Tag Archives: script

To Keep or Not to Keep Notes

So this blog is more of a question really.

What do you do with your notes when you’ve finished a script/book if you’ve hand written them?

Maybe this is my bad for writing notes on notepads for so long but I have a whole wardrobe filled with notes for different scripts of which quite a few are completed.

It’s my hope that the ones that I’ve never really started, or are unfinished, I can scan the notes onto my computer and save them as PDF so that they don’t take up so much room anymore, but what of the notes for completed scripts.

I can’t decide whether I still need them or not. A lot of the notes will be irrelevant any way due to later drafts, re-writes etc, but there’s still a lot of information within them. If I sold these scripts and had to do another rewrite do I think I would go back to these notes or start afresh with the document in front of me. I’m just not sure.

I have folders and folders worth of notes that take up so so much room and just can’t decide whether they are still needed or not.

If I get rid of them, that’s that. No getting them back. But surely my script contains all the information I need about the project along with my outline and treatment.

I could scan them as well, but that feels very daunting. There really are a lot of notes and I’d rather spend the time writing new scripts or trying to get noticed the ones that are finished.

Part of me wants to just get rid of them. Like that’s done and I’m happy with what I’ve got and if anyone wants changes in the future I’ll be taking into account their notes not mine. But another part of me worries that I will need something.

But would that something be a make or break thing… Probably not. After all it isn’t factual. I can always decide something new for the character or story rather than trolling through 500 pages for a single detail.

And like I said I’m pretty certain half them notes are redundant. just part of the process to find the story and characters I ended up with.

I think I’m leaning towards not keeping them. I want to get rid of the clutter and scanning them all really is a massive job for work that’s already completed.

Am just keen to know if anyone else is in this situation with scripts or books and whether they kept their notes or not.

Stephen.

 

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

Writing Naked

And now for something completely different…

…Writing Naked.

Is there a better way to write? I don’t think so.

I can’t be the only way who likes to do it, in fact through a few conversations I know I’m not. I reckon every writer must have done it at some point even if it’s not a regular thing. There’s just something about it right… right?

I’m not saying I always do it, or can always do it for that matter considering how often I write in coffee shops (my favourite of all clichés), but there’s just something about it. I find it almost helpful. Freeing might be a bad word to use here, but I struggle to think of another way to say it (Although I’m sure if I got naked right now I would come up with several better words).

The words just flow that little bit easier. Maybe it’s because it really is just you and the keyboard, or because of some vulnerability or freedom. Or because you’re at your most relaxed or it’s fucking cold and you just want to get the word count complete so you can get dressed. But I don’t know. There’s just something.

I’ve practically written whole scripts this way. I know a musician who told me she wrote her whole album that way. It just gets the creativity flowing. Maybe it’s just being in that natural state. There’s just something. You know.

I haven’t done any research on the subject which maybe I should as it interests me enough to write a blog about it but I’m sure there has to be some biological or chemical reason for it. It just feels right. It can’t be coincidence that I can get some of my best work done this way. That others have too. It’s not like it works with everything I’m sure, but with writing it’s like it’s meant to be done this way at times. Right? Right? You get what I’m meaning right? Just something… Something 😉

There are draw backs, especially when writing on a computer in that way. You’re only ever a click away from some form of distraction. And getting up to make a coffee can be a struggle, especially if you share the house as getting dressed and then undressed doesn’t feel as right. Like it breaks the naked momentum or something. So it isn’t always practical even in the comfort of your home. But these are minor setbacks I think.

Surely the creativity and word count created by the state far outweigh’s these drawbacks. Maybe I will do some research. Like I said, there must be a reason it works. Or am I crazy and it’s just me. But like I said I know others, but they’re also slightly crazy. But then most creative people are crazy so it can’t just be me. But it doesn’t sound normal at first. But it does feel normal. Natural. I don’t know. Where was I…

… Oh yes. There’s just something about it…

 

Stephen.

(Working out what image to use for this blog was a struggle).

 

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.

 

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.

 

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