Thursday, 19 September 2013


Laying low and keeping busy right now.

Getting deeper into a rewrite and editing a video of a gig for a friend.

Otherwise, laying low. Facebook is turned off right now and I suddenly realise how much time I waste on it when I realise that I actually have more time to do things, like work.

I also begin a weekly course next week, teaching filmmaking to young folks. Slightly daunted and a bit worried I go overboard and confuse them. But teaching's another string to my bow, as they say.

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Art of the Rewrite*

Read previous draft as much as you can.

Take metaphorical sledge hammer in hand.

Smash the damn thing to pieces.

Look at the bits left that still make sense.

Watch for fat and dispose of it.

Add new bits if necessary.

Rebuild from the ground up.

Read it over.

Keep sledge hammer handy if need be.

Drink plenty of tea.



*The following should not be construed as solid advice but more of a venting process.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Catching Up

Another blog free month. Not such a good thing. So I'm pulling back from the time wasting things in life such as Facebook and getting on.

What has happened in the past month? A fair bit of it has involved me dealing with about to turn 40, and then me turning 40 and now me realising that life isn't a rehearsal (and other cliches) and that time is precious. But boy, did we have a good party. Lots of friends I'd not seen in a long time (some a very long time) and time also spent with family. Good feelings. Being 40 is not that bad. It certainly doesn't seem to be the same thing as it seemed when my parents hit this age.

Work on the second draft of my current project has just shifted into high gear. Things look slightly promising. I say slightly as it's never a good idea to get your hopes up too much in this game, rather to stay realistic and only get excited when things are actually completed.

I've got too many genre short ideas running around my head as well, right now. At least five of the buggers.

I've missed too many new release films lately. Need to keep up with these things.

I'm doing a short training course next week on teaching a filmmaking course for young people, which itself should begin later next month. So that'll be another string to the bow.

All this as well as some video work for a client, one for a friend and there's also the Wanted 8 Sequence article to come as well.

Well, back to re-organising the words on the page.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Sci Fi, Puppets and Other Stuff.

Well, been a bit busy with things.

Had a good time at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, pitched a project to a panel in front of an audience of about 50 people (not a pleasant experience), drank too much and saw some good films. Pictures to come. Bring on next year.

I'm in the process of starting notes for the next draft of my current feature project, editing two videos (one actually a paid job!) and have also begun the early stages of a new short, a pretty damn ambitious science fiction project that may involved the use of puppets playing main characters (alongside one or two humans). My inner Henson is trying to break through.

Also beginning to work on that new 8 sequence approach look at Wanted. Will be watching that film quite a few times (my knowledge of my previous subject, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, is borne mainly from 20 plus years of verging obsession and watching it a whole lot more than most people might) and reading the script as well. That may take a bit of time.

And it looks like I may be starting some freelance teaching in a month or so, teaching schoolkids how to write and make films. I wish we'd had that when I was a kid. Or maybe I don't. We pretty much taught ourselves, learning from our own mistakes. This new task looks quite interesting as we're merely guiding the students and not explicitly telling them what to do. Should be interesting. And it's always good to have some teaching on the old CV.

All that and my looming 40th birthday in under two weeks. Planning a bit of a do with my oldest mate who's one day older than me.

Now, how do I earn some money?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Neil on the BBC

Just casually surfing the BBC News website when a simple click surprises me with a bloody great photo of Neil. So it seems even the BBC News website now has a story on Neil and I Am Breathing.

He's getting about. The stubborn sod wouldn't have had it any other way. His strong will is one of the things I miss most about him.

Most major newspapers in the UK have been carrying his story in the run up to the film's UK premiere this week. As much as I don't get on with their politics, I did buy the Daily Telegraph a few weeks back after they had four pages on Neil and the film.

I Am Breathing receives its UK Premiere this week at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Thursday the 20th June. It's also showing on the 23rd June and gets a limited release after. I know it will be tough going but I urge you all to see this film if you can. I think there are still tickets available.

Neil's blog continues to be republished in the days leading up to MND Awareness day on the 21st June, and the film has a Facebook page and Twitter feed.

No amount of followers is enough to help combat this atrocious disease so please check them out and help spread awareness of MND and the MND Association.

Movie Serials Pixaresque

Artist Phil Postma has recreated visions of old movie serial hero lobby cards if Pixar were to do them. To be more specific, there is a distinct Brad Bird / Incredibles look to them. Maybe they should be called Pixaresque?

I love this. Absolutely amazing. These guys, Flash Gordon in particular, were a big deal to me as a kid. I knew who Buster Crabbe was when I was five years old in the 1970s when most other kids were more concerned about Kevin Keegan or Burt Reynolds and the old black and white serials, which used to be shown early on a Saturday morning (before Swap Shop, I think) absolutely held my attention.

And this looks to be a way to have The Phantom represented in a way were it doesn't matter if he essentially looks silly - he gets away with it Pixar style.

If only Pixar adapted one of these. How good would that be? Immensely, I say.

I urge you to check out the rest of Postma's stuff. It's superb. And if you do, be aware that Mr Postma's slightly colour blind, which explains why his Pixaresque version of Dick Tracy looks a little under the weather.

I originally caught this on IO9.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Another Eight Sequences - coming soon

Well, I'll surprised again that someone reads this blog. Not only that, but they chose to get in touch.

Last November I decided to take the Eight Sequence approach, developed by Frank Daniel and championed by Paul Gulino, and see if I could apply to a film I know and love well. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade popped out immediately as I feel it follows this structure well, even breaking it down into the locations that appear in the film, and it would make a good jumping off point in examining how useful this approach.

A reader (who I'll not name right now for the sake of courtesy) liked what I had written, it seems, and got in touch, asking me if I could try the same approach in an examination of Wanted, which said reader had been trying to break down, with little success. I've not watched Wanted yet but I'll certainly give it a go.

Sincerely flattered that someone read my blogs and got in touch.

What I find intriguing is that this might not work. Not every sits comfortably within any supposed structure. The danger is we get into a theory and try to apply it to everything, falling into that trap of mistaking screenwriting theories for story formulas, which is a fatal error.

I'll get into this after the Edinburgh International Film Festival as I'm swamped right now, but I find exercises like this always help the process and make me re-examine what I've written. Handy when I've got a second draft of a feature to be getting on with very soon. Mental exercises for screenwriters. Don't stick with one approach. Figure out as much as you can yourself. There are always patterns in stories but mixing them up and screwing with structure can really push drama and conflict.

Let's see what happens.

Sounds of Steel

Here's me going on about how giant Hollywood blockbusters are in trouble and then I remember how doo-lally I am waiting for Man of Steel this weekend.

When I was young, about five, my mum asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said Spider-Man. She said I couldn't be that. So I said Superman. As a million other kids in the late 70s most likely did. Before I apologised to Luke Skywalker, that is, and remembered that other film.

Can't stop listening to this tune. You can't compete with John Williams (which I'm listening to now as I type this - The Destruction of Krypton to be precise) and nor should you. Even though Bryan Singer had me hook, line and sinker when he used that theme for Superman Returns (which I still like, flaws and all, even if it seems a far smaller film in scope these days), this is different and, frankly, great stuff.

Hope the movie is up to it.

Beards on Hollywood Implosion

Interesting story doing the rounds right now about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas at E3 discussing how Hollywood continues to eat itself (link to Empire's coverage).

They talk about how the current trend of remakes, reboots and increasing budgets is essentially unsustainable and, while I still love me my summer movies (so long as they are GOOD), it's perfectly true.

Many of these big movies are not about directors, they're about Hollywood execs trying to prove to each other that their dick is the biggest by spending more money. There are even some, I hear, who will replace practical effects with unnecessary CG because they think it means something, that it shows that they;re not afraid to throw money around in the face of rivals, when it's entirely possible they have no real understanding of what makes a movie really work, which Mr Spielberg and Mr Lucas (accept it, yes the prequels were poor but he did a few things before them) plainly do. Summer blockbusters are now the domain of the suits. Star Wars, Jaws, ET, and Indiana Jones were all made with honest intentions and by guys who wanted to see those films themselves.

Something else which bugs me as well is the insistence on calling every big summer release a "blockbuster". Because they're not. A film used to only be a "blockbuster" if it did well, the phrase coming from how they broke records, crushed the competition and became cultural phenomena. Now, they're crafted by the suits to a formula and are called "blockbusters" regardless. A movie like Green Lantern or other John Carter (which I had a lot of time for) would not have been called a blockbuster back in the day. You didn't earn money, you were a bomb. Simple as. Based on the enormous profit it made, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a blockbuster - how many news outlets would consider that? Could Once, with it's huge profit margin, be classified as a blockbuster? Or are they not percussive enough for the quick pre-sell or quick cut, noisy TV feed amongst the empty celebs?

Hollywood and brainless, lazy entertainment "journalism"has lost sight of what that really means; but the entertainment journalism industry tends to rely on bigging up these things so people will continue to watch their own bilge. Because, just like the execs, they're afraid they won't be first past the post the minute the gates open. It's a playground mentality and it will be biting them on the ass pretty soon.

Hollywood execs know dick compared to these guys. Lucas and Spielberg didn't create blockbusters; anyone who continues to claim this needs to either get their head out of their ass or do some balanced research. What they actually did was make work that the public responded to overwhelmingly and the greedy money men saw their chance and have been at it ever since.

Movies will change. They always do. Something similar happened in the late 60s when giant flops like Doctor Dolittle and Cleopatra almost wiped studios out. I'm not saying for one instant that we're about to watch the current system fail and usher in a new era reminiscent of the early to mid 70s, but something is definitely going to have to change. And for the better, I think.

While there is an art there, it's also a business. And if there's one thing business knows how to do, it's adopt, adapt and survive.

Finishing things and Finally Back to the EIFF.

Going good this week.

Finished a draft of my current project. More things to do with it. That feeling of calm I get when I finish a job. I tend to get to sleep a lot more easily - I wish I got it more often. And anticipation at the next step (but never taking for granted that I carry it forward when it's not my baby).

And I'm seriously chuffed to be attending this years Edinburgh International Film Festival as a delegate. I rarely get to the EIFF and when I do it's for maybe on film. Going the whole hog this year thanks to an awesome producer I'm working with. Looking forward to it immensely but there is also going to be a lot of work to do when I'm there. An dlots of films to watch. I've got a lot to catch up on.

I'll also be attending the premiere of I Am Breathing, the documentary charting the final few months of the life of my old friend Neil Platt. Not going to be easy but knowing Neil and the filmmakers Morag and Emma, I know there'll be some laughter as well.

Right, back to the prep.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Desolation of Smaug Approacheth

I love this. Loved the first film. Loved what they added to it (I prefer Tolkien's addendums to the story in Unfinished Tales). Looking forward to December, once again.

Goodbye Iain Banks

  "I look down at Eric again, and smile, nod to myself in the breeze while the waves break and the wind moves spray and grass and a few birds call. I suppose I'll have to tell him what happened to me."


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Iain Banks

Message to cancer:


Iain Banks has not got long, he announced today.

I read The Wasp Factory in my early 20s after it was recommended to me by a friend. I was sitting on the top deck of the bus on my way home from college one night and I reached a part of the story where I felt I actually had to put the book down, mouth open and eyes agog, so powerful and disturbing was one particular image within the text. I picked it up again the next day and finished it. Amazing book.

When I lived in central Edinburgh, I often used to Mr Banks out and about, usually in a music shop.

Another cruelty inflicted by a shit of a disease on a talented individual. I only hope he is able to do whatever he needs to in the time he has left.



There's no other way to say it. My favourite band of all time (along with Slave to the Grind era Skid Row). And I managed to miss them when I was younger, so many, many times.

But then, last week...

Hee hee hee!!!!

I waited 20 years to finally see these fellas. And good god, it was worth it. Bannerman's is a small but important venue in Edinburgh for rock and metal music, especially these days. Sadly, circumstances meant that it wasn't the full original line up playing but lead singer Jizzy Pearl (I love how he's kept that name after all this time) along with a touring line up of Keri Kelli (Alice Cooper, Slash's Snakepit), Robbie Crane (RATT) and Matt Starr (Ace Frehley). And they were fantastic, all of them, really doing justice the originals. I missed a chance to speak to Jizzy (who brushed past me when he entered the pub itself), who was good enough to hang out with the fans for a bit (but we did bump fists during the gig, which made my day) but I did get to speak to Robbie Crane and Matt Starr several times, who were friendly, down to earth and approachable dudes.

Touring bassist Robbie Crane, formerly of RATT.

Love/Hate were one of those bands in the late 80s/early 90s who really weren't appreciated for who they were and what they did. A lot of folks didn't get into them for one reason or another but they completely spoke to me (how wanky, I know) when I was 19. Lumped in with the hair metal movement, they stood out from the rest of that lot for me and actually had something to say about the rock lifestyle of excess; I think a lot of their stuff still stands up and is remains relevant. They've more than their fair share of bad luck but keep at it. Real rock musicians who persevere through good and bad.

 Jizzy's voice is still amazing - after all those presumed years of rock n'roll excess, he looks after himself - and in all the entire band were amazing. I think they were a bit taken back at our response. Jizzy's said himself that the UK always seemed to love them more than anyone else.

And there was very little about the night that seemed nostalgic all that much nor did it seem like faded stars  trying to recapture previous glories. This was balls to the wall music. A bunch of guys still doing what they love and doing it amazingly and with a real passion.

I think Love/Hate's continued existence is an example of one of the beliefs I try to live by; if you love something, do it, no matter how old people say you are. The other way lies darkness, old age and the end.

An amazing and ferociously good night. Here's hoping it's not another 20 years before they come back to Edinburgh.

Working with Aberlour

Had a rather more productive few weeks than usual, with my first couple of bits of freelance filmmaking work.

Several weeks ago saw me shooting a promo for Aberlour Childcare Trust's Woof Walk, a part of annual charity The Kilt Walk. My shoulder rig came in handy for that and did a pretty good job for what it is.

And this morning I was working with Aberlour Childcare Trust again, filming Britain's Got Talent Winner Jai McDowall's good luck and thanks message to all those who will be embarking on the Woof Walk and Kilt Walk in a few weeks time at Hampden Stadium. Jai does a fair bit of promotion and work for Aberlour and it's good to meet someone from BGT who has their feet on the ground. Nice chap.

Hopefully some more work coming up soon as well as my current feature writing gig.

I'd better get on to the rushes, then...

Friday, 8 March 2013


I'm sure most if not all of my cinematographer friends would frown upon this, but I'm almost finished making a DSLR shoulder rig. Yes, I would love one of those snazzy Zacuto rigs but they're exhorbitantly expensive and I can barely afford bus fare these days.

I based if on a design found at a blog called, sticking to 15mm tubing so more conventionally manufactured additions can be attached. Not bad, I suppose. I'm no engineer (my marine engineer dad's skills were barely passed down to me, not my natural forte) but it's sturdy enough. I've managed to successfully attach a Giotto quick release plate to it. Still a bit rough around the edges and a bit more spray paint needed but it ought to do the job for the time being.

Well, whaddayay know? I finished a project.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Promos, reports and deadlines.

Another haitus, another blog entry.

My time's not been my own of late. I tried working at a full time temp job but, sadly, it left me no time at all to get on with the things I'm supposed to be doing professionally. Even after that's ended, I've still loads to be doing.

This weekend I'm directing a promo for a children's charity. All going well with the location, that is. Quite excited to be shooting something again.

The screenplay I'm writing is also in progress (if a little behind, thanks to full time work) and on course for a deadline very soon.

I also completed my first paid script report recently. Happy customer, which made me happy. Need to get more of that going.

Going to be a hectic weekend. I might relax at some point in the future. But it's all good so far.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Scott Ward - Director of Photography

Scott Ward was simply one of the warmest, nicest folks you were ever likely to meet amongst Scottish filmmakers. I never heard him raise his voice once and the loudest sound to come from him was always laughter. A kind of deep, jolly boom. A tall chap with the most wonderfully curly hair, his bicycle was never far away and he always remembered you, regardless of how brief your previous meeting had been, eyes widening above the crowd in a pub whenever he saw you. He had time for people.

I only worked with him once. An over-eager second year film student, I got a job as Grip on a university graduation film Scott was shooting. I'd worked on a fair amount of shorts by that time but this shoot seemed daunting to me. There were some rather serious people around and I was anxious to get things right. I would be controlling the movement of the camera on several long and slow tracking shots. What if I messed up? The film was being shot on film - way before digital technology swept in - and that's an expensive business, especially for already cash strapped students. A few technical rehearsals - it took a while to get the movement at the right speed and then maintain that speed. And all through it, Scott was calm, patient and encouraging, aware of the less experienced student and whatever anxiety I might have had. Keeping a calm atmosphere on set was important to him and he knew results did not come from tension, even if some of the actors were a little too sharp. He had time for everyone on the shoot, from director and producer to runner.

And then, when packing up the location and chuffed at getting things right, I dropped one of the iron weights used to steady light stands on my foot. A combination of horror and embarrassment from me (it bloody hurt) and amusement and exasperation from some of the other crew. But Scott, admitting the funny side, was first there to help me limp away from the location to knock back a drink after wrapping, making sure I was alright for the rest of the night, accompanied by some gentle jokes.

That's what he was. Calm, gentle, happy and always interested in others. On reflection, even though I didn't know him tremendously well, I'm shocked at how little I knew about him as he was more interested in other people. He was present at some ridiculously fun nights I attended, where all sorts of drunken fun was had at the expense of the dignity of several (often me and deserved, mind you) and I can still hear his laughter amongst the chaos.

I hadn't seen him for a while and the last time we met, which had been after another long while, he was just as welcoming and interested as always. I regret not being able to properly catch up that night as we were both caught up with others in the pub and both reckoned we'd catch up next time. The last meeting is often not the one you expect it to be.

A great cinematographer and a tremendously well loved man, taken long before his time. Rest in peace, sir.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Oscar Nomination Madness

The reaction to some of the nominations, or should I say non-nominations (try it with 4 beers - you'll kill your tongue) is verging on hilarious. Personally, I'm not so bothered. It seems to be between Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook. Lincoln's not been released in the UK yet and I enjoyed SLB, even if the end descended into something verging on romcom cliche.

But some folks really need to get a grip. Much of the vitriolic back and forth I've seen on some professional film blogs is up there with angry, pished pub arguments about football - pointless and nasty. And folks who don't care also need to back up and just let it be; "Waah! I hate the Oscars! They're irrelevant back-patting!! Waaah!". Well, then shut up, fuck off and stop paying attention to something that's upsetting you. Of course it's back-patting. It's a fucking awards ceremony. Sheesh.

The days of getting upset over these things seem to be happily behind me now. My opinion doesn't matter and neither does yours in the grand scheme of things. I still enjoy the madness around the Oscars, from the embryonic buzz throughout the year which starts to snowball around September to the night itself, which I like to stay up and watch (last year's was particularly memorable as my blog post about that makes clear). And I'm an unashamed Family Guy/Seth McFarlane fan so I'm hoping for a genuinely funny but old style showbiz affair this year. He knows his classic Hollywood and big time music numbers. I even found most (but not all - that deliberately awkward WW2 shtick needs to end) of today's announcement refreshingly funny.

I'm also going to make a point of reading as many of the screenplay nominees as I can. As far as the Best Film nominees go, I've only seen 3 of them so far (Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild and the afore-mentioned Silver Linings Playbook) as the many of the rest have not been released in the UK yet, apart from Amour, which got a dismal release I feel, and Life of Pi, which I'll see this weekend along with Les Miserables.

Most of the nominated screenplays are out there now. Time to get hunting.

Commencer le projet!

Please excuse the wanky title. Or don't.

Today marks the beginning of work on the first draft of my current feature project. Things agreed on with the good folks I'm working with and there is a delivery date.

These things are like babies, y'know; conception of the idea, first scribblings of a zygote of an idea float down and attach themself somewhere, it starts to grow inside you (bleurgh!) and gestates until it bursts forth from your ribcage, eviscerating you in the proce....hang on. No. It's born. And like a human baby, after birth it still has to evolve and grow. God help me if it becomes a teenager.

So, on with it until it's done.

Today's reading: This is 40, by Judd Apatow.

(I love it when Oscar season means these things are freely and legally available to download and read).

Monday, 7 January 2013

Hello 2013

Well, the Earth spins on, regardless of idiotic translations of harmless Meso-American calendars.

Had a nice and quiet Christmas (twice, really, as my sister spent hers with her husband's family in Ireland so we had a second Christmas dinner on their return) but don't really do New Year. So, the decorations are down, the tree is in the back garden awaiting dismemberment and I'm trying to get back to getting up at a sensible time in order to get on with things. And feeling a bit better about that than is normal.

I'm a few days away from beginning the first draft of a current project that has seen several outlines. Rather excited about that and working on it with some great people.

Hope to perhaps earn a little from writing this year as well. We all do, I suppose, but there's no sense in thinking small and never seeing the potential in your skill.

I'm also watching more movies so far this year - last week saw my introduction to Spaghetti Western maestro Sergio Corbucci. I wondered what all the fuss was about with Quentin Tarantino's love of the guy, so I watched 4 of his films over 2 days:
His first solo Western, Minnesota Clay (1964), with Cameron Mitchell as a wronged convict out for revenge before his encroaching blindness takes his sight.

Cameron Mitchell shortly before he uses his ears to take out the bad guys.

 The original Django (1966), with the legend that is Franco Nero, which was great and muddy, although I kind of wish we hadn't learned what he kept in that coffin he dragged around, even though it was key to the story.

Django and his "burden" - more mud than McCabe & Nrs Miller could shake a stick at.

 The Great Silence (1968), a fantastic bit of harshness amongst snow with a mute Jean-Louis Tritignant and Klaus Kinski on top form as a bounty killer and one of the bravest endings I've seen to a movie.

One of the genre's greatest SOBs. Still unsure whether Kinski dubbed himself, though.

Finally The Mercenary (1968), a Zapata Western combined with a buddy movie with another great performance from Franco Nero. I enjoyed it a lot also but found it a bit meandering at times. Some great moments, though, particularly when Nero's character is offering his mercenary services one step at a time to Tony Musante's revolutionary during a pitched battle with the Mexican military

Corbucci loved his machine guns...
Jack Palance's amazing perm. Yes, the villain is called Curly.
Possibly my favourite duel scene in a movie.

Corbucci seems to enjoy blowing thumbs away from gunslingers and inflicting physical handicaps to his protagonists, placing him a bit higher in my estimation that Leone it turns out. I hadn't realised that Django was banned in the UK but, amongst all the guhn deaths, forcing a character to eat their own severed ear didn't impress the censors back in the 60s. Who knew?

Also going to read as many scripts as I can as well. It's not just the act of writing that makes you a better writer. The more you read, the more you learn also.

Today's reading: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Ol Parker, adpated from These Foolish Things by Deborah Mogach.