Saturday, 31 January 2009

Smiv does it his way

So there's this guy Matt Smith, who goes my the moniker Smivadee on youtube. With a legion of dedicated fans, he has a fair bit of power on the internet. Well he's going to be hosting the 'Making of' documentary for MICHAEL'S RESIGNATION. He's also going to be playing the role of Ben in the feature itself.

He's now uploaded another shiny vid, telling all his fans about the film he's involved with. The comments on there alone are very positive, so it's pulled a lot of weight.

Go Matt!!!

Friday, 30 January 2009

Comicy Commicson

First off; yes this is a weird as hell title for a post. Congratulations to those who read it perfectly first time. You're lying. You'll have to forgive me, I'm in a funny mood as I post this.....

Anyway, into the post.....

I'm talking about comics. Or graphic novels. As in Spider-Man, X-Men and such. Call me a geek but I've read a fair few comics so far in my 20 years. There's the problem. I said "call me a geek but..." Why are comics geeky? Is it because back in the day they were all POW! SPLAT! KABOOM! ???

Is it mostly because of that hilarious Batman show where Robin spurted out things like "Holy macaroni and cheese, Batman!"? I'm thinking yes.

But comics are a form of storytelling. They're somewhere between prose and drama. But rather than go into an argument about why comics are a good form of storytelling, I just thought I'd introduce you to a few of them. As writers, you should expose yourselves to as many stories as possible. So here we go...

X-MEN
As a kid, I read mostly X-Men comics. Picked them up at school, read and enjoyed. But today, if you pick up an X-Men comic, you can't understand anything unless you have a Master's degree in Mutant Politics and Current Affairs. So don't bother. Instead, go to the Ultimate universe.

Marvel launched the Ultimate universe in 2000 to get new people into their stories. It worked. I have a fair few issues and they're great.

Ultimate X-Men basically shows different stories to the original (slightly geeky) origins of the characters. It's fun. But more real. More about politics and hardcore action. In very few mediums, can you have the US President on the lawn of the White House, being told to lick some one's shoes. Take a look.

I picked up Astonishing X-Men because it's Joss Whedon. Fully expecting a great story that is true to the X-Men but with a Whedon twist, I raced through. And I was completely satisfied. The only bit of back story you need to know about it is that Colossus and Kitty were in love. Colossus died. Now you're set. Enjoy.

AVENGERS
I never read many Avengers comics as a kid, but I knew enough. I heard about the Ultimates and leapt on board. I bought a volume and it rocked again. Slightly less realistic than Ultimate X-Men, but still big with the politics and heavy action.

Also, anyone who knows the characters understands my excitement at seeing most of the Avengers taking on Thor in an epic battle. Lightning falls, hammers fly. A bloody massacre.

WOLVERINE: ORIGINS
Great stories with adult content. We're talking about guts flying everywhere. Wolverine: Origins is basically the Wolverine we want to see. Merciless and violent.

INHUMANS
Not knowing anything about the Inhumans, I took a chance and it paid off. A great story about a race of aliens. To say one of the characters can't speak, we really know a lot about him. Inhumans is definitely one to catch. It's also something I'd love to adapt for screen one day. Probably never happen though. Fully expect it to come to cinemas soon though.

PUNISHER
The hardcore motherfucker of Marvel. The guy pulls no punches at all. I bought Punisher MAX the other day and have read a little bit so far. It kicks an immense amount of ass. Castle is a mean-ass guy with some pretty dangerous bastards on his tail. In what other comic could you shoot a 100-year old man in the face and blow up a kid? Check it out if you love relentless violence, strong language and believable characters with a killer story.

Hope that opens your eyes to comics a bit more and that some of you have been turned to the geek side.

Stay shiny folks,

Neil.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

SAVE THE CAT FIRST!

Almost every screenwriter I look at goes on and on about Blake Snyder's book 'Save the Cat!'. Apparently it's a 'must have' for any aspiring screenwriter. On the front over, it describes itself as:

The Last Book On Screenwriting That You'll Ever Need

Hmm....pretty proud of itself then. That's the main reason I haven't bought it before; it seems pretty up itself. The opposite of the reason I don't ever buy things like 'The Idiot's Guide to Writing'. I'm not an idiot, so I don't buy it.

Anyway, I ordered the book to see what everyone was going on about. I don't want to be the only writer who isn't in on the Pen of Destiny - a magical pen from Satan that enables the wielder to write expert movies worthy of multiple Oscars!!! That would never do. I suppose it's important to stress at this point (for the boobs out there) that this book probably doesn't mention the Pen of Destiny that I just ripped off from TENACIOUS D AND THE PICK OF DESTINY. But if it does, I get first grab at it!

So anyway, I now have the book. So if it's as good as they say, I should be rambling endlessly on this blog about all my new writing techniques.

We shall see if this book is as shiny as they say or whether it's just chucking up everything that has gone before.

Neil.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Learn from scenes

Taking a leaf out of the Unknown Screenwriter's blog, I've decided to put a notepad together and list my favourite scenes in film and television. Basically saying why I like them. Why are they good? What is it about that scene in particular that is so brilliant, while the rest of the movie may be shite?

I'm not talking about direction or acting, because as a writer, I don't think it will further my skills. More about the dialogue, the action, maybe what that scene means to the film as a whole. How it develops the plot/s and the character/s.

So this is a little something I've put together. Well, I say 'put together'. I mean I'm coming up with it as I write this. It's basically a template with headings for why the scene is so good. Feel free to use it, abuse it, tear it to shreds and all that jazz (why's it jazz anyway? Hmm....from now on, I shall change that phrase to 'and all that metal').

FILM/SHOW:

SCENE:

CHARACTERS:

WHY IS IT GOOD?
  • DEVELOPMENT OF CHARACTER/S:
  • DEVELOPMENT OF PLOT/S:
  • DIALOGUE:
  • ACTION:
  • EMOTION:
  • SIGNIFICANCE TO THE WHOLE:
  • PURPOSE OF SCENE:
That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but do let me know if you can add to it.

Shiny writing,
Neil.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Michael's Resignation Website

As a few of you will know, I co-wrote the script for a feature film called MICHAEL'S RESIGNATION. Well now I'm pleased to announce that the official website is up and running.

Obviously this post is a further way of promoting the movie, but I don't want to lose sight of what a film is; an enjoyable experience for those involved so that the people sitting in their chairs can take something away from the experience. I hope this will be the case with MICHAEL'S RESIGNATION.

There are a bunch of pages updated for the world to see, so see if any of this interests you:

If you'd like any more info on what the movie is about, or what the writers thought, this page has some words from us, detailing the premise and favourite moments, characters, quotes etc.
Click here.

If you'd like to audition for the movie, this is the page to check out, with some guidelines and suggestions as well as a list of characters.
Click here.

If you'd like to jump on the crew of MICHAEL'S RESIGNATION, working behind the scenes to make it all come alive, check out this page to see who we already have and who to contact.
Click here
AND
Here.

For painful information and legal stuff on buying shares in the film, this is the page for you. So if you're considering an investment, here you go.
Click here.

If you'd like to help us get the publicity we need to make this a success and charge through the funding stage, we need newspapers, radio stations etc to hear about it. On this page, there are details on how you can help that happen.
Click here.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this message; I hope there's something here that interests you. Also, a shiny thank you for your continuing support of MICHAEL'S RESIGNATION.

Neil.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Words from Whedon

Danny Stack has a shiny article from 4Talent Magazine where Joss Whedon - the Master of TV - tells everyone his top 10 writing tips. Because it would be a breach of copyright and all that jazz, I can't reproduce it here. But Danny has a way round that and it's on his blog.

It makes for interesting reading and while you may know most of the tips, there's bound to be something to think about, no matter how good you are. So check out the post here.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Creating Classic Characters

Ok, so William Shakespeare. I'm sure you've all heard of him; he's that dead bloke who wrote all those plays a bit ago. Know what I'm talking about? Yes? Good. Whether you like him or not, you have to accept that he's a huge influence and a key part in education. No kid is going to get through school without reading at least some of a Shakespeare play. So suck it up and deal.

I've studied more Shakespeare plays than I care to count. Being an English student, it kinda comes with the course. Some are amazing, some down right shite. Personally, I hate his comedies, because what was funny in the late sixteenth century isn't necessarily funny today. Not a difficult concept to understand. I'm here to talk about Shakespeare's tragedies and the characters in them.

There's that good old writing tip: write about characters.

For a while, I didn't really agree, but it's true. A story isn't about what happens, it's about what happens and how your (unique) characters deal with the situation. I've mentioned this before, but in short - your characters should drive the story forward. They shouldn't just be along for the ride.

Shakespeare knew this. He learnt it from classic writers such as Homer and Virgil. I don't think there's any other story that depends on the actions of a character quite like Homer's The Odyssey. You'll have to breeze out if you don't know much about it, but I studied it for a bit, so it's going to be an example.

In The Odyssey, the Trojan war (yes, that's the one with Achilles) has just come to an epic close and everyone is ready to head home. So we have Odysseus who wants to get back to Ithaca. It would be a nice and happy voyage, however, he fucks up.

Odysseus (for reasons I can't quite recall - it being 5 years since I read The Odyssey) mouths off at Poseidon. FYI - Poseidon is god of the sea, so not a chap to piss off when you intend to travel across the oceans. Anyway, Odysseus sets off and behold - Poseidon is royally pissed and kicks up one storm after another. Alas Odysseus and his crew become stranded on various islands filled with immense terrors, from a witch who turns men into pigs and one place filled entirely with women - now there's a terrifying thought.

So as you can see, it's Odysseus' actions that drive the plot. I don't need to go into too much detail, but Odysseus and his crew make one mistake after another, getting them into more and more trouble. They also get themselves out of it as well. While trapped in a cave with Polyphemus (a giant cyclops), who also happens to be Poseidon's son, they work out how to escape. They get the guy completely hammered and stab the bastard in the eye while he's zonked out.

Also, you can't talk about The Odyssey without mentioning Odysseus' clever wit. The cyclops asks Odysseus what his name is. Odysseus replies "Nobody". So when they blind the poor idiot, he stumbles out of the cave screaming "Nobody has blinded me!" Classic. And not too shabby for a guy writing in the eighth century BC.

Anyway, back to Mr. Shakespeare. He's all about characters. What is Romeo & Juliet about? A pair of star-crossed lovers. It's about them - the characters and how they deal with their situation.

Hamlet is about a bloke whose father is killed. So he tries to work out whodunit and exact revenge. Not about a King that's killed, but about how his son deals with it. By the way, in case you didn't notice as a kid, the best modern retelling of Hamlet is THE LION KING. Think about it.

In Macbeth, our leading guy is told he'll become King, so he takes action to fulfill his own destiny.

You get the idea.

To really who it's all about characters, try this with stories. How would characters from one story cope in another?

Stick Romeo in Macbeth or something like that.

For example, let's switch Hamlet with Othello. The low down - Hamlet's father is killed by his uncle. Hamlet suspects this, but is cautious and wants proof before he offs a member of his family. Othello is told that his wife is playing away, believes it and kills the bastards. So let's switch their roles.

Hamlet hears that his wife is shagging his best mate? What does he do? He investigates, realises that it's a lie and has Iago arrested. End of story, all is well.

Othello finds out that his father has been killed, most likely by his uncle. What does he do? He doesn't hang about. Being the rash, impulsive fella he is, he finds his sonofabitch uncle and takes an axe to his face, that's what. End of story, all is bloody.

That's just one example of how this technique works. Homer and Shakespeare realised that stories were all about characters, so it should come as no shock to you to realise the same.

One final (more recent) example:

What would John McClane (DIE HARD) do in Woody's situation (locked in a crazy kid's room in TOY STORY)? McClane would die hard his way out of the place, while saving all the kids. And he'd do it a hell of a lot faster than Woody. What would Woody do in McClane's sitch? Not a lot really, cos he's a toy, but probably call a bunch of mates to help him out.

Try the role reversal technique with some films or your own ideas and see how it works. If it changes things completely, you've got a shiny, character-driven story on your hands. Now you can make a patting motion on your back.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

When did we start writing?

Now have the results from the poll. The question was:

'When did you realise you wanted to write?'
A. I always have, in some way. (40%)
B. Early on - pre-teens (20%)
C. Teens (20%)
D. 20s (20%)
E. 30s
F. 40s
G. Over 50
H. I want to write?

40% of people who answered said they have always wanted to write. That's a pretty interesting result I think. To know what you want to do from such an early age must be great. Of course some of them won't have know that was a career path, but they wanted to write. Well done to you people!

Then we have the more likely people who decided in their pre-teen years, teens or 20s. I'm one of the teen people (though only just).

It would be nice to know all through life what you want to do. However I have a theory...

If you decide at an early age (let's say 12) that you want to write as a career, then you'll get the standard 'you can't do that, it's unstable, get a proper job' talk. This will mostly come from the parents and I can see why. Who knows if this kid can write? Who knows if he can make money from it?

Parents are only looking out for you. But while they're doing that, they inevitably crush you. If a 12 year old says he wants to be a writer, he'll get the dream-crushing reality. He's not old enough to stand on his own and do what he wants despite what everyone else says. That age doesn't come (depending on the person) until about 18. So that's 6 long years for the parents to convince the kid that they're right - he won't survive as a writer. Any kid that survives that deserves a medal.

So I decided at the age of 10 that I wanted to be a writer. To be honest, I think my parents thought it would go away and I'd set my sights on a safer job. I was at uni studying English, so they needn't worry too much.

If they had been the type to crush me and say 'No, you can't do that' etc, then it wouldn't have mattered. I was old enough and independent enough to tell them where to go and carry on. Yes they were a little uncomfortable with my career choice and may like me to get a 'safer' job, but I know they'll support me whatever I do. And that's what matters.

So what I'm saying is; I think the best time to decide you want to be a writer, is about 18. Then no matter what anyone says, you'll probably keep going. Another option is to decide and not tell anyone till you're 18.

But an interesting result from the poll, thanks to those who answered. There's a new question up now at the right-hand side about writing books, so be sure to check it out.

Shiny writing,
Neil.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Those who can...

So it always seems to happen this way with me. All last week, I had shit loads of revision to do for my exams, but all I wanted to do was write. So I wrote and crammed revision in at the last minute. On Thursday, I had my last exam and all the way through it I was thinking about how much writing I was going to get done in my weeks off before going back to uni.

But guess what? I can't write. I tried yesterday, knowing that if I was in the mood, I would finish my TV pilot for VISION, but I wasn't in said mood, so it didn't get touched. I wrote about half a scene for my zombie movie - the opening, then ended up on facebook replying to people interested in MICHAEL'S RESIGNATION most of the day. Evening came and ate, then watched DEXTER and a couple eps of SUPERNATURAL.

I wasn't tired at midnight, so considered breaking the laptop open and attacking VISION. But I didn't. Instead, I was reduced to watching SCARY MOVIE 4 - one of the worst films ever to be created methinks. The only thing I liked was when Charlie Sheen killed himself. I was thinking "Yes, Charlie Sheen, kill yourself, get out of this terrifyingly bad movie and do something shiny like PLATOON". And die he did. Well, at least someone was spared the pain!

So now I sit here blogging because once again, I can't write anything. After this post, I'm going to break out the beat sheet for the pilot of VISION and try my hardest to write something, while listening to rock.

Can guarantee that tomorrow while I'm at work all day, I'll be in the perfect mood to write, but then on Monday, that will have passed. Maybe I'll just stay up all Sunday night and attack it then.

I know why it happens this way. It's a way of putting off the writing. I never want to do what I'm doing - I'm never happy.

However, if writing is going to be my career, I'll have to learn to write when I'm not in the mood, so this afternoon, my non-writing mood time will be filled with writing.

Maybe I'll go on facebook first.....

Friday, 16 January 2009

Michael's Resignation (2)

If you don't know what Michael's Resignation, you can catch up here. And for those who need a little reminder, the premise is:

A traumatised ex-soldier who has begun a new life in the city as an office clerk breaks down after being made redundant as a victim of the “credit crunch” and finding his fiancĂ© having an affair with his boss. Determined to exact revenge, he suffers a nervous breakdown and films himself ruthlessly slaughtering all his co- workers before being shot down by armed police officers in a final blaze of glory.

So I thought I'd blog about the latest updates for Michael's Resignation.

The official website should be fully up and running in the next few weeks, so people will be able to invest in the movie as soon as the accounts are all set up.

We also have a fan page on facebook, as well as a fan group - managed by me - where you can receive regular news updates and also talk about possibly funding or other ways you can contribute to the making of the movie.

We have a director, the script is written and we're about to enter the funding stage. But there is one thing we need before filming can start - a cast. This (as you can imagine) is pretty important. The first role we need to cast is our Michael. He's in his 30s or 40s, dark featured to give him that moody, brooding 'world on his shoulders' look.

There are also several other roles to fill, including Michael's bitch of a wife, his betraying, stuck-up boss and Michael's co-worker who rejects his advances. As well as the leading cast, we'll be needing a lot of people for our final massacre scene. Unsuspecting office workers who are busy with their jobs when Michael goes completely cuckoo's nest and guns everyone down. We've already had some interest in casting on the fan group - that's where it's at.

So that's the latest news regarding Michael's Resignation. If there's any way you can help or want to contribute your shiny skills (acting, crew, publicity etc), see the fan groups mentioned above. Alternatively, you can contact me directly through facebook or my e-mail - neilbaker27@yahoo.co.uk.

Thanks for reading,

Neil.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

How do your characters cope?

There's a (semi) well-known saying about people. It is as follows:

You can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

So what exactly does this mean and how can it help your shiny storytelling? Think about how your character copes with:

a) A rainy day - Is he the sort of person who wakes up in the morning, sees the rain and gets back into bed? Does he get out of bed, consider going out to meet that friend, then decide better of it? Does he bank on the rain stopping later and go out then? Does he grab an umbrella and brave the elements regardless? Does he realise he has no umbrella (wishes he did) but go out anyway? Does he call a friend to pick him up?

Basically, how does your character cope with a small annoyance that can disrupt the day if you let it?

b) Lost luggage - He's at the airport. All the luggage has come off and his isn't there? What does he do? Does he calmly find someone to ask? Does he march over there and yell at the poor girl behind the check-in desk, even though it's not her fault, declaring that if his case isn't there in 5 minutes then he's calling the cops? Does he panic like hell, jump up and down and cry until someone asks what's up? Let's hope not! Does he let the other family members sort it all out while he goes for a pint? Does he sit and wait for it to turn up on its own? Does he take matters into his own hands and 'die hard' his way through the airport until he finds the luggage?

How does your character cope with pressure? It's potentially catastrophic, but does he act logically, does he panic, get angry or just freeze? Does he know how to handle himself in a crisis?

c) Tangled Christmas tree lights - Every year the lights are tangled, but how does your character deal with it? Does he stand there patiently, slowly unwinding the lights in a logical manner until the job is done? Does he start off slow and logical, but then end up pulling and ripping them free? Does he attack them completely, screaming things like "Come on you motherf*cker, untangle or I'm going to rip your f*cking..." You get the idea. Does he call up the stairs and get someone else to do it for him?

How does your character deal with an inevitable, really frustrating situation, that can be solved if you stay calm and logical?

This process is a very thorough way of finding your characters. Think about how every character will cope with the above situations and you'll find a lot out about them. Also ask yourself these questions, because it can be rather insightful.

Happy character-ing.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Strengths and Weaknesses

Taking a leaf out of Danny Stack's blog, I thought I'd discuss my strengths and weaknesses, really to help myself.

So what are my strengths?

I've been told I have a very violent mind (on numerous occasions) and that I'm good at action. So we'll stick action in the 'strengths' column.

I'm always thinking of new ideas to write. I have a folder on my laptop with loads of files just less than a page - ideas for screenplays, characters, events, worlds, even weapons and battles. So I don't have any problem thinking of things to write.

Detail. When it comes to action, I'm very detailed (sometimes too detailed). It's ironic, because all the way through school teachers told me that my work lacked detail. And they were right. But there's one very good reason for that - it was boring as hell. Quite frankly I don't care why we have earthquakes or why volcanoes erupt. All I want to do is stay out of their way! But now I'm writing things I'm actually interested in, the detail isn't a problem.

But detail isn't always a good thing. It's a writers job to say what will happen. But sometimes you can go into too much detail and it will seem like you're telling others (the director, actors, special effects people) what to do. Because I have a very clear vision of how my scene will play out, I can sometimes go overboard. So that's something to work on - be detailed, but not obvious.

And that brings us to the bad column - weaknesses.

Dialogue. I know that my dialogue can be very plain, on the nose or obvious and repetitive. That's definitely something I need to work on. And I'm trying as hard as I can.

Attention. I have a notoriously short attention span. "Neil doesn't concentrate," the teachers would say at parents' evening. True, but that's because I don't care why we have earthquakes or.....wait, we've been here before. Never mind. Yes, so attention is something to work on. I have a tendency to write a bit of one thing then go onto another when I get bored half way through the day. A screenplay would get finished a lot faster if I concentrated on it. But that's just how I work. I've tried to help myself in this area by setting up some goals - screenplays I want to finish in the next few months.

Patience. I hate it when things take a long time to do. Michael's Resignation is in the first draft and we're in the funding stage. This is going to take forever and it's killing me! Alex assures me that everything is on track and I believe him. But I want things to move faster, dammit! I want that thing on the screen now! Hmm so that is something I need to work on. It's a frustrating business and I need to take my time to get things done. I'm a classic example of a youngster who wants it all now - before he's earned it. But hah! I know that's my problem, so it will become less of a problem! Mua haha! Don't ask me why that warranted an evil laugh, it just did.

Procrastination. ha, I love that word. For years I thought it meant something else. It is a problem I have (procrastination, not the other thing). I tend to do other things rather than write. I blame facebook, games sites, youtube and this gorram blog! And it's not just writing that I don't do. As I write this, I should be revising for an exam I have in a few days. Hopefully the goals I've set will help with that too. If I don't meet them, I'll.......I'll........probably blog about it......

I think that about covers all my strengths and weaknesses, but I'm sure there are way more out there, ready to see me, go "Ah, there's a procrastinating, action-writing, attention-freak bloke with crap concentration! Get him!!! CHARGE!!!!!!!!!!!"

Hmm......maybe not quite that dramatic, but you get the point.

Shiny writing ahead all,
Neil.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Tales of the Natural

I decided a while ago (after studying Gothic literature at uni) to try my hand at some short stories. So I've launched TALES OF THE NATURAL - a place where I'll be publishing a sort of e-anthology of Gothic short stories. No stories are up yet, but they will be soon (once I've written one)

Please check out the site, as some shiny stories should be up there soon to read completely free of charge. I don't know if they're good enough to be published, so I thought I'd just post them online for people to read at their leisure.

Hopefully you'll enjoy the stories and writing as much as I do and I hope you'll check there on a regular basis to see what's going on in the world of the natural.


TALES OF THE NATURAL is an anthology of Gothic short stories written by Neil Baker.

The tales deal with supernatural (or natural) issues such as vampires, werewolves, ghosts and demons, as well as delving into the classics. They are set in various time periods, from ancient Greece to modern day. They take things back to basics - the original Gothic stories of the eighteenth century. They are very strongly influenced by classic authors such as Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, Matthew Lewis, James Hogg, Charlotte Bronte, and Emily Bronte, as well several more contemporary writers; Charlie Huston, Raymond Chandler, Richard Matheson, Robert E. Howard, Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Eric Kripke and Joss Whedon.

Some stories even take influence from the world of rock, including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Seether, Evanescence, Manowar, Metallica, Seasick Steve and the Rasmus.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Demons 1:02

So I watched episode two of Demons tonight. Actually, I'm writing this as I watch, so I don't miss anything.

I've noticed our first problem - Luke (our protagonist) is a Mary Sue. For those who don't know what a Mary Sue is, we're basically talking about a flawless character who is there purely so people like them and want to be that character. They're very popular in kids' fiction. Harry Potter is a Mary Sue. For a better description, check this link.

This limits the character. Yes, we like him (actually I think he's a little shit and I suspect other people do as well), but we are unable to relate to him. That's the key to characters.

Already, in the second episode, Luke seems perfectly at ease with the whole demon world. That's too much for me to believe. He would still be freaking out; still wanting out of the whole sitch. Or at least be asking more general questions that he is.

Our mentor character (Galvin) has a terrible American accent. Why does he have it at all? Why can't he be a Brit? Could it be because then he really would be ripping off Rupert Giles from Buffy? Ultimately, I think it's to make him different from the other characters on TV - it's an attempt to trick us into thinking he's not a rip-off. But that's just my opinion.

I'm pretty sick of the scary little girl in TV. Can we please have a change to the 'classic' scary kid thing? It's not scary anymore!

What I did like however, is the hints that Galvin has inner depths. It was hinted that he's more of a 'grey' character (like everyone is), as opposed to a simple mentor character. That's always important in TV. You have to hint that your characters are more than they appear, while not giving too much away early on. The key is to reveal just enough when needed. In my opinion, a smaller hint may have been better in the last episode, so it could be reinforced in episode two.

My other beat is the act-outs (the last scene before a set of adverts). Act-outs are meant to be suspenseful so that we tune in again after the ads. That's simply not the case here. There is no suspense in the scene. Instead, there is more of a resolution of the suspense.

For example - ah, look; a little girl who may or may not be dead. This is where the act-out should come. But instead, we spoke to the girl, and any viewer could work out that it was the other kid's sister. So we realise this, then the mum gets all suspense. Here comes the act-out. But we already know!!! Without that suspense, the viewer doesn't want to come back to the show - a very major flaw in the structure. One that even I could rectify, so what is their excuse?

Another (minor) flaw was the emergency stop in the driving test. Examiners no longer hit the dashboard (cos that's idiotic); they say "stop". Only a little thing, but would it kill people to be up-to-date?

There was a bit of comedy in there though (just a second ago as I write this) -

Luke: I freaked.
Mina: Good choice.

Simple, yet effective. More stuff like that, please.

It kinda annoys me that the evil kid keeps trying to tempt kids with "would you like to see an angel?". No, kids don't want to see an angel. They want DVDs, games, cars and possibly booze, fags and sex. It's becoming increasingly clear that this episode was written by someone....over 50...shall we say?

And does anyone else think it highly improbably that Galvin would be wearing a suit while fighting demons? Give the guy some jeans, for crying out loud!!!

I do like the music though (not the opening credits - that's awful). It creates a fair bit of suspense and adds to action. The demon was pretty well done as well - good creature effects. But he was killed way too easy! Something like a 20 second fight and that was all. For a demon who was hyped up so bloody much, he was killed pretty easily. And things were back to happy family-friendly life.

Anyway, that concludes my rant about Demons. I doubt I'll be tuning in again, and I don't expect it to last very long. But then what do I know? I mean, if my own father doesn't care to listen to my opinion or trust that I do have some knowledge in the area, then what can I expect from anyone else? Sorry people, a bit bitch, I know, but feel free to give me your shiny opinion.

Write what you know...erm.....no!

Everyone says "write what you know." I say "but that's boring."

And finally, someone else feels the same way. I'd like to draw every one's attention to ScriptXray.com

They talk about this very issue right here

And it makes very shiny reading. I recommend everyone take a look, because finally, we don't have to write about "what we know".....or do we......?

Friday, 9 January 2009

Come back with your shield, or on it.

Greece, 480BC. The Pass of Thermopylae. 300 Spartans. Led by King Leonidas, they stare death in the face. Death in the form of Persia's God-King Xerxes.

So here I am talking about the Battle of Thermopylae. For any of you who don't know off the top of your head, that's the one where 300 Spartans held their own against millions (apparently) of Persians (at the Pass of Thermopylae). Most people know about it from Frank Miller's 300.

But I already knew about it. It fascinated me since I asked my Ancient History teacher who the toughest warriors were - ever. Without hesitation, he replied "the Spartans." We asked why and he explained. It took him a whole lesson (when we should have been revising) but he jumped up and told in amazing wisdom the whole story. And we sat captivated. The politics, the motives, the bravery, the defiance, the honour, the whole Spartan way of life - all of it has thrilled me ever since.

So you can imagine my annoyance when 300 came along. It's not that the film is bad. Yes it takes a few liberties, but on the whole, it's pretty accurate. No, it's that they got there first! Damn them!

So it's impossible for me to write a film about how King Leonidas and his 300 defied the government, marched across Greece and held their ground against all odds for 6 days, all so that the rest of Greece could launch a counter attack. The Spartans knew they were going to die. They fought with their hands and teeth before being overwhelmed.

I mentioned earlier that it's the whole Spartan way of life that interests me. Take a look at 300 and at the beginning they explain some of it. You may think that they're being dramatic. "They didn't really throw babies into a pit if they sneezed," you may laugh. But they did. Age 7 and they went through the Agoge, where they really learnt to fight. It's all in the film and most of it is true.

The line "Come back with your shield or on it" was the Spartan motto, meaning - either come back victorious, or dead. Die in battle. Never surrender.

The reason the Spartans lasted for so long is simple. The Pass of Thermopylae was narrow. Wide enough to fit maybe 50 men let's say. So the Spartans wait there. Their history and training make them stronger individual warriors than the Persians. Put one Spartan against one Persian (or two for that matter) and the Spartan would walk away.

So the Spartans wait there. The Persians filter in. They bottle-neck. They can only fit 50 men in the pass. So those 50 men fight the 50 Spartans at the front line. As I've said, the Spartans are superior, so they cut the Persians down. Another 50 charge in. But it's still 50 vs 50. And the Spartans are better.

With all the men in the world, King Xerxes could only fit 50 of his men into the pass at any one time. The only thing that made the Spartans fall was fatigue. A few were killed in the battle and as they grew tired, they lost energy.

Remember that, people - if you have superior warriors but they have superior numbers; bottle-neck. It's a sound plan.

Quite a story eh? Don't believe me? Madness you say? Madness? No. THIS...IS...SPARTA!!!!!!

Sorry, it had to be done. Please forgive me.

So as I write this, I start thinking about another Spartan film I could write. Maybe one about the Agoge? I know a fair bit about it, so why not use it? But are people interested in what a seven-year-old boy goes through in ancient Sparta? I know I am. Anyone else interested in ancient history would be, but is the audience?
I could maybe tell the story of a Spartan from his childhood, through the Agoge, to joining the army, to earning a place a King Leonidas' side and setting off to Thermopylae.

Interesting. Could be an audience for it, but there might not. What do you think? A shiny idea, so a classics-geek pipe dream?

To leave you with the classic Spartan line, I say -

"Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie."

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Joss Whedon talks writing

Joss Whedon - the master behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and web series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog talks about his writing techniques here.

He also discusses what it's like to be....erm.....him. Here are a few snippets from the interview on Written By (The WGA's magazine).

What makes it [Dr. Horrible] even more delightful is that it sprung from the mind of a man who is so Internet-unsavvy, he insists, “I’m the guy who can’t find the porn.”

With my little typewriter [and] before we could delete things, every paper I wrote, I thought, 'The next sentence better be the right one, because you can’t go back.'

But TV didn’t interest Joss. He had the notion that he would be a filmmaker and loved the hell out of the film program at school. So after Wesleyan, he moved in with his father in Los Angeles. And as graduates will do, he took a job at a video store and wrote and recorded a radio musical parodying the Oliver North scandal, titled Oliver, with songs set to the melodies of the original musical. Family members, including his younger brothers, Jed and Zack, played roles. The show was played at a party, which caught the ear of a producer, who suggested that young Joss try his hand at writing a TV spec. So he did.

“When I write, I spend most of my time on my feet, and then when I know what it is I want to say, I sit down,” he explains. “I don’t like to look at a computer screen and see a placeholder line; it will make it harder for me to write.” He can also get stuck for days trying to think up a name. “I need to know who that guy is, so I need the name, and it can kill me. I’ve got this time blocked out to write, and I can’t just say Mr. X. It’s really debilitating.”

The episode [of Buffy] “Hush,” featuring 29 straight minutes without dialogue, was nominated for an Emmy and gives me nightmares every time I watch it. “Once More, With Feeling” was a musical with a perfect melding of plot and song. Whedon has never been afraid to push plots to the edge or kill his darlings but always in service of the story. I challenge anyone to watch “The Body” episode, in which Buffy loses a loved one, and remain unmoved. Of course, that requires watching the previous four and a half seasons, to catch all the nuance.

Firefly, a sci-fi show with none of the sleek sci-fi look, or any of its aliens, quickly spawned another online community of fans. They called themselves Browncoats, after the show’s rebel heroes. But the series quickly hit turbulence with the network. Fox had ordered a two-hour pilot and then decided it was too long. They stuck Firefly in a Friday timeslot, where shows go to die. They ran the episodes out of sequence, then cancelled the show without airing the final three episodes, but did run the pilot as the finale. Whedon vowed not to work for the Fox network again.

Browncoats were outraged. They tried to save the show, raising money for an ad in Variety, then starting letter-writing campaigns to other networks to pick it up. It didn’t work, but their fervor did lead Fox to release a DVD set of the entire show, with the episodes in the correct order. Sales were fantastic, reaching 200,000 in its first few months. That was enough for Universal Studios to give Whedon the okay to write and direct a Firefly film called Serenity in 2005. The fan-spurred enterprise did pretty well in combined theatrical release and DVD sales, but the numbers weren’t large enough to greenlight a hoped-for sequel.

Restaurants are his favorite places to write, “Because I love good food, as my belly will increasingly attest. And I work on a reward system. I write a line, I want a pellet. Push the button, monkey.” These days he goes to Craft, near the Fox lot, to work and eat dinner solo. “Synaptically, I can’t work at home,” he says. He and Cole have two young children, Arden and Squire. “Kai and I look at each other and then collapse on the sofa.”

Nevertheless, he is a pioneer. But can his success be replicated by others? Or is it only possible for a Joss Whedon, with his fervent fanbase, critical support, and name recognition that’s rare for a writer? Maybe, for now. But he’s got big ideas that are entirely realizable . . . when he can find the time. “I would like something to be created that isn’t beholden to the frost giants, because their need for extreme monetization is antithetical to what this needs to be,” he explains. “It needs to be small, modular, to pay off in a respectable but not hysterical fashion. I’m interested in being an Internet Roger Corman. He’s responsible for a slew of the greatest directors of the last couple decades, because he was the only B-movie system that there was. Now the whole world can be that system.”

Check out the full interview here. It's....(to quote from Firefly)....shiny.

Expensive Tastes

I've noticed a problem with my writing - I like to write expensive things. My characters are not normal. My settings are not normal. The events are not normal.

My love of shiny sci-fi has led me to conjure up quite a few futuristic worlds. I always thought my strange tastes to be a good thing, but is it?

One screenplay on the go is called Fallen - about the angel Gabriel. Hmm we're going to have Gabriel fighting Lucifer. Won't be cheap. And I'll be showing Heaven. As well as God - but it's my little secret as to what God looks like.

Valentine - a screenplay set in the 1200s I think, about a vampire slayer. There's blood, gore and lots of action - again; not that cheap.

Then there's Dead Alliance set in modern times (yay!) about vampires, with lots of action - oh, expensive?

Verona - A film set in a futuristic world.....with spaceships and insane space zombies. Crap!

Ok, so all this stuff would be no problem for Hollywood, but if a script clearly has a high budget, people will be put off from making it. So this is a pretty negative thing for me. However, I'm not going to stop writing things I love just to accommodate the economy. I just have to write some cheaper stuff first.

And then we have Chaos Lost with probably a cast of about 10 with 90% of the film set in one place with only a few guns and minimal action. Much better.

And Exile that I wrote a while ago - set in a futuristic London, with vampires, but pretty down-to-earth, with running as opposed to fighting.

They're the two to keep at methinks.

Anyway, thanks for listening to this pointless rant, but does anyone have an opinion on budget-friendly writing?

Neil.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Why I love the Vikings

The shiny Viking way of life fascinates me. It has since I heard a few tracks from a Manowar album. There's so much mythology from Viking times that talks of honour, warriors and.....violence.

The following quote describes the Berserker Rage (where we get the word "berserk" from)

His (Odin's) men rushed forward without armor, were as mad as dogs or wolves, bit their shields, and were as strong as bears or wild bulls, and killed people at a blow, but neither fire nor iron told upon themselves. (From the Ynglinga Saga).

And to quote from the Manowar track (spoken, not sung), this is The Blood of Odin. It's an amazing story. Take the time to read it as you listen to the track and you'll see the mastery - brilliant storytelling: (see below vid for lyrics)



Upon his shoulders perch two ravens, Hugin and Munin.
They circle the earth by day seeing all, at night they report to him the world's tidings.
He wears a golden helmet and a golden ring, at his side sit two wolves.
His weapons a magic sword and a spear called Gungnir, they are carved with runes.
His eight legged horse Sleipnir carries him over land, sea and air, the bringer of the valiant dead, the einherjar, from the battlefield across the rainbow bridge to Valhalla.

For a single drink of the enchanted water he paid with one eye, he was granted supreme wisdom.
He is the god of poetry, sorcery, and death.
Wounded, pierced by a spear he hung upside down for nine days.
Fasting and agony he made of himself a sacrifice to himself.
Given no bread nor mead he looked down, and with a loud cry fell screaming from the world tree.
In a flash of insight the secret magic of the runes was revealed to him.
He took up the runes and mastered them, eighteen powerful charms for protection, success in battle, lovemaking, healing and the power to bring back the dead.

His sacred blood mixed with black wind and rain wept down from the world tree deep into the earth.
He commanded the earth to crack open and to spew forth the strongest of the strong!

On this day he did bestow unto the world the sons of Odin!

The belief that if you die honourably in battle Valkyries will come down to the field and take you to Odin's Hall - Valhalla in Asgard. Amazing stuff.

If this sort of thing interests you, you have to check out some Manowar stuff. And I guarantee that one day I will write something to do with Vikings.

And speaking of, here's a trailer for upcoming film Outlander.



Plot - Vikings vs Aliens.

That's both a dream and a nightmare. It's clearly a 'what-if' fun fest. This film won't try and be a clever, sophisticated thing, but it will be fun. And the acting doesn't look too bad. John Hurt, Sophia Myles and the amazing Ron Perlman.

It is what it is - a fun-looking, visually gorgeous action dream. The worst thing you could do is approach this film expecting something on a par with Lord of the Rings. Hopefully it won't disappoint.

Goals

I thought I'd set myself some goals for the coming months and put them on here. That way, with them being publicly known, there's no incentive to reach them. So here we go a list of things I want to do by the end of each month:

FEBRUARY
  • Finish my pilot for my TV show Vision. I'm about half way through at the moment, so it should be shiny.
  • Finish the planning for Chaos Lost that I will co-write with Michelle.
MARCH
  • Finish planning feature film Fallen.
  • Write as much as possible of feature script Valentine.
  • Write more on Chaos Lost.
APRIL
  • Finish planning kids' TV show MAC: Mind Act Corporation.
  • Finish feature script Valentine.
  • Write more on Chaos Lost.
MAY
  • Finish planning feature film Dead Alliance and write as much as possible.
  • Write more on Chaos Lost.
JUNE
  • Re-write pilot for Vision.
  • Start writing Fallen.
  • Write more on Chaos Lost

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Zombie Gore

It's no surprise to anyone who knows me that I like violence. I write very graphic and brutal scenes and I like it. Does that mean that I'm going to go out with an Uzi 9mm and gun a bunch of people down? No. Just because I like violence doesn't mean I like violence. I enjoy watching a decent fight scene and on the screen, it's very dramatic and screenwriting is all about the drama. So yes, I like violence. But no, I'm not a crazy knife-sharpening psycho. Got it? Good. Moving on...

What better way to take advantage of my love of violence that through a zombie movie? Zombie movies are famously graphic. They pull no punches. Anything can go. Neck ripping, stomach eating, head pulling, eye gobbling - it's all fair game. There is one slight problem however - they are a hell of a lot of zombie movies.

The first zombie movie was one called White Zombie in the 30s if I recall. And since then, there have been hundreds of movies centred around the brain eaters. So it's pretty bloody hard to come up with an original idea.

The way I see it, there are 3 basic stories for a zombie movie.
  1. The 'However will we survive all these zombies?' movie - Basically, you have a bunch of attractive people held up somewhere (preferably a nice big, spacious area with some handy weapons and strong barricades). A f*ck-load of zombies then attack and it's a case of holding them off for as long as possible. The 'survivors' are killed off one by one until the last remaining 3 (2 men and a woman) take a last stand...and die. Pretty simple. Good examples of this sort of movie are Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead.
  2. The 'How did we get in here and how the f*ck do we get out when zombies are all over the place?' movie - A bunch of attractive people are inside a facility that is crawling with zombies. It's not so much a survival sitch as an escape scenario. They're not safe where they are, so they need to get out. Alas, when they do, they're confronted by bucket-loads of other brain-eaters. Sigh. A good example is Resident Evil.
  3. The 'We take the classic zombie structure, add a bit of humour and make it our own' movie - you have to have a bit of humour in zombie flicks to balance out the craziness. With scary (but funny-looking) critters tearing around the screen ripping out peoples' innards, you need something to balance it out. And what better way that a tongue-in-cheek approach? A satire. A parody. In today's age, where original ideas seem a thing of the past, spoofs are the thing. And since you can't copyright an idea, they're fair game. Films like Shaun of the Dead take the zombie movie structure that we all know and make it hilarious. Not a bad thing - I enjoy the film.
So there we have it - the 3 basic zombie movie plots. So why do we love them so much if the plots are so basic? Because we don't care about the story; we care about the 'leave your brain at the door or you'll get it eaten' kinda gore. See what I did there? With the brain....no....? Oh well.

I did a bit of research and found a list of the Top 10 Zombie Movies on www.zombierama.com - you gotta love the names of these sites. So here's the top 5:

5. 28 Days Later
4. Army of Darkness
3. Dawn of the Dead (1978 version)
2. Dellamorte Dellamore
1. Night of the Living Dead (1968 version)

So now I'm confronted with the dilemma - how do I write an original zombie film?

Step 1 - Who are my shiny characters? I could have a band of army guys with heavy guns, providing hours of shooting and head exploding fun. Or I could go with the everyday people that use cricket bats to bash heads in. Or I could do both....

Step 2 - What is my basic story? As mentioned above; story isn't really important. Or is it? If stories just get recycled, why not come up with an original one, like I would with any other film. Take the plot, add a few zombies and there you go - original zombie film.

Step 3 - How much is too much? You can't have a zombie film without the gore. It just doesn't work. But how much is too much? As a writer, I have the fun of showing a character's death, but leaving it to the director to decide what exactly to show. Flesh-ripping, brain-eating and head-removal are all a definite. But zombie rape (can't believe I just thought of that) is out.

Step 4 - Expectations - who will survive. You have to play on the audiences' expectations in any genre now (although the writers of soppy romantic films don't seem to have caught on) and the same goes for zombie films. As much we like to work out who will survive at the end, if we get it right, we feel cheated. A lot of zombie movies end with a few survivors finding themselves in a worse situation that before. This does two things - One, it doesn't dampen the tone of the film and two, it leaves it open for a sequel. So who will survive? Haven't a clue. Oh well.

Anyway, that brings us to the end of this mammoth post. I thought of all this while trying to get to sleep last night. Needless to say I had a dream about zombies, but it's ok; I woke up before I died. Wait for the sequel.

One last thing before I go - zombie clowns. Is there anything more terrifying?

Neil.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Reading List

While I have nothing to talk about writing-wise, I thought I'd run through some of the books I've found particularly interesting and shiny for screenwriting. Some are listed at the right-hand side of this blog, but for those who haven't noticed, here's a list.
  • "The Screenwriter's Bible" by David Trottier - a must-have. It's the first screenwriting book I bought and within two weeks, I could format a script no problem. This is one hell of paperweight and costs a fair bit, but it's invaluable for the writing gig. If you're just starting out, it runs through complete formatting and if you're more experienced, it covers loads of stuff about characters, dialogue, story, action and the writing game (getting an agent). It's more of a reference tool. If you can't remember how to format a montage for example, you can just look it up in here, no problem. It also has a lot of exercises and tips on how to improve your writing.
  • "Crafty Screenwriting" by Alex Epstein - an excellent book showing an insight into the world of feature writing. assuming you can format correctly, this book has most of the things you need. It's quite cheap for what it is and has loads and loads of tips for you writing.
  • "Crafty TV Writing" by Alex Epstein - the TV version of the above book. This is an excellent how-to guide when it comes to TV writing, with examples from loads of hit shows. Epstein talks about creating shows, specing pilots, getting a TV agent, working in the writers' room and a lot more. Easily one of the best TV books out there.
  • "The Creative Writing Coursebook" - a great book if you're working in any line of fiction writing, not just for screen. It has input from 40 authors, who each give a chapter on different topics. It has a lot of activities and exercises on how to write great fiction.
  • "The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference" - a resource book that's a must-have for anyone wanting to write any fiction about a fantasy world, or even something historical. What did they wear in the middle ages? What weapons did they use in the dark ages? Where do elves come from? What punishment was used for witches? Why was stretching such a popular form of punishment? It's all in here.
  • "Rewrite" by Paul Chitlik - "Writing is in the rewrite", that's what they say. And it's true. This book is a how-to guide on how to take your first,. second, third, or 50th draft and make it a killer script.
That's all I have at the moment, but if anyone has any other good books on fiction or screenwriting, please feel free to let me know and I'll add them up ASAP.

Happy writing,
Neil.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Work Station

Am I the only person who seems to want a bad back when I'm writing? I just can't seem to write at a desk or anything. All my stuff is done on my laptop, sitting the bed. And I have to be listening to decent music - loud. Otherwise I can't concentrate. That applies to everything. I can't write essays in silence or drive in silence either. So that makes exams bloody annoying!

This is my shiny work station of choice at the moment.

As you can see, there's not much room for me to sit and I'm always hunched over, which doesn't help my bad back. Oh well. I'm hoping it's not just me, but maybe it is. Anyone else sit like this?

Friday, 2 January 2009

Inspiration

I thought I'd go through some of my shiny inspiration when it comes to writing. It's a good thing to have writers/films/TV shows/books in mind when you're writing. But there's a fine line between inspiration and rip-off.

Joss Whedon
It'll come as no surprise to you to learn that Joss Whedon is my biggest writing influence. It's because of his I got into it in the first place. The first fiction I wrote was fan fiction for Angel. Then I realised that it was pointless because it wasn't mine.

I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the 90s then caught Angel when that hit the screens. The shows had everything I wanted from TV - action, supernatural, comedy, horror and much, much more.

As far as I'm concerned, Joss can do no wrong. I haven't watched/read anything from him that has disappointed. The guy has incredible range - TV, film, comics, songwriting, musicals. Pure genius.

What Joss Whedon does that I love more than anything else, is subvert our expectations. The very first episode of Buffy shows a 'helpless' woman with a tough bloke. We know something bad is going to happen. They hear noises, so we think something is going to get them both. Then there's the predictable possibility that the bloke is the danger. But...wait.....it's the 'helpless' woman - Darla. She vamps-out and eats the bastard. And the tone for the show is set.

From that moment, Joss went on to subvert everything. He had a small, blond teenager kicking the hell out of vampires on a regular basis. There was a girl who was a timid little geek at the beginning who ended up skinning a guy alive and nearly destroying the world. Another character who was a friendly soul-having vampire who turned evil, killed some folk, then turned friendly again, then evil again, then friendly again....hmm...I think.

Another vampire who appeared intent on killing little Buffy but ended up falling in love with her and dying to save the world....twice.

A nerdy librarian who - 5 seasons later - killed a man for the 'greater good'. Another geeky watcher who went from ponce to bad-ass, shotgun-wielding 'rogue demon hunter'.

In short, Joss subverts and shows change. TV is all about change in characters. You have so much more time to work with on a TV show than on a movie. And that time is used to change your characters.

However, as the great Rupert Giles said -
"In the end, we all are who we are, no matter how much we may appear to have changed."

I Am Legend (Richard Matheson)
This is probably the first adult vampire book I read. Written in the 50s, set in the 70s about a world where vampires have taken over, this book has influenced a great deal of other fiction. It's the 'man against the world' idea. Loads of horror books have had vampires in them, but it's usually one or two vampires in the human world. I Am Legend is about a man all alone in a world full of vampires.

It has been the influence for quite a few films, including the Omega Man, 28 Days Later and of course - I Am Legend. It was the influence for the first screenplay I wrote about 8 months ago - Exile.

I really love this book. No matter how many times I read it, I'm always on the edge of my seat. Matheson creates a great atmosphere in such a short novel and it works brilliantly.

Jurassic Park
The first film I remember going to see at the cinema. Think I was about 5 or something and it scared the shite out of me. From that day, I wanted to be an archaeologist. That dream lasted for at least 6 years, until I realised that dinosaurs were not going to come alive. Sigh.

The film itself is a masterpiece. The opening shows a velociraptor killing the gatekeeper. But not really. We don't see the raptor apart from its eyes. And it's like that throughout. The first time we see a raptor for real, it's a baby. Alan Grant is terrified of raptors. We hear their killing method (foreshadowing for a later incident) and just how dangerous they are. Then we see them feeding, but we don't see them. The tension builds up until we really see them - in that amazing kitchen scene.

That was the moment for me. I was terrified! We had all this info about the raptors - 50 or 60mph in the open, eating you alive, six-inch claws, very smart, lethal. So in that kitchen, we really feel for those kids.

I could rant about Jurassic Park for hours, but I'll leave it there, because this post is already a bloody essay!

Terminator
Let's see, I watched The Terminator when I was 7. Did I really understand what was going on? No. But I did learn 3 things about the world -
  1. Time travel is confusing and potentially world-destroying.
  2. Machines are hard workers - "It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead"
  3. And ripping out someone's heart is cool!!!
Terminator 2 is one of the greatest action films ever made. Whoever said that the perfect action film was 90 minutes long, hadn't seen T2. At a hefty 2 hours 20 minutes, it's non-stop action throughout, with amazing stunts, explosions and fear. Easily one of the best films ever made. Sadly Terminator 3 fell short.....oh and it just happened not to be written and directed by James Cameron. What a coincidence.

But Terminator: Salvation looks good, with Christian Bale playing John Connor (the 7th actor to portray him - at least), set in the futuristic world we were teased with throughout the other three films and the great TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

So that's a run down of some of my biggest inspirations. It's a good idea to think about what inspires you and have them in mind when you're writing.

Neil.