Sunday, 20 July 2014

Bitchnapped Read-Through


Last Sunday (July 13th, date fans) I completed Bitchnapped, my American action-comedy script, and set about doing the first read-through.

Written in the same vein / vain / vane (choose one. No one cares) to films such as We’re the Millers, The Heat, Due Date and The Hangover, the logline reads as follow:

When Jody’s girlfriend is kidnapped because of her incompetent drug-dealing, she must rekindle two long-dead relationships and get to Mexico within 48 hour... in order to rescue the love of her life from a psychotic Mexican drug-lord.

Written for the American market, it still contains a lot of my anarchic comedy and ridiculous characters, but it also has real heart and a lot of action… mostly involving a crappy old R.V. (recreational vehicle, acronym fans!) and guns. Lots and lots of guns.

I can say this now because Jess and I did my obligatory read-through* and Bitchnapped is… actually quite good.

Yep. You heard it here first. Well, you read it here, unless you have one of those devices that read out everything in a scary, robotic voice that will one day become sentient and possess you.

A writer just said their writing was something not shit.

I know, right? Call the Vatican. A miracle has happened. I guess I presumed Bitchnapped would be an ungainly mess because I didn’t plan it – I even said so in my previous Blog posts – but it’s actually not bad at all.

It needs a rewrite (it’s my first draft. Of course it needs a bloody rewrite) but the characters are there, the plot is there and the themes are solid and in place. It does need some scenes trimmed or blasted into space and some of the dialogue is repetitive in places, but overall it’s not the bloated, awful shitbox of cack I had envisaged.

Which is nice.

I previously mentioned my concern over the following:

a.) Is it good?
b.) Is it paced well?
c.) Does it have well-defined characters?
d.) Is actually a giant, confused mess…?

I can’t answer one without my ego-monitor exploding, but it read quickly, the characters were defined and it wasn’t confusing (for the most part!).

Now, just because Jess and I didn’t hate the crap out of it doesn’t mean it’s awesome. That comes when I send it out…

So that’s that.

Bitchnapped 1st Draft done, dusted and read-through. Like I’ve mentioned before, this script took my 6 months to write with no planning, but Dead of Knight took 1 month to write with 2 month’s planning.

Planning – for me – wins.

* Yeah, so Jess signed a contract before we began dating, forcing her to read-through everything I write. Out loud. In front of me. Including this Blog post. And Post-It notes and shopping lists and greetings cards and the occasional rude word I’ll scribble on a piece of paper in church, just to embarrass her. 

MONK-CHEESE!


Thursday, 3 July 2014

Plan Versus Freestyle

This year I experimented with writing two feature scripts to two different ways:

1.) One fully planned, with treatment and development, including discussion with other writers, producers etc…
2.) One ‘freestyled’ script, written without any pre-planning or telling anyone about it, but with a very good idea of plot and character (locked inside my head).

I wanted to see how I wrote best. A personal thing, and no reflection on how others can or should write.

Planning won by a million miles. Maybe a million and two.

The planned script was DEAD OF KNIGHT, a comedy-horror which I wrote for Copper Monkey Productions. Planned in November and December 2013, I wrote the entire script in January 2014…

…and Copper Monkey were genuinely pleased with the First Draft. There will be further rewrites, of course, but they’re happy with their current script, which is fantastic news for a First Draft.

It’s worth noting this was written in a month where I had no annual leave days from work – I was out of the house for 12 hours a day doing a ‘normal’ office job – so it shows how planning something thoroughly makes it so much easier to write, even when you’re insanely busy.

And then there’s BITCHNAPPED


An all-American action comedy, Bitchnapped was an idea / concept I came up with during the writing of Dead of Knight.

I did not plan it. Just ploughed straight into it, with some great ideas, solid character concepts and an ‘idea’ of where it was heading.

It’s been a nightmare.

I started writing it in February 2014 and Draft Zero was only completed last week.

I read it this week. It needs work.

By ‘work’, I mean ‘fumigating’.

After five months of sporadic writing, Bitchnapped is riddled with problems, plot-inconsistencies and the timelines are completely buggered. The characters go through 48 hours... but night never turns up. It’s just constantly day. That’d make sense if they were in Arctic Circle… but they’re in America and Mexico.

I’m happy to admit this, because I know – with a LOT of work – Bitchnapped should make for a bloody funny, exciting action-comedy.

I’m working on a details draft now, checking through plotting, timelines, continuity, character-consistencies, theme etc… to ensure all the important elements are there. Again, this feels fantastically backwards, but that’s what this experiment has been for: planning versus freestyling.

Once I’ve smashed out the next draft this week, I will be running through the ultimate test: a read-through with Jess.

The much-anticipated (for me, anyway) read-through of my work is always the terrifying litmus test.

No, not a litmus test.

An STD test.

Like waiting for the results of a cock-screening (or whatever it is they do in STD clinics) after having blasted a coked-up hooker under a bridge in Chelmsford, this test is nerve-wracking.

Was it worth all the time and ‘pleasure’?

The read-through will tell me instantly if Bitchnapped:

a.) Is good
b.) Is paced well
c.) Has well-defined characters
d.) Is actually a giant, confused mess…

Like any read-through, really.

Without running treatments, plotting, plans etc… past anyone on this, I’m totally blind to whether the idea is even a good one, which brings me to another point and a piece of advice (take it or leave it or set fire to your computer in fury at my didacticism):

If you plan your work, SHOW SOMEONE ELSE.

There’s a great deal to be said about careful, considerate planning, but if you refuse to show someone else your plan in advance then it’s pointless.

Like with my series ‘bible’ for sci-fi TV series SENSE – which I’ve sent to 10 people – I gave that to other writers, friends & family members to see if they could see any problems, inconsistencies, issues etc… with the idea as a whole. With the characters. The plot. The theme.

There was – and everyone came back with great ideas, suggestions, likes and dislikes.

If I’d written this massive plan and then just smashed out Episode 1, then I’d be making some of the same mistakes – many less, but still some – that I would’ve made if I hadn’t bothered planning it at all.

One fact, however, that often prevents any planning is this:

Treatments are hard to write

Yep. F*cking hard. You feel like you’re writing an elongated blurb for a novel you haven’t read. It’s hard to be enthused about. The major concern is that the READER won’t be enthused about it either – bored or indifferent or confused.

But that’s the point. A treatment should be exciting. It’s something you may use in the future to SELL your work.

Make it jump off the page. Excite people. Excite yourself. It’ll make it easier for everyone else to read, but also much easier to write the actual script from.

Bitchnapped versus Dead of Knight has taught me a valuable lesson. It’s a lesson I had already guessed the answer to, but one I had to prove to myself.

I am much better when writing to a plan.

Disclaimer: this is my own personal choice. This isn’t necessarily something you should do. Writing is a very personal thing. I don’t put notes on a corkboard. I don’t begin with theme. I don’t lock myself in a log cabin to write a script. We all work differently, but I can say this – for me, planning ensures the First Draft looks like Draft Three or beyond. It makes for a more polished, well structured script.

But that’s my personal opinion.

Anyway, I’m off to tidy up Bitchnapped with a fine-toothed comb… and a chainsaw.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Dearly Beheaded - Sample Removed

Quick update.

Previously I’ve mentioned people can read script samples of my work on my website.

Didn’t know I had a website?

No?

For shame!

Well, it’s here:


Designed by my brother Patrick and populated by my words and pictures of my face (before pies), it has some nice links to other websites. And a link to this Blog, which you probably don’t need… if you’re reading this… which you are…

Anyway, samples of my scripts are available for viewing by people: young, old, mad, sane and other.

However, I have removed the 10 page script sample of DEARLY BEHEADED.

Why?
Why Dave?!
WHHHHHHHHHHHHY?!

A few reasons:

1.) The script has been officially optioned by Not A Number Productions – signed, sealed, delivered - and as they’re planning on producing this beast in 2014 / 2015, I feel it’s in our best interest not to have a script sample kicking about on the internet. What if you hate it? Then you’ll never cough up that £15 to illegally download it when it hits the cinema…

2.) The script is ever-evolving. The first 10 pages that were on the website (yesterday) are actually different to the current version of the script. That version had no dinosaurs and the celebrity cameo from Brad Pitt has been cut due to “time constraints” probably. So, in essence, it’s not a fair representation of the final script.

3.) I’m a bastard. That’s the real reason.

That was literally it. The most boring update in the world.

There are still other script samples on there, for optioned and non-optioned material, so check it out.

Oh, and how’s Dearly Beheaded going?

Well!

The script is ‘out’ with various production people and the producers are putting together a schedule, so it’s moving along nicely.

Cast? Not yet. But soon. Hopefully.

I cannot say too much more, through fear of my demon-possessed contract reading this and paper-cutting my entire family to death, as per Clause #32.4, Paragraph 9.

Oh hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have signed that blood-soaked, flesh-bound piece of screaming parchment…

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Goodbye Bloody Cuts

The end of an era.
The end of the road.
All good things must come to an end.
Another cliché about something you enjoyed sadly ending.

Bloody Cuts have hung up their hats / flesh-masks and announced their reign of terror has come to an end. 


I would blather on about what they’ve done before, but they’ve written a great little Blog Post themselves, so check it out here:


Although announced a good 11 days ago, I wanted to smack something in my Blog about it out of respect for the chaps.

It is sad times, for us and them. I know they’re gutted they couldn’t hit their goal of creating 13 Short horror films, but they’ve achieved so f*cking much it’d be disingenuous for anyone to bemoan them of that.

So stop bemoaning. You goddamn bemoaner.

Now, I hate sycophancy, so I don’t intend to fawn over them (too much) or tell them they changed my life / sexual orientation, but…

Anthony Melton, Ben Franklin and Jonny Franklin (in alphabetical order, not by order of most-awesome nasal hair) are three of the nicest, most hard-working, decent bastards working in the industry at the moment. They took a chance on my script for Don’t Move and made something WAY beyond what I could’ve ever expected.


Not seen Don’t Move yet?

Christ, really?

Fine, watch it below:


Seriously, I literally couldn’t have imagined better. When I first wrote it, the demon was fucking INVISIBLE for Christ’s sake…

For those who don’t know, my involvement with Bloody Cuts wasn’t just in the writing of Don’t Move. I also helped out by occasionally writing Blog posts on their website, wrote the copy for the BC Challenge website, responded to the hundreds of competition entrants, helped judge the competition, Murnaghan Murnaghan Murnaghan, got seriously confused by random in-jokes, wrote a number of other projects with / for Bloody Cuts (many of which will never see the light of day… or will they?), signed a secret blood pact and once squatted in mud and smashed up dolls by an abandoned farmhouse…


It’s been an epic, enjoyable, crazy and exhausting journey – I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for them. Knowing the amount of (other) projects they have on, I can fully understand their decision to ‘end’ Bloody Cuts. If they had a TARDIS and octopus arms, then maybe they could continue… but they’re not Doctor Whoctopus.

Yeah. Doctor Whoctopus. Now you’ve read it, you can never unread it.

Gutted.

Whatever the case, their futures are as bright as that giant ball of sky-flames I rarely see on a weekend due to ‘writing commitments’. The sun? Yeah, that’s it. Their futures are damn bright, basically.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what mad shit they come up with in the future.

Massive congrats to everyone who’s ever been involved with Bloody Cuts too – the commitment, work, talent, skill and time people put into those shorts (and beyond) was outstanding. The future of filmmaking grew up in Bloody Cuts. And also maybe a couple of future serial killers too.

That’s it. Commiseratory / Congratulatory / Sycophantory (only one of those are actual words) thoughts and Bloggings for the geniuses behind Bloody Cuts.

No doubt we’ll end up working together in some capacity in the future.

Fluffer, anyone?

With that sexy thought, I shall raise a tall glass of Kraken in their direction.

Well done chaps.

The future is yours for the taking.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Sense Response

A few weeks ago I sent out the outline documents for my sci-fi TV drama SENSE to various writers, readers and trusted feedbackers.

This included a 4 Page outline of Episode One, 5 x 2 Page documents outlining Episodes Two to Six and a character breakdown document; a good 16 pages of material, before even writing one word of script.

I have been receiving feedback from people and it’s been fantastic. Some people loved it, some found some tiny niggles with it and some had serious issues with it. All great feedback, all greatly valuable, especially the brutally constructive comments.

Thanks to Ned, Pat, Mark, Adam, Jess and Freddie for their awesome feedback.


The picture above can represent the central conceit of SENSE... or people's reactions when they realize they have to read 16 pages of outline. Not even script. Just f*cking outline...

I’m still awaiting some feedback from some very valued sources, but I’ve seen a pattern in some responses already – one sequence especially needs cutting and / or changing, for example.

Once I’ve got back ALL feedback I will begin writing Episode 1.

I would plough ahead now, but it’s always important to wait for full feedback from everyone before proceeding with this sort of thing. Someone could spot something crucial that everyone else missed, which could change the entire dynamic of the episode.

Patience is a virtue. And a total bitch.

Apologies to anyone named Patience. You’re not a bitch. Unless you are, of course, then Patience is a bitch.

The great thing about outlining a project so thoroughly in advance is the ‘aftermath’. Once the episode is written (which will be quicker to do thanks to the outlining), you won’t have to deal with the tedium of creating dozens of selling documents… because you made them in advance. Some minor tweaks will need to be made, but it’s all there already. Ready to sell your awesomeness.

That’s the plan anyway…

Whilst I’m awaiting feedback from others, I’m busy smashing through Draft 1 of my American action-comedy Bitchnapped, having worked through Draft 0 with painful realizations.

In the ‘plan vs. braindump’ approach to screenwriting, I’m definitely on the side of ‘planning’!

The approach to Bitchnapped was the polar opposite of Sense – zero planning, just writing – and it’s been a tough trawl…

More on that once Bitchnapped is done.

P.S. I survived the dentist. Kind of. I’m in the middle of a root canal, right now. They’ve gone in, killed nerves, dumped medicine inside, sealed it with a temporary filling and I have to wait until July 9th to find out if it worked… or if they need to remove the broken bastard. Something to look forward to, huh?

P.P.S. I didn’t go to the 4screenwriting drinks / networking event on Wednesday, which I'm frankly GUTTED about. Unfortunately my pesky day job stapled me to my desk and some urgent rewrite work prevented me from going. Shame, as it would’ve been great to see people again, meet the latest crop of awesome writers, see Philip and the other fantastic people involved in running the course… and have the chance to schmooze with agents, producers, development executives etc… If anyone attended the course and wishes to meet up, I’m always free in Central London during lunchtime – just drop me an e-mail here - david@davidscullion.co.uk

P.P.P.S. Or e-mail me funny pictures of cats. Or badgers. Or Paddington Bear.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Dearly Beheaded Update


Dearly Beheaded is going well. Lots and lots and LOTS of secrets that I can’t possibly divulge through fear of someone bundling me into a black van and tipping me into a volcano. But it’s going well.

On Sunday 8th June I had a 6 hour meeting with producers Rachel Richardson-Jones, Charles Bates and Simeon Halligan (who is also set to direct), lording it up in the BAFTA café.

No, I didn’t wear a beret. Not on my head, anyway.

We went over the latest incarnation of the script, truly diving into the finite details (like what kind of car someone would drive, the mechanics of automatic crossbows and how to have more ‘fun’ with cow intestines).

There was also deeper discussion about the background of one of our major characters and the difficult balance of revealing too much or too little when it comes to pre-empting major plot twists.

It was brilliant. Tough in places, enlightening in others, and very very productive.

I took away the notes and delivered the 11th June draft on… well, the 11th of June.

As a side note I prefer to use dates (i.e. June 11th 2014) rather than draft numbers (i.e. Draft 14) because it’s an easier and fairer presentation of your work. Sometimes you can change three bits of dialogue and throw out a new ‘draft’, which is more an edit than a draft. It’s a personal choice and doesn’t particularly matter (although I’m sure some script gurus would tell you how it MUST BE DONE a very specific way otherwise Hollywood will throw your script into that volcano I mentioned earlier).

Anyway, that’s the June 11th 2014 draft sorted.

Is the script finished & locked? God no. The actors haven’t got hold of it yet, we haven’t discussed practicalities with the VFX & SFX people and the scouted locations have yet to be decided upon. Then there’s changes during filming and post. Then the final edit. The script is never finished until the film is released.

I’m looking forward to working on further drafts. I genuinely enjoy the collaboration process when it comes to scripting for film & TV. This depends on the person you’re collaborating with, no doubt, but I’ve not had any horrible experiences yet.

Anyway, whilst I’m sitting proudly with my June 11th draft, the producers are all working incredibly hard to negotiate deals, casting, finance, SFX etc…, hoping to get this ridiculous bastard ready for action.

No word on filming dates, confirmed schedules etc… but once I know I’ll update this Blog with news. Unless the news is a secret, of course. I don’t particular want to visit the volcano God just yet. Well, maybe tomorrow afternoon I might…

Tomorrow I’m heading to The Dentist to have something fun called a ‘Root Canal’ or – as my dentist pronounced it – a “Rook Anal”.

At least I think she mispronounced it...

Pending whether I survive the multiple mouth-injections and subsequent invasive dental attack, I’m hoping to head along to the 4screenwriting networking event on Wednesday night, to say hello to the latest batch of uber-talented writers and chat to the various other industry ladies and gents.

I probably won’t go if my mouth is a slackened, dribbling mess or I have a giant hole where my tooth was (which is actually a possibility if the root canal / rook anal doesn’t work). I doubt I can make a good impression by screaming “Hey you guys!” whilst drooling blood like a broken soap dispenser.

That’s it. Update over.

As you can see, I cunning disguised ‘no update whatsoever’ with over 600 words of waffling bollocks.

It’s my gift. It’s my curse. I stole that from the TV show Millennium.

More ‘updates’ to follow…

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Red Planet Prize 3rd Round!


I got an e-mail from the lovely people of the Red Planet Prize on Friday 30th May!

WHOOP!

They thanked me very much for entering the Red Planet Prize! They had an extremely high standard of submitted scripts this year! I was not selected for the 3rd round!

Wait, what?

Oh…

…balls.

I created this Blog in 2011 to give a candid record of a budding UK screenwriter, from zero to ‘something more than zero’. I could write this Blog for forty more years and get nowhere, or I could be a fulltime paid writer by 2018. There are very few UK screenwriting Blogs I’ve found that take the reader on a journey from literally nothing to… something else… and I hope this Blog will be of use to anyone else in the industry, wondering if they’re doing it right or wrong or something in-between. This is also a record for me, to keep me humble. I also have a TERRIBLE memory, and this is bloody helpful to remind me of what I’ve done and when.

So this Blog post is about not succeeding in a competition. It’s not my first rejection (Hopscotch Horror, BBC Writer’s Room, NASA’s spaceman academy etc…) and it certainly won’t be my last!

How do I feel? About not getting through to the 3rd Round?

Gutted, naturally, but also not too worried.

Why?

Two reasons:

1.) The following line in their rejection e-mail “Please don't be disheartened, keep writing and remember the prize will return”

If you respect the people of the Red Planet Prize – and I do – then this copy ‘n’ pasted e-mail line shouldn’t be dismissed. It’s true. Don’t be disheartened and KEEP WRITING.

I will, Red Planet person!

I goddamn will.

And ‘don’t be disheartened’ is somewhat of a mantra all screenwriters (amateur and professional) should chant over and over again. I’ve been rejected more than I’ve succeeded, from competitions to pitch meetings to agents to producers to that ska-punk rendition of “Mmm…Bop” on The X Factor.

Every rejection is a step towards success. It’s also a painful kick in the knackers, but that’s why I wear a metal chastity belt.

That, and I don’t trust you.

And your wandering hands.

2.) Other projects

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s SO important to have other projects ‘on the go’ at any one time, especially regarding competitions. I’m working on multiple projects at the moment and I’m also waiting to hear back from the Coming Up and Scriptapalooza competitions.

They give me HOPE.

This ‘hope’ thing goes a long way too. If you put all your eggs in one basket and someone takes that basket and lobs it off a cliff… then you’re left in a miserable and forlorn place, like Luton. But if you’ve got three or four baskets full of eggs, then losing one isn’t quite as bad.


My eggs have been dashed against the rocks below, but I don’t care. I still have enough to make some scrambled eggs, an awesome cake and sell the remainder to Farmer Frank Franklin at Marsh Farm.

Yeah, that metaphor just joined my shattered eggs on the rocks below. Rest in pieces.

Right.

That’s it.

Blog post done.

Just announcing my ‘failure’ to the world.

I accept sympathy in the form of cheques, flowers, chocolate, dancing bears and placating Facebook responses like “It’ll b OK hun” and “Awww, man, what a load of cock. Those bastards wouldn’t know talent if it bit them right on the perineum”.

Huge commisers (yes, ‘commisers’. All the cool kids are using it) to those in the same rejection boat as me, but a MASSIVE congratulations to those talented beauties who’ve smashed through to Round 3 of the Red Planet Prize.

Good luck to everyone left in the competition – I hope you ALL win it! Somehow.

Or at least have some kind of cool Thunderdome final.

Writers ready!

Ding ding!

FIGHT!