if I don't, the e-mail I mention below mitigates it. Win win. And now I send you back three days into the past...

ANOTHER UPDATE: I didn't hear anything from Red Planet. But the email below more than makes up for it. Would have been nice to get both, of course...

Just got a lovely script related e-mail.

But what am I going to do? Count to ten and not fuck this up.

Mmmmmmm... good news.

Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame!

Thanks to Chip and Martin for almost simultaneous tags... this will have to be quick, as I'm busy:

(... no, really, I am.)

In no particular order, I'm very fond of the following:
  1. Roleplaying games - favourites including Rifts, Eberron and Call of Cthulu;
  2. Web design. CSS using, compliant, semantically laid out, lovely html. Make it compliant or fear the wrath of me and the other web geeks;
  3. The movies Mortal Kombat, High School Musical and 13 Going on 30. I also watched Brick and First Daughter over one weekend, and preferred the latter;
  4. Vegetarian shoes; and
  5. Blogging. You might not think this is lame, since you're almost certainly a blogger too, but take a moment... you feel that? That's perspective.
There are plenty of other lame things about me, I'm sure. People who know me personally can feel free to add their own in the comments section...

Oh, and tagging... um... everyone's already gone, haven't they? Fine, I tag John August, Jane Espenson and John Rogers. They've all got time on their hands at the minute

Friday, 2 November 2007

The accidental meme...

Well, no one appears to have pushed this, but it's spreading like the space virus that's going around Truro at the minute, so... twenty questions it is. Previous meme entries here, here and here.

1. Do you outline?
Yes, but I've learnt my lesson from over-outlining in the past. The screenplays that I've written full, mammoth, McKee style treatments for have been disastrous messes with not a bit of heart to them. My favourite stuff usually comes from a line a scene.

2. Do you write straight through a script, or do you sometimes tackle the scenes out of order?

From the beginning, but ideas will come up at random when outlining.

3. Do you prefer writing with a pen or using a computer?

Computer mostly. Pen and paper only for notes, especially when I'm blocked; scribbling something out is way more therapeutic than the Stalinist delete button.

4. Do you prefer writing in first person or third?

Third for scripts, first for bloggery. Unless you count all the 'we see' stuff that we all try to avoid but is all over Oscar winning scripts, I don't think it's possible to write a first person script. Though someone on Zoetrope has probably tried.

5. Do you listen to music while you write?

I'll more often have the telly on in the background, playing something familiar but not related. The only time this has seeped into my work is when I was writing/watching Back to the Future 3, and one of the characters ended up being called Clara.

6. How do you come up with the perfect names for your characters?

See above. Also, baby name sites, and my girlfriend is a font of character names. So the real answer is, "I don't."

7. When you’re writing, do you ever imagine your script as a book/short story?

Nope. I've fallen out with novels - the last few I've picked up only appear to have two settings: complete pulp or pretentious waffle. Or in the case of Cloud Atlas, pretentious pulp.

8. Have you ever had a character insist on doing something you really didn’t want him/her to do?

No, but I've changed characters' fates if they've pleased/disappointed me. I am a vengeful but fair god.

9. Do you know how a script is going to end when you start it?

Usually. The times I don't are the times I end up in trouble.

10. Where do you write?

At home, on the sofa, bed or dining table, or on long train journeys. Long train journeys usually result in some of my best stuff, because I have no access to the internet/Playstation/DVDs/beer*.

11. What do you do when you get writer’s block?

Write something else. I've got a lot of projects that I got 20-30 pages into and then got totally blocked. I'll just start on another idea. I'm a quitter, but I'm a prolific quitter.

12. What size increments do you write in?

When I've got a project I'm definitely writing, as opposed to an idea I'm just kicking about, I'll splurge on the first day and then set myself deadlines based on that. Say I do 10 pages on day one, that'll be my target each day, with some days off. On a roll, I'll average 30 pages a week, writing Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, with redrafting or catching up over the weekend.

13. How many different drafts did you write for your last project?

Enough to make my eyes bleed and my fingers fall off. I think it was about 10 - 15 passes, which constituted about 4 drafts - splurge draft, proper first draft, a redraft for a competition, and the ill fated miniseries version. It depends how much I like a script; one I've never revised at all, because from the moment I typed fade out, I knew it was a goner. So the more redrafting I do, the better the slurge draft is likely to be anyway, which is kind of perverse.

14. Have you ever changed a character’s name midway through a draft?

Usually only for minor characters. For main characters, I'm precious about the names I give to my made up friends.

15. Do you let anyone read your script while you’re working on it, or do you wait until you’ve completed a draft before letting someone else see it?

Only if I'm writing TV with ad breaks, and only then whole acts at a time, because each act is much more self contained than with a feature. I will pitch people jokes or scenes though.

16. What do you do to celebrate when you've finished a draft?

Sleep. Drafts are usually finished at about 3 am.

17. One project at a time, or multiple projects at once?

Write one, research another.

18. Do your scripts grow or shrink in revision?

Both - they usually end up about the same size, with some stuff added and other bits callously discarded.

19. Do you have any writing or critique partners?

No writing partner. All scripts go through my girlfriend, who wants me to succeed at this about as much as I do and is entirely free of bullshit. Also, my mate Dan is an amazingly honest (read 'harsh') critic, so when he's got the time it's worth getting him to read my scripts as well. He's always on the money. I've also been lucky enough to get advice and feedback from some very experienced working writers and producers, which is always worth its weight in gold. If advice actually weighed anything. It's valuable, anyway.

20. Do you prefer drafting or revising?

Drafting's more exhilarating, but it's all good until the point that you get sick of the sight of it - but that's a lot of passes in.

*Not at the prices they charge on trains, anyway.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Major, major geekout coming up...

Why didn't anyone tell me this sooner?

Joss Whedon not only has a new, free webcomic (probably the only thing that will ever get me within poking distance of MySpace) but he's also developing a new TV show!

You only seem to be able to view the current issue of Sugarshock at the official page, but you can read back issues here. It's brilliant, in an absolutely fucking barking way.

*brain explodes in a fit of geek joy*

UPDATE: Okay, it's been going since July. But that's newish, right? And I only just found out about it, so new to me. I'm still the centre of the universe, right?

ANOTHER UPDATE: And you can totally see old issues on the proper home page, you just have to load them properly. I got over-excited with this post, didn't I?

The horror... The horror...

Back to the standard layout, which is looking a bit dull now, frankly. Halloween went very well, my girlfriend gallantly watching scary movies with me even though she was very very poorly. She is indeed a brave soldier. Quick reviews...
  • Severance was great, but now Mr. Moran needs to do a movie about the comic misadventures of Andy Nyman, who was adorable;
  • Session 9 was really bloody creepy. People doing scary kid voices always gets me; and
  • The Frighteners was... a bit shit. Bizarre in a bad way, really camp, neither funny nor scary and all very am-dram, acting wise. Didn't get it at all.
For those of you who didn't find Halloween tense enough... Red Planet finalists are going to be notified over the next week. Not only that, but I had one new e-mail in my screenwriting specific account this morning... heart pounding as I opened it... fucking spam. I have never hated a spammer more.