Tuesday, 31 March 2009

SharpShooter and Wiffle Lever!

Sorry for the lack of updates fan! (Yes, I do mean "fan", that wasn't a typo!)

About time I posted the latest happenings in my endeavours to break into scriptwriting!

First of all, I'm on draft three of my Channel 4 script thing. Still pondering over a couple of things. Should that bit be there? Have I worded that bit correctly? Does that bit make sense? Will people get that joke? Does that bit with the whatsit make the thingummy work with the doodah?
Good news is, I'm now a member of the SharpShooter google group, so I shall soon be uploading this piece of work for my peers to rip to pieces! I hadn't heard of SharpShooter until last week. It's thanks once again to (and I shall keep referring to him as this, 'cos I know he loves it!) "TV's James Moran".
He mentioned the group and included the link in his "Big Writing FAQ", which you must read if you're like me and trying to break into the industry. To be honest, anyone reading my blog has probably already been to James' blog, which may have then led you to Paul Campbell's blog, which then led you here! Phew! Quite a journey! Take a break. Have a nice cup of tea!

Anyway, Sharpshooter is a brilliant concept! Apart from being a nice place for like minded scriptwriters to meet up and post information, tips and advice, it's main purpose is for us to upload our latest drafts of completed (or not) scripts. Once they've been uploaded, everyone else in the group can download them, read and offer critique. It's a brilliant way to get your stuff read by other unbiased people, who are not going to always flatter you because you're not their son or daughter! These people tell it how it is (from what I've read so far anyway!) I've yet to upload a script of mine but I have read a couple of scripts and have given my first critique on a fellow newbie's work...Woohoo!

So far, it seems like quite a busy group. I don't believe the google group info that says "Low activity"! Low? Maybe compared to the "MyTextGraphics" group! (I know I'm a sad individual but I just had a look for the group with the most members and that's it - 33816 members at the time of writing!) But wait! It still says "Low activity" for this too! Typical geeks though (of which I class myself as one), this group has more members than the second "fullest" group, which is Humor-Erotica... Go figure...

SharpShooter currently has 88 members, so there are plenty of people who can read your stuff and plenty of scripts for you to read. You can learn a lot from reading other's scripts, especially new writers (like me). It makes you re-evaluate your own stuff even more and also helps you spot small errors you may have missed, even though you've probably read it a thousand times!

I've really got into script reading now! Thanks to a link posted in the comments section of that blog from the infamous "TV's James Moran" (yes HIM again! There's no stopping the power of the man!)
Thanks to Adrian for providing this link (for it was he who posted the comment). There's an absolutely limitless supply of TV scripts and bibles here (probably why they've called it "TV Scripts and Bibles"). It really is good! I was working last Saturday and while I was waiting for some information to come through (I was installing computers and waiting for them to "appear" on our system) I downloaded and read the Pilot for "Prison Break". I've got to say, this was the best flowing script I've read to date! It probably helps that I've seen every episode (I'm a HUGE fan) and I do remember this one (of course) but even if I hadn't, it was beautifully written and it actually felt like I was watching the episode, rather than reading it! It probably breaks a few rules (what do I know) but I could imagine being a producer and thinking "Wow!" when I read this! So, if you get bored during your day job and you can't watch TV (who can!?) then I suggest downloading a few scripts of your favourite shows and enjoying those instead! ;)

Right, so I'm hopefully going to upload my script to SharpShooter by the end of the week and let the other members sink their teeth into it! I'm really looking forward to the scathing remarks to be honest! I always think you learn a lot more from your mistakes (I should know!) It's like catching a cold... If you've never had a nasty cold in your life then your body is going to be totally shit at combating one later on. If, however, you've had many nasty, dribbly, terrible, "Oh God, I'm dying! Please get me some chicken soup" colds, then you're going to be the "master" at fighting the little bastards later on in life... Where was I? Oh yeah, chicken soup... no I mean, "Failure makes a man great"... I don't think anyone ever said that, I just made it up...

In other news, no word from the BBC's Talking and Not Talking program yet. I'm guessing that they've been inundated with entries and they either haven't got around to reading them all yet, or they have but don't have time to reply to everyone who's been rejected. I still haven't heard of anyone being accepted yet though, so it's still a possibility.

Finally, I can see now why some blogs don't get updated very often. It's quite a mammoth task writing all of this! I think I actually find it easier to write scripts at the moment! With this blog, I actually have to think about what has happened in my life and check out little links and things. When writing a script I just write whatever pops into my head!

I have a LOT of respect for a certain Mr Bob Fischer of "Wiffle Lever To Full!" fame. If you haven't read his book then I highly recommend it (especially if you're a Sci-Fi buff!) He has his own blog, where he basically takes a page from a diary he wrote in 1984 (when he was 11), transcribes it into the blog and then dissects it. He provides links, videos, photos, everything and anything that relates to what he wrote all those years ago. It's brilliant stuff! Especially if you grew up in the eighties like me! The most amazing thing is that he writes this EVERY DAY. So the current diary page relates to EXACTLY 25 years ago. That's commitment for you!

Until next time!

Friday, 20 March 2009

First Draft Complete!

It's done! The first draft of my channel 4 script is complete!

I didn't work on it at all on Tuesday or Wednesday.

After a long day at work on Tuesday, I was totally exhausted when I got home. I couldn't even think about looking at another computer screen!
Wednesday was a nicer reason not to do any work. We went to the theatre to watch our friends in a musical they were part of (West Side Story). Brilliant night! Ended with beer, pizza and kebab (chicken meat, not that shaved stuff!)

So, I REALLY wanted to get quite a bit done tonight. I still didn't start until after 10:00pm (what's he like eh?) but managed to get the final 10 pages done in 2 hours. I wasn't happy with the way those 10 pages were going at first. They felt out of place. But then I got into my stride again and I think it actually finished with a good ending (if that makes any sense whatsoever! Well, it wouldn't start with an ending would it? Unless you were writing Pulp Fiction or something...)

I suppose it's time to "let it lie" for a week. I shouldn't really. The deadline is in a month and there's a lot of work to be done on it! Maybe I'll just give it a couple of days...

I'll let you know what it is I've actually written once it's totally complete and on it's way to Channel 4. I can tell you that it is now more of a (slightly) black comedy drama. It doesn't start off like that, but that's how it ends up!

There's a hell of a lot of dialogue in it too! I've read many a time that characters should DO more than they SAY, but I've tried to make it easy to shoot by having the characters pretty static and the whole thiing laden with dialogue (especially from the main character). It makes sense once you know what it's about (I hope!)

I read on Mark Eastwood's blog that he's a dialogue whore too! Any thoughts anyone? (all 2 of you!)

As for other updates... there are none! I haven't heard back about my Talking and Not Talking one-liners yet. I did read on British Sitcom Guide Forums that they're still wading through the entries. Some people have had "No thank you" responses back, so no news is good news I suppose!

Oh, and finally... I saw an article (also on the British Sitcom Guide Forums - check the link) regarding writing for comics and in particular 2000AD. Sounds like an interesting thing to try. I might have a go when I have some spare time (yeah right!) You can write a 5 page script for the Future Shocks section of the comic and submit it for consideration. They probably get millions (as does everyone) but always worth a try I suppose!

Ok, I think I've written enough for one night! Time for some sleep!!!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

A little update...

Thought I'd post a quick update after the weekend...

I've almost completed the first draft of my "Channel 4" script. I could probably have finished it actually, I was on a roll, but I did plan on going to work tomorrow so I need some sleep!

I really don't think this is going to be suitable for "Coming Up" though...
On the website (link in a previous post), it says they are looking for:

  • Bold ideas
  • Strong voices
  • Originality
  • Ambition
  • Wit
  • Urgency
  • Films that push boundaries in a way that wouldn't / couldn't be done in mainstream drama
  • Films that can be shot in 4 days on a limited budget
From that brief, it would suggest that they are looking for a 30 minute version of Trainspotting or something. My current script is... well... let's say a bit different to that!

However, it does have bold ideas, Strong(ish) voices, originality, ambition and wit (in my humble opinion). But not sure about the urgency or the "pushing the boundaries" bit.
It could also definitely be shot in 4 days, but it does require some CGI special effects, so not sure about the limited budget...

And it's a drama... a comedy drama (NOT a SITCOM...REPEAT...THIS IS NOT A SITCOM!)
In fact, it's more of a drama with funny anecdotes than an outright comedy.

I'll probably submit it anyway. If they don't like it they can f... I mean, I can always send it to the BBC.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Ebay affects your writing!

Well, managed to write 7 pages of my script for the Channel 4 "Coming Up" opportunity. Quite pleased with that as I didn't write anything yesterday.

I don't usually start writing until after about 10:30pm. But yesterday I didn't even do that!

I blame it all on EBay! My partner has been selling off loads of her old beauty products and we spent all of last night printing off invoices and labels, hunting for jiffy bags and boxes and then packaging everything up! I think I managed to get to bed about 2:30am! So, no writing and no sleep!

But, I'm happy today. I still started late, and as usual with any writing it takes a while to get into your stride but then I was flying!

What I love about writing is not knowing what the hell is going to happen next! It's almost like you're reading someone else's work. I have the general plot either in my head, scribbled down or nicely typed into a Word document. But what path the characters take to get where they're going, I haven't got a clue!

With this current script I don't even seem to be able to control the genre! It started off as a slightly gritty, dirty, serious tale... but somehow I've now turned it into a comedy! As I'm writing the dialogue, some stupid thoughts just pop into my head and I think "Yeah, that would be funny if he said that in response!". The next thing you know, I've turned Apocalypse Now into Good Morning Vietnam!

I think it's because I'm like that with life. If I'm at work and people are talking about serious issues, I always get stupid funny thoughts pop into my head... and they don't always stay there!

I don't know whether this script will be right for the Channel 4 thing when it's finished, but I'm enjoying it at the moment!

Thanks for the support by the way! I didn't expect anyone to read my rubbish after one post... well except Paul maybe, as I did leave a non too subtle hint in his comments!

Monday, 9 March 2009

First Contact - Why I want to be a Scriptwriter...

Hello... Is this thing on? Is anyone reading this?

If you are, then welcome to my blog and my first post...

You probably don't know me... I probably don't know you either. So I'll start by telling you a little about myself and my goals.

I'm a 35 year old male, currently working as an I.T. engineer for a local authority.

I've been working in I.T. for about 15 years and I've finally had enough...

I've always aspired to be something better. Always wanted to do something creative... But I could never figure out what!

Then, a couple of months ago it hit me like the proverbial bolt from the blue!

I want to be a scriptwriter...

It sounds like a totally random thing to suddenly want to start doing, but it makes perfect sense. I honestly don't know why I didn't even give it a second thought before...

You see, I realised a couple of months ago that I've been writing stories practically all of my life...

The first time I remember actually enjoying writing was when I was a 3rd year at infant school. I remember the teacher asking who wanted to do homework. I actually stuck my hand high in the air and asked for some extra English to do! Swotty little git? I think so...

As a child I was always writing. I've written a couple of comic books with my brother and a few more with my best friend, short stories on a rusty old typewriter (found on a dump) and plenty more hand scribbled rubbish... Unfortunately, none of it ever survived past my teens.

As an adult, I've written a complete outline of a children's book and actually put down 40 pages and I've also written over 170 pages of a horror novel... But... I haven't finished either these... Why? Because I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do, even while I was writing them! So they ended up on a very distant back burner.

But, in early January I had the post Christmas blues. I was not looking forward to going back to work and wondered why on Earth I still didn't know what to do with my life! The thought of another 30 years in I.T. makes me feel physically sick!

So, I was reading the BBC News website (as I do every day) when I noticed a link for the "Writers Room". As I'd always had an interest in writing (the clue's in the text) I clicked and was amazed at what I read...

Free downloadable scripts? Open script submissions? Competitions? The Writer's Academy!?

I didn't realise that this stuff existed! I certainly didn't realise that the BBC were so open to cultivating new writers!

I must have read that website in it's entirety over the course of the next week, before finally discovering a link to a certain Mr Paul Campbell's blog...

The funny thing was, the first post of Paul's I read was this.

Not the most inspirational start of my first glimpse into a scriptwriter's life!

However, I noticed that Paul had been writing his blog since the 31st August 2005. So I went back in time (without the DeLorean) and read every entry from then up until the present day (the present being January 2009, not March 2009... I didn't travel into the future!)

Paul's blog was truly inspirational! Thanks Paul! It also introduced me to the blogs of Mr Danny Stack (another brilliant blog! Thanks Danny!) and to my favourite blog of all, that of "TV's James Moran". (Massive thank's James!)

Read any of these blogs and you can't fail to be inspired! There are many more blogs that I haven't got around to reading yet (apologies) but when I do, I'll post a link or three.

These blogs give you so much more information than any scriptwriting book ever could!

They talk about how they got started, what to expect, what NOT to expect and even throw in lots hints and tips, links and the occasional funny to give your brain a rest (you know what I'm talking about James!)

I was bursting at the seams with inspiration, so I decided to attempt my first script. I'd never written a script before. I didn't have a clue what to do! But the BBC came to my rescue with their downloadable template "Script Smart Gold". This is excellent for the beginner scriptwriter (as I still am!) You click a button to choose the type of script and away you go...

I actually managed to write an entire episode of a sitcom. Then, I did what everyone suggests and put that away, so that I could read it with fresh eyes in a week or so. I still haven't gone back to it because...

Then I started to write a screenplay for a horror film idea I had. I'm actually still writing this, as I was distracted by a short screenplay competiton I stumbled upon...

So, I wrote a 15 minute short for that. I actually wrote the whole thing in one session and then spent 3 weeks tinkering it until I was happy. That's now in the post, so we'll see what happens there...

Now I'm currently writing a 30 minute film for submission to Channel 4's Coming Up (thanks to Danny for the heads up on this!)

Oh, and I also spotted an opportunity to write some one-liners for BBC Radio 4's Talking and Not Talking show. I wrote about 5 pages worth yesterday (the deadline was today) and e-mailed those off last night.

Now, I don't proclaim to be any good at this scriptwriting lark! Hell, I'd never even written a script before January this year! But, I have so many ideas floating around inside my head that, for me, this is the best way I can think to get them out!

The entire process actually makes my mundane working life a lot more bearable. It might take me 5 years, 10 years (or maybe never) to make it as a scriptwriter, but I want to give it a try and I want to share my journey with anyone who reads this blog (that means YOU!)

If it all ends in a pile of steaming manure (I hate manure!) then so be it, but at least I'll have tried.

For the first time in my life I feel like I've finally found something that I actually want to do for a living... Apart from be an Astronaut, but I think that one's a none starter...