Alongside a receipt for two teaspoons I bought from a local cookery shop I received another couple of emails today. The first tells me that my subscription to movie making forum Shooting People has now expired and they need updated details to renew. I don’t think I’ll spend the money on having another year’s worth of access for the foreseeable future. It’s not that it’s a bad site, quite the opposite, but it’s more to do with the fact that I’m not currently writing anything for the screen. Shooting People is where I pitched by short film Robotics meaning it was eventually made and screened around Europe. It’s also where I pitched Order For Burning twice over but got no takers. If I paid the money now whilst I’m concentrating on writing this book then I cannot help but feel it would be £30 wasted.

Just when I am thinking about not touching screenwriting at all for a while the next email peaks my interest. It’s a general wide send out from a Scottish Screenwriter Forum I’m on but rarely use. It states…

‘I’m an experienced commercial/promo director based in Glasgow and I’m looking for a writer to potentially collaborate with for this years SFTN new-talent short film fund. I’ve just completed my second short as a writer/director, both of which were screened at Academy qualifying festivals. 

The writer I want to work with will have a mutual love of character driven stories, a strong visual aesthetic, and a really unique storytelling style. Think Moon, Slow West, High Rise, Wild Tales etc. etc. 

I’m not interested in guns, gangsters, drugs or realism unless they’re subverted in a completely new way.’

I like Moon but I haven’t seen the rest. I’ve also yet to see any director who is on the lookout for scripts say ‘I cannot be bothered with any character based stuff’ so that part is pretty much a given.

I also don’t tend to do anything with guns or gangsters by default. I may well fire a quick reply away.

For those keeping score, another 500 words done today.

The Pit Of Man’s Fears

Whilst chugging through the script for Parallel (and chugging is the only word to use currently) I’m becoming overwhelmed by the feeling that this whole thing might never clear the hurdle waiting at the end. I might take the time to polish it and get it readable but there’s the risk that it’ll be rejected at the end. A couple of weeks ago I put Order For Burning up online in an effort to pitch it again. I’ve heard nothing back. Perhaps the timing of this means that I’m reflecting on Parallel a lot more than I would usually. I can make it a solid story but will that be enough?

As a result I’ve been thinking about writing in other formats. For a long, long while I’ve toyed with getting a book done. I’d never truly put anything towards it because I was always of the opinion that I was a screenwriter, that nothing else should occupy my time. Films were pretty much the be all and end all of any career I might possibly have. Anything else just seemed like a waste. Then, for the first time in many years, I took a break from writing ‘EXT. DARK FOREST. NIGHT’ and began to write a couple of short stories. I’ve found it quite liberating.

For the last few years I’ve always tried to write scripts that could easily be made on a smaller budget. When I was at college there were plenty of hopeful writers who would jump in and start their first script with The Matrix as a starting point (it was 1999, give me a break here). Alongside driving our script writer tutor up the wall it meant that all these stories would usually only ever be concepts. The thought of actually just writing something not featuring space ships, other dimensions and mysterious creatures never really occurred to any of us. It was only when we were shown a few examples of movies which concentrate on human interactions rather than large scale action. The two that stuck out for me were ‘Mystery Train’ by Jim Jarmusch and ‘Chungking Express’ by Wong Kar-Wai.

mystery train.jpg
Mystery Train, a film with three interconnected stories in the same hotel. Yes, that is Screaming Jay Hawkins.

Most of the films I’ve written since have been on this kind of vibe. Partly this is because they would be easier to make if somebody picked them up (as Robotics was, being set pretty much in only two locations) and partly because it’s practising for being more disciplined in writing. The problem is though that there’s always a barrier to actually having a finished product with scripts. It needs another step before getting to an audience. Writing stories or a novel means the end result is direct, from author to audience. It’s something that really appeals to me right now. There’s also the chance to expand settings and characters without having to worry about putting it up on screen afterwards.

I won’t be abandoning Parallel completely, it’ll be bubbling along as I go by but I was perhaps investing too much into the one project as far as responses go. I’ll still be trying to write something like The Twilight Zone, as it always has been.


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.