Further Adventures in Screenwriting

Screenwriting has always been my number one passion.

I’ve always been a film buff rather than a fiction guy (my books were mainly biography, journalism or film/music studies), and despite always wanting to be a ‘writer’, it wasn’t until I read the screenplays for Pulp Fiction (which came with a copy of Total Film around 1995-6) and Do The Right Thing (which came with Spike Lee’s film diary – incredible) – and became obsessed with Shane Black’s writing style and one-liners – that I realised that there was this thing called a script, and that directors and actors didn’t just get together and play around and BOOM! there’s your film, bitches.

The more screenplays I read, the more obsessed I got with the process of screenwriting, and started doing my homework. I found Creative Screenwriting Magazine’s vast collection of interviews (including one with my writing hero, the aforementioned Shane Black), which then lead me to Jeff Goldsmith’s podcasts, where he interviews some of my favourite scripters, and some first timers.

It was fascinating to hear and read such varied starting out stories, failures and successes, and the vastly different processes that the writers adhere to. It told me that there was no cast-iron formula to writing or success in that field, and that 99.9% of the screenwriting ‘rules’ are bullshit, and that it’s the rules of WRITING that count (the ones laid down by the likes of Bill Shakespeare and Aristotle before him).

Some of the writing gems I’ve taken on board along the way, from screenwriters I respect (and adore), include Aaron Sorkin’s gem of wisdom that great drama stems from a simple formula: intention and obstacle – somebody wants something, somebody is standing in their way, Shane Black’s one-two punch of useful screenwriting techniques: Set-ups/payoffs and reversals. I think of these every time I start tapping away on my laptop.

Which brings me to some cool news. My short film script POSTTRAUMATIC is getting made. I’m dead excited. We’re aiming for a June shoot, with a July/August release and festival run. I haven’t made a short film since 2014, so I’m chomping at the bit to get something made.

I’m also sending my horror/thriller feature screenplay THE NIGHT FORCE out into the world (and by that I mean competitions, festivals, agencies and production companies) this summer. I had the idea in 1996, started writing it in 2008, and over 20 years later, it’s all grown up and ready to leave the nest.

The books are on the back-burner for the foreseeable future. I’ve plotted out my fifth novel, THE LOWLIFES, and I’m letting it percolate. Like all of my writing projects, I don’t starting writing until I’m bursting to be sitting at the screen.

In the meantime, it’s time to get some of my words in the mouths of good looking people who are gonna make me look like I know what I’m doing.


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