Thursday, 31 January 2008

On Torchwood, and budgets...

Another good Torchwood episode last night. Much time-travelling tragedy fun had by all.

However... I get the impression there was a scene that was cut for budgetary reasons. After Tommy goes back to 1918 and doesn't use the key straight away, bits of the past start popping up all over Cardiff in a time-clash epidemic. But we don't see it, we just hear about it. Surely nobody would have missed that opportunity, at least at script stage?

It would have been awesome if we'd have seen the full effects. But also, I imagine, very, very expensive.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Worse, worse, worse movie dialogue...

Over at David Bishop's place, he draws our attention to some of the worst movie dialogue ever, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Now, come on, some of those aren't bad. A few of them are actually quite good - even the 'Is it still raining?' line is only ruined by Andie McDowell's atrocious performance.

I would like to suggest some truly appalling lines, tellingly from movies that the people writing the list would never admit to watching:

"You took a mental test!" - The reason the cops suspect Bruce Campbell in Maniac Cop.

"People are dying, we need guns!" - The action movie boiled down till there's nothing left in Alien vs. Predator: Requiem...

... and my favourite, the almost poetically bad:

"Come here, Church. It's Thanksgiving Day for cats. But only if they've come back from the dead." from the execrable Pet Cemetery.

Surely worse than most of the list.

Which is the problem with any of these type of lists. Most film critics never watch really bad films, because really bad films go straight to DVD. They didn't go through the local video rental shop's horror rack in one summer, like all great movie fans have.

They're not qualified to make these sorts of decisions. Whenever I see a list of the worst movies ever, I always wonder where Castle Freak and The Howling 6: The Freaks are. As an aside, if a movie has 'Freak' in the title, it probably isn't very good. The exception being Freaks.

Anyway, until Sarah Dobbs does a list of the worst movie dialogue ever, I ain't buying it.

UPDATE: A lesson in how to make a bad line of dialogue great, from my lord and master, Joss Whedon. Caleb, a near invincible evil preacher in the Robert Mitchum vein, has just come back from the dead. Buffy says... "Okay, how many times do I have to kill you? Ballpark figure."

"How many times do I have to kill you?" is a bad line. It's cringy, seen it before, probably in Power Rangers. But the "ballpark figure" makes it shine. Don't ask me why. If I knew, I'd be Joss.


I'm that influential.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The literal interpretation...

Redraft, redraft, la, la, la.

Notes through from Lucy a few days back, highlighting structural problems. Booted up Excel, listed each page and what happened on it. My, oh my, did my characters like to go on a bit*. Did new plot outline, this time with rigorously enforced act breaks, punchy scenes, and a proper through line. Much better.

Now all I have to do is rewrite the script till it fits the outline. Which means baby killing time.

Well, not killing. Nightshift's a series after all, so if I ever have call to write another, I'm sure I can find places for the funny-but-superfluous quips that have been slashed out here. So, no, I'm not killing my babies, so much as keeping them in a dungeon for a while. Which I think portrays me in a far better light.

* It's totally their fault. I had nothing to do with it.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Just a thought...

DISCLAIMER: Please do not try to find any kind of through-thread to this post. You'll be happier, trust me.

If I am ever in some sort of mortal danger, and you have the brief chance to make a potentially life saving phone call, I would prefer it if you were to call for an ambulance, rather than, for example, Mary Kate fucking Olsen.

For the few people who come here searching for 'Sweeney Todd Brighton Scene' or some derivative... yes, that does look rather like a pre-arson West Pier, doesn't it? However, the beach is sandy rather than stony.

Given that it will be a good many years before Brighton's beach is sandy, I propose that Sweeney Todd is set in some sort of post apocalyptic future, where electricity is in such short supply that we have reverted to cut-throat razors, and where Goth fashion is once again 'in'.

Not a popular thesis, admittedly, but I think it's sound.

Whilst I'm at this rapidly expanding and frankly random blog post: who, genuinely, finds anything excruciating? Watching James Moran's Torchwood episode a couple of days ago, I chuckled during Ianto's "broken phone" bit. I imagine this was a common reaction.

Not so this reviewer. No, he found it "excruciating". Let me interpret that literally: He found the experience of listening to a joke on the television akin to being nailed to a cross and being left to die of asphyxiation.

Now, Mr. Reviewer, I'm all for a full vocabulary, but let's not rob words of their power by using them at inappropriate times, eh? I'll be forced to return to using swearwords for emphasis, you cock-breathed monkey-fucker.

Monday, 21 January 2008

The BBFC has gone utterly fucking insane: A case study...

Warning: This post contains mild spoilers for A V P R: Aliens Versus Predator Requiem. If in fact, it can be spoiled. It would be hard. Like spoiling shit.

I did a double feature at my local cinema on Sunday, AVP2 and Sweeney Todd. Enjoyed the whole experience tremendously, film, drink at the cinema bar, film, even though I did not care for one of the two films (can you guess which?). I am not here to review films. Anyone with access to Rotten Tomatoes will not be shocked to learn that Sweeney Todd is significantly better.

However, seeing the two in tandem, AVP2 (rated 15) and Sweeney Todd (rated 18) does make you wonder by what standards the films are rated. I'm anti-censorship, but whilst we have these ratings as a guide, it might be nice if they would make fucking sense.

Sweeney Todd has its fair share of throat slittings, and a river of gore, but it's all done in such a funny and highly stylised way I find it hard to imagine anyone who has voluntarily gone to see a musical about a serial killer being mortally disturbed by it.

AVP2 has a bit where a 9 month pregnant woman has an alien burst from her belly, revealing her open womb and her crying new born child.

I repeat: you can see her womb, and the newborn baby.

Which has just been delivered by explosive caesarian.

Apparently, the level of violence is similar to other action/horror films such as Blade Trinity. I must have missed the exploding pregnant woman scene in that. Perhaps I was in the toilet.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

A momentary high...

You know that buzz you feel when you have written, to quote Barton Fink, "something of quality"?

It's nice, innit?

It won't last. I expect John Goodman, flaming corridors and shotgun decapitations any minute now.

But the third pass on Nightshift is done. And I like it.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Shameless hypocrisy...

I've largely sworn off contests; I imagine I'll go in for next year's Red Planet Prize, but on a whole the idea doesn't appeal. If a contest receives three fantastic entries, only one can win. If the same three scripts land on the desk of a prodco, they all stand a chance of getting made, simultaneously.

Yes, the nature of competitions is artificial... competition... and yes, I would feel differently if I'd won one.

Anyway, I have entered this year's pitching contest at the SWF, because I want a ticket, and because Alexandrina compresses quite well as a pitch, so I think I have a chance. Anyone else feverishly pulling their 175 words together?

Thursday, 10 January 2008

And yet the Kooks are still together. Why, God, why?

Electrelane, one of the finest bands to come out of my adopted second home, Brighton, went on ‘indefinite hiatus’ after a final gig at the Corn Exchange on the 1st of December. I have only just learnt about it, for I am old and no longer read the music press.

I never got to see them live, despite living in Brighton for a couple of years and meeting Verity Susman on a couple of occasions when I worked with her girlfriend.

In a time when new albums from my favourite bands are mostly crushing disappointments (Belle and Sebastian, I’m looking at you...), Electrelane always delivered, with some of the most beautiful music I have in my collection.

God speed, young ladies. May your solo projects never be Chinese Democracy.

UPDATE: I am mildly placated by the news that Ladytron have recently finished recording their fourth album. I refer you to the above comment regarding age and the music press. The Deleted Scenes will now return to being a screenwriting blog.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

No end in sight...

I've now thoroughly rewritten, and rerewritten, the opening 42 and a bit pages of Nightshift.

Generally in much better shape now: an extra character who helps the group dynamic tremendously, a short and funny introduction to the main character to replace the long and dull version, set-ups added for stuff which previously didn't make much in the way of sense, and many other changes throughout with make it all round better.

I will now take the time to retroactively add a caveat of 'hopefully' to all of the statements in the previous paragraph.

The problem that now faces me is the changes made in this draft render the old ending unworkable. I was never that attached to the ending, which was a bit flat, but it was nice having something to work from.

Those ten or so pages that will make up the climax are as yet allusive...

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

The missing links...

The links, which were previously pretty but useless like little cel├ębutantes, are now working so hard it was a lot of effort to keep them out of coal mines.

Um... the links are fixed.

UPDATE: They still look a bit squiffy in Safari, but they work. Will fix later...

Sharing the love...

Whilst everyone probably knows about this, I came across them by accident a few months back, and they've since become one of the many things I look forward to on a Friday. I am of course talking about the Creative Screenwriting Podcasts.

You've probably heard of the magazine, which is okay if a little lightweight, but the real meat is in these 'casts - recorded Q&A's with screenwriters following a screening of their latest movie. They're always good value (well, they're free, so...), thoroughly entertaining and informative.

Again, if I'm preaching to the choir, forgive me, but if not, go download.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Fancher and Peoples are lazy fucking bastards...

As is George Lucas.

Hampton Fancher and David Peoples adapted Blade Runner, in case you were wondering. Yes, groundbreaking, beautiful, wonderful, vastly influential Blade Runner. Lazy. Fucking. Bastards.

Why they are lazy bastards is this: the movie opens with an expository title card which explains all about the replicants, how they were made, what went wrong and what the current state of the world is. Which, yes, sets the film up just fine.

If I could just do that with Nightshift, it’d save me weeks of agonizing on how to explain the character’s situation - Nightshift also being a SF. I won’t let myself, because it’s lazy. Why not just tell the entire fucking script in prose?

What’s worse is I’m sure only writers care about this shit.

p.s. It’s entirely possible that Fancher and Peoples are not to blame for the title card, and that Ridley Scott added it. In which case, Ridley Scott is a lazy fucking bastard. Join me tomorrow, when I slag the rest of our finest screenwriters and directors.

UPDATE: For all the people who visit the site looking for the Bladerunner script, just to find me shitting on their heroes: it's here. And yes, it's actually quite good... and, um... doesn't start with the title card. Ahem.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Apparently, I quite like green...

You may have noticed that a) everything's gone green and Spec Monkey's now sitting proudly on top of the blog, and b) there were several terribly self concious posts containing biography, downloads, and contact information preceding this one.

Oh yes, I have redesigned the blog. It looks great in Firefox, slightly less great in IE, but if you're still using IE, what the hell's the matter with you, anyway? Also, if you have a tiny monitor you may find half of the screen cut off. Stop being such a cheapskate, and buy a 1024*768. They've been the basic model since a time when I still felt young.

(ASIDE) This post may be lacking a friendly attitude. I have a cold, it's Saturday night, and I'm not drunk. (/ASIDE)

The aforementioned self concious posts can be linked to from the snazzy navigation bar above. I'm hoping to update them in time with tales of my glorious conquests. Sure, they may be hypothetical now, but when that time comes... Hello! Currently they just look hideously out of place on the blog, but I'm sure it'll all make sense once they drop off the page... Right now you can download an extract of Seven Spires from the writing page. See, I wasn't making it up. Well, I mean, I made it up, but I really made it up. I wrote it. It's there. Download it.

The new template was a complete ground up build. I think it looks dandini, but there's a possibility it may look monkey poo on your particular browser; if so, let me know. Click on the contact button. Go on. I dare you.

It's not 100% finished; the scribo, misc, and label links below don't work yet, but don't they look pretty? I'll fix that next week, but for the minute, revel in the shallow glory that is my sexy new template... REVEL!


I'm happy to supply complete scripts on request. I'm happier if you want to produce them, or hire me in another capacity. Generally, I'm just pretty happy.*

Any enquiries, e-mail me at o dot jeffery at gmail dot com

* This is a lie. I am often grumpy.


Below are extracts from two of my spec television pilots. Download them, read them, shower me with praise. You'll need Adobe Reader, which you can download here.

Nightshift - Download Extract

Synopsis: Pilot for an episodic science-fiction drama set in near-future Brighton. 45 minute drama. In a dystopian British future, people must wake in shifts due to the population explosion, courtesy of an implant that regulates their sleeping patterns. This creates halcyon nights for criminals who take the fabled “shift zero” where they never see daylight.

Seven Spires - Download Extract

Synopsis: Seven Spires is a six part drama series with supernatural elements. By turns dark and witty, the series is seen through the eyes of father and daughter Jonas and Becka Kurzefield, who move to the Cornish town of Seven Spires following Jonas’ divorce.

The pilot tells of their attempts to settle into their new lives, and into the hermetically sealed community. Things end badly for both of them as Jonas uncovers an unsettling pattern to the town’s history, and Becka confronts the horrors that haunt the surrounding woods.

The events of the pilot reverberate through the series, driving a wedge between father and daughter that can only be withdrawn by their joint fight against the twin conspiracies that Seven Spires is built upon.

Praise for Seven Spires

“... a gripping contemporary horror story in the tradition of genre fiction like Primeval, Torchwood or Buffy ... the economical opening scenes balance horror and wit in a way that is genuinely representative of the rest of the script. The isolated community of Seven Spires is convincingly evoked while the sharp dialogue roots the characters firmly in the 21st century.

The key characters of Becka and her father Jonas are complex and believable ... both have that appealing combination of moral strength and psychological flaws that keeps an audience engaged. The writing shows an impressive use of pace to create genuine suspense.”

BBC writersroom (

About Oli...

Oli Jeffery is a screenwriter, currently stationed in Redruth, the glamorous and cosmopolitan hub of Cornwall. Oli's represented by Matt Connell at Berlin Associates and is currently working on a second episode of his sitcom for the BBC.

A fan of genre television shows and films since birth, Oli embarked on his first screenplay at 7, which was best sold as Maximum Overdrive, but, y’know, for kids. He likes to think he’s improved since then. You can download extracts from the Writing... page.

You can view Oli's blogger profile here, and see if he likes the same music as you. If that's your thing.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

This may be a problem...

DISCLAIMER: This is a ridiculously long and self indulgent blog post. At the end, I set myself some goals that are either deluded, hopelessly arrogant, or both. Please come back to the blog. I promise shorter, more humble posts at a later date.

In what might be a frankly crippling lack of originality for someone who claims to want to be a writer, it’s my end of year round up. If my achievements seem rather less stellar than those of Messrs Stack and Moran, please bear in mind that... I’m less successful than they are.

Promoted Seven Spires with an unabashed whore like quality that some people apparently find quite appealing. This led to:

  • Lunch with a producer;
  • A long and fruitful e-mail and telephone exchange with a very experienced writer;
  • Telephone calls with someone that most UK scribo bloggers will be familiar with;
  • A meeting with an agent; and
  • And one other thing that I’m not talking about yet.

Lunch with the producer was very nice; I’ll always say yes to free food and beer, and to have got there on the basis of apparent talent made pizza taste extra special nice. Lots of career advice was imparted, we chatted about William Goldman, politics, and very briefly and right at the end, about the TV series he was developing, and whether I would be interested in doing some work on it. Yes, yes I would. Ultimately, the TV series didn’t happen as the producer went with a movie instead, and good luck to him, it sounds ace. We’re still in contact, so that’s all rosey.

The fruitful e-mails and calls: Said very experienced TV writer was kind enough to read Seven Spires at the end of last year and give me some feedback and a lot of career guidance and help over this year, including a couple of free script readers’ reports from people he knew, advice on agents, on “not going fucking on forever”, and getting the script to some agents and prodcos that don't take unsolicited materials. Seven Spires is now a much better script for his input; he has been a complete star over the year, and I paid him back with a drunken text on New Year’s Eve. I am nothing if not a gentleman.

Telephone calls with the person you’ve heard of. That was lovely and encouraging. Again, the script improved as a result, and my selling document improved many times over. Ultimately didn’t come to anything, but was a great learning experience. Best/worst thing I learned? Don’t call a producer who’s on a train, on your mobile, on a windy day. Couldn’t hear much of the conversation, did a lot of polite ‘uh-huh’ing, said producer got a bit annoyed. If you’re reading, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.

Meeting with an agent: Did not go well. I could bitch about this all I want, but really? I fucked up. Yes, the e-mails and phone calls I received prior to travelling to London did put me in mind of an easier ride than the one I received. Slap that one up to naivety. Truth is, I was woefully under prepared. Two people in the meeting, one of whom seemed less than impressed with me. If I was prepared, I could have turned that around. I wasn’t. I didn’t.

In the meeting, it was suggested that a miniseries version of Seven Spires might sell better than a six parter, so spent several months doing just that. The result was passable but not as good as the original version. They didn’t go with me. I finally got the rejection letter on the same day I failed my driving test for the third time. Not a good day for me, if I’m honest.

Then, last month, someone else came back, liking the script. More feedback. Polishing Nightshift currently, intent on convincing them I can write more than teenage life in Cornwall, with monsters. More as it develops, or as may be the case, doesn’t.

What I’ve failed to do this year is write much of anything, which is some major fuck-nuttery for someone who wants to be a writer. I wrote the opening act of a SF screenplay called ‘Found Objects’, found that the UK film council was running 25 WOL again and thought the script would be perfect for it, got obsessed and didn’t finish the fucking script, or enter the competition. Also rewrote Seven Spires a lot. Not a prolific year.

I’ve kind of stepped on the toes of this blog entry by declaring my intention to write three specs in the September to September period here - but as I’ve almost completed Nightshift, I’ll add two one more television pilots to my target of two feature specs.

Other goals for the year? An agent would be nice, but I’m not as hung up on it as I was last year. Big goal? Get a meeting with the people who liked Seven Spires and who will hopefully fall head over heels in love with Nightshift. I have no illusions about getting either of them actually made, but a writing gig on someone else’s show? That’d be lovely, thanks. So there’s another goal for the year.

All in all, I'd like to:

  • Finish two one spec television pilots, not counting Nightshift;
  • Complete ridiculously expensive steam punk screenplay from a ridiculously good idea;
  • Complete a not as low budget as I though it was (bloody baby wranglers) ghost story ;
  • Have a successful meeting where I'm wonderfully urbane and charming; leading to...
  • Get commissioned on a show...
... in 2008.

I may be stretching it a bit.