Saturday, January 27, 2007

Slurry Slurry Night

Okay so I got an email yesterday from the producer I drunk dialled a few posts ago.

For those who can't be bothered going back a few posts, myself included, here's a brief synopsis.

I'm out for an afternoon on the lash with a mate. Get home to find a Happy New Year greeting from a producer. Decide it would be a great idea to call her back. Decide it would be an even greater idea to pitch something and send a two sheet.

Regret it ever since.

Until the email. She loves the concept, just unsure how it would make a series. That's producer speak for can you do us six eps storylines for free. Can't blame them. And I don't mind doing it. I just mind doing it before there is the remotest spark of enthusiasm for the concept.

So I rattled of six eps worth of bullet point story lines. And this exercise proved something very important. On my agents advice I had pitched the project as a comedy. And it isn't. It's a comedy/drama or rather a drama/comedy.

Beating out those storylines forced me to see what direction I really wanted to go in. Which was the direction I wanted to go in to begin with.

So I sent over the storylines and then immediately phoned the producer and said ' Okay it's obviously not a comedy. This is what I really want to write.'

''Oh good, I was hoping you'd say that'' was her reply.

[I also pitched her another idea which I thought she'd seen but turns out she hadn't. Gotta work it! ]

And yes, the boss will probably nix the project. But that doesn't really matter. Most projects get nixxed. [is that a word?] The important thing is that this producer and I are on the same wavelength. And in this business that counts for a lot.

Okay, in this instance I knew we were on the same wavelength going in because I've known her for years, but this is the type of contact every new writer should be doing their damndest to make. People who will champion your work. Who care enough and have been moved enough by your writing to make an effort on your behalf. The people who the next time they get a project greenlit, you are on their writers' list. And it isn't just about your writing.

Red triangle warning.

If you're a bit of a prick learn some humility. Why would anyone help a prick? Don't be a prima donna. Being a ''creative'' doesn't give you a God given right to piss on people who don't ''get'' you. Or those that do.

Just be honest.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Art of Writing

Last night I was in correspondance with a beautiful Greek woman, as is my want, and she mentioned that for the last hour she'd been struggling with a business invitation, written in English, to introduce herself as the new manager of a department, remind people what her department did and to invite clients to a drinks party. Pretty much 3 acts really.

Now although not a native English speaker, this girl has lived in London for 12 years and makes good dough on the side translating HW movies into Greek. She counts Dreamworks and Universal amongst her clients and her use and knowledge of English is excellent. Good enough to encapsulate that she felt the invitation was ''lumpy and disjointed''

In a previous incarnation, having spent 10 years writing bullshit financial reports, my bullshit writing skills are honed to perfection. I took a look and she was absolutely right. So in about ten minutes, I deleted a few things, added a few things and changed a few things, and the invitation looked much better. It flowed and it captured what it was supposed to be.

And that is exactly what a script has to do. The action, dialogue, story, pace and structure all have to be in the right places with the right emphasis. Otherwise it reads and plays ''lumpy and disjointed''

Now, my beautiful friend can take a piece of already written work and translate it into Greek at the drop of a hat. But she realised that writing something original in another language was something she was not so good at.

And to some extent screenwriting is another language. A language that is easy to make lumpy and disjointed if you are not familiar enough with it. There are only two ways to become familiar with it. Reading and writing. Reading as many scripts as you can and writing as many scripts as you can.

My friend knew enough to know that her invitation wasn't ready to send out. It's a lesson many budding screenwriters could take on board. Bearing in mind the business she is in is communication, she might have burned a few bridges if she had sent out a less than erudite communication.

And that is the first stage in the art of writing. Knowing when it isn't good enough.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Strictly Lady Sumo

By all that's holy. Did I really see a trailer for this or was I shaking off the effects of last night's precocious little Chablis?

Are C4 really going to give us a prime time show about fat aggressive women who we don't know doing something we don't care about?

Absolute genius. Because if it was a show about naked supermodels wrestling in jello [watch my visitor count spike] then that would have been rank exploitation.

I'm guessing that the number of viewers getting a woody by watching over weight women fight it out in a circle has already been tested in various focus groups and the lawyers have cleared it as being a number of so little significance that not even the most prurient tabloid could make the claim that the show was about exploitation. There is a massive difference between a freak show and exploitation.

And okay this may sound a little sexist here, but I'm talking on medical grounds. Women are not supposed to be 30 stone wrestlers. The average life expectancy of Japanese Sumo wrestler is 10 years, yes 10 years less than the average Japanese. Many suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure. In short, it is not a healthy sport!

Apparently these women are going to be trained up to fight in the Ladies Sumo World Championship or something. Now, I don't care what platitudes the programme makers come out with about medical supervision. In the Sumo world, weight is an advantage. And in order to compete these women will want to and have to put on even more weight.

Sure, they might be fitter, but tell that to the Japanese Sumo dieing at 65. Why not train them up for the world javellin championship?

Call me old fashioned but I don't consider taking a bunch of obese women and getting them to knock seven bells out of each other as edification and entertainment. And just wait til you hear C4 claim it is all about empowerment.

Of course some C4 exec is congratulating himself that he's got this great lead in to Desperate Housewives.

I'm going to pitch my reality show lead in to Shameless. You take a bunch of teetotallers, force feed them alcohol and last one to get Delirium Tremens wins.

Enough with the reality shows already. Has C4 not learned it's lesson with that crappy thing in the bunker with a million quid at stake? NOBODY CARED.

Ballet Changed my Life. NOBODY CARED.

Love Island. NOBODY CARED.


And on and on with the imports. Beauty and the Geek, Joe Millionaire, Anna Nicole.

When you think about it, out of the seemingly hundreds of reality shows that have been thrown at us only a trickle have been anywhere near ''successful'' and I don't include Pop Idol which I consider to be a talent show.

And yet on and on they come in a never ending procession of desperate wannabes in search of their 15 minutes on shows created by desperate producers with desperate ideas.

Last night, 5 Days, the new BBC Drama got nearly 7 million viewers. Waking The Dead regularly tops 7 million. Hell, even Casualty and Holby do that. And that is a whole lot better than most reality shows with the exception of Celebrity Big Brother and I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of here.
It's time for execs to stop blaming ' audience fragmentation' for their failing ratings and take a look at their programming.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Job Done

And I just had to link to this fantastic post on Jim Henshaw's blog Truth is the First Casualty.

The writer of The Path To 9/11 speaks. Death threats, pillioried in the press, and still speaking his truth quietly and clearly. Now that's writing.

Last Procrast

.......before I absolutely, positively have to go and do some work. An actress on a show I write for either quit or was fired. I don't really care which. All I care about is that every scene she was in, in around 20 scripts, has got to be ripped out, re-storyed and re-written. Fortunately I got off fairly lightly. But as they've got to be in for tomorrow I better do something about it. But that kind of work feels a bit like digging up a corpse to change coffins.

So I got an email late yesterday postponing my Thursday meeting. The producer is away filming. I'm quite glad really, it'll give me a chance to immerse myself in the project under discussion, which I probably haven't looked at in 2 months. And give me a chance to psyche myself up. I've a bad head cold. Awwwwww.

Anyway, just when you thought things were tough enough, a writer friend tells me that an American writer friend of his, quite a big time movie writer has just sold 2, yes 2, 100 minute TV Dramas to the BBC.

Competition from abroad now. Isn't that just bloody great? Well, yes actually, I think it is. I've long argued that British Drama could do with a good smattering of American story sense. A bit less navel gazing and a bit more story. I think that any kind of cross-fertilization has got to be good.

Take Fred Barron. He created one of the few half decent mainstream sitcoms in My Family. In doing so he also instigated an American style writers' room for probably the first time since The Goon Show! The two are probably connected. This guy has serious chops, producing stuff like Seinfeld and The Larry Sanders Show.

There's always going to be competition in writing. It's there every time you are up for a show. The important thing is that you continually raise your own bar.

Right, now I've got to go and dig up a corpse.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Just another meeting

I was rooting through last years diary looking for a telephone number and saw a hastily scribbled note on the very last page. A note of a meeting scheduled with a prodco for this Thursday.

I had forgotten to put it in this years diary and had forgotten about the meeting. Whew!

It's one of those meetings that could be very important or just another meeting. You just never know.

It was set up after the prodco read a proposal for a series I'm touting. Actually they read 2 proposals for 2 series I'm touting but didn't like the other one. And that's really all I have to go on at the moment. They like the idea. But what does that mean?

Not a lot really. Which is why I say this could be very important or just another meeting.

It's a high concept big budget idea. So the first words they say could well be 'It's a high concept, big budget idea, and we like it. But we ain't gonna do it. Because the networks aren't going to bite on it.'

Then it becomes just another meeting. But the truth of the matter is there is no such thing as 'just another meeting' They are all sphincter tightingly important. The impression you make could potentially be worth a hundred thousand pounds or more. That's a scary thought. And definitely one to put to the back of your mind when you walk in.

So they don't actually want to do my project? So what? I'll pitch them a couple of others. Show my range. Be charming and easy going and sharp as a tack. Show them I'm a good guy to work with. Make the kind of impression so that the next time they have a project green lit it is my name that comes to their mind as a writer on the series rather than the 50 other hopefuls whose agents are saying would be perfect for it.

Just another meeting? No chance.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Yesterday. All my troubles seemed arrive in one big stinking lorry load.

Mother warned me there'd be days like these.

My agents rang to tell me what they thought was a shoe in meeting with a show has suddenly turned into a 'can we see a sample of his work' As I'd already been recommended by a producer and script editor on the show, that is not a good sign and at the very least delays things by weeks if not months.

On another show where I figured I was due, and counting on, a commission, they didn't commission me. Porridge and old clothes for the rest of the month.

An acceptance fee on a script never materialised. They have accepted up to the script before mine. More delays.

A repeat fee I though was due this week will now probably not come until February. My fault, I got my dates mixed up.

A project of mine I had high hopes for was finally passed on. As usual by the very last guy in the chain.

It was getting so I was scared to answer the phone in case it was that guy from 'Scream'

So not a day I'll be remembering fondly. But nobody died. There is a huge difference between rejection and dejection.

Most of the rejections a writer gets have little or no bearing towards their actual writing talent. It just comes with the territory. It shouldn't ever cause dejection if you want a career in this game.

Dejection comes with frustration. Annoyance is better than frustration. So get annoyed, say 'Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke' and move on.

Find another contact.
Finish that script.
Come up with a new idea.
Watch a DVD box set.

But try not to get frustrated or doubt your talent.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Celebrity Big Brother

/Shuffles feet, looks shamefaced.

You know what? I'm actually enjoying this. Well....enough to flick round to the highlights programme when the BBC News gets boring.

The cast of characters reminds me of the best disaster movies. Jade Goody and her pre-pubescent boyfriend what's his face. I sit and watch with a mixture of horror and entertainment at their sheer level of ignorance.

Big Brother asked them both 'What question have you always wanted to know the answer to?' Jade wondered why Eskimos don't turn into ice cubes because its so cold where they live. She pointed out that she originally thought Eskimos lived in Antartica, but her boyfriend, what's his face, had told her that was nonesense. There's nothing in Antartica, just water.

She had several ancilliary questions like where do Eskimos go when they die because there's no grass to bury them under and finished off with a heartfelt plea for any Eskimos out there to contact her when she got out so she could quiz them for ten minutes. Though I might shudder at the naivety I've got to applaud the thirst for knowledge.

What's his face had a slightly more intelligent question. 'Why do men have nipples' He did let himself down a little when the answer came back that for the first six weeks the embryo is entirely female. To which he replied ' What's an envyo?'

One can only shake one's head in wonder and pray that nimmos like these are not representive of some great underclass of morons waiting in the wings to inherit the Earth. Willed to them by Hello magazine.

Face from the A Team clearly has the hots for Smeeta Smitten, Indian sex kitten. But she is set fair on marrying a nice Hindu boy. Watch this space. Face from the A team aways gets the girl in the end. It's Hollywood V Bollywood. Two falls, a submission or a knockout required.

Little Leo Sayer turned out to be severely in need of a high dosage of Ritalin. He finally got his knickers in a twist about washing his pants and busted outta there!

WAG girl, is it Danielle? Is pretty much Jade Goody with nicer tits. Well....nicer everything really. I'm still not sure if shagging a football player elevates one to celebrity status but I'll go with the flow on that one.

Is Jo from S Club 7 a lesbian? I don't know, but waiting to find out is about the most interesting thing about her.

Jermaine Jackson, he seems like a really nice, well adjusted guy. And that in itself is a revelation given the antics of some of his other family members. Comedy highlight must have been little Leo Sayer bragging to him about his two US number ones. Jermaine just smiling and nodding benevolently.

Who else? Oh, H from Steps who 'came out' before he went in. Was anyone surprised? Seems a nice enough young chap.

Cleo Rocas who used to be on the Kenney Everett show. She's assuming the Yummy Mummy role. But really, deep down you know she didn't get lips like those sucking oranges. If anyone can shag H straight it'll be her.

If I've forgotten anybody ...well who cares.

It's The Towering Inferno, Airport 77 and The Poseidon Adventure all rolled into one. But ....without the tower or the plane or the boat. Or anything much of any interest really. But it's a hell of a lot cheaper to make.

I'm just off to write my new drama series about a reality show with celebrities locked in a house. The twist is, they're all dead and it's celebrity purgatory.

Now, that's GOT to be a hit.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Nobody knows anything!

To quote the quote by the quotable Mr Goldman.

Like the studio execs who gave away the merchandising rights to Star Wars to George Lucas because they thought it was just a schlock Sci/Fi movie.

Or the exec whose comment on Fred Astaire's screen test was ' Can't act, can't sing, can dance a little'

What Goldman was referring to of course was that no one knows if anything is going to be a hit. I mean really REALLY knows.

Like all the distributors who roundly ignored The Illusionist at Sundance last year so that the main financier had to realease it himself. It made 40 million dollars.

And that's just it. No one knows. Because a hit depends on a whole series of imponderables that have to come together at the same time. And those include timing, taste and the current zeitgeist.

I have no idea what the current taste and zeitgeist is, let alone what it will be in 3 or 4 years time, which is when your average movie producer is looking at his newely optioned project hitting the screens.

As for timing? I wonder what would have happened to 'TITANIC' if in real life the QE2 had been sunk a month before the release?

I don't believe there is any point in trying to second guess the market in movies. I've stopped trying to do it in TV also. I've blogged before about how last year I was trying to get a spec investigative series away, only to be told by various prodcos that they were too hard to shift as the networks weren't looking for them.

Six months later I'm being asked by another prodco if I have any investigative series ideas. The networks are looking for them. No offence to Prodcos, but many are forced to act like puppets jerked around on their strings by the network puppet masters. Because very few of them have any money to develop something themselves.

So I just write what I like. What I would like to see. Sooner or later it'll hit the right person at the right time, and get a green light.

But will it be a hit? Who the hell knows?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Story Versus Character

You can tell I haven't much to do today. I've visited all my favourite porn sites, [other writer's blogs] made a few calls, seriously thought about having a haircut and for a brief second considered outlining a proposed project. I wasn't really in the mood for that but I'm full of writing pep and vinegar so I'll inflict another post on you.

The title of the post is one that I saw on a writer's forum some time ago. There followed pages of argument over which was more important.

I could also say the same for High Concept, Three Act Structure, Use of Flashback, Use of Voice Over, What makes a good logline, and a million and one other aspects of screenwriting.

For the record, for a writer trying to break in, what makes a good log line is the most important advice, in my opinion.

You can have read all the advice under the sun. Know your Aristotle from your McKee inside out. Be able to quote passages from 'The Hero's Journey' but if no one wants to read your script it means spit.

In order for them to read your script, as a new writer you have to 'sell' it to them in a query letter or pitch. Them's the rules. The chances of anyone reading your 4 page missive on a Brother and Sister in 1960's Paris involving a young American in their complicated sexual relationship against a backdrop of the student riots, is slim, unless you reduce it to 'A Brother and Sister in 1960's Paris involve a young American in their complicated sexual relationship against a backdrop of the student riots.

Okay there's a sentence missing from that because I didn't see the ending of Bertolucci's 'The Dreamers' but the female lead had fantastic knockers.

The log line is an invaluable tool to see whether you have something that might interest people. Movie people. The best loglines tell the story and characters, not neccessarily in the fabled 25 words or less, but in as few words as possible.

But perhaps more importantly, the search for your best log line might reveal to you that your story isn't really all that appealing.

And for a writer breaking in that is what it really has to be. Because that promise of a damn good story also promises the potential of damn good characters to tell it. If you can't put that in a couple of sentences, ones that excite someone enough to read your script then all your hours of endevour have gone to waste.

There is no such thing as story versus character. Character is not a sub-set of story. Character and story are inextricably intertwined. So there!

Don't Drink and Drive

...Don't even putt!

Oh Lordy I really should know better. I return home late afternoon after a long and boozey lunch with a friend. I close one eye and after two attempts manage to dial 1571 to retrieve my voice mail. Ah ! A nice belated Happy new year from a producer.

Now that is when the little voice inside my head should have said ' Fine, call her back tomorrow when it doesn't sound like you've just had a stroke'

But no. My little voice, who I like to call 'Kamikaze Ken' said ' Oh yesh, she'ss really niishe. Call her right now!'

Of course I did. I slurred the breeze with her for a few minutes and then 'Kamikaze' had another brilliant idea. ''What a great opportunity to pitch your new project''.

Lordy, lordy, lordy. Not only will I sound even more of a twat than usual, but it ain't exactly impressive being very obviously three sheets to the wind at 4 0'clock in the afternoon.

I don't recall much about my pitch but I remember something along the lines of ''I jusht wanna poke fun at the shite on TV and the, hic, numbshkull, hic, bashtards who put it there!'

Where did I put my copy of 'How to win friends and influence people'?

I'm long in the tooth enough to have made a twat of myself on occassions too numerous to mention, but what is much worse is I sent her the rough two sheet I had prepared on it. You see, I can probably get away with making a twat of myself if I sent in a fully realised, viable project. But this wasn't. It will be in time, but not right now.

So I'm not that bothered about making a twat of my self by drunken dialling. I'd like to think I can make a much bigger twat of myself than that.

I'm far more bothered about the fact that I sent out a project I knew wasn't ready. The Cardinal sin. Bridges can be burned and you look like you don't know what you're doing.
Although having thought about it, the state I was in I may well have sent her a letter to my car insurer instead.

I'll go and check.


I don't think too much damage has been done in this case. She's an old pal. But it could just as easily have been one of those potentially life changing phonecalls.

So the moral of the story is that if you are going to get rat-arsed in the afternoon and you really, really want to speak to a producer then.........send an e-mail instead. At least you can edit it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Just for laughs

I've sent a mini-bible to my agents on a new project I'm planning. It's a comedy! I know, I don't write comedy and so this is a first. It could quite possibly also be a last.

Truth be told I would have preferred to do it as a drama or dramedy. But here's the thing, the project is very critical of the UK film and TV industry and my agents reckon that no one in drama would touch it with a barge pole but I might slip it through with a comedy banner.

Sound advice I believe. Now all I have to do is get funny. I have never analysed a comedy in the same way I might do a drama. I know about the rule of 3 and all that, but this is a big departure for me and you know what.....I can't wait to see if I can do it or not. They say drama is just comedy without the funny bits [or was that just me]

One of the good things about writing for TV in this country is that there isn't the tendency to pigeon hole writers quite so much. Okay if you do 15 years on EastEnders and nothing else then you might hole your pigeon, but otherwise there is nothing much to stop a writer crossing genres other than their own talent or fear. If I can conquer the fear then all I have to worry about is the talent!

I may end up doing it as a dramedy rather than a comedy, but I won't be doing it at all if I can't slip it by them in the first place. Hence it makes sense to brand it as a comedy.

We shall see.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

More LA stories

I forgot to mention another guy who worked at the carwash. Phil was a jailbird having served time for robbery and assault. He looked like he was straight from central casting 'third thug on the right' He was also epilleptic and given his various disadvantages the carwash was just about the only place he could find work. His job was to vacuum the cars before washing and he made a tidy sum each day from change he would find on the floors of the cars.

Now although Phil looked like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle, he had a beautiful girlfriend called Dana. He had met her a few months before when he was rolling home drunk one night and spotted her head sticking out from a Wendy House in someone's garden. That was where she slept. Phil gallantly offered her a bed for the night and they'd been together since. Phil worshipped her.

She was an 'interesting' girl, well educated but did coke like a Dyson. When she found I was a writer she wanted me to write her story.

Apparently a couple of years earlier a very wealthy Aunt had died and left her millions of dollars and a big house on the outskirts of LA. Some of her other relatives were miffed to say the least and hatched a plan to get their hands on the money. They paid people to terrorize her in the house at night, knocking on windows, shooting her pet dog and eventually raping her. They also bought off the local sherriff. She, not unsurprisingly, had a breakdown, was quickly declared legally unfit by her relatives and was sent to a mental institution. It was then made clear to her that if she ever tried to get the money back she would be killed. That's why Phil found her sleeping in a Wendy House. She was on the lam from her relatives in case they decided to bump her off anyway.

It didn't take me long to figure that A] she was a total whack job and B] She was only using Phil until something better came along.

So it's a rainy day in LA. No work at the car wash so Mikael, the Russian and I are sitting on the veranda of the house we shared tossing back a few cans of Miller [ 6 for $2.99, we were poor]

Phil appeared and we shot the breeze for a while until Phil declared that he couldn't drink that piss. We all lived day to day and no work meant no pay. We didn't have a buck between us.

Phil shot off and came back 10 minutes later with a case of Bud. He had persuaded the local convenience store to let him have it until pay day. He was that kind of a guy.

A couple of days later the cops came to the car wash and arrested him. The last I saw of him was in the back of a disappearing squad car, clutching a teddy bear he had just bought for Dana. Apparently he had been supposed to appear in court some time back on some minor assault charge. Having a self destructive streak he decided he wouldn't bother. He figured that no one knew where he was and the cops were hardly likely to bother looking for him even though a warrant had been issued.

But someone knew where he was. Dana. She had called the cops. I guess something better had come along.

Monday, January 08, 2007

It's all very taxing

Yes it's that time of year again. When the pounds are ripped from your bleeding fingers to satisfy the government's lust for schools, hospitals and studies telling you that eating too much makes you fat.

This year in my list of deductions I've included a charge for stationery, a calculator and a pen specifically for use as me being an unpaid tax collector in the form of VAT. A small victory admittedly.

Fortunately, deductions wise I also research around 20 different proposed projects a year. There was my proposed drama series set in Venice. Another in the Cotswolds [just a weekend that time] All my theatre and cinema trips and DVD rentals and purchases, not to mention my Broadband and Sky subscriptions are of course vital research and tools of my trade.

This year I decided to research a project on Internet Dating. It is a huge and growing business and one that the internet could have been made for. There's drama and pathos and feelgood all wrapped up in one. So I figure the £50 could be money well spent. Bound to be a project waiting to be found.

My research produced an invaluable fact. THERE ARE SOME FRICKIN' BABES OUT THERE!

I've got my title. I even typed a paragraph or two on the concept. It is therefore a proposed project. I may even send it to my agents. Not to get an evidentiary trail, oh no. Purely for their input.

In my view, but not necessarily the taxman's, anything a writer spends, with the possible exception of food and toilet paper should be deductable. Because everything a writer does makes them a writer. That can be anything from a £100 on lapdancers [still searching for a title] To a £1000 spunked in the casino. [ still searching for a premise]

Ah 'Spunked'. I think I've got my title!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

LA Stories

By overwhelming request [thank you schmucks - I mean the blogger 'schmucks' not... well you know what I mean!] I thought I would tell a little of my adventures in LaLa Land. The ones that are printable that is. They won't have much to do with screenwriting but may be a way for people to avoid the same mistakes. did I get there? I was living in London but through a series of events ended up with LA agents/managers. It was a partnership, one was a big time agent and one a studio exec. They had the idea of having a combined agent/manager operation, which sounded like just what I needed at the time because I knew I was green as grass both in terms of writing and the business. I just didn't realise how green.

They were about to put a script of mine out wide and asked if I'd be prepared to come over for a few weeks to take the expected meetings. I'd been scratching a living doing all sorts, including selling second hand furniture [mostly my own] and decided the time had come to take a leap. It was the beginning of the summer holidays. The lease was up on our house. Sod the few weeks. Let's just pack up and move. I had 5 or 6 scripts and top notch agents and managers, surely one of those scripts would take in a few months.

Oh dear.

Two days after I arrived I found out the partnership had split up. The agent had gone back to the agency she came from and I was left with the manager. The fact that the agent hadn't fought to keep me as a client of hers instead should have told me something. I just figured they must have flipped a coin or something. And I didn't really know the difference anyway. Representation was representation. See what I mean? Green doesn't begin to describe it.

There followed a couple of weeks of abject inactivity where I couldn't even get a meeting with my now 'manager' only. This didn't seem good so I decided to try and make things happen myself. I got in touch by phone with the prodco of an actor who I felt would be good for one of my scripts. I explained I was a represented writer just to try and get me a bit more of an 'in' . Ten minutes after I put the phone down my manager called. What the hell was I thinking calling up prodcos myself, especially personal friends of hers. How unprofessional. There followed a blazing row and me slamming the phone down.

End of representation.


Three Months Later


I'm working in the most run down car wash in The Valley. I'm the only non- Latino, apart from a couple of Indians and one Russian army deserter. I'm also the only guy working for tips only because the Indian owner hates the British. Something to do with him not being allowed into Britain after Idi Amein chucked the Asians out of Uganda. But I needed the job and with the small matter of no work permit you take what you can get. The work was brutal, seven days a week, 10 hours a day. And this was a hand wash, not machine. But that's what I had to do to make the 2 or 3 hundred bucks a week I needed to live on.

With my last cash I had leased an apartment 3 months in advance, paid my DWP deposit and bought a second hand computer. Of course when my up front payment of 3 months on the apartment was up I was screwed. I had already missed a payment to the DWP who a day later cut off my electricity. I tried to put it to them that was a bit unfair as I'd only missed by a day and they were holding a $200 deposit. Tough they said. Pay up or stay cut off. I was pretty fed up by this time and had already discoverd that with the use of an extension lead I could power my computer from a plug point in the apartment block hallway and bought a torch from the 99 cent store.

Fuck you. I'll stay cut off. Send me the deposit back. So until the lease ran out I lived by the glow of my computer and a cheap torch.

When the lease expired Mikael, the army deserter who didn't fancy a tour of Afghanistan offered a solution. A room had become vacant in the house he shared around the corner from the car wash. He had an annexe which he shared with his older girlfriend Irena [a fantastic cook] and her jailbait daughter.

So my routine became - up at seven. Start work at 8. Work til 6. Shower and dinner. Then most nights write from 8 to whenever I couldn't keep my eyes open. I wrote two and a half screenplays in 6 months.

They got me a few meetings and a few interesting phonecalls. Even potential representation. But then something happened that so pissed me off that I finally chucked it in. That's for another day.

During my time there I met some great people. My flat mates, including Vitas, the Lithuanian dentist who had been ripped off by a movie starlette/hooker and lost his house. He found out it was my birthday and insisted on taking me out for a meal.

Mikael and Irena with whom I had many happy nights eating and drinking Russian style on the veranda outside the house with the scent of oranges from the garden.

Dave the Mountain Dew addict and computer whiz who pirated a trial version of Final Draft and cracked the time expiry code. Just for something to do. When he discovered I was a writer he gave it to me and I used it happily for a couple of years.

The guys in the car wash, all living hand to mouth but always up for a laugh. They'd share their last Burritto or pinch of 'stimulant' to get you through the ten hours. Some movie people who took time out to provide help and information. Some of the car wash customers, like Steve the car hire guy who became a friend and got one of my scripts to the producers of Batman.

So what did I learn? I learned that you can always find time to write if you really have to. I learned that there is a lot more to this business than just writing. And I learned that most of what I learned about writing and the business I could nowadays have learned from staying at home and getting good advice from the internet.

Was it a great experience? You bet it was. Would I do it again knowing what I know now? Not in a million years. Next time I go it's with an invitation.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Return of the Infinite Monkey

Josh Friedman is posting again

Good stuff. Even if I didn't understand half of it.

My own sincere thanks to those kind enough to visit my own humble tome which to my astonishment has just passed the 10,000 mark.

I went back the way over my posts and realised I'd neglected the tale of Project X, my spec project. As you may recall a producer at a Major Prodco wanted to do it but it was nixed by her boss on news of a couple of other projects with slightly similar premises already being developed by the networks.

Disappointing, because I know what those projects are. One of them has already been shown! And they bear no more resemblance to my project than Born Free does to The Ghost and The Darkness. They both have Lions. That's about it.

Anyhoo, at a meeting just before Christmas I pitched it to another Major. They liked the pitch and asked for the two sheet. My agents also sent it to another biggee at around the same time. They like my work even though I made a total tit of myself the first time I met them some years ago.

I was into writing movies at the time. I had no real inclination to write for TV and all I had written to that point was spec movie scripts. That got me an agent and that got me this meeting. It was in Soho House. Plush leather armchairs, the gentle hum of lap tops and people trying to look like they they were doing important business rather than trying to justfy the £600 membership.

So I'm sitting with this vastly experienced head of development of this prodco with several hit shows to their name, and she asks if I had any ideas I wanted to write for TV.

And Twat that I am I answered blythly ' Not really, I want to write movies, I don't think I can earn enough money writing TV'

To her great credit she didn't snort her cappucino out her nose. She took a moment and then explained reality to me. A writer/creator of one of their shows made £250,000 the year before. Worst case scenario he'd probably make £100,000 in the current year. Bear in mind we are talking about 1995 or 6 here. She patiently pointed out that if you live in the UK, the only way to earn any real money on anything like a consistant basis is writing for TV.

See, the problem was I'd read William Goldman, I knew movies paid millions of dollars.

Dream On! Those A listers with the million dollar deals are the lottery winners. The average income for a WGA writer is something like $70,000 a year. Seriously. The average income for 'working writers' in the WGA [ie more than one hit wonders, because selling any project to a WGA affiliated prodco automatically means you have to join the WGA. You may sell nothing else, ever] is around $100,000 a year. No small potatos, but hardly the million dollar deals so beloved of the press.

So I listened carefully to what she said. Then being the Twat that I am I promptly moved to LA.
And that's a whole 'nuther story. And one for the memoirs when I'm too old and frail for them to bother jailing me.

But I digress. Project X has still got its nose above the waterline. Hopefully I'll hear this month from the two interested parties. The chances are obviously that it will be 'No' but the important thing is I'm out there. I'm in their faces, and that is where you have to be.

Monday, January 01, 2007


Drink less, exercise regulary, have more and better sex.

Okay those are the resolutions for 99% of us. Now they're out there, done, dusted, filed. Let's move on.

I got back home tonight after a week or so away and opened a pile of Christmas cards that arrived after I had departed for Jockland.

A couple of them got me in the mood for posting. Not that it takes that much.
So the first one was from my mate Paul. A movie producer. I class as a mate anyone who I like, and the fact I haven't spoken to him in over a year is neither here nor there. He's a top bloke and we both cut our teeth in the script reading game many moons ago.

But here's the scary part. Bear in mind I haven't spoken to him in over a year, I.E before I started blogging. His card says ' [paraphrase] 'I hear you are blogging as English Dave' [expletives deleted] No, just kidding, Paul is a gent, he never swears, and farts Lynx body spray . [I had to put that because I now have to phone him to explain to him and his lovely wife and son why I didn't send a card [I'm useless] and how to find the blog.

Fuck me, Paul. If you google English Dave I'm sure there can't be that many entries![Actually I suspect Paul is well aware and is that Atishoo spammer]

But- joking aside, it shows you what a small world this Biz is. Hence my pseudonym. I reserve the right to say what I damn well please without it costing me a penny!

The second card of note was from Gillian at the BBC. She doesn't know about this blog and would be mortified if she read this [she is also in a very happy relationship so bear that in mind when you read the following]

Gillian was a script editor on a show I worked on some time ago. She was fantastic. Fearless, supportive and smart. You can't ask for more from a script editor. Which is probably why she moved on.
A few months ago I met her again quite by chance when I was waiting for a driver outside the Beeb and she was arriving for work. I had just had the bombshell that my marriage was over and she was one of the first people I actually spoke to about it - because she asked about the family, not because I was desperate to emote to someone!

At that moment she was everything in life as she was in editing. Fearless, supportive and smart. And months later she took the time and trouble to get my address and send a greeting.
In a business reknowned for its shallowness there really are really good people out there. Like Paul and Gillian.
All we have to do is write. They have to deal with the politics. So my real resolution is to make sure they know they are appreciated.