Be Thankful For Hard Hats

Yes I know it’s been a long time. I’ve been on holiday that’s all.

I was worried about being away and an e-mail coming in asking to see the script for ‘The King Of Teatime TV’ and then me not being able to respond as the file would have been on my computer up here. I’d have fretted about it, worried sick that they might think I wasn’t interested or bothered and a chance at the big time would have gone begging. Each night back in the hotel I’d use the very kind offer of 30 minutes free Wi-Fi (I know, it’s a very precious thing isn’t it?) and grab my e-mails. I need not have worried, it’s been greeted by a mass wall of silence. The message is beeping, nobody is picking up. The pitch remains as it is. Whilst the Shooting People website is good it is but one avenue and it’s probably best to leave the script alone for a bit, ready in the cannon for when the situation gives rise to it. I’m still pleased with how it turned out but it’s time to move on to other things.

I enjoyed my time away though, South Wales always holds something very special for my family and this time around we stayed in Cardiff itself rather than just outside it as we have done in the past. On the first day there we ended up going down a mine which involved getting all the right gear including the headlamps and hard hats. I was thankful for the hard hats when I managed to bang my head against in support girders three times in quick succession.

We also engaged in the now traditional visit to Spiller’s Records which is the oldest record shop in the world. Part of these visits involves letting our seven year old son choose a record. He usually walks down the racks and picks out something based on the cover artwork. The staff then let him have a listen and, if he likes it, we’ll buy it for him. Last time around he went for Dinosaur Jr, this time he ended up with The Grateful Dead.

Grateful Dead

I also had the pleasure of meeting my Uncle in his home town of Melksham over the border into England. Obviously, living up in Scotland, I don’t often get a chance to see him but we organised going across for the day as it’s only about an hour down the road from Cardiff. I used to visit my grandparents in Melksham pretty much every summer so it was a chance to walk the same steps again. After lunch we took a walk around the town with my Uncle which included walking to the street where my grandparents lived. It has changed greatly as an office block now stands between the High Street and the street itself. Opposite the houses there used to be parkland and a school playing field, it’s now been made into another housing estate.

I was astounded to see that the toy shop I used to go to whilst I was down there, usually to buy wrestling figures, still remains. With these times of internet shopping I honestly did not expect to turn the corner and see the exact same building still standing, still seeming like endless shelves of brightly coloured toys and games. Kyle tugged on my sleeve and gave us the hopeful face. If I was honest, I wanted a look inside as well if only to confirm that this was indeed the place. In the space of ten minutes, he’d pretty much filled his Christmas list. It was strange to see my son walk around with the same sense of wonder I had when I first went there around 25 years ago.

We also visited The Doctor Who Experience which I enjoyed greatly simply because it’s an entire building based on my favourite TV show. I’d write about it more here but I’m planning on a Who based blog entry to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the show next month so it’ll be part of that.

Suitably refreshed, we march on.

A Synopsis To The Synapses

I’ve spent lunchtime today ditching the original title and synopsis for ‘Seven Lucky Stars’ and instead turning it into ‘The King Of Teatime TV’. This includes sharpening up the original synopsis into something a little more exciting.

So, just for contrast, here’s the original.

Until now Edward Banks has had the TV world at his feet. Being the presenter of the 1980’s best loved game show ‘Seven Lucky Stars’ has brought him from performing stand up comedy in dingy clubs to the bright lights of prime time. He has all the houses, cars and video cassette recorders money can buy. During the filming of one particular episode however, the dream ends.

 Driven by pressure from the heads of the studio, producer John Woodward has been lumbered with the job of breaking the news of Edward’s imminent sacking to his long time friend. Recent surveys have revealed that Edward’s brand of humour, once seen as fun and outlandish, is now viewed as sexist and out dated. Making matters worse is the fact that his replacement is Edward’s old comedy club rival Ken Moon.

 During one episode featuring Brian, a man attempting to break a world record for most game show wins and Lisa who wants to win all the prizes for her Mum, the news breaks and a tense situation occurs between Ken and Edward over who is best to take the show forward whilst trying to avoid the numerous power cuts.

It’s a bit lame isn’t it? Just a continual list of stuff and no ending in sight. I’ve actually only just recently tried to break myself out of the habit of not putting endings in. I was always taken with the feeling that you should leave these things open to create drama and mystery but that idea now strikes me as a load of bollocks. It comes across as you having no idea how your own script ends and that you’ve pitched a half finished idea.

So here’s the new effort.

In the 1980’s Edward Banks has worked his way up to become the king of British game shows. Starting his career in the clubs, touring around the country with his stand up comedy act he was glad to be found by TV producer John Woodward who recruited him to present the new family game show ‘Seven Lucky Stars’. Taking charge of a show with the biggest prize fund on British TV made Edward a household name across the country. It also gains him everything he desires from his house to his car and his holiday home in the country. He also has a certain soft spot for the show’s mascot, a stuffed toy owl called Mr Bits.

A few years down the line and Edward is about to discover that the world of television can be a fickle beast. With his humour now seen as sexist and borderline racist by some in these more enlightened times the company set the wheels in motion to replace Edward at the helm. The trouble is, nobody has yet thought to tell Edward.

Filming is disrupted on the what will end up being Edward’s last episode and John is forced to introduce Edward to his replacement Ken Moon. Ken and Edward know each other from the club days and they detested each other back then. The rivalry quickly escalates as Edward works out his time on ‘his show’ is soon to draw to a close. As soon as Ken starts presenting the show, Edward is constantly over his shoulder pointing out where he’s going wrong. John finds he must balance his job of making the show and his long term friendship with Edward.

Complicating matters further are the two contestants for this particular episode. Lisa Sykes is a young woman who just wants to win a VCR for her Mother whilst Bob Smith is aiming for a Guinness Book Of Records entry as winning the most televised game shows. Whilst Lisa takes sympathy once she hears Edward is being fired, Bob cannot wait to see the back of him as he claims Edward is ‘an unprofessional waste of space’.

Tensions boil over and Edward is forcefully removed from the building . The final act sees Edward back exactly where he didn’t want to go, the smoke filled comedy clubs as he performs his stand up clutching a stuffed toy owl before screaming at the audience, throwing the microphone down and storming off stage. A faded shadow of a former TV favourite.

Whilst not perfect by any stretch it is more detailed, longer and does have some kind of ending (even though I am imagining fielding a load of questions about having a stand up performance as an ending to a movie). I’ve clicked send now so we’ll see where this goes.


A Rework Of Wording (Part 2)

I was thinking more and more about relisting Seven Lucky Stars today. The synopsis needs a complete rework as the last one was a bit limp and then we can relist it for consideration.

The other thing that needs to change is the title being as the current one is bloody awful. It doesn’t grab the attention, it just sounds like some kind of radio drama from the 1970’s. It’s a film about a family friendly game show host not being family friendly, it needs something a little punchier than this. Whilst hoovering today I found a suitable alternative. From now on I’m ditching ‘Seven Lucky Stars’ and instead having ‘The King Of Teatime TV’. It certainly has a little more life to it for a start.

Snug Like A Gun

After all that good news it’s probably time to consider what’s up next.

My listing of The Telephone Call has stopped dead, there were two people asking about it, one had a copy of the script e-mailed to him and said it sounded like an idea that ‘could go anywhere’. This probably means he hates the ending and wants to change it but I would be fine with that. The main problem is that he last emailed me around two months ago now and I’ve heard nothing from him since.

The second guy, upon reading the synopsis, sent me a simple message that basically said ‘is that it?’. I wanted to send something back saying ‘No of course not, there’s an ending involving s space station suddenly crashing down from the sky which kicks off an entire alien invasion with lasers and tank and Santa but I didn’t want to put that in the synopsis’. What I sent instead was something about how it’s ‘a simple story’ and ‘kept to it’s core elements’. I’m not sure it quite got through that this was a short movie, almost a comedy sketch, with a emphasis of brevity being the soul of wit. Once again I heard nothing.

This seems to be a regular part of the game, producers who might have spent years studying a vast amount of movies and know the names of a vast list of camera equipment from memory yet basic human consideration alludes them. So many of these people think that asking for a script, reading it and then never getting back to the writer is somehow acceptable. The message should be that it’s not, it makes you look like a complete tool and it shouldn’t be an effort to quickly write off a couple of lines saying ‘Sorry but not for me’. That way everybody knows where they stand. Being left hanging on ain’t exactly great for the confidence.

So we can probably assume that’s going nowhere very quickly right now. It’s no big deal, it was purely a quick off the cuff idea anyway.

In other news the new episode of Brake For Frogger went up last week, if you’re into video games then you might be interested in us waffling on about them. It’s had a fairly positive response so we’ll probably be back again soon. About halfway through the record I’d settled back into it again and it didn’t feel like the chore it had become last year.

There was also the small matter of the Kickstarter fund I linked to last week for Spring Fling Arts Festival here in Dumfries and Galloway. They were trying to raise money to take some of the works around the country before the 2014 event. I’m happy to say they did it with a few hours remaining which is pretty incredible. A big thank you if you followed the link and put the money down.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’ll probably spend a couple of days sharpening up the synopsis for ‘Seven Lucky Stars’ to see if I can relist that then it might well be either back to the much neglected ‘The Last Alive’ or maybe something new. The Last Alive is still proving troublesome, there’s no foothold in it currently and I can’t get it working. I have an advantage at the moment of being an amauter writer so I can turf out scripts that I’m struggling with and move on.

A Telephone Call

Years ago, in college (which wasn’t that long ago but just feels like an eternity), I made a film called ‘Le Telephono’. As most projects were during college time it was merely a short piece which featured dialogue we christened ‘Bullshit French’ in the edit suite. Basically, it was made to look like French New Wave cinema but nobody could actually speak French. Therefore it became a thing to ‘sound’ French instead. If it was done in English then everybody would be walking around saying ‘blah, blah, blah’ in toff accents.

It’s the story of a man who walks past a phonebox in the middle of nowhere and hears it ring. He answers the call to be told the greatest joke in the world by the guy on the other end. Our man then thinks it’ll be an ideal business opportunity to sell the joke as a cure for depression charging £2 per listen. He has two customers who get along with this idea fine but the third guy doesn’t react at all. Instead he wants his money back because he ‘didn’t get it’.

We filmed this around February 2003 in the Forest Of Ae outside Dumfries. I remember the day because it was -4c and everybody was freezing. It was finished in an art college sense, meaning it was watchable and was shown at a student film night. This did mean it was extremely rough around the edges. Because it was in a remote village in winter and I had a thing about not having any full scale lighting in my films (blame DOGME95 and me being a prick at the time). Therefore the film gets progressively darker and darker as it goes on. Also it received no sound mix at all so at one stage a car goes past and the sound stops suddenly during a cut. For a giggle with mates it was fun but for a film to be shown on any showreel it was garbage. I have long since lost my only copy, gone to the mists of time.

I do not have the time nor the financial resources to make my own movies anymore. Perhaps I should have made more during my college days, gone out with cameras at weekend and the like, but it’s too late for any of that now. Seeing the edit of Robotics recently has convinced me that it’s often best to let other people who know better make the film, to not hold onto it like ‘your baby’ and see what happens when somebody else casts an eye over it. This afternoon I’ve spent an hour (re)writing a script and synopsis for The Telephone Call which retains the story but removes the Bullshit French as I thought it could be considered a little bit racist for major public consumption.

For the most part I’m looking forward to see if anybody takes this on with a more professional job than I did a decade ago. There is a small voice saying that it’s dredging up an old idea for my own benefit, of revisiting something that didn’t really work the first time and expecting the same results. I’m reminded of Sam Raimi, who found success with Evil Dead and then went straight into making Evil Dead 2 which was pretty much the same thing but with far more money towards it.


The one thing I’ve learned over the last few years, in relation to trying to get into writing as a career, is to always make sure your email is worth checking and that means having scripts being read and looked over whilst you’re busy writing something else. It means not writing in a bubble, disconnected from everything. For this reason I’ll also be rewriting the synopsis for Seven Lucky Stars this week and relisting that as well because I still have faith in that script and believe it to be a good project.  


Pushing On

Had a bit of time with the script the other night, worked through a bit of a road block, trying to come out the other side. The problem is that I feel I’m introducing the elements of this story far too quickly, the plot seems to be bringing out the big guns within the first five minutes. On the other hand making it a slow burner means that there won’t be much happening. It’s a hard balance to strike and one that’s making me think of having something else running alongside it at the same time so I can take my mind off it for a little at a time. I’m also thinking of sharpening up the synopsis to Seven Lucky Stars and relisting it just to see if that sparks a little interest (or at least a bit more than it did last time around).

I was trying to explain to a workmate today about what stage the script was at. We came to the conclusion that it was like when you only had the four sides of a flat pack wardrobe up. The thing still wobbles when you let it go and it doesn’t look like a wardrobe just yet but you’re waiting to put the backing on so it stands up and you can add the doors.

Seemed to fit.

A Graphic Guide To Marxism

A personal message on Shooting People from the producer who wanted to read the first ten pages of ‘Seven Lucky Stars’. Whilst he considers it good he has been put off by the fact the film is set during the 1980’s. It would seem that this would mean the movie would be far too expensive.

Maybe so, you’d have to consider that the costumes and setting would all have to be altered to take into consideration the time. As far as locations go it’s fairly light due to originally being written for the stage. The play only had two sets and the only change came ten minutes before the end. Pretty much everything I’ve written so far has had a small budget consideration purely because I’m not in the position right now to be making any Hollywood blockbusters.

I had thought about negotiating and taking out the entire 80’s vibe and just setting it in the modern day to see if that would keep any kind of deal alive on the table. Upon reflection though I’d be extracting one of the things that I think makes the script ‘tick’. A lot of the humour comes from looking at how much things have moved on since. The top prize is £150 and a top loading VHS player for example, things of high regard then slung on rubbish tips now.

We carry on regardless.

The McFly Pizza Dinner

A message on Facebook last night confirmed one thing, Robotics is finished. I cannot post it on here however, nor Facebook book it or tweet a link to the file because it’s under a lockdown. The plan is to get it shown in film festivals around the world and having the film freely viewable on the internet apparently ruins any chance you have of getting it into a major festival. Whilst frustrating I can certainly see the point of such an arrangement.

I can tell you that Robotics has turned into everything I hoped it would be. It’s looks and sounds fantastic and the central performances from  Horace Cohen and Janne Fassaert are pitch perfect, summing up pretty much all the emotional quirks present in the script. There have been some changes as there was always going to be. The ending has been made a lot sharper and it gets to the point far quicker now. What’s also interesting is that Robotics got a lot of rejections initially because people thought it would be impossible to film an actor playing two different roles in the same shot on a lower budget. My point about them doing it 20 years ago in Back To The Future Part 2, in which Michael J Fox plays every member of the McFly family, didn’t seem to fly. I’m happy to report therefore that it’s worked out well with the occasional cut away.

So where do we go from here? The synopsis of Seven Lucky Stars was just sent to Shooting People so hopefully that will be on the script pitch network in the next few days. With luck we’ll be able to start negotiations with anybody who wants to carry that project forward. Until we get to that stage and before the rewrites kick in (and they will) I’ll set about starting ‘The Last Alive’ which takes me back to the science fiction I love so much. It’s almost Doctor Who territory and I’ll no doubt blog about my love for that show in the near future.

Honestly, this feels like the start of something.

In My Honey, In My Milk

It’s slowly taking shape, the conversion is now about halfway through and Seven Lucky Stars is turning into something like a film. The only major problem thus far is that many ‘scenes’ go on for a long time. It’s fine on stage because any change of scene would require the stage being reset but the freedom of being able to change anytime during the screenplay means that it sometimes drags on a little. I’m trying to break it down by having flashbacks. Not flashbacks like dream sequences where the edges of the screen go a bit wobbly as the characters look skywards but more focussing on Edward getting the TV gig in the first place and his first few rehearsals for presenting the quiz show. It kind of bookends the story nicely, we have Edward’s first day in the job alongside the agony of his last day and being fired. The only thing is, they’re being told simultaneously. It’s just about working and I’m halfway through. All going well we should be done at some point over the weekend and the first feature will be ready to be developed.