Saturday, 30 May 2009

Thank you Mr Sandman

For centuries, writers have been saying that stories have come to them in their dreams. A lot of Renaissance poets and authors claimed that they dreamt shit up and just wrote it down. This served two purposes:
  1. It seemed like their word was stronger - as if the story/poetry came from a higher power and is therefore worth more.
  2. If it was crap, boring or disturbing, it wasn't their fault. They only dreamt it. It's not their fault it's a story about rape and suicide!
Anyway, I always thought that was a load of rubbish. I've dreamt up ideas before. For example, last week I found myself walking through uni as usual, when a werewolf attacked. I jumped into action....literally! I leapt over a railing, fell 3 floors and landed all cat-like on the ground. Turns out I was a vampire!

Anyway, this werewolf seemed not to like me (a rip-off of UNDERWORLD, I know). But I was the hero! I charged at the thing, intent on putting this great beast down for good. Then it hit me, slashed my face to ribbons and sent me crashing out of the window. Then I woke up.

So that's an idea right? At the most a scene of sorts. Had the idea of vamps vs werewolves not been done, I'd probably be writing it down right now. I thought that was the limit of dreaming - ideas. After all, it's only the subconscious and no matter what anyone says, you need the conscious to tell a story.

I had a dream last night night that was pretty damn close to being a full film. It was chronological and made sense, as well as being realistic and violent (as always).

Initially, I found myself in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. There I was, storming Omaha Beach in Normandy with a bunch of Americans. I was running around, not shooting anyone - I was just trying to stay alive.

Note: Little fact for you all - studies show that 85% of WWII soldiers deliberately shot away from the enemy. That's probably why it took so long to win the war. Anyway...

So I'm running for my life in Normandy (following Tom Hanks as he makes his wasyup the beach) when all of a sudden, I'm shot. Right in the stomach. I like to think it was an expert sniper.

Needless to say, I went down and was lying on that beach, screaming like mad along with hundreds of other men. Then the rest of the film unfolded. I'm pretty sure the idea hasn't been done before. I'm not going to retell it all here (I'm paranoid like that). Let's just say there will no doubt be some history buffs who would kill me if they heard what I was going to write.....

Friday, 29 May 2009

Childhood inspiration

I didn't decide to become a screenwriter until just over a year ago but my love of films started in my early years. THE LION KING was always my favourite Disney movies and it still is.

It's undoubtedly a subverted retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet for children. I remember crying like mad at Mufasa's death. At that moment, Scar was established as the ultimate villain - never had I come across someone so evil that they would do such a thing. The amazing scene where Mufasa desperately battles to save Simba is mind-blowing. And set to Hans Zimmer's monumental score, the scene is one of the best in cinema.

The dark tone of the film is lightened by humour that comes with all Disney films (of the 80s and 90s anyway). Great things like a sarcastic bird voiced by Rowan Atkinson, a hyena voiced by Whoopi Goldberg and two buddy cop-type characters who are in fact a warthog and mere cat. Pure genius.

The brilliance of THE LION KING is the coming of age story. Like all great films, it's about characters. We see Simba run out of his home after the death of Mufasa (note: voiced by James Earl Jones) and become a new person. Scar has Simba believe that Mufasa's death is his own fault. Simba gradually makes friends but ultimately, he's running from his past - he's hiding from it and until he faces what happened, he can't find any sort of resolution.

Meanwhile of course, Scar is acting as pimp to all the lionesses. Despite their declarations that Pride Rock can no longer sustain them, Scar is reluctant to move on. He has his brother's kingdom and he intends to hold onto it.

My favourite part of the film is Simba's return to Pride Rock. He marches back, intent on taking back his kingdom. But once again, his weakness is Scar, who has him believing he is responsible for Mufasa's death. Only when Scar thinks he's won does he utter the words "I killed Mufasa". This gives Simba the determination to fight back.

The climax shows lions and hyenas clashing, as Simba squares off against Scar. It's a monumental battle with slow motion that highlights the power of these two titans.

This film stays in my mind as the ultimate finale. The epic battle and resolution is what makes THE LION KING one of the best films ever! And who doesn't love those songs and kung fu monkey?!

Another Disney film that remains one of my favourite films is BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. It's pure genius to have singing candlesticks et al, but as if that's not enough, the terrifying Beast is what makes the film. I love the scene where the Beast fights off the pack of wolves to save Belle. And the finale is action-packed magic (pun intended). The dark battle between the Beast and Gaston is perfectly balanced with the comical fight within the castle between idiotic villagers and household furniture. Again, the songs are just awesome right?

ALADDIN is the third Disney film that's a huge inspiration to me. It's the ultimate underdog story. Comedy from the great Robin Williams is what balances out the dark finale. What's better than the evil Jafar shape-shifting from Snake, to sorcerer, to genie as he battles our hero?! I always wanted to be Aladdin as a kid and to be honest, I still do; let's face it, Jasmine is hot! How old was she again....?

The first film I saw at the cinema was JURASSIC PARK. I remember a lot of things - not having a clue how the dinosaurs were there (and not caring), constantly reminding myself how to survive a T-Rex attack (stay still) and those bloody raptors!

I both loved and hated the velociraptors. Being a young boy of 5, I loved what they could do but I was also terrified. To this day, if I saw a raptor staring at me down the hall, I would be utterly terrified! Who the hell wouldn't?!

The great thing about JURASSIC PARK is that it's not just filled with dinosaurs that appeal to kids; it's also littered with clever adult material. The ethical considerations of bringing back an extinct species are always voiced by Ian Malcolm: "The lack of humility before nature that's being displayed here, uh... staggers me." "What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world."

JURASSIC PARK will always be one of my favourite movies. I loved it so much at the cinema that I spent the next decade dead set on the idea of becoming an archaeologist. I was fascinated by dinosaurs and still am.

Since I can't find any decent footage of the raptors, I leave you with the beautiful work from Hans Zimmer in THE LION KING. Enjoy:

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Rules of action

Here's a very interesting article about the rules of an action movie by Shane Black, writer of classic films such as LETHAL WEAPON, LAST ACTION HERO and THE LAST BOY SCOUT. Needless to say, the guy knows his action and every single point he makes it valid.
The action should always go hand in hand with the story so it's all invisibly interconnected.
Basically, the action needs to be justified. You can't just have violence for the sake of violence. The best sort of action has an impact on the character (and as a result; the audience). If it directly affects the life of the characters, it's more powerful.
That's how moments of drama unfold in real life. Quickly, spontaneously and with no warning. That's how they should be in action films, too. Violence and action should suddenly punctuate perfectly normal circumstances.
Great moments like having a guy walk down the street, then get hit by a car out of nowhere. But as Black says, too much of that can be a bad thing - it gets boring.
I always have humour in my action movies. I think characters that make jokes under fire are more real. It somehow helps put you in their shoes.
I don't think he's talking about Arnie one-liners here, but more about using humour to show how the characters react. In tense situation, a lot of people use humour to break the ice and such. So it makes sense they'll do the same in a tense situation like a gun fight.
Action sequences need this constant reversal of fortune. Like where the hero kills a snake but in the process opens a cupboard that's filled with a hundred more snakes.
Deus ex machina (Latin for "god from the machine") is a famous screenwriting term. It's where the hero is saved by an unfair source. Back in Ancient Greek comedies, the gods would appear at the end and fix everyones' problems. If that happens in a film, the audience feels cheated - the hero hasn't earned their happy ending. Do the opposite - have luck (or that higher power) mess with the hero. If luck, chance and the gods themselves are against him, there's more tension.
If someone fires a gun in a movie, it should always be a big deal [...] You need shock and impact and a genuine sense of peril whenever violence takes place. It can't just be a crazy circus with no jeopardy.
If you show the impact a gunshot has on a character early on, when your hero is shot, the audience knows it's serious. It's always fun to see a few shots being fired right next to someone's face too. So close that the heat from the bullet scares the shit out of them! They crap themselves, panic and....huzzah! You have tension!

Read the article in full here - it's a must for anyone even considering writing an action film.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Last month, I asked people if they would go and see TERMINATOR SALVATION, despite the fact that there is no Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the beginning of the poll, I got a little worried, with everyone saying they wouldn't see it. But soon film lovers overtook Arnie lovers (I admit I am both).

64% of people said they would go and see SALVATION and 36% said they wouldn't. I understand the love of Arnie in a TERMINATOR movie and initially I was dead set against the idea. But then I thought about how different this movie could be - it's set in the future. So the battles, the tone, the flow of the movie will be different. That's why it has the potential to work without Arnie. I say potential...

That's because I recently came across an article all about why TERMINATOR SALVATION is a crap movie. Most people probably know that the original script was centered around Marcus Wright, who - looking at the trailers - appear to be an Infiltrator of sorts. He seems to think he is human when in actual fact, he's a machine. In this original version of the film, John Connor took a back seat and only had a few minutes' screen time.

Then director McG approached Christian Bale, who had his heart set on the role of Connor. And from that moment, the film was changed. Connor was drastically thrown into the movie with no real consequence and Sam Worthington took up the role of Marcus. Here's a segment from the article in question, entitled "What went wrong with Terminator Salvation?" Obviously, there are major spoilers:
Bale's desire to star as John Connor was probably the most fatal blow to the film; it completely distorted the shape of the story as it existed. But the other fatal blow came from the internet. When the original ending of the script leaked [...] people went crazy. On the surface it seemed like a major slap in the face of the franchise, and doubly so on paper.
Read in full

So if you add this to the general poor reception of the film, it looks like it's going to be a complete flop. Hope that hasn't deterred anyone from spending obscene amounts of money on tickets, popcorn and coke. I'm still going to go for one reason - I love THE TERMINATOR and always will. While RISE OF THE MACHINES was an embarrassing mess, JUDGEMENT DAY is one of the best action films ever made.

TERMINATOR SALVATION comes out on 3rd June over here. Until then, take a look at the extended trailer:

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Character Intros

One of the most important parts of a film is the introduction of your main character(s). These are the people we'll be following throughout the entire movie so it's important that they make a good impression. Actually, not always a good one, but an impression nevertheless. I thought I'd take a look at what I consider to be good introductions to characters.

Character intros should do two things:
  1. Show something about your character
  2. Show where they fit in the world (or where they don't fit.)
I'll start with BLADE. The intro to our third favourite vampire slayer (after Buffy and Faith!) ticks both of the above 'requirements'. See for yourself:

We learn a lot about Blade from this segment. We learn that he's a vampire hunter and that he fights like a machine - he's a hero. At the same time, we learn where he fits in the world - the vampires hate him! Clearly, they're vampires and he's a vampire hunter. But do we learn exactly what Blade is? Do we know at this point that he is in fact a dhampir (half vamp, half human)? The vamps refer to him as "Daywalker" which is one hint, but is there anything else? Clearly he's strong but it's possible he's still human.

That's the key - we learn something about our lead character but not everything. Obviously, if we did, there would be no point in the rest of the movie.

X-MEN holds another good example of a character intro. I can't find a clip but we meet Wolverine in a cage fight. One guy is dragged out, beaten and possibly dead. The announcer talks about the sheer wonder that is this unknown fighter. Then someone stands up to face him. After taking a few hits, Logan has had enough. He smashes fists with the other fighter, breaking the guy's hand. This shows something about our character - who he is - he's not quite right.

Wolverine then promptly KOs the guy with a tiny headbutt. Again, we learn something - Logan's skeleton is something we haven't seen before. Then the announcer reveals who this guy is - Wolverine. Next, we cut to Logan at the bar. After hearing a news report on mutants, we have a strong suspicion that he's one himself. Now we're learning where he fits in the world - he's a mutant and therefore hated. He doesn't belong. To drive this message home, the humiliated fighter from earlier picks another fight, whispering the worlds "I know what you are."

In a flash of action, Wolverine's claws appear and he nearly kills the guy. Again, more info about the character. We now know - he's a mutant, he's strong, he doesn't die easily and he has a short temper. Not bad for an intro.

The intro to DONNIE DARKO is also interesting. We join our lead character asleep in the middle of the road as the sun comes up. This both says something about the character (he sleepwalks) and shows where he fits - he's literally an outcast - he is on the outskirts of town, asleep to the world. It also shows a clever bit of foreshadowing for later on in the movie. The film is a textbook on foreshadowing as it is.

A few others I could mention - PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, END OF DAYS, INDIANA JONES, A BEAUTIFUL MIND, FIGHT CLUB. If you can think of any other great character intros, let me know.

Happy writing.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Update - MR, music, action directing

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know it's odd for me to leave it this long between posts. The plan was to post part 2 of my planning of SURVIVAL film idea. But I haven't got any further with it since the last blog. It's on the to-do list.

I've been spending most of my time watching every action scene I can get my hands on to see how they're shot. This should help me next month when I assist Kris McManus in directing the MR massacre scenes. I came across some very well directed work and also some that was horrible.

In one fan film (that will remain nameless), there was a rather good piece of action. The choreography, acting, stunts and tension were all great. But the direction was horrible. In the space of 5 seconds, there were 8 cuts (I'm not exaggerating). This seemed like an attempt to show the chaos of the action but it didn't work. Instead, it threw me completely. I couldn't grasp what was going on and instantly detached me from the action. I became very aware that this wasn't real.

The best way to learn this sort of thing is to watch and do. So on the MR set, I'll be watching Kris like a hawk, learning everything I can. Kris has done action before so he knows what he's doing. A year ago I wasn't interested in directing at all but now I really want to. I know my limits - I know I'm nowhere near ready to direct a feature film. But hopefully MR will give me some experience. And hopefully I'll have a more solid directing role in the later films.

I've said time and time again that AIDAN'S DARKEST SERMON is my favourite of the Multivalence projects - the story is incredibly powerful and I just connected. I found it incredibly easy to write the scenes I wrote. I would love to direct that film, even though it would probably give me nightmares!

I sent out a message to the fan group this week detailing the future projects we have planned. Here are the details:

The second film in the Multivalence series, this tells the story of a self-obsessed fashionista who finally loses the styling boutique she has been using to fund her lavish lifestyle. In desperation, she tries to kill herself but is unexpectedly rescued by the tramp she abuses every day. After waking up in hospital and learning he is gravely ill, she embarks on a desperate race across London to find him and save his life in return, and in doing so, sets off a chain reaction of events that forever changes the lives of everyone around her.

A self-righteous judgemental middle class pastor loses control after being told his church-owned home is to be sold. Falling off the wagon, he drunkenly rapes a local prostitute whom he despises in a fit of rage. After she tries to blackmail him, his true murderous nature emerges as he finds a new chaotic way to preach his beliefs. A deadly game of cat and mouse begins as he tries to cover his tracks before the most consequential Sunday sermon of his life.

The fourth film in the series tells the story of a forensic biologist whose department is likely to be closed down. She is forced to confront her past when the love of her love who abandoned her turns up out of the blue on her doorstep the very same day as her boyfriend proposes to her, forcing her to re-think everything she knows as her ordered life is turned upside down.

Distraught with grief and desperate for vengeance, the workaholic owner of a chain of debt collection agencies (booming from the surge in repayment problems due to the credit crunch) orchestrates a mass execution of a local gang after his grandmother is killed As he struggles to control the uncontrollable ripple effects of his campaign of violence, he is unwittingly thrust into a dark and twisted game of human chess played by wealthy evil men.

Films 6 and 7 are yet to be confirmed and all of the above is subject to change.

I've also been checking out some of the music we have in store for MR. Chris Gorman is an unsigned master of music. You can listen to some of his material on Myspace and I strongly suggest you do - the vocals, lyrics and instrumentals are all mind blowing. The track we're planning on using for MR is "Snow". You can listen to 9 of his tracks here. They're a perfect blend of acoustic, piano and rock. My personal favourites are "Snow" and "Battlefield". Let me know what you think.

Monday, 18 May 2009


Taking a leaf out of James Henry's blog, I've decided to blog about one of my ideas. Unlike James, I haven't had anything come close to selling yet, so I can't take the posts that far. But what I am going to do is talk about how this idea goes - from inspiration, through conception, premise, treatment, scene breakdown and script drafts. And from there I'll try and sell the bugger.

I suppose the first post about this idea is here. The working title is SURVIVAL. It's an action film about a special agent who seeks revenge on those who killed his partners. But mixed in with the simple revenge story is the theme of survival.

As of yesterday morning, I knew the sort of film I wanted to write and the degree of action. As I blogged before, I had to justify that action. You can read all about that here.

So I suppose the inspiration part of my idea is PUNISHER: WAR ZONE. I watched the film and wanted to write a similar action film. I spent a few days throwing ideas around in my head and yesterday I got to work.

I created my characters and gave a name to my protagonist - Kyle Grant. I then went to work with the research aspect which took the best part of the morning. Then I attempted a very basic treatment. As things stand, it reads at merely two pages. There are no details of the action and such. Clearly every aspect needs expanding - that will come in the scene breakdown.

I also have one section that is not written. In fact, on the page it reads:
"More investigation"
At this point in the story, Grant knows who he's after and knows that he's in the UK. What he doesn't know is where exactly he is. So far, he's travelled to a drug dealer to find information. But that's it. What will probably happen is that he'll find some more leads at the drug dealer and follow them to another lead and so on. That's the part of writing I'm not best at - what is essentially crime writing - giving clues, following leads etc.

So the next stage is to work out how he finds out where the killer is. I'll probably do that as I write the scene breakdown. In that, I'll detail action (but not completely) and character development and insert specific extracts of dialogue if I think of them.

Standby for SURVIVAL- Part Two.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Writing Samples

A few weeks ago, I launched my website. After spending a bit of time working out how to host files on it, I decided to put up some examples of my work for the world to see. It's all well and good saying you can write, but if there's nothing to see - no proof - then it means nothing. There are several samples up at the moment.

One extract from MICHAEL'S RESIGANTION (the ending, so don't read unless you want it spoiling) - to be filmed next month. Two other brutal sections from AIDAN'S DARKEST SERMON - the third film in the 'Multivalence' series. These extracts are very graphic and contain strong language (you've been warned).

The final sample is from a pilot TV show that I never finished - I had hopes for the show but it's not working at all. Maybe I'll use aspects of it for future work.

You can read the writing here.

Take a look and let me know what you think.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Violent Justification

After watching PUNISHER: WAR ZONE I've been thinking about the action in it. There's no arguing that it's brutal as hell, deserving of its 18 certificate. Action is the one thing I know I'm good at and I love writing it. What I'd really like to do, is produce something as violent as WAR ZONE:

Note the insane brutality of it all - the chair through the eye, knife through throat, fist through face. A lot of people will cringe at this sort of thing but there are plenty of us who love it (and spend hours explaining why that doesn't mean we'll go out and kill everyone).

The problem with this sort of action is that it needs to be justified. WAR ZONE borders on it - the story isn't exactly involving, but they get away with it because of who it's about. The film really gets into the heart of the Punisher - he's a brutal, no-mercy vigilante and that's what this film shows. So, on deciding that I wanted to produce that level of action, I was faced with the story.

You can't just have endless amounts of action without any story whatsoever. I mean you can (just look at the MORTAL KOMBAT films) but you shouldn't!

Ultimately, I'd love to write a Punisher movie. But that's never going to happen. By the time I'm successful enough to even be considered, the Punisher film saga will be long gone. So I'll just have to write my own version.

Essentially, it's all about character (as with anything). WAR ZONE features a character who has been driven to this level of brutality by revenge and justice. What I want to do with my 'hero' is give him the same justification.

There seems to be one main motivation for dealing out that level of brutality - revenge. And WAR ZONE has that covered. But that got me thinking about alternative motivations. The strongest instinct to any human is self-preservation. The things we'll do to survive are almost limitless. But how do you get someone to deal out the hurt just to survive?

The solution to a survival threat is often to run and take down anyone who comes at you. But really, the most logical step is to eliminate those who pose a threat. So if I have some rather dangerous characters wanting to kill my 'hero' (who happens to be a Special Forces officer), I can justify his journey. But how do I justify the brutality he shows in his mission? Revenge. It's as simple as that - there is no other way to reason that sort of action without the motive of revenge.

It's still pretty cliched yes?

To get round that, I've decided to blur the lines. My character's primary mission will be to kill the bad guys before they can kill him. But these are also the same guys who killed his team - his partners - his friends.

So during his survival mission, revenge will creep in and control his hand. Lines will be crossed. And the bad guys will only know one thing - they chose the wrong guy to fuck with!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

My top TV shows

I thought I do a rundown of my top TV shows. They're in no particular order but just some of the shows I really like - a lot have great writing tips too.


This is really the first 'adult' TV show I watched. I heard it was about vampires and decided to tune in. I was hooked, but mainly because of the beautiful blond girl who went around slaying vampires and hung out with people who were not cooler than me! The show developed from episodic fun to thought-provoking drama, touching on horror, comedy, tragedy and action along the way. Season 6's theme was very powerful. Here we see Willow become addicted to magic. This is a clearly a metaphor for drug abuse and really has a huge impact as the season develops. Season 7 featured some of the best ever writing and acting from the crew, especially as we learned that Spike had earned his soul. I fell in love with Buffy (the girl and the show). It was my first TV love and retains a special place in my heart.

When I heard that vampire Angel was getting his own show, I was thrilled. I always thought his character was one that could be developed more. Actually, no I didn't because I was like 14 or something. But I thought he was cool as hell! ANGEL went to places that BUFFY couldn't. Here we had this dark, brooding vampire who was fighting for redemption. The show was as dark as the character and was definitely for a more adult audience than its slaying counterpart. That being said, there were numerous hilarious moments along the way, such as everyone losing their memories and Angel being turned into a puppet.

The thing about ANGEL is that it always justified its decisions. Along the way, Angel locked a bunch of humans in a room with his sworn enemy, thus allowing them to be brutally murdered. He even had his soul removed, resulting in death after death and some sick, twisted dialogue. ANGEL never faulted and despite being cut short by the demons at Fox, it couldn't have ended better. After Wesley's heart-destroying death scene, we end with Angel, Spike, Illyria and Gunn (who had been stabbed through the stomach) facing their toughest ever challenge - an army of demons, orcs, giants and dragons. There's no way they can win the fight but the message is - they go out fighting. ANGEL goes out on a battle cry with the powerful words "Let's go to work"

When I get thinking about ANGEL, I don't stop (as you can probably tell). Does that mean it's my favourite TV show? Maybe.

Joss Whedon's short-lived masterpiece. It was axed after just 14 episodes but what 14 episodes they were! FIREFLY is essentially about family. We meet an eclectic group of characters that we come to love dearly. They're just a bunch of folk out on the edge, looking for jobs where they find them. But the show is so much more than that. Everyone who I've known who's seen it has loved it. Fox axed it but the fan base was so strong that Universal Pictures came to the rescue and let Joss make a movie - SERENITY. FIREFLY will always be one of my favourite shows with some of the best situations and dialogue ever on TV. As the Browncoats say - can't stop the signal!

This is Joss Whedon's current TV project (and I'm guessing the last). I was very worried about the first five episodes because while they were of good TV standard, they were not as good as something I was expecting from the creator of BUFFY, ANGEL and FIREFLY. Then came episode 6 and all hell broke loose. Episode 6 (written by Joss himself) was easily as brilliant as any BUFFY ep. And from then, the show has been top-notch. Great characterisation and stories with some ambiguously dark undertones.

I watched CASTLE for one reason only - Nathan Fillion, who played Mal in FIREFLY. I was worried it would be a boring cop show - nothing special. But I was pleasantly surprised. Fillion plays Rick Castle, a novelist who works with a detective for inspiration for his next crime novel. Simple enough idea, but it's the characterisation that makes it great. It's hard to explain, but Castle's strong, witty, comedic character works so well in such a basic template that you have to keep on watching. It often seems to me what CSI would be like if the characters had more than one dimension.

ITV advertised this all wrong - they targeted middle-aged women. The show is probably one of the best around today and keeps getting better. As Sam and Dean work their way across the country saving innocents and banishing demons, their story develops tenfold. Season 1 saw a cliffhanger ending as the boys were reunited with their father. Season 2 saw the gates of hell ripped open and one of the boys die. Season 3 followed Dean as he came to terms with the fact that he had one year to live then he was going to hell. The best thing - viewers and characters thought long and hard about how Dean would escape death. The twist being - he didn't. Season 3 ended with Dean being ripped apart and dragged into hell. His voice echoed over the closing credits - "Help me!" Season 4 (currently airing) shows Dean saved from hell and the boys teaming up with Angels as Sam's demonic powers grow. Will the boys save the day and stop Lucifer rising up? Should they...?

James Cameron's TV attempt should be a work of pure genius. It's not. It is however, pretty damn good. As with any good TV show, it's character that drives the story but the premise itself it quite good. Jessica Alba does a great job as Max, a genetically enhanced soldier on the run from the organisation that made her - Manticore. The ongoing relationship with Logan was always great - they never really got together, despite the season 1 finale showing a happily ever after ending. We were then shot back through time to realise that things didn't go as we thought - Max was shot and died. After being brought back, season 2 showed Max escaping from Manticore and continuing her search for other soldiers.

As season 2 came to a close, some great action showed more and more specialist soldiers in the futuristic world. The show was axed but the ending was good - a sense of hope spread through the characters as they faced probably genocide. A show I always stayed up to watch, DARK ANGEL is definitely worth looking at even if not a DVD buy.

Season 1 of this show was great. The terminator of the week structure worked well but they experimented as they went deeper. They did it well. The season ended with Cameron being blown up in a car. Being a terminator, she was ok but was in pretty bad shape. Season 2's opening showed Cameron all messed up, so much so that her default program kicked in - terminate John Connor. The season continued as we saw John Connor's transition from T2 to war hero. There were a few episodes in the middle that were terribly boring but the finale of season 2 has opened so many doors that I can't wait for season 3. However, that may never be. At the time of writing this, they are undecided as to whether it will be axed......

I watched the first episode of this and thought it was a poor version of the Punisher story. I then learnt there was much much more. Dexter is a blood splatter analyst who moonlights as a murderer. But he only kills bad people. Those who he sees slip through the net at work are quickly served justice in the form of being strapped to a table and gutted.

The finale of season 1 was incredible but season 2 was even better as Dexter's dangerous habits were almost revealed. Season 3 is set to air in the UK this week and from what I've seen, things are getting stronger and stronger. It's a dark show with serious issues and black comedy. Definitely one of the cleverest shows created.

I didn't really know what to make of TRUE BLOOD when I first saw it. It's definitely not a show for the kids, simply due to the nudity and language. We follow a young waitress as she encounters a mysterious sexy vampire - Bill. As she is swallowed into Bill's dangerous world, things get more and more tense. With a variety of interesting characters and some pretty good violence, TRUE BLOOD is a great watch, but it's not for everyone. Season 1 is set to air on C4 soon.

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks did an amazing job in creating this TV mini-series. It tells the story of Easy Company in WWII. From their training in England, through D-Day and to the end of the war, this is a brutally realistic story of war. Best appreciated with gaps, BAND OF BROTHERS will show you harrowing images of warfare, death and concentration camps. It's a must-see for anyone, not just fans of war movies.

I was eager to see the latest animation from Marvel but wasn't expecting it to be as good as this. After a slow first few eps, WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN really kicked off with hardcore storylines, saying that it's essentially a kids' show. The best moments for me were when we saw Charles Xavier talking to the X-Men from the future, trying to correct the damage done. Showing what the world could become created great tension as the X-Men battled to save tomorrow. It's been greenlighted for a second season and the first should be out on DVD soon.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Centurian Post

I started this blog on 12th November 2008 and this post marks my 100th entry. That's a fair few blogs and I'd wager if you added up every word I've written here, you'd find it's more than every single exam I've ever taken. And ironically, this post falls on the date of an exam - my last day at uni until September. What does that mean? Well a) I'll probably fail the exam and b) more time for writing.

I'd like to thank everyone who's read my blog over the last 6 months and I intend to keep on going for years to come. I've got a lot of things I want to say about screenwriting and I love sharing my experiences with the whole world (or should I say - the few people who actually read this). But technically it's open to the whole world.

So thank you for reading and since I'm in a happy mood, please feel free to tell me about your own blogs (be they screenwriting and otherwise); I'm always eager to find new people out there to share ideas with.

Happy writing, readers!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

INSiDE - amazing short

I came across this short film and was completely blown away. It is, without a doubt, the best short I've ever seen. The premise is brilliant and truly haunting - it'll stay with me for a long time. If you like psychological stories, you'll love this. And I mean love!

The writing and direction are very impressive and acting from Jeremy Sisto is very involving. Also, the supporting cast are awesome!

Enjoy and comment.

INSiDE (2002)
Written by: Eric 'Giz' Gewirtz & Trevor Sands
Directed by: Trevor Sands

Friday, 8 May 2009



I was wondering the other day about swearing in scripts. Before I became a writer, I had a bit of a "you don't need to swear" opinion. But that's changed. Yes, you do need to swear! Why? Because everyone does. Even if you're not the sort of person who slips the F-Bomb into every sentence, you're not telling me that when you stub your toe, you don't think "SHIIIIIT!" And if you are telling me that, you're probably thinking "Fucking idiot! Thinks he can fucking tell me whether I fucking swear or not?!"

People swear. Characters swear.

Obviously, depending on the medium and audience, certain language is going to be outlawed. You're not going to tune into TELETUBBIES and see Tinkywinky walking round asking Po to give him a fucking break!

You are, however, going to get a healthy amount of strong language in Mr Quentin Tarantino's work. This is a man who gave Samuel L Jackson one of his greatest lines -

"I'm a mushroom cloud laying motherfucker, motherfucker!"

One of the only things that's bothered me about Joss Whedon's work is the lack of swearing. You're walking down the street in good old Hellmouth Central Sunnydale, when a bloodsucking fiend jumps out from behind a tree. You don't say "Oh my God!", you say "Holy shit!" Spike is a badass character, but the extent of that language-wise is uttering the odd "bloody", "bugger", "wanker", "piss" et al.

Anyway, I can get over this because a lot of the time, Whedon uses other ways to have the same effect as swearing. Like in FIREFLY, they swear in Chinese. There's no way they could get away with half the bad language were it in English.

On that note, I've noticed more and more swearing on TV. Shows DEXTER, TRUE BLOOD and SONS OF ANARCHY use strong language on a regular basis.

The thing is - is it justified?

I've mentioned above that people swear and that if you're in a terrifying situation, you're going to cuss with the best of them. Swearing can also be a powerful tool for character development.

If you have a character who never swears, then one dark day, he does, what does that mean? Surely it highlights the severity of the situation? It can have a huge impact.

For example in BUFFY's season 5 finale - 'The Gift', the gang are having a heated debate about the possibility of killing Dawn (Buffy's sister) to save the world. Buffy says they're not talking about this. Then Giles screams in with "Yes we bloody well are!" Giles never swears. Since his hell-raising Ripper days, he's become proper; far too civilised and educated for such language. So when he drops "bloody" into his line, we know things are serious.

It's just something I was pondering on the other day, after reading through the MICHAEL'S RESIGNATION script. There's a healthy amount of "fucks", "shits", "twats" and even some "cunts" in there for the actors to deal with. Some of the language is overused and I think that's the issue - use bad language if it's justified and sparingly. The more you use it, the less impact it has. Save those powerful words for a really serious situation to highlight the impact.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Whedon's Alien

Here's a very interesting article and analysis of ALIEN RESURRECTION. Joss Whedon receives writing credit, but the final cut of the film is far from his original vision. Here, "Big Ross" talks about the differences between Whedon's script and the film that was made.

He really goes into great detail, charting characterisation, development and the ending.
Whedon himself has said of the film, "It wasn't a question of doing everything was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong...They did everything wrong that they could possibly wasn’t so much that they’d changed the script; it’s that they just executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable."
Personally, I don't think ALIEN RESURRECTION was that bad. I was bored by the first movie (although respect the ideas and storytelling), thought ALIENS was overrated and only just enjoyed ALIEN 3. I'm not saying that ALIEN 4 is the best film, but it is one I enjoy. That's mainly because of the brigand crew that spend the entire film escaping said acid-blood. And if I'm perfectly honest, it's my belief that if you cast Ron Perlman, the film can't be bad. Even HELLBOY 2 was watchable.

So basically, I don't think ALIEN 4 was as bad as Joss says above. However, I haven't actually read his original draft. I'd really love to, because the way "Big Ross" (yes I am uncomfortable referring to someone as "Big Ross" without using quote marks) describes it, it seems pretty gorram, good.

So if anyone out there has access to Whedon's script for ALIEN RESURRECTION, please do let me know so that I can hate the film as much as everyone else.

On another note, Big Ross' (note the lack of quote marks - I've become more secure - grown as a person!) in depth analysis has really made me think about my own writing. I have a fair few films in my DVD cabinet that are utter shite, so maybe I'll do an analysis of those - once you learn what makes bad storytelling, you can learn what makes good storytelling.

Happy writing, fellow bloggers and/or non-bloggers.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Massacre Breakdown

The other day, I wrote a 3-page breakdown for MICHAEL'S RESIGNATION. I wrote the final few scenes of the film - the massacre where Michael loses it completely and guns down his entire office. Writing the scene breakdown was very interesting. Usually, I write a breakdown and use that to create the script, but this time it was the other way around.

When I wrote the screenplay, I was thinking purely creatively. Whatever made the scene better went in. The result had bullets flying left right and centre, table crashing and the SWAT team busting in and shooting up the entire office. The office we'll be using is actually someone's work. Once we're done there, people will need to carry on with their jobs. So it's not exaclty practical or nice to completely destroy the place. So the breakdown needed to be different.

Bullets still fly (about 50 from Michael's pistol alone) but there is minimum office damage. No-one crashes through tables and windows don't get shattered into a million pieces like before.

I also had to keep in mind that Nicky Modlin (Michael) has no previous action training. MR isn't the sort of film with high flying kicks anyway, but if it were, that would have to be thought through.

The breakdown is now in the hands of Action Director Chris Jones. Once he's gone through that, I'll be visiting his gym and we'll choreograph the scene. I spoke with Alex yesterday and he reinforced what the scene should be about - emotion. So all the way through choreography, I'll be keeping in mind what the scene should focus on. I'm going think of every instant emotionally - what effect would this have on the viewer? Similarly, if there's anything in the scene that would take away the sense of emotion, it'll have to change. While the scene is brutal as hell, he emotion is what counts. The whole film spends time allowing the audience to connect with Michael so for the final scene to take them away from that would ruin the whole thing.

So in about three weeks' time, I'll be going to see Chris and we'll work out the scene. Before then, I'll probably end up going to Toys R Us to buy one of those cheap kiddie guns to use in the planning. From there, I'll be off to London at the beginning of filming in June. Hopefully I'll have storyboard sketches and some video footage of the action. I'll show this to everyone involved and if anyone has any other ideas/suggestions, we'll incorporate them in. Then I'll run through the scene with Nicky and make sure he knows exactly what the scene entails.

I'm doing this as early as possible because if there's anything in the scene that Nicky (or anyone else involed) is uncomfortable with, we have time to sort it out. Also, we will have just one weekend - two short days - to shoot the 20 minute massacre action scene. I've never filmed anything before but I know it won't be easy. Everyone will be running around like mad just to get things done on time. We also have to clear everything up on the Sunday night before everyone turns up. I'm not sure they'd appreciate it if they turned up for work on Monday morning and saw the remains of a bloody massacre! It'll be emotionally and physically draining for everyone involved, so the the sooner I can explain the scene, the more time people have to get a grip on it before shooting.

Since we're going to be so busy that weekend, if there's anyone out there who would like to come on set and get drinks and food for people, you're more than needed! Seriously! I'm not joking! Email me -

We're heading into a crazy couple of months - I'm excited as hell and shitting bricks at the same time. They're excited bricks!

Wish me luck.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Scene transitions

This is something that I've been thinking about over the last few days. A good scene transition should flow well. Here's some examples from my own work. They're simplified, cutting out description and such.

You coming?
Loki and Rider stand up and head inside.

What is it with you and that amulet, Hannon?
It's Captain by the way (more dialogue)
Loki and Rider walk into the shop.

This is a good example because we join the scene while Hannon and Nix are in mid-conversation. It creates a sense of realism and takes you right into the story. It also flows well as the two previous characters enter - we know where and when we are.

The next example isn't so much a scene change but there is a transition to speak of:

You know I wouldn't, Alex. Must be that woman's instinct thing. You know how they are; all emotions and feelings. And you can never get them to shut up.
At the back of the group, Loki and Nix are in deep conversation, but it's a little one-sided.
All I'm saying is if the fucking Yanks can't beat these bastards down, what chance do we have?
Nix has a desperate 'heard it all before' look stretched across her face but Loki doesn't notice.
It's been what...over a year since we lost contact with 'em? I mean, when are they going to charge in all guns blazing?

This transition has two purposes:

1) Exposition - I needed to explain more about the world my characters are living in and its state - hence the mention of the Americans in my zombie story.
2) Character development - from this transition, we know that Remy is a bit of a sexist pig (although he is joking, so is he really?) and that Loki is a thick-skinned jerk.

I think the transition works for one simple reason. I have a character comment on how women never shut up, then cut to a conversation where the man won't shut up. Just a bit of comedic irony to keep the audience smiling.

Here's another example that helps the scenes flow together well. It also lets the audience know exactly where and when each character is:

Tonya sees the Slayers moving slowly across the street below and bangs on the window. Then she sees a table across the room.


The Slayers creep across the road. Suddenly there's a loud CRASH as a table smashes out of the window above.

A common scene transition in television is to use a voiceover leading into the next scene. Let's say your characters have just said something and are now pondering on that thought. Then the sound of the next scene starts as we hang on the previous moment. We get audio before visual. Like so:

Jack and John stare at each other, contemplating.
We're doomed.

Jill and Ben sit at opposite ends of the bed.
What do you mean we're doomed?
Like I say.

See what I mean? A little transition to do several things - keep the audience gripped, not have too many long silences and cut time down while not skimping on the contemplating moment.

These are just a few examples of what I think are good scene transitions. I don't think people think about them enough, but the way you move through your story is very important - get that wrong and the flow of the script can be lost. Think about it.

Happy writing!

Friday, 1 May 2009


In recent weeks, we've all been working our asses off over MICHAEL'S RESIGNATION. We held some casting sessions a bit ago and now we're certain we have the right guy for Michael.

This is a short promo featuring Nicky Modlin as Michael. It's nothing official but just to give people an idea of what the character will be like. Meet Michael:

I also decided to put a slide show together featuring pictures of our lovely cast. Take a look and let me know what you think:

In other news, I've been organising details regarding the final action massacre of MR - we've got a 20 minute sequence (which I wrote) where countless people are killed. I'm going to be travelling to London in the middle of June to help choreograph and direct the action. It's going to be an exhausting shoot as we have just 2 days to film 20 minutes of action. So wish us luck!