Paradise Towers

So an e-mail comes through from Scottish Screenwriters a few days ago explaining this.

It’s a competition for scripts, both a feature and short. The winner gets £2000 cash, gets their script sent out to over 100 production companies, passes to Pitchfest (whatever that is), IMDB Pro Membership and a few other bits. Even during the contest itself it would seem your script is read by a fair few people and sometimes even people who haven’t won in the past have still gone on to better things. It sounds like something I need to do especially when Order For Burning is ready to go and has now been pitched twice on Shooting People with no takers.

The one slight snag is the price tag for entry of £35.

It’s not that I cannot afford this, paying £35 will not mean I skip meals and miss a payment on the car this month. It’s more the fact that I’ve never paid to get any of my scripts read before. I assume it helps them cut down on time wasters and also allows them to make a profit for what they’re doing which is fair enough. Apparently this is the last entry window to the competition, if I’d entered a few weeks ago the fee would have been £25.

After days of pondering this issue I finally decided to bite the bullet tonight and just pay the damn money. It might lead absolutely nowhere in which case it’s money down the drain and I’m back to square one. Having watched the timer tick down on the site though I figured that if that went to zero and I’d not bothered entering due to having to pay something towards it then I’d regret it. I’d have a script that I’ve only pitched in one place and was going nowhere. At least this way it’ll be getting read somewhere.

The Surprise Of Someone Who Has Never Known Hell

When I was in school, all of about ten years of age, I wrote a book.

Well it wasn’t really a full scale book, it was more just a stream of a sub James Bond spy saga using names and phrases that a ten year old probably wasn’t meant to know about (I think the KGB got a mention at some point, they had jetpacs). I actually ended up printing the thing and selling copies for 50p a throw. Who could possibly deny a ten year old 50p for all this effort? As such I sold out of the one and only print run.

The main thing at the time was how much I enjoyed telling this crazy, devoid of any kind of factual information, story. I’d write for hours on end after school, actually knuckling down to write straight after doing homework. The process was enjoyable and exhilarating. I also planned nothing beforehand as everything went into the moment. Breathless excitement thrown towards pages.

I have never been able to replicate that feeling since. Whilst I enjoy writing and it’s an escape it can sometimes feel like something I have to make special time for. This is usually once the sun has gone down, once my Son is in bed, once the dishes are cleaned, once the energy is there. The process of writing does not entice me to it, I have to drag myself towards it instead usually.

Tonight I considered a short writing test. As I do with movie scripts I wondered if I could write the first few pages of a story off the bat with no notes. I shut down Twitter and Facebook before switching off the radio. Then something strange happened. The opening of the story just fell out and landed on the screen, my fingers flew over the keyboard. It’s a little shaky when read back but it’s nothing I can’t clean up later. For that short burst I had the same feeling I had when I was ten, the rush of just telling a story. Film scripts are great, I love them but because I want them filmed they have to be confined to certain perimeters. The second I start to mention star ships it goes way beyond the budget given to any first time screenwriter. A novel has no such concerns, I’m pretty much free to write whatever.

So the ability is still there, it just needs a few sparks. I could certainly do this for a few thousand words more.

Block Transfer Computation

Some things I want to blog about straight away. Usually things which excite me or small victories.

Others I have no desire to blog about at all. No reader here is my therapist.

Some others I want to blog about but can’t due to it not quite being the time or having other people on a project which would mean blowing cover for them also.

Rarely am I faced with the situation of wanting to blog about something but trying to word it right. Mainly because something has gone a bit wrong. It’s also my fault and nobody else’s.

Earlier this year, around January, I had an idea about creative writing. Mainly an idea to get people into writing stories. I often meet people who perhaps want to write creatively but feel they can’t (anybody can) or people who do write but lack a nurturing audience to show ideas to rather than people who might make them feel ‘silly’. I wanted to take people and show them that writing is a wonderful, human thing to do and there ain’t nothing wrong with it.

So I tweet a local artist’s collective about this idea back in January. It’s a fairly casual ‘I want to get people writing’ kind of thing. They wanted to talk about it but were currently waiting on being let back into their building as it was being refurbished. It was decided that it was wiser to wait until all that was over. In May this year I had a meeting in which I pitched this idea to them. Even as I was going through it on that day I began to realise something was underdone about the whole idea. I had images of being a far less attractive version of Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds. I’d stand in front of class fulls of ex-convicts and troubled youths and show them the wonder of writing from your imagination. Then we’d have some stories at the end. This obviously completely ignores my previously detailed fear of teaching anything.

But then what to do with those stories? At the time of this meeting I was thinking about taking them on a multimedia route by making short films, photography projects and short audio plays. I was fixed on the idea of taking a product of somebody’s imagination, getting them to set it free and then turning that into something we can display. In my head there was a fantastic exhibition with all this on walls or through headphones.

Then came the issue of who would do the multimedia pieces? Like a stupid prat I hadn’t thought of that bit so I initially figured they could be given to students on media courses locally. ‘It happens all the time in the industry’ I thought ‘it’s a lesson you’d have to learn quickly’. The question then become one of wondering if people would want to just hand over what might be the first story they’ve ever written for somebody else to take charge of. Yes, it’s a lesson you’d need to learn quickly but maybe not straight away.

I attended a poetry night in Dumfries in April and the woman who organised it is also part of the collective. We meet each other for coffee and discuss more. We agree on a dry run first with any school pupils/students who might be receptive to the idea. We would run hour long sessions, probably about six of them before coming up with stories we would then make photo books out of. Photo books like the ones you get in newspapers for problem pages but less women sat around in their underwear. We also have the thought that the stories should somehow involve Dumfries to give them some kind of common link. We don’t limit what year the stories are set nor do we say they have to stay in Dumfries but it has to be involved somewhere. The photo story idea is selected because it’s the least labour intensive of all the multimedia options. It does however rely on students who are involved in writing with a passing interest in photography as well. Obviously these people are in absolute abundance across this region, wandering the streets with notepads and cameras.

That last bit was sarcasm.

This is all because I didn’t think this through properly.

A few week’s later the artist collective refer me to somebody who works for the local council in literary development as they have other projects they’re working on right now. This is fair enough, they do some fantastic stuff locally and rightly aren’t going to hand money over to a dithering idiot who has an idea which keeps changing every day. I email the council with this idea. The woman I was meeting before has now moved away, I take fright at teaching any classes on my own so I therefore change the whole thing again by trying to gather up stories from local people, putting them online and having a site that becomes an archive of these stories in which you can click a map to get audio readings or text. I type breathlessly about all this and send it away. With a day I receive a response with ‘Sounds great but what are you asking?’.

Fair point, what exactly am I asking?

I have no clue.

I have yet to respond as I genuinely have no idea what to say. Am I asking for money? Probably but then I’d need to have the time to do the actual task in hand. Am I asking to support? Yes but to achieve what? Am I asking for resources? Yes but what resources exactly?

Essentially I’ve seen the end result, thought that looked great and not thought about what I have to do to get there. It’s a very common theme in my entire life I think.The whole idea has been put very much on the back burner for now and it’s something I might come back to in the future but there are things that I reckon I need to do first regarding my own personal writing career before undergoing a project which involves others.

There’s a phrase about fools rushing in here. Feel free to use it.

The Beast Of Babylon

I am hardly a musician.

The closest I came to being in a band was when I had delusions of being a bass guitar player during college. I had drained around £300 on a five string bass guitar in an effort to be like Fieldy from Korn. This did not work as I found it hard enough to play four strings, let alone five. I ‘played’ along with a friend who was actually extremely talented as a guitarist. We got absolutely nowhere and my rock star dreams were packed away and forgotten about.

I work with a guy called Craig who is incredibly gifted musically however. Here’s the link for one of his current bands The Unsung. He also plays in the rather good Carlisle Ukulele Club.

It came to pass one day that Craig asked if I wanted to have a music afternoon round at his house one day. Just a bit of a muck about. ‘But alas’ I began ‘you have seriously overestimated my musical ability’. Apparently this didn’t matter because I listened to music and appreciated it so I would therefore have an idea of what worked and what didn’t. ‘But I play nothing’ I continued. We simply agreed that if I hummed it, he’d play it back with proper notes and everything.

We even agreed a name for this project as ‘Knives In The Sun’. You might think some great poetry as inspiration for that name but I’d counter with the fact it’s the description of the teeth in Roald Dahl’s ‘Enormous Crocodile’. There was a theory for a long time that this name was so good for a band that we would never make any music to ruin the mystique.


Yet shatter the mystique we did this past Friday when we actually sat down in Craig’s house and got to doing some musical stuff. He had a bass line ready, we recorded that and then set about adding to it. I drummed on my knees to demonstrate what I thought would be a good drum pattern, Craig went ahead and put them into the track only with proper drumming involved. He then laid down a guitar part before I hummed a synth part to him. Once again Craig worked the magic and placed that in as well. For me it was a bit like having a translator on holiday who not only makes your words understandable to the locals but replaces all the stupid choices of words with far better and sexier sounding ones.

Craig was worried I’d hate the process, the listening of the same section of song again and again in order to tweak small bits here and there. I said it was pretty much like script writing, reading and same scene again and again to try and get the feel right.The thing is though that with scripts you’re only playing it in your own head to see how it goes, music is there right from the get go. Within minutes you can have something playing back at you for real. I really, really enjoyed it.

We’ve saved the results and Craig continues to polish it. I’ll be trying to come up with lyrics for our creation in the near future although I highly doubt I could sing them in any kind of tune.

Regardless, I had reason to walk up to him today and utter the words ‘I might have another riff’ so I could get into this.

Synth & Drums

With confidence I stepped forward with the new synopsis for Order For Burning and placed it up online to see if there were any takers. There were none at the second time of asking. I’m thinking back as to what could have been wrong and I come to the same conclusion that I was very aware about to begin with. The film is based on historical events which makes it very expensive to make and it’s not a hugely well known event either so there’s not a ready made audience for it in that sense. This makes it a tough sell at the best of times. I spent the best part of a year on Order For Burning, getting it up to what I consider to be a readable state and the line seems to end here for now. The main question is what to move onto next because it’s not worth throwing myself at a locked door.

I have another couple of ideas for feature scripts that I could work on. One of which is a return to ‘The Last Alive’ which I abandoned after a few pages due to it turning into a science fiction mess up with lasers and aliens when I should have been a simple story about a dead girl being reunited with the town from where she went missing. There’s a more human story here, something a little more subtle that I didn’t have the bravery to tackle at the time. I might well now but then would anybody want to watch a movie exploring something like that?

There’s also another script I was due to start about parallel dimensions, ie- the theory that states another version of your life is created whenever you make a decision. I had something about an astronaut triggering something in the atmosphere which endangers her return to Earth. I had the start and

Or possible we go for a left field choice and just start writing a book and thus not have to worry about getting somebody to film the thing afterwards. It would also mean an entry into the world of publishing which is no less full of pitfalls. This wouldn’t signal jacking in screenwriting together but more just trying a different method of getting something under that ‘writer’ umbrella.

So I’m stuck at a bit of a junction and not sure what to do next.

Any thoughts gratefully received.