Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The dreaded Block!!

Writer’s block – the scourge of all writers. Actually I think there’s three types. There’s writer’s block where you sit there with your mind completely blank, unable to think of anything to write. Writer’s block where you’re suffering huge self-doubt about your work and little voices keep saying shrilly and insistently, “This is CRAP! What are you doing? This is never gonna get made! You might as well give it up and go and watch 90210!”. And then there’s type three, where you’ve reached an impasse in a character and a plot and don’t know how to proceed.

I can’t claim to have conquered these three monsters, but I’ve developed ways of coping with them. Type one requires you to roll up your sleeves, take out a pad or open a blank screen and just write. Doesn’t matter what. Spill it out and don’t stop for at least five minutes. Once you’ve stopped, read back over it. Somewhere in there is something you can use – I guarantee it.

Type two is a gremlins-killing exercise. No, you don’t need a food processor or sunlight. You need several DVDs of movies with the most badly-written scripts ever. EVER. I mean the worst type of B-movie or else an A-movie with an awful script. Pearl Harbor would do. Or Catwoman. Or this Christopher Lambert film called Fortress. Sit there and watch it all the way through. You’ll be thinking, “God, this is bad! I can write miles better than this shit!” Let the cardboard characters and on-the-nose dialogue sink in. By the end, you’ll be so angry and fired up that you’ll march upstairs and start writing again, simply out of indignation that this crapola made it to the screen. You have a duty to save cinema!

Type Three is a different animal and requires some thought. First of all, if anyone around you is making noise, tell them to shut up. Or if you live with your parents/small children/crazy elderly people, go outside. Take a walk. While you’re walking, think about the character problem or plot roadblock you’re faced with. By the end of the walk, you will have at least part of the solution.

Remember, you can’t stop writer’s block, but you can drive around it. Good luck!

The dreaded Block!!

Writer’s block – the scourge of all writers. Actually I think there’s three types. There’s writer’s block where you sit there with your mind completely blank, unable to think of anything to write. Writer’s block where you’re suffering huge self-doubt about your work and little voices keep saying shrilly and insistently, “This is CRAP! What are you doing? This is never gonna get made! You might as well give it up and go and watch 90210!”. And then there’s type three, where you’ve reached an impasse in a character and a plot and don’t know how to proceed.

I can’t claim to have conquered these three monsters, but I’ve developed ways of coping with them. Type one requires you to roll up your sleeves, take out a pad or open a blank screen and just write. Doesn’t matter what. Spill it out and don’t stop for at least five minutes. Once you’ve stopped, read back over it. Somewhere in there is something you can use – I guarantee it.

Type two is a gremlins-killing exercise. No, you don’t need a food processor or sunlight. You need several DVDs of movies with the most badly-written scripts ever. EVER. I mean the worst type of B-movie or else an A-movie with an awful script. Pearl Harbor would do. Or Catwoman. Or this Christopher Lambert film called Fortress. Sit there and watch it all the way through. You’ll be thinking, “God, this is bad! I can write miles better than this shit!” Let the cardboard characters and on-the-nose dialogue sink in. By the end, you’ll be so angry and fired up that you’ll march upstairs and start writing again, simply out of indignation that this crapola made it to the screen. You have a duty to save cinema!

Type Three is a different animal and requires some thought. First of all, if anyone around you is making noise, tell them to shut up. Or if you live with your parents/small children/crazy elderly people, go outside. Take a walk. While you’re walking, think about the character problem or plot roadblock you’re faced with. By the end of the walk, you will have at least part of the solution.

Remember, you can’t stop writer’s block, but you can drive around it. Good luck!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Waiter, there's a pigs head in my meal....


Well, the shoot went down in six and a half hours last night in Nutgrove Shopping Centre. Six and a half action-packed hours, because we only had use of the restaurant until midnight and there was a LOT to do in that time!

I walked in to find most people already there. That's when it really hit me that they were all there to shoot something I'd written, which was a crazy feeling! But there was no messing about - within 10 minutes I was helping to dress the set and running around to a mens clothes shop to buy a bow tie for one of the waiters.  We were low on extras so I found myself appearing as Chocolate Dessert Woman 3 (although it was actually some nice meringue). And the producer Alan ended up playing a restaurant critic (and doing some great acting with some unappetizing, stone-cold food!) 

Everyone did a fantastic job in such a short time - and with pretty much no budget.  I was really blown away by the spooky kitchen set they managed to come up with out of nothing. There were pig parts, a fake human hand, a half-naked man in a cage (the chef's next victim!), something horrible bubbling in a pot and lots of fake blood. Oh, and a homicidal chef, played with great gusto by an American actor called Mark in a blood-spattered vest.

Unfortunately, by the time they came to shoot the kitchen part the security staff were already asking when it was going to finish. So some placating had to be done and eventually, after all the fake blood had been cleaned up and the man in the cage had been freed, we all finished up at half twelve. 

Apart from it being a great experience to see my script filmed, the shoot taught me a lot about being a writer on a low or no budget film. If you're going to be on set, you'd better be prepared to pitch in and help out! And not necessarily on the glamourous stuff, but the essential things like washing up. And carrying boxes. But it's also brilliant fun - you get to meet some great people. And you get to see things happen and to meet the filmmakers who make your script come to life.

Thanks to the whole Darklight crew and to everyone who made Regards to the Chef a reality! 

Waiter, there's a pigs head in my meal....


Well, the shoot went down in six and a half hours last night in Nutgrove Shopping Centre. Six and a half action-packed hours, because we only had use of the restaurant until midnight and there was a LOT to do in that time!

I walked in to find most people already there. That's when it really hit me that they were all there to shoot something I'd written, which was a crazy feeling! But there was no messing about - within 10 minutes I was helping to dress the set and running around to a mens clothes shop to buy a bow tie for one of the waiters.  We were low on extras so I found myself appearing as Chocolate Dessert Woman 3 (although it was actually some nice meringue). And the producer Alan ended up playing a restaurant critic (and doing some great acting with some unappetizing, stone-cold food!) 

Everyone did a fantastic job in such a short time - and with pretty much no budget.  I was really blown away by the spooky kitchen set they managed to come up with out of nothing. There were pig parts, a fake human hand, a half-naked man in a cage (the chef's next victim!), something horrible bubbling in a pot and lots of fake blood. Oh, and a homicidal chef, played with great gusto by an American actor called Mark in a blood-spattered vest.

Unfortunately, by the time they came to shoot the kitchen part the security staff were already asking when it was going to finish. So some placating had to be done and eventually, after all the fake blood had been cleaned up and the man in the cage had been freed, we all finished up at half twelve. 

Apart from it being a great experience to see my script filmed, the shoot taught me a lot about being a writer on a low or no budget film. If you're going to be on set, you'd better be prepared to pitch in and help out! And not necessarily on the glamourous stuff, but the essential things like washing up. And carrying boxes. But it's also brilliant fun - you get to meet some great people. And you get to see things happen and to meet the filmmakers who make your script come to life.

Thanks to the whole Darklight crew and to everyone who made Regards to the Chef a reality! 

Friday, September 25, 2009

My first movie!

The Hotel Darklight shoots are underway and my little movie is being shot this evening at The Coffee Kitchen at Nutgrove Shopping Centre in Rathfarnham. I'm going to get there for about 6.30pm - got to go smartly dressed because we're low on extras and might have to sit there saying "Rhubarb, rhubarb!" myself.

I'm so excited about this as it's the first time I've ever had something filmed. I'm not counting the five minutes of film I produced with some mates in school as that was fit only for a lot of helpless laughter and notable only for making a very uncomfortable couple kiss (sorry Aud, I know you were a great camera-woman!).

And even better, on 10th October I'm going to see one of my scripts up on the big screen for the first time. If I start thinking about that I'm going to pass out, so concentrating on the shoot tomorrow and taking it from there. The long, long, long road to Hollywood starts here....

My first movie!

The Hotel Darklight shoots are underway and my little movie is being shot this evening at The Coffee Kitchen at Nutgrove Shopping Centre in Rathfarnham. I'm going to get there for about 6.30pm - got to go smartly dressed because we're low on extras and might have to sit there saying "Rhubarb, rhubarb!" myself.

I'm so excited about this as it's the first time I've ever had something filmed. I'm not counting the five minutes of film I produced with some mates in school as that was fit only for a lot of helpless laughter and notable only for making a very uncomfortable couple kiss (sorry Aud, I know you were a great camera-woman!).

And even better, on 10th October I'm going to see one of my scripts up on the big screen for the first time. If I start thinking about that I'm going to pass out, so concentrating on the shoot tomorrow and taking it from there. The long, long, long road to Hollywood starts here....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hotel Darklight Premiere

The premiere of Hotel Darklight, a film comprising 12 shorts (including, all going well, mine!) will be on Saturday, 10th October at 9.30pm at the Light House cinema in Smithfield. Tickets are free and more details can be found at the official Darklight festival site or at the Hotel Darklight blog.

I'm very excited about this as it'll be the first time anything I've written will be up on the big screen. Plus it'll be great to see what the other writers have come up with. All of the scripts are set around the hotel on one night and my one, Give My Regards to the Chef, is set in the kitchen. It's based on my experience of being an office temp in a 5 star hotel in London and seeing some really horrible but entertaining things being done to food in the kitchen.

Anyway, please tell everyone you know about this and come to the Light House on 10th October for some box-fresh new movie-making....

Hotel Darklight Premiere

The premiere of Hotel Darklight, a film comprising 12 shorts (including, all going well, mine!) will be on Saturday, 10th October at 9.30pm at the Light House cinema in Smithfield. Tickets are free and more details can be found at the official Darklight festival site or at the Hotel Darklight blog.

I'm very excited about this as it'll be the first time anything I've written will be up on the big screen. Plus it'll be great to see what the other writers have come up with. All of the scripts are set around the hotel on one night and my one, Give My Regards to the Chef, is set in the kitchen. It's based on my experience of being an office temp in a 5 star hotel in London and seeing some really horrible but entertaining things being done to food in the kitchen.

Anyway, please tell everyone you know about this and come to the Light House on 10th October for some box-fresh new movie-making....

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pitching for Gold...

I'm going back to the Austin Film Festival this year and have booked to do two pitches as part of their pitching competition. Last year I did my first ever pitch there in front of about 20 other writers and two industry pros, and that was the scariest thing I've ever done. Nothing this year will be able to top that fear!

I learned a lot about pitching from this great article by Craig Mazin. I think his best piece of advice is to imagine that you're spinning the story to someone as part of  a conversation and make it natural. Mind you, this is easy for me when I'm in a pub yakking on to my friends and really hard when faced with two gimlet-eyed Hollywood types in their Prada suits!

I think you're either naturally good at pitching or you're not. If you're like me and it takes a lot of work, it does help to know the script inside out and to be passionate about it. If you don't love the script, it will show in your pitch performance. The other thing to bear in mind is that high-concept ideas are easier to pitch. I love my family horror-comedy but it's a nightmare to describe in a few paragraphs. The initial premise is slightly complicated and it takes a lot of build-up to get to the good stuff people laugh at. If you have more than one script that you're happy with and one is high-concept, that's the movie to pitch.

There's really no easy way around pitching: read your script again and again, tell the story to anyone who'll listen and watch for the parts they respond to. Record yourself pitching and carry it til it's right. Remember, this could be your big break!

Pitching for Gold...

I'm going back to the Austin Film Festival this year and have booked to do two pitches as part of their pitching competition. Last year I did my first ever pitch there in front of about 20 other writers and two industry pros, and that was the scariest thing I've ever done. Nothing this year will be able to top that fear!

I learned a lot about pitching from this great article by Craig Mazin. I think his best piece of advice is to imagine that you're spinning the story to someone as part of  a conversation and make it natural. Mind you, this is easy for me when I'm in a pub yakking on to my friends and really hard when faced with two gimlet-eyed Hollywood types in their Prada suits!

I think you're either naturally good at pitching or you're not. If you're like me and it takes a lot of work, it does help to know the script inside out and to be passionate about it. If you don't love the script, it will show in your pitch performance. The other thing to bear in mind is that high-concept ideas are easier to pitch. I love my family horror-comedy but it's a nightmare to describe in a few paragraphs. The initial premise is slightly complicated and it takes a lot of build-up to get to the good stuff people laugh at. If you have more than one script that you're happy with and one is high-concept, that's the movie to pitch.

There's really no easy way around pitching: read your script again and again, tell the story to anyone who'll listen and watch for the parts they respond to. Record yourself pitching and carry it til it's right. Remember, this could be your big break!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Writing the Impossible

There’s a story about Victor Miller, the guy who wrote Friday the 13th, where he was on set and the special effects man Tom Savini was asking him about an arrow in the face death. “Do you think we should go for a fake arrow and a real face or a real arrow and a fake face?” asked Savini. “I don’t know”, answered Miller, “I just write this stuff!”

I was thinking of this yesterday when I was doing up a props list for the Darklight organisers. This is for my (hopefully-to-be-made) 3-minute Hotel Darklight film.

It’s a pretty odd list, comprising everything from a set of fancy menus, to a frozen rat, to a human hand. They didn’t seem to blanch at any of it and said they’d do their best to produce the rat et al. But it begs the question, should you ever tone down your special effects if achieving them will make the film too expensive to produce (or indeed, impossible to produce)? Savini’s special effects were revolutionary back in 1980, but today no one would think twice about how to produce an arrow in the head. Same with the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park – I still remember how amazing it was when you saw them for the first time. The special effects guys on this no-budget series of short films can digitally change the name of the hotel in post-production, something that would have been impossible even ten years ago.

Are we now in a situation where anything can be depicted on screen? Or are there limits even now about what you can write in your scripts?

Writing the Impossible

There’s a story about Victor Miller, the guy who wrote Friday the 13th, where he was on set and the special effects man Tom Savini was asking him about an arrow in the face death. “Do you think we should go for a fake arrow and a real face or a real arrow and a fake face?” asked Savini. “I don’t know”, answered Miller, “I just write this stuff!”

I was thinking of this yesterday when I was doing up a props list for the Darklight organisers. This is for my (hopefully-to-be-made) 3-minute Hotel Darklight film.

It’s a pretty odd list, comprising everything from a set of fancy menus, to a frozen rat, to a human hand. They didn’t seem to blanch at any of it and said they’d do their best to produce the rat et al. But it begs the question, should you ever tone down your special effects if achieving them will make the film too expensive to produce (or indeed, impossible to produce)? Savini’s special effects were revolutionary back in 1980, but today no one would think twice about how to produce an arrow in the head. Same with the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park – I still remember how amazing it was when you saw them for the first time. The special effects guys on this no-budget series of short films can digitally change the name of the hotel in post-production, something that would have been impossible even ten years ago.

Are we now in a situation where anything can be depicted on screen? Or are there limits even now about what you can write in your scripts?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Here's Hoping...

I’m going to the Maldron Hotel in Smithfield tomorrow to meet up with the other Hotel Darklight writers and hopefully get hooked up with a director (in a non-romantic sense, obviously!).

Darklight have made it clear, though, that we’re all only shortlisted at the moment and that there’s no guarantee right now that we’ll “make the final list”. So it’s all to play for. The really valuable thing I’m going to learning here, of course, is how to work on a film and how to deal with everyone else on the project. So fingers crossed it all works out.

I’ve been talking to a lot of other writers recently and what comes across are the odds stacked against them and the long road that stretches ahead of you once you decide you want to write. Sane people (i.e. non-writers) often ask if it’s worth it. They wonder why anyone would keep going in the face of re-draft after re-draft, with no hope in a lot of cases that your script will ever get made. But it’s like a lottery – some of us are going to win. It doesn’t matter about the ones that crash and burn, the projects that fall apart at the last minute. The director who tells you he loves your work and never calls you back. The form letters that come back in the post full of variants of “no”.

Someone somewhere right now is inking a deal to make a movie - and some day that could be one of us. Here’s hoping….

Here's Hoping...

I’m going to the Maldron Hotel in Smithfield tomorrow to meet up with the other Hotel Darklight writers and hopefully get hooked up with a director (in a non-romantic sense, obviously!).

Darklight have made it clear, though, that we’re all only shortlisted at the moment and that there’s no guarantee right now that we’ll “make the final list”. So it’s all to play for. The really valuable thing I’m going to learning here, of course, is how to work on a film and how to deal with everyone else on the project. So fingers crossed it all works out.

I’ve been talking to a lot of other writers recently and what comes across are the odds stacked against them and the long road that stretches ahead of you once you decide you want to write. Sane people (i.e. non-writers) often ask if it’s worth it. They wonder why anyone would keep going in the face of re-draft after re-draft, with no hope in a lot of cases that your script will ever get made. But it’s like a lottery – some of us are going to win. It doesn’t matter about the ones that crash and burn, the projects that fall apart at the last minute. The director who tells you he loves your work and never calls you back. The form letters that come back in the post full of variants of “no”.

Someone somewhere right now is inking a deal to make a movie - and some day that could be one of us. Here’s hoping….

Monday, September 7, 2009

No from the PAGE people...

On the PAGE Awards, I didn't get to the finals! Disappointed obviously but I was thrilled even to get to the semis. Thinking back over the last 12 months, it seems like things are starting to move in general so not getting through isn't as gutting as it could have been.

On to the next challenge, which is the Zoetrope Screenwriting Competition (deadline Tuesday). Fingers and toes crossed for this one....

No from the PAGE people...

On the PAGE Awards, I didn't get to the finals! Disappointed obviously but I was thrilled even to get to the semis. Thinking back over the last 12 months, it seems like things are starting to move in general so not getting through isn't as gutting as it could have been.

On to the next challenge, which is the Zoetrope Screenwriting Competition (deadline Tuesday). Fingers and toes crossed for this one....

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My first IFTA event...

I spent Friday afternoon at the IFTA Music Forum at the Lighthouse Cinema. It was a half day on the subject of music composing, something I knew nothing about and am now kind of fascinated with. Composer Derek Gleeson played a bunch of music clips and some film clips, to show the effect the soundtrack has on your experience of the movie. The most interesting was the music from What Lies Beneath - even with just the music playing, everyone immediately looked tense and anxious...

Then there was a panel with the likes of Robert Walpole, David Collins, Kirsten Sheridan and some music rights people. Star of the show was Dario Marianelli, who won the music Oscar for Atonement and turned out to be a really interesting interview subject.

I was there for two reasons - to see his latest project, The Soloist (excellent, especially Robert Downey Jnr) and to meet people. Which I did - everyone was in good form, there was some free booze and all in all a good Friday afternoon. Now if IFTA would just do a screenwriting forum...

My first IFTA event...

I spent Friday afternoon at the IFTA Music Forum at the Lighthouse Cinema. It was a half day on the subject of music composing, something I knew nothing about and am now kind of fascinated with. Composer Derek Gleeson played a bunch of music clips and some film clips, to show the effect the soundtrack has on your experience of the movie. The most interesting was the music from What Lies Beneath - even with just the music playing, everyone immediately looked tense and anxious...

Then there was a panel with the likes of Robert Walpole, David Collins, Kirsten Sheridan and some music rights people. Star of the show was Dario Marianelli, who won the music Oscar for Atonement and turned out to be a really interesting interview subject.

I was there for two reasons - to see his latest project, The Soloist (excellent, especially Robert Downey Jnr) and to meet people. Which I did - everyone was in good form, there was some free booze and all in all a good Friday afternoon. Now if IFTA would just do a screenwriting forum...