Friday, 30 April 2010

Coming up on Monday...

On Monday, I'm putting a blog post out on act-outs. A snippet:
For those who don't know, an "act-out" or "act-break" is simply that moment before the adverts in an episode of television. It has to make you want to keep watching while all those shiny products are advertised. Writers of TV are aware of the adverts and consequently adapt their writing to the time constraints. So they're very important.
I'll be going through almost all of my TV DVDs and making notes of the act-outs to see how they work etc. Monday will see Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 3; Buffy is a great example to use because the supernatural/action genre has textbook act-outs to learn from - very useful! It's extremely easy for me now because I've watched all of Buffy, Angel and Firefly about 10 times over!

Then on Wednesday, I'll do a quick analysis of how they work and why. Then it's on to Buffy season 4 and Angel season 1 (when I've finished my latest viewing)

Watch this space!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

4 songs for the election

WARNING - very strong, anti-oppression language ahead, and general anarchy! You have been warned.....

With that whole political election thingy imminent, I believe there are 4 songs you need to get you through:

The Sex Pistols - Anarchy in the UK
"I wanna be an anarchist!"

Goes without saying! I believe there's already a campaign going on facebook to make this number 1 during election week.

The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again
"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

Does anything ever change?

Rage Against the Machine - Killing in the Name Of
"Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!"

Because life would be boring if everyone did what they were told!

Metallica - So What? (original by The Anti-Nowhere League)
Who cares, who cares what you do?

To all those politicians who boast about their achievements - so what?

So now you know how to get through the election - repeat the above until you're all warm inside. Laters!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Great Screen Moments - The Terminator

Come with me if you want to live!

Written by: James cameron

Monday, 19 April 2010

Child decisions

I'm not a huge fan of Harry Potter, but I found the latest movie rather enjoyable, apart from the instances where it's obvious JK Rowling doesn't know how teenage boys behave - I stand firm that the series would be 10x better had the protagonist been female. Anyway, I thought I'd share this particular scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:
Dumbledore steps back, ponders the basin. Notes the CRYSTAL GOBLET
sitting beside it. Smiles ruefully.

It has to be drunk. (as Harry reacts)
You remember the condition on
which I brought you with me?
Harry starts to respond. Stops. Nods.

This potion might paralyze me. It
might cause me to forget why I'm
here. It might create so much
pain I beg for relief. You are
not to indulge these requests,
Harry. It is your job to make
sure I keep drinking this potion
even if you have to force it down
my throat. Understood?
Why can't I drink it, sir?

Because I am much older, much
cleverer... and much less
(taking the goblet)
Your good health, Harry.

Dumbledore dips the goblet into the gleaming liquid and brings
it to his lips. Drinks deep. Closes his eyes.

Dumbledore shakes his head, silencing Harry, then dips the
goblet once more. Twice more he drinks. His hand TREMBLES
and he grips the side of the basin.

Professor? Can you hear me?

Dumbledore says nothing. The corners of his eyes TWITCH.
His hand TREMBLES, savagely this time, and he nearly drops
the goblet. Harry reaches out, steadies his hand.
Don't... don't make me...

Harry eyes Dumbledore's anguished face, steels himself.

You... you can't stop, Professor.
You've got to keep drinking. Like
you said. Remember.

Harry staggers back, so primal is Dumbledore's plea.
Dumbledore's arm goes slack, the goblet clanging dully
against the side of the basin. Harry takes a breath, steps
forward, places his hand over Dumbledore's, lifts the cup.

Make it stop... Please... make it

It will, sir. It'll stop. But
only if you drink...

Harry, his own hand TREMBLING now, tips the goblet over
Dumbledore's lips.

My fault. It's all my fault...

Harry brings the goblet up once more. Dumbledore drinks.

Too much... I can't... take it...
I want... to die... kill... kill

Your word, Harry! Your word!



Harry stands paralyzed, unsure what to do. Then...

Dumbledore collapses, rolls onto his back. Harry pelts
forward, dips the goblet into the basin and kneels by

One more. Just one more. And
then -- I promise... I'll do what
you say.

Dumbledore, jaw clinched shut, eyes Harry.
I promise.

Dumbledore's jaw relaxes and Harry pries open his mouth,
tips the liquid down his throat. Pain ripples through
Dumbledore's face. He tries to speak, Harry eyeing him
with trepidation, fearful of what he will request.
Again and again Dumbledore struggles and then...
his Find Harry.

A shudder of relief goes through Harry.

Rather impressive, no? The key to this scene is that the tension builds and builds to the climactic ending when Harry must force Dumbledore to drink. Had this not been the case, there'd have been no reason for Mr Potter to go cave-dwelling at all!

That's the problem with having a child protagonist - you have to make sure they aren't just along for the ride - they have to make decisions, they have to act, they have to be the protagonist.

For example, the above scene could have been written with Dumbledore forcing himself to drink from the goblet, leaving Harry to watch on in awe. That would render Harry a passive - and consequently pointless - character.

In broader terms, take a look at the story of Harry Potter on the whole - the boy makes a conscious decision to enter this magical world. Yes, he is taken there by Hagrid, but it's ultimately his decision. Just like the decision to walk through the wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia. Or Lyra's decision to get involved in events in Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Or little Kevin, whose own beha viour and charatcer is what results in him being left home alone.

All these child characters act, as opposed to being passive protagonists who are merely acted upon. You have to make sure your character is one of those kinds - they make decisions!
So I might not like a lot about JK Rowling, but she definitely understands that a character has to act, rather than take a back seat. That said, take a look at this fight scene from The Order of the Phoenix - is Harry making decisions here? Is he acting? Is he the protagonist? Does it matter if he's not in this one moment? You be the judge.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Arnie quotes

Arnold Schwarzenegger may not be everyone's up of tea. You may think some of his movies are crap (they are), you may think he's not the best actor in the world (he's not) and you may think he ain't the smartest chap on the planet (he isn't). But my love of Arnie began when I was about 7 and I saw The Terminator - I was terrified of this giant foreign monster, an unstoppable force killing his way to the savior of mankind!

Now one of my friends hates the guy - but this is the lady who's never seen The Terminator! Or Terminator 2! Seriously! I know!!!!

Something I really admire about Arnie is his determination. He set out to be a bodybuilder (he was a pretty small kid at age 15 but by 22 he was Mr Universe). He conquered the bodybuilding world and then set his sights on something else - to be the greatest action star. He achieved it! The day of the action star is long dead now (if you ask me, it died round about the time Arnie did Terminator 3 and Willis made Die Hard 4).

He has a brilliant (and sometimes scary) determination and self-motivation. He finished the action world having conquered it and set his sights on politics. I have no doubt he won't quit until he becomes president, even if that is currently impossible (what with him not being American born). We shall see.....

Anyway, on a monthly basis I like to throw myself into a few Arnie quotes because some are pretty inspiring. Enjoy:

Everything I have, my career, my success, my family, I owe to America.

Failure is not an option. Everyone has to succeed.

For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.

I didn't leave bodybuilding until I felt that I had gone as far as I could go. It will be the same with my film career. When I feel the time is right, I will then consider public service.

I have a love interest in every one of my films - a gun.

I knew I was a winner back in the late sixties. I knew I was destined for great things. People will say that kind of thinking is totally immodest. I agree. Modesty is not a word that applies to me in any way - I hope it never will.

Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn't matter.

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.

Just to finish things off, let's have another look at some of the best Arnie quotes from the movies:

"I did nothing! The pavement was his enemy!"

Monday, 12 April 2010

We're in need of....

...a new decent horror movie with a dentist who tortures people for a living.

I had a big old tooth taken out this morning (I'd chipped it or something!). It wasn't the nicest experience ever! I sat there with metal pliers in my mouth while listening to Muse on the radio. I'm now popping pills every two hours cos this shit hurts! Seriously!

Anyway, that's all. Not sure why I bothered posting, actually. Oh well.....

Friday, 9 April 2010

Great Screen Moments - Angel

They're looking at the wee little puppet man.

Episode - 'Smile Time'
Written by: Ben Edlund (story by Joss Whedon & Ben Edlund)

Monday, 5 April 2010

Supernatural opening

I started my serious research into TV pilot writing about two months ago, in readiness to scribe my own episode 1 script. This involved downloading and reading as many pilots as possible, preferably ones that don't take the old-school route of 90 minutes, but instead give us a pilot that is exactly the same length of a standard episode.

Among by research, I read the pilot for Supernatural, which is a particular fav of mine. The opening does what a lot of pilot openings do - throws you into a prologue to explain how we got to where we're going to spend the series. It's brilliantly written and does an amazing job of grabbing your attention - have a read and see how we are teased as to what the hell is going on! Also, feel the tension as you get the urge to read faster and faster......

(Please excuse the crude formatting - the text didn't translate right from PDF)
Trivia: In the pilot episode, Sam and Dean's dad is referred to as Jack, whereas in the show itself, he goes by John. Also - as you'll notice - their last name is Harrison, not Winchester. Not a big thing, but I think we all know Winchester is cooler!




A small town American HOME on a small town American street. We DRIFT UP towards a warm, lighted yellow WINDOW, on the second floor. As we float closer, we spy inside... a WOMAN. Standing beside a crib. She holds a TODDLER.

When, suddenly... the window GLASS SHIMMERS. RIPPLES, as if it were liquid. Just for a moment. Blink and you miss it.


INSIDE THE CRIB. An INFANT BOY, a few months old. SAM.
MARY HARRISON, late 20’s, gently beautiful in a genuine, maternal way. She leans her 3-year-old son DEAN over the crib’s edge. Dean kisses the baby’s forehead.

‘Night, Sammy.

Now Mary leans over, kisses Sam.

Goodnight, love.

Mary carries Dean to the doorway, where her husband JACK HARRISON, 30, waits. Jack flips off the lights.

Sam. You sleep through the night,and you can have Dean’s room.

Jack leaves the door open a crack.

On Sam. Beat.

Then... the FISHER-PRICE MOBILE, above his crib, begins to spin, silent, of its own accord.

On the dresser. A TEDDY BEAR CLOCK TICKS, soothing. But then it abruptly stops. Frozen.

A Casper the Friendly Ghost NIGHTLIGHT flickers...


A BABY MONITOR, on a nightstand. (We also see Jack and Mary’s WEDDING PHOTO-- he’s wearing naval whites.) The baby’s PIERCING CRIES, through the monitor receiver.

Mary groans awake. Looks over. Jack isn’t in bed. Still
the baby bawls.


Mary shuffles down the hall. Opens the nursery door, peers in. Pitch-black inside. But Mary discerns a FIGURE hunched over the crib.

Jack? Is he hungry?


Mary holds up her hands-- okay, sorry. She turns away. But when she reaches her bedroom door, she stops. Noticing--

At the other end of the hall... the stairwell. A pale,
dancing, ghostly light. Coming from downstairs. Mary frowns. What the hell?

She moves toward the shimmering glow. Cautious. At the stairs now. Bare feet padding down the steps. Until, finally, Mary reaches the bottom, to see--


Jack. Asleep in his La-Z-Boy. An old movie on the muted TV.

Oh my God.

Mary spins, BOLTS up the steps!


Mary BURSTS into the nursery, flips on the light. And whatever she sees O.S., it causes the color to drain from her face; her breath to come in short, panicked bursts.

(a whisper)...get away from him...


Coming from upstairs, Mary’s terrible, ragged SCREAMING! Jack LUNGES out of his chair--


As Jack takes the steps two at a time, Mary’s screaming abruptly snuffs out.


Jack explodes into the nursery. Mary’s not there. He moves up to the crib. The baby’s okay, thank God, though he’s bawling, inconsolable. Jack holds Sam, confounded--


Jack is about to exit the room, to search for his wife, when
he stops. Sensing something. He turns back, noticing--

INSIDE THE CRIB. Plink. A dime of crimson red appears on the Sesame Street mattress. Plink. Then another. Another. They’re drops. Drops coming from above.

Jack looks up at the ceiling. His face twists into equal parts anguish and terror.

JACK my God no...

ON THE CEILING. MARY. Impossibly splayed out, as if it were the floor. Eyes wide open, glassy. Dead.

Jack barely has time to react, before...

Sizzling. BLACK LINES, BURNING THEMSELVES into the wall. Spiderwebbing. Some horizontal, some vertical. At first, we don’t realize what it is. But then it takes shape.

A message. Branded into the wall, in charcoal black letters four feet high--


The message smolders and IGNITES. Flames curl the wallpaper.
Spreading fast. A smoke alarm BLARES, piercing.

Outside, in the hallway, Dean begins to push open the nursery door, crying, terrified.

Mommy?! Daddy?!

Snapping to lucidity, Jack carries baby Sam out of the room. Snatches up Dean with his other arm, before the boy enters.

No, Dean. Don’t look, okay? We gotta go.

Jack darts quickly for the stairs.

Out the front door.



An angry BLAZE. Firetrucks. In a few hours, when they
finally extinguish the flames, there won’t be much left. Jack. Across the street. Holding, comforting his two sons.

TIGHTER. Jack. Watching the house burn. Fire illuminating his expression, reflecting in his eyes.

His jaw sets in pain and FURY--



Great stuff. There are a lot of things I love about the writing in here. The first is obviously the massively tense situation. Mary's realisation that the man in her son's room is not her husband - it still sends a shiver down my spine!

Probably unusually, I also love the description of Mary walking down the stairs before that moment:

Bare feet padding down the steps.

The use of "padding" is what does it - creates a sense of drawn out, slow movement - every step taking forever. When we want to hurry up and find out what's going on, we're not allowed. It also serves to emphasise the change in pace when Mary turns and runs back up the stairs.

I also love:

Jack explodes into the nursery.

A great moment that makes perfect sense. You instantly switch POV from Mary to John Jack.

And finally, the last image we are left with - a beautiful shot of a broken man pointlessly comforting his two sons:

Jack. Across the street. Holding, comforting his two sons.

TIGHTER. Jack. Watching the house burn. Fire illuminating his expression, reflecting in his eyes.

His jaw sets in pain and FURY--

I'm not sure if this is my favourite pilot opening or not, but it's definitely close. Buffy had a smashing one, perfectly capturing the show's tone and playing on our expectations. Angel did the same, providing several "Whoa! That's awesome!" moments. Either way, I love Supernatural's opening and the show on the whole.

What say you? What's your favourite TV show opening?

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Best Kick-Ass trailer ever!!!

I went to see this last night and it blew me away! Best film of 2010 so far and amazingly awesome - not for the kids at all and personally I think it should have an 18 rating (not a 15).

Warning: very strong language ahead...........

Next year's Oscar-winning movie

We take a break out of our usual programming to bring you the trailer for the movie I guarantee will win the next Best Picture Oscar!