Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Quick One

Before I leave you this evening I’d just like to say a Happy New Year and all the best for 2013 to anybody who reads this blog. It doesn’t get masses of hits each day but the main idea of setting it up in the summer was to get rid of that isolated feeling that can often come with writing, the idea that you’re writing for nobody but yourself.

The thing is, it’s working and I hope next year brings many more conversations about storytelling.

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Still In The Lab

I sat with the notebook last night and bashed out some development ideas. Once again, please excuse my scribble like hand writing.

It’s random bits at the moment (and I admit that these photos aren’t exactly the most interesting) but WordPress blogger irscriptwriter gave me the idea about basing the story on finding out what is causing this main character’s lack of sleep rather than make it a feature of the story and write around it. Groundhog Day was mentioned as an example because it’s never explained why Phil is repeating the same day over and over again, he just is and the film hangs on it very well. Also, I’m looking into putting a second character in if only just to have something to hold conversation with and push the story forward. It does lead to the obvious question of how trustworthy this second person would be.

As a third point I’ve said before that I want to avoid the whole ‘it was only a dream’ ending. It just seems like far too much of a cop out if I’m investing in this much of a set up. What if the stranger parts of the story turned out to be the real thing though? Can we go from fairly normal to strange and then find that the start of our story was a dream rather than the ending?

By this time I got a little tired of all the questions, as you can probably tell.

I think, we have a very vague skeleton forming for this story. You’ll note that I’ve put ‘VITAMIN TABLET? MILK?’ right at the bottom, this was simply because I’m thinking that if this is a science experiment then they’d have to administer the drugs somehow. Would they be disguised as something normal? I then flipped the page and sketched this.

The script order that gives us a first hint of the ending. I kind of like the idea of our main character getting to sleep, waking up to discover that they’re in a science lab, falling back asleep only to awaken again still in the lab. It flips things nicely.

I’ll probably spend a little more time getting all this together and then start on building up my characters. As you’ve noticed, I have to work out what ‘stuff’ is first.

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Feel Like Watching A Movie Tonight?

You might remember I mentioned the movie ‘Moon’ a couple of days ago as a reference point to The Unlocked Project. This is therefore just a brief heads up to say that, if you’re in the UK, then they’re showing it on BBC2 at 10pm tonight. It’s also followed by ‘Blade Runner-The Final Cut’ which I’ve set my DVR to record. Once I get a chance to watch that again I’ll no doubt be blogging about my love of Ridley Scott’s classic.

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The Glare Of The Spotlight

A lot of script ideas and thoughts occur to me whilst I’m in the shower (I am actually showering at the time, I don’t just stand under it with a pad and pen because that would be crazy). This morning I was thinking about The Unlocked Project and the current problem of why this main character would be sleepless. A sudden lightening strike of a dream happens whilst I’m soaking my hair.

What if it’s a competition on TV? What if there’s a promise of a grand prize at the end for staying awake this long? Wouldn’t there be cameras all over the place filming this televised experiment? It might seem a bit Big Brother but it’s almost believable that some station somewhere would broadcast something like that. Although it does give an easy license to play about with what is fantasy and reality within the story I’m still trying to avoid the ‘it was a dream all along’ ending.

It was certainly an eye opener which is probably why I got shampoo in my eye.

I work in an opticians, arriving with a red eye ain’t a good look.

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Matchsticks

A Google search for ‘sleep deprivation’ has thrown up more rat based lab testing than I cared to read about. From Wikipedia (I know, but it’s not a research paper we’re doing here so it’s okay).

Microsleeps occur when a person has a significant sleep deprivation. The brain automatically shuts down, falling into a sleep state for a period that can last from a second to half a minute. The person falls asleep no matter what activity he or she is engaged in. Microsleeps are similar to blackouts and a person experiencing them is not consciously aware that they are occurring.’

And…

Sleep deprivation can sometimes be self-imposed due to a lack of desire to sleep and/or the habitual use of stimulant drugs (i.e. Cocaine, Amphetamines, etc.) Recent studies have also suggested that sleep deprivation produces similar effects in the brain to that of an SSRI in persons with depression, thus ensuing a clinical, self-imposed remedy.[66] However, most individuals suffering from clinical depression are not aware that lack of sleep is having a direct positive effect on thinking. Sleep deprivation is also self-imposed to achieve personal fame in the context of record-breaking stunts. Voluntary sleep deprivation is also utilized in the converting from monophasic sleep to polyphasic sleep.’

So far so scientific, I usually go though these phases of attempting to research for details of the script. It’s fun and it does seem to grant you a huge supply of otherwise useless information but the problem persists that there’s currently no story here. I have a man who isn’t sleeping and there’s still the question as to why this is.

I like the idea that it’s not something he’s going against (and I’m automatically saying ‘he’ at the moment under the impression my lead character is male but this could obviously change). I’m still struggling for a reason why though. It has gone through my mind that it can be military based as there would obviously be an advantage of having a soldier who never needed to sleep.

It lacks resistance as an idea. By this I mean there’s a complete lack of conflict right now if this character is just going along with this enforced insomnia. Somewhere, somehow the set up will have to be broken.

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Rebel 1

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Every single idea starts this way, a few scribbled lines in the notebook. It’s a way of mapping out the first few thoughts.

I had a short story idea a while ago about a central character who couldn’t sleep. It sounded a bit thin of a premise and insomnia has been used before in many a story as a basis for paranoia. What then, if the central character was being kept awake on purpose? For research? For some kind of scientific project?

The other consideration is that it must be cheap to film which means one set and as few characters as possible. I want somebody make this at the end, a massive budget would put anybody off. It a great challenge for a writer to think on these boundaries. I remember a local news story about a young film maker who offered the medical use of his brain on eBay to raise money for his ‘Lord of the Rings inspired epic’. The story was about how he was stopped from doing this as eBay counted it as selling body parts. My point would be though that he was either copying Peter Jackson with £10 in his pocket or he thought his brain was worth £100 million.

My first port of viewing for a cheap, single character sci-fi film for the basis of this script would be ‘Moon’ directed by Duncan Jones and starring Sam Rockwell. Go watch, you’ll soon get the vibe.

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The Unlocked Project

At the moment I’m feeling a small sense of achievement about the progress I’ve made with writing this year. I’ve had a play performed on a very small scale, my full length theatre script is currently being read over by a couple of development teams and ‘Robotics For Morons’ is currently filming and should be ready at some point next year. Whilst I’ve sat and planned out a feature film in a basic way I’m thinking I want to write another short movie in order to keep the ball rolling whilst I hide myself away and write the larger script. If the shorter script is being read and I can get feedback from that whilst writing the feature then it should stave off those slightly isolated feelings.

But then I had a thought.

There’s always the problem of writers holding onto ideas, keeping a grip on them and never letting anybody else see them. They’ll be full of “Oh it’s about something with someone meeting somebody” in the vaguest possible way. They don’t want anybody to read their script for fear that they’ll steal this fantastic, revolutionary story and then make millions off it leaving the original writer sleeping under blank sheets of A4 paper in a street corner somewhere.

What if we did things a little bit differently? What if every step of the process, from idea to page, was put online for all to see? Why do we lock up script ideas when we should be getting feedback from others reading it through? What would happen if we detailed every tweak and rewrite right until the script is picked up?

I’m aiming to write a 20-30 minute movie from scratch soon, I’ll be putting up every step on here. I have no idea how this will turn out.

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Railway Cuttings

One Christmas, when I was about 14 years old, my parents bought me a small CD and cassette player for my room. It wasn’t huge, just big enough to fit on my desk, but it was enough to sit with headphones on and listen to music whilst I wrote into the small hours of the night. It also came with a compilation CD of the very best of rock music which gave me my introduction to The Sex Pistols but that’s not what this blog post is about.

My Mum, who was aware I was writing a lot of comedy at the time, started to buy double cassette packs of old BBC radio comedy shows. Part of me thinks she was in the hope that her son would grow to appreciate what she found to be well crafted comedy, not resorting to ‘shouting and swearing’ in order to get laughs. I’d like to say I rebelled and stuffed the tapes in a corner somewhere never to be heard again. I would have had they not been so good and saw me, at 3am, listening and trying not to laugh too loud in order to wake up the house.

A hero of mine from this era would be Tony Hancock, one of the leading stars of the time and a man who was at the peak of his powers in the 50’s and 60’s. The scripts for Hancock’s Half Hour were written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson and they alone were fantastic, the reality is that Hancock himself made them sparkle. His delivery, timing and facial expression were all top notch. His character in the show is probably the cornerstone of comedy, a man who has lofty ambitions way above his station but is very quickly brought crashing down to Earth. It’s done so well and with such panache that it’s still wonderful to watch today. Rather than me talk endlessly about it I’ll let you watch an episode of the TV version entitled ’12 Angry Men’.

During those nights of listening to the show I was amazed at the structure. There’s really no amazing set up to the show, it’s simply Hancock living with his lodgers in Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, a situation which he feels he’s far better than. It’s almost strangely simplistic compared to anything that’s on TV today which was probably the main point behind my Mum’s reasoning. It’s also part of the main reason I liked it so much. Without wishing to sound like some kind of comedy evangelist, there’s a skill on display here in not instantly reaching for dick jokes when the going gets rough. I soon spent many evenings listening to the rest of the episodes which always seemed to take an age to come out of official tapes, probably due to having to be dug up from the BBC archives beforehand. This was 1995 though, they’re all over Youtube and the like now.

Hancock himself was also the very embodiment of the phrase ‘tears of a clown’. Once he gained success he became deeply paranoid that it was his scriptwriters who were responsible and not him so he went out alone. Then he became afraid that it was his co-stars so he had them fired (including Sid James of Carry On fame). Tony Hancock ended up committing suicide whilst in Australia in 1968. His ability and his talent were seemingly obvious to everybody else but him, that in itself is tragic enough.

If you want to know more about Tony Hancock then the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society would probably be the best place to start.

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The Postman Calls

I was having breakfast this morning when the post arrived and this landed on the doormat.

My very short story ‘The Last Drop’ is featured on the back page but there are also a great many fantastic pieces of micro-fiction included. Head over The Fankle for details on how to obtain a copy which you most certainly should if you’re a rational thinking human being.

Another mission off the tick list this year but I’m hoping to be back for the next issue.

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Dutch Courage

In late 2006, I wrote a script for a short film called ‘Robotics For Morons’. I entered it into a Scottish based competition organised by the Glasgow Media Access Centre (GMAC). It was read by two members of their reading team and gained two positives responses. It wasn’t picked as other projects were more viable at the time. I pressed on, forever rewriting the script.

It sat unused until 2010 when I put it on Shooting People’s Script Pitch Network. It gained a fair bit of interest with a few people asking for details. Eventually, a producer from Southern England took it on board. He even went as far as to get a shooting script together which seemed to remove all the humour from the original script and make it into a dark horror instead. I couldn’t really complain, if I wanted to make it as I saw it then I should have made it myself. Then, months went by with no word at all about the film. I had given him permission to use my script to make it and been greeted by complete radio silence.

I sent him an e-mail asking what was happening. The replied essentially admitted he’d ran out of money before he’d managed to cast it, that it would now take him ages to get more cash together and that I might as well take the script back and make it myself. This I agreed to do and our working relationship ended there. With more rewrites the script was re-listed on Shooting People in early 2012. Once again it gained a fair bit of interest. A Dutch film producer read the script, liked it and decided he wanted to make it.

Months went by and I heard little, instead finding myself doing the nervous writer thing of not wanting to get in the way by asking. The trouble with projects at this stage is the possibility that, much like my previous dealings with the film, it can all end in a moment. A couple of e-mails were exchanged months apart. They were finding locations on one occasion, casting the next, never quite building enough steam to get ahead. A project which, to me, still felt fragile. So fragile in fact that I didn’t feel like I could blog about it for fear of looking foolish when it failed.

Last week I received a message on Facebook from the producer. They’re moving ahead to film within the next two weeks. I received photos of the two main actors and the location where the story takes place. Just when I was imagining this script being returned to me it ends up being near to coming to life.

Alongside Henry Barstow being performed, Robotics For Morons being finished was one of the things I wanted in 2012. It’s part of the general motion to stop writing things in a vacuum, with no end result. Whilst I’m excited about the script being taken to film I’ll be even happier once I can see it in full and, even more, show it to you.

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