Wednesday, 13 August 2014

This has to go on the blog too

From the Hollywood Reporter

 

'King's Speech' Producer Signs On for Explosive Afghan War Drama

1:55 PM PST 08/11/2014 by Alex Ben Block

The independent film executive produced by Gareth Ellis-Unwin is crowdfunded in part and will be released later this year to support military charities

Kajaki, an independently produced Afghan war drama, has just begun production in Jordan. Gareth Ellis-Unwin, who won an Oscar for The King's Speech, is an executive producer.

The film was developed by Paul Katis, who is making his directing debut, and Tom Williams (Chalet Girl), who wrote the screenplay. Other executive producers are Alexa Jago(Waterworld) and Alec Mackenzie.

The film recounts the true story of a three-man unit on patrol in Afghanistan in 2006 that, in an effort to remove a Taliban roadblock, detonates a bomb, causing one member to lose his leg. The British soldiers then find themselves trapped in a minefield left over from the Russian invasion in the 1980s. The budget, which was not announced, was raised through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, private investors and Lipsync, which is doing postproduction.

The plan is to premiere the movie before the end of this year in London at a series of special screenings through the Vue Cinemas chain. All profits from those screenings and a portion of any profits the movie makes will go to armed forces charities, including the Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes and Walking Wounded.

The youthful British cast includes David Elliot (Sleeping Beauty), Mark Stanley (Game of Thrones),Scott Kyle (The Crews), Benjamin O'Mahony (Hurst), Bryan Parry (Pride), Liam Ainsworth(In The Flesh), Andy Gibbins (Love Freely But Pay for Sex), John Doughty (The Hounds), Paul Luebke, Thomas Davison, Grant Kilburn, Robert Mitchell, Jon Paul Bell, Malachi Kirbyand Ali Cook.

“We all felt that as 2014 is the year that British forces will withdraw from Afghanistan it is more important than ever to recognize the valor displayed in that theatre," said Katis. "Because of this, and because we see the film as a way to support the incredibly valuable work done by the armed forces charities, we have set ourselves the ambitious target of releasing Kajaki in cinemas this year.”

Katis and Williams developed the script based on interviews with the actual soldiers involved in the incidents, the family of the central character, and a U.K. military Board of Enquiry report. 

International sales are being handled by Metro International. 

 

This has to go on the blog

From Screen Daily:

Landmine drama Kajaki begins shoot
11 August, 2014 | By Michael Rosser
The King’s Speech producer Gareth Ellis-Unwin on board British soldier drama, which will be released as troops return from Afghanistan later this year.
Shooting began last week on Kajaki, a battlefield drama based on the true story of British soldiers who became trapped in a minefield in Afghanistan. The film will shoot on location in Jordan for six weeks.
Paul Katis will make his feature directorial debut with the film, which has been written by Tom Williams (Chalet Girl), and Gareth Ellis-Unwin, producer of The King’s Speech, is executive producer for Bedlam Productions.
Based on first-hand accounts, the film depicts an incident involving a group of soldiers - mostly from the British Army’s 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment [3 Para] - who were trapped in a minefield while stationed at the Kajaki Dam in Afghanistan in 2006.
Set on one day during their six-month tour of Afghanistan, it begins with a small unit of soldiers who are dug into a ridge overlooking the dam.
As a three-man patrol sets out to disable a Taliban roadblock, one of them detonates a land mine, blowing off his leg. His fellow soldiers come to get him out, only to find themselves trapped in an unmarked minefield, a relic of the Russian invasion of the 1980s. And with no way out, any movement risks certain injury and possible death.
The young British cast is led by David Elliot as Corporal Mark Wright, with Mark Stanley, Scott Kyle, Benjamin O’Mahony, Bryan Parry, Liam Ainsworth, Andy Gibbins, John Doughty, Paul Luebke, Thomas Davison, Grant Kilburn, Robert Mitchell, Jon Paul Bell, Malachi Kirby and Ali Cook as other members of 3 Para.
The script was developed by Katis and Williams, and is based on extensive interviews with the soldiers involved, the family of Corporal Wright and on the army’s Board of Enquiry report into the incident.
Release strategy
Katis said: “We all felt that as 2014 is the year that British forces will withdraw from Afghanistan it is more important than ever to recognise the valour displayed in that theatre. 
“Because of this, and because we see the film as a way to support the incredibly valuable work done by the armed forces charities, we have set ourselves the ambitious target of releasing Kajaki in cinemas this year.”
The film will premiere in central London and at a series of special screenings nationwide through Vue Cinemas. 
All profits from these events and a portion of the profits from the film’s subsequent release will go to the armed forces charities supported by the production, which include the Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes, Walking Wounded and others.
Further details of the launch and release plans will follow. 
Metro International will handle international sales. 
Production has been funded by private investment; post-production partner Lipsync; and an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign.
Producers are Katis and Andrew de Lotbiniere. Executive producers are Alexa Jago (Waterworld) and Alec Mackenzie.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Ever wonder why nobody wants to make your movie?

Because they’re making these instead.  Can yours compete?

If it’s a genre movie – thriller, action, comedy – does it have a one-sentence pitch that makes you desperate to see it?  If it’s a drama, does it have a big enough director or cast to allay financier / audience concerns about subject matter?  Or is it based on a true story, which seems to do the same thing?  Or do you keep the budget super-low and hope to creep up on the outside while no-one’s looking?

Thanks to www.deadline.com for this very long / useful / intimidating / inspiring list of hot titles currently selling at Cannes.

NIGHTCRAWLER – Director and writer: Dan Gilroy. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed. A young man stumbles upon the underground world of LA freelance crime journalism. Sales: CAA/WME / Sierra Affinity. There is high wanna see on this one, but we hear the sellers might wait for fall festivals.

SEA OF TREES – Director: Gus Van Sant, Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Noami Watts. A suicidal American befriends a Japanese man lost in a forest near Mt. Fuji and the two search for a way out. CAA, WME Global and Bloom’s Alex Walton are selling this.

DARK PLACES – Director and writer: Gilles Paquet-Brenner. Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Chlöe Grace Moretz, Christina Hendricks. The sole survivor of a violent home invasion, Libby Day lives with the knowledge that her testimony as a 7-year-old sentenced her brother to life in prison for the horrific crime. Twenty-five years later, crime enthusiasts convince her to re-examine the events. Based on the Gillian Flynn novel, Exclusive and WME are selling with some footage.

QUEEN OF THE DESERT – Director and writer: Werner Herzog, Cast: James Franco, Robert Pattinson, Nicole Kidman, Damian Lewis. Kidman plays Gertrude Bell, the Lawrence of Arabia of female diplomats and political attaché for the British Empire at the dawn of the 20th century. Sales: Sierra/Affinity, CAA, Cassian Elwes.

THE WATER DIVINER – Director: Russell Crowe. Cast: Crowe, Olga Kurylenko. An Australian man travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate his three missing sons. Sales: WME/Mister Smith. Crowe hosted a presentation last night at the Majestic.

ASHBY – Director: Tony McNamara. Cast: Mickey Rourke, Nat Wolff, Emma Roberts, Sarah Silverman. Focuses on the relationship between a high school student (Wolff) and a retired CIA assassin (Rourke) who only has months to live. CAA and UTA rep North America.

KIDNAP – Director: Luis Prieto. Cast: Halle Berry. A mother tries to stop the kidnapping of her child in a thriller that plays out in real time. Sales: CAA.

THE SEARCH – Director: Michel Hazanavicius, Cast: Berenice Bejo, Annette Bening. Chechnya-set adaptation of 1948 Oscar winner The Search, which follows an NGO worker who bonds with a small boy who’s been separated from his mother in the war-torn nation. Sales: CAA / Wild Bunch. Film is playing in competition here.

EQUALS – Director: Drake Doremus. Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Kristen Stewart. Emotion is forbidden in the near future, but two young people begin to fall in love and attempt to escape. Sales: UTA / Mr. Smith

ROOM – Director: Lenny Abrahamson. Cast: Brie Larson. A young mother shelters her 5-year-old son from the truth that the tiny shed they inhabit is in fact the site of their incarceration after she was kidnapped years ago as a teenager. Sales: UTA / FilmNation

UNTITLED LANCE ARMSTRONG CYCLING SCANDAL PROJECT – Director: Stephen Frears. Cast: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Guillaume Canet. Three studios struggled to make a movie about the rise and fall of cyclist Lance Armstrong, and this one crossed the finish line first. Sales: Studiocanal

THE COBBLER – Director and Writer: Thomas McCarthy, Cast: Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Melonie Diaz, Ellen Barkin. Fourth generation shoemaker finds a magical sewing machine in his father’s basement that enables him to experience life as other people when he wears their shoes. Sales: WME / Voltage. Pic eyeing a berth at Toronto, so deals might wait until then, though it screened earlier this week.

99 HOMES – Director and Co-Writer: Ramin Bahrani. Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon. A father struggles to get back the home that his family was evicted from by working for the greedy real estate broker who’s the source of his frustration. Sales: CAA / Hyde Park

A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS – Director and Writer: Natalie Portman. Drama based on Amos Oz’s memoir about his mother Fania, who struggles with postwar realities while raising her son in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate for Palestine and the early years of the State of Israel. Dealing with a married life of unfulfilled promises and integration in a foreign land, Fania battles depression and can only escape in a world of daydreams. Portman also stars, and who wouldn’t be interested in what this bright young actress has to say as a director. Sales: Voltage and CAA.

A STORM IN THE STARS – Director: Haifaa Almansour. The circumstances that led Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein. UTA selling.

I AM LOVE – Director: Luca Guadagnino. Cast: Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Shoenaerts and Margot Robbie. Its a sexy thriller a la Ripley, set on an exclusive island in Italy off the coast of Sicily called Pantelleria. Shoots soon and Studio Canal is financing it and shopping territories now.

SUFFRAGETTE – Director: Sarah Gavron. Cast: Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Ann-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson. Focus is UK suffragette movement in 1912 England, culminating in the notorious Derby Day when Emily Davison died after leaping out in front of the King’s horse. Sales: Pathe. First screening was yesterday.

KNOCK KNOCK – Director and Writer: Eli Roth. Cast: Keanu Reeves, Ana de Armas, Lorenza Izzo. Two femme fatales seduce and then wreak havoc on the life of a happily married man left homebound on a weekend. Sales: Voltage, CAA. Screened earlier this week, and is definitely in play here.

A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING – Director and Writer: Tom Tykwer. Cast: Tom Hanks, Tom Skerritt. In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter’s college tuition, and finally do something great. Sales: CAA / Lotus

HANDS OF STONE – Director and Writer: Jonathan Jakubowicz. Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Robert De Niro, Usher Raymond, Ana De Armas. Story of Roberto Duran, the welterweight champ thought unbeatable until he shocked the boxing world by quitting in a rematch against Sugar Ray Leonard. Sales: CAA / Lotus.

GOOD KILL – Director and Writer: Andrew Niccol. Cast: Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoe Kravitz. A fighter pilot-turned-drone pilot, based in Las Vegas, fights the Taliban by remote control for 12 hours a day, then goes home to the suburbs and feuds with his wife and kids for the other 12. But the pilot is starting to question the mission. Is he creating more terrorists than he’s killing? Sales: CAA / Voltage. Screened earlier this week.

THE END OF THE TOUR – Director: James Ponsoldt. Cast: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Joan Cusack. A magazine reporter recounts his travels and conversations with author David Foster Wallace during a promotional book tour. Sales: UTA / WME / CAA / Fortitude International

JOHN WICK – Director: David Leitch, Chad Stahelski. Cast: Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe, Adrienne Palicki. Former assassin goes after the men responsible for his stolen car and dead dog. Sales: CAA / Lionsgate International. They are showing about 20 minutes of footage here.

KNIGHT OF CUPS – Director and Writer: Terrence Malick. Cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Joel Kinnaman, Imogen Poots, Natalie Portman. The story of a man, temptations, celebrity and excess. Sales: FilmNation / CAA. Malick has been hit and miss lately, but it’s Malick, right?

LOVE & MERCY – Director: Bill Pohlad. Cast: Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti, John Cusack. A look at the life of troubled musical genius Brian Wilson, the heart and soul of The Beach Boys. CAA / Lionsgate International. This one will probably sell after the festival, when the film will be shown to buyers.

LIFE – Director: Anton Corbijn. Cast: Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton. A photographer for Life Magazine is assigned to shoot pictures of James Dean. Sales: CAA / WME / FilmNation. Based on 15 minutes of footage, this one’s in play and is gonna sell.

PAWN SACRIFICE – Director: Ed Zwick. Cast: Tobey Maguire, Live Schreiber, Lily Rabe, Peter Sarsgaard. Enigmatic American chess champion Bobby Fischer prepares for a legendary match against Russian Boris Spassky. Sales: CAA/WME Global / Lionsgate International. Expected to play at Toronto, and might not be sold till then.

SLOW WEST – Director: John Maclean. Cast: Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn, Kodi Smit-McPhee. A love-struck teenager from an aristocratic Scottish family journeys to the American wilderness in 1870 to find his heart’s desire, a farmer’s daughter on the run from the law with a large bounty on her head. Sales: Hanway

MISSISSIPPI GRIND – Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller. Gambler in debt sets off on a road trip through the Southern U.S. with a young gambling addict in an attempt to change his luck. Sales: WME / Panorama

Z FOR ZACHARIAH – Director: Craig Zobel. Cast: Chris Pine, Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor. After surviving a nuclear war in a small American town, a 16 year old encounters two other survivors. Sales: CAA / WME.

JIMI – Director: Ol Parker. Cast: Anthony Mackie, Thandie Newton, possibly Noomi Rapace. Mackie plays Hendrix in the last nine days of the guitar great’s life. Sales: UTA

TRUMBO – Director: Jay Roach. Cast: Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren. Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo sees a great career end when he’s blacklisted in the 1940s for being a Communist. Sales: eOne

A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND – Director: Bill Condon. Cast: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney. An aged, retired Sherlock Holmes looks back on his life, and grapples with an unsolved case involving a beautiful woman. Sales: FilmNation, WME Global

MONEY MONSTER – Director: Jodie Foster. Cast: George Clooney. Lee Gates is a television personality whose insider-trading tips make him the guru of Wall Street. That is, until he’s held hostage on air by a man who has lost all of his family’s money because of a bad tip. Ratings soar as the entire country tunes in to find out just how much a man’s life is worth. Sales: CAA and UTA

IN HER EYES – Director: Billy Ray. Cast: Chewitel Ejifor, Gwyneth Paltrow. Remake of the Oscar-winning Argentinian thriller The Secret In Their Eyes. Sales: CAA / IM Global

ALONE IN BERLIN – Director: Vincent Perez. Cast: Emma Thompson, Daniel Bruhl, Mark Rylance. True story of a German couple whose son was killed at the front in WWII. They began a quiet rebellion by dropping anonymous postcards in mailboxes around Berlin that decried the actions of Adolf Hitler. Sales: Sunray Films

LARRY’S KIDNEY – Director: Richard Linklater. Cast: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis. True story of how Daniel Asa Rose found himself in China with his black-sheep cousin and his mail-order bride, skirting the law to get him a transplant … and save his life. Sales: CAA/WME Global.

THE LAST FACE – Director: Sean Penn. Cast: Javier Bardem, Charlize Theron, Adele Exarchopoulos. A talented and charismatic doctor is forced to choose between his love for an American relief worker or his dedication to saving lives in war-torn African nations. Sales: CAA. Movie to shoot this summer.

ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING – Director: Terry Jones. Cast: Simon Pegg, Gemma Arterton, John Cleese, Michael Palin. Chaos ensues when hapless teacher Neil Clarke is given God-like power for 10 days. Little does he know that the planet is being tested by a council of supremely odd ‘world destroying’ aliens and his actions will determine the fate of Earth. Sales: GFM

THE DIG – Director: Susanne Bier. Cast: Cate Blanchett. Set in a riverside village in Suffolk on the eve of WWII, a widowed farmer has her hunch proved correct that the strange mounds on her land hold buried treasure.

AUTOBAHN – Director: Eran Creevy. Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley. An American backpacker becomes a pick-up driver for a pan-European drug cartel. Involved in a rival gang’s scam that goes wrong, he is forced to flee at breakneck speed down Germany’s high-speed freeways while preventing his girlfriend from being taken hostage. Sales: CAA / IM Global.

BEASTS OF NO NATION – Director: Cary Fukunaga. Cast: Idris Elba. A young child in an unnamed African country learns to become a soldier under the tutelage of a Commandant. Sales: WME / IM Global. Fukunaga coming off True Detective, Elba Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom. The film is expected to play Toronto or possibly Sundance, and deal might not happen until then.

 

 

Tom Williams

+44 7712 010 591

www.tajwilliams.com

 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Bad Neighbours

Three things to say about this.

One, the title change, from Neighbors (US) to Bad Neighbours (UK).  I approve of the spelling correction, and presumably the addition of ‘Bad’ was intended both to raunch it up and to distinguish it from everyone’s favourite antipodean soap?

Two, I haven’t seen it, but the pitch is so delicious – frat house moves in next to young parents bemoaning their lost youth – that it would seem hard to foul it up.

Three, I love this story (h/t Charles Gant at the brilliant Guardian UK box office blog):

“The success of Bad Neighbours may prompt reflection at its backers, going by comments made by Seth Rogen to Variety at the SXSW festival. After Universal bought the pitch in 2011 and Nick Stoller signed on to direct, the film's progress through the executive ranks was slower than anticipated. "It seemed like we were going to enter development hell," said Rogen. "We went into a phone call that we thought was going to be our green light, and we got a bunch of notes. We went back to the studio and said, 'What is the amount of money we can make this for where we stop having these conversations?'" The budget was then chopped in half to $18m. If a film succeeds wildly beyond expectations as a result of studio executives being sidelined in the creative process, it's certainly one for them to ponder.”

 

Tom Williams

+44 7712 010 591

www.tajwilliams.com

 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Update 4 - Quality not Quantity

Final topic.  Again, not a topic.  More a manifesto for 2014.  A bit like this manifesto, which I happened upon a couple of days ago and enjoyed.  But a personal one.

This year, I will follow the quality of a project and the people involved in it.  I will reject projects and people I find lacking in quality.

I said earlier, it has been four years since Chalet Girl was filmed, three since it came out.  That project, and those people, remain my professional high point.  I am still working with the director and both the producers on various projects, and our creative sympathies and synergies remain as strong as ever.

So why have I not been able to replicate that model across other creative teams?  I have worked on half a dozen major projects since Chalet Girl came out but none of them has yet fused together creatively in the way Chalet Girl did.  In some cases, I followed a pay cheque.  In other cases I thought I was entering into one kind of relationship, but it turned into another (like this old lady).  Others, to be fair, are still in play, but nothing is approaching production at what you might call warp speed.

Case for the defence.  There is nothing wrong with taking what work comes along.  Nothing wrong with being a jobbing writer.  No shame at all in earning a living at this game, even if you’re not running at maximum creative capacity, or the road is a little bumpy, or, potentially, heading nowhere.

But still, time is dragging on and my ambition remains undimmed.

So how to get there?  I now believe it is by eschewing the so-so projects, by thinking hard before taking a job just for the money, and by running a million miles from people who talk shit.  Life is way too short for any of that.  Instead, I will actively pursue those people and projects I want in my creative life.

Cases in point:

Through the Writing Assignment Tracker project I worked closely with a producer whom I have come to admire greatly, and whose script sense I value highly.  I look forward to working with her on another project.  This is high on my pile.  Why take a dozen general meetings with people you don’t know, in the hopes of finding a creative bullseye, when you have people out there with whom you know you work well?  They are precious commodities, make sure you are mining them judiciously yet vigorously!

Recently, I have worked with an experienced director on a rewrite.  I think we got each other, I think he liked my work and I think his coat-tails have space for me on them.  I have him in my sights for more projects, once this one runs its course (hopefully all the way into production).

There is a script editor who loved Kajaki, and who has got me countless meetings with producers off the back of that.  I need to stick with him, cheek by jowl.  And possibly buy him a bottle of wine.

Through my recent Adventures in TV I have developed a good relationship with the head of development at a well-established TV indie.  I feel I can now pitch her TV ideas as they come through.  One of them may hit.

And I am compiling a list that I will shortly send to my agent of producers and directors, and in some cases writers, whom I want to meet and work with.  They will all be set a grade or two above where I’m at.  The challenge will be to convince them that I can be more useful to them than they can be to me.  Richard Curtis doesn’t know it yet, but he does in fact need me in his life.

And in the past, if I have seen an announcement in Screen that so-and-so has optioned a book or true story that I like, or that the BBC is launching a series of remakes of classic novels (like they did recently), I have emailed them, or my agent, with a polite ‘do you think I could possibly get on the list?’ query.  Now I’ll go after those jobs harder, and if necessary less politely.  I should be doing this stuff.

All of this might involve doing some more work on spec, so I will need to balance this with income from other sources.  Might be back to the two weeks / months on, two weeks / months off model. 

But I trust that this is the way ahead.  I want twenty-year relationships with these people.  I want to go all the way with them.  Quantity shortens the odds, but not by much.  Quality is the only sure fire way to emerge from the pack.

Topic ends.

Update 3 - It's easy when it's good

Next topic.  Barely even a topic in fact, more a statement.  It’s easier to write when you know what you’re writing is good.

World’s most obvious sentence?  Possibly, but it feels pertinent.  Over the last few years I’ve worked on a couple of projects that have been quite hard work.  Round peg, square hole kind of jobs.  Books that don’t naturally lend themselves to film adaptation – at least, not without wholesale reinterpretation.  Rewrites with conflicting notes flying in from all directions.  One-line pitches that don’t quite extend to a hundred pages.

You do the work, you go through the process, you put something together that looks and feels like a screenplay, and in some cases that’s enough, people appreciate the endeavour and follow the journey.  But in other cases, however hard you try to hide them, the difficulties you had in the writing are communicated in the read.

I’d even put Chalet Girl in this group.  It was a fun idea and there was a clear and strong central journey for our protagonist.  But it always felt we were straining a touch to inject drama, or indeed comedy, into the material, rather than the material naturally offering it up to us.  I’m very proud of the film, and it delivers, and the director and producers and actors all did an amazing job and made my writing look and sound as good as it was ever going to look and sound, but in hindsight I do think some of that tough-slog process comes over in the finished product.

Compare this with some other projects I’ve worked on in the past few years.  Like Kajaki, or like this rewrite I’ve just done, or like the ten page treatment I wrote for Base, or like some of the delicious new proposal pdfs I’ve been sending out over the past few months.

When you know – you just know – that what you’re writing is good.  It fits, it flows, it feels right.

Kajaki was the accumulation of a couple of years of research, of talking with the guys who were there.  My job was to tell their incredible story, get out of the way, try not to fuck it up.

This rewrite, a fresh reimagining of a classic novel for a modern audience, just hit a wave – a combination of tone of voice, lean structure, a couple of stylistic tricks – and I rode it all the way to page 106.

I literally punched the air after I finished writing the Base treatment (with a co-writer).  It felt literally perfect, in form and tone and character, down to a killer ending that twisted it all upside down but in a way that made sense to the world and protagonist we had created.

Even this three-page proposal I sent out two days ago.  I’m just so excited about it.  I can’t stop re-reading it, just to check that it’s as good as I think it is.

I bet Richard Curtis thought the same when he finished Notting Hill.  Or Andrew Niccol when he finished The Truman Show.  Or Wilder and Diamond when they finished The Apartment.  Those scripts just fit, they flowed, they felt right.

Wow.  MASSIVE arrogance, hubris, presumption in the above statements.  Of course I don’t count myself as being in the same class as any of these writers.  And there is every chance that none of the final films of the scripts / treatment I mentioned will be any good. 

But I feel – I know – that I did a good job on my end of things.  And it has taken me thirteen or more years of professional writing to be able to say that, and to be able to tell the difference.

And the lesson in all this is it’s probably better to wait for the right idea to come along – or, to put it another way, to spend more time looking for, sniffing out, digging up the right idea – than it is to jump into a half-cooked idea, one that doesn’t easily fit / flow / feel, and crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. 

Inevitably, sometimes you might only realise that you’re on the right / wrong track half way through the process.  I guess the trick there is to refine your evaluation skills so that this point comes earlier and earlier as your career goes on, so you waste less and less time.

Topic ends.

Update 2 - When to begin?

Right, quick ‘topic’ posts.  First, when should you actually commit to starting work on a project?  Case study.  At the moment I’m ‘in conversations’ with a producer I rate on a project I love.  It all looks great but there is no deal on the table just yet.  I have had some time this week to give to it, so I have started the research journey – reading books, reading scripts, watching movies, making character notes, scene beats etc.  It will give me a head start when the deal is done.

But is this smart?  Or is it naïve, presumptuous, and potentially a massive waste of time?  What if the deal doesn’t get agreed?  Or if the producer ‘goes quiet’ or ‘gets swamped on another project’, as some producers (not this one, to my knowledge) are known to do.  Then have I just wasted a week on a job that is never going to materialise?

A question for any writer reading this blog – please post in comments.  Do you always wait until you have signed a contract before you start working – not writing, working – on a project?  Or do you maybe wait until you / your agent have agreed terms?  Or are you happy to get going on a handshake and a verbal agreement, even with no figures on the table?  I usually find myself in the latter camp.  Perhaps I’m a mug, or still at the ‘pleeeeease give me work’ end of the spectrum, but it seems to be the way it goes.

Chalet Girl went into pre-production before it was fully financed.  It was shooting before finance actually closed.  They had to jump the gun if anything was going to happen.  The same situation appears to be looming for Kajaki.  Raise the money to shoot it, shoot it, then raise the money for post and distribution off the back of the rushes.  It’s not text-book, it might even be called dangerous.  But if it’s the only way of keeping on the front foot, then it may be the only play you have left.

It all ties in with this maddening aspect of a writer’s / producer’s / self-employed person’s life: managing your month.  Right now, I’m available.  I have May free to jump into this new project, I could have it done by the end of the month.  But if I wait two weeks while ‘conversations’ are had, then something else might have come up in the meantime.  An old project resurfacing, maybe one on which I still have contracted passes left to do, so I can’t fob off.  Or a corporate gig that will give me breathing space for another few months.  What then?

And what have I done in the meantime?  I have my overheads, my burn rate, my monthly nut.  Suddenly I’m having to revise my cash-flow projections, dig into my rainy day pot.  That can’t go on forever.

And what am I working on in the meantime?  I make sure I always have a couple of long-term ideas / research projects that I can pick up and put down if a week suddenly opens up in front of me.  And I’m careful not to show my palm to too many short-term revenue generating gigs, like corporate work or teaching or journalism.  The money is always welcome, and you can usually find a way of squeezing them in, but if you say no too many times they will stop asking.

So it’s a tricky one.  When do you begin a project?  And what do you do while you’re waiting to begin?

Topic ends.