Thursday, 30 September 2010

Copyright essay

Most of the things universities get you to read are boring. They are, however, vital to the course. So you end up reading them in the end. Occasionally they are pretty interesting. Like this one from my Writing MA on copyright.

It's hard going, fairly long, so I recommend you sit down with a coffee and some heavy metal before diving in. Here are a few of the highlights if, like me, you're far too lazy busy to read it all:

Appropriation has always played a key role in Dylan's music. The songwriter has grabbed not only from a panoply of vintage Hollywood films but from Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Junichi Saga's Confessions of a Yakuza. He also nabbed the title of Eric Lott's study of minstrelsy for his 2001 album Love and Theft.

One imagines Dylan liked the general resonance of the title, in which emotional misdemeanors stalk the sweetness of love, as they do so often in Dylan's songs. Lott's title is, of course, itself a riff on Leslie Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel, which famously identifies the literary motif of the interdependence of a white man and a dark man, like Huck and Jim or Ishmael and Queequeg—a series of nested references to Dylan's own appropriating, minstrel-boy self.

Dylan's art offers a paradox: while it famously urges us not to look back, it also encodes a knowledge of past sources that might otherwise have little home in contemporary culture, like the Civil War poetry of the Confederate bard Henry Timrod, resuscitated in lyrics on Dylan's newest record, Modern Times. Dylan's originality and his appropriations are as one.


In a courtroom scene from The Simpsons that has since entered into the television canon, an argument over the ownership of the animated characters Itchy and Scratchy rapidly escalates into an existential debate on the very nature of cartoons. “Animation is built on plagiarism!” declares the show's hot-tempered cartoon-producer-within-a-cartoon, Roger Meyers Jr. “You take away our right to steal ideas, where are they going to come from?”


At the movies, my entertainment is sometimes lately preceded by a dire trailer, produced by the lobbying group called the Motion Picture Association of America, in which the purchasing of a bootleg copy of a Hollywood film is compared to the theft of a car or a handbag—and, as the bullying supertitles remind us, “You wouldn't steal a handbag!”

This conflation forms an incitement to quit thinking. If I were to tell you that pirating DVDs or downloading music is in no way different from loaning a friend a book, my own arguments would be as ethically bankrupt as the MPAA's. The truth lies somewhere in the vast gray area between these two overstated positions. For a car or a handbag, once stolen, no longer is available to its owner, while the appropriation of an article of “intellectual property” leaves the original untouched.

As Jefferson wrote, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

Read the full article.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Birthday and Burton

It's my birthday today - yay! Don't worry, I'm not sad enough to do a blog post on my actual birthday - wrote this yesterday. Or today, depending how you look at it.

Hopefully I'll get lots of goodies, but something tells me I won't be getting that Flux Capacitor I need to finish off my DeLorean time machine. Oh well, one day.....

What I'm really counting on is a little cash to go towards the Les Paul I'm going to buy. It's an Epiphone btw, not a Gibson - they're essentially the same instrument. Ok, a Gibson would last longer if you chucked it down the stairs, but I'm not that rock n roll! And with the Gibson being about £1000 more than the Epiphone, it's no contest! This is how most of these conversations go:

October 2010....
Dude in Shop: Greetings!
Me: Howdy. I'm after an Epi Paul.
Dude in Shop: An Epiphone Les Paul eh? You don't want the real thing?
Me: Nah, five hundred quid's my limit. Besides, they're basically the same thing.
Dude in Shop: Ah, very well. (under his breath) Cheap fucker!

October 2030...20 years later...after winning the lottery....
Duder in Shop: Greetings!
Me: still work here, dude?
Duder in Shop: Nah man, I'm Dude in Shop's third son - Duder in Shop - note the "R".
Me: Ah, I see. My mistake. So........I'm after a Les Paul
Duder in Shop: An Epiphone? Cos they've come along leaps and bound since the government stopped putting tracking bugs in them. Of course, I'm not legally allowed to sell you such an instrument since the Rock n Roll outlaw of twenty-three. I can, however, show you a wide variety of triangles?
Me: No no no. What I'm looking for is a Gibson Les Paul.
Duder in Shop: A Gibson?! I'd really recommend an Epiphone - they're half the price and basically the same instrument.
Me: Same instrument?! Nonsense! I'll be taking the real thing, thank you very much! I mean, what am I to do when Prime Minister Cowell comes knocking at my door late one evening because he heard "Won't Get Fooled Again" blasting from my house? Attack with my Gibson, that's what! There's certainly no way an Epiphone would withstand such a beating!
Duder in Shop: Right you are, son, right you are. A Gibson it is. And since you're spending so much money here, we'll throw in a "Government Communications Static Scrambler" free of charge.
Me: That's mightily grand of you, sir! Ta very much. You.....erm.....don't have any Flux Capacitors do you?
Duder in Shop: I don't think so. But I'll check with my future self.
Me: Cheers.

Yes, my views of the future are pretty much standard - the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. And rock n roll has been outlawed by Simon Cowell.

Anyway, today also marks the death of Cliff Burton, who was killed in a coach crash exactly two years before I was born. No-one could make a bass guitar scream quite like Cliff. And if I headbanged like him, I'd have a constant headache!

So here's a little tribute:

Oh, one last thing - last week, a guy on my street (whose last name just happens to be Burton) turned 98. Yep, 98! And he can still do a Sudoku faster than anyone I know. Now that's sticking it to the man!

Later folks!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

A snippet of Three

Why not take a quick look at the showreel of Darren S Cook (director of Three) for a few snippets of my short film (featured at 4 mins 13 seconds):

And while you're at it, check out the trailer for Darren's upcoming feature Sure Fire Hit:
Kam is in her thirties and from the suburbs nearing her well earned if somewhat early retirement. She is asked by her boss to train up a replacement before she leaves. Only trouble is, her replacement seems to have an agenda of her own.

Exciting, no?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Three nominated, BSSC, and three more shorts

So, a few people will know - Three was nominated for Best Comedy in the Portobello Film Festival yesterday (Sunday). I couldn't make it down to the ceremony, but the team were there in force.

Unfortunately, we didn't win. And while it would have been amazing if we had, it's far from the end of the world: the film got a nomination at a major festival - that's fairly shiny in itself! And it'll be entered into many a-more fest in the coming months.

In other news, my script Survival of the Fittest made it through to the first round of the British Short Screenplay Competition. I think this is certainly some of my best writing, which is why I entered into into the comp rather than tried to get it produced. Worse case scenario - I don't win and I have another short to link with a director.

In other news, a short film I had a hand in has recently been filmed. I came up with the concept for Drowning as a way of demonstrating the power of music. It sounds corny as hell, I know, but the idea went through a lot of changes etc with director Juliane Block. In the end, the story and idea are mine and Juliane's, with the script itself penned by co-director Virginia Kennedy.

The film also has a good song in it, lyrics being written by my friend Chloe Louise Patrick and myself (ok, just one verse from me). It was originally written as a poem and, me being shite at poetry, I called on Chloe to give me a hand. And the whole thing came out shiny!

Also, since meeting up with the crew of Three a few weeks ago, I've been working on another short script. It was originally going to be a bit of fun, a military action piece to suit Airsoft (which these guys play all the time!) But the ideas started flowing and I'm now working on a script I think I'll soon be very proud of. It's called Disposable Heroes and it's about....well....disposable heroes.

And finally, I have been working with director Scott Murden, rewriting a script I penned about a year ago, another comedy, since Three went down so well (but not that well - I'm looking at you Portobello!):
Would You Kill For Her?
Patiently waiting for his girlfriend to get ready, Jim finds himself at the interrogative mercy of a protective relative. Dads and brothers move over - little sisters will stop at nothing to get the truth!
Filming is aimed for around November time to enter into festivals next year. And it was this film that made me want to work with him - short, to the point and thought-provoking (everything a good short should be):

So it's all good on the short film front - now I just need to knuckle down with this Masters and get a decent feature penned.

So......what's new with you?

Friday, 17 September 2010


I'm a big fan of the X-Force comics at the moment. Not big enough to buy every issue as they come out, but big enough to buy every graphic novel (that's a series of individual issues collected in each volume, for those who don't know) ASAP.

If you like very dark storylines and extreme violence, they're definitely worth checking out. And you don't have to have a Mutant degree to get into them. Essentially, all you need to know is that the X-Men are the public mutant face. But there are some jobs that require.....under the table solutions.

X-Force are the badass mutants who handle the wetwork, "terminating" threats before anyone even finds out about them. The general public and the other X-Men can never know. So naturally, the team is led by good old Wolverine, who is probably at his darkest here.

By far the most compelling element to the story is the grey area each mission inhabits. "For the greater good" often comes to mind.

Anyway, loving the run they're doing at the moment. And the upcoming Uncanny X-Force gets me all giddy with excitement:
After Cyclops disbands Wolverine's black-ops group, Logan assembles a brand new team to face a deadly new threat.
Why so excited? Because Wolverine seems to have recruited Archangel, Psylocke and.....wait for it.....only fucking Deadpool! All in one team, doing very violent-y things! Yes, I am super excited. Check out the trailer:

So, anyone else interested?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

If you could write anything....

....what would you write?

I got into writing because of Mr Joss Whedon. I'm not going to say I acted out almost every episode of Buffy and Angel back in the day, but after watching an episode I could never stop thinking how awesome it would be to inhabit that world. To be Angel, or Spike, or Riley, hell, even Xander! But since that's impossible, the next best thing is to write it, yeah?

That's my general thinking on writing - would I like to be in this world, to hang out with these characters? If not, then I've failed.

The first bit of fiction I ever wrote was after Angel finished. I heard that the series was going to continue in comic book form, which pissed me off since the show ended on such an amazing note and I felt I knew what was going to happen - Angel, Spike, Illyria and Gunn (mortally wounded) were facing down an army of demons, with a giant and a dragon thrown into the mix. They die. It's that simple - Angel goes out on a battlecry with the message "always keep fighting", but they lose that battle. They all die! But the point is, they fight.

I can't help but quote Angel himself:
This isn't a "keep fighting the good fight" kind of deal. Let's be clear. I'm talking about killing every... single... member... of the Black Thorn. We don't walk away from that.
We do this, the senior partners will rain their full wrath. They'll make an example of us. I'm talking full-on hell, not the basic fire-and-brimstone kind that we're used to.
Ten to one, we're gone when the smoke clears. They will do everything in their power to destroy us. So... I need you to be sure. Power endures. We can't bring down the Senior Partners, but for one bright shiny moment we can show them that they don't own us. You need to decide for yourselves if that's worth dying for. I can't order you to do this. Can't do it without you. So we'll vote... as a team. Think about what I'm asking you to do. Think about what I'm asking you to give.
But I digress. I decided to try my hand at writing a Spike spin-off thingy. It was in prose form and absolutely terrible! And I mean seriously shite! But the one thing that was good was how I wrote Spike - I'd known the character for about 7 years so that meant I was able to write him easily.

This was, of course, before I decided writing was something I wanted to do as a career. Back then it was all a bit of fun - I wrote whatever I wanted to write. And it was crap.

I wrote a TV episode. It was for Firefly. Now Firefly was loooong dead by this point - it was never going to happen. But it was great fun. I believe my episode was about Jayne being left behind on a planet (the crew of Serenity didn't notice until they were miles away, naturally). So the decision was - do we go back and get Jayne? It it was Kaylee or Mal left behind, hell yeah. But Jayne? Really?

Anyway, the episode was, as previously mentioned, poo. But, again, I managed to nail the voices of the characters, because I knew them so well.

So if I could write for any TV shows past, present or future, it would definitely be Buffy, Angel and Firefly (there's a whole Joss Whedon theme here, you may notice). Notably not Dollhouse. Sorry, Joss.

But when push comes to shove, if there's any set of characters I could write for - what would be my absolute dream - it would be the X-Men.

X-Men is still one of the finest pieces of fiction ever conceived. I started reading them at school, grabbing whatever issues were lying around. I didn't understand it all, because if you pick up a random X-Men issue now, you'll need a Masters degree in Mutant Ethics to have the slightest clue what's going on.

But these characters are the core of what makes it great. The constant tension between Wolverine and Cyclops and the love triangle with Jean Grey. Beast's ongoing internal struggle with the creature within. Colossus' connections with his old family. Emma Frost's constant questionable allegiances. This is what makes X-Men. That, combined with the brilliant moral, ethical and political "mutant problem", make it amazing to read.

I could quite comfortably sit for an entire year and write nothing but X-Men. Unlike Hellblazer, where I would probably find myself repeating what's gone before, X-Men still has stories yet to be told.

For example, if I were to create a live-action X-Men TV show (my undying dream), I would remove Wolverine. Don't get me wrong, Logan is amazing and possibly my favourite mutant, but he's been done to death now - everyone knows who he is and what he's all about. At most, he would pop in every now and then, fuck things up, and piss off. In classic Wolvie fashion.

No, my X-Men team would quite simply consist of Cyclops (the classic, core, father-figure of the group - if it ain't broke, don't fix it), Colossus (who would do a lot more than just stand there and hit things - thank you, Mr Brett Ratner!), Shadowcat (for her awesome relationship with Colossus), Beast (as a solitary quiet type, a mere shadow of his former self) and Psylocke (because every team needs a psychic). That's where I stand. And, no, I would not throw Gambit in there just to please fanboys!

Anyway, that would be my dream - to write the X-Men, either on TV (preferably), film or comic book. Now, there's very very little chance this will ever happen, but I can't see X-Men ever dying. So it'll be around for a long long while. Whether it'll get better or worse is anyone's guess - probably both. I'm not holding my breath, but maybe, just maybe, I'll one day have the opportunity to write the X-Men. And then I can die a very happy dude!

So, what about you? If you could write any set of characters, who would it be? Friends, Cheers, Lost, 24, James Bond, The Avengers, Spider-Man, Dr Who, Harry Potter?

Let me know.

Over and out.

PS: if you've never read a comic book before in your life, just watching this video and you might change your mind......

Thursday, 9 September 2010

London & Portobello

I hopped on a train to London yesterday to see Three in the Portobello Film Festival. I don't know if we won; I don't even know what we win if we win. Not the foggiest.

Anyway, I pottered round Oxford Street for an hour and mistook a young bald man for Patrick Stewart - don't worry, I didn't say anything. Though, had I decided to, the exchange would most likely have gone like this:

Me: Greetings, sir. Looking to produce any short films?
Sir Patrick Stewart: I was Professor Charles Xavier. I played every single role in Dicken's A Christmas Carol. I was Captain Ahab. I was Claudius in Hamlet! I was the Captain of the Starship fucking Enterprise for christ's sake! Who the hell are you?!
Me: ........your new best friend.....?
*Mr Stewart walks away, leaving me unconscious in a pile of my own self-hatred*

Anyway, that didn't happen. So on to more interesting matters.

I met up with Mr Ty Jon Knowles (fellow writer and worked as production assistant on Three). One fellow (who will remain nameless) later may or may not have been eyed up by a prostitute in a trenchcoat (if the police ask, I'm a writer, ergo - antisocial, ergo - didn't see a thing).

I then spent the night shaking hands with a bunch of people I'd never met before - and what fine people they were - directors, producers, actors, cinematographers, armourers (they're the dudes with the guns. Note: don't say "Hey, you're the gun guy!" too loud in a bar. Turns heads. Wrong heads!), a few rather hot beautifully talented actresses as well.

I also had a few drinks bought for me, which is always appreciated at London prices. I'm sure the first Jack Daniels I had was half the price of the fourth.....

I was interviewed by a friend of a friend of a friend of a.........hmm.....I was interviewed by a lovely lady called Jo (I certainly hope that is her name - that part of the night is a little fuzzy. I'm almost certain it is. I think). Yes, so I was interviewed for a website - for the life of me I can't remember what website that was, but sure I'll find out.

We then settled down to watch Three on the big screen. I say big, but problem was, the projector wasn't close enough to the screen, so the opening title went from "THREE" to "HRE". But never mind, it just meant we missed off some of Mr Tony C's face in some of the shots. Which isn't the end of anyone's world.

Plenty of people laughed at the right moments (but that was mostly our gang to be fair) and also laughed at the wrong moments (again, us!). But it seemed to go down well and it was amazing to see the final thing on the big (slightly cut-off) screen. We did cheer an awful lot! Which is more than the film before ours got, since no-one turned up to see it. Just as well, since their DVD chocked and died before they could play it.

So after a few more drinks and shaking the hands of a few more people (it's very strange being congratulated on something you wrote over two years ago!), and after declaring that I could easily take Mr Robert Downey Jr in unarmed combat (not everyone shared my confidence), I headed on home. Three and a half hours later, at 2am, I crashed on my bed and now I feel like I've been hit by a truck. So it was a good day!

Thanks everyone, that is all.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Three in Portobello

Those who know me on facebook will probably already know that short film Three (that I wrote) was accepted into the Portobello Film Festival. It's playing in the comedy section (it being a comedy and all), playing on Wednesday 8th (that's this Wednesday) at Inn on the Green, London, from 6pm to 11pm (we're showing around 9-ish). You can see the other films being entered (along with Three) at this link, on page 11.

So if anyone feels like spending a night watching some good old comedy shorts in a decent bar, come along, drinks on me! *

In other news, I'm currently rewriting a short script for a director. After reading it, he had a bunch of ideas to improve it. I was against them to start with, but I soon realised he was right, so a rewrite it is. Directors, eh, always gotta be right!

Still waiting to hear on the BSSC and Red Planet Prize (along with thousands of other people), so nothing to say there.

I've been doing a bit of research into Script Reading this last week, working out if it's something I could be any good at. It's going well so far - I'm certainly not at a stage where I can think about charging yet, but you never know.

Other than that, I'm just running around trying to get everything sorted for my MA starting later this month. The reading lists aren't really going down at all - the bad habits have already started. I'm doing a Writing MA and they expect me to read too?! Jeez!

Anyway, happy writing folks!


PS: Kick-Ass comes out on Monday - go buy it. Immediately. On Monday. Obviously.

* Drinks are not on me, I just
like to think I'm rich enough
to say such things.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Top 5 fight scenes

I like fight scenes. I know, who knew?! Anyway, I figured I'd share (for no apparent reason) my top 5 fight scenes from film and TV. To bend the rules slightly, I'm going to show what I believe to be the most realistic fights in film. Not so realistic that it's that Bridget ones thingy, but decent and real at the same time. So, without further ado, here it be --

5) Spider-Man - Spidey vs. Green Goblin
A realistic superhero fight? Really?! Yep - taking into account these two dudes' powers, this is nice and brutal. The complete lack of music is what really sells it - no fancy shit, just two blokes slugging it out.
Lesson learned - Willem Dafoe hits like a Mack Truck!

4) Dollhouse - Echo vs. Ballard
Great innovation in this fight, from the two toughest characters. What I really love is that, despite Echo being a rather small woman (the woman Ballard is supposed to be saving), Ballard doesn't hold back one tiny bit.
Lesson learned - hitting women is sometimes very very ok.

3) Taken - pretty much the entire film
Earns a place on the list because these fight scenes (while repetitive) are incredibly realistic. Fighting is simple - put your opponent down as fast as possible. Nothing does that quite like a slap to the larynx.
Lesson learned - don't wish Liam Neeson good luck!

2) Kick-Ass - Hero time!
What makes this scene so good and realistic is that is captures what the entire movie is all about. At this point, we want nothing more than for our boy to succeed, but, well.....things don't quite go as planned - perfect realism.
Lesson learned - cars are dangerous!

1) Casino Royale - Staircase fight
Twice as tense as any other Bond scene, increased tenfold by having a machete involved. Brutally hard at the end as well, since that sleeper hold is textbook - only way to get out of it is to deal out enough pain on your aggressor that he lets go. Love it!
Lesson learned - gambling has dangers we didn't even know about!