Tuesday, 31 July 2007


There is a perception that writers tend to be, for want of a better word, sad. Hard to credit, I know, but I think that I developed an imagination as a kid to escape reality - My home life was happy and stable, but I really, really fucking hated school. What did I do wrong in a previous life to deserve 11 years of that? 11 years! You get less than that if you fucking kill someone!

And breathe…

Orwell wrote that he “Created a private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life” So maybe us writers are moved to imagine different worlds (or inspired to write about what’s wrong with this one) because we’re unhappy or discontented or angry with the world we live in?

And maybe we’re motivated to want to become writers in order to prove something to the world? I have a clear memory of being on an activity holiday with the school in France, getting a hard time from some tossers, and thinking I’ll show them, I’ll be a writer for Dr Who! (Which is which is what I wanted to do back then - wouldn’t say no now.)

So that’s my earliest memory of wanting to be a writer. My teenage self wanted the fame and glory of being a screenwriter. The twat. One of the many, many reasons I’ll go back in time one day, and give the little gimp a good slapping!

Later on, in my teens and twenties, my imagination evolved to think about girls, and thinking’s all I tended to do. I know it‘s hard to believe, but I was a bit of a sad bastard back then. No, really…

Of course, I’m fine now, but what I write tends to be fantasy based, escapist. And it tends to be boy meets girl, with a bias towards unrequited love. For example, I once wrote a short story about people who work 9 to 5 fighting the apocalypse, and it ended with the hero standing in a darken underpass (I thought oh god my chance has come at last…) after not getting the girl. And covered in the blood and entrails of a Hell Beast, obviously.

I say escapist, but the above story, for example, does deal with scary real things like work and relationships and feelings, but via the fantastical. I also tend towards the comedic, which is perhaps another form of defence/escape?

But to (finally!) answer the bloody question, I write what I write because of who I am. And I am who I am because of where I’ve been. As Orwell said, “if (a writer) escapes from his influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. ”

I was going to answer the question why I write - not why I first wanted to write, but why I write now? What do I get out of it? What do I want out of it? But a more pressing question is: Why do I blog?

I’m coming to the inescapable conclusion that it’s mainly to escape the harsh, brutal reality of rewriting!


Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Why do you Write What you Write?

Lucy e-mailed me (and everyone else she knows!) wanting to know what it is us aspiring writers write Spec scripts about, and why, and that got me thinking…

looks upwards thoughtfully, swirly flashback effect…

The 1st full length script I wrote, way back when, was a semi-autobiographical tale about unrequited love and repeated mistakes. I wrote it because I had too (don’t ask!) Ok, it wasn’t very good - it was too close to real life for one thing (i.e. loosely structured, unresolved, and fucking depressing!) but at least it was good therapy, and I learned a lot writing it.

The main Spec I worked on when I got made redundant and started to write full time was an Epic Fantasy Blockbuster about Dragons and Wizards and Heroes and Princesses - not something a first time writer has much chance of selling, especially to the British film industry! But in this case it was something I really wanted to write - it was (and still is!) a film I wanted to see, which is perhaps the best reason to write anything. Again, I learned a lot from it, and I loved writing it, so I’m kind of glad I wasn’t clued up enough to try to write something more producible!

Ed Blum (Producer/ Director of Scenes of a Sexual Nature) told me that Scenes was written specifically as something that could get made on a low budget with big name actors (by only using them for 2 days) after he couldn’t get a more ambitious project off the ground. So maybe that’s the way to go. Perhaps I should try to write something that is sexy, fun, exciting and generic (and cheap!) for my next spec?

The first draft of my fantasy epic - DRAGONS - did get a full read from BBC writersroom. The report, amongst the many constructive and helpful comments, said that “the writer should consider a less generic story, and one that reveals more of his own voice and concerns” and that annoyed me a bit, ‘cos I thought I had! I grew up on Dr Who and Star Wars and Douglas Adams, and I suppose they’re still my main influences - as the late, great Douglas Adams once said, reality is for people who can’t handle Science fiction!

Hemmingway said “Write hard and true about what hurts,” but that seems to contradict the usual advise to write to an audience, and to write in a specific, marketable Genre. On the other hand, as someone at SWF ‘06 said (Justin Trefgarne? Simon Van Der Borgh? I can hardly rem SWF '07!) the trick is to “Make your personal the audience’s personal,” and London to Brighton (or Dirty Pretty Things) are great recent examples of (low budget) generic films that actually say something.

Not that there’s anything wrong in just entertaining, of course - I love Blockbusters (Read BLOCKBUSTER by Tom Shone if you agree! Or even if you don‘t) I love films like Airplane, that just want to make you laugh, or something like Psycho or Blair Witch that just want scare you, or something like The first Pirates of the Caribbean (or it’s great granddaddy The Adventures of Robin Hood) that just want to take you for a ride.

In Preston Sturges’ unutterably wonderful Sullivan’s Travels, John L. Sullivan, a big shot Hollywood director, wants to make a serious film that speaks to “the common man,” but discovers on his eponymous travels that said common man just wants to be entertained.

(I know not everyone would agree that this is as a good thing! Audience comments from the notorious preview screening of Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons, included “People like to laff, not be bored to death,” and “Make pictures to make us forget, not to make us remember;” and the dissenting minority views “It is unfortunate that the American public, as represented at this theatre, are unable to appreciate fine art” and “It seemed too deep for the average stupid person”!)

I mean, I like serious films, I like Citizen Kane and Wild Strawberries and Vertigo for example - the world would be an infinitely duller place if there was only room for one type of film. Perhaps we should be aiming for the a massive grey area between Ingmar Bergman and The Zucker Brothers? To balance art and entertainment, and to balance what we want to write with what the audience wants to see, and with what the film industry wants to (and can) make?

I think your own concerns, your values, your personality, and your influences inevitably come through anyway, whatever you write...

And I could go on (!) but I also think that writing stuff like this is a distraction from the actual scriptwriting!!

So no-one email me any questions that make me think about anything for at least a week!

PS An even more interesting question is Why do you Write?


I’ll leave This old blooger to answer that one.

Sunday, 22 July 2007


Screenwriting competitions, don’t ya just love ’em?

The BSSC is my main hope, I‘ve got two scripts entered, and I‘d be really, really disappointed if they both did nothing after getting to the semis last year (did I mention that?) My fantasy epic DRAGONS is entered in NICHOL, PAGE INTERNATIONAL, and SCRIPTAPALOOZA, more in hope than expectation, and I’ve got Short Stories entered for the SFX PULP IDOL comp, the BRIDPORT PRIZE, and the WRITERS BUREAU COMPETITION (Also entered some bloody awful poetry in the latter two!)

I’ve already failed miserably in the EUROSCRIPT, MAKE YOUR MARK IN FILM and BLUECAT comps this year, but I’m focusing now on polishing for the snappily titled SOUTH WEST SCREEN SCREENWRITER DEVELOPMENT COMPETITION, and the inevitable RED PLANET.

Also a new entry - the DIGITAL SHORTS scheme, thanks to LUCY - the trouble is they want scripts for films under 10 minutes (and ideally 5 or under) and all my shorts/ideas for shorts seem to run longer, so gonna have to write something from scratch.

So anyone else entered in/entering any of the above? Or got any leads on upcoming comps they want to share? (Check out Light and Shade for all the leads) Anyone out there had any successes in comps they want to share? And did anything come of it?


Thursday, 19 July 2007


I’m gonna be doing a power of three at the end of next week on my sci-fi actioner The Fearless, with a particular emphasis on the first 10 pages, for obvious reasons. It’s my first time, so be gentle with me! I will of course, reciprocate.

Scribosocial - who’s going? ;)And anyone got a spare bed I could kip on? Would also accept sofa or floor… I’d really be most awfully grateful.

In other news, failed to get in the top 10% of Bluecat. (congrats to semi finalist Mr Jackson Pillock) But got to the Quarter finals of the Page Screenplay (I avoided doing the maths like fellow quater finalist Mr David Bishop, that the top 25% is about 800 scripts!)

Grovelling to The Girlfriend has been pretty high on the agenda, after missing our 2nd anniversary for the SWF (while she’s confined to a wheelchair with her leg in plaster too!) Sold loads of old Dr Who stuff on e-bay, to put off the inevitable getting of a proper job. And spent the week trying to really get back into the actual writing, cos as the very wise Mr Piers said - it is all about the writing in the end.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Diving Diaries part 5 (!!) The Professional Days


I was due to do the afternoon shift, but it didn’t quiet work out like that. I was meant to cover for Izzy TC(the other volenteer driver -keep up!) for an hour while she caught Michael ‘Harry Potter’ Goldenberg, but it all went a bit tits up. A Speaker (mentioning no names) got lost in town, so while Richard the Chaffeur searched for her, both me and Izzy ended up out driving for most of the hour!

Most of my jobs tended to be groups, and tended to be people being taken back, so I didn’t get to research who they were, or to have much of a chat. At various points I had Ed Rubin, Rachel Holdyrod, Sam Lavender, The UK Film Council, and TV’s Dr Raj Persuad in the back of my van.

Jake West was one of the few solo jobs, and he was really passionate and enthusiastic. There was a bit of a kerfuffle about getting him a ticket (which wasn’t his fault - and which Kenny kept trying to give me money for, even though I‘d been given the cash in advance!) Jake said loads of people come up to him and say they want to be filmmakers, but they can’t get the funding - as long as you can find someone with a decent DV camera then anyone can be a filmmaker - his advice was do it yourself and learn by doing it, the Robert Rodriguez route.

The evening was dead - I had two jobs in 3 hours, so I just sat and nattered to Richard and the Jedi. Drove Brian Ward, and he was interesting - he’s a former Pop video director, so had a lot of stories about divas (Art Garfunkel was the worst he worked with apparently!)

Went to the Travelodge again in the evening and left 5 minutes before they kicked us out - an early night at last!

I did the afternoon again, after a well needed lay in (though I did show up before midday unlike a few lightweights I could mention!)

Again it was mostly groups so I didn’t get to have much of a chat with many of them - I was a bit networked out by this point anyway! I had Allison Owen, Katherine Butler, Sarah Gavron, Abi Morgan, Jurgen Wolff, Peter Carlton amongst others.

Also Menhaj Huda - who’s got a series in development with Kudos. The Slovos liked my choice of in car music (The Clash) - they said the music in Catch a Fire cost a fortune. They also thought there‘d been some sort of accident cos the traffic wasn’t moving - had to explain this is normal for this country! I also took Euroscript’s Charles Harris back, which was good as I’d been on one of his excellent courses, so it was great to catch up with him.

I took Anthony Horowitz Rachel Holydroyd and Nick Cunningham back to the station then took Elizabeth Morgan Hemlock (who’s hobbies include avoiding Stuart Perry, and who can blame her?) and a Plasma TV into town, then I was done.

I handed the keys over with a great sigh of relief - I’d got through the whole week without crashing or killing anyone! I did ask if I could keep the van, but Lizzie said no -she did buy us drinks all night, so I’ll forgive her! After a week of (virtually) no drinking, I was on the beer. Then the wine. Then the beer again. And then the wine again. Then the whiskey.

It was fantastic to really get to spend some time with t’other runners and a great time was had by all, lots of laughing and hugging and crying and tears goodbye. We were kicked out the Travelodge at midnight. And then everyone went to beddie-byes and were tucked up safe and sound and drifted off to the land of nod…

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it...


I couldn’t afford to attend, so I though volunteering would be the next best thing. Turns out it was far, far better. What amazed me that the 22 of us that volunteered where the only ones who seriously volunteered (apparently there were a few who wanted to, say, do one day and get in free for the rest of it - worth asking I suppose!) I would have thought that more of the people who couldn’t afford it would have volunteered.

But their loss! As I said in the first post (many, many words ago!) it was a fantastic experience with a really great bunch of people.

Now I’ve just gotta find something else to blog about…


Saturday, 14 July 2007

Driving diaries pt 4 - I had that Bill Nicholson in the back of my cab...

I had to pick up Ed Blum (producer/director of the very wonderful Scenes of a Sexual Nature) from the station at 806, take him to the hotel and then the festival, so I had a good old chat with him. Again, a really nice guy - He admitted the title of Scenes was a mistake (he said it should have been called Love in the Park or something that more accurately reflected the content), and he regretted self distributing, but even though it didn’t set the box office on fire the film opened a lot of doors for him.

He’d made a BAFTA nominated short, so I was interested in that as I want to get a short made. He said it’d cost £2000 - catering was the main expense (as it was on Scenes), and was made with friends and contacts (the writer of Scenes was also a friend of his - so it‘s who you know), and was a really good calling card.

Kate Leys - top script Editor and hero of the very understated and confident Potdoll - was next. She was impressed that someone was a) there to meet her, even though she had decided to get a earlier train (the benefit of our occasionally random list of pick up times!), and b) recognised her (the benefit of research!) She told Kirsten later that I’d given her “the best service she’d ever had” Which was nice.

It was interesting to find out that she isn’t a writer - I thought all script editors were also/aspiring/failed* (*delete as applicable) writers, but Kate said she has a rule - she never suggests story ideas. Those of you who have actually worked with script editors in the real will probably be sighing with envy here!

I wish I’d taken notes about everyone - not while I was actually driving, obviously - that would have been silly, but just jotted something down when I got the chance, but there always seemed to be something to do, and it‘s all a bit of a blur now!

William (Gladiator) Nicholson was supposed to be next, but he was on a later train, so Ashley Pharoah was the next job - had a bit of a chat about Ashes to Ashes - which he’d just delivered a draft on. Apparently Kelley Hawes (grrr!) is the new Sam, and it starts filming at the end of the month - which was news to me. The traffic was good, so didn’t get much time with him - however tempting it was, I didn’t string anyone out by taking the scenic route!

I eventually got to pick up William Nicholson, and he was worth the wait - he was probably the highlight of the festival for me - I got to spend quiet a bit of time because some random blagger had phoned asking to be picked up from the same train - and then never showed! (I won’t mention their name - but I’m grateful to her cos I got to spend more time with Bill, as I call him now.)

Some random recollections (note to self - use notebook more!) - He said it had taken him 15 years to start to earn a living at writing, though he started young - he was 35 when he first started earning (a good age!) He said it was good to get some experience of the wider world, cos what do they know of writing, who only writing know? (I‘m paraphrasing here - he works in Hollywood, so he‘s used to being rewritten!) Also he thought there’s a lot of writers who keep getting hired on the back of a great credit even when they’re no longer doing good stuff, and a lot of people who’ve written good stuff don’t get hired cos they haven’t got the credits.

He also said he’s working on adaptations of his Wind on Fire Trilogy of fantasy novels - obviously with Potter, Narnia and Pullman, that’s what Hollywood is looking for, but he’s not optimistic about them getting made - he said only about 50% of the scripts he’d written have got made. (Mind you, I wouldn’t complain about that sort of ratio!)

Great guy though, and I was really impressed that he remembered my name when I handed him over to the green room - I had trouble remembering the names of all the people I met. By the end of it I was having trouble remembering my own name!

South West Screen also launched a competition, with less fanfare than Tony Jordan, but the prize includes being mentored by Mr Nicholson himself, so all you fellow yokels check it out.

I got to see Mia Bays, and Bill - who’s well worth downloading when the podcasts come out - and I‘m not just saying that cos he‘s a mate ;) - then went for a rest before Pitch Factor - which was fascinating, even though none of whom were half as good as last years winner! Gotta admire their guts though!

I was going to have a early night, but after trying to get Sabrina and Izzy to do some networking with Ed Blum, I quickly popped into travelodge to see if Stuart Perry had turned up, and ended up there till midnight again with the usual suspects (and Helen and Danny) Then I sat up at the bnb for an hour or so with Valeria, Alistair and Anna - so much for an early night!

On Monday a 2for1 (‘cos I‘m planning to get back into the actual writing next week!) Thursday and Friday- the professional days.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Driving diaries pt 3 - showtime

When I got in Tuesday morning I was told the chauffeur was getting Tony Jordan, cos we had 3 people to be picked up from the station, although only one of them (agent Rob Kraitt) actually showed up! Not the first time this happened! I ended up with about 4 other blaggers in the van anyway, including Andy Conway of shooters - sorry did I say blagger? I meant highly important representative of the sponsors, of course!

I had Menha Huda (kidulthood) and Rahila Ghupta (provoked) next. When I had 2 or more people then they tended to speak amongst themselves, which is fair enough.

I‘m sure there was someone else - I‘ve lost my notes for Monday, but I was running late and only had 10 mins to get to Kadinskies for David M Thompson - this is where the knowledge pays off, cos i made it in time! David was the first passenger I got to properly chat to, and he was a really nice guy. Mainly we talked about me! I know the first rule of networking is listen don’t talk, but David must have read this too, cos the first thing he did was ask what I do when I’m not driving! When I was done telling him, he had to take a phone call before I could interrogate him, but that was interesting (“Have we got Scarlett for the re-shoots?”) and he wished me luck with the writing. Which was nice.

Had no pick ups for a while, so I did a short stint on the entrance tent - this was before I worked out to have a coffee before I asked if there was anything else I can do! From my brief experiences doing thier job, the other runners had a far more difficult job than me!

I was supposed to be picking up Kate Rowland and Paul Ashton of BBC writersroom next. Paul was a no show, but Kate was interesting. I didn’t know till I spoke to her that only the top 5% of scripts submitted to writersroom that get the full read (mine did, since you ask.) They get 10,000 scripts a year, so I‘ll forgive them for taking 6 months to read mine!

After Introducing Kate to the green room runner as Kate Ashton (!), I was finished for the day. Izzy took over at 2 - I was tempted to stay on and pick up Christopher Smith, who would have been interesting, but food and Tony Jordan took priority.

I got to see Tony Jordan, who launched a competition - wasn’t very exciting, I wouldn’t bother checking it out ;)

I also saw Euroscript and Chris Smith, met Sabrina, the legendary Danny Stack and Helen Smith.

Tomorrow - Bill Nicholson, Ed Blum and just for the blogosphere's star of tomorrow, Potdoll - Kate Leys

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Driving diaries pt 2 - No sleep till Cheltenham


I had to get up 430 Monday morning to drive up from Dorset and get there for 930- I‘d forgotten there were two 430’s in the day! We had about 22 volunteers - at least half were returning from last year, mostly film students from Cheltenham, though we had people from Bristol, Brum, London - even Italy!

It was good meeting everyone, even if it did make me feel old! - I got the driving gig cos I was the only one old enough to drive! ;) (or old enough to drive a hire car anyway) My one real regret about the week is I didn’t spend as much time with the other runners while I was out driving around.

In the PM we started setting up, then me and Izzy TC got the hire cars, and she very kindly took me round Cheltenham, so at least I had some idea where I was going. After I dropped Izzy home I went for another drive with the AtoZ, doing the knowledge (Preparation for you there!), and I got back to the Bnb about 10, knackered and ready for bed.

...Then I got a txt from Mr Arnopp saying he‘d arrived, so I headed out for the Travelodge for a serious debate with Sir Jason, Will, Chrissie and Piers about the paradigmatic relevance of the classical story in the current socio-economic… oh alright, we talked crap about Dr Who! But no booze for me, as I was driving in the morning.

I didn’t sleep much Monday night, partly nerves, partly excitement (partly lack of alcohol!) I think I got about 2 hours sleep in the end. I woke up about 5, so I got up, and did another trial run to Kadinskies where I was due to collect Tony Jordan at 9OO for my first pick up…

In the next post, on Friday, the first Rising Talent Day, and David M. Thompson and Kate Rowland amongst others. But no Tony Jordan!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Drivng Diaries pt 1

I was a bit nervous about driving a tank round a far away spa town with a one way system designed by evil driver-hating trolls (otherwise known as town planners)

When the volunteer coordinator - the legendary Ricky Kane phoned and asked if I’d mind being a driver, I though “No! not really.” But, of course, it came out as “Yeah, no problem! Fine.” Then when he then said I’d be driving a 9 Seater mini van I thought “Oh fuck, no!” but again, it came out as: “Yeah, fine, no problem.”

I had visions of seeing the headline “TOP SCREENWRITER KILLED BY BUFFOON IN MINIVAN” But I managed to avoid killing anyone, or even crashing the van. Which was nice.

I got used to the beast fairly quickly in the end, and I got used to Cheltenham… eventually. Mainly thank to the wonderful Isobel TC, who took me round Cheltenham on the Monday - but more of all that in the next post.

It turns out driving was the best job in the world for an aspiring writer. Getting to spend some time alone with top industry pros, like say Bill Nicholson or David M Thompson, in a situation where they thought I was doing then a favour, that’s something that money can’t buy.

I also had that Ashley Pharoah, Ed Blum, Jake West, Peter Carlton, The Slovos, Anthony Horowitz, Kate Leys, Kate Rowland, Brian Ward, Rachel Holroyd, Rob Kraitt, Alison Owen, Kate Butler, and many, many more in the back of my van.

So I’ll post (what I can remember) about them over the next week or so, as it begins to come back to me!! (Ok I know I said in shooters I'll try to post everyday, but that was just a lie!)

I won’t blog about any of the actual sessions, I’m sure they will be well covered in the blogosphere -I know Danny Stack has already posted about it - but if you went and blogged about it email me a link and I‘ll put it up.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

I've had the time of my life...

Back from Cheltenham now, absolutely shattered, but what a fantastic few days, one of the best weeks of my life.

So big up to everyone I met, especially my fellow drivers, Izzy TC and Richard the Chauffer; the runners - Sabrina , Rosie, Chris, Isabel K, Adam, Kreena, Jack, Charlie, Joe, Tom, The Sams, James, Claire, Stephen, Sara, Jenny, Francesca, Verbon, Carolyn, Sue, Alan - you were all legends. Many Apologies to anyone I missed out - at this point I’m having trouble remembering my own name!

Then there’s the guv’nors - David and Lizzie; Kenny, Kirsten, Rachel and Oli and of course, the legendary Ricky Kane. Thanks for the opp guys.

Great to see Jason and Stuart Perry and Charles Harris again, and to meet Danny, Piers, Will, Helen, Chrissy, Andy Conway from shooters, and loads, loads more including my roomies Valeria, Alistair and Anna, and last but not least, Dorothy and Tim my landlord and landlady.

Sorry this is starting to sound like a bad Oscar speech! I’ll blog about it all over the next week. Now I’m going to try doing that sleep thing. Hear it’s good for tiredness.

Monday, 2 July 2007


Off to Cheltenham now, and suprisingly relaxed about it. At the moment.

I'm not sure if I'll have internet access, or time to post, so I'll say later and look forward to meeting anyone else who's going.

If you're going and you're nervous about meeting people, dont worry - they dont bite, and they're probably feeling the same!