Thursday, September 27, 2007

beads & beats

Ok so now writing work is piling up on the sidelines while I crack on with the current script. Act one is in the bag. The 'layered time' stuff was rather like threading a multi-coloured beaded necklace, stringing in one colour and then another. Then I trimmed all the VO right back. So that's done.

I've beat sheeted the next two Acts which now should be fairly straight forward to write (ahem).

Looking ahead I can foresee a problem with the ending. I know some folk think you shouldn't bother starting a script without knowing the ending but I tend to be of the opposite opinion - better to travel hopefully than arrive - allow the story to find its conclusion. But maybe that's waffle.

The problem I have with this script is how to end a story based on 'real' events. I think I may have to insert a hefty dose of fiction to tie it all up. Hmmm.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007


My sister and her new hub are coming to stay on Saturday. Their forthcoming visit has set me thinking about all sorts of things to do with siblings and location and family etc. (I'm a bit cautious about mentioning family members on the blog in case they suddenly discover it and get all sensitive or something.) Anyhow...

I think I mentioned in passing how, once upon a time, after a 20 year estrangement I saw my father in Sierra Leone again.

As it happens - finding him was a fairly easy task. First I went into the Sierra Leonean High Commission in London, sat in the waiting area for a while, told them what I was there for and was ushered into an office. The conversation went a bit like this:

Me: 'I'm looking for my father'

Large Official: 'What's his name?'

Me: 'MBD'

A ripple of frowns, then the large official turns round and bellows round the office: 'Anyone here know MDB?'

Everyone shakes their heads.

Large Official: 'No. Sorry no one has ever heard of him'

I smile politely and leave.

At the time, I was sharing a nice woody house in West Norwood with a couple of lodgers and a live-in Polish landlord. It was nearly Christmas and I'd told them what I was doing. The Polish landlord suddenly became more obsessed about the search than I was.

'Directory enquiries!' He urged and snatched up the phone.

In five minutes he presented me with 2 numbers. There were only 2 MBDs in the whole of Freetown.

A bit shakily, I sat down and rang the first number. A small boy answered.

Me: 'I'd like to speak to MBD'

The phone dropped and the boy ran off - back through time, shouting 'Daddy, Daddy!'

A man came to the phone. My heart stopped beating

'Hello' the deep voice said.

Hello I said, 'It's Me, Barbee Surname'

There was silence. Then a rapid: 'Oh my God, oh my God, Oh my God'

Across the room the Polish landlord and other house inhabitants eyed me inquisitively. I gripped the phone and hoped my father wasn't going to have a heart attack there and then. Then the rush of questions: 'How is your sister? How is your mother - when are you coming here?'

So it was a while and a bit after this I went to Sierra Leone to see my father again (I may post about that sometime.) Intriguingly - when I did see him again - he knew that I'd been into the High Commission in London to look for him.

It was a trip that my sister never made. A pity. Our father died a few years later.

Recently my sister has been delving into family trees and the like - history, people, location, connectedness, places. She found out a whole heap of things that none of us ever knew about my father - another family in Liberia - even half sisters with the same names as us!

Another discovery was finding that we have another older, half brother in the UK.
My mum and my dad met at Edinburgh University in the late 50s. Before my mum, my dad had a brief fling with a young woman. When she announced her pregnancy he denied the baby was anything to do with him and never ever saw him. So our half-brother grew up with no contact with his father.

But now my sister has met our new brother and his family and everything.

And weirdly in photos - he looks a bit like me....

Saturday, September 22, 2007

feeding back

I quite like the idea of Michael Arndt's script feedback 'form' that Jurgen Wolff mentioned on his blog recently. To read JW's post click here.

'He gives his friends a form to fill out. On it, they are asked to rate from 1 to 10 how well each of the major characters comes across, and how effective they felt each of the major scenes is. He also gives them a list of ten things he thinks might be wrong with the script and asks them to rate to what extent (again, 1 to 10)'

I like the fact that this type of feedback is writer-led - so could be more useful in the early drafts. The questionnaire could be adapted to suit a particular script. It could also help eliminate vague or conflicting PO3 feedback - (for those that go that route)

Hmmm. Might try it.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

no queue

Hub was wondering why he gets no visitors to his blog and I told him it's because he doesn't update it; 'like one of those shops in Zimbabwe with no food on the shelves - no one goes in.' So he says 'But some people would still come in, because there'd be no queue.'

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Pages, pages how many do you write? Of course it depends whether you are working part-time or writing full-time or not. I read somewhere recently that 5 pages a day is reckoned to be a reasonable writing count (for a full time writer). That does seem very doable. At that daily rate you can churn out a feature script in just over 3 weeks.
In the past I've tended more towards manic writing bursts - where I literally write upwards of 20 pages in one day, rather than make steady progress . Usually when I write loads, it is because I've had plenty of time to think through the entire story. Also some stories are more straight forward than others - more easily told.
On the current project, I'm happy doing anything between 0 and 5 pages a day. Yes O pages of writing sometimes(!) But on the 0 days, I'll be planning out what's next and making all kinds of notes. This 'multi-layered time' thing requires pieces of story information to be revealed stealthily - so it has to minutely planned.

Hmm pages, pages - what about you?

Friday, September 14, 2007


This may be as close as I ever get to seeing my plaque. However I finally have the euros in my bank - yippee!!
So be warned - when it comes to chasing up money owed - if polite enquiries fail - then a stream of increasingly rude and threatening daily emails will probably do the trick.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Ok so this is a 'scriptwriting in progress' post - so non-writers or those wanting a more exciting read, turn away now.

This script that I'm writing is based on a true life story - in a way it's an offbeat 'zero to hero', pivoted around some big historical moments.

The other day I realised I had to layer the timing of events and kind of zap back and forth between different places. Why? - mainly because I want the story to link 'moments of revelation' that occur at different points in the protagonist's life. Also I realised that bringing in the antagonist (and the real conflict) at the act one turning point (around 30 pages in) just won't work - it's far too late. People will be thinking - so where's this story going?

I've avoided using the words 'flash back' and 'flash forward' here and I'll avoid pointing them up as such in the script (even though they are there). You see the story is threaded together with a fairly sparse present tense VO. Generally I don't think viewers and audience have a problem with stories that skim back and forth time-wise - so it's getting it down on the page simply - which is the difficult part.

Thinking it out and chopping it up often takes longer than actual writing. So now back to the computer - but at least I know what I'm doing. I think.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Now that things are moving forward at a rapid pace once again (isn't it funny how life can just stodge up for weeks on end with not much happening apart from the rain) the big trip can be planned. Too soon to try and make it during the next school holidays here - so it looks like I'll be back in Blighty & Brum for 3 weeks just before Christmas coinciding with the big 'summer holiday' here and maybe even go to NY on the end - (all part of research of course.) Cor - not been back for 6 years. Had lots of visits here from family and a few friends and even imported my mum in the meantime (ha!) and now my sister and new hub are due over here in the next couple of weeks or so. Even so I'm wondering if I'll have a bit of culture shock - what with everything having gone up so much in the meantime, or maybe I might not even want to come back again. That's the worst thing about moving so far way for so long: estrangement from close friends. In an ideal world I'd spend the SA summer here (Nov - April) and then the rest of the time in the UK. Although that's not an entirely impossible scenario, it would require a considerably higher income (!).

Another plan involves storage - getting a built-in floor to ceiling shelving system thing up one wall of the office. Hub probably has around 3 million photo stills (negatives mainly) but for the last 5 years everything has been stored on CDS and DVDs which now amount to hundreds of discs and tons of ring binders - stuffed into every available wardrobe and cupboard and shelving in the house - in no particular order. I once worked at the Ronald Grant archive (and Cinema Museum) in SE London (I wonder if he's still around? - update: blinking heck he is - just found this on the web - have a look:)
nice little job where the assorted bunch of blokes spent day after day rummaging through filing cabinets stuffed with classic Hollywood film stills and memorabilia whilst keeping up an never-ending thread of lurid celebrity gossip. That archive seemed to have absolutely no system of organisation whatsoever and just relied purely on memories & instincts of the dedicated staff to locate requested stills. I sat in front of an Amstrad one day a week and typed up invoices and then posted them. (BTW on the vid everything now looks a lot more ordered than it used to)
So anyway organisation is pretty high up on the 'to do' list at the moment...

In other news - I saw a big hairy eyebrow of a caterpillar crawling across the floor to hide under the fridge.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Partial lunar eclipse today and a new moon - not visible from these (or those) parts at all but it is supposed to be about beginnings.

I remember last September 22nd eclipse was the first day of a shoot. We were actually shooting during the time of the eclipse at a large local observatory - so at the appointed time, the place was suddenly swarming with eclipse-watchers filing into the smaller observatories. Then just as everything grew chilly and the shadow crossed the sun (or whatever way it happened) production phones started ringing crazily with the powers-that-be bizarrely telling us that we weren't authorised to shoot (!) and ordering us to stop immediately. So much crisis management was going on in the background.

My advice to anyone planning to shoot during an eclipse? Avoid it.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


We writers are fond of deluding ourselves aren't we? - particularly about our own work. A little while ago in this very blog, I commented on some prep work for my own writing - "Being a monologue it is fairly organic - zapping easily back and forth between disparate places, people and incidents over time in a way a script could never do." See I wrote that just down there a few posts back.

Now I've had to rethink that 'in a way a script could never do' - why not? - I mean why ever not - why can't a script do that? In fact as the script progresses it is becoming more and more obvious that that this is exactly what it has to do - so yaa boo and sucks to whatever informed that thought. See the thinking process can be meandering, smug and not always correct . So here's to 'multi-layered temporality' or something like that - if I can get it right

I didn't ever want to have to mention Madeleine on this blog - but now I've done it so here goes. This whole weekend I've been glued to the Sky News Madeleine developments and over the last 24 hours have probably scrutinised every available analysis on the internet. It's not as though there's been a dearth of more interesting or pertinent social issues to follow (particularly here in South Africa!) But I do admit I've been a compulsive Madeleine news follower pretty much from the start - every new trail from Praia da Luz I've probably discussed at length with hub. My Madeleine interest is more to do with the way the story is playing out - with its twists and turns, highs and lows. At one point there was even a 'Schrödinger's cat' type paradox - when two sets of potential DNA results could have meant that Madeleine was dead and that she was alive (with both probabilities existing at exactly the same time.) Even Lynda la Plante's best split screen TV hasn't thrown up a conundrum like that..

And today I skimmed through hundreds of online Madeleine blog comments and conspiracy theories, commentaries and blog psychics reports and psychics' analyses and photographs and drawings. And the worst of all these things - something that really took my breath away and chilled my blood was a poem (posted a couple of months ago) & supposedly written to satirise the pseudo psychics - a poem written from the point of view of dead Madeleine - talking about 'why and how her mother killed her'... I won't go into detail but you can probably find it fairly easily....

And after that, I stopped looking - because I'd found what I was looking for - in all the stories and facts and fictions - here was something so awful, and nasty and compelling and vicious - that it almost rang true -and yet it was just words...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


I was wondering if there was something in the stars that might explain why projects that have been dormant for the best part of the year should suddenly spring into action - all at the same time. A quick visit to TJMacgregor's September horoscopes for writers (Aries) here tells me that "After the 7th, when Venus turns direct in Leo, you’re writing at the speed of light. Suddenly, your plot and characters are behaving the way they should and your writing is smooth, even." That sounds good - despite not explaining the shift - so maybe it is down to Saturn's move on the 2nd ...

Anyway, am now around page 20 of the script. A snippet of feedback pointed out - ever so politely - that the antagonist is completely missing in the opening pages. I was planning on bringing him in at the end of the first act but realise (ahem) that this is probably a little late. So a bit of hasty re-jigging went on today to pull him into the story a bit faster.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Ok - the big pitch meeting was today and when I say 'today' I mean it happened this morning - of course otherwise I wouldn't be blogging about it (in accordance with the karmic law of favourable outcomes) especially since said meeting has already been postponed three times. So although not directly film related - it is still writing related (jazz thing) So what I'm really saying is that the green light is now on.

Plus in other news the bean count audit was approved yesterday by the powers that be - meaning that the final tranche of funds due from the series can at last be released.

So four days in and September already seems a whole lot breezier, brighter and more benevolent than August...


Saturday, September 01, 2007


September already and oh how this year has sped by - and to top it all it's this blog's first birthday tomorrow. One year of words. One year of wondering. One year of rabbiting (ad noone in particularum).

So what do you buy a blog who has everything? (ha ha) Actually I may well treat it to one of those technorati 'favourites box' things - they seem quite cool and smart in a Quality Street, non elitist kind of a way. Anyone know where I get one from? Or failing that I may go for a colour change...