Tuesday 25 September 2012

Crunching time

We have set a date for shooting the full series of Winter, it's entirely possible we won't shoot exactly then but it's like writing a story, you need to have a place you're aiming for.

You know what's it's like when you're with a bunch of people trying to decide whether you're going to the pub, or going for an Indian, or what you want to watch at the pictures? You try to be all democratic about it, let everyone have their say.

You know how it wastes a huge amount of time and you end up not doing anything, or just the thing you always do?

You remember how rubbish that is?

But if someone just decides and does it, things work out so much better. Okay, maybe one person doesn't like Indian. Well that's unfortunate but at least people get to eat before they're gnawing at each other's limbs or going nuts from hypoglycemia.

Producing's like that. You can be all accommodating and nice, trying to find a date that satisfies everyone. And you never will. You have to put your foot down with a firm hand and say "Fish and Chips".

It's not a democracy.

Thing is this: we (Director Chris and I) had our hearts set on a specific pair of actors for two of the roles. One of them has readily agreed to appear. The agreeable actor has spoken to the other actor about it (they are personal friends), and he is not disinterested. But the other's agent is being ... uncommunicative. I get it, the other actor is currently a big name, appears in one of the biggest films of 2012. And we're nobody.

So I've been hanging on, and hanging on, and hanging on. Is it two or three months now? I'm not even sure.

But there are others who would suit, some with bigger names, so the time has come to say "Well if his agent comes back with a yes before anyone else then that's great but we're shooting next summer and this part needs to be filled."

So let's look at the alternatives. And I am.

Thursday 31 May 2012

It's not real!

I'm going to be a bit naughty here but I'm not apologising.

Our filming of Scene 8 of Winter, a few weeks ago now (how time flies) has been getting the CGI treatment and you know how they do those split screen thingies showing the very same shot before and after? Well I'm not doing that.

But I am going to give the feel of it by showing you two shots, a before and an after, just not cleverly cut together and probably not the same bit. It's naughty because this is not the finished CGI but I'm just so excited.

So here's a photo from the studio, you can see our two actors behind all the equipment in the brightly lit greenscreen area:

And now here's a similar shot, early version, with the CGI in place:

And I think that's pretty cool.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

That was interesting

Two days ago we shot Scene 8 of WINTER. Why just scene 8?

A couple of reasons: we needed to test out the whole green-screen production process; and we needed a promotional snapshot to look for more funding.

Scene 8 has several factors to its benefit: it features two of the three main characters, it's their first meeting, provides some background food for thought, some mystery, and it features major CGI work.

The CGI involves the night-time set on a Victorian street, rain, moving steampunk elements and live action incorporated into it. It's a perfect introduction to both the story and our ability to achieve the effects required.

Chris, the Director, is frantically editing in order to deliver the scene to the CGI chap who will integrate the set and moving graphics into the scene.

And the finished product goes to Cannes. Which is where your funding comes in.


To help us finish the whole thing and deliver.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Shooting Schedule

I have been very busy the last few weeks.

One of the things that made me busy was a meeting we had on April 7th. When I say "we" I mean myself and the director, Chris. We met with our co-producer Tricia.

There are three types of producer in the world: The ones who say they are producers but never actually do anything; the ones who put packages together (money, directors, actors) but don't do the nitty-gritty of production; and producers who do the nitty-gritty of organising a production to make it happen.

You see it was a few months ago that I decided that unless I got my act together and started making WINTER happen, it wasn't going to (this is no criticism of Chris, by the way, he has an extremely demanding day job). It had been two years, and while the script had been developing nicely nothing else was happening.

Tricia is a type 2 producer. And at the meeting she mentioned that if we had something we could show - an actual produced scene with all the trimmings - then when she was at the Cannes Film Festival in May she'd be in a position to promote WINTER to major investors. It's like shooting fish in a barrel, she said, but you need something to shoot with.

We had been planning a test shoot on May 6th anyway but this put a whole new light on it. And, to mix metaphors, lit a fire under us.

If there's a way in which Chris and I are similar, we both respond very positively to external deadlines. And this deadline was a killer: create a complete scene 8, with computer graphics, of very good quality and deliver it by 15th May. Seven weeks.

With Chris working an 80 hour week and me changing contracts. I imagine most people would consider it impossible, but it isn't.

As of this moment: we have cast the male actor required (the female was already cast); we have a modern, fully equipped, green screen study booked for 3 days - at no cost. We have crew in place, the composer is ready to go and, fingers crossed, the computer graphics will be produced by a professional company for a fraction of the usual cost. And we're halfway through.

The only issue is money, as certain things must be paid for. To that end we started up a crowd-funding project on IndieGoGo. We are hitting our marks and we will succeed but it would help, seriously, with back-up pennies.

So help out project: http://igg.me/p/93585?a=405734 and choose from our excellent perks.

Friday 2 March 2012

Bad Winter

I fear this project has got into a bit of trouble and may have gone off the rails. The positive aspects of the concept and the original draft have been surrendered to completely alter the story universe.

Said a reader, along with other things of a concerned nature. This was back in August 2010 and it was the first draft of the new Steampunk version still six episodes and still involving a Scientist (Prof Winter), his Daughter (Talia) and the Boy, who's name is now Peter.

This new script opened with a huge set-piece scene-setter of a Voidship landing on the lawns of the Royal Palace of Heaton in north Manchester - because Manchester is now the capital of Great Britain. This is not completely outrageous as it turns out that when Disraeli was Prime Minster he wanted to move the capital from London to Manchester (because of all the industry). In the real world Queen Victoria objected, she hated Manchester, so it never happened. In our world she did not object quite so much, so it happened.

After which there was a terrorist attack from Quebec Separatists, which Talia foils with the help of Peter. There is also a cute mechanical dog. Aspects of that part of the story occupy the first three episodes, while the second three are different. One of the main criticisms. On the positive side there are new aspects introduced which, as the reader put it there was a poignancy about that, connected with grief and love, which was truly touching.

I won't say what that is since that aspect survived to the present.

Part 1: Early Winter
Part 2: Winter's zenith
Part 3: Next Winter
Part 4: Bad Winter (this one)

Tuesday 31 January 2012


Who'd be a producer?

Me apparently. But please, before you even think of sending me your script - DON'T. Seriously. If you send me a script: (a) I won't look at it; (b) I will delete it; (c) I won't reply. I might even put a permanent block on your email.

No, in fact, (d) I WILL put a permanent block on your email. Because if you read this and still decide to send me a script then you are definitely not someone I'd want to work with.

I am only interested in producing my own projects, and currently that means WINTER. OK? Got that? Good.

There are downsides to being a producer: there's the issue outlined in the above paragraphs; and then, as a producer, you have to know when to say "No". Even when you're working on a low budget project like WINTER where people are giving their time and effort for free. Because there are some people who will hook up with you who are just trouble. They will pretend to help but will just eat up your time and your limited resources.

You have to be able to spot these people and cut them out. Failure to do so has the potential to destroy your project. One of them might not be too bad but if you get two or three, you're doomed. Remembering this makes it easier to say no.

And there is a certain amount of stress, though if you're sufficiently organised that shouldn't be too bad. (Stress is mostly caused by the pretend helpers anyway.)

But mostly it is fun. Most people want to help genuinely, and putting a team together is exciting. But once that team is together it's a steamroller.

The trick with producering is that you have to stay ahead because steamrollers don't make good decisions.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Next Winter

The previous part of this story covered what was probably the poorest version of the Winter script, but there's a rule in writing that every rewrite makes it better. (Unless you've got someone in the development team who feels strongly about bananas appearing everywhere - luckily we didn't).

Turns out Chris the Director had had an idea in the back of his mind for a long time: he wanted to do something with Steampunk, he had the outlines of a setting and an idea of a feature film script.

What is Steampunk? Well it's a lot of things but essentially it's retro-futurism. Technology as the Victorians might have dreamed it: H.G.Wells, Jules Verne - it's their future. Stories of Victorians in steam-powered spaceships.

Steampunk also encompasses a whole subculture of music, art, jewellery, cos-play, role-play as well as stories. They also tend to involve an idealised image of Victorian Britain or USA - though there are strong efforts by some to work on Eastern culture Steampunk.

Quite often Steampunk is combined with fantasy elements - supernatural and magic - but the universe that Chris wanted to develop was one in which the Steampunk-ness of it derived from a single change in science. What you might call hard-science Steampunk. To cut a long story short I liked the idea and agreed to re-write Winter in this new setting - and as a web series.

Of course we were setting ourselves up with a major issue: cost. It's a period drama (which in movie and TV terms means anything that's not contemporary so needs special set dressing and costume); it has spaceships so that means special effects; it has wild technology which means amazing props and even more special effects.

There was only one solution.

Going back to our collaboration on the MONSTERS mini-pilot, we created a scene for the trailer where the protagonist is dangled over the edge of a skyscraper at night. It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but it was filmed in the cellar of my house - green screen plus CGI.

Winter, we decided, would be CGI sets only - like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Still crazy, but not quite as crazy.

So I set about the rewrite - as well as beginning to fill in the differences between our world and the Voidships world. You can see some of those changes by visiting the Voidships website here.

In part 4: How the second draft changed everything, for good and for bad.

Part 1: Early Winter
Part 2: Winter's zenith
Part 3: Next Winter
Part 4: Bad Winter

Monday 2 January 2012

Winter's zenith

It was a little while after being rejected by the BBC I met Chris the Director. He'd read and liked some of my work from which we did something crazy: we made a mini-pilot of my spec TV series Monsters, which you can see the main part here and a trailer with extra bits here, including a blink-and-you'll-miss-it bit of CGI near the end, which will become important later.

Having done this we discussed what we could do next. We were looking for a short so we could film something that was complete and we decided Winter was a possible. But there was no script, only the interactive web pitch document.

One thing with creating a short is budget. So minimal sets, minimal actors, short running time (obviously), plus contemporary setting so there are no costume costs.

I went away and by March 2008 I had a script. Similar in premise to the web version but now the protagonist is the boyfriend Paul. I seem to be missing the actual script for this. But essentially it involved the main character rescuing his girlfriend Talia who had been turned into a murderous weapon (for no adequately explained reason). It was about love, family and sacrifice.

It didn't get particularly good feedback from readers. The best feedback suggested that it read like the 3rd Act in a feature film - so the first two acts were simply missing. I couldn't really disagree.

Time passed. I pretended to be a producer and we produced the extra footage for the Monsters trailer and then Chris came back to me with a completely new idea for looking at Winter.

And I'll cover that in the next exciting installment.

Part 1: Early Winter
Part 2: Winter's zenith (this one)
Part 3: Next Winter
Part 4: Bad Winter