Tag Archives: scripts

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

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 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