Wednesday 13 January 2010

Songs I Am Loving Right Now.

I get really obsessive about certain songs, at certain times. I love music as much as I love films really - but I have no talent for music. Sometimes, I'm going to talk a bit more about music round here. I find music and film very similar; films are about rhythm, good dialogue is liking dancing to great music, and of course - the use of music in film is half of the secret to great films. Likewise, the music I like is very cinematic, I mean -- listening to a Springsteen or Dylan song is like watching a short movie - it's impossible to listen to 'Simple Twist Of Fate' or 'Thunder Road' without beautiful imagery forming in your head.

Anyways, here are three songs I'm listening to right now.

U2 - Stuck In A Moment

I only vaguely recognized this song, like I do most U2 songs - I don't really love them, just the obvious songs that everyone loves like 'With Or Without You' and 'Where The Streets Have No Name.'

But I was lucky enough to see them live at Wembley Stadium last year, two nights in a row, and it was this song that really got me. And I think it's better live, in big stadiums, because it's really uplifting, it's really a communal thing. And I think this version gives some indication of how great it can be to see and hear it at a concert.

"I'm not afraid
Of anything in this world
There's nothing you can throw at me
That I haven't already heard
I'm just trying to find
A decent melody
A song that I can sing
In my own company"

Tracey Chapman - Fast Car

I feel like this should always have been my favourite song - but it wasn't. In fact, it's been a song I only kind of vaguely recognized for years and years. And then a few months ago I was in my Dad's car and it came on the radio, and I was like 'wow, who is this? what is this?' My Dad mentioned it was Tracey Chapman. I went home and listened to it again and again and again. There is something about Tracey Chapman, and specifically this song - something that can't be just put down to her voice, or the lyrics - it's that mysterious thing, somewhere between God and genius and luck and something spiritual--- it's just, ugh-- I can't even explain. But why would I want to explain when instead we could all just listen to it? Perfection. This is the best song I know about living.

"Any place is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something,
Me myself I got nothing to prove"

Fort Minor - Where'd You Go?

Just amazing, really.

"I want you to know it's a little fucked up,
That I'm stuck here waitin', no longer debatin',
Tired of sittin' and hatin' and makin' these excuses,
For why you're not around, and feeling so useless."

Care to share?

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Any Actor Dead Or Alive.

A friend recently asked me, "If you could have any actor, dead or alive, to play you in a film... who would you choose?"

And I'm thinking, well, the alive one, surely. Dead actors rarely give a good performance.

Care to share?

Monday 11 January 2010

I was just thinking.....

..... that pretty much anything is possible.

Care to share?

In Search Of The Magic Formula For Screenwriting - Figuring Out What A Producer Or Studio Executive Wants

There's this weird thing that screenwriters have to go through - a battle between their natural instincts and pandering to what a studio/producer will want. And pretty soon, that wonderfully original idea about a piece of cabbage that invents a spaceship becomes... A standard rom-com about a 22 year old fashion designer. And the script never gets bought anyway, and the sad thing is that the idea about the cabbage never gets written.

I wonder, how much of this is based on the reality of the industry, and how much of it is based on this myth that's been built up? You feel it every time you watch an awful film - like at the end of 'Hancock' when Will Smith puts the heart thing on the moon, it just leaves you wanting to scream at how predictable and pathetic Hollywood can be. And you feel even worse about that idea you had, about the pensioner who who turns his bingo club into a terrorist training camp-- you tell yourself 'nobody will want this,' 'this won't sell.' and you're right.. But it's not because no-one likes the idea but because you never wrote the script.. Instead you wrote a film about an FBI man who tells the NYPD man "this isn't your jurisdiction." And the producer says "I don't like your FBI script, it has no imagination," and he's right.. Because instead of writing your passion piece, you anchored it to suit a bunch of producers and executives you've never met, who've never told you what they do and don't want. You're going on the basis of the big thing you just saw at the cinema where robots threw each other around, or based on what some script-reading-girl-turned-blogger told you to do.

For some people - this is fine. I've met many writers who just enjoy writing and then having meetings and going to lunch and redrafting. They're happy to do the FBI script with no imagination whilst they start a draft of a World War 2 screenplay even though World War 2 means nothing too them. And for these people, they can write happily like this and it's not soul destroying at all.

But the more artistic writers, who struggle and fight with themselves over one piece of work, they also battle with the worry of who will buy/produce/fund it - and it affects the work.

It's commonplace for writers and film lovers to bemoan the lack of original scripts. The writers often feel the industry is polarizing them and their ideas, but actually - us writers do it to ourselves. We end up conforming more and more to this idea in our head of what a commercial screenplay is meant to be.

There are legitimate reasons why we think like this -- but I just want to stand up for that artistic part of you (and me) that needs supporting. That part that says write what you want. Fuck, write it backwards, one word per page, if that's really what you want to do.

Film is only a hundred and twenty years old - no-one can say, definitively, what works and what doesn't--- and it's a long time since something truly unique and wonderful has come along - and I'm hoping it's going to be you who's reading this.

"you can't start a fire -- can't start a fire without a spark"

Care to share?

Saturday 9 January 2010

How An Upcoming Writer Can Get To Meet Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.

This is one for the screenwriters, especially those who may be struggling with their projects right now - or wondering how on Earth you might ever make it in the industry. What I'd like for you to do is to read this article all the way through - and then go and do what is suggested, for real.

I want you to relax - maybe lay down on your bed. And allow yourself to drift into your imagination. And I want you to imagine the following scenario.

You have finished your feature film screenplay. You've sent it out to a few places, posted it on a few writers websites; and you're hopeful about it.

You get a phone call. The man on the other end asks for you by name. When you confirm it's you, he says, "My name's Steven Spielberg. A friend of mine passed on your screenplay to me and I really like it." After you disbelieve him and sit in shock for about five minutes, he follows up with, "I would like to meet you, I'm going to be in your town next week with a colleague of mine, and we'd like to discuss your project with you."

A week later - you are making your way to an office you've been summoned to. you feel apprehensive, in fact-- you feel ridiculous, who set you up to this? And then you arrive. You tell the pretty reception lady your name and say that you have a meeting, she tells you to take a seat.

Thirty seconds later; Steven Spielberg is in front of you. He has a big beaming smile and he shakes your hand. He walks you to an office - and he's rambling away excitedly about some trailer he just saw -- you're struggling to listen because you're so scared and excited. You enter a meeting room.

"This is my friend Tom, I wanted you to meet him too."

Tom Hanks throws out his hand to shake. "Hi I'm Tom Hanks," he says, as if he needs introducing. It's down to business.

Spielberg faces you excitedly. "Some of the people who work for me spend a bit of time on the internet, looking around for talent, for something fresh and exciting, and one of them came across your screenplay and sent it to me."

You sit there, frozen.

"I want to Produce this." he says. You think it needs repeating. "So, Tom here has been looking for another project to Direct, it's something he's been wanting to do for a while.."

Tom effortlessly glides into the conversation, like he's trying to charm Meg Ryan in Zabars. "I read the first page of your script, and I just knew there was something about it. This is definitely something I would like to develop."

Steven Spielberg looks at you with a serious face -- you try your best to look relaxed. "We can only pay you $100,000, I'm afraid. Things are changing in the industry right now and there's no guarantee we can bring this into production.. but uh, we can pay you $100,000 which is something - how does that sound?"

You mutter something about it being okay. Tom stands up and goes to shake your hand again. "This is exciting," he says, noticing your beaming smile. "So who you wanna cast? Megan Fox? Kristen Stewart?" -- you look towards him, wondering if he really wants an answer. "you know, my wife Rita would like the role - you think she could pass for 22?"

You leave the meeting - you have MADE IT. Through sheer luck, MENTAL CRAZINESS and plain absurdity, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have not only read - but decided to buy and produce your screenplay.

Now - as you come out of this conversation in your imagination -- how do you feel? How does it feel to have sold a screenplay to two of the biggest names in the industry? How does it feel to know you've finally got everything you always wanted and deep down knew you were capable of?

You probably feel calmer, more at ease, and happier. Notice your body language now - you're sitting a lot more comfortably - you're even breathing better.

Is this new feeling something you could use when working on your screenplay? Is this feeling of ease, of being you, of having achieved, something you could take out into your life more? Does it feel more like who you really are?

Care to share?