Saturday 31 December 2011

Hogmanay Humbug.

Well, it's that time of year again. It's end.

I kind of can't be arsed with New Year. We're supposed to be the best at ringing in the New Year in Scotland but I just don't get it. I had Hogmanay stuffed down my throat as a kid and developed a bit of an aversion to the whisky/shortbread/JimmyfuckingShand Scottish cheese. I had fun in my late teens and early 20's getting thoroughly pished in the centre of Edinburgh but it stopped being fun around 1997 when there were massive crushes and rumours that someone even died in town. Just not for me, really. Christmas is done and I get eager to get on with things.

But I suppose I ought to take a little stock and reflect in the year a little.

I finally made another short film.
I made some more good friends on the filmmaking side of things.
I found a fair deal of confidence in my creative abilities.
Yet another draft of a feature was completed.
I saw nowhere near as many films as I like to due to unsociable employment hours.
Unsociable employment hours ended when I was laid off.
We had some heartbreak when we lost a member of our household. We miss you, Midge.
My wee sister got married. Am I really that grown up?
Was proud as anything to see my friend's first feature on the big screen at the BFI. Well done, Jon.
Possibly confused a former member of Ride in the pub.
Went to a couple of more gigs. Even if it was the same band twice (Warrior Soul - the guitarists are nice blokes).
Had my view at a film showing partly obscured by Dylan Moran's hair.
Didn't see enough of my friends.
Caught up with a good friend I'd not seen in over a year, which was odd for that relationship.
I simply got older and achieved nowhere near as much as I wanted.
Saw more of my wife. The best thing of all.

I wish I could say more about this year. Maybe I'm missing some obviously big things.

Well, there's a lot to get on with. Bring it, 2012. And no, the Myans didn't say shit about the end of the world. They just stopped their calendar. Why are we so obsessed with our mortality to such an extent that we let it get in the way of things?

In our next blog entry, something positive.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Faith, discovery and all of that shit...

One of the things I love about writing and creating stories is the early stage, where an idea can go anywhere if you let it. And I do that by constantly asking questions about my characters and the story possibilities. I don't like to be too tied down to an idea at the beginning, but the idea has to be strong enough and formed enough for me to warrant asking questions about it. I create documents where I kind of brainstorm; I write stuff down about the story but I also write down anything that pops into my head about said idea. And so, in beginning to really try and flesh out a science fiction short script, I find that questions galore raise their heads. I literally write these questions down as I brainstorm and see where they lead me. A lot of them get scribbled out. But not all of them. In fact I probably spend too much time doing these questions but I find it invaluable - you never know what you're going to get. But not chocolates.

I don't know if it's the fact that I'm writing a science fiction story, but the particular idea I have is definitely raising lots of questions, not just about plot and character but about deeper ideas (I know, potential wankiness could ensue) that make me consider the ramifications of the story. Or, is this story saying something about me? I've always loved the genre deeply - sci-fi on TV in the 1970's forms a fair chunk of my earliest memories, thanks to my Dad - and while I love the surface, whizz bang of a lot of it, the genre acts to ask questions about ourselves in a way I don't think many other genres really do. Like a dealer on a corner, Star Wars and the original Star Trek were my gateway drugs to stuff like Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov. But I still consider myself less literate than I ought to be.

One line of questioning has drawn me up a religious alleyway. I'm pretty much agnostic these days but raised Catholic (like Dara O'Briein says, just when you think you're out, they draw you back in!) and lots of questions linger, particularly about faith. Not just religious faith but lots of different kinds. Even just the concept of faith alone. And I find myself reluctant to push that too far as I feel that religion and questions regarding it can be very dicey territory. I don't want the idea in this script to be about religion so I have to find a way of drawing out the theme of faith in a more universal way. Right now in the world, I find too many people using ideas and questions about faith in order to push their own absolute ideas, be they religious or atheist; like I say, I'm agnostic and personally do not believe that anyone has the right to tell anyone else what to believe, unless it oppresses people, something I find on both sides of the modern religious arguments. In fact, to such a point that I have about as much contempt for hardcore atheists as I do for religious fundamentalists. Dogma is dogma.

And so I feel very anxious that I try and get this idea down on paper (and on screen, eventually) in a way that, while I hope it might encourage discussion, is told responsibly enough that it raises positive questions and doesn't fall prey to the twistings of certain ideas.

That's the thing I've discovered about writing and creating stories - everything matters and you have a responsibility as a writer and creator not just to the story but also to yourself and your ideas. If you have an idea and tell it the wrong way or write it in such a way that you lose sight of what made you write it in the first place then you do yourself a disservice as a person. Heavy shit. Is that the difference between a hack and a real writer? Not that I'd ever describe myself in the latter form, but the desire to stay true to an idea and my own feelings on a subject seems to be more and more important as I write more. A fear of audiences finding the wrong meaning (if there's such a thing) in my idea, or taking it too seriously.

All that wank about writing and discovery is true, it turns out. And to think this all came about from a daft idea about new stars in the night sky.

Sunday 4 December 2011


Winter, I hate. Christmas, I love. It snowed last night, a light dusting of the "white shite" as I posted on Facebook. I just don't want a repeat of the last two winters when we were snowed on from a great height.

A polish of my feature script is about to commence along with the commencement of another feature. Depending on how confident I'm feeling after that I may go looking for an agent and for that I'll need a proper game plan. No sense in chasing just any agent. You need to kknow both who to approach and how to make yourself attractive as a client to them. Life is short. No sense in faffing about thinking, "I'll do it tomorrow".

Also got an outline for a promo for a campaign I've said I'll do. That and a short script. I also have another short I might give a polish to. A mock-doc. Black comedy. Pretty sick actually. A man eating himself for charity.

I haven't been to the cinema for over 5 weeks now. What the hell is going on there? Well, actually, I have been. I went to see my friend Jon Spira's film, Anyone Can Play Guitar, at the Cameo last week, complete with Mark Gardener of Ride doing an acoustic spot at the end. Nice bloke (but his set was cut short towards the end as the old lady who lives above the cinema complained about the noise!). Good film as well. You can buy the DVD at the link above. Quite proud of my mate for actually making the thing. Very from the heart and Jon is possibly the most passionate music fan amongst my circle of friends. He loves movies but he loves music and I think he' done his hometown of Oxford proud by showing the music that came from there.

No sense in not doing things. Now, where is that Ikea cabinet I've got to build...?

Friday 11 November 2011

On with the Show

Been a while since my last blog post. Well, whatever.

Our film didn't win the competition it was entered into but I didn't expect to win anyway. We got some nice positive votes on the competition website, though, and I'm presently sifting through a couple of ideas for our next one. Yep, we intend to carry on. The shoot was great and our crew were a lovely, productive and efficient bunch to work with.

Next time is definitely going to be my own idea and script and longer. My own stuff is pretty far removed from the script we eventually made; I tend to go for sci fi, horror and some pitch black comedy and the two ideas I'm playing with are definitely along those lines. That stuff and they way we can express certain fears and ideas through it is what interests me the most. So on with the next film.

The feature script I recently finished has also had some nice praise from a source I respect and admire so I;m feeling pretty good about that as well. However, I need more under my belt feature-wise if I;m going to seriously think about approaching agents. One or two feature scripts are not enough, in my opinion. I need to make myself look like an attractive proposition to an agent (stop sniggering, you cheeky feckers) and being able to do more than one type of story and having more ideas developed on paper is essential. A new job is taking up my mornings but all the better. Existing in an essentially penniless state doesn't help me get on or boost my confidence one iota.

All in, a productive couple of weeks in October and early November. Good. The prospect of stagnating in a chair, wasting time on the Internet is less and less appealing.

Friday 21 October 2011

Film Done

Well, we did it. This time last week, our short only existed on paper and now it's all done. We shot it on Tuesday with the help of a lot of brilliant people to whom I am extremely grateful. I spent the last few days editing it together and fixing some of the sound today (I have a few issues with what I did soundwise, but it's done).

So, here it is, Everything You Need from a script written by David Turner:

It looks fabulous thanks to Simon Vickery behind the lens, shooting on a Canon 7D DSLR. I'm amazed at the results we got and any flaws are down to me. It's a constant learning process. I'm also amazed that I simply decided to make a film and then went and did it. What with the new short and completing a feature screenplay recently, this his has been the most productive couple of weeks for about 10 years for me.

And I want to do nothing but make another, longer film now. Got to keep moving.

Monday 17 October 2011

Plunge Taken.

We're shooting a one minute short film tomorrow. It's weird - I've made films of varying lengths before, fiction, documentaries, even a corporate for the Scottish Government which was to be watched by the then Minister for Education, and yet I'm more apprehensive about shooting one minute tomorrow. I guess that's me taking it seriously. But it has been a while since I've made any films. The last was in 2006 and was a mock version of those old public service films we used to get in the UK. Except that one was about zombies.

I have a great crew, a great actor and a lot of goodwill on my side. It's mine to fuck up.

Here we go again.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Filmmaking again. At last.

And so, I'm finally making a film again. Even if it only supposed to be one page long. I've finished the latest draft of my current feature screenplay and want to take advantage of the time available. I feel I've got loads of energy now I've done the draft which is now sitting with the Powers That Be.

We're entering the Four Days in August competition, being run by the chaps at Living Spirit Pictures and The London Screenwriters Festival (an event I really need to get to but the wallet disallows). The first half of the competition was about entering a one page script and the winner would be selected to be made by entrants to the second half of the competition. The theme is the riots in England a few months ago.

Still with me?

As it turns out, two scripts have been selected and we've gone for one of them (obviously). I've not made a film for quite a while and want this one to be good. Well, you should want every film you make to be good. I've teamed up with an MFA student at Screen Academy Scotland and a few other folks in the Scottish filmmaking community. We've literally no budget but will get the job done.

We're keeping a production blog and also have a Twitter feed dedicated for the film. Twitter still kind of baffles me but you have to take advantage of as much as you can these days, not that this will affect the outcome of the film or the competition but we want the film to have a presence outside of the competition. I've my own tweed feed as well, which I update even less than this blog.

We're shooting next Tuesday, most likely in Glasgow. One location, one character onscreen with no dialogue, another character offscreen with dialogue. It may be only for one minute but there is still a lot of work to do to get it up onscreen and ready for the competition deadline, Friday 21st October. I'm anxious that this goes well and am pretty nervous about it all. I just need to keep on top of it all and make sure our 60 seconds really count.

I want this ball to keep rolling and make more films after this. I've definitely sat on my arse too long in that respect.

Thursday 6 October 2011


I have never owned a single piece of Apple tech in my life. My wife has an iPhone. She's never far from it and I see how important it is to her.

But what I do know is that I love Pixar. The proper marriage of technology and true, honest storytelling. Something the rest of Hollywood, or even the world, fails to get right time and time again.

Reading Steve Jobs commencement speech to Stanford in 2005, specifically his third story, I feel like I really need to make major changes. Losing a good friend two years ago gave me a kick and I often think of the loss of Neil and what he wasn't able to accomplish. But old lazy habits still prevail. However, Jobs' speech puts it into more concrete terms

So, Mr Jobs, thank you for Pixar.

And I will endeavour to stay hungry and foolish.

Monday 3 October 2011

Geek Parenting Done Right

I could not let this go by and let other folks miss it. Guys of a certain age will remember the thoughts going through the minds of these kids (and I'm sure some girls too, but it always seemed to be a boy thing when I was young, so no shouting at me, ladies).

So, how cool is their dad?

Amazing. Obviously, their dad has started them with Star Wars (I resisted calling it A New Hope when I was a kid and still do to this day) and then proceeded in production order and not the order Lucas now wants us to see them in - does he not realise the power that this revelation still holds? Obviously not. Well, regardless of the prequels, we can still watch them in the order they were made and see how the story unfurled in its most effective way.

However, when The Empire Strikes Back first came out, a kid in the year above me in primary school, who had all the toys and assumed the position of biggest Star Wars fan in school (seriously, he got fucking snobby about it to other kids, like he was better than us.) saw Empire on its opening day and proceeded to tell everyone in the school dining room about all the big secrets in the movie!

Y'know, just in case...
I believe his smug words went something like, "Yeah, I saw The Empire Strikes Back and Luke Skywalker gets his hand cut off and Darth Vader is really his father and Han Solo gets frozen."

As we say in Scotland, what a bawbag. If that happened today, he'd get a proper slapping about.

I don't have kids and will always be eternally envious of other guys who get to share this moment with their kids in this way.

Still one of the greatest shock scenes in movie history.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Animatronic Kudos Deserved.

Godzilla's pal, Gorosaurus. Man in suit! Man in suit!

I just got finished watching a documentary on BBC4 about the depiction of dinosaurs throughout cinema history. And I have to say I'm pretty pissed at it.

In terms of the modern depictions mentioned, Jurassic Park was obviously the big mention. And well deserved as well as it's still brilliant. I saw it on the big screen at the weekend on re-release with a shiny new digital print and it's lost none of its thrill and wonder.

What has partially pissed me off is the cynical discussion of CGI in the documentary. Jurassic Park gets the lion's share of attention but the 1998 version of Godzilla and Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong are also brought up, mainly to slag off "Hollywood" (completely omitting to mention that 98's Godzilla was written and directed by a German) and also to have various critics appear in the usual head shots to criticise CGI saying that it has given filmmakers too much power. This is a fair argument, as any shiny new tool that brings in audiences will guarantee its overuse and dilution, even if it was as one sided as usual. However, it's not the criticism of CGI that has annoyed me, but the complete lack of any mention of the puppets involved.

Everybody who thinks visual effects in movies today automatically thinks of CGI and nothing else, never talking about people like Stan Winston or the Henson Workshop, making incredible prosthetics and animatronics that should blend seamlessly with CGI. Everything has its place on the screen, all coming together to create the ultimate illusion. An entire industry, a while slew of craftspeople and artists who work their behinds off are ignored because lazy programme writers want to go for the obvious. The T-Rex attack on the cars in Jurassic Park is a great example of the two techniques being combined for the sake of the shot. A full body animatronic T-Rex was built and is seen in its entirety in several shots (one or two shots have the puppet do one thing in the frame, leave the frame and re-enter as CG, doing what puppets cannot) and I've read that Spielberg was adamant that CG be used where animatronics would not would, not filling the screen with CG as so many people like to think. Nor did the programme makers stop to consider that Jurassic Park was the first movie of its kind to attempt to show the anatomy of dinosaurs and how they truly might have moved in a more accurate light (although, paleontology being the science it is, ideas and theories are constantly shifting). It might not have been spot on, but at least they tried.

I suppose it is true that the CG work as amazing when it blends so well with live action puppets but I get so annoyed when people generalise about VFX like this. It's lazy, it's cynical and its insulting to the people who create these creatures. A look at the work of Guillermo del Toro is a great example, particularly in Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy 2, where huge creatures are not necessarily CGI but sophisticated puppets featuring more intricate design than most high end computers would be able to render. The full bodied puppet used for the troll, Wink, is amazing. And what's more, light shines off them naturally, which must surely be the bane of a CG modeller and lighter - it's always a give away.

This even goes for virtual sets as well. In The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Star Wars Prequel trilogy, so many shots of wide environments, such as the city of Minas Tirith, Helm's Deep, the Podrace Arena or Chewbacca's home world of Kashyyk, are based around huge miniature sets that are augmented by CG. Model and puppet making are not extinct as people say and are still around. I only wish people would talk about them more instead of insecurely concentrating on shouting about CG. It only feeds the ignorance of the audience.

Which is not to say that I'm anti-CGI. I'm not. In fact I've had a few loud debates where I've wound up defending CGI. But everything has its place and it rarely takes one technique to create the fantastic.

Well, rant over. I'm off to watch scantily clad cave women be harassed by stop motion dinosaurs. Or get a Lemsip and sleep. Whichever first. God bless the BBC, despite my rant.

Monday 26 September 2011


Mike Reilly as Baal, DP Dan Starborg in the background, Ben Mawdsley camera assisting and me pretending I know what I'm doing.

I've added a new banner to the top of the page, once again from my old short, Baal and Ben, cut from the picture above.

I know some friends who are likely to say, "Jeez, Brian, this was too long ago! Put it away! Don't wallow in the past!". Well, I agree. In part. But writing is such a lonely and at times horrid activity that it's far too easy to lose sight of things.

I still want to make films as well as sit and write them. Looking at some of the old stills from Baal and Ben, I'm now quite proud of what we pulled off for very little money (shot on 16mm for £1,300), even if I found it hard to watch at the time. And, yes, it was a long time ago. But I look at those stills and remember what I was capable of and feel encouraged. And it reminds me of the reaction it got at it's first screening, which was very good. Head swellingly good. Finding encouragement as a writer can be very difficult and if no one else is around (but people normally are) to keep you going during those black moments then you need to draw upon yourself and what you've achieved.

I've made a few more shorts since then, but this is the one that always sticks with me. I need to know I've done it before and can do it again.

If you feel lost, always think back to what you've achieved, regardless of whether it's a film or not. If no one else is encouraging you, sod 'em and push yourself.

So, there it is. Another unnecessary justification for my actions.

Back to the page.

Reading before Re-Writing

Going through the latest draft of my current project before I start making notes on subsequent revisions. Oh yes, there will be several revisions, each looking at different aspects of the thing. I have to take my normally undisciplined mind and force it to be methodical. But on reading this latest draft...

Good god.

Lots to fix, trim, replace and improve. One of the hardest things is not to try and tinker with it as I'm reading and just absorb the whole thing. Really not easy (I've changed a couple of lines already).

And besides, here I am blogging instead of reading.

Thursday 22 September 2011

After Effects

Well, after a spectacularly horrendous weekend, things have to go on. Even losing an animal member of the household puts things into perspective. Those old thoughts of mortality push you onwards.

So, I'm glad I've finished a third draft of my current project. Very relieved but there is still work to do. I'm going to let it stew on it's own for a week before I set about revising it. I already know I have to lose at least 15 pages (it clocks in at 134 pages right now) so one pretty expendable sub plot is for the chop, some scenes are going to be combined and there is still some character work to do. It's taken me far too long, however, eve if it is a page one re-write. A hell of a lot of re-working. My two lead characters share the same relationship but they are significantly different in their social standing and ages. A few years off someone's age can make a huge difference to them as a character. And I'm hoping that the exposition which dragged the previous draft down is now far more subtle and woven into the story and experienced by the reader/audience as it is by the main character.

But, milestones are milestones and I'm glad this one has finally been reached. Some other ideas which have been floating around my skull and notebooks are going to get some long overdue attention now.

I feel a reward viewing of Aliens on Blu-Ray and the new Anthrax album coming on. After housework.

Friday 16 September 2011


Our hearts are broken.

She was the centre of my wife's world and the heart of our home. Loving, fierce, very definitely the Boss (our dogs knew their place with her) and utterly devoted to my wife.

Sleep well, Midge, and thank you for all the love you gave us.


Today is an emotional and very, very hard day. I wish it was because of something as relatively piffling as work but it's not. I want it to be over but I wish it hadn't started at all.

There is so much love in our house.

Friday 2 September 2011

Better Luck Next Time, Conan.

Conan the Barbarian.

I was left with an intense desire to stick the Milius version on when I got home.

However, Jason Mamoa is actually pretty good as Conan; his enthusiasm is there to see on screen and is backed up with his own recent comments on the character and his desire to actually write a Conan screenplay himself. He could surpass Arnie with the character if they made another one.

Contrary to early fanboy fears, it is pretty damn violent and is actually quite mental in that sense.

But how can a film so frenetic and willfully gleeful in its comic violence be so damn dull? With each loud bang or musical cue signifying anything happening onscreen, I actually felt like I was being lulled to sleep. Some of the violence is pretty damn funny and there are some standout moments but these are diluted by the sheer dipshit direction and writing on display.

Completely formulaic and predicable with some supporting characters and sidekicks who appear and disappear at will, not doing very much, just serving the odd purpose and leaving. Little in the way of character arcs for anyone and an inexplicable and frankly inappropriate narration from Morgan Freeman. Even the Milius version, as nuts as it is, had Conan on a decent character journey, experiencing loss, punishment for folly and emerging maybe slightly different at the end. Slightly.

I'm just glad I didn't see it in 3D but I felt the film was relying on that too much, given the narrative standards on display in the 2D version I saw.

Better luck next time. Shit film but I wouldn't mind seeing Mamoa as Conan again so long as the film is made by other people who give a shit about proper movies.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Croatia Pics

No one asked for it but you're getting some pictures anyway. Like it. Obey me.

Stunning. And we had dinner onboard her as well.
Dubrovnik seen from quite a long way away.
One of the views from the evening cruise.
Our free concert, as seen from one of our windows.
Mostar, in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Too damn hot.
So, there we are. A nice time was had, even if I can't be arsed taking too many photos. I prefer to soak it in.

Croatia and Other Things

More blogless weeks.

Just back from a week's holiday in Dubrovnik in Croatia. Very hot (too hot at times) but also very beautiful. A fantastic walled city on the Croatian coast that is the ideal fortress and must have inspired the archetypal pirate fortress as seen in countless movies. In fact, many of the other towns along the coast had to build away from the coast as they had no natural defenses against the marauders inhabiting the clear waters of the Adriatic. I've never seen water like it before (also went in for a little dip despite my lack of swimming ability). The Croatians are very proud of their clean and clear water, full of fish and other lifey type things.

We were there at the tail end of the Festival of Dubrovnik and were treated to a live, open air concert from the Croatian Symphony Orchestra which we could see and hear from our apartment overlooking the main square. The first night was a little irritating as they were simply rehearsing. At midnight. Drifting off to sleep as some soft, classical music breezes on is nice. Being woken up with a start ten minutes later by the opening bars of Carmen at full blast is not so nice. We also heard what we presumed was a female singer, a soprano we reckoned. Very nice. The next night was the occasion of the actual  concert and we stuck our heads out of the window, listening to the music and the lovely, light singing only to realise what we thought was a female singer was in fact a male contralto, Max Emanuel Cencic, rather camp and wearing a shawl and cloth cap. I honestly thought that it was not possible for a man to make that kind of noise but there we are. He was very impressive. The concert was also being broadcast live on TV as well, offering a better view, if four seconds out of sync with the outdoor proceedings. But it was a very special thing to see on holiday. And free.

What was sobering was the realisation that many of the buildings we saw had been repaired or rebuilt after the Balkans war of the 1990's. Some buildings are still riddles with bullet holes and many of the homes we saw outside Dubrovnik and during our trips to Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina (specifically the nice but far too hot town of Mostar) were brand new, so sweeping had been the destruction of the past. In fact a very old bridge in Mostar had been completely destroyed in the war and was now fully rebuilt from its original stones and bricks. Impressive to say the least. And yet there seemed to be no tension between the different peoples of the countries we went to, possibly because the Serb Nationalists who caused so much of the devastation are in the minority and in Serbia.

I wonder if the differing tribes of Libya are going to be so forgiving and understanding now Gadaffi is out of power.

I didn't take too many pictures (although my shutterbug wife took 600!) but may post some soon.

As always with me there's a movie catch to the trip. On the way to Montenegro, we passed through the tunnel featured in the car chase from the opening of Quantum of Solace. Not the best Bond film but not the worst either and always good to see a movie location.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Vid stuff

I don't really post random vids but these amused me.

First up, my childhood hero reveals why there were never sequels to the original Star Wars movies.

Love it.

And now the late and very great Vivian Stanshall sums up a lot of what happens in my head.

Vive la grump.

Monday 25 July 2011

A Blogless Month

Another blogless month. Not sure what I've been doing to prevent a blog entry. Nothing massive but maybe nothing that I felt warranted an entry.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2? Brilliant. I had no idea it would be as good as it was, considering I did not really like the previous three films. The final scene was nicely judged and the inclusion of some of John Williams piece, "Leaving Hogwarts", from the first film really helped it and brought a slight tear. But some of it was still mishandled, especially Snape's story. Always room for improvement.

Green Lantern. What a bloody shame.

Still, sunny days (after some of the worst and prolonged rain I can remember) and time spent in the garden. Nice.

About to lose my job in a few weeks but while the albeit small amount of pay is useful, I'm glad I'll have some time to get on with some other things like my writing, which should really be my primary focus. So I'm still scribbling away. Nearly finished the 3rd draft of a feature and beginning work on a sci-fi short.

Focus, sir. Focus.

Well, best get on with it.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

The Difference Between This and That.

I pride myself in some of the lowbrow aspects of my sense of humour. Everyone ought to have more than one level to theirs. So Jackass has been known to reduce me to tears on occasion. Watching those lads do the daftest and stupidest things in the name of entertainment. Sometimes I have felt a little guilty at laughing at some of it but they're up for it.

Ryan Dunn was one of my favourites on Jackass. He seemed a decent bloke and I heard good things about him from a friend who met him once. A particular stunt when he went snorkeling in a waste tank was one of those ones where the real danger wasn't revealed until after the stunt was finished and his reaction proved that he wasn't as brainless about his safety as one might have thought - the bottom of the waste tank consisted of mechanical choppers that would have torn him to shreds if his feet had become entangled. This was a stunt for entertainment purposes and he wouldn't have done it had he known. Safety first in the business.

So, what's the difference between the safety aspects of that kind of thing and everyday life? None. Because when you're dead, you're dead.

Getting into a sports car when you're drunk is beyond stupid. It's reckless, thoughtless, beyond dangerous and incredibly stupid. You put more than your own life at risk. There are passengers, other road users and pedestrians to think of. And so while Dunn's death is a tragedy for his family and friends there is also the death of his passenger, Zachary Hartwell, to consider. I don't care what Roger Ebert says or how Bam Margera reacts to him, but Dunn's decision to get into that car, knowing full well how pished he was, has battered Hartwell's family also.

If he was as drunk as witnesses have suggested, Ryan Dunn was responsible for the death of Zachary Hartwell, as well as his own. Putting your own life at such huge risk is one thing, but placing a friend in that position as well? What do I know, I'm just another blogger.

I don't understand the attitude of some folks in the US towards drinking and driving. In the UK, it results in driving bans and jail terms. It's that serious. In fact there is a concerted effort by the Police over here to have an outright ban on drinking and driving. People die. Innocent people die. DON'T DO IT. Only last year in the relatively large village where I live, a cyclist was knocked down and killed by a drunk driver only a few hundred yards from our house. On Gala Day, so lots of children and families were around.

I liked Ryan Dunn and had an odd respect for him regarding what he did with the Jackass and CKY boys. I never knew the guy but all it takes is one mistake in such a serious situation. One mistake. His death is both sad and ironic on a couple of levels. But so is the death of Zachary Hartwell. You could argue that he shouldn't have got in the car either. It's academic now.

What a fucking shame.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Fake Muppets

I love the Muppets. With a passion. I've got as much of The Muppet Show in DVD as I can legally get my hands on and remember watching a fair bit of it when it was first broadcast on UK television. Sunday evenings on ITV. Loved it, even if some of it did scare me a bit (Crazy Harry in particular). In fact my wife doesn't like me having the DVD on as it still scares her a bit. There was a genuine sense of lunacy and love on display that came directly from not just Jim Henson and Frank Oz but from a unique collection of performers who seemed intent on making each other laugh. You can hear them over canned laughter sometimes. I also love the first two movies but Muppets Take Manhattan just didn't do it for me. And then Jim Henson died. That was the first time I ever actually shed a tear when someone famous died (the other time when Christopher Reeve). It really knocked me for six.

But the Muppets had to continue. And so they did. The mantle of Kermit was passed on to Steve Whitmire. But as time went on more and more performers left due to age, other commitments or death (Richard Hunt's passing was also a punch to the gut). Voices were replaced as more films and TV specials came out. And I couldn't help but think that things just weren't the same anymore. Even Gonzo (my favourite Muppet ever), still performed by his creator Dave Goelz, seemed restrained and downplayed, his screeching enthusiasm for all things deviant nothing more than a sentimental murmur. The lunacy and unpredictability of the show seemed lost.

But now we are getting a new theatrical Muppet film, taking them back to their roots, simply called The Muppets.

I really thought I'd be happy about this. Everyone I know on Facebook seems to love it. Iwant to like it.I really do. But it's just not the same. Yes, it looks a lot better than Muppets From Space - whomever came up with the idea that Gonzo is an alien needs a slap. He's a WEIRDO, not an alien! Or even a Frackle (not Fraggle) - but the changes in the performers mean more than just slightly different voices.

The original performers brought so much of themselves to it all back in the day that it would be tough for anyone to try and replace them. But the original souls of the characters just don't seem there anymore. Whitmire's Kermit and Henson's Kermit are completely different now, it seems. The more recent Kermit seems too nice and lacks Henson's sense of outright cheek and charm. Fozzie lacks his anxiety and delusion and has gained an odd overbite. And Miss Piggie? It's like someone else puppeteering Rod Hull's Emu. The threat is gone. I don't want to see Crazy Harry wearing a hard hat. I want him to blow everything up at random and terrify me again. I don;t want imitations but surely a little more of what made the originals so much fun is in order?

Fair play to the new Muppeteers. They have enormous shoes to fill. But the characters just don't seem to be there anymore for me. I'll see the new film, but I'll be walking in with a lot of baggage.

Seems I grew up.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Random Catch Up

Not much of note happening recently but I feel guilty about not blogging nowadays.

Last Monday saw another Shooters in the Pub event. A good night (even if I was a little more squiffy than I'd have liked to have been. Dinner first next time) and a few business cards were exchanged and some more good contacts made. I guess the key to networking, once the fear subsides, is just keeping it going.

I was on a team for this month's Filmhouse quiz (well, I had to leave before the final round, but I did my bit) and we came fifth which is one hell of a leap up from the past. Nice.

I also caught two Humphrey Bogart / Nicholas Ray films on the big screen that weekend, In a Lonely Place and Knock on Any Door.  The big screen is still the best place to catch old movies (any movies, actually!) Both very good if a little depressing. Knock on Any Door was basically an accusation at the US for it's attitude to youth crime (watch for Bogie's great but overblown summation speech to the entire courtroom and country) and had a hard hitting end that brought to mind the climax of Angels With Dirty Faces only without the screaming. I preferred In a Lonely Place, which also featured Gloria Graham and had a much more of a thriller spirit even if it was in danger of veering into melodrama at times.

I'll likely not get to see anything if much at all at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival but there are some free outdoor screenings going on, including a couple of screenings of Raiders of the Lost Ark which I am going to have to get to. Indiana Jones was 30 years old a few days ago. That should make me feel old but it doesn't. That movie is still as fresh as it ever was and the action is still a great as it ever was, primarily due, I think, to that fact that it was all done onscreen with real stunts, something more movies ought to be remembering. I loved that fact that on set wire work was obviously used on X-Men: First Class for much of Banshee's action scenes at the end. Real sunlight reflecting of a real performer.

Ye cannae beat it.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Childhood Ultra Violence Remembered

This is pretty much the best thing I've seen in a long time. Created by the French video artists, Megaforce, I think this is strictly speaking a music video but it also happens to be the greatest and most authentic rendering of how we really imagined our fictitious gunplay as little boys and girls since the two finger shootout scenes in Spaced (here's scene one, which is my fave, and scene two).

Well, it is for me anyway.

Even into our early teens, if we weren't creating seriously bloody effects with Fairy Liquid bottles, tubing and a secret blood recipe when armed with video cameras, we were shooting each other off of our bikes with our water bottles, spreading H2O death around the streets, annoying certain mothers and frightening the neighbours. The bit with the old lady rings very true and was a running gag with us for a while. I also remember two of us walking along the street with a fake severed head (it was meant to be me) and convincing some younger kids that it was real and we were very sad our friend had had his head cut off in some freak accident.

Yes, this is meant to be me, circa 1989. I can grimace with the best of 'em.
The thing is, this happened again to a bunch of us about 18 months ago back in the pub when presented with red feather boas by a team selling Jaegermeister. I may have to dig out some photo's of feathery, bloody death. Our other halves possess an unreal sense of patience.

Ah, the sweetness of childhood...

Thursday 19 May 2011

Edinburgh Done Emmerich Style

To the right of the devastation is where I work. This would indeed be worse than the snow last winter.

 Just read about a new short film being produced in Edinburgh called Boat, spearheaded by a chap named David Lumsden. Unashamedly riffing on The Road, it's about a father and son struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic Edinburgh, now submerged in several metres of water. And these guys have done their visual research. Not just Prince's Street underwater, but those evil high rise flats at Sighthill now crumble at lapping waves and the Forth Road Bridge is left to rot.

Amazing to see this kind of imagery set around places I know and the fact that people are making films like this featuring VFX. I'm a huge advocate of Scottish films ceasing to obsess with social realism (not entirely, just think about the other audiences out there) and use the setting for more universal and even fantastical stories. We've a huge history of myth and legend here and it never seems to be drawn on effectively.

Have to say, I really want to see this.

Boat - the website
Edinburgh Evening News article on Boat.

Edinburgh Screenwriters Event.

I'm breaking out of the house again today (well, actually I break out every weekday to go to my evening temp drudgery but that doesn't register as breaking out with me). Off into Edinburgh this evening for one of the monthly events organised by the Edinburgh Screenwriters Group, a part of Scottish Screenwriters. They meet up every four weeks to network, swap stories of experiences, workshop short scripts or excerpts and often have speakers. This evening they're playing host to David Bishop, writer of several episodes of Doctors and Nina and the Neurons, copious tie-in novels, Doctor Who audio dramas and tutor on the Creative Writing MA at Screen Academy Scotland. Also an acquaintance during our time studying the Screenwriting MA at SAS and all round good egg.

Again, it'll be good to be around other writers and interesting to hear what David has to say about his own experiences and any advice he has. His blog is pretty damn good as well and recommended reading.

Attending these things is becoming more important to me. There is cross pollination between the above event and the monthly Shooters in the Pub meet ups, showing that there is indeed a growing community of filmmakers in Edinburgh who are getting out there and doing stuff without relying on the no longer existent seemingly unobtainable subsidies we once had.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

The Script Factory - Industry Script Reading

Well, Blogger failing last week led me to stray from my intended blog about the course I attended in London last week. But here it is anyway.

Getting into Script Reading has been on my mind for a while now. The idea for me is to try and supplement my income (or not have to continue my rotten temp job) and improve my own writing by reading more screenplays but as with any aspect of the industry, it's tough to get into and being able to say you've got some experience or qualification in Script Reading has to be a boost of some kind. So I enrolled in The Script Factory's one day course in Industry Script Reading and got my arse down to London for it. And a good time was had, both on the course and in the pub.

Anyone looking to get into it is likely to benefit from attending one of these courses and The Script Factory's seemed pretty damn good, with a tutor who knew what he was talking about, delivering it clearly. The other people attending came from a variety of backgrounds and all had varying levels of experience in screenplay writing, reading and/or development, some very new to the game and some veterans. So a good deal of what we were taught that day might have come as something new to some of the group. For me, a chunk of it was about taking what I already know about screenwriting and turning it around, using it to deconstruct instead of construct. This also served as a good reminder of what to do and not do as a writer. Working on your own in one room can make you forget certain aspects of the craft. Feedback is vital and I need to get my work out to people again.

Just as important (but something most of the courses I've done have failed to include) was information about actually getting employment within the industry as a reader. It's a daunting prospect. Readers are not paid well (this is not a job that can sustain a living), there are several levels of experience required for different sections of the industry and you can spend more time seeking employment than getting the work itself.

But that's no reason to be put off, as far as I'm concerned. We have to be prepared to exist at the bottom with little return if we're in it for the long game, and I am (my whole bleedin' life, so far). I'm still holding on to the old maxims about persistence and hard work (need to hold on to that latter one a but harder, I think) paying back in the long run.

So, I have to do some sample coverage and feedback reports and get my ass out there. Doing a course is one thing. Making sure you've got samples to back yourself up is another.

Read more. Write better.

Thursday 12 May 2011


Got back from four days in London yesterday and still pretty knackered after an awful train journey but a good time was had.

I stayed with a good friend right by Ealing Studios and proximity to any kind if film history will always get me unreasonably excited. I enjoyed a couple of quiet pints and scribbling in Ealing's Red Lion pub, also know as Stage 6 due to it being right across the road from Ealing Studios and was soon full of crew members finished for the day.

I went down to do a one day course in Script Reading and decided to spend a few extra days catching up with old friends. A fair amount of beer ensued but I can't stay in London too long. I'm a home-bod at heart and was ready to come home sooner rather than later. It also featured the first time I've had to ask for a refund at the cinema. Not the quality of the film as I had no way of telling, seeing as there was no picture for the first 10 minutes and when it was restored the sound was deafening. I'll need to try and see that film again up here. And the wonderful London air sparked an allergy I never knew I had. Sniff.

The Script Reading course was held by the Script Factory but I'll dedicate a blog entry to that later today.

Away for a few days and the grass is too long (but rain stops me from cutting it) while other things in the garden which should be growing have come on nicely. I'm so grown up and dull now. Well, certainly dull. Some of my London purchases, particularly from Forbidden Planet, don't demonstrate any sense of growing up; think Millennium Falcon and a Haynes Car Manual.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Elisabeth Sladen

Elisabeth Sladen is gone and I am gutted.

Sad and terrible news just as the new series of Doctor Who is about to start and taken so soon after Nicholas Courtney.

She was one of those childhood characters I thought would just always be around. Arguably the most iconic and popular companion of the Doctor's in the show's history and definitely my favourite (a very early childhood crush as well). Her place in the programme and its onscreen mythology has lasted since she first appeared in it 37 years ago. There are not many actors who can claim that.

As kids, we ran with her, we screamed with her, investigated with her and we fought alongside her. RIP Sarah Jane Smith.

She's off gallivanting somewhere with Harry and the Brig. I may have to stick The Time Warrior or The Hand of Fear on now...

Self Flaggelation

I ought to scold myself about working a bit more often. 3 pages done since that last blog post.

Aiming to get this draft finished by the end of the week. I reckon it's entirely do-able. Got some notes already for the subsequent revision and I know mostly where I'm going to pare things down. It'll be a relief and not much beats that feeling of holding those printed and bound pages.



You know you're procrastinating when you can't even blog a wee bit, never mind get the writing task done.

I shall return.

Friday 4 February 2011

Words on the Page Over Square Eyes.

Sky Atlantic HD.

An awful lot of good TV to watch. But will I be able to?

I used to watch too much TV as a kid. Far too much TV. But then I discovered that watching movies in a cinema was much better than movies or TV in the living room, which is full of distractions. So, thankfully, it seems that the rest of the world has taken over this task for me. And I'm glad. But the temptation to just decompose in front of the box is still there. And now there is a new addition to the weight on the other side of the scales, threatening to draw me away from productivity.

The addictiveness and quality of US TV drama has exploded in the past decade or so but I found myself being particularly choosy about what I watched. Averaging out at about 25 episodes long, one season of a US drama can demand a hell of a lot of one's time and I heard about people having to make time for so many shows. Making time for TV seems an awful lot like letting it have authority over your spare time (My god, I sound like my parents). A counter to that might be that with the advent of DVR, we can watch it whenever we want. But even with it all recorded, there's still too much of the quality stuff to cram in. Consequently, I limited myself to one or two, particularly Battlestar Galactica (one of the best shows ever on US TV, in my humble opinion) and Entourage. I tried Lost, especially after it's stunning opener, but gave up into season 2. And as a result I'm glad I couldn't be arsed to surrender my time to something which turned out to be so unsatisfactory by the end. Or so I hear.

The thing about these shows is that they demand a hell of a lot of attention. They're great and often brilliantly written, but there's just so much of them. Some folks keep telling that I must see The Wire or The West Wing. Well, one day, hopefully.

But now, with this new channel, there's a new plethora of them foisted on us. I'm glad I can watch Entourage again (which I reckon is the equivalent of Sex and the City for men, only a hell of a lot less shallow than Carrie and her fucking shoes) but I'm still going to limit myself to one or two. I just can't justify giving so much of my life over to television, even if it's about following and learning from good writing. Boardwalk Empire was the first to be given over to the "record series" option, as well as Vince, E and Ari. Not sure what else, though.

And so the Sky+ box fills up and things get deleted without being seen to make way for more things I might not find the time to watch.

The danger of trying to be a screenwriter is that the balance between work and "research" can tip over. I've got loads of films still to watch on DVD and in the cinema but finding the time is a bugger. Words on the page over square eyes, I think.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Getting Out Of The Cave.

Possibly my biggest nemeses as a writer - myself and my relative inability to network.

I say relative because it seems that I can do it sometimes. Others will say, and I agree 100%, that as a screenwriter, hell, as anyone working in the film industry, networking is a necessary evil. Some might love it, but the fact that I used the term "necessary evil" shows my reluctance to engage in it. But it's so important. I spend most of my time in front of this bleedin' keyboard and unless I get out there and get my work known then what's the point?

So I'm doing my bit in beginning to get out there more often. I attended the Write, Camera Action event at Glasgow's CAA last weekend and was petrified going out there as the previous one reduced me to being that odd guy at the bar who keeps looking around but not saying anything. Result? A wasted night and unknown opportunities. This time there were a couple of people I knew there this time which was great. I was able to bounce off the conversations with them and speak to new people I might never have spoken to otherwise. And so that should lead to a bit more confidence next time because networking has to be an ongoing process.

What was even more encouraging was the suggestion from that night's organiser that I might get some of my short films shown there at some point in the future. I need to remind myself, when shut away in front of the keyboard, that I don't just write 'em. I've made 'em as well. And intend to do that again.

I've got the Shooters in the Pub event this Monday next. It'll be my third one. The last one was fun and a couple of, let's say...animated conversations about certain genre films fired me up. A few new business cards and some new Facebook friends resulted.

Writers! Get out of that room and out there (this includes me).

Monday 10 January 2011

New Regime

I try not to be one to go for New Year resolutions. If you want to do something, you should do it. In fact I've only ever kept one New Year resolution - never to make a New Year resolution again. The thing about them is that there is the temptation to either drop them or to wait until the new year to make a change. Sod that. Life is in danger of passing you by if you do that. If I want to do it, I should just do it, regardless of cyclical convention.

And so a new regime is in place now. Getting up early and just getting on with it. No excuses about preferring to write in the evening. No more pub. Less Internet. Whenever there is time, there is time to write.

I've written five pages so far today and feel damn good about it.

I've also got my eye on obtaining a Canon EOS 7D DSLR camera. Not got the funds yet, but with what that baby is capable of in terms of HD video, there's very little excuse not to get on with it. I know it's not a RED but it still sounds more than viable.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Here We Go Again.

I was going to post some photos from our holiday to Pisa & Florence last summer but realised that my wife took them and not me. It would have been cheeky, to be honest, as she's a superb photographer and I'll not take credit. Well, I might have taken one or two. Hey, we're into the New Year. I had to blog about something.

So, I'm not wanting to dwell on the last 12 months too much. I achieved very little in comparison to what I wanted to. Must try harder. Overhauling this blog is step one out of many, including getting a proper website up and running. Dreamweaver for Dummies is on my desk right now. Better open the bloody thing.

One thing from the last year that I definitely have to improve is my film watching. The evening job means writing more during the day and my cinema-going has decreased by about 80%. Not. Good. Enough. A few Blu-Rays at Christmas are battling for attention but I have to make more of an effort to see more films in any format.

The new banner above is a still from a short film I made some time ago, Baal and Ben.