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