Wednesday 31 December 2008

The last post of 2008...

Well here we are, New Years Eve once again...just as I had gotten used to 2008, it's now time for 2009, bloody nora.

Anyway, rather than do some 'year in review', which is ever such a popular thing at this time of year, I'll just ramble on about what's been happening since I last posted.

Well - the new computer arrived, however there is one problem with it, which I believe is to do with RAM configuration - will get that sorted soon. Apart from that issue, it's fair rockin' I have to say.

Got some nice prezzies for Xmas and have read two of the four books that were under the tree for me (amongst other presents) ... although they weren't the heaviest of tomes, but they were bloody funny - The Big Book of Top Gear 2009, and Mock The Week: Scenes We'd Like To See, both rather funny.

Speaking of funny, I started on Volume 3 of Jeremy Clarkson's world-weary rants dubbed For Crying Out Loud ... also funny, WALL.E on DVD - a great film. Dead Set on DVD was also rather welcome, same goes for the great Gears of War 2, which I'm currently at the end of Act Three on.

Speaking of Act Three - I finished the first pass of Act Three of The End last night. Well, the first half has already been polished up a bit, so really there's just the second half of Act Three to be polished and then it's done! Currently it's 130 pages, but I suspect it might lengthen as I'm thinking about adding in some more dialogue in one of the scenes.

But yeah - that's all coming along nicely, and I'm already starting to think a bit more about my horror script idea that I want to get writing, and having seen the excellent new Brit-horror flick Mum & Dad (which lingered in my mind afterwards, it was quite disturbing at times) I've been inspired to get cracking with said horror script of mine, which I originally planned to write before I wound up doing my zombie epic called The End instead.

I think I mentioned previously that I was planning on being inspired by Mum & Dad, which sounds odd, but it was because I knew from the trailer and reading about it, that it'd be right up my horror movie street - next up I'll check out the DVD extra features, and the idea is to send the companies/groups/people involved in that film, a treatment for this new horror script I'm going to be writing - considering its aim is trained on a low budget, such as that of Mum & Dad, it might be a good opportunity to get that script seen by someone - which is, of course, the point in my zombie epic script - which is obviously targetted at a higher level of budget (well, comparatively much higher actually) - but when you've got the time available to write, why not write and get some ideas fully written out and in your own creative bank?

Anyway, coming up soon is the start of a new educational DVD project - on the topic of the environment, but don't worry, I'm not becoming some eco-mentalist ... even though I am not at all fond of waste (be it food or packaging or fuel or whatever).

Okay I'll shaddup now, I've rambled on long enough and I've got the 2-disc unrated DVD of Pineapple Express sat right in front of me - aye, the R1 disc a whole week early - and two weeks before the R2 release, woohoo!

Saturday 27 December 2008

My musings on Mirrors...

Aye, another slice of musing I've been slack on posting up here, but better late than never, eh?

Another one I'm catching up on - and it's Keifer Sutherland's latest, and not only that, it's Alexandre Aja's latest. Being a massive 24 fan (and indeed much of Keifer's other work), and a big fan of Aja's Switchblade Romance and Hills Have Eyes remake, I was quite looking forward to seeing Mirrors.

Not sure if I heard this right or not, but I think I heard it was an American remake of some J-Horror flick ... I wouldn't be surprised if it was, it's part of the remake trend in America at the moment, a trend that is almost entirely soul-sapping and completely lazy, not to mention far from creative or original. Or perhaps it isn't a J-Horror remake, I can't remember and I can't be arsed to look it up.

Anyway, what did I make of it? Yeah ... pretty decent. Nothing to write home about, but not a complete travesty either.

I do think Sutherland needs to find a role, in between his stints on the brilliant 24 as the rockin' Jack Bauer, that's something vastly removed from the 'Power Hour' man himself. You can't help but feel a sliver of Jack slipping into both this, and The Sentinel (another mid-24 Sutherland flick).

Plot wise, not a lot to it, but I have to say the reason for the mirrors being the 'bad guys' could have done with being introduced a tad sooner - or at least something to give us a bit more purchase on events, instead of just having to swallow it whole and wait for the digestion to come later ... if I want to push this strained metaphor that little bit further.

But what did really strike me about the film (amidst the meh plot) was the production design, I thought it was great - the Mayflower shopping centre and the ... place beyond it (won't spoil that). Perhaps it was just me, but I was constantly getting very strong vibes of the videogame BioShock - which not only a great game with superb graphics and a cool story and great atmosphere, but which had fantastic 'production design' (or the videogame equivalent).

The burned and battered manequins loitering the Mayflower, the mid-20th-century hey-day look, even the architecture gave me very strong BioShock vibes - this even continued into the water-logged basement of the building, which reminded me of part of an early level of BioShock (if memory serves, somewhere at a doctors or dentist's office - when the lights cut out, and you see a scary-ass shadow on the wall as you wade through water in a tiled corridor).

So yeah, not a superb film - despite the moments of nifty gore (an Aja staple), although there wasn't anywhere near as much on show for the gorehounds as we saw in his previous two horror offerings ... perhaps it was in aid of trying to move the film a tad away from the horror genre to be more palatable to the Keifer Sutherland fans who didn't also happen to be gorehounds.

However, Mirrors remains primarily a horror film - the asylum sequences proving to be the most disturbing (well, aside from that bit in the bathroom) - but it never quite takes off into something more, instead faltering at times with that annoying freckle-faced kid (you know the kind, the sort that cocks up their parent's plans to protect them from the monsters and/or ghosts they seem compelled to befriend with child-like ignorance.

And oh yeah - yes, I get it, the images are in the mirrors and not in the real world - you don't have to keep showing me over and over and over throughout the whole damn movie that that's the case! Sheesh.

Worth a watch for Keifer fans with a gut for horror, and likewise for Aja fans who want something far better than the dire P2 to be attached to his name (even though Aja didn't direct P2 ... but he stuck his name on it ... and it was shit, wasn't it? I mean ... really shit).

So in summary - Mirrors isn't P2, so huzah!

Monday 22 December 2008

I'm absolutely barging this script...

Yes, it continues to go well - in fact, last night I had a midnight sesh that just kept going and going, with me sat there with The Dark Knight soundtrack (among other stuff) feeding into my brain through my head phones - it was one of those cases where you say 'oh I'll just finish this little bit off here, then stop and go back over this whole bit' ... but that doesn't happen.

Instead, you do that part, then find yourself writing a few sentences more so you have a good lead-in for the next section, to allow yourself a smooth re-entry into the script, to pick up where you left off, if you will.

However, this cycle just kept happening. I'd write a bit to set myself up for another writing session, then I'd have to write another bit to link in, then I'd have a great idea and have to write that, then I'd remember about a character, then another character and then another character that needed to be placed in the ensuing chaos, and then I'd have to flick back and forth, and at one point I had to re-write a couple of sentences to allow one character to get to a certain location to allow another sequence I had in mind to play out.

Oh yes, chaos indeed - both in what's being written, but also in how it was being written. I was glued to the keyboard hammering away, completely gripped, with the text on screen flying across the glowing monitor at practically 88mph.

I was planning on tying up the end of Act Two, and lying the foundation for the start of Act Three, but instead I not only finished Act Two, but wrote half of Act Three straight away!

Today I tidied up on scene I left aside from last night (as it was truly getting quite late), and so then I'll head back to page 93 (prior to which I've already been through and refined a few days back), have a little tidy up - I'll no doubt lace in certain characters here and there - the trouble with such an ensemble of protagonists is it's easy to lose track of them, so I sometimes have to fix that on my hook back around to refine what I've just written throughout an act.

So once that refining is done, I'll be back to do the second half of Act Three - or indeed, the eighth of eight segments as per my previously mentioned brainstorm map of the whole script.

How many pages now then? Currently I'm about half way down page 116.

I have written a script this long (indeed longer) before, although that wasn't in Final Draft, and it wasn't in a traditional three act structure (it was almost a sort of catharsis for myself in developing ideas, and debriefing myself from my three years at university) ... so really, this is the longest proper script I've ever written (I mostly do short scripts, but my previous feature lengther was 90 pages), and it's most certainly the most complex script I've ever written.

It's been a battle (in the best sense) to write a script with a broad ensemble of characters, covering an epic story, with a considerable amount of action - as well as ideas, and zombie fan nerd wish-listing - but it's been a great experience to write this.

If I'm lucky enough to get the opportunity to actually develop it further, I'll no doubt seek to add things, change things, manipulate certain ideas and so on further than I currently am - but then again, right now I'm coming from nothing on the page at all to something quite big all written out in first draft form (technically second draft, considering that I go back over what I've written each act, and refine ... fettle, if you will). So aye - if given the opportunity to develop it, then I'd already have a very deep, complex, thought-out structure to complete the 'build' upon, so-to-speak.

What's to be written next after this? Well, I might have mentioned some time ago about a horror script I had in mind - related to an allergic reaction I acquired from dodgy clothing dye - in fact I was initially planning to write that before this feature length zombie epic (which is specifically designed for a big budget - well, relatively speaking - and use of CGI, and sets, and kick ass professional gore, and actors and so on ... essentially "The End" is being written as my own ideal zombie film with no budget in mind - or at least a budget infinitely beyond my current, and near-future abilities).

Anyway, yes, where was I? The horror script - that's what I was on about - yes, I'll be looking to write that, and that will be a fair simpler affair (less characters, less locations, an over-all simpler 'potential production'). In fact, I plan to be quite inspired by the up-coming Mum & Dad, a new British horror flick in the vein of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (it's not even out yet, and the Daily Mail has already had a whinge ... or was it the Daily Express? Anyway...)

Yes, this horror script would be designed for an indie budget, and indeed a British setting.

So with my scripts, I write shorts that I can film, and I write shorts beyond my means when I have something I need to get onto the page. I write really short-shorts for quick ideas, or for sending to certain groups (like the London Film Academy, although they didn't dig the script I sent - no doubt too anti-government for them ... incumbent Labour government anyway).

Then of course, feature scripts - again, beyond my means at the moment, but set up for the future - it's best to have an idea, which is written out fully and stored away, than to have an idea that's still in your head years down the line when you get the opportunity to put it out there - a time when you might (and hopefully should) be busier than you are (or indeed I am) at present.

Although I'm not exactly twiddling my thumbs either, far from it. So indeed - feature scripts in themselves, which I write, come in different genres, on different scales.

For example, there was 'GenPro' (short nickname title for it), which was a comedy of an indie production level. Now there's 'The End', which is a zombie horror of a big budget production level. Then there will be 'Un-named Horror Script', which will be horror again, but of an indie production level, and a different topic entirely.

I've rambled on long enough, tatty-bye-bo (as Adam Buxton might say).

Oh - and Merry Christmas to one and all (or indeed whatever holiday you enjoy at this time of year).

Tuesday 16 December 2008

How's the writing going? Good! So it is...

Been a while since my last script update, it's going swimmingly however, so that's good.

I'm currently on page 94, the first act has been given the polishing treatment, and I'm now about to embark on polishing up what I've got of act two so far.

Yes, page 94 and still in act two - but remember than act one took more pages than usual, just because of the sheer volume of detail to explain. However, act two thus far - between page 49 and 94, a lot has happened - I've even added scenes that just sprung to mind and weren't planned at all.

As I'd said before, part of my planning for the script involved a brainstorm layout of the entire script in its simplest form, on which were eight segments. Five of those eight segments are now done, and there's one more to do to finish off act two.

But, I'm going to hold up for a moment, go back to page 49, and work my way through - fettling away, trimming any extraneous fat, adding anything I've neglected, or what have you. I've really gotten into this script writing lark recently, so it's all flowing very freely now, it feels great to be writing this well, especially after I had such a prolonged period of writer's block/malaise prior to finally opening up Final Draft and setting to work.

So yeah, I'll polish up what I've got of act two so far (three of four segments), and once that fettling is done, I'll finish act two and either A) continue into the third act, or B) fettle that one remaining segment of act two.

How long is that fourth of four act two segments gotta be? No more than 15 pages, I don't want to go any higher than 109 pages for the end of act two - and ideally, a little bit shorter than that.

For the script over all, an absolute maximum of 139 pages is my target, but ideally I'd like to clock in at 130 pages...told you it was a zombie epic.

It's been enjoyable to work on this second act, having spent a fair amount of time plugging away at the first act, which was mainly about one thing, whereas act two has a whole variety of stuff going on. There's action, there's a lot more dialogue, there's different locations, there's new ideas, there are montage moments (I need to show the passage of time at certain points, which helps make the whole situation - and certain things that happen during act two - more believable).

So yep - going rather well indeed. I don't know when I might get it finished to the 'draft 1.5' standard that I seek, but it might not take too long - but on the other hand, the Xmas season is coming up shortly - will I get it done before then? Unlikely. Will I get it done before New Year's? More likely, but perhaps not a sure thing. Mid-January would be an easy target to achieve mind you, but I'll hopefully finish it earlier than that.

There's still some final editing to do on Sexual Ethics Part One (the second part will be sometime later, possibly winter 2009), and the next educational DVD I'll be setting to work on hasn't gotten going yet beyond script pondering, so I've got a nice relaxed gap in my day-to-day schedule to really seize the opportunity and write like the wind - in fact, this time last year I was in the midst of writing Generation Procrastination, which became a 90 page graduate comedy...with a surprising (to me) amount of romantic comedy elements ... but surrounded by swearing and discussion about things like public toilets.

Indeed ... anyway, onwards to Final Draft, version number unknown!

Sunday 14 December 2008

Death Race...(musing catch up part three)

Paul W.S. Anderson (sometimes known as "the Paul Anderson that's not much cop", when compared to P.T. Anderson - the man behind Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood).

Well ... Resident Evil was terrible, and the sequels didn't fare much better, the third inspiring the 'best you're gonna get' moniker of 'the least shit Resident Evil movie' ... but it was still pretty stupid, and decidedly meh. Alien VS Predator ... dreadful, seriously-seriously-shit.

Death Race meanwhile, isn't as shit at those two buckets of eye-rape, but equally it's not that good either. Jason Statham's on standard Statham form, not excelling himself, but not phoning it in either ... Tyrese Gibson though, feels every inch the token black guy here, hardly puts forward a solitary little piggy in the shoes of Stallone's original Machine Gun Joe from the original Death Race 2000.

The action is decent, but quickly begins to wear amidst the sheer onslaught of grey and quick-fire editing, and occasionally really grindingly mis-chosen music (cue blatantly obvious, dime-a-dozen rap track to introduce the prison, and a really tacky little number to assist in gawping at the lead prison femme, for two examples).

The script - typically Anderson, at best it's standard. It almost feels like paint-by-numbers, the token 'brain' to the central band of characters - as well as token Latino, and token British guy who reads little books and wears little glasses, smacks of that numbered-paints philosophy.

Compared to the original (and still best) film, what's retained? Cars - yes, and admittedly they're better than the cheap-o wobble-wagons slithering about in front of undercranked cameras, but lacking flair - a race - yes, and admittedly the 'pay per view' angle does raise your interest the first time. Dare I say it, it even suggests satire ... but then that's all ditched in favour of some more "meh" plotting and ultimately tiresome racing about.

There's no satire, which was one of the original film's strong points. The racers are either throw away cannon fodder or pre-sold cut-outs, complete with text-book back stories. The villainess of the piece, one-dimensional baddie with token henchman.

Another key aspect of Death Race 2000, was that it was a televised trans-continental road race. I begrudgingly understand why they might have chosen to keep it located to one dreary industrial location, but if the original could achieve a transcontinental road race on peanuts, why can't this bid budget re-hash manage it?

And that is, after all, what it is - yet another month, and yet another dime-a-dozen remake. This re-heat culture really is the filmmaking equivalent of microwave cookery, nowhere near as good as the real deal.

Finally - Death Race 2000 was famous for it's carnage. The idea was to score points by running over civilians (be they protesters, passers by, fans or whomever) - here though, we have ONE person get smeared. ONE. That's it, and the character is a numpty anyway. Such a key aspect of the original, and it's nowhere to be seen - perhaps the product placement car firms didn't fancy letting their cars run over anybody ... but were fine with them being cobbled-over with all manner of defensive and offensive capabilities, like giant fuck-off machine guns designed to kill the other drivers. Hmmm...

There was a whole slew of Carmageddon videogames (which I enjoyed immensely), and yet here we are with a movie - that's thankfully R-rated - completely avoiding one, of several, key aspects of the source material ... speaking of the original, I'll stick with that thank you very much.

Burn After Reading...(musing catch up part two)

I was quite surprised that the Coen's struck back so quickly, after the bloody fantastic No Country For Old Men (I can't understand why some people abhor that film, I really can't). No wonder then, that its good - but nothing more - the Coen's overall talent sees them through to producing a solid (and sometimes surprisingly dark) comedy caper ... but the sense of under-cooking drops the film right there, on the better side of the middle lane.

The comedy is good, but not guffaw-worthy. The plot is good, but not gripping. It's the case with the whole film, but for a decent viewing time without investing too much effort, it really is worthwhile - particularly for Coen brothers fans.

Righteous Kill...(musing catch up part one)

Hey, here's a great idea, get two acting greats who've not really flexed their muscles in a while, who once shared screen time only once before in a fantastic film, and put them together again in a really average, mediocre one!

Aye, the flick's not much cop. "Meh" could quite easily sum it up actually. You see the 'twist' coming a mile away, and the in-between either makes not a lot of sense, or is so incapable of gripping you, you have to wonder what the point of it all was.

And what's more - in this day and age of good quality, low price camera gear - why is it that every time you see a videotape, or a security camera feed in a movie, the picture is always awful ... but awful in a really precise, controlled, pre-figured way. It does my head in, it's as bad as all that fake camera glitching you find so often in first-person-view films (of which there were many in 2008).

See, that's how "meh" it all was, I've ended up talking about a small issue that gets right on my tits, instead of the movie in question ... you're certainly not missing anything.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Time for some fettling...

Well, the first draft of act one was finished a couple of days ago now, and yesterday I started fettling away at it, thinning it down, trimming off the fat.

I'm 20 pages into this, the second draft of act one, and I've so far managed to cut away 4 pages of waffle, so that feels good - plus it reads better, and looks better when staring at the page as a whole - again I'm taking inspiration from that recent Charlie Brooker Screenwipe special about writers, on which one of them said about keeping the writing as simple and punchy as possible so you hopefully avoid the reader's heart sinking when they see great big chunks of text all over the coming page.

So yeah - this fettling away makes it read better, and look better. I'm tightening the dialogue, fixing the odd sentence that needed changing/removing so that it made sense when something happened/was described later on.

But mostly it's about trimming down the descriptive stuff, taking out extraneous words, shortening words (so "zombie" becomes "zed", or a vehicle type becomes simply initials), that sort of thing.

It does take quite a while, staring into the void of white on screen, pocked with thin black text ... but it feels really good after a session of fat trimming.

As before, it's coming along nicely, and as you can see I forced myself to pause at the start of Act Two, head back to the beginning, and set about trimming away (it also helps to get your head into everything that has come before in a more condensed fashion, you remind yourself about what has happened, about the characters etc, and thus it helps when you get back to the beginning of the following act to continue writing anew).

This said, I do look forward to getting onto Act Two, there's a lot more happening in Act Two, in terms of variety - Act One was two segments on my brainstorm, while Act Two is four segments - and hopefully I won't be writing as long as I did for Act One. I think that first act just had a shed-load of action to describe, lots of visual elements to establish, to get the reader into the world at reads a little longer on the page than it would on the screen, is what I'm trying to say.

Aye, I don't bother doing a second draft of my blog posts, who's got the time and boring amounts of patience for that? Blogging is like emailing, it's rash and instant!


In other news - next week I'll hopefully be ordering my new PC, which will become my primary editing rig ... oh I do look forward to rendering Magic Bullet nice and fast, and yes - to finally getting to play STALKER: Clear Sky, which was sadly just too much for my current rig, a rig which will remain in constant use for all my other tasks - like script writing for example.


Thursday 4 December 2008

234th post spectacular!

You know, just because it was post 2-3-4 ... yeah?

Anyway, the script's coming along nicely, and the first act is now done to first draft standard ... here's the problem though - it's 56 pages long, and the first act should be 30 page roughly.

So yep, there's some thinning to get done, but I'm certainly not gonna manage 26 pages of thinning - it's just gonna be one of those detailed scripts, because the story I'm trying to tell has a lot of detail. The visuals I'm trying to picture in the reader's mind, are very detailed and specific - and so it goes on.

I'm properly chuffed with it though, and I really feel good about it ... not from a stand point of "because I'm writing it", but just from a zombie genre fan perspective, I think it's a good script so far - and indeed, this was part of the planning process for this script, me asking myself "as a huge zombie genre fan, what do I want to see, what haven't I seen, and what do I want to see more of that hasn't been shown enough?"

The answers to these questions formed the basis of the planning for this script, and it feels really great to be incorporating them into the script, especially during the fast-paced action sequences - even I'm getting drawn in as I'm writing and reading them, my typing gets faster, I hunch towards the screen, the text ploughs across the screen ... it feels *this* close to seeing the real deal on a screen at times.

Anyway, now that act one is done (to first draft standard), I've just started act two - although I'm going to try and force myself to stop - go back to the start - and get the first act to second draft standard, then continue into draft one of act two ... although I'm rather tempted to at least write the first chunk of act two, after spending days on the main thrust of act one, it feels really good to write about a new location, with new characters, and a different feel ... certainly, the first act has been a real mountain to climb - several characters in several locations (near to one another) at the same time, communication either face-to-face or via CB radio and so on (I could go on, but I'd be dropping too many details, and possible spoilers).

So yep - it's going swimmingly, and I've found myself buoyed by the recent Charlie Brooker's Screen Wipe special on script writers, who talked about their processes, their insecurities, their problems and so on - and it felt good to realise that my processes, insecurities and problems were not disimilar, or indeed identical to those of the dudes getting interviewed ... although I'm not in their league mind you, I'm not a deluded, gloating ego maniac so calm down there skippy.

But nor am I some amateur, I'm investing serious thought and time into this script (and have done so with my other scripts), I've thought about them practically too (if I'm going to end up shooting them myself) ... and while I've not been formally trained, I wouldn't consider formal training to be a must-do - just like with filmmaking - but that said, I'm not dissing formal training either.

What I'm saying is - both informal and formal ways of learning the craft of filmmaking or writing for film, work in my opinion - and they can sit beside one another in harmony.

Plus I had a short script turned down by the London Film Academy, as one self-deprecating example, so it's not like nobody has read my stuff either ... I can't remembe which interviewee said it on Screen Wipe the other day, but they said that you cannot consider yourself a writer until you've completed something - and I have completed something, a number of things in fact, many small, some large.

I guess you could say, in more 'professional' terms, I'm currently an 'unsuccessful' writer...sort of...if I wanted to beat myself up ... but you know how it is, I'm at the beginning of my career, and filmmaking is one of those careers that takes years to get off the ground - but hopefully, it's one of those careers that rewards for the dues you have paid over the years getting there, crawling on your belly, fretting your hair out and doubting your own worth.


So yeah - going well! *thumbs up most definitely*

Tuesday 2 December 2008

I've got tha' feev'ah...

...the writing fever that is.

Have had a good couple of days hammering away at the keyboard in my spare time, I even managed to clock up 10 pages yesterday, so it's coming along nicely - I'm now at page 40.

Like I said before, this is still only the first act, so it's running long at this point, but I'll be going back over Act I after I've finished the first run through, and look to trim it down a bit, tidy things up.

I'm really starting to feel the script writing vibe now, I'm feeling much more fluid in my operation of Final Draft again, my fingers have regained their memory of how it all works - as I said before, it's been a while since I've written a script, so it's about getting my head back into it again - but that seems to have happened and it's going well ... have I said that it's "going well" enough times?

One more - it's going well.

In other news, I'm looking to get my ass a brand new computer specifically for the task of editing this month. I need some extra oomph to feed my Magic Bullet addiction, plus I just need to separate the editing side of things from my existing rig on which I do everything else.

For the past few months I've been researching for my custom spec, getting into the jargon, finding out any potential flaws, seeing who's the current tech leader, and generally getting my brain melted by the confusing world of knowing what you want to put inside your rig - off the shelf this rig most definitely is not.

Ooh I canny wait to get my mits on it! Getting a new computer, plugging it all in, booting it up for the first time, and generally creating your own nest of familiar software (and giving it a thorough run with a flashy game), is one of those joys in a guy's life ... like getting a new car and huffing that new car smell like it was going out of style, hell yeah.