Saturday, 29 November 2008

Know your audience

Hi folks. I came up with a TV show idea yesterday and mapped out the pilot episode today. It's quite a dark concept, with murder and genuine peril. My 'hero' is a raving alcoholic and not a very nice bloke. The sort of characters I've created demand a mature audience. This isn't a show for the kids, that's for sure!

So my pondering ( that a word? Oh well, it is now) is where and when it would fit in the world of British television. It'll have some strong language and the pilot is about a rapist. So obviously it would have to be after 9pm. But what channel would be interested in a show like that?

C4 aren't afraid of the bad language, but they focus mainly on a teen audience, and this isn't really that sort of show. It has a supernatural element and I know the BBC don't mind that; they're currently airing Apparitions on Thursday nights. Then we have ITV. They seem to be more into every day pre-watershed drama as well as reality TV. And a lot of the post-9pm stuff are 5-part serials. Channel 5.....well they just seem to take everything from America and Australia and ignore British TV all together.

I'm getting way ahead of myself of course, but I think it's important to know your audience when you write. If you have the intention of writing a teen drama all about sex, then C4 is definitely the place to go. Sometimes it might be necessary to 'tone down' your idea in order to sell it to a wider audience.

I'm suddenly thinking of the upcoming film Wolverine, telling the origins of everyones favourite X-Men. Hugh Jackman is starring and producing and decided to make it a PG-13 (or 12A I suppose). The only thing I didn't like about the character of Wolverine in the X-Men films is that he wasn't quite violent enough. Anyone who has read the comic books will know that he is merciless and gruesome. And it doesn't take a genius to work out that a guy with claws is going to leave someone looking pretty bloody messed up when he's done with them.

Jackman says he wants it to be available to a wider audience - he wants the people who liked the character in X-Men to be able to see him again. Aw, isn't that sweet? Of course it also means that the lower the certificate, the more people can go and see the film (by definition) and the more money Mr. Jackman makes. Huh...isn't that an interesting coincidence?

So I expect the film to lack on the creative side so that Hugh Jackman can make more money. Not to say it's not going to be a great movie of course. I;m going to see it and I hope everyone else will, but I think the film would be better if it had an 18 certificate. Oh well, we'll have to wait and see.

Stay shiny dudes and dudettes,


Wednesday, 26 November 2008


Hi folks. I recently managed to catch the first episode of Legend of the Seeker; a new TV show. It's really good in my opinion. It's got some good action and a great storyline. Anyone who likes fantasy stories should definitely check it out.

Anyway, that got me in the mood for writing a screenplay I planned a few months ago. I had a character and basic plot. Last night I managed to break down everything that would happen in the film and flesh out characters. And today, I managed to write a fair amount of it. Probably about half, but my first drafts always fall short of the full feature length. A good effort though, I think.

So that just goes to show that sometimes, by watching something even remotely similar to what you want to write, you can really get the ball rolling. Does this mean that if you want to write a love scene you should watch some porn first? I'm not sure!

Stay shiny people,

Monday, 24 November 2008

Current Projects

Hi readers. I thought I'd run through a few of my projects and ask your opinions on which you like the look of.

"A tale of oppression, revenge and survival...that just happens to be set in the future, with vampires."

This is a feature length screenplay set in futuristic London, where vampires are known to the world. We follow the story of Romen after his home is destroyed by a human mob. He is chased by a human General and must find way to live his life despite the persecution from the human world. It is currently in it's first draft.

Rain (working title)

This is a TV show I'm creating about a young man with special abilities, that roams a futuristic world, hunting the forces of darkness.

Verona (working title)

A feature length film about the crew of a spaceship who are captured by a Medical Cruiser that soon becomes the home for a race of savage aliens. Can they escape with their lives? I am currently writing the first draft.

Cage Fight (working title)

A short screenplay telling the story of an unusual man who is forced to fight in a cage.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Writing from experience

Everyone seems to say that you should write from experience. I've always thought that to be sound advice, but it's far from necessary right? Many great films can't be written from experience. Are you telling me George Lucas went up into space before he created Star Wars? Or that Joss Whedon hung out with vampires before making Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The short answer is no! You don't have to live something to write about it. But there is no substitute for experience right? The more you live, the more you learn and the more you have to write about.

Last night, I found myself in an interesting situation. I get the train from Sheffield (where I go to uni) to Doncaster (home) almost every day. It's usually fine...until the trains are cancelled because a tree falls onto the track! So we had to get a bus service. It was just hitting rush hour (or slow time as we now call it) so was going to take at least two hours to get there. We got on the bus at about 4pm and off we went. Alas I get travel sickness, so you can imagine how I felt at the back and top of a double decker bus. Didn't take long for me to feel unwell and it wasn't helped by some tit lighting up a fag right next to us. Basically, the guy was a complete tw*t!

Anyway, in the end, I had to get off the bus because I didn't think I'd last much longer on there. The driver told me I was in Mexbrough and directed me to the train station (I figured the trains might be back on - silly me). So I followed the directions, but couldn't find the station anywhere, then of course I couldn't find where I'd got off so I could either! After over half an hour of running round Mexbrough I decided to approach an elderly couple. It's pitch black at night and I have to approach old people. Great(!) I was half expecting to be beaten with walking sticks.

"Do you happen to know where Mexbrough train station is?" I asked.
"," they started. "But since you're in Conisbrough, we know where that one is."

So, apparently I had walked from Mexbrough to Consibrough, or (more likely) the bus driver didn't have a clue where he'd dropped me off. They gave me loads of directions and I set off. One of these directions was the "safe" route, which involved a field. All I can say is that if that was the safe route, the other route must have been through Hell of something! I came to the field that was on a really steep slope. And it was pitch black. Complete darkness. There was a path, but I didn't see it. I very carefully made my way through the field. I was about half way through when I hear.....wait for it......howling! That's right, that sound werewolves make in all the horror movies. Then I hear another and another. 'More than one werewolf' methinks.

Then my imagination went a bit wild. You know all those American cannibal movies - The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn, etc? Some people get given directions that is a 'shortcut'. Then the cannibals attack and everyone dies! Well I started thinking this was the Conisbrough equivalent. Some poor student asks a nice elderly couple for directions and they sacrifice him to the werewolves that prey in the dark field! Despite the thoughts of general fear and terror, I couldn't help thinking - 'this would make a good movie.'

I eventually found my way through the field and found the train station (mini-cheer please). I went under a shelter and saw two people. The first was a girl probably about 15 and the other was a very large hooded bloke. So, we can guess which one of them I felt safer standing next to.
So I wander over to the girl and do the standard 'this is a shit night' nod. It was freezing cold and we were both shivering, but Mr Hoody wasn't moving an inch. And he didn't for the next 10 minutes. We shall dub him Statue Demon. Anyway, the girl suddenly started whispering to me. She said that Statue Demon had been looking at her funny and asking her where she lived. She then asked me if I could wait with her until her dad picked her up. Doing the brave manly thing, I said "sure". It's not like I had anywhere else to go. But what the hell was I going to do about Statue Demon? The guy was huge!

A bit later, the girl got picked up, leaving me all alone with Statue Demon. I hadn't seen him move once the entire time. Not once! Then, 10 minutes later - without warning - Statue Demon stood up (standing at a nice 6'4" easily) and walked off into the night. Very strange!

So I was left all alone. Then I hear more barking and howling. AHH THE WEREWOLVES ARE BACK! I heard them for about 20 minutes, then realised they were behind a gate. It turns out the werewolves bore a striking resemblance to your standard dogs! Deceitful fiends!

Anyway, it was Dad to the rescue. He finally found Conisbrough train station and picked me up. YAY! All was well again!

So, that was my night. Needless to say it was an experience. I battled werewolves, old folk, Statue Demons and the cold. Go me!

I think that's what they mean by writing from experience. Prepare to see a script with those exact events coming soon!

Stay shiny folks,

Unlock your creativity

Below are a list of articles from They're pretty useful methinks -

Here's an interesting one about writing from your dreams -
Jen Frankel talks about weaving those creative threads -
So folks, what do we think - opinions?

Monday, 17 November 2008

Open with a bang!

Earlier today, I was thinking about movie openings and the impact they have on the film. You usually go to see a film at the cinema for 3 reasons -
  1. The trailer made you want to see it and/or you like the sound of the film.
  2. You want to see some of the actors, the director or writer etc
  3. You can't be bothered to do that essay, so the cinema is the best alternative

But if the opening of a movie doesn't grab you, you might walk out. I've only ever wanted to walk out of a movie three times (I never have). The first case was when I went to see Silent Hill. It was such a terrible thing and I didn't have a clue what was going on. The second incident was Pirates 3 - so long and boring - crap compared to the first two. The third movie was (the worst film I've seen in ages) The Mummy 3. It had nothing that made the first two great - the wit, the action, the adventure. This is clearly because Stephen Summers had nothing to do with the movie (he wrote and directed the first two). Anyway, away from the point.

When I'm watching a film on the TV, I have the 15 minute rule - if I'm not interested in the movie in the first 15 minutes, then it gets turned off! I'm sure that a lot of other people have this philosophy as well. So openings are pretty bloody important then.

A good opening should grab your attention from the off. All the screenwriting groups tell you that something major should happen in the first 10 pages. If you don't interest the reader of your screenplay (the movie execs) early on, they'll throw it away - they have a lot of screenplays to get through). Most of the experts say it should be the catalyst/trigger. The catalyst is the part of the movie that kicks everything off and sets the events in motion (Arnie and the gang heading to the jungle in Predator, the army guys attacking the school in X-Men 2, Peter Parker being bitten by that tiny spider in Spider-Man.) It's common sense really - you need to grab the audience's attention ASAP, so that they stick around. The same goes for prose fiction. I often pick up a book and licking through the first few pages. If I'm bored, I don't bother with it.
So the question becomes - How do you create an opening that grabs the audience by the throat and won't let go?

In an action film, this is fairly simple - open with some amazing action that (usually) introduces the main character. In horror or mystery/detective, have a brutal killing - most horror movies don't feature the protagonist in the opening, the show the killer. That's because the protagonist is the killer - no one cares about the girl who survives at the end, they care about the killer. (There are, of course, exceptions to this rule.) When you get out of the action-driven films however, things get more complicated (part of the reason I don't want to write them). How do you open a romantic comedy? I don't have a clue - I never watch them! I suppose you establish the characters, but how do you hook the audience? (Not a rhetorical question)

My other point about openings is that they should say something about the movie itself. In a sense, they should set the tone for the next two hours and possibly show the theme. If you think about the openings of certain movies, that seems to be a preferred method.

In X-Men, we open with Magneto at a Nazi concentration camp. He (and the rest of the Jews) are being persecuted. Persecution is the theme of the film - Magneto believes that one day will come when humanity will treat mutants the same way the Nazis treated the Jews. So it sets the tone and theme for the movie, while at the same time introducing the antagonist and showing the driving force behind his actions. It also features some good action. Three birds, one stone - clever eh?

In The Terminator, we see the future as it may one day become. This shows what is at stake throughout the film - setting the jeopardy and tone of the movie - 'This is gonna be one hell of a fight!'

The Matrix establishes one of our core characters (Trinity), showing her unusual strength and power, while at the same time showing the superior power of the antagonists - the Agents. And was I the only one (on first viewing of The Matrix) to assume that Trinity was one of the bad guys and that 'the nice friendly Feds' were the good guys? I'm not sure if that was intentional, but I suspect it was. Goes without saying of course, that it opens with action that establishes the tone for the movie. we see slo-mo, big jumps, shooting, martial arts and deception - everything that The Matrix is about.

So, I've rambled on for ages about openings and not really said much, I'm sure. But what I'm trying to say is that even if you have a killer movie, if your opening is crappy, then you've got little chance of getting it made, never mind watched! So discuss away gentle readers (sorry to steal from Jane Espenson) and think about how to write a great opening.

Comment on this post if you agree or (more likely) disagree with anything I've said. I far from know it all, so feel free to tear me to shreds!

Stay shiny

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Musical Inspiration

Hi readers, I thought I'd spend a few minutes talking about musical inspiration when it comes to writing. As I write this, I'm listening to 'One' by Metallica (which ironically was inspired by a movie). When I'm writing essays for uni, I have to have some music on. It's impossible to work in silence. The same applies to my writing. My routine is - get laptop out, stick some music on, write.

Generally, I listen to soundtracks, namely the Firefly - Greg Edmonson, Buffy - Christophe Beck or Angel - Robert Kral. I also like to listen to Immediate Music - they do loads of stuff for film trailers etc (I was introduced to them by my friend James - thanks!). I think soundtracks are a great source of inspiration when writing because they fit perfectly the scene they were written for. I sometimes even stick a track on repeat for the scene I'm writing. For example, If I'm writing a piece of action or epic battle, you can't go wrong with 'Epicon' by Immediate Music, or 'Final Fight' by Christophe Beck.
Similarly, for a soppy, sad scene, I'll put on 'Hero' (Kral), 'Slayer's Elegy' or 'Remembering Jenny' (Beck). And not forgetting 'The Funeral' (Edmonson).

If I'm writing no particular scene in general, I might put a few tracks on that fit the theme of my work. If my screenplay is about a poor old, unloved soul, then what better musical inspiration that any of the 'Unforgiven' songs by Metallica'?
So, what does everyone think? Am I the only person who listens to music while I write? What does everyone else listen to?
Shiny times,

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

What's in a name?

Hi readers (assuming there are any), I thought I'd spend a few minutes talking about character names. When writing, it's got to be one of the first things that you think about, right?

Most people probably don't think too much about names, and I don't know when I started, but I believe they're very important when it comes to the writing game. A name can say a lot about a character, literally in fact. Let's say you were watching a movie and you came across a character called Judas. No doubt you'll be thinking "Hmm...something fishy about this bloke. 50 quid says he's going to betray someone." Or there's a guy called Icarus. You'll probably be thinking "Gonna go flying are ya? Mind you don't go too close to the sun!" Or Oedipus.....I ain't touching that one! Similarly (and a little less on-the-nose), I've read a few Harry Potter books and the name Albus clearly means 'white', so it's only right that the guy has white hair. Even J.K.Rowling isn't cheap enough to directly rip off Lord of the Rings and call him Albus the White (sorry, just had to get a little dig in at Harry Potter there).

This isn't to say that giving characters names like this is a bad idea. It is interesting to give a character a name that makes people say "Oh, he's going to be this sort of person", then turn their expectations upside down. For example, if a character is called Achilles, everyone will expect him to be an expert fighter and possibly get an arrow in the foot. What you can do then, is make him the complete opposite - turn the audiences expectations around - make Achilles a weak guy who is killed in standard fashion (or maybe not even at all).

Away from the 'names have historical meanings' area, every name means something. The name Neil means 'champion' (something I'm rather proud of). When creating an character, I like to think of what sort of person they are before I name them. If I have an old wise character, I may call them Nestor or something similar. I may name a tyrannical lord Nero, or a strong character; Goliath, Ajax, Spartan or (god forbid) Stone. Get the idea? Names say a lot about someone. So when I come up with a character, I think of their dominant trait, then stick it in this particularly useful tool - Through this site, you can enter a character trait and see what comes up. For example - if you have a character who is a natural hunter, type 'hunter' into the thingy and see what you get.

I like obscure names for my characters; for some reason, ordinary names just don't excite me. I keep a little book of names that I like and to reveal a few, we have Valentine, Gideon, Priestman, Cesar, Kyra, Balder, Attalia, Merrick. These names aren't exactly common, but I feel they add depth to the characters. They become unique, even if the characters themselves aren't. So in a sense, dare I suggest that you can deceive the audience into thinking that your characters are purely original? Of course this ultimately won't work if your characters are blatantly crap, but what the hell!

The great Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly) seems to be a fan of obscure names. Buffy isn't exactly a name you come across often (not before the show, anyway). To me, it seems like a classic blond bimbo name. But alas Buffy is far from that, which is the point of the whole show. Then we have Gunn and surprise, he's a tough guy. If you hear the name Faith, you're probably comforted - she must be a nice person. But when Faith first came into BtVS, she was far from nice. In Firefly, we have a character called Book, and alas he carries the Bible around with him everywhere - coincidence? "Jayne is a girl's name", but Jayne in Firefly is far from a girl. He's about as manly as we get in a TV show. Of course, you couldn't talk about characters in the Whedon-verse without mentioning Spike - what a name! Anyway, enough about Joss.

Thanks for sticking around to get to this point of the post - you're doing well! What I've been trying to say (as you may have gathered) is that NAMES ARE IMPORTANT! My creative writing tutor Linda Lee Welch says so, so it must be true. Basically, take some time to think about the names you give your characters, then you'll know them better and write them better. Also, if you're stupidly bored one day, google character names from some of your favourite films or shows and see what comes up.

(PS - while I'm here, I'd like to direct everyone's attention to the right side of this site, where you'll see a collection of other blogs (very useful, better than mine) and screenwriting resources, including books and software.)

Stay shiny folks


Saturday, 1 November 2008

Extracts from my work

I thought I'd post some extracts from some of my screenplays. There's only a sample from a few feature scripts & TV pilots. They focus mainly on my strength - shiny action.