Friday, 27 February 2009

Shooting People

Quick post before I jump in the shower and go to work (don't worry, I am clothed)

I'm getting lots of nice comments about the Screenwriters' Diary. Thank you very much. I've been thinking of ways of spreading the word and obtaining more information for it and I'm considering returning to the Shooting People fold. 

So, a question. What's it like? I used to be a member and it was really useful. I made some contacts through it, got some stuff optioned. Then, a few years ago, it seemed to descend into nothing but people having arguments on it and, well, it stopped being useful. 

How do you find it? Has it improved at all? In these "harsh economic times" and being a SITCOM family (Single Income Two Children Oppressive Mortgage) I'm loathe to throw thirty of my hard earned quid away. 

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Story of How I Got An Agent Interested

Kid B was up at 5.30 again. Been the same all week. I think she's slowly becoming nocturnal. What with long work hours, a two and a half hour round trip to work and the writing, I haven't been this tired since she was a newborn. And the Better Half and I get to do it again in May when Kid C arrives! I tell you what, I'm having the snip after this one. 

They should film my life for a contraception commercial. Forget all the STD and the "respec' from your mates" stuff. All they need to show is a picture of me. See this man? Haggard, grumpy, skint? Yeah, this is what happens if you have a few glasses of wine and think "We'll be ok going bareback just this once." 

Or I always thought the slogan "Buy Me And Stop One" would be good for Durex. 

Still no word back from the BBC Writers Room about "Stuck Between Stations". Yes. Definitely on Someone Important's desk. 

I've got a meeting with my agent this afternoon to discuss my plans for the year. I think I said a very long time ago that I'd write about how I got them interested. So here goes. I'm not saying that this is a foolproof way of getting an agent, or even a guide. It's just a series of events that happened. 

First, I did my research. I used a copy of the Writer's Handbook by Barry Turner (no relation). There's a big section in there listing agents. I went through this and drew up a list of the agencies that might be interested in my work (let's face it, you don't want to be wasting money sending letters off to agencies that have no interest in representing screenwriters) and who already represented people that I respected. That was my A-list. (If my agent is reading this, you guys were on the A-list!)

Then you need to drill-down.  You need to find a contact name. Most agencies have a website, it takes two minutes to find the name of someone in the company who represents the type of stuff that you're writing. Get it in their (or their assistant's) in tray. 

Letters addressed to just the agency are, I'm guessing, going to drift around aimlessly until someone claims it. Or just get a straight "no thanks, we're too busy". That theory is based on absolutely no empirical evidence whatsoever. 

When it comes to the query letter, keep it short and sweet. No more than a page. Less, if you can. A few paragraphs. If I remember rightly, my letter launched straight into the pitch for the script I wanted to send. Then I said a tiny, tiny bit about me that was relevant (the fact that I'd had this and a previous script optioned) Don't go on for 9 pages about how, when backpacking through the Urals, you had a vision that this was your calling. Apparently that happens more than you'd think. 

Then I thanked them and hoped to hear from them soon.

The letter was duly posted (I also included a stamped, self-addressed postcard with "I'd like to read it/I'm not interested" on it. They never get used, but I think it shows keenness and organisation on your part. I'm not even sure that's needed, actually. When I started searching for an agent, email wasn't massively popular. What do you think?)

I got a very nice email saying that they'd like to read the script. After reading, they said that they could see promise in my writing. Had I got anything else? So I dusted off a previous script and sent that off. They liked that, so we had a meeting.

Then they asked a very pertinent question "Have you got anything we can actually sell?" I'd spent my time writing features and I think we're all well aware of how difficult it is to get someone to give you any actual money for them. 

Then life got in the way, but now I think I'm actually writing stuff that they can actually sell. Go me. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Word of the Day

Excuse me, but I'm trying something new. The family and I are all sat on the sofa watching Nick Jr, waiting for the Simpsons.

So, I have taken this opportunity, this eye in the familial storm, to try posting a blog on the Blackberry.

Which brings me to the new word of the day I just learned.

"Blueface". Apparently, its music industry slang for a+r men because they spend the whole time at gigs on their Blackberrys, their faces illuminated by the blue light from the screen.

What cool (or book) words have you learned recently? I'm all about spreading the etymological wealth.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Sitcom. A Different Way of Writing. Discuss.

I'm cream-crackered so I'll try and keep this brief. New project at my day job, long car journey, lots more to learn, I'm sure you've all been there! Going to have to work on ways to organise my day to fit everything in. 

Big Thank Attack to everyone who's said nice things about the Screenwriters' Diary Newsletter, or told people about it, or - hell - read it and, hopefully, found it useful. 

On my journey home, I was thinking about sitcom. When I started out, I was trying to write features. In those, it's all about the hero's journey. A character starts with one point of view, you stick him through the ringer and he emerges from the other side with a different point of view. 

You stick him/her up a tree, throw things at him/her and then get him/her out of the tree. I always liked that analogy. Is that the right word? I'm too tired to find a dictionary.  

Sitcom is the complete opposite. The characters do not and cannot change. But that's the point. Does Basil Fawlty learn anything in those 12 episodes? After five series, are Mark and Jez in "Peep Show" better people? No. 

Even "Friends", which I think was unusual for a sitcom in that it had series (or at least several episodes) long story arcs, if you watch the first episode and the last episode, 10 years apart, the characters are exactly the same. Are you the same person you were 1o years ago? I hope I'm not. But we want Joey, Homer, Edmund Blackadder and Tim and Daisy to be.

It's a different way of writing and I'm having to get used to it. Does any of that make sense?

I may have to go to bed, now. Sleep tight, Space Cadets. 

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

This morning I was updating the Screenwriters' Diary. Going through my list of contacts and references, I got all frustrated and thought "Gah! Why isn't there one central place where I can just search all this stuff in date order? It would make the research so much easier."

Then I remembered that there is, it's the Screenwriters' Diary and that frustration was the reason it came into being. 

I've compiled the weekly newsletter that will be going out tomorrow morning. There are some interesting opportunities that I'll be taking advantage of and I think you should too!

There's still time to sign up by simply adding your email address to the top of the page. Go on, feed my ego. You just have to delete an email every Monday morning...

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Waiting Game Part 2

It's been over four months since I had confirmation from the BBC Writers' Room that they received "Stuck Between Stations". 

This means either:

A) It is amazing and it's currently sat on the Head of BBC Comedy's Desk.

B) It is trapped under a heavy object in the readers' room.

C) It has spontaneously combusted. 

D) They're swamped.

Anybody know the turn around times they're working to at the moment. I emailed the Writers' Room on Wednesday, but I haven't got a reply yet.   

Friday, 20 February 2009

Virtuocity Update

We Daves, as a breed, are a helpful bunch. So it's a big thank you to Dave Melkevik over at The Columbo Effect for updating me about the call for screenwriters by Virtuocity. My original post's here.

Apparently, in a last minute decision, the contract has been awarded to another company so Eyebrid Blaze Ltd aren't taking any more submissions.

I've removed it from the Screenwriters' Diary to avoid any confusion.

Right, back to Twitter. It's like networking, but you can do it in just your pants.

(Yes, those who are already tweeting, I know I used that line yesterday, but I quite like it!)

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Career Opportunities

I currently have the Clash very loud on my iPod, so that felt like a suitable post title...

Quick one today. Have a lot on in my day-job and have to try and fit in writing a new scene for the re-draft of "Stuck Between Stations" in my lunchbreak.

Two screen agencies are recruiting at the moment. They'll pay you and everything, so you can buy more pencils and notepads. Not strictly writing gigs, but a foot in the door and all that.

The first one is a Production Administrator with Screen Yorkshire. More details here

And the next one is with Film London. They have an internship available in their production department. Get the skinny over here

Both have a deadline of 27th February 2009, so brush down those C.V.s

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Notes From The Prod Co.

It seems, currently, that there's a lot of writing activity going on in the Blogosphere. Novels or screenplays, laptops or crayons, people look like they're getting their heads down and scribbling. More power to your elbows, kids.

For my part, I got the notes on "Stuck Between Stations" from the prod co. I met on Monday. My limited experience of these things seem to go "I love the script. It's perfect. Now, here's everything that's wrong with it."

And you know what? They're completely right. I went through the list and agreed with everything they said. You learn early on in this game that you're not going to make the best script you can on your own. You need that outside input. You're making this for other people to watch, so you need to know what other people are thinking.

I've sketched out a rough treatment for the new draft. I'm sad that some of my favourite jokes are going to have to fall by the wayside, but you've got to be ruthless, no matter how good that Scooby Doo joke is. Luckily, most of it is going to just be moving furniture around to help the pace and set up future episode plotlines. I'm chomping at the bit to get started and really excited. I'm actually writing something I'm really proud of and, for once, don't think I'll be wincing when I read it back in a few years time.

I couldn't do anything last night because the printer died, but that's okay. I've made a pledge not to write on Tuesdays because that's Battlestar Galactica night and I just feel really bad comparing my writing to that show.

I don't know for sure, but this might be the meaningful thing that I've been trying to write. And I've managed to retain some knob gags.

Let's all keep it up!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

So Very Tired And Celebrity Spotting

Been up stupidly early these last two mornings. I keep thinking of jokes at about half past two in the morning and not been able to really get back to sleep until I've got up and written them into the script. Stupid jokes about Van Morrison. Well, they make me laugh...

The meeting yesterday went well. The producer is going to give me some notes for "Stuck Between Stations" (and he got the reference in the title. Always a good start) and I'm going to try a re-write. He also seemed pretty interested in "Four Horsemen" and wants to read that when I've got a half decent draft available. Don't want to say too much as I don't want to jinx things. And he might read this.

It's really pathetic that I still get little frissons of excitement when I see famous people in the street (and I've had lunch with Alun Armstrong, donchaknow?) Saw Rhy Ifans going into Quo Vadis and, later on, saw the Don himself, Richard Curtis. Unfortunately, he had gone before I could get to ask him whether he'd like to start being funny again. But I'm sure he's busy with Comic Relief...

Monday, 16 February 2009

Meanwhile, Over At The Screenwriters' Festival Website...

...They're looking for photos and answers to the question "Where Do You Write?". Find the linkage here.

So if, like me, you want to pretend that you're doing a piece for "Writers' Rooms" in the Guardian, get yourself over there. Here's what I will be sending:

I write on the dining room table, simply because this is the only flat surface in our home that has not been consumed by the encroaching tide of family life.

My daughter likes to work alongside me. I use the phrase “likes to work”, but I actually mean “likes to pound the keyboard of her laptop with her tiny fists”.
As you can see, we have differing opinions on the writing essentials. I have my Blackberry, notebooks and a glass of wine close to hand, she has the Dora the Explorer annual, High School Musical kitchen roll and a Peppa Pig flask in easy reach.

Maybe, one day, I will have my own study where I can shut out the noise of the children playing and my partner’s laughter. Would my daily word count increase? Definitely. Would the quality of my writing improve? Possibly. Would it be as much fun? I’m not so sure.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

HTML And Me...

I've been fiddling with the site again. Every now and again, my geek tendencies bubble up and I have to get busy with HTML. 

It's all a bit shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic, but hopefully it works better. Does it look a bit too cluttered? I wanted to try and get 3 columns on the page. Let me know what you think, it would be greatly appreciated. I've only looked at it through Safari, so please let me know if it's all gone horribly wrong in Explorer/Firebox.

Busy day on the writing front. Have found out that my day-job employers are putting me on a different project from the 23rd, so it's more hours and the commute will take twice as long. So I want to get the first draft of "Four Horsemen" finished this week. Exactly half way through at the moment. 

And the Screenwriters' Diary Newsletter Part Deux will be winging it's way out tomorrow, so please sign up if you fancy it snuggled in your inbox, whispering sweet nothings to your other unopened emails...

Friday, 13 February 2009

Of Snow, Squirrels And Sisters-In-Law

I’m currently enjoying a packet of Cajun Squirrel crisps. We’ve sampled all the Walkers flavours in the office and the winner is Duck in Hoi Sin sauce. This judgment is based purely on the fact that it’s the one flavour that actually tastes like the description on the packet. The unanimous decision is that chilli and chocolate crisps are morally wrong.

My sister-in-law has answered my cries and emailed me a picture of a snow willy. Quite frankly, it’s so anatomically correct and disturbing that I can’t bring myself to publish it. If you really must see it, you can email me. Whenever I close my eyes, there it is. I’ve opened Pandora’s box and it’s full of snow penii (is that the correct pluralisation of penis? I’ve only ever had to refer to one at a time. Usually to my doctor and often through a fog of shame)

Actually, it’s just occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve mentioned the whole snow willy thing anywhere else other than this blog, so if you’re reading this, Amy, hello!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Gadget Boy

The Better Half puts up with a constant stream of gadgets (though, I think it's called "tech" now, possibly in an attempt to sound less nerdy and more like you're a member of Special Forces). Thanks to eBay, iPods, Blackberries, mobiles, notebooks, PDAs, iPhones and laptops pass in and out of the door with alarming regularity.

Now I've got the new Blackberry up and running, and spurred on by Gerry , I am all Twittered up. Always one to jump on a bandwagon too late, me.

I've set a little Twitter feed up on the blog. You can follow me here and I'll follow you.

Just another weapon in the armory against Getting Anything Done. Come on, people, let's waste some time!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The British Short Screenplay Competition

Kaos Films have launched the 2009 British Short Screenplay Competition.

Early deadline is March 20th 2009 and the final deadline is May 8th 2009.

They'll make the winning 3 screenplays (2 action, 1 animations) and have the premiere at BAFTA HQ. Play your cards right, you get end up nominated for best short film at the awards and you could get to meet Abi Titmuss.

Check out the action here.

This is one I've actually entered, back in 2007, and made the third round. I think I'll be entering an idea that's been bouncing around my head for the past few weeks. I'll be testing myself as it will contain not a single knob gag if I actually get it down on paper...

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to playing with my new Blackberry...

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The One Where Dave Gushes

I’m an important man. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells like rich mahogany. I'm a man who discovered the wheel and built the Eiffel Tower out of metal and brawn. I’m a man who needs a cologne that makes me smell like a turd covered in burnt hair. Sex Panther!

I have been told - in no uncertain terms - that I will not be receiving this for Valentine’s Day. But, with the card manufacturer appointed day of consumption coming up, I think it might be an opportune moment to give a big shout out to all the significant others out there that put up with us tortured artists.

My Better Half certainly deserves praise. She deals with my sulking and frustration with good grace and a warm heart. She copes when I sit on the sofa with a notepad or laptop every night, swearing while I decide whether Coco Pops or Rice Crispies are funnier.

She merely shook her head when I ordained myself as a priest in the Church of the Latter Day Dude. She, like the Dude, abides.

She does not complain when I crawl out of bed early on a Sunday morning to re-write a scene while watching “Match of the Day” and she provides words of comfort when there’s a setback. Basically, she rocks.

It’s Rice Crispies, by the way.

Monday, 9 February 2009

A Stupid Little Tip

Well, the Screenwriters' Diary made a nice swooshing sound as it left my Outbox this morning. Hope you got it ok. Let me know if you didn't.

I won't say anything about the BAFTAs. Partly because other people will say more intelligent things elsewhere, but mostly because I once again lost control of the remote control and had to endure "Dancing On Ice". Does nobody in my household understand gender politics? I'm the Alpha Male. The remote control belongs to me!

Anyway, a while ago Mark over at The Lower Frequencies posed a question a little while ago asking for suggestions about trimming your dialogue and I completely forgot to post my tuppence worth. My little tip is probably going to sound really trite and stupid, but it works really well for me. Here it is:

I hate dialogue going over two pages. It's an obsessive compulsive thing, I think it looks ugly and I feel that it gives the impression that I'm not in control of my dialogue. Just the way I feel about it, please don't take it as a personal affront if yours does that!

So, if I have that situation, stuff has to be trimmed so it all fits on the page nicely. The way scripts are formatted, dialogue is the most wasteful part of the page, vertically speaking, so I look at getting rid of that first. So it really gets you thinking "Hmmm... Do I really need the character to say that line/sentence/word? If I get rid of it, that piece of dialog - which is important - will shift up and be on the one page."

Hope that makes sense and is of benefit!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Moral Dilemma

I failed to watch the rugby yesterday. I ended up watching "Go, Diego, Go", but, putting a positive spin on it, we all learned something about three-toed sloths. 

I've just put the finishing touches to the first Screenwriters' Diary newsletter, so it'll be nestled in your inboxes tomorrow morning. If you haven't signed up, it's still not too late. Just put your email address in the box and click on "Sign Me Up!" on blog website. 

I have a bijou dilemma-ette. My two current favourite bands in the world are the Hold Steady and (whisper it) Counting Crows. I've just discovered that they playing a gig TOGETHER on 14th May at Wembley Arena. Just imagine if it was your two favourite bands. How excited would you be?

If you haven't checked them out, I heartily recommend the Hold Steady. Their tunes are so lyrically dense, they stop being pop songs and become short stories with kick-ass backing music. 

Unfortunately, Kid C is due to make his entrance into the world exactly one week later. I've presented all the relevant documentation and the Better Half has approved my exit visa. But in the ninth month of pregnancy, anything previously agreed tends to become null and void (which, trust me, is fair enough)

Is this selfish of me? Should I book my ticket? Assuming I can find someone to go with, seeing that all my friends, who have not yet given up appearing hip, have no interest in either of the two groups...

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Tweeny Ennui

"The sun is stupid. The rain is good," Kid A just told me. I've now started to call him Mini-Satre. 

I've been trying to get him to say "Hell is other people" but I think he regards my attempts at amusing myself as trivial and beneath him. 

I've also been stymied in my attempts to find pictures to show you of the already legendary giant snow penis that some people in my town have apparently constructed. What's the world coming to when you can't find pictures of ice-cocks on the internet? Please also insert your own "snowjob" gag here. 

If I find any, I'll let you know. 

I shall attempt another scene for "Four Horsemen" this afternoon before I attempt to wrestle the remote control of the kids so I can watch the rugby. Wish me luck.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Chapter 147: Upon Which Dave Received Some Good News

All the blogging guides on the web say "use photos in your posts", so here's the view from my laptop. 

I actually managed to make it half way towards work before the snow came down, people started crashing and I thought that I might as well give up and come home. 

Apparently, a work colleague took an hour to complete a journey that would normally take three minutes. All uphill. 

Anyway, The Agent emailed me this morning to tell me that a production company that's ACTUALLY MADE STUFF I'VE WATCHED ON THE TELLY really liked "Stuck Between Stations" and want to meet to discuss that and the other strange things in my head. Brap! As I believe the young people say these days.

Though, obviously, this all depends whether I can make it out of my driveway...

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Confusing Red Planet Update

Woo - and indeed - Yay! Snow day! 
Made it to the end of my road, saw the main road was still three inches deep in snow and not gritted and turned around. 

I've spent the morning staring out of the dining room window watching people fall over. The highlight was the guy on the bicycle with a particularly smug look on his face going arse over tit. Funniest. Thing. Ever.

Then did some writing! Double Woo and a side order of Yay! 7 pages of "Four Horsemen" down, another 20 or so to go!

But enough of me laughing at other people's pain. I cracked and emailed Red Planet yesterday. This is the email I sent:


I hope all at Red Planet are well. I was just wondering whether an update on when the short list of finalists for the Red Planet screenwriting contest might be announced?"

And this is the very nice reply I received:

"All those who were selected for the next round have been contacted. We are now waiting to hear the winner.

This will hopefully be in a few weeks."

Now, I've asked for the numbers that have been selected because I'm not sure whether they mean the 70-odd finalists have been notified, or whether a shortlist has been drawn up from those 70-odd and they've been notified. 

I'll update with more info as and when I get it. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Writers / Reviewers / Editors Wanted

A bit late, I know, but MF Publishing are looking for writers, reviewers and editors for an arts and entertainments website due to launch March/April.

You can find the full details here

Does anybody know anything further than this? I've googled around and found this posting on the BSG forum where they've typed out the argument that I've had in my own head.

which features replies from Paul @ MF Publishing.

Boy Genius

Kid A brought this picture home from school the other day. I'd like to point out that he's four years old and not 15 and very bad at drawing.

Apparently - and I quote - "It's a monster with hips, a bottom and a willy."

I shall await the phone call from social services.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Screenwriters' Diary Newsletter Launches!!!

For those of you reading this on the website, you'll notice a nice shiny new box above this post.

And if you put your email address in this box, then you'll be the proud recipient of the Screenwriters' Diary Weekly Newsletter. Every Monday morning, it'll contain all the new opportunities posted onto the diary and reminders for the week's upcoming events, in an easy to digest format.

So, if you have something you want to tell people about, click on the "Email Me!" link on the website and let me know.

Don't worry, to avoid inbox carnage, I'll limit it to once a week unless something very urgent and important pops up mid-week. And I won't be doing anything dodgy with your email addresses. Partly because I'm a nice guy, but mostly because I'd have no idea what to do with them...

If you have any problems or suggestions, please get in touch and we'll work through this together.

Remember that you can also stay up to date with the daily posts by clicking on the RSS or email feed over on the right hand side of the website as well!

I shall be having a little launch party of my own tonight, which will involve a can of bitter and "Battlestar Galactica". I know how to party...

Red Planet

Just a quick one while I get the code for the screenwriters' diary newsletter finalised. Should have the code and full details posted up on the site about lunchtime so you can subscribe to it. Has anybody heard anything about Red Planet, or can I assume that my magnum opus has not made it through?

Monday, 2 February 2009

Bad Television

Well, I made it into work and then decided to come home at lunchtime and work on the company's VPN. I think I impressed some onlookers as I elegantly glided the car right past my driveway and directly towards an oncoming bus.

I may need to point out to readers in more efficient countries that as soon as a flake of snow hits the ground, the entire infrastructure of the U.K. collapses in on itself. As they say on "Top Gear", "Ambitious, but rubbish." In fact, they should have that on signs at all airports. "Welcome to Great Britain. Ambitious, but rubbish." I'd visit, if I wasn't already here.

Talking of "Top Gear", I caught Richard Hammond's new show "Total Wipeout" on Saturday. I can actually feel myself getting dumber watching it, but it's hypnotic. And I then realised that I've lost my bad television filter.

A few years ago, I would've rather gouged out my own eyes than sit through "Hole In The Wall", but now I think that the entire human experience has merely been prologue to the commissioning of that show.

Instead of going out on a Saturday night, I sit in front of "Street Wars" with a few cans of lager, watching drunken idiots being arrested on it and I can re-create a night out at a Yates's at a fraction of the price.

And the new Gladiators! It's like televisual crack. Every Sunday evening, Kid A and I sit down for an hour of people falling in water and Ian Wright shouting.

I've got a digibox chock full of episodes of "24", "Nine Queens" and "Battlestar Galactica" but when you've got endless episodes of "Takeshi's Castle", who cares?!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Cats and Dogs Living Together. Mass Hysteria!

You must forgive me, dear reader, for - in the words of Withnail - I feel like a pig has shat in my head.

The Better Half and I went out for the first time in ages last night to a fancy dress party. Now I am watching Ghostbusters while dealing with the consequences of drinking rather a lot of Guinness. The Better Half has given up on me and gone to Tesco. 

And what did we learn from last night? Well, if you're a single girl who turns up to a party on her own dressed as Lara Croft, you tend to make friends very quickly. 

And it must be really embarrassing when you decide to go dressed as a Rubik's cube only to find somebody else has had the same idea. 

I'm going for lunch at the outlaws this afternoon, to pick up Kid A and Kid B, so I shall start work on the research as to how to get you the weekly newsletter that seems to have been approved by the David Turner Conspiracy!