Monday, August 19, 2019

Welcome Pack


Last week in the post I got a small package from Derby University. When I opened it, inside was a small box, which when opened exploded with a cloud of colourful confetti and bouncing boxes. The message: Congratulations You're In was written inside.

Now just to wait for the Induction information to come through.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

My Personal Screenwriting Tips



I started writing scripts to sell back in 2009 when I took part in my first ever Script Frenzy challenge. The idea was to write a full feature script (80–120 page screenplay) in thirty days. I sat down with pen, paper and Stella Artois and churned out 110 pages in 20 days. I wrote at night; I wrote during the day. I wrote drunk both on the Stella and the pure fun of weaving a story out of nothing.

And then the real writing started: the rewriting.

I have rewritten what was then called “Project: Lovecraft” over 100 times. It became Bubble-Butt, then when it was optioned and lead actors were attached, it became Creedmore. It is now back to Bubble-Butt and undergoing another rewrite, this time to bring it more in line with 2019 as opposed to 2009 when it was originally writtem (Brexit - I'm looking at you, motherfucker!).

Nothing major has changed in each subsequent draft (though I have lost a few hairs in the process). No characters have been lost; none have been added. Instead what I have done in the ten years since writing FADE IN: for the first time, is to par the writing down to what was really neccessary, and in doing so have come up with a list of tips I’d like to share with you regarding writing a screenplay.

(or at least how I do it).

1: NO WIMPY VERBS — Bob the Cop didn’t walk slowly into the room; he stalked. The gunshot wasn’t loud; it thundered. “The car drove down the street…” doesn’t tell us anything except the car comes down the street; “the car screamed round the corner” show’s us shit is happening, and happening Now!

2: ECONOMY IS THE CREATIVE CHALLENGE — Don’t use more words than is necessary to tell the story. Consider this: “Dan takes out his gun, readies it, and fires all in one smooth motion.” Not too bad — we gather Dan is a pretty good shot from this description. However “Dan draws his weapon; fires fast. Hits his target.” is better. Same information but in five fewer words. More white on the page.

3: THE FOUR LINE RULE — when writing action, don’t write huge paragraphs of prose. This isn’t a novel, it’s a screenplay. More white — less black. Show what’s important, not every last detail.

4: USE 5 WORDS OR LESS TO DESCRIBE A CHARACTER — More white, less black. Give the actors the essentials; don’t hamstring them with extraneous detail.

5: NO WIDOWS — Don’t leave a single word all on its own on a line of action.

6: DELETE “AND”, “BUT” “AS” and “ING” WORDS — these are dull and kill the built-in momentum of a script. By eliminating these words your script will find its own pace. Write in the moment, don’t commentate.

7: BUILD A PAGE TURNER INTO EACH PAGE — craft your script so the reader has to turn over to see what happens next. Make them want to read on.

8: BE BRUTAL WHEN EDITING — Kill your babies. Stay true to the story but take out everything that just doesn’t need to be there.

9: 6 PAGES A DAY — and stick to it. 20 days later you have a finished draft. Sometimes those 6 pages take me a full day; sometimes when the story is red hot, an hour goes by and those pages are down. Time to get a head start on tomorrow's pages…

10: HAVE FUN — even on those days when the pages just won’t come. Screenwriting is hard work, it takes dedication and committment to sit in the chair and stare at the page till the words come. But it should still be fun weaving those words, creating those worlds.

So there you have it: my 10 top tips for writing scripts. I try to stick to these as close as possible on each new project. It works for me, it may work for you too

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Shit Became Real


Yesterday I got the email I was feverishly waiting for: the unconditional offer from Derby University. This means that I am 100% committed now to a three year degree in Film Production, starting in September, just 5 weeks away.

September is a big milestone for me. Not only do I turn 47, but I set out on a career which I have been slowly building towards, though most of the time I didn't realise it. All the time I was working in jobs serving others, be that direct retail (Jacksons Supermarkets, Games Workshop, Beaverbrooks, Cains Electricals), management (Games Workshop, Showcase Cinema, Birch Industrials), or trade sales (Boots, Battlefront Miniatures, Spiral Arm Studios) I was always writing.

I'd come home and write short stories. I'd spend a weekend writing a pulp novella. I'd spend a month writing background for a games company, or year writing a tie-in novel. I loved writing, but I also loved movies. I could recite Star Wars movies verbatim. I could discuss the merits of Michael Keaton's Batman over Val Kilmers (this monologue has made its way into my current screenplay).

At one point I considered jumping feet first into film making, even went as far as creating a company BOLD as Brass Films LTD and mocking up some posters. But the timing wasn't right, and I wasn't ready, either as a writer or as a potential director of my own work. I needed time to find out who I was, and what I wanted to say.

And now, several years later, that journey is about to begin.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Every Journey Starts With But One Step

"So - guess it's time to own this. 
Woke up this morning around 4 in a near panic, a usual occurrence for oh, about the last 15 years or so. (As is the insomnia I'm now experiencing - oh, the joys). Yet this is something I've managed to hide, along with the occasional numbing sadness and paralysing fear. I've hidden the tears and kept the burning rage mostly in check. 
But - and let's call it for what it is - the anxiety/depression was not allowed to be acknowledged. Not by those closest to me but by my own self. I pushed it down, kept it (mostly) hidden and soldiered on. Cos that's what you do right? 
It all came to a head when for the last few weeks every day brought new tears, tears that I could no longer hold back and so I'd find ways to be alone (bathroom breaks at work, long baths at home) and just let them roll out. 
I've finally talked to someone, several someone's in fact most notably Lucy, my doctor and my boss. The doc said this has probably gone un-diagnosed for many years, thus explaining my always shifting between jobs (and not committing to long term hobby projects as well). This has probably cost me more opportunities than I care to admit, as well as deprived me of some great fun experiences in the wargaming community; events missed, tournaments not attended, armies not painted or finished. 
And let's not even think about all the writing possibilities lost. 
But that is all going to change. But change takes time and writing this (encouraged by others with this illness) is but the first small step in a long journey. The next is starting taking medication to help find some balance again, coupled with some talkative therapy to bring the real me back from the shadows of the past and into the light of today. 
So there you have it. 
I have anxiety/depression but I'm going to take my pills; I'm going to talk about the triggers both past & present (not here - other than this explanatory post I'll keep the talky feely stuff where that belongs)  I'm going to go to work when I'm feeling more me. I'm going to paint models and play games and I'm going to kick its ass one day at a time!"


That was the Facebook update I posted back on 22 November 2016, a few months after being diagnosed with severe anxiety/depression, an illness that had hidden in plain sight for two decades, showing itself through many impulsive, bad decisions I made in regards work, career and personal life.

Fast forward two years and two months to January 2019 and I found myself once again unemployed (this time through no fault of my own), and struggling to find work. Depression hit hard and for several months I hit rock bottom. Didn't do much, didn't want to do anything except sleep or watch really bad TV. I tried starting a new business, keeping it in the wargaming world as that was something I knew really well, but the damn Brexit-issue was causing companies to really examine where they spent their money, and hiring a sales agent wasn't a top priority.

And then came the interviews. I interviewed for retail jobs, management jobs, sales jobs, even basic warehouse work but I guess they all sensed my heart wasn't in it as no one offered me a position. And they would have been correct. Up till now I've worked in the retail sector, serving others, working for others, dependent on others to guide my career and thus my life.

With one exception.

Back in 2005 I quit my job as a cinema projectionist to pursue a screenwriting career, one that seemed to be taking off. I'd written a horror script called Bubble-Butt, and I had somehow gotten it to the attention of a development executive at Focus Features, a brilliant guy called Adam. Over a couple of years we worked on the script together while people were approached to star. That meant tailored rewrites, something that was new to me and extremely exciting.

Eventually the project stalled and Causeway Pictures next optioned it. Another few years of development and again just before the greenlight, the project stalled. It's a common occurrence in the film industry with so many working parts, but it was new to me, and extremely frustrating.

However, in the five years this was going on I continued to write, and learned with each new script. And now I'm getting back into the movie business, starting with a degree in Film Production at Derby University. I've made the decision and all my focus, energy and strength is going in to this.

This website has been created to allow me to journal my experience, a great habit to cultivate for focusing the mind, especially when anxiety can rear its ugly mush at any time. I'm going to try and post once a week, but not get stressed out if this doesn't happen.

Every journey starts with but one step, and this was mine.

Cheers
Jonathan
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