Friday, 28 November 2008

SWF 09!

Just in - the first details of SWF '09

bong! New Venue - Cheltenham Ladies' College.

bong! New Time slot - Monday 26th to Thursday 29th October 2009.

bong! New Format - Monday 26th & Tuesday 27th October (emphasis on workshops and interactive sessions) Wednesday 28th & Thursday 29th October (emphasis on case studies and transferable skills)

bong! The Prices - Two Day Ticket - £199.00 - (£250.00 after 30/04/09) Four Day Ticket - £345.00 - (£395.00 after 30/04/09) On sale from 17.00pm Tuesday 9th December 2008.

more details here, or e-mail

So who's going??

Monday, 24 November 2008

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Devil’s Whore

This is fantastic stuff. It’s basically The English Civil War seen through the eye’s of the feisty (and fictional) eponymous noblewoman, Angelica Fanshawe (Andrea Riseborough,) and the two men who are in love with her* : The aptly named Sexby, a Mercenary-turned-Roundhead played with great relish by John Simm, and her husband and cousin, nice but clueless aristo Harry Fanshawe (Ben Aldridge)

In the first episode, the Fanshaw’s marriage is eaten away by Harry’s insecurity, as the country is torn apart by Charles’ arrogance. The marriage scenes are especially well written and acted - there’s a wonderful turning point (I won‘t spoil it if you haven’t seen it) involving the line “as long as you‘re quiet,” followed by a sex scene that is erotic, tender and disturbing in turn.

The show does brilliantly recreates the confusion and turbulence of the times, although the one critism I’d make is that perhaps the history is not quiet as compelling as the fictional characters journeys. It all seemes a bit rushed at times - Charles is rebuffed by Parliament, flees to Oxford, forms an army, and the two side meet at the inconclusive battle of Edge hill - all between two sets of ad breaks! The show does bravely eskew the sort of info dump dialogue that historical drama is often saddled with, although this might be confusing if you don’t know your history.

But minor quibbles aside, this is unmissable stuff. And having googled the careers of Sexby and Thomas Rainsborough, it looks like it's going to get better, even if you're not the sort of person who gets excited by the prospect of the dramitisation of The Putney debates!

Visit the home page here, and you can catch up with the first episode here.

*and frankly, who can blame them?

Sunday, 16 November 2008


Hellraiers tells of “The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed.” It's snappily written, and the mulitiple biography format works well - it’s like a greatest hits compilation with the boring bits left out. Consequently, it’s quiet literally packed with stories: How Burton answered the phone at Elizabeth Taylor’s place to find her then husband demanding to know what he was doing in his house. “What do you think I‘m doing?” said Burton. “I‘m fucking your wife.” How O’Toole was refused service at a pub because it was past closing time, and was so desperate for a drink that he brought the pub. How Reed once downed 126 pints in one day. How Harris was due to meet John Boorman for an audition over Sunday lunch, woke up at Midday, frantically dressed and hailed a cab, only to realise that it was already Monday!*

So is Hellraisers just a string of laddish anecdotes? Well no, not quiet anyway. However Sellars, his interviewees and the stars themselves try to spin it, there’s a real melancholy edge to this book** These four musketeers all did real damage to themselves, their careers, and their loved ones. Harris and Reed were phenomenally talented and charismatic performer who made themselves virtually unemployable for most of their lives. Burton’s affair with Taylor led to both her and his then wife attempting suicide.


*the film was Zadoz, so possibly a lucky escape there.

** and don’t know if it’s just me, but I find that biographies tend to be rather depressing anyway, as (SPOILER ALERT) the subjects tend to get old and die at the end.

Richard Burton reading Do not go gentle into that good night

Friday, 7 November 2008


I’ve been researching short screenplay competitions, so I thought I’d share.

Y’all know about the BSSC, right? But what about the CSSC? - yes the Canadian Short Screenplay Competition. Like The BSSC they produce the winning screenplay, and it’s open to writers of all nationalities. Final deadline is 31ST December 2008, entry fee $35cdn

The Page International Screenwriting Awards have a short films category. They will begin accepting entries for the 2009 competition in December’

Gimme Credit Screenplay Competition provide feedback and produce the winning script, and are also an international competition. The extended late deadline is Monday December 1, 2008 entry fee for Super Short $29.50, Short $49.50

LA Comedy Shorts is also open to applicants living outside the US. Late Deadline: December 3, 2008 (fee $50) Extended Final Deadline: December 19, 2008 (Fee: $70)

There’s also the following contests that are now closed : The American Gem Short Screenplay Competition, and the Movie Script Short Contest.

Your local film agency runs Digital Shorts schemes - I think they’ve closed now. If you’re looking for feature competitions, then there’s this old post. A lot of these links come from, and of course there Robin Kelly’s indispensable list.

Finally, I found this checklist from the 20/20 contest while I was looking, thought it might come in handy.

If any one else has knows of any short screenplay competitions, feel free to post below.


It’s been a long time coming...

Saturday, 1 November 2008


There’s been a bit written about blogging recently, and not just on the blogosphere. The papers have recently carried articles like “Have blogs finally come of age?“ and “Is blogging dead.” As they do.

Closer to home, our very own Jason and Danny have written excellent articles/blogs about blogging. Now, some folks sneer at blogs - even The Doctor used “blogging” as a term of abuse! There‘s a lot of talk about “information overloads” and “the cult of the amateur,” and “user generated content taking over from traditional media.” This is seen as a bad thing.

I think this view is based on a fundamental misconception: That all this blogging, facebooking, my spacing etc is published material that seeks to replace books or newspapers. It isn’t. It’s a primarily a form of communication. It’s people talking to each other. To say that much of it is banal is to miss the point spectacularly. It’s like saying that the conversations people have in the real world debase the language of Shakespeare. The language belongs to the people, not just the poets and philosophers. A random reader may not care that “April is hungover, But it was worth it!! lol ;)” or “Jon hates his f***ing job :( ,” (or that Mike has finished his first draft,) but their friends do.

Besides which, is five pages of Wossie and Brand’s Unspeakable Crime against Humanity really any better? And have you read a newspaper columnist recently? I read one the other day ranting about their fridge being delivered late, or broken, or something (okay, I didn’t actually read it, just kind of skimmed past it tutting.) Danny says about blogs that “anyone can post a you tube video and a joke and call it a post.” *(ouch. See below.) Well, doesn't that describes the contents of most tabloids?

I’m a geek. I know quiet a lot about a few things, and I get frustrated by how wrong the papers can get it when they write about, say the Beatles or Doctor Who. Who fans out there: How many times have you read that Dr Who was created in 1963 by Terry Nation? It makes you wonder how accurate the stories about things that really matter are. And the press have the cheek to slag off wikepedia for being inaccurate!

At least us amateurs have passion. There’s a lot of crap out there on the internet, but there‘s a lot of great stuff written with passion, wit and insight (Just like the mainstream press in fact.) Blogs provide insight and information, but for me the best about them is that they allow you to keep in touch with people you would otherwise meet once and never again.

All this is a roundabout way of saying I’ve been neglecting the old blog recently (which is probably the phrase I’ve used more than any other in this blog!) Truth is I’ve been neglecting the writing too - I was going to do a "flaky meltdown post" about why, even though that breaks the second rule of blogging (Be Positive**) Then I got waylaid with this brief introduction on my thoughts about blogging! (Which kind of turned into a rant about the press didnt it? (With far too many brackets.))

But fuck it, this is just between us right? So coming soon, The True Confessions of a Spec Monkey: The Truth about Writing. ***

Speaking of which, I think I’d better go and actually do some now!

* which is a shame, cos I was going to post this from the most underrated film of the last year, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It’s a little gem of a film with all the wit and warmth you’d expect from The House of Apatow. But it also has a Dracula Musical. With Puppets!! Here’s that link again
. Watch it. Then rent the movie. Hell, buy it - you’ll want to watch it again.

** The First Rule is “Don’t be boring.” Come to think of it, shouldn’t that be the first rule of writing?

*** I was going to call it "When it's Hard." snigger.