The short film I was going to work on this afternoon instead of ‘The Last Alive’? It’s done.
Well, I say done in the sense that it’s been written from start to finish. It’s possibly more of a sketch than a film as it only involves two characters and one location. It’s called ‘The Salesman’s Gamble’ and it’s only 9 pages in duration so probably about ten minutes of screen time in all. I’m going to write up a quick synopsis and put it up on the script pitch network to see if anybody wants to take it on. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful irony if there was any interest in the script I’ve pretty much sneezed out in an afternoon?
I had to take a break for a while to pick up my car from the garage too as it was in for a service.
For the last two days I’ve sat looking at the screen filled with ‘The Last Alive’. It’s fair to say that it’s grinding down to a halt.
I am currently 34 pages in, more than a third of the way through my 90 page planned duration and the wheels are coming off. The basic problem is that too much has happened and in a fairly uninteresting way. Morag has come back having not aged, she’s found her Mother, she’s attempting to live the same life she was, Darren the police officer is now determined to find out what the hell is going on and the first few people have suddenly found out they now share Morag’s abilities such as controlling flames etc.
Too much, too damned much. Why the hell am I in this hurry? Probably because I’m worried about it coming across as boring which probably in turn means I have zero confidence in this story.
Damn it to hell.
I might write another short alongside this one, mainly because an ending of any kind feels far away. I’ve got that feeling during a script as if you’re on a boat and you’ve found yourself smack in the middle of the water with nothing around you. Land will be a long time coming and there isn’t really a strong wind blowing right now.
I don’t know why I’m here, I only know what to do. It’s time to put the chicken mask on.
Creeping through the door as silently as possible I see the first guard around the corner. Breaking into a run I fling myself around the corner, punching the guy squarely in the face. He stumbles onto the floor and drops his baseball bat. I stand over him, raise my boot and bring it down into his skull. Blood spatters over the carpet covering it in jets of crimson. He won’t need the bat anymore so I claim it.
Behind the next door I can hear two guards pacing around. Bursting through the door I swing the bat with such force it caves in the heads of both men at once. With both dead at the same time I gain a double score. Before I break into a grin a bullet flies through the air straight through me, one guard comes around the corner armed with a shotgun but the damage is done. I press X the restart at the front door and go for another run through.
So begins each level of Hotline Miami, a game which I’ve been very curious about since it was released. It’s a game in which each level is a killing spree as your nameless character receives cryptic answering machine messages. What sounds like a simple job of ‘pick up a suitcase’ results in running around each level murdering everyone else in the level with samurai swords, shotguns or knives. There’s a wonderful sense of tension as you plan the next move, timing each phase of attack. Death is never that far around the corner however meaning an instant restart.
But this isnt a blog about games (well, not entirely about games), it’s about stories and writing them. The saying goes when writing to always keep it simple. As a game Hotline Miami gets straight to the point with an opening scene in which three people in animal masks tell you that you’ve done some terrible things. Your character doesn’t even have a name, only being labeled ‘Jacket’ by fans because of his American college style apparel. You’re then flung into the first blood soaked level having been told to go and grab a suitcase and bring it back to your employer. The gang members who guard the building don’t have names either individually or as a collective. You have no idea why you’re supposed to be killing them or what exactly is in the briefcase. A little later in the game, once the flood of bodies has settled on the ground, a girl who has been locked in a backroom begs you to take her with you as she ‘has nowhere else to go’. You pick her up, like some modern day white knight, before taking her back to your car. As far as I’ve got currently she plays no further part. There are also the locations set between levels, shops and restaurants which seem to feature the same guy working behind the counter giving away free items. Jacket, it seems, never has to pay for anything and you’re never sure why.
Hotline Miami draws you in with questions, only answering them as and when it wants to, never giving in to any demands your subconscious might be making for more information. To give away too much too early would strip this story of its mystique. The game’s presentation and soundtrack give it a lo-fi feel, like something contraband, something you shouldn’t have. It’s dirty under all those bright lights.
There’s a cupboard at the top of the stairs in my house which has been the holding bay for nearly every piece of junk since the day we moved in eight years ago. On Friday I spent a few hours attempting to make some kind of space in it and kick out a lot of old stuff we just didn;t need anymore. Not only did I find the 14 inch Sony TV that I originally bought for my bedroom in my parent’s house because I was sick of having to play video games in my sister’s room but I also found the folder full of rejection letters. Right after I finished college I seem to have spent a good eighteen months pestering various UK based production companies with whatever I had at the time. Back then, the rejections hurt and were another downer on a dream. Now, flicking back over them, I’m firstly astonished I had the balls to write straight off to some people and I’m secondly finding them hilarious in many cases. I plan to get my scanner going over the next few days (a quick experiment with my phone camera set to ‘document mode’ gave very blurred and unreadable results) and put them up on Howling In The Dark. Together, we’ll laugh at the folly of youth.
The responses from Pozzitive TV are a thing to behold for a start.
In recent weeks a guy who works at the head office of the optical chain I work for left his job to do graphic design full time. I’d never really spoken with the guy nor met him face to face but we had exchanged emails here and there via the internal company system. One of the first things he posted on his blog was a video link to the author Neil Gaiman giving a speech in Philadelphia in 2012. As a pep talk towards going forwards into the unknown searching for a career in creative arts it’s pretty high up the league table. Thankfully I’ve found it again…
Firstly the central message of ‘Make Good Art’ is inspiring at the best of times but the other part of this that grabbed me was the fact he made a list of stuff he wanted to do during his career and worked towards that. Tuesday marked by 33rd birthday, a chance to reflect back and plan forward so I’ve become tempted to do the same. If anything, it’ll be something that you can read back once I’m gone and laugh.
1) Write A Short Film (and get it made).
One lecturer at college once told me during a lesson on time management that you should make a list of stuff you need to do but make sure the first one is something you’ve nearly done or have finished therefore you’ve started your list already. A psychological advantage already then.
2) Write A Feature Film (and get it made).
Working on this one, mostly with ‘King Of Teatime TV’ and more recently ‘The Last Alive’.
3) Make A Videogame.
Which, as discussed before, will probably be some kind of text adventure at this rate.
4) Make A Comic Book.
Might be slightly hard by the fact I can’t draw but if I can convince somebody else to do that bit then we’re away.
5) Write A Novel.
I might have started this one already but with no clue as to where it’s going. The prologue was put up on this blog a few weeks ago.
6) Write An Episode Of Doctor Who.
Yes I know, shooting for the moon on this one but it’s on here.
7) Publish An Article In A Print Magazine
Probably wrestling/videogames, not fussed which one.
Before I got into console gaming circa 1990 when I received a NES with the Ninja Turtles game for Christmas, my sister and I had an Amstrad computer. I recall it mostly for its green screen, unable to display any other colour. It arrived with a bundle of games on cassettes with game quality varying greatly from title to title. Roland On The Ropes was a favourite as it seemed to feature a man who was raiding tombs long before Lara Croft got there. We used to buy new games at the brand new supermarket in Carlisle, they were situated next to the vinyl record section my sister always spent her pocket money on.
One major favourite is something I cannot find on Google even after a while of searching. My memory of the title is hazy at best but I think it was something like ‘Kingdom Of Spellbound’. It was a fantasy based text adventure in which you roamed the land as a returning king. Every instruction was given to your sidekick and he was mostly found to be saying he didn’t understand what you’d just told him. You obviously couldn’t get the staff.
I am unable to program anything that looks like a game despite playing them for years on end. It is however on the list of stuff to do and a text adventure is probably about my limit of ability. Obviously, with the graphical capabilities to be seen today, text adventures have taken a back seat as the years have gone on but I was reading an article recently on audio games such as Papa Sangre and The Nightjar. If these game which remove their focus from graphics can succeed then why not a well written piece of interactive fiction? If I could make a good and involving story, even a short one, would people play it?
I’m thinking that any story told this way should be something that was written at the time but forgotten about, only to be discovered again in the modern day.