I’ve spoken about Robotics almost endlessly during the two year span of this blog, I detailed the process of getting people to read it and then going through rewrites with producers and directors and yet I couldn’t show you it. It felt odd talking about the film when you, my dear reader, could not look at it.
That ends tonight…
Click play to watch.
I’d like to thank Jasper Bazuin and all at Alphabet Pictures for making this a reality and helping this Scotsman’s crazy idea he had in 2007 get on screen. I’d also like to thank Horace Cohen and Janna Fassaert for their brilliant performances which truly come across exactly as I’d have wanted. It’s crazy to think we’ve never met and yet you’ve done so much for me.
Please share this, tweet about it and generally shout from the rooftops. The festival run on Robotics isn’t quite finished yet either, it’ll play in Rome this September which is incredible news.
The first five minutes are down on paper (well, on computer file because I’m all modern like that). It’s a terrible read, the dialogue is clunky and my main witchfinder might as well have a handlebar moustache he twiddles considering how evil I’ve made him. Obviously if you’re going to be tieing up people to massive sticks in the ground before setting them alight then you might be of bad intent but it’s bordering on panto at the moment. I now need to get a scene by scene together with details of every segment and why it’s there. After that the process is fairly straight forward.
The only other piece of news yesterday came in the shape of Alphabet Pictures rejecting ‘The Salesman’s Gamble’. Sadly, after a couple of rewrites they cannot see a way of making it into something they would want to direct. I send a reply thanking them for the time they’ve spent on it already. I’ve worked with these people before. they got me to Cannes and they know what they’re doing so I’m not about to argue the bit with them. It’s certainly a knock but hardly a serious one. I move on.
The new draft of The Salesman’s Gamble went across to Holland a few nights ago. It’s reading much better, more rounded, better reasoned which means the ending is a genuine confrontation and not just a chance conversation. By making Ian a complete bastard who is willing to steal anything for money it’s given him more reason to go through with the coin toss at the end. Ian thinks in his arrogance that it’s easy picking, that he’s dealing with the ramblings of a old eccentric whom he’ll rob anyway. It ends up being nothing quite like that. We’ll see what they think of it especially as I have received no word back from Option 1 after the last email saying they had ideas for the story but wanted to know if anybody else was reading it before they continued. Despite sending one back saying ‘Okay, let’s go’ there’s been not a word uttered for a month.
Whilst this is being considered my mind goes to other projects, including one which might still only be in the very early planning stages but is gaining pace. You might remember me blogging a short while ago about the Dumfries Ghost Walk with Mostly Ghostly. The conclusion of the tour takes place by the banks of the River Nith, detailing the 1659 Witch Trials of Dumfries in which nine women were killed due to being accused of practising witchcraft. Although the evidence for this was fairly non-existent the people were encouraged by the Church to bring these people to their attention regardless. There were actually people trained to use instruments of torture to extract confessions from those the Church suspected, it was taken that seriously. I thought to myself, whilst I listen to the team describe this event in all the gory detail, that it would make a good film if it was done right.
A couple of years pass and the group put out a tweet a couple of months ago to commemorate the anniversary. I reply by reiterating that it would indeed make a good film if somebody was to write it. It would be a hard sell however as historical movies I thought more about it at the time and came to the conclusion that perhaps that somebody should be me. Historical movies are a hard sell to begin with, even more so with a historical event which very few people know about and I was on the verge of thinking it wasn’t going to be a great idea. Then I started thinking it could be a good story and does represent something of a challenge in that I’ve never tackled real life events at all, only ever making stories from scratch. I’m also scratching my head about how to tackle the dialogue itself. It’s painfully problematic to fall into the ‘lo’ and ‘art thou?’ samples of speech so it’s something that I’ll need to research a heck of a lot to get right.
These are all good problems to have though and it’s the solving of these that makes me enjoy writing scripts so much (as much as I might sometimes be chewing walls trying to find an answer sometimes). The first thing I require however is an ‘in point’ and somewhere to start the story from. Having nine main characters would be a slight case of storyline suicide so it may well be a case or narrowing it down slightly. In order to find this entrance to the story I shall enlist the help of my good friends at Mostly Ghostly, another coffee order at Barbours of Dumfries is very probably on the way.
Having more than one option open to you to take a script forward is a very strange situation to be in as a writer. Usually I feel grateful that one person is reading something I’ve written and considering it worthwhile of their attention but to have three people in the running for The Salesman’s Gamble has left me in the rather strange set of circumstances of choosing one and rejecting the other two.
I receive an email from Option 1 the other night basically saying that he wants to take it further, has some ideas that he wants to suggest, wants to still retain my vision of the story but feels he needs a commitment from me to move it forward. I can see his side of the deal perfectly and how this represents the make or break time. I’ve stalled him enough but I had a good reason. Option 3 on the list was Alphabet Pictures based in Holland, the company who made ‘Robotics’. Obviously this felt like a natural fit as I’ve worked with them before with fantastic results but the last email I had from them contained feedback about the script and a link to a short film made with a similar story. It didn’t feel like they were for taking this one on and, as I said before, I have another young director wanting to take the project on but needing an answer either way very soon.
Option 2 was another first time director who had to be prompted to ask if she had read the first version of the script. The reply mention she had been busy but,upon waiting for two weeks after the second version was sent, I have yet to hear anything else from her. Whilst it may well be the case that she is busy it’s still an annoyance to have a sudden cut in communication. If it truly is the case that she doesn’t like it and doesn’t want to make it then a simple email back stating as such would work wonders. I’ve sent her a message thanking her for her time so far.
With all this taken into consideration I’ve gone with Option 1 because he was the only one with a concrete idea on moving forward. It’s a vex to have to write back to Alphabet and wish them well, especially with Cannes just round the corner. The gut feeling I have though is that I need to expand my horizons as a writer by working with different people and gaining different perspectives. It’s taken many years to actually get to the point when I can show my writing to producers and directors with some level of confidence, now it’s time to concentrate on working with these people to improve.
Now some news I’ve had to sit on for a while, mainly due to the fact they wanted to save all the surprises for their press launch. Then I had the whole issue of them having the feature films up on their site but not the shorts so I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to mention anything or not. Having asked it seems I’m good to go.
‘Robotics’ makes its UK debut at The Raindance Film Festival in London on September 26th this year (two weeks tomorrow). The place you’re looking for is Screen 4 in the Vue Cinema in Piccadilly and it’s part of a strand called ‘Twilight Tales’ which starts at 1pm. If you’re in the area at the time then do pop by, it’ll be glorious fun and games.
I gazed upon this today just after I woke up, the poster is ready and we’re ready for the festivals. The credit of ‘Story’ is something which I agreed with the director. He asked to be credited for the screenplay which I thought fair enough as he did work on a lot of it and rearranged a fair chunk of it to make it better. Basically, I’m ecstatic it’s got this far and we have something to show.
I’m really not sure what I’m expecting from the festivals though, part of me wants a career to sky rocket from this and to be asked what other scripts I have and to be put in front of people who have the money and the clout to get other projects on the road. A more realistic scenario might be a fleeting moment of semi fame and then back to what I do usually. I cannot make it to Utrecht for the showing but I’ll be back here in Scotland raising a glass towards them at the time.
I’m not sure if I’ve given this link before but they’ve made a Facebook page for the short film I’ve written, currently being made in Holland. There are some lovely production stills up there right now. Have a look and give it a Like.
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.