The Bear, The Bull & The Punk

How do you begin a film? What should the opening scene be? How should you grab attention?

I think I’m ready to bolt together a scene by scene now. It’s the final piece before we head out of base camp for the long climb ahead. The dilemma is that I’m starting this story at the end of the main character’s research trip. It feels like it’s winding down just when I want to apply the pressure.

I might start with another character getting back to Earth first. He ends up being safe and sound back with his family. We then cut back to space and our main protagonist remains up among the stars waiting for her ride home.

Which, after a few pages, we know will never come.

Fearing The Reaper

I’m in bed as Storm Henry is battering the house (and pretty much the entire of Scotland by the sounds of it). My wife is on a nightshift so the cat has decided to place himself where she would usually be. My Son finally fell asleep around 10:30pm. I have to be upstairs with him tonight because it’s part of his procedure for somebody to be there for him. Being downstairs somehow doesn’t count.

I have my notebook however and I’ve been writing the outline for the script over and over again. I had planned to spend last week, which I had booked off work, writing solid scenes and having half half the thing finished simply from bring able to spend hours each day on it.

I am still planning. Still marking up diagrams. Still changing details.

It’s not usually like this. I’d be writing it by now and probably grinding my teeth through draft one. Here’s the problem I’ve had and I’d appreciate your thoughts on this one.

When does a concept become a story?

I have my stranded astronaut who wakes up to find that mission control are reporting the shuttle has left for Earth with her on board. She tries to radio home to say this is impossible as she’s still there. They take no notice. Soon they will shut down the oxygen and power to the base. Our astronaut is in a blind panic, what can she do?

One voice cuts through the static.

“I believe you” it says.

As hard as it is for me to admit, this is a concept. It’s the blurb on the back of the DVD. I’m trying to build this up to be a story and failing a lot. She has an obvious goal in wanting to get home but how does she take steps to carry this out? I find myself with a great five minutes but nothing else to fill the other eight five minutes plus.

And it’s gnawing at me.

Because I should be better at this.

Not Loved, Just Tolerated

I should be asleep, it’s currently 1am here and I’ve been playing The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt (a write up on the story is forthcoming). The first five minutes of the new script has been written but there’s a few things I want to do before a delve into another ninety minute script that will probably take up the next few months. I actually started a short story the other day, I’m rather determined to finish it. I doubt anybody will want to publish the thing so I’ll stick it up here when it’s ready. Also, I want to try a bit of poetry again. The inspiration of the Open Mouth night in April is still there. Once again these efforts will probably be posted here. Once these are out of the system then I’ll be back to screen writing.

For The Next Half Hour

I’m giving serious thought to what script to do next and I wonder if it’s time to finally get down to doing a feature film. Whilst I have written scripts over the 90 minute mark before they mostly turned out to be failed experiments when I was fresh out of college. Not having the time or budget to film a 90 minute plus feature in art college you don’t tend to bother writing them. I could have done a feature script written intensively for my final project, maybe I should have done, but by then I was already part of a group who had a framework put together and to leave then would have felt selfish.

My last attempt was a good few years ago, it was set on an island on which ten people attempted to set up their own independent country. Having seen Castaway a few years before (the show that gave us such wonders as Ben Fogle) I wanted to do a much darker version of that. It didn’t really go anywhere and there were far too many characters however it did house the first version of Henry Barstow as a character, back in the days when he was a Europhobic MP rather than a deranged writer of rubbish scripts.

I do have a core idea to start it with. An event, something which rocks a small town and the aftermath but it needs a flavour before we get anything concrete written down. With that in mind, here’s a few things that I’m considering so far.

Not so much the more modern Twilight Zone but certainly the 1960 version, the ones filmed in black and white only. Taking something normal and everyday and adding some strange in to see what comes out. I’m a particular fan of the episode with William Shatner in which he keeps thinking there’s something outside the aircraft he’s a passenger on.

If I recall correctly The Outer Limits used to be on BBC2 on a Saturday evening (I’m sure somebody in the comments section will end up correcting me if not). In a very similar style to The Twilight Zone (in fact it was pretty much the same idea updated). One particular episode that sticks in my mind featured an entire 45 minute show in a prison cell on an alien ship. Two humans, one male and one female, attempt an escape but she keeps getting taken away and tortured. Upon each return to the cell she becomes more and more like the alien captors in appearance, gaining scales on her skin and claws on one hand.

In the final moments of the show, before she’s taken away again, he tells her not to worry because the human forces are about to launch a surprise attack in the next few hours. The fleet are hidden in the stars waiting to strike and there is hope for the human race yet. She smiles and turns towards the door before saying something like “John, they haven’t been turning me into one of them all this time, they’ve been turning me back”. With one simple line the whole story turns. Bear in mind we’ve never left the cell throughout the whole episode. I thought it was a fantastic piece of sci-fi done cheaply and a good example of a script packing a final punch.

Jeff Wayne’s World Of The Worlds isn’t here really for the story, HG Wells did it first and better, it’s more how I was first introduced to it.

A few years ago I was having guitar lessons from a fellow called Donald who worked for my Dad. Upon ending the lesson he’d give me a lift home and, without fail, this would be playing in his car. The journey was very short but during the winter months, in the dark, listening to it felt like the scariest thing ever. Due to this experience my parents bought me tickets for the live version one Christmas. I went along, saw the disembodied floating head of Richard Burton, but for some reason never truly made as much of a connection with it in that form.

The Wickerman was filmed not far from where I live actually, in fact they still have a music festival inspired by it, so whilst in the story it’s the very North of Scotland in reality it’s very much Dumfries and Galloway.

The Wickerman struck a chord with me because it’s a horror film without any blood or gore and extreme violence. There are no monsters lurking around the island at night eating the residents. The fear in Wickerman comes from the differences between an outsider and the islanders themselves. This religious tension is central to the structure of the whole film. I’d really love to replicate something like this in the script.

I know, I know. Up until now I’ve been mixing in cult movies and TV shows and yet I’m here throwing in a kid’s gameshow from the early 90’s. I was fascinated with Knightmare back in the day, I’d rush home from school to watch it every Friday. There’s a certain air of mystery and imagination in Knightmare that simply wasn’t present in other kid’s TV shows at the time. There was the constant thinking that you weren’t sure what dragon/knight/goblin was going to turn up in the next scene.

Normality turned on its head, a strange event, the combined power of people’s beliefs, group mentality,distrust of an outsider and the need to guide somebody through all this. Scratch these words into the wall, this is what I’m aiming for.

I want this to be a story spoken in a hushed tone, from a mistuned radio in the early hours of the morning.

It begins here.