screenwriting

An Update From the Word Mines

Man writing on notepad with open laptop and a clapperboard

 

We’re long overdue an update around these parts!

Let’s see, what’s been going on lately? Well, I set up a Letterboxd account – follow me as I try and remember what films I’ve already seen and fail to stick to a consistent rating metric!

Oh, and I finished my first feature script The Bride Wore Blood, got a few revisions deep and realised that there’s no use tweaking it any more. At this point in time, right here and right now, it’s the best script I can write for that story.

So I’ve let it fly.

I’ve submitted it to the Screencraft Screenwriting Fellowship, who fly the winner out to LA for industry meetings all-expenses-paid, among other things. I’ve submitted it to the Finish Line Script Competition, who offer a $1000+ grand prize and skype industry meetings, among other things. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve submitted it to the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Competition, which offers a live reading of the extract I submitted and an industry showcase right here in the country I’m most likely to be working in.

Do I expect to win any of these? No; I’m not delusional and I know there’s heaps upon heaps of talent out there. I know there’s also quite a lot of dreck out there too, and what I hope to accomplish here is introducing myself as a talent and not a dreck-peddler. Your first script is never good enough to be made, I’m told, but perhaps it’s good enough to get people to remember my name when my next script does the rounds.

Which reminds me, I’m slowly starting work on my next feature script. It’ll feature a non-binary teen who goes on holiday with their family and accidentally brings back a woodland spirit/creature/boggarty type thing. It’s early days yet, but I’m excited. I’ve applied to the BFI Network Feature Treatment Workshop at Broadway cinema, will hopefully find out soon if I got a place on it. And speaking of BFI Network, I’ve set myself up over there and uploaded The Tree. No idea what I’m doing or if anything will come of it, but whatever happens happens, right?

In other news, I finished a short comedy script about a young woman who moves into a haunted flat and refuses to leave no matter how hard the ghost tries to scare her. We’re taking tentative steps towards filming, but I’m rusty and frankly, scared. We’re going to be dipping our toe into crowdfunding, and it’s really quite overwhelming. I’ve been in a dark place mentally in the past week or so, but thanks to some much-needed love from close friends and the probably-all-too-brief return of the sunshine, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about things.

So this is Sam, checking in, letting you know things are moving and I’m not giving up.

 

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30 Day Film Challenge – 6. A Movie You Wish You Had Made

I love zombie films. There’s nothing quite like a horde of shambling, moaning corpses to brighten my day. It doesn’t matter if they’re fast or slow, if they crave brains or are just generally hankering for a hunk of human flesh – give me a good zombie movie and I’m happy.

I love zombies so much that the first film I made with friends was a zombie film – you can check out the link on the My Films page. It’s not the best film we’ve made, but I love it nonetheless. It was fun to make, and ended with a punchline that I’m altogether too proud of.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I would list Shaun of the Dead as a film I would have loved to have made. The RomZomCom premise is (a slice of fried) gold, and it’s so well made. I don’t just mean it’s well shot, though it certainly is. What I especially love about it is how tightly it’s written. Every detail, every joke, every event from Act One has a comeback or a payoff later in the film. From the obvious (“Next time I see him, he’s dead.”) to the more subtle (Nick’s pub crawl plan foreshadows the rest of the events of the movie), it’s a jigsaw that fits together beautifully. Hot Fuzz does the same, and though I’ve not seen it more than once I’m certain The End of The World is just as tightly plotted. It also helps that it’s immensely quotable, making it a goldmine for those who like to communicate almost entirely in pop culture references.

Shaun of the Dead is a love letter to the genre, from the biggest nerds the film industry had to offer at the time. The referential and irreverent humour really complements the subject matter, and the buckets of gore don’t hurt its case either. You can tell it was fantastic fun to write and to film, and that’s everything that a film should be. Fun, entertaining and exciting for the filmmakers and audience alike. Between this and Spaced, there’s a wealth of lessons to be learned on filmmaking in general and comedy in particular. If you’ve somehow missed out on watching this, please rectify this immediately!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to have a nice cold pint and wait for all this to blow over.

Yeaaaah booooiiii.

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Letting Go

chimney swift by Ed Schipul

I have trouble letting go.

I have trouble letting go of preconceptions, of prejudices, of anger, of self-pity. I have trouble letting go of a lot of things.

Most of all, I have trouble letting go of my writing. I’m fiercely protective of it, knowing that if I spend more time on it I can polish it up and make it shine and sing and dance and do all the things that you expect a really dazzling piece of work to do. This is ultimately quite damaging, as the more I look at it the more flaws I spot and the more I resent it. Then I’m likely to never let it out into the real world.

I’m getting better, though. I’ve published a couple of short literary doodles on this very blog, and have managed to have enough scripts prised from my hands that we have a nice backlog of short films now. But still the temptation is there, the temptation to hoard and my work and clutch it to my chest and hiss ‘mine!’ at anyone who thinks I should actually do something with it.

This is a roundabout way of saying that I’ve just submitted 3 scripts to the Create50 The Impact competition. Are they perfect? No, and I have to be ok with that. Are they the best I can do at this moment in time? Yes, and that’s important to me. If I’d held onto them and tried to polish them, I’d have ended losing faith and never submitting them before the deadline. And not submitting anything at all would have been a crime. Nothing ventured, nothing something something etc etc, right?

So, with the help of a couple of beta readers (to whom I’m supremely grateful), I have finished the scripts to the best of my ability and sent them out, releasing them into the big wide world to fend for themselves. Will they soar above the heads of their peers? Will they stand out from the flock? Will they be torn to shreds or sucked into a plane engine? Will this extended metaphor never end? Who knows. Who knows.

Check out all the scripts (not just mine)(but do please read mine) over at the Create50 website. I think you’ll agree this project is shaping up to be a very interesting one indeed.

Stay tuned for the sound of your fingers tapping away rapidly at your keyboard as you write a comment on this post.

Picture: Chimney Swift by Ed Schipul, CC BY-SA 2.0

 

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Create 50 : The Impact

Falling Asteroids

Those of you who know me well may remember that I entered the 50 Kisses competition a couple of years ago. This was a fantastic idea – 50 scripts, 50 shorts, 1 feature film. It was also a great opportunity, a chance to get my work read and potentially noticed. I wrote Geek Love, which is now a short film trilogy that has been screened at the Derby Quad cinema.

This happened because, of course, I didn’t make it through to the final 50 in the competition. But I was longlisted, which gave me a lovely warm gooey feeling inside. I was also asked to write a blog post about my experience and what it meant to me.

So you can imagine my excitement when I saw that there’s a new competition – The Impact : same portmanteau format, now with an exciting scifi-tinged premise. There is a colossal asteroid heading for Earth, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. The short films that make up the feature will chronicle mankind’s final minutes before its inevitable extinction.

The aim of the competition is to shoot for substance and emotion rather than spectacle and effects, which is just as well because you only have 2 pages to tell a self-contained story about staring oblivion in the face. It’s going to be tricky, but what’s writing without a challenge?

My aim is to submit 3 scripts for consideration. The reasoning behind this is that I’d quite like to to try my hand at different styles for it. I’ve today finished the first draft of the first one, a Geek-Love-esque vignette that will hopefully bring a smile to a few faces. With the other two I’m aiming for darker territory. I’ve not quite cemented the ideas, but I’m working on it. I’ve had a couple of thoughts, but they were exactly what you’d think they would be, so they’re on the back-burner. Cliché is all very well and good, but only if you can do something interesting with it.

I’ve got a good feeling about this competition. Not necessarily an I’m-going-to-win good feeling, just a vague sense of impending accomplishment and fulfilment. And who doesn’t like accomplishment and fulfilment?

Stick around, more news on this as it comes.

Picture: Falling Asteroids by Robert Davies, CC-BY-NC 2.0

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Updates

A very quick post to let everyone know I’ve updated the site a little – I’ve added a section for my films, a section for my short stories and a section for my non-fiction.

I’ve only updated the films page so far, but I intend to use these pages as a portfolio, a way of showcasing a selection of my work. It’s by no means meant to be a comprehensive collection of everything I’ve ever done in the history of ever – it’s just a selection of works I’m proud of.

Those familiar with the short films I’ve made will be pleased to see the links and the scripts to many that I’ve already unleashed on you – but please be sure to check out The Tree, A Done Deal, Innocence and Snapshots – these are scripts I have written which have not (yet) been filmed. Let me know what you think!

Speaking of letting me know what you think – suggestions, comments, demands and thinly-veiled-threats-against-my-wellbeing-should-I-stop-writing are all gratefully accepted – let me know in the comments and all will be addressed!

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For The Times They Are a-Changin’

Earlier today, I finished a draft of a short script that’s been in my head for a while now. As I returned to the living room from my newly-installed writing cave, my wife Tonks (still an odd phrase to get used to, even after a year and a half) asked me an important question.

She said “Sam, how many finished scripts do you have now?”

I did a quick tally, thinking that I’d get about 5 or 6.  I was shocked to realise that I’ve now finished something like 15 short scripts, counting ones I’ve co-written. Some of them have even been made. Two of them were polished in a professional screenwriting course. One was longlisted in the 50 Kisses screenplay competition. All of them are works to be proud of (though the perfectionist in me insists that they’re far from excellent).

I haven’t yet finished the feature-length screenplay I was working on last month, but I have about 15 shorts under my belt. I haven’t counted the number of short stories I’ve finished (they’re far outweighed by the number I’ve abandoned), but I have a short story that’s due to be published in an anthology by grass-roots Steampunk publishing company The Last Line, so soon I’ll have had my writing unleashed on an unsuspecting public in more ways than one.

The time is right. I need… A Change.

It is with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to Blogger, where I intended to write many dazzling and witty blog posts. Instead I leave a layer of cyberdust 3 inches deep and a hamfisted attempt at journal blogging. I’ve never been good at journal blogging. My day to day activities just aren’t interesting enough for journal blogging. I wake up, I go to work, I try to write, I play video games. for much of the time, that’s it for me.

Well, no more.

I have a writing cave. I have 15 or more finished scripts. I have a wife who is more than happy to crack the whip if I get sedentary. And I have a need to get my work out there. Because there’s no point in writing a script if only a handful of people will ever see the finished film. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends and I’m overwhelmed by the support they show when I put out a new film or story… but I need to get bigger. I need to get Out There. I need to succeed. Because I’m not going to be in the rat race forever.

That’s why I’ve created this WordPress blog. That’s why I now own http://www.samkurd.co.uk and am in the process of trying to get that address to point to this blog. That’s why I’m going to revisit my stories and get editing. And that’s why I’m going to try and get off my backside and sell a story. That’s why I’m going to work hard at this. I’m cutting back on the video games (although when payday comes around Life is Strange part 3 is coming my way because WOW that game is amazing). I’m cutting back on the mindless net surfing. I’m cutting back on Tumblr… er, well… let’s not go overboard.

From now, I’ll be blogging every other day. If I don’t have anything to say, I’ll make it up. I’m a writer, after all. All writing is good writing because just the mere act of stringing words together helps me grow as a writer. I can’t let my creative muscles atrophy, or I might as well just put my head down and plod through my life.

It’ll take years. I’m not an idiot. I’m not going to succeed overnight. But I’ve already started on the journey. I started on the journey the day I signed up for the screenwriting class. I started on the journey the day my friend James approached me and said ‘That short story “Jeremy” you wrote, I’d like to make it into a film…’. I started on the journey the day I opened a deviantart account and started posting my literary doodles there. I started on the journey the day I first stroked a keyboard, the day I first picked up a pen.

I start the journey over and over, a hundred different times, each time better armed and better prepared. And this time might not be the time that I don’t give up. It might not be the time that I get my name out and finally start writing professionally. It might not be the time when I find myself looking back and thinking ‘bloody hell, I’ve made it.’

But that’s ok. Because that time is coming. Mark my words. That time is coming.

Stay tuned for tweaks to the site format, frenzied attempts to get the everything about the blog just right and the customary panic and self-doubt that precedes two months of inactivity.