Tag Archives: films

Film Books

Not to long ago I wrote a blog about my DVD collection and how I intend to get rid of most of it. Well apparently I’m going through a phrase as now I’m looking at my film books in the same way.

While nowhere near as large as my DVD collection I think I have a pretty good collection of film books. Tons of script writing books from Syd Field, Robert Mckee and others including my personal favourite Christopher Vogler The Writer’s Journey through to the ones I got for university like Film Art and Old Hollywood books. Have different genre books like Nazi Cinema, Gender studies in French New wave, Hong Kong cinema and actual scripts.  Alongside this there are books on editing, cinematography, storyboarding, different directors and books on directing. I’ve pretty much brought a book for everything and have read plenty of them a few times over.

But recently I haven’t really touched them. I got rid of about 30 once and kept only the ones I really needed (Around 100) but not sure how much I really do need them now. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with them because actually a lot of them are fantastic books. It’s just, I’ve read them. I find myself skimming through them every now and then to find a particular subject but then when I do further research online I’ll find the same thing again, or better still have discussions on Twitter about the subject.

There’s a few I pick up more than others still, so I’ll keep them for the moment, but in all likelihood I’ll try to get them on iBook if I need them.

I loved my film books. Much like my DVD collection it felt like something that made me serious about movies. In a sense I guess that’s kind of right, but more important is the knowledge I’ve gained from them rather than having them. They feel kinda wasted on my book shelf now. If I sell or donate them someone else could learn what I have from them. That’s not to say I still can’t learn from them, of course I can, but I’m not really a beginner anymore. I don’t need a lot of the step by step stuff and for troubleshooting I turn to the internet or have conversations.

I’ve spent the last few years complaining about how small  the film book section have got in bookshops so part of me feels hypercritical writing this blog about getting rid of my film books, but I just don’t read them anymore. If I could transfer them all to digital copies I would. Again I know people in my life that would hate me saying that, and I feel a little dirty saying it myself as I still love the physical form of books, but I have got used to reading on my iPad and find it more convenient.  Where I just need them for reference now rather than a whole read it just feels practical especially with the bookmarking options.

I think I’ve just reached a point in my life where I don’t really need stuff at the moment. That I spend most of my time using my MacBook, camera and phone to create and research. If I could transfer my books and films onto there as an exchange for the physical copy I would. Right or wrong, it’s just how I felt at the moment.

So like the DVD’s the books have taught me a lot, entertained me and massively increased my knowledge. But I think for the vast majority, it’s someone else’s turn to enjoy them.

 

Stephen.

(After writing this blog I put a few on Amazon to sell. Think this link should take you too them if interested)  Steve5by5 Amazon

Proof Reading

I hate it. I hate doing it, and I hate that it’s necessary. I mean I get it. Completely. But it’s just something that I’ve never been good at and find boring.

Back in school every single parent teacher night, every single report card, every single marked paper made some comment about my spelling and grammar. It was something that stuck with me through first school, middle school and high school. Even in college. Although by college i’d somewhat stopped caring. There was just always mention of it.

I get it’s important, I really do. But I worked hard to improve my spelling and grammar in school and while I could pass most spelling tests easily enough, that was just more memory. When I had to write an essay or story that’s when it showed and that’s when I’d get comments on it.

The problem  was that I wrote quickly. I had idea’s, stories, and I had to get them out. The quicker I write the more appalling my spelling becomes. Has just always gone hand in hand. It bothered me, I wanted to be better. But the improvement was never great enough. I’ve always been interested in writing. I wouldn’t say it became a big passion until around 16, but even before that I wrote all the time. Any chance to put pen to paper I was there, and I can tell you right now it wasn’t for drawing because my stick men where worse than my spelling.

So here’s the big thing that bothered me about it all. After being told how bad I was at it every year, I passed my English GCSE with ease. Very high B, 2 marks off an A. Turns out that at the time (Don’t know if it’s still true now) spelling and grammar accounted for about 5-10% of the actual exams. What the Fuck. So I was basically told my whole life how bad I was at English, but what they really meant was you suck at 5-10% of it. Why didn’t someone explain that better to me!

And that’s stuck with me. Now I think back on how well praised my stories where and how people found them interesting and wanted to read more. But that was always under the could do better in spelling part which was my main focus when reading my feedback.

So now as an adult (kinda) proof reading has become a big part of my life again. You can’t send scripts off riddled with mistakes or publish stories (something I’d like to do one day) with errors everywhere. It’s distracting and unprofessional.

The problem I have here is obviously the script should be judged on the story. Same for the book. Is it interesting? Do I care about or relate to the characters? Am I intrigued, excited, emotionally attached? When the film hits the screen no one can look for spelling mistakes. But at that point it’s not a written art as such. But again. I get it. Correct spelling and grammar along with formatting shows you’re professional and can save time for the reader producers etc. But as a writer being a storyteller and being great at spelling and grammar don’t just go hand in hand.

So what’s a writer to do?

For me personally I’ve worked very hard at it. But it’s not been easy. I get people I know who are strong at proof reading to go through my work for me after I’ve tried. (Luckily they’re kind enough to do it for free). I can see from script to script that I have far fewer errors than the last. My first script probably had about 10 a page. This latest one maybe one or two every 10 pages. Big difference. But that’s over a near 10 year period with the progress only really coming in the last couple of years.

I ignore spelling and grammar errors in early drafts because they’re only for me at the moment. When I have paid work and someone wants to see each draft as it’s done, that’s when I’ll be begging my friends to take a look, or paying someone because despite the improvement I’ll never trust myself to be perfect or even near perfect at all. I know there will always be mistakes.

It’s one of them skills in life I wish I can just do. Not sure why I can’t, I just don’t see the mistakes. When someone asks be what’s wrong with this and points to it, I can tell them. But I wouldn’t have spotted it on my own. Am sure there will be mistakes in this blog despite me checking it a few times over (And don’t tell me please, just let it be).

So I will continue to try. I’ll put in the effort. I always do. But I guess what it comes down to is I’ll always struggle and doubt myself when it comes to proof reading, have my whole life. But I’ve got a little better, and I’ve got friends who will help. So why not take advantage of them right 😉

 

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

 

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

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.

Blogging Next Year

So for the first time I’ve managed to keep my blog going for a year. Was a little gap in the middle of the year when life got in the way but I’ve mostly updated it regularly and feel like I’m improving and expanding with it.

My question to myself is what would I like to do with it in 2017.

Am always looking to improve the quality so would like to spend a little more time on the posts which I believe I can do, and maybe look for a set amount of posts a week along with certain set days that they come out.

Have a lot of ambition for 2017 that isn’t just scriptwriting so think that the blog will end up being more than just a scriptwriting blog and would cover a lot more of my other creative endeavours, but feel it’s already going that way anyway.

Know that it’s best for a blog to really centre around one core thing but that’s just not the way my brain works.

Would like to write more about past writing and filming experiences so will look to do that. Will keep up to date with my script writing and any thoughts I have on the subject along with trying to be as transparent as possible about my script writing career.

Have plans on making plenty of music videos and short films next year so that will become a bigger part of the blog along with a little more about my photography. Alongside this I’m looking to put a lot more work into the film review channel so will write about, and promote, that more which I’m sure will also lead to a couple more bulk review blogs.

The idea of the blog was always to track my creative progress and give a little insight to who I am and that remains the main idea. I want to share anything I learn and experience in the writing and film world while also sharing stuff I love and am passionate about.

Feel like next year has to be a big one for one, although I do feel that every year. Have a few things lined up that could really make that happen and will share as much of that as possible. Recently finished (I hope) a new feature script so will be looking to do something with that later in the year and have another one ready to get out there.

Going to make things happens, one way or another. Feel more confident about my writing and where I’m at with it and have made big steps forward this year behind the camera so now need to do something with that. So have my sights set firmly forward.

So thank you to everyone who’s been reading this year. Have had far more readers than any other year, in fact probably all the previous years and blogs combined don’t come close to this year so that’s been awesome and hopefully will only get better.

Stephen.

(This my final blog of the year most likely, but will be back super early next year)