Writing A Book Not A Script

About two years ago I started work on a new feature script. I had this very clear idea in my head of the story and how it would play out. I worked on the notes for a few months creating the lead and supporting cast, went through a couple of different idea’s for the ending as I plotted the story and generally felt good about the whole process.

It was a different type of script for me, similar to the first one I ever wrote rather than the horror I’ve written in recent years. More a slice of life than genre. Was good to be writing something different, something I could maybe even describe as a little more personal. All in all the pre-work before the first draft was maybe the best I’d done at the time. Everything felt right.

Then I began the first draft… And it sucked!

Not in that all first drafts sucks way. I never overly care about the quality of the read on my first draft, it’s about getting the story and characters down and shaping it all to be as good as possible in later drafts. NO this was in the it actually sucks sucks way. Like I could write 5-6 drafts and this won’t get any better type way. Total failure. There where obviously ways to improve it, and later drafts would have helped, but every way to improve it would take it further away from the story I wanted to tell.

I beat myself up over this one for a while. I thought I’d made enough progress as a writer to be able to tell this type of story. It was out my comfort zone and a challenge but one I gladly accepted and dived head first into. So how could it have ended up so bad. I didn’t have an answer. Not one to get stuck with writer’s block or anything like that I moved onto a different script and kind of forgot about this one…

… Until a few months ago.

That’s when I got that eureka moment (Once again in the bath as apparently that’s where I do all my best thinking). The problem is simple. I’m trying to tell a very internal story in a cinematic format that’s completely show don’t tell. The problem is this shouldn’t be a script, It’s not a story for film… It’s a book.

So I got out the bath and wrote the first three chapters and sure enough I felt a million times better about what I was reading back. Yeah it still sucked, but that was because I’d never written a book before and just bashed these pages out. The important thing was it felt right, I was telling the exact story I wanted too.

At the time I was half way through another script and didn’t have time to take on a book so I put it to one side knowing that this worked. That I could come back to this and tell the story. I’d always be annoyed at not being able to carry on with that script and here was my chance to totally redeem myself.

Fast forward to the present and I find myself with some time spare in between scripts. First thing on my mind, go back to this book. So I have. I wrote up all my film notes into Scrivener  and started to work out idea’s for chapters as well as writing some. Everything is in one place and now being written in the correct medium. I don’t know how it will turn out, whether it will be any good or not as I haven’t written a book before.

But I do know this is the correct way to tell this story, and I want to tell it. If it ends up being just for me, or a free e-book, then so be it. But as a writer I have to get these stories out of me and if this is the way to do it, then this is the way I’ll do it. The bonus to it all is that I’m really enjoying it. Good at it or all I’m loving writing a book. I hope that feeling carries on because I have idea’s for others and maybe this could be another way for me to tell stories in the future alongside my scriptwriting.

But that’s getting ahead of myself. Let’s see how this goes first.

 

Stephen.

 

DVD Collection

Back in 2000 I got my first DVD player. With it I got my first DVD, a special edition of Raging Bull (Love that movie). I had loads of VHS at the time, but I was instantly hooked on DVD’s. The quality, the way they worked, the extra features. They where amazing. Not to long after I got a job at Blockbusters and had access to even more films. Awesome.

So while at Blockbusters I started to collect DVD’s. I aimed to get around 100 a year which I could afford at the time as that’s literally all my wages went on (Along with figures and comics). I had 10 free rental’s a week as well so along with buying the films and having sky at home I watched a lot of films back in those day.

Believe my final Blockbuster rental account was about 2200 films in the first shop I worked in and about 500 in each of the other two shops I ended up managing. Lots of free rentals. And that’s not including borrowing colleagues accounts when I’d used all ten of my free rentals by Wednesday which happened a lot. But that’s a different blog for the future.

So back to the collection.

Fast forward half my life time and 16 years after starting at Blockbusters I had just shy of 2500 films. Easily exceeded my 100 a year, especially when I became a manager. Could have been a lot more too but at different times I traded DVD for tapes so I could watch more films and have things like DS9 marathons by buying up all the tapes for the cost of trading a few DVD’s. Now neither tend to be worth anything.

I couldn’t leave the house without buying a DVD. Just wanted more and more. My Dad built  special shelving in my room for them. I had to stack them double deep. These shelves held nearly 2000 like that but it wasn’t enough. So stacked them on other shelves. Then on the floor at the side of these ones. Was just crazy. By the time I moved out 80% of my boxes where boxes containing DVD’s. Then there was the process of buying some bookcases to fit them all. Again stacked double deep. Ended up getting rid of about 500 just to make them fit.

By this time however I wasn’t really watching them anymore. Was easier to use Netflix than to get to a DVD despite having them all listed on an app on my phone. This is when my mindset started changing about them.

When I moved back home I had the same amount of DVD’s. I had stopped buying them. Just didn’t have the room and there where plenty that I hadn’t watched. So my new priority became trying to watch the ones i’d hadn’t seen. I’m not sure how many movies I’ve seen. My IMDB tells me I’ve rated just under 4000 but I know I haven’t gone back and rated loads that I’ve seen in the past, or a lot of world cinema. If I had to guess I’d say it probably close to 6000. So it was time to watch ones I owned but hadn’t watched.

But now I’m uncertain about my collection. I don’t know how much I want it anymore. I’ve gotten rid of another 500 maybe. Maybe more. I’ve lost the appeal of collecting films. Somehow other things have gotten in the way. I used to love buying a new DVD. I’d watch the film, then I’d watch all the extras, then I’d listen to the audio commentary. I can’t tell you the last time I watched all the extra’s or listened to the commentary but I know it’s years. To be honest, that saddens me.

The collection used to be something that defined me. I was the guy with the massive DVD collection and huge film knowledge. But I don’t need that collection to be knowledgable of film, and I don’t feel like I use that collection correctly anyway if I don’t get the most out of the DVD’s.

So what’s this blog really about?

I’m thinking I’m going to trade most of the collection I have left. It’s not so much that I need the room anymore, I just don’t use it. I started buying films recently that I wanted to watch and then trading them back and that worked just as well as rental ever did with second-hand films being so cheap. I feel like if I buy a movie to watch it, rather than just to own it, that I will appreciate the extra’s more and that will become part of my film education again. (Does that make sense).

My collection has served me well, and obviously I won’t get rid off all. But I feel like over the course of the year I’ll probably get rid of 90%. I want to travel in the future and it’s not like I can take them with me and it’s not like it’s hard to buy any film I feel like watching. I started with the right intentions. I wanted to watch everything I could and I’ve really watched most of them. But now the collection doesn’t excite me anymore and doesn’t really serve a purpose.

So it’s been great while it lasted, but it time to give the films I buy more meaning now rather than just sliding it on the shelf and forgetting about them.

 

Stephen

 

First Month of Photo A Day

At the start of the year, or rather the end of last year, I decided I wanted to once again try the whole photo a day thing, except this time stick too it. I’ve tried once or twice before and it never lasts long but wanted this time to be different. Something that I’ve got better at recently, sticking to my own plans.

So a month in and I’ve managed it. Has been a lot of fun so far trying to make each day a little different from the last while swapping up what I use a bit to take the photo’s. I wanted some of the photo’s to represent my day or almost be a memory to that day looking back at it, while others are just pictures I took which I liked. Some are also just silly. (Sure that will happen more and more).

There’s one or two I would happily replace, but can’t, however for the most part I’m happy with how the first month of photo’s went.

Have enjoyed playing around with different Hipstamatic set-ups as well as using a couple of my old favourites. Find it very interesting looking at the images side by side as well. A photo diary of my day almost.

Fully believe I’ll keep this up for the whole year. I know it will start to get more difficult to keep things fresh and interesting with the pictures, but that’s part of the fun.

Below are my favourite five for January, along with another I like above as my featured image. All can be found on my Instagram page here. The information for each picture, including what was used to take it, is within the descriptions and tags of the individual photos.

Hope you like.

Stephen.

3/365

 

3-2017

4/365

4-2017

13/365

13-2017

22/365

22-2017

25/365

25-2017

 

 

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)

 

 

 

 

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