- February 26, 2014
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I sent my submission to the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship today. Two copies of a comedy spec, a one page resume, a half page bio and the application form and release. Ended up being quite a stack of paper. Satisfyingly hefty.
The script I sent was a Simpsons spec, which is traditionally a hard show to write due to the fact that they’ve covered everything in known universe. I somehow figured out two ideas I hadn’t seen before, then went through TEN YEARS of episode synopses to see if they’d been done already. One had and one hadn’t, so I wrote the one that hadn’t. Oh, and I should really say thanks to Simpsons writer Bill Oakley, whose outline for an episode I found online and then shamelessly copied like a Canal Street bootlegger.
One interesting thing on the application is you have to point out how ethnically or culturally diverse you are. I put that I’m English, which is fine I guess, but just realized my mother-in-law is Indian. I should have put that! Missed opportunity.
- January 21, 2014
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With this show, I wanted people to laugh and cry… and shit themselves all at the same time.
- Garth Marenghi
- January 2, 2014
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Here’s one more evaluation for a script of mine from the Blacklist. I find these encouraging, but I think I’ve gone as far as I can with getting feedback, so this will be the last one for a while. I should pick out some choice quotes from these like they do on movie posters, then print it out and mail it to myself, then I dunno, burn it or something. That’s my New Year’s resolution. Burn stuff. Anyway, is this encouraging? Should I keep going? I guess keep going.
Victorian London, England
Action & Adventure
A sickly geologist in Victorian London is suddenly given super-powers after coming into contact with a strange, and possibly alien, crystal.
With an instantly appealing steam-punk premise, this is a genre-piece that hits all the right buttons. The setting – a retrofitted Victorian England populated with gentlemen scientists, detectives and escaped convicts – is expertly painted. From the chase through the ‘Crystal Palace’, a kind of world’s fair of natural curiosities, to the final scenes at the white cliffs of Dover, the Victorian landscape is used to full and stunning effect. The plot itself is quite simple but very effective, and the action and chase sequences in the second half are exciting. The main characters, friends-and-rivals Haldane and Colleton, are perfectly matched: the one a Polio-stricken, shy man, the other a dashing gentleman, their conflict is at the heart of the story, and gives it an edge and energy it might otherwise lack.
Some of the dialogue is a little uninspired, and occasionally gets the cadences and details of British English wrong. Case in point: it is hard to imagine a prim and proper Victorian wife saying ‘He should bloody well be made to pay’. Inconsistencies like that aside, most of the dialogue is serviceable if not exactly scintillating. Beyond that, the second half of the film occasionally feels like one long chase sequence, which is par for the course in an action/adventure film but still worth pointing out. Luckily, most of these scenes take place in interesting locations, and are rarely dull, despite coming one after the other in quick succession. The relationship between Haldane and Colleton is so strong and has so much potential, but in the third act it seems like in the scenes between them lack the charge that they have in the first two. It would be nice to have a scene later in the script where they really get to air their grievances and get everything out in the open. That would add psychological depth to the last act, which occasionally feels like its just going through the motions.
This is a script that fits neatly into the larger steam-punk trend which has recently seen its fair share of success at the box office. In many ways it is reminiscent of the Robert Downey Jr. ‘Sherlock Holmes’ movies, in that it is action-oriented while still aiming for intelligent dialogue and plotting. Overall, with so many exciting sequences, and a strong antagonistic relationship at the center of it, this is a script that could easily get noticed. It would be a welcome – and original – addition to the endless parade of super-hero and franchise summer films.
Check it out on the Blacklist here.
- October 17, 2013
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I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today I have been procrastinating at work and dodging Photoshop and I have been thinking about your role in RETURN OF THE JEDI and the impact your actions will have on people. You don’t get much screen time but you certainly make a big impression with your minge face and blinky eyes. Not only that, but your skills as a pilot must be pretty great to get that job as second-in-command on the leading attack ship in a biggest space battle since BBY.
So why the jokey attitude? You don’t seem to be taking a daring raid against a superior enemy very seriously. I mean, it’s intergalactic war and you’re giggling in your little pilot suit. C’mon, cut that shit out.
I don’t know if it’s some Sullustan thing, but let me tell you those in charge don’t find your behaviour funny. They can’t even understand you. No one can. And yet you continue your mission to distract those around you with reactions of extreme surprise, total confusion or basic amusement. That is not the correct tone to set for the rest of the Rebel pilots.
For example, the ship you were co-piloting, the Millennium Falcon, had a close brush with disaster inside the bowels of the second Death Star when it sheared off its communications dish at high speed. Going ‘WHHAA!’ does not solve the situation nor make it better. You could have avoided that collision if you were concentrating and not trying so hard to impress. And believe me, those crew mates, they don’t give an ounce of shit. They’re more focussed on A) not burning to death and B) saving the lives of their loved ones from a lifetime of tyranny.
I’m sure you know this. You don’t get put next to General Calrissian on a whim. You’re a talented pilot. People look up to you. And it’s your job to set the tone in that cockpit. Drop the facade and get down to the business of zero gravity ship-to-ship close combat.
- October 9, 2013
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A few days ago I was trying to think of movies with cats in them (real ones, not some giant CG Garfield monstrosity), because (I think you’ll agree) cats are awesome. I could watch those cute little guys all day. But sadly, after ten minutes of deep thinking, all I could come up with was ALIEN, MILO & OTIS (which is in fact a horrible Japanese pet torture movie) and five seconds of TO CATCH A THIEF. This is not enough cat content. Seriously.
Luckily, my wife heard my call for help. A rapid Google search lead her to a great site with about a million cat movies – http://catsonfilm.wordpress.com. Now my to-watch list is filled with the likes of THAT DARN CAT, HARRY & TONTO and THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA. Oh god.
- October 2, 2013
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After getting a good evaluation previously, I thought I’d go for another one and see what happened. I’ll tell you what happened – I got another good evaluation. An extremely impressive read, they said. EXTREMELY IMPRESSIVE. If you’re a Blacklist member you can check it out here: https://blcklst.com/members/scripts/view/10419
Locations: Various Houses/Apartments, Library, Subway, Palace, Hotel, Various London Exteriors
Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Logline: In 1800s England, an otherworldly crystal grants geologist JOHN HALDANE supernatural powers and sends him on a journey to uncover its mysterious origin.
An extremely impressive read, THE AUGMENTED GEOLOGIST is a captivating, classical adventure tale that skillfully combines an Arthur Conan Doyle-esque sensibility with an astounding science fiction mythos. The central conceit of the crystal is exceptional, and the reader is hooked from the moment its surfaces begin to multiply. The way in which the writer is able to integrate a TERMINATOR-esque POV into the period Victorian setting is quite engaging, and yet Haldane’s superpowers never feel novel or gimmicky. The script’s visuals are equally fantastic – inventive and beautifully described, one can easily imagine them translating well to the screen. The action set-pieces are similarly strong and propulsive, and Haldane earns a transformative character arc that lends emotional weight to the sci-fi spectacle. The ultimate revelation of the crystal’s origins (as well as Haldane’s true purpose) makes for a standout climax, and yet the moral ambiguity of Haldane’s mission leaves the reader in a place of disturbing unease that works to good effect. It’s always difficult to find a truly original piece of genre writing, but THE AUGMENTED GEOLOGIST delivers on its premise with an assured level of skill and style that is to be admired.
Certain elements of the plot occasionally feel contrived, such as the abrupt introduction of Charvil, whose presence feels too much like a plot device. Similarly, Stanlake functions primarily as an exposition machine, and while his role in this capacity is not problematic per se, he does little to transcend this obvious narrative function. Also, the period dialogue often feels forced and deliberately arch, lending the characters a stilted quality that occasionally skews melodramatic. While it’s understandable that 1800s speech must be rendered in a different fashion than our modern dialogue, it feels a bit stereotypical here – an imitation of 1800s speech rather than an authentic portrayal.
Sadly, the budget required to do justice to this impressive script would have to come from a studio, but the period setting and lack of a built-in audience would more than likely preclude a studio from taking a risk on it. Science fiction specs always face a difficult path to the screen given their production demands, and tent-pole movies are generally adaptations of known commodities, not original work. Still, THE AUGMENTED GEOLOGIST could – at the very least – serve as a striking writing sample that more than adequately demonstrates the writer’s affinity for the genre.
- September 16, 2013
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My sci-fi script ENTANGLEMENT made it to the finals of the PAGE Awards! Down to the last 10. I am extremely pleased about this, more so even than last year for some reason. Something about consistency over luck? I dunno. Anyway, there it is. They announce the winners on Oct 15th.
You can see all the finalists here: http://pageawards.com/past-winners/2013-winners/2013-finalists/
- August 27, 2013
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Here’s a review of EXTRASOLAR from the Black List. (They’re a tough crowd to please, so I’m taking this as a good sign…) Another good one that I’m happy with. Definitely disagree with the note that that characters don’t sound distinctive enough, but hey, no reason I can’t punch up the dialogue to differentiate them even more.
Era: Present; Unknown
Locations: Earth; Planet Illumino
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Comedy, Family Adventure
After a young girl gets teleported to a distant planet, her grandfather, a former Space Colonel for the military, suits up to save her.
EXTRASOLAR celebrates a lot of the characteristics that make animated family adventures so enjoyable. The dynamic between Merrin and her grandfather balances sass and affection in a way that seems authentic for a little girl who has lost so much, between her lost parents and her distant alien friends. The setting is imaginative and constructs another world believably. Scenes like the one in the market as Merrin examines the exotic local food, the one with the Ferryman in which they must barter with the native to get through the fog, and as they cross the forest to get to the capitol, help establish the foreign planet in a very vivid way. This story utilizes physical description well, both when describing setting and characters, without offering too many unnecessary details. The plot is reminiscent of popular family films without being unoriginal or formulaic. The set-up is done well because it subtly foreshadows how the world may end without explaining too early on that the Monarch wants to destroy Earth’s sun. The twist that the prophecy is only favorable for the planet Illumino is exciting, as Merrin grows so attached to the idea that she could save their world without examining the consequences for her own planet.
While the plot and setting work strongly in this story’s favor, the characters fall a little short comparatively. They lack distinct voices—with the exception of Mr. Gubbins and his stutter, it is nearly impossible to pick out characters based on their dialogue alone. For how physically different all of the characters are, it does them a disservice to not give them their own idiosyncrasies; Granpa seems to have them in the beginning, as he describes the aches and cricks in his body after suiting up, but even those are forgotten by the end of the first act. Merrin lacks chemistry with her traveling companions, with perhaps the exception of Speedy, as well. They travel together, but speak to each other very little. In fact, Tota Dodo seems almost like a plot device–a way to get Merrin to the Monarch—more than an independent character. Additionally, this story’s demographic appears to be children and families, and for that reason the language should probably be toned down. There are curse words sprinkled throughout, with even ten year old Merrin dropping one late in the story.
Family movies are often so successful because of children’s abilities to identify with and fall in love with characters from them. While the plot and setting make this story exciting and enjoyable, the lack of original voice from character to character may harm the long term commercial prospects of the story. The set up for a sequel is interesting because it does delay some payoff from this story, which may be a draw for audiences to return. As the stand-alone project this story currently is, this script has the potential to find moderate commercial success among families.
If you’re a Black List member you can check it out here: https://blcklst.com/members/scripts/view/10493