Watching Films for Research

I’ve always been someone who loves to watch films for research. I know there’s plenty of information out there and that I’m sure I could find everything I need to know via the internet and books, which I do use, but for me my research tends to come through films.

I love nothing more than to watch a bunch of films from the same genre when I start a new project. It’s not that my idea needs to be related in any real way, as often it’s not, it’s just the genre itself that I’m interested in.

I’m a big fan of conventions in films, especially horror movies. I like to fit a lot of the conventions into my script if I can find a natural way to do it and like seeing how others have. What I like seeing even more is where these conventions started.

Last time I wrote a slasher script I binge watched all the Friday 13th films and Nightmare on Elm Street, along with about 20 others. There was a line from Friday the 13th Part Four that I loved and somewhat adapted for myself but other than that what I really wanted to take from these movies was the general vibe.

I wanted to capture the attitude of these movies in my own way.

I wrote a Christmas horror script that I’m looking to get out there soon so beforehand I watched every Christmas horror film I could. I was mostly interested in the Christmasy way people died in the films and was slightly disappointed that there weren’t as many inventive deaths as I hoped. But there was beginnings, hints off, maybe the more modern Christmas films had them but there was enough there to inspire me.

That particular set of watching also led me to watch possibly the worse movie I’ve ever seen in my life. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2. What happened there? I need the disaster artist book for that film.

During my exploitation script I watched a ton of Russ Meyer, Jack Hill and Lloyd Kaufman stuff along with a bunch of Grindhouse movies. My script wasn’t really akin to any of these, I just wanted to be in that frame of mind when I was writing.

For me film is my language. I can never get through a conversation without a film quote, I always reference films in my script notes and workings. I haven’t written decapitated in a script note ever, I write decaffeinated every time thanks to Hot Fuzz. If I’m describing a shot to a friend I’ll use examples from as many different films as I can until I hit on one they know.

I’m not sure if it’s a good process or not to watch similar genre movies to your idea before starting a new script but I’ve never read my script back at the end and find it to be a clone of the others I’ve watched. I’m inspired by movies in every other area of my life so it makes sense to me that the same would work for my writing.

For the new script I’m working on I’m watching a bunch of Hitchcock films. This time round I’m watching them for the way he builds tension in the final act rather than the story (although I love these films so will enjoy that part anyway). There’s always something to get from watching films in relationship to your own work and I fully believe that.

Stephen

Making Worlds Greatest Zombie Hunter: Part Two (Inc Series)

(First part here)

As I’ve touched upon before in a previous blog (That’s been deleted) pre-production and production didn’t really go to plan.

I advertised for the lead role on Shooting People and got a pretty positive response. Auditioned several actors via Skype and met a few local ones for meetings as well. Narrowed the list down to three people and went with the more experienced who I have to say was fantastic.

Unfortunately things didn’t work out there. After several long delays because of other project he was working on things just kind of fell apart. I won’t go into much detail but it was clear at this point that he wasn’t what I wanted and I’m sure he felt the same about me.

So that wasn’t great.

While all this was happening several different locations fell through and my co producer had to pull out due to personal reasons. Which just left me with a completed script and not much more.

I contacted another choice on my short list and he was very keen for the role. I’d known him through him working with someone else I knew a few years back and was glad I was able to give him a chance. He was the most enthusiastic and I was really looking forward to working with him. (and will work with him plenty more in the future).

So actor sorted.

Knew I was going to shoot on the iPod so that was sorted as well, but then I probably made a bad choice. I decided to shoot it at my house.

Initially we planned to shoot it in a cellar or a shed or something that we could turn into a den and the location would evolve over time along with his outfit and his outlook. Was all going to be a line of development that worked alongside each other… I really should have stuck with that. It just made sense and was something I could build on. Could start out pretty sparse and end up looking like Dr Horrible.

But I shot in my house instead.

For me personally, the house just doesn’t work.  I like some of the shots and love the framing through the stairs but I could have got better elsewhere. Just felt very amateurish which is the vibe I was going for, but I think I shouldn’t have gone full amateur. It was sloppy.

By this point I just pointed the camera really. I gave some thought to the setting but not much. Spent some time with the lead to get what I want but the shoot was rushed and I knew it. Was shoot over a few hours across two days I believe but more could have been done.

The production had gone so wrong so many times that I had moved on by that point to another idea, honestly I should have shelved it and came back to it but with all the delays I just wanted it done.

I shouldn’t have treated it like that and never would again, but I can tell watching it back that my heart wasn’t 100% into it. Forget how much less I knew back then I can go back several years before that and watch shorts and 48 hour competition films I made that had a lot more going for them. I fucked up and I know it.

For me, it was a big learning experience though. The short film I shoot before that had technical problems with the sound being awful, but I learnt a lot working with a crew, this one I learnt a lot from the pre-production standpoint. Things go wrong, that’s just always going to happen and this experience made me realise that a lot more and toughened me up.

I love a chance one day to set things right and maybe make a much improved second season but have a lot on. If I ever do find myself pining to go back to it though I will, and like I said, this time my heart would definitely be in it.

Below is the complete season. All 11 episodes. It’s probably my worse work but I still like a lot of the script and plenty of the performance. Will always regret not using a better location but I did have zero money and was shooting on an iPod so maybe I’m being a little hard on myself. But still…..

 

Stephen

 

Blog about the Blog

So this is a bit of a blog about the blog.

Have changed and added a few of the pages at the top and really am looking to change the direction of the blog slightly as well. Want the blog to focus more on all my creative endeavours and stuff I like, rather than just writing.

I know blog’s are meant to be more of a niche subject wise but just have too many ideas in too many area’s at the moment and am keen to do and share.

So I guess it’s slightly turning into more of a journal but will still have blogs about particular subjects or insights into past experiences.

Am hoping to build on the blog plenty this year with regular updates and new content. Am excited to share things in my future which I’ll go into when the time draws closer. Feel there’s a lot I want to achieve and this blog is a good way of recording some of them ambitions and sharing the experiences. (And hopefully offering some advice or transparency to things as well).

So yeah… that’s my super short blog for today.

Stephen

Making Worlds Greatest Zombie Hunter: Part One (Inc Scripts)

So back in 2013 I made a web show called “The Worlds Greatest Zombie Hunter” on my ipod. Was shot, edited, colour corrected and everything else all on the device. Which by the way is amazing to be able to do.

Getting the show shot wasn’t easy, I had zero budget and limited time, a couple of different locations fell through meaning I ended up shooting it in my house and had to change actors late on in the process (although that worked out well). All in all it really didn’t go to plan, but I learnt a lot.

But before I talk about that I’ll skip back to the beginning.

I can’t remember exactly how the idea came about for the show but know it was intially just a short (all my idea’s start as shorts it seems). I wanted something simple and easy to make that I could shoot for nothing and have some fun with.

The more I chatted about the show the more it became apparent that the idea could run longer than just a short (had several seasons in mind but that never really came to be… but still could).

So I got together with a fellow writer who I admired and we set about just writing as many idea’s as possible that we could come up with. The idea was to keep them all around 1-2 minutes long and they didn’t really have to follow suit. Could be seperate stories and then I’d see what fits at the end.

Must have written about 7-10 each and selected around 12 in total for season one. I edited the scripts a little to make them read the same(ish) as we have differing styles but kept the story and character within the script. Was very pleased with what we ended up with.

Eventually I had to drop one of the scripts because it was a little more expensive to shoot which still bothers me to this day as Gareth had written a great idea and I really wanted to use it. Just couldn’t figure out how. The irony now is I could probably get it done with no budget but at the time just didn’t have the skills.

So after some redrafts and tightening the season was ready. Probably took around 6 months on and off in total as we were both working on other things as well. But like I said, was pleased with what we had and had turned it more into a complete narrative at that point.

The lead character had changed a little as we found him a lot more in the writing process and had incoperated things from both our scripts to make him more complete. All of his history and backstory came from chatting about the scripts we’d written rather than our inital ideas for him.

So I felt ready to begin and began the short process of pre-production. Will talk more about that in the second part of this blog that will follow shortly but for the moment here are the scripts to the show if anyone is interested in taking a read.

(Sorry about it not being embeded, couldn’t work out how. But one day I will).

Worlds Greatest Zombie Hunter Scripts

 

Stephen

(I did have a previous post explaining a little about the making off the show but have taken it off in order to write this slightly more detailed one and to include the scripts in this part and the complete finished product in another)

 

 

 

 

What I’m Working On

So as it’s still the beginnings of the new year I thought I’d do a quick update on what I’m currently working on, and what I’m looking to do in the near future.

Recently I finished a new horror script that I’ve gotten proof read and am handing it out to a few people to read. I’m a little uncertain whether it’s finished yet (which means it isn’t) as there are still two scenes that I think I could do a little more with. Maybe just be a case of putting it to one side for a month then going back to it with fresh eyes as have worked close to non-stop on it the last several months.

Alongside this I’ve been working on a feature script that I’d love to direct myself, maybe next year. It’s definitely a simpler script than my previous, but also more dialogue based so a little more challenging for me. Have had this idea in my head a long time and completely failed at the first draft many years ago, but have since worked it out. Feels like my most personal script and definitely one that I would love to me my first directed feature. A long way to go with it yet, but it’s starting to take shape and is something that I will work at through-out the whole year.

That said I’m looking to have a little break from feature writing come February and work on a few shorts instead. One is very far along, the other just starting, but would like to create a bit of a slate for myself. Want to direct 2-3 shorts before I make the feature film as not only practice, and a showreel, but because I love the ideas and feel the need to make them. All three are slightly different but carry similar tones to the work I’m looking to do so in a perfect world (I Know) it will all come together nicely.

Have an idea for a web show of sorts that I’m working on with a friend as well but for the moment that’s more of a hobby. Will see what drafts I can get written in my spare time, or down time (Because I’m so addicted to writing that’s also how I spend my down time) and reassess it probably at the end of February.

So plenty of writing ahead over the next six weeks and beyond but progress is being made. Want to have another good crack at trying to sell a script in March and the proceeding months but for the moment I’m in writing mode.

Have learnt over the years that when I get into a rhythm of writing every day and feeling good about the work to not interrupt it and just keep it going as long as I can. There’s definitely other projects and things that I would love to give some attention too but now’s not the right time. For the moment it’s all about the writing and I will never have a problem with that.

Stephen

 

Film That Make Me Want to Travel

If I was ever going to write a different type of blog it would be a travel one. It’s the only other thing in life that gets me more excited than films and creativity.

Sadly I haven’t traveled to much of late but in my younger years I took every chance I had to see a bit more of the world. I’m sure these days will return again soon and I will fully take advantage, they have too.

For the moment I can somewhat torture myself by watching films that just absolutely make me want to jump on a plane and experience everything. Most of them aren’t really globe-trotting movies, there’s just certain vibes in these films that I adore and make me reach for my passport.

So here is my top 5.

5. Ghost World

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Ghost World involves no real travel at all but there’s just a certain urgency about the film that makes me think of travel. The characters are conflicted on what they want, with Enid looking for more adventure and Rebecca looking more to settle down. You can just see how Enid feels so clearly when they look to get jobs and a place and have responsiblity. The desire to bolt is strong. Just something about the film that lets off this travel vibe through-out and the desire to experience everything the world has to offer.

4. Y Tu Mama Tambien

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For me this is the perfect travel movie. Covers everything I want in a film genre and characters. Have always had a soft spot for road trip movies and adore these very real characters. The tone is very up and down but love to watch the development of the two guys as they learn about life while being on the road. Features some gorgeous scenery and beautiful moments. One of my favourite films.

3. Lost in Translation

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I’ve watched this movie so so many times. The travel vibe is strong in this one. Can feel myself packing my bags the second the dvd starts. It’s probably not the best sign how much I can identify with all the characters in this film but is just one of those movies that come along and just gets you (Much like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Like this film could be made specifically for me. I love the colours and vibe in this movie immensely. When they’re out and about on the streets enjoying themselves I just can’t stop smiling. Honestly believe this will be a film I’m still watching 50 years from now.

2. Before Sunrise

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I’m a big fan of the sequels as well and tend to always watch them as a trilogy but the first one is just incredible. Possibly the most romantic film I’ve ever watched. There can’t be too many people alive that don’t want to experience this type of day (or maybe I’m just weird). The characters are so incredibly real, the city is its own thing within the film, the support characters add to the flavour of everything. Even the train at the beginning has a magical quality about it. I’ve been to Vienna and love the city so just find it to be one of those films that I can truly identify with on every level.

I remember being at a low point in my life many many years back working a job I hated opposite a train station. This film would just run through my head constantly as I sat eating lunch watching the trains go. I swear if I had ever brought my passport to work I would have ended up in Austria again by the end of the shift (With even more debt on my Credit Card).

And the number one film that makes me want to travel the most:

Into The Wild

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I’m fully aware of the controversy towards this character, and have read the book as well so know a little more. But I don’t care. I could never up and leave the way he did but at the same time I get it. I root for him the entire movie. To make such a brave decision (which it is despite how cruel it feels to others in his life) and to set about experiencing life the way he does is just amazing to me. I think the fact that it’s real, or at least based on real events, gives it that added power.

Much like another film (and book) I like with a similar name “Wild” it makes me want to do the Pacific Crest Trail, but also to just get out there and experience loads outside my comfort zone. This film gives me an excitement rush and an anxiety attack at the same time.

I find this whole movie to be just beautiful. Has a direct line to my heart and puts me in a zombified state for days after watching it.

Stephen.

Plans for Review Channel

Towards the back-end of last year a friend and I started a movie review channel where we mostly looked to review Asian films for a Western audience. Alongside the Asian reviews we’re also doing hollywood films and other movies from around the world, but Asian films tend to be what we watch and love the most.

The channel’s started off pretty slowly but its early days yet and YouTube is a big competitive place. Our immediate goal is to get some content up and then be able to update regularly and grow our audience through-out the year.

We started the channel because we spend most of our time talking about films, like non-stop, so it seemed like a natural progression to show that. I wish over the years we’d recorded some of our conversations as I’m sure they would have made interesting watching but hopefully we can correct that oversight with the reviews.

My plans for the channel in 2017 are to have more scheduled updates and uploads. To try to upload every Tuesday and Friday. Want to make sure that the channel is getting consisted attention and that we’re keeping on top of things.

We’re looking to do plenty more ideas to go with the two regularly things we already have of together reviewing an Asian film and me carrying on my I don’t care I love it series. Can’t share any of these idea’s yet as nothing has been finalised but will hopefully involve us having even more fun with the reviews.

As the year progresses I’m sure we will work on getting the sound as good as possible and continue to learn the editing better. Would love us to have our own set in the future but for the moment we can look into having a stronger background. Everything will evolve over time.

Am wondering whether it’s a good idea or not to just have normal video clips of us before we watch a film and normal film conversation or whether that will take away from the review setting, but we’ll see what the year brings.

I love doing the reviews. The chance to talk about films even more was always going to appeal to me. I don’t know why this wasn’t something I started doing 10 years ago and I don’t know how possible it is to make up for lost time, but I will definitely give it a go.

I want this channel to be a passion of mine, something that I really put a lot into. Whether it will ever grow the way I’d like I don’t know, but what I do know is that I’ll never tire of making the reviews. It feel natural (whether it looks it is another thing). I love being able to express what I enjoy in a movie and how positive I am about films.

I tend to like most things I watch, and can find something in films I don’t that I still enjoy, so being able to get that across is a thrill.

So the plan is to add regular content, grow the channel, enjoy making reviews and hopefully find an audience. If the last one doesn’t happen, it won’t affect the first three because I’m loving doing this and want to continue on with it for as long as possible. Maybe a little slow starting with the channel this year due to a few things, but once it gets going (Probably February), will be full steam ahead.

The channel is at I Saw The Movie, there’s several reviews all ready up and plenty more to come from next month onwards.

Hope plenty of you watch and enjoy the reviews and subscribe to keep up to date with our latest uploads.

Thanks

Stephen