It's mid-February and this will be my first blog of the year... and sadly it will also likely be my last. After thirteen years of documenting my journey as a screenwriter, I've decided to hang up my blog, my Twitter account and my Facebook page to focus on my writing.
The last few weeks I've had my head buried in a commissioned rewrite of a feature film due to shoot later this year. It left me with very little time for anything else and I came to realise that even if I did carry on with my blog I wouldn't be able to devote the time to it to do it justice.
After thirteen years it's also very difficult to come up with new content every Wednesday without rehashing old information and I'd rather not waffle on and bore you all to death. Besides, I no longer believe you need to maintain multiple social media accounts to have a successful screenwriting career. It's better to stay in touch with people via old fashioned email or by picking up the phone and actually talking to someone. It's more personal after all.
In recent months I've also become disillusioned with social media, especially Twitter. It's no longer the place that allows writers to pass on what they've learned to those following behind, or be supportive of like-minded people and happily share with and encouraged others. It has unfortunately devolved into a hotbed of hatred and has birthed a culture of people who prefer to shout down and ridicule those people whose opinions differ from theirs. It's not something I wish to be associated with.
I want to thank you all for your years of loyalty. It's been a pleasure and an honour to see you grow as writers and hear your success stories, and to know my posts have helped you along the way.
I won't be gone completely. You may see me around now and then, popping up to tell you what I'm working on and what I've loved on TV or in the cinema and who has inspired me and why, but the regular blogs and other social media output are being put on hold. Happy writing!
2018 has been my toughest year as a writer since I decided to go full-time freelance in 2010. I spent the majority of the year in excruciating pain, suffered a critical loss of motivation, lost confidence in myself and my writing, got rejected from every competition or opportunity I entered and every job I applied for, watched as projects were rejected or failed to move forward, lost a dear and valued friend over a difference of politics, made a twit of myself on Twitter, grew increasingly frustrated as I failed to earn even a single commision and reluctantly accepted that I would have to find myself a full-time job to keep myself afloat. I became so disillusioned with writing, the production process and the industry as a whole I very nearly quit, the closest I've ever come to walking away for good. It got to the point I actually hated writing with a passion and was terrified of the thought of having to sit down in front of a blank screen and try to put words on a page. In a nutshell, 2018 was an utter bag of shite!
But there were brief, isolated moments of pure joy that kept me going, including some absolutely outstanding TV drama, with KILLING EVE, BODYGUARD, MCMAFIA, A VERY BRITISH SCANDAL, THE CRY and WANDERLUST amongst my favourites. Yvonne Grace's Script Editing Course was an absolute lifesaver and came my way at my lowest point, injecting me with new found enthusiasm and a new career avenue to explore. Yvonne and the others on the course helped me to find my focus again and my love of writing and drama in particular. I owe her and them a huge debt of gratitude. Thank you!
COWBOYS CAN FLY took a jump closer to going into production by attaching a director and a European production company. I'm trying not to get too excited as I know from experience these things can fall apart very easily, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the new year.
I also have to thank Lee Helliar for the growing optimism for my writing in 2019. She took one of my TV ideas and pitched it to companies as a producer. Again we have interest from Europe but won't find out how solid that interest is until next year. And again I'm not getting too excited as interest doesn't always turn into a commision.
Late November and December have been interesting too. I've had the same amount of script consultancy work in the last six weeks as I've had over the rest of the year. I'm so busy I don't even have time to write. There's even the strong possibility of a writing gig off the back of one of those jobs, as the producer and director were very impressed with my report.
So I'm going to put 2018 down as a blip and look forward to 2019 and all the great things it's going to hold for me. Merry Christmas and I'll see you all next year. Happy writing!
I'm married with two young sons and I have a part-time job that I work alongside my writing. The little downtime I get is spent with friends and family. Life is very hectic. The time I actually spend writing is at a premium and very precious to me but it doesn't always work out. Sometimes things crop up that kill any chance of spending time in front of my keyboard. Sound familiar?
I used to love going to the London Screenwriters Festival, a wonderful three-day break away from everyday life spent in the company of like-minded people, immersing myself in everything screenwriting, absorbing new information and making new connections. When I returned home I'd always be tired but recharged, refreshed, motivated and eager to get going pursuing fresh leads and ideas. LSWF set me up for the whole year but I was always left wanting more, desperate for more time to turn that renewed enthusiasm into words on the page. If you have ever felt the same, then like me you probably wish there was somewhere you could go for a week where the only thing you have to worry about is your writing. The EZ Going Guest House Screenwriting Retreat is the perfect opportunity that offers you exactly that.
There are only ten places available and the early bird price of £550 ends on the 31st of January, where after it will be at the full price of £699. The cost for a non-participant of the course is £440. You can find the details of the retreat below and the link to the Eventbrite page HERE.
A SCREENWRITING RETREAT TO HELP KICKSTART YOUR CREATIVE JUICES FOR 2019!
The EZ Going Guest House - Screenwriting Retreat - March 2019
The EZ Going Guest House is a large, private villa in Sesimbra, Portugal, offering a stress-free environment where you can relax and free your creativity to focus on your writing.
You have an idea - you may even have some words on the page - but everyday life keeps getting in the way of finishing your project. This is where the EZ Going Guest House Screenwriting Retreat will help.
We will spark your imagination, allow you to experiment with form and storytelling and workshop your idea amongst a group of like-minded supportive peers. The week will be productive, creative and fun, giving you the space to fall in love with your writing and providing you with the tools and the freedom to get it done.
You will be supported by our expert tutor who will help you explore and develop your writing in informal morning group sessions, where you can hone your craft with an inspirational mix of workshops and one-to-one advice. Then after lunch, you will be allowed the freedom and space to write, to step away from your normal routine and immerse yourself in the creative process without distractions. Regrouping over the evening meal, you will be free to discuss the day's progress, socialise or even get down to another productive session of writing.
At the end of the week, you will leave with fresh insight into your project, a new support network and more importantly a volume of completed work.
6 nights' accommodation in a private room in the villa.
Full Board (local wine with the evening meal).
Unlimited tea, coffee and water.
5 days' tuition and guidance.
Materials not included.
Price is based on 2 people sharing a double/twin room. We aim to avoid single person supplements, but please check with us as it depends on availability.
Partners not wishing to join in the writing (or other organised activity) receive a discount of €250 (from full price not inc offers).
Flights to Portugal.
Airport transfer or pick-up (Lisbon airport pick-up additional €45pp both ways).
When we're children we're invincible. If we're offered the chance to do something we do it. We don't think about it, we don't hesitate, we just act. So why when we get older do we take a step back, analyse things, debate whether we should do them or not and often miss out when we stop trusting our gut instincts? As older writers, we do the same, we stop trusting our instincts and over think everything about our writing.
My current project has been in gestation since the beginning of the year and I still haven't written the pilot episode. I wrote an extended treatment, an astonishing twenty-seven pages long, and began plotting the outline of the series and episode one. But since then I've been going around in circles, closely examining what I've written in minute detail, deleting, rewriting, rinse, repeat, ad infinitum. I ground myself down into a tight little ball and clearly wasn't getting anywhere fast, or at any speed for that matter. In fact, I might have been going backwards at some point. Then Sunday afternoon I went for a drink with my mate Kevin.
Kevin is a highly intelligent bloke and often sees things from a different perspective than almost everyone else I know. That's why I love getting shitfaced with him, exploring the deeper meanings of life as we challenge each other exploring the philosophy of our existence. Somewhere between pint five and six, he said, "Let's go on a fishing trip to Scotland in the new year."
"I'll have to ask my wife," I replied, "But I'll think about it."
"Why? Why don't you just say yes and do it?"
And then we started debating why we lose our instinct to do things as we get older, why we have to debate stuff for ages instead of just throwing ourselves into things as we did as kids, why we should fight this and regain that fearlessness we had when we were young. By pint seven I had agreed to the Scotland trip and emailed myself a note so I wouldn't forget to blog about it.
What I'm trying to get over here is why spend time thinking too heavily about what you're writing? It's wasted time, a time you could be actually writing something new. When you start out as a writer you write what you love, you trust your gut with your characters and your plot. I had forgotten that my best work was written by gut instinct and that I would let my ideas evolve as I wrote them. When did I stop trusting my writer's instinct?
So the message is to trust your instincts. Stop examining or worrying about everything you do in your screenplay. Just go and write the story you want to tell, the way you want to tell it and forget about anything else
. Only when it's finished worry about formatting, plot, structure and characters. Enjoy the ride and let your ideas flow without restraint. Happy writing!
Making a film is a strange mix of emotions. I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm so far out of my comfort zone it's like I'm on another planet, stark naked without a spaceship to fly me home or any weapons to defend myself should I need to. But at the same time, it's exciting, not knowing what's going to happen or who's going to sign on the dotted line to join us on our epic quest.
I'm staying away from the stuff I know nothing about and which I'm clearly going to struggle with, like finance, estimated sales and anything that requires a calculator to work out, or a degree in law to read. Instead, I'm concentrating on the sales side, selling our dream of the finished film to others and working hard to help add cast and crew to aid us on our way, in any way I can.
And then there's the act of raising finance, the hard part of persuading people to part with their hard earned money, convincing them our little film has the potential to make it big and return their investment with interest. When this phase starts, that at least will be in my comfort zone.
And we already have some good news for you... we have our director. Welcome, Giles Alderson!
It's a forward step, a big one, and we're now hoping everything else will fall into place. We also have a letter of intent from an exciting young actor earmarked for one of the main roles, but I can't talk about that at the moment. Exciting times are ahead.
I'm sure it won't all go this smoothly, it's still very early days, but as I said, it's a forward step and as long as we keep moving forward we'll get this great movie made. Stick with us, it'll be worth it. Happy writing!
I've been feeling like a fool since last week's blog disaster. I should have checked the wording before publishing. I thought I had but clearly, the revised version hadn't saved. No idea why. So I can understand how I might have offended some. But I'm a grown-up and when I make a mistake I'm happy to put my hand up, admit it and apologise.
On the plus side, the fallout served as a perfect example of the message I was trying to get across; how to present yourself on social media without making yourself look like an idiot. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one who failed to achieve this.
Several people who were upset with me politely pointed out my mistake and brought me to task on it. Good. A few even contacted me directly to chat about it. This was good also. Most could see the point I was trying to make even if they didn't agree with it. It's OK to disagree with others. I have enjoyed the debates I've had with a few people since.
However, there were about four or five people on Twitter who let their anger get the better of them and their common sense to evaporate, including two usual suspects. If there's an online disagreement you can guarantee one or both of them will be there, right at the forefront. They don't seem to be able to help themselves. They'll viciously attack anyone who dares to disagree with them, rounding up and inciting their friends to gang up against their victims in greater numbers. Even when you point out they're wrong for doing so they'll continue to argue that they're justified, regardless. It appears to be a lot worse on Twitter. I don't know what it is about only having 280 characters to get your message across that makes people so aggressive at times. You would think as writers we could communicate in a better way other than simply freeing our animal instincts to attack what we fear or don't understand.
Constructive criticism is fine. Viciously attacking someone because their views differ from yours isn't. It's bullying plain and simple. And it's especially cowardly to do so from behind a keyboard. I don't care what reasoning you use to vindicate yourself for hurling abuse at a person, there is no excuse for it. Nothing can justify a personal attack on anyone. Nothing! It's called 'trolling'! The irony is these two are using the very thing to attack others they claim to be against. Hate is hate in whatever form it might rear its ugly head and if you peddle it you're just as bad as the others you accuse of doing the same.
Be kind! Play safe! And if you can't do so then get off social media for good. Happy writing!
One of the pieces of advice I hear most relating to TV writing is to have an opinion. But how exactly do you express that opinion of your favourite or most hated TV shows without people hating you for it?
First of all show respect. Whatever you think of the show, whether you love or hate it, a lot of people have shed blood, sweat and tears to get it made. Don't shit all over their hard work. Would you be happy if someone slated the stuff you write?
Equally, don't hide your opinion away. Don't be afraid of giving it. No matter what you say there will always be someone who will disagree with your opinion and slate you for it. That's social media for you. Don't let that put you off. Be polite, constructive and respectful and never be tempted to get into arguments with idiots. Never rise to their bait. State your opinion and if things get heated, walk away.
So let's get to Doctor Who series eleven, episode one. Here's my opinion... brace yourselves.
The introductory episode of every new Doctor is always difficult. There's a new Doctor to discover, new companions to introduce and a new title sequence and T.A.R.D.I.S. to reveal. My first disappointment with the episode was that it felt a little thin, that something was missing. And I'm not talking about the absence of the title sequence and the T.A.R.D.I.S.
It was a very simple plot. A one-sentence concept. Personally, I would have preferred to see less of the new Doctor discovering who she was and more of a substantial plot. Having said that, it did work. They obviously decided to keep the plot simple to keep things moving along while concentrating on introducing the new set up. They clearly didn't want to get bogged down in all that exposition and I'm sure that as the season progresses we'll see more complex plotting and greater character exploration. I just prefer my drama to have more drama, Killing Eve or Bodyguard style.
I'm also not a fan of change. I'll happily admit it. That's just me. Change makes me anxious. Why fiddle with something that works? Why change things for change's sake? Don't get me wrong I love Jodie and welcome a female Doctor. I just wanted there to be a plot reason for her introduction and I was satisfied when Steven Moffat delivered one. What I mean by change is... I hated the fact that in the first episode the title sequence was missing. It's an event. Something every fan looks forward to in every episode, especially with the introduction of a new theme tune and titles with each new Doctor. I love 'woo wooing' along to the theme tune. It's absence was disconcerting. The missing T.A.R.D.I.S. was a little less so but still distracting. They even moved the show's time slot to a Sunday. I can understand that one. Sunday is the evening families are most likely to sit together and watch the show. Both my sons sat and watched it with me. I think that's the first time ever. They absolutely loved it.
However, my biggest bugbear was the diversity overload. Diversity and inclusivity should be encouraged. However, that much diversity smells of positive discrimination to me. I think overdoing a show so it becomes the main talking point doesn't actually help to promote diversity but in fact holds it back. If you want to make true diversity the 'norm' then introduce it subtly so the audience becomes used to it without it being obvious. Don't make a big issue out of it. If you do it becomes more about the diversity and less about great stories and brilliant drama. I'm sure there's a lot of you out there that will disagree with me but I'm still convinced the BBC are trying too hard with Doctor Who.
Having said all of that, I did enjoy the show. I'll certainly be watching next week with my family and I'm looking forward to all the surprises Mr Chiball and gang have in store for us.
So remember, you can have an opinion, it's important to have one, you just need to be considerate when delivering it. And more importantly be respectful of other people's opinions especially if you don't agree with them. Happy writing!
Wednesday, March 13th 2013. That was the day I first wrote about a new project called COWBOYS CAN FLY, an adaptation of Ken Smith's novel of the same name. Five years down the line, and despite the love from everyone who's read it, it has never gone into production. That's why producer Sean Langton and I are now looking to make the film ourselves.
You never really know where a project will go when you start it and each journey is different, but I absolutely love the optimism a great idea can ignite. Here's what I had to say about the novel five years ago.
A few weeks ago a friend phoned me up and asked me to read a short novel he had bought the rights to, with the aim of me writing the screenplay later in the year.
I was told it was an erotic gay novel about a 14-year-old boy and his first love and I knew it wasn't something that really appealed to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not homophobic, far from it in fact, it's just not a subject matter I have an interest in writing. I've never even attempted a rom-com for goodness sake. Anyone who is familiar with my writing knows I like to write dark character-based drama, the dark side of human nature and what we do to others because of our own selfish needs and desires. A romantic story of love and friendship couldn't be further from my comfort zone. But as I'm as good as my word I read the novel so I could at least give my friend my thoughts on it.
The book surprised me! In fact, it knocked me for six. So when I'd read about halfway I phoned my friend up and told him I was writing the screenplay. That was all it took, just half the novel, to get me hooked.
What appealed to me was the growth of the relationship and how both boys learnt from each other and grew into men. It wasn't pornographic, it wasn't overly erotic, it was just a wonderful love story of two friends. It reminded me a lot of growing up in the Leicestershire countryside, staying out all day during the summer, exploring, adventuring and climbing trees, days that my parents didn't have to worry about where I was or what I was up to. Those were the days of true freedom modern children, in our overprotective society, will never know. And reading that novel took me back to a time I long thought I had lost.
I finished the novel yesterday and I still know I've made the right choice to write the screenplay. You might be offered something that isn't your cup of tea at some point in your career. Don't turn it down. Explore the story and see if there is something in it that surprises you, something that grabs your attention and resonates with you so strongly you have no choice but to follow it through. You just never know.
If you are wondering what the book was that grabbed my imagination so, then you should hunt it down and read it. The book is called Cowboys Can Fly by Ken Smith. Happy writing!
Judging by the number of phone calls, emails and messages of support I received, last week's blog seemed to resonate with a lot of writers. It made me realise that thinking of quitting writing is more common than I first thought. It's something most writers tussle with at some point in their career. It also made me think about how much pressure us writers (new and professional alike) put on ourselves to earn a living from our words.
Taking a step backwards felt like a failure, the last resort only to be taken when the desperation to succeed becomes unmanageable and all your options are finally exhausted. I was convinced that all the work I had put in over the years had been for nothing, that my dream job was over and I'd never work again. That's why I was determined to walk away for good, to end the torment once and for all, because I didn't think I could go through such a huge disappointment like that again. I now know this was an extreme reaction to what was nothing more than a stumble in the rollercoaster ride that is being a professional writer. I needed to take a step back, reassess where I was, where I wanted to be and how I was going to get there. Most of all I knew I had to take the pressure off myself to give myself breathing space and find my mojo again. A full-time job is going to do that.
Deep down I knew I could never really give up, that in one form or other I would continue writing. But what I discovered from those that reached out to me, is that even the most successful writers have had to take a step back at least once in their career. There's no shame in it, it's just a blip, an experience that will help you move forward again when you're ready. A lot of writers have second jobs, whether they're related to what they want to do or not, so they can continue to do what they love unpressured. Working a job that isn't in the industry has an advantage as it gives you a break from the intensity of writing and thinking about writing, allowing you to relax and your creativity the freedom it needs to flourish.
Equally, as you're trying to forge a career it's easy to think you haven't made it while you're still working a full-time day job. The truth is that if you're working you're earning, which in turn will allow you to write without the pressure of where your next mortgage payment is coming from. Believe me, you don't know what a relief that is.
At the end of the day, you have to do what you need to do to keep writing and also bring the money in to pay the bills. If that means going back to a full-time job temporarily to find your feet again, then that's what you have to do. It's what I'm going to do. Happy writing!
Being a screenwriter is difficult, lonely and sometimes soul destroying work. You are often sat isolated at a desk for days/weeks/months on end, continuously delivering blood, sweat and tears on the page in the hope someone likes your work enough to pay you for it. Even when that glorious day arrives it's not the end of your toil and pain. It's an infinite search for the next job, delivering the impossible on a daily basis and shrugging off the continual rejection and disappointment. When things are going well writing is hands down the best job in the world. When they aren't every single word you type is an unspeakable torture. This is what it is to be a writer.
The last two years have been extremely difficult. Even though I have had regular meetings with producers, development executives and production companies I haven't had a single commission in nearly 18 months. Money is impossibly tight and yet I still have to find enough to pay the mortgage and feed and clothe the kids. I've lost my motivation and enthusiasm for what I do. I've started to over analyse everything I write agonising over every single word and I'm beginning to resent the fact my love for writing is consuming so much of my life. It's difficult out there. Bloody difficult. Pretty much all of the current writing initiatives I've been putting myself forward for state they are searching for 'diverse voices' and I'm guessing that a 49-year-old white Englishman isn't going to be at the top of their search criteria.
But I enter anyway. I sit at my desk and force myself to type a few words most days, trying to fight the temptation of YouTube and Facebook or to go back and rework the last ten pages of my screenplay, which have been reworked a thousand times already that week. And I still press send on emails electronically posting my latest work off to producers with a faint feeling of equal amounts hope and terror, with the thought that maybe, just maybe I don't actually suck at this. I've even tried diversifying, recently taking a script editing course and applying for script editing and lecturing jobs in an attempt to restart my career. As I've said before, writing isn't for the faint-hearted. I've always been an advocate of pushing on even in the face of adversity, never giving up and giving everything you have to your writing and your career. However, I've finally decided that I'm coming to the end of my twenty-year journey. I've set a date. A few months from now. If nothing significant happens with my career between now and then, I'll walk away and find something else to do with my life. This will give me just enough time to finish those projects close to completion and tie up loose ends.
My wife suggested I get a full-time job and continue to write in my spare time. The trouble with that is writing isn't a hobby and that's what it would become if I was to do it only when I had a few minutes here and there. You have to give your all to writing, your life, your friends and family and even your immortal soul. There are no half measures being a screenwriter.
I think what I'm trying to say here is that you instinctively know when you need to put in a little extra work to get where you want to be and when it's actually time to walk away. My time is close. I'm sad but also surprisingly calm about it. Happy writing!