Tuesday, 4 February 2014

REVIEW: The Gospel According to Saint Derek

Darling ones,

thus it was that I and some friends entered the hallowed halls of King's College unto the very Anatomy Theatre, that even now, harbours a faint whiff of chloroform and formaldehyde (I couldn't help thinking that DJ would have liked that), there to watch an excellent short film by Andy Kimpton-Nye recalling the creative process of Saint Derek Jarman. What surprised me most was the testimony of former collaborators regarding Jarman's playfulness. Perhaps this aspect of his creative persona became rather overshadowed by the spectre of the HIV status that finally killed him. There is also the tendency to regard so much of arthouse or experimental cinema with a seriousness that is not always appropriate. Jarman's colleagues recall his spontaneity; the way in which he used low-budget or even no-budget constraints to inform and inspire his process, which makes his filmmaking very pertinent to today's generation of digital creators. The Ten Commandments of Low-budget Filmmaking structured the documentary. There was poignant reflection on his acceptance that his life would be foreshortened, but even this was became part of the great work, which now sees his wonderful strange garden in Dungeness as a unique English space that we can still enjoy. You can check out all the details here. I was sorry to miss the chance to see 'The Angelic Conversation' played on a loop for 24 hours in the King's College Chapel, but I may well see if I can go on the trip to see the garden of Saint Derek in June. 'The Last of England' will play also in March, a film that is always in my personal top ten. I hope this excellent doc gets the exposure it deserves, it's required viewing for today's generation of film creators.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Review: Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays by Lucy V Hay

Unlike a lot of ‘how-to’ books, this is refreshingly unpompous and free of jargon. Lucy once put out a fire on her husband by repeatedly hitting the flames with a copy of a very large, jargon-filled screenwriting book. Do ask her about it at the next LSWF… But if you follow Lucy on Facebook and Twitter or have benefited from her insights professionally then this book is an invaluable extension of her online presence.
I am about to embark on a thriller screenplay (not my first by any means) and will be keeping this volume close by, paying particular attention to the construction of a good treatment/outline. The section on sorting out the structure in the outline really chimed with me.
I also enjoyed the positive ‘can-do’ feel of the book; I have a real aversion to writers who moan and complain that they can’t get a break. Lucy clarifies the whole process from a business perspective and she’s right; there really is no excuse for not doing your research on who to pitch to and how. She’s been there and done that, and much like her online presence, is unstinting with common sense and good-humoured strategies for helping the writer achieve his/her goals.
I was reminded of the advice given by Adrian Mead at a workshop that we both attended in Edinburgh, namely ‘keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll keep getting what you’re getting’. I may be paraphrasing a bit here but this links nicely to my aversion to moaning writers. If you want to achieve your goal of selling a screenplay then change your strategy, don’t sit there whining. It won’t be easy but it’s much better to buckle down to the serious business of writing a cracking screenplay. She also gives huge support to the British film business, giving the lie to the notion that you absolutely ‘have’ to do it the Hollywood way.

Available now from Kamera Books and Amazon.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Kill Your Darlings

I saw this at the Bafta with m'learned colleague Hilary Wright, who is a member, got me in as a guest and very generously stood me a glass of wine. We had seen 'Howl' when that was out so 'Kill Your Darlings' seemed an ideal companinon film featuring some of the same characters. Daniel Radcliffe was very impressive as Allen Ginsberg. The story centred around the friendships forged by Ginsberg whilst studying poetry at university during World War 2. As the story was based on a real murder, which happened as the result of an older man's obsession with a much younger one, it was interesting to reflect upon how times have changed with regard to sexuality. As the unhappy couple Lucian Carr and David Kammerer, Dane DeHaan and Michael C. Hall gave it their all, detailing the mutual dependency that was to prove fatal for the older man. DeHaan's performance was particularly affecting as the insecure younger man who could only gain credibility by exploiting the talents of others to shore himself up. When Carr and Kerouac plan to go to Europe together - a true bid for freedom from family, tradition and the stultifying middle-class life that Carr endured, tragedy follows, the resolution of which Ginsberg witnesses. That's the strange thing, Ginsberg is the protagonist of the film yet he seems very passive throughout, drawn out of his shell by his brash contemporaries yet hesitant to act upon his nascent yearnings for the same sex. But then those were the times, I guess. Women do not feature hugely in the narrative except as mad mother, Naomi Ginsberg (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a rapacious Librarian or Carr's mother (an uncredited Kyra Sedgwick), keen to move her son around to esacpe the relentless attentions of Kammerer and any whiff of scandal. Even so, the film was very good on period detail like the jazz clubs that were the milieu of the beat poets and special mention must go to Ben Foster playing a young William Burroughs. Daniel Radcliffe attended a Q and A afterwards and was utterly charming; self-deoprecating, down-to-earth and he clearly enjoyed shooting a film in 28 days as opposed to the marathon that was Harry Potter. This is worth seeing if you saw 'Howl' and 'On The Road'. It definitely made me want to research more about that period. Here's the trailer:

Monday, 14 October 2013

Enter the Pitch

I had a lot of fun earlier in the year messing about on iMovie to create a pitch. Alas, it didn't make the longlist but no matter. I learned a lot.

Should you care to, go and vote! I certainly will.

Monday, 22 July 2013


Darling ones,

here's an interesting tip from the lovely people at 17%.

In fact, there's a welter of good advice out there on the web. Something to suit all manner of different appraoches and styles though rather bewildering for the newer writer perhaps.

I am about to start a script in a format hitherto untried by me: radio.

Here is a post from ages ago on a workshop I attended at the Soho Theatre.

Friday, 5 July 2013


Darling ones,

I've been to Thailand!

Amongst many other activities - visiting temples, riding elephants, buying far too much brash jewellery, hanging out on the Mekong river, I could go on but I won't... I also watched loads of films over there. DVDs mainly, but also the latest releases in very plush cinemas atop sprawling shopping complexes that would make JG Ballard weep if he could see them. I was at a bodybuilding contest in one where spectators could watch from the floors above as well. All very theatrical...

So without further ado, I shall enumerate and grade the films I watched in no particular order. Eagle-eyed members of the congregation will not a Denzel Washington/gangster theme going on.


TRAINING DAY ✞✞✞✞ I like DW as a baddie! Though Ethan Hawke kicking arse didn't convince - he's too scrawny!
11:14 ✞✞✞✞ I'd never heard of this but its Pulp Fiction style with narrative kept me intrigued.
GOODFELLAS ✞✞✞ Too much voiceover for this film fan.

THE BOOK OF ELI ✞✞ DW too saintly in this one.
MAN OF STEEL ✞✞✞ Agreeably dark.
FLIGHT ✞✞✞✞ A bit long and heavy on the schmaltz at the end but DW at his flawed best.

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 ✞✞✞✞ See above.
DRIVE ✞✞✞✞✞ I love Nicolas Winding Refn! His next film, ONLY GOD FORGIVES is set in Bangkok. I'm all agog...

THE GREAT GATSBY ✞✞✞ Worth seeing for the setpieces but I found it hard to care about the love story. Fab frocks though...
TAKE SHELTER ✞✞✞✞✞ A barnstorming turn from Michael Shannon made this a gripping tale.
THE DEPARTED ✞✞✞✞ Everyone goes on about Jack Nicholson but I thought Mark Wahlberg stole the show.

THE MASTER ✞✞✞✞✞ I actually liked Joaquin Phoenix's gurning.
STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS ✞✞✞ I think I liked this, but can remember almost nothing about it.
HYDE PARK ON THE HUDSON ✞ It might have Bill Murray in it, but I thought he came across as sinister.

POPE JOAN ✞✞ I really wanted to like this (thinking of the version I saw with Liv Ullmann).
THE RUNAWAYS ✞✞✞✞ I'm so old I can remeber the Runaways. Was that Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley? Bloody funny.
EDGE OF DARKNESS ✞✞✞✞ This would have got five stars if Mel Gibson had kissed a vibrator.

ZERO DARK THIRTY ✞✞✞✞ Jessica Chastain does bleak and Katryn Bigelow turns out NOT to be torture's handmaiden.
STATEN ISLAND ✞✞✞✞ Quirky but bizarre.
NIXON ✞✞✞✞ Fantastic docudrama or is it dramadoc? Gripping.

IRIS ✞✞✞✞ Well-acted and unsparing towards its subject matter.
FRIDA ✞✞✞ Let down by a schmaltzy ending that belied the difficult and fascinationg nature of the artist.
COCO BEFORE CHANEL ✞✞✞✞ A million miles from Amelie, thank goodness.

MYSTERIOUS SKIN ✞✞✞✞✞ Outstanding protrayal of child abuse and its effects.
SHINE ✞✞✞✞ A warning to all parents.
CLOUD ATLAS ✞✞✞ Too long but cleverly done.

THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES ✞✞ I couldn't wait for them all to die.
DEFIANCE ✞✞✞ I was interested in how they regulated the 'no children' rule and exactly what pressure the women were under to be 'forest wives', but that would have been a different film...

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Wise words...

Darling ones,

here is some good advice on getting published from Salt Publishing, which I think can be applied across other disciplines.