Saturday, 31 January 2009

Still not dead...

Despite an apparent lack of activity that could rival the amount of good to be found in Iggy Pop's insurance advert, and despite several blogs shutting up shops recently, I am very much still here. Allow me to explain.

1: I'm getting married. In, like, six weeks. Wait, slightly under six weeks. In six weeks I'll be a husband. With a wife and everything. Magic. But a lot of time is spent thinking, and planning, and... alright, that's mostly my girlfriend doing that. But I do spend a lot of time oooooohing and aaaaahing at wedding presents as they arrive, does that count?

2: The internet is out at my house. Most outright practical reason for no bloggery. And, no, sadly my desire to blog has not become so great that I can now direct my thoughts straight into the inter-ether, I'm simply leeching off my parents' connection. And you wouldn't want to read the blog of my actual thoughts anyway, it would be confusing, ill thought through and prone to wondering off on tangents. So in no way like what you actually get.

3: I'm waiting for something worth blogging about. Which sounds terribly morose, but I'm waiting for the most-important-phone-call-of-my-life-so-far (it's alright, I'm not married until March, I can still talk about writing like that till then) and then I'll have something to talk about, one way or t'other.

4: Ummm... I was struck dumb after seeing this?

I'm sure I'm a bit late in hating on this epic piece of marketing fail, but I've only just got over it enough to type. If you don't know who Iggy Pop is, it's just a weird fucking advert that doesn't make you want to use whatever the hell service they provide. If you do know who Iggy Pop is, then it's the most soul crushingly banal thirty seconds of telly you've ever seen.

Now wash your mind:

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Celebrate Little Brother

It's a kind of sort of pun!

Congratulations to my little brother (officially my taller brother), Morgan, who begins his ascent in the world of telly-production on Monday when he joins RDF as a logger. Sent CV out on Monday, got call last night, starts Monday. Properly, properly mad, and apart from not getting to see him much anymore, properly good. Give him a few years and he'll be the controller of ITV.

Yes, I'm planning my nepotism in advance.

Friday, 9 January 2009

It's late and I'm tired...

... so instead of anything about writing, here's some web videos.

The best fake trailer that ever has and ever shall be made:

And the Skins marketing team contuing to produce the best adverts this side of Guinness:

Hurrah. Sleep now.

Monday, 5 January 2009

The best of times, the blurst of times...

Only five days into the new year, and already memed, by Lara. Well, something had to get me writing. Here's my challenge:

When it comes to writing, what do you know you're good at, and what aspect of writing are you worst at? (Procrastination is not permitted as either part of the answer.)

I can do character, and I can do dialogue, which are so closely related in TV writing (or at least TV writing as written by me) as to be all bundled up in one big thing that I can do quite well. All the arm-chair McKees will tell you that characters are what they do, not what they say, but in telly most of what people do is talk, so... there.

I have trouble writing women. They have come out, in the past, as blokes with boobs. I think the latter plagues all men to some extent, and vice versa; Toni Morrison's an exception. I seem to have found one female voice that works and stuck with it. So far, very few people have read more than one of my scripts, so I've got away with it.

Structure bugs me. It's not that I can't do it, just that it doesn't come naturally. I don't like to plan things out in too much detail beforehand - I wrote a 40ish page treatment for the worst piece of shit script I've ever written, and now I'm superstitious about them. This does mean that sometimes I often have to do that bit once the script's already at an unwieldy 40 - 60 pages, and yes, it'd probably be easier beforehand. Nightshift went through several different and painful versions because the structure was wonky.

The good news is (for me anyway), whilst I don't think you can book-learn character and dialogue, I think you can with structure. Screenwriting's both an art and a craft, and structure's very much at the craft end of things. If you're going to delve into screenwriting books, check out the structure sections, and leave the rest alone. Everything else in them is just stuff you secretly know already. I can also recommend Lucy Vee's script notes, which more or less saved Nightshift.

There we go. Hmmm... let's tag Chip, Phill, Lexi, and Ray Fresham, who apparently read this blog.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

What kind of year has it been?

Ohh, the new Doctor is younger than me. Fucking hell. Hmmm... but I do have my own eyebrows, so it evens out. Clever but not entirely subtle clips of him running about in a period costume with Billie Piper while things exploded won me over. So that's all good.

Right, back to the post. What kind of year has it been?

Well, there’s a question with several contradictory answers. At the beginning, pleasant and kind of ambley. Towards the middle, rubbish and terrifying. Towards the end, delightful and jubilant. This is a writing blog, so I shan’t linger on act 2 of the year, other than to say a) it was all my fault and b) I’m glad it’s over.

At the end of last year, I set myself what I labelled at the time some hopelessly optimistic goals. All things considered, I can end the year feeling kind of chipper. Let’s review them now...

Write Two TV Specs - Achieved.

That’s How I Roll was first up, a sitcom about two disabled friends trying to save their home from closure. Began life as a film pitch for an indie producer, who like most indie producers said some nice things, got me to do some writing for free, and disappeared into the ether. But he was nice, and polite, which is all you can ask for from people who are going to disappear. Better than someone driving by your house and shouting “Twat!” at you.

I don’t think of myself as a funny person, and though I’ve never written a script without a joke in it, not generally as a comedy writer either, so That’s How I Roll was an experiment in craft for me. Creating jokes and funny plot lines is the nearest that writing gets to work for me, and I’d be proud of THIR on those terms alone, even if everyone else hated it.

Which, as it turns out, they didn’t. It did well on Zoetrope, then some very nice feedback from other bloggers, and was eventually placed in this year’s Red Planet Prize, which was a whole bag of nice. It’s been my most professionally cuddled script, and I’m very pleased with that.

After that came Memoria, which you lovely people told me to write back in July, when I put a bunch of ideas to a vote. It’s a spooky kids drama inspired by those Russell T. Davies 6-parters of the early ninties and it came out... quite well. There’s something still not perfect about it. It’s in rewrites at the minute. Nonetheless, I’d expanded my TV portfolio, including one with limited special effects, and one with no swearing. I must be growing up.

Complete Two Film Specs - No. Nowhere near. A bad miss.

Really. Didn’t do very well hear at all. The massive film script that continues to formulate in my head has been doing so for a couple of years now. I was sure this year was going to be it, but got as far as a couple of pages of notes. One day, I’ll have done enough research, and encouraged myself enough, and it’ll be my Butch and Sundance (sorry, my massive ego intruding there...), but for the minute, it continues to fester in my brain.

I pitched an outline for a low budget sci-fi, which I’m still proud of, and opened a very positive communication with the producer before they ran out of money and disappeared into the ether. See the above comments about indie film producers. Again, they were very nice, and the only disappointment is that the idea is fundamentally theirs, so I can’t take a story I very much like any further. Worse things...

I wrote a short script called The Fixer Upper, about an errant house spirit. People loved it and hated it in equal measure, which was a bit weird, but altogether nice. It was a bit long for a short script, but too complete to expand. I’m glad I told it.

Get An Agent. Did that.

Someone helped me tremendously, and I’m not saying who in case the hordes (hordes!) of people that read my blog pelt the person in question with scripts, but I’m sure they know I’m grateful; they may identify themselves if they wish.

Having an agent has so far literally paid for itself. He’s going to start pitching my drama pilots in ... oh, shit, anytime now. Better do a bit of last minute polishing.

Have a meeting in which I’m marvellously urbane and charming, off the back of which I get commissioned on a show.

I ain’t saying nufink.

So what’s up for next year?

Write more. Unless paid writing gloriously intrudes, two TV pilots and a feature spec sound good to me.

Improve as a writer. Looking back on stuff I wrote even a year ago, I cringe. I’d like to keep doing that, in as positive a way as possible.

Meet more writers. They’re great people all round, as far as I can tell, and a helpful and collegial bunch too, and December would have been duller without them.

More meetings, more pitching, more hustling. Meetings are fun. Everyone waiting in the lobby wears exactly the same outfit as you. It’s spooky, like writer uniform. Good meetings lead to...

Get paid to write. I’m not a novelist, after all*.

* Sorry, Lexi. This is actually because I don't have the patience. If I really wanted to be well paid, I be an actor. If I was better looking and capable of more than one note when talking. Seriously, Cybermen, expressive next to me.