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I should be writing.

Since going back to university in September, that statement has been stuck in the back of my mind and, two months later, I’ve still found myself unable to write a great comedy script for my masters project. Sure, I have rough notes for half a script, some half baked jokes about politics, a few decent ideas and a pile of writing guides gathering dust beside my bed. I’ve also been blessed with a sick, cynical and often fatalistic sense of humour. I kind of thought that would be enough. But the more I stare at the lame jokes I’m trying to make on a screen, the more painfully aware I am that I’m not exactly reaching, what I like to call, ‘peak funny.’

It’s a fickle thing. I’ll have an idea, mostly based on the Great Orange Dictator across the pond and his shenanigans, and it’ll be hilarious in my head, but as soon as I write the gag, it loses it. And it’s disheartening. And it’s making me not want to write right now. It’s actually making me fear writing and fear putting my work into the world. That’s just my theory about why I’ve found myself not being able to write. It could be any number of things from being unhappy with where my life’s been heading for a while, my general lack of concentration, all my irrational worries. Maybe I’ve lost my funny?

Now that’s a terrifying thought to get my head around.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The handful of you who actually know me will be aware of how much I’ve hated the last six months from messed up shoulders to not doing anything with my degree(s) or not earning enough. Well, I’m fairly confident that that’s changed recently. Completely out of the blue, I managed get myself a grad job… that doesn’t involve (much) writing. Instead, it involves a fair amount of videography, which is equal parts exciting and giving me the fear at the same time. But I’m just stupidly thankful that I haven’t spent five years at university to not be able to work in the arts.

I haven’t even started my new job, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve experienced the biggest shift in outlook than at any other time in my life. I’ve never been an optimistic person, ever, and at this point, it’s all feeling kind of foreign that I have nothing to whine about. Suddenly I am feeling far more creative and suddenly I’m feeling it necessary to broaden the collection of work I engage with and draw influence from.

I usually round off these posts with exactly that, so I’m just going to quickly give you a run-down of what I’m listening to or watching and how those are impacting how I’m viewing my creative practice at the moment. There are a few of the usual suspects in there but what’s really grabbing me about this list is that there are just as many musical aspects in there as there are cinematic or televisual; I don’t know why that is, but I’m sure I’ll find the answers soon.

  • Biffy Clyro: So my masters project is set in Scotland. I don’t know why I chose to do that, if I’m completely honest, because all my life, I’ve had this kind of resentment towards being Scottish (I know, I’m sorry), and I’ve always had a really blinkered view of what the Scottish arts scene looks like. Some people call it the ‘Scottish Cringe’. I can’t really explain it, but when I listen to this band’s back catalogue, I begin to feel that whole notion dissipate, giving way to a huge swell of pride that a band from my wee country could write music that is equally as poetic as it is brash and abrasive. That, and I’ve been listening to them on the bus to work a lot recently.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: Possibly the finest addition to the MCU and the movie our favourite Asgardian deserved. There are so many things I could say about this film, but I’ll keep it short. I loved the way this film struck the balance between being outrageously funny (thanks, in large to director, Taika Waititi’s portrayal of Korg, along with his sidekick Meik) and having a villain in Cate Blanchett’s Hela that the audience believed could end the film’s protagonist. I also feel that Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and the space-age score from Mark Mothersbaugh deserve honourable mentions, both of which just gave me chills.
  • All These Countless Nights: Reworked – Deaf Havana: I’ve blogged enough about the original version of this album for you all to know just how much of a special place it has in my heart, but I have to say that these guys have outdone themselves with this understated, classy offering. Skip to ‘Like A Ghost‘, ‘St. Paul’s‘, ‘L.O.V.E‘ and ‘Pensacola, 2013.’
  • Stranger Things: Normally I like to steer clear of anything with such an obvious amount of hype until it’s died down a bit, but the lure of an 80’s sci-fi period drama completely sucked me in. Everything from the gripping writing to the true-to-time score had me completely hooked. The Duffer Brothers completely nailed the nuances of the era and I’ve found myself itching for season three.
  • Forget Me Not – Brian Fallon: It’s been a while since I’ve listened to Fallon or Gaslight, but this track captivated me from the get-go, after being released at the end of a particularly crap week for me. That bouncy, 60’s-esque vibe instantly smacked a smile across my face, lending heavily from my favourite track from Fallon’s first foray into solo albums, ‘Mojo Hand‘. If this is any indication of what Fallon’s sophomore offering will sound like, I reckon I’m going to be one happy girl.

That’s it, folks. Time for me to lop all my hair off on Friday and get on with my real, proper big girl job. IT’S A NEW ME!


Modern Masters Formula

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since my last update. I had the intention of using this blog over the summer months to spew all my thoughts about film and television into one convenient internet baggie. It didn’t happen. Life gets in the way. This blog works best when I use it to store all my musings about academia.  It’s rare for this blog to receive an update so early in the semester (we’re, what, three days in now?) but I have the fear, so this is me trying to kid myself that I’m making meaningful in-roads into actually doing my masters project. I have three pages of a script, FYI.

I was so wrong, by the way. So very, very wrong.

Coming from a journalism background, and falling down so many social sciences rabbit holes in every research project I’ve had a hand in, it was instinctive to take a similar approach to my masters project. Carrying out a study into audience reactions towards shows of a political nature by way of creating my own web series of a similar nature was my initial idea. The practice was going to yield findings. I was comfortable with that. But it’s not what’s required of me in this case and now I’m struggling with the idea that this is more a journey of self discovery into my own creative practices than a study of how people react, behave and perceive what I do. I’ve mentioned this before, but ‘practice as research’ is an incredibly difficult thing to wrap your head around, especially when you’re used to looking at what makes other people tick. It’s also disheartening that all these objectives I had been milling over are now moot and I need to go back to the drawing board at this late stage.

I think my main stumbling block is my confidence, or lack thereof, in my own practice, since a large swathe of my success in this MA hinges on technical ability. I’ve been writing pretty much since I fell out the womb and, with a journalism degree, I should be all right at stringing sentences together. But I’ve only been dabbling in screenwriting for less than a year. Nonetheless, I know that that is where my comfort zone is. I know that, as a creative, I am a writer. A screenwriter, hopefully. But the thing is, I need to be able to produce something that is of the standard that it could be positively received by industry as well as academia. If I’m being frank, I’m not sure I’m at that level yet.

There’s also this idea in my mind that by even attempting a vein of research such as PAR, I’m shooting myself in the foot. I don’t see my future research interests being in that area and I feel like dedicating all this time to PAR is going to kill my chances of being taken seriously when it comes to attempting to get my PhD off the ground, where I’d be looking to revert back to research methods I’m more comfortable with. Is what I’m doing now going to be credible when I do that? Not only that, but what if this masters project doesn’t open up any doors for me as a screenwriter? Am I royally fucking myself over both professionally and academically?

Nevertheless, I have spent a chunk of my summer attempting to engage with the practice I’m developing. Not only am I still milling over Douglas’ invaluable guide to creating a series geared towards what the industry needs right now, I’m immersing myself in Yorke’s enthralling explanation of why we tell stories in his book ‘Into The Woods‘. I won’t say too much at the moment about the book because I do plan to write a review of it when I eventually reach its end. However, I will say that it has changed my perspective on the practice of screenwriting and, indeed, telling stories and consuming media. I have the tendency to overthink everything and, gasp, refer back to Vogler like it was the bible. Yorke presents a compelling argument for me to try new things in my writing, particularly disregarding structure (if it’s a story worth telling, then surely structure is intrinsic in its narrative?) and, in contrast, dabbling with five acts instead of three. So the next steps for me in writing my episode scripts for ‘The West End Cultists‘ is to perhaps consciously employ these aspects throughout my drafts and to compare the differences and similarities in terms of how the story flows.

Breaking away from theory, I’m glad I had the foresight in my proposal to mention shows I would like to return to and look at for inspiration. I had earmarked ‘Community,’ ‘Parks and Recreation,’ ‘The West Wing,’ and ‘The Newsroom.‘ Now, staring down the barrel of an average of five seasons, I’m not sure how feasible it is to be able to watch each of these in their entirety, but I’m going to give it a shot. I will probably fail miserably. But I feel like the first two should bear insights into the sitcom format (with the addition ‘Parks and Rec.’ bearing insight into the ‘mockumentary’ style that I’m aiming for), while the latter two deal more with thematics of the show. But I also want to pinpoint another show.

I was so miffed when I found out that season seven of American Horror Story was going to deal with political cults (I’m certain I had the idea first), but, after viewing the first episode, I firmly believe that this season might just offer me some inspiration and a point of comparison. I’m looking forward to seeing where Ryan Murphy takes it, especially since it draws from the election of Donald Trump and the impact that seems to be having on American society, albeit in a more dramatic form.

For me, it’s a no-brainer to follow news and current affairs. It was expected of me during my journalism degree and it’s stuck, allowing for me to take snippets of it and apply it to ‘The West End Cultists.’ I’m hoping that, now I’m rethinking my research objectives, this might be something I can address, linking my everyday life with the notion of a more grounded approach to storytelling and my own creative practice. I never stop being a writer, even if I’m not physically writing, because I’m constantly gathering experience and information to pour into my scripts. Who knows? There might be some academic jargon to solidify my view. I might get lucky with this one.

In fact, even writing blog posts, such as this, have become something that I take for granted so much that I’m doubtful of their value in my journey towards completing this body of research. Maybe it’s because it’s always been an expectation of every academic piece of work I’ve ever turned in, to have something there, documenting, contextualising, that I see it more as a requirement, or a chore, than something that could yield any groundbreaking insight into my own creative process.

That doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to writing down every creative meta-musing I have over the next few months. I love a good journal entry. I love illegible notes in so many notebooks that I need to dig through the pile for hours to find them again. But I am apprehensive. Less about the academic approach and more about the practice. From getting into the right frame of mind to write a compelling and interesting script after putting in a shift at work where I’ve used minimal brain power, I’m covered in burger grease and I just want to cry, to overcoming my fear of actually filming things (my short films suck, I’m a words and pictures kind of girl, that’s my thing). More than that, though, I’m apprehensive of how I’m going to combine practice and research, since, up until very recently, the two always existed as separate entities in my studies. It’s going to be an interesting few months.

To quote Mason Verger from ‘Hannibal‘, “I am enchanted, and terrified.”


Cry laughing and… Clay

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘laugh until you cry‘ but a couple of nights ago, I watched a show that made me cry-laugh. No really. Ugly crying and laughing my ass off (I have a lot off ass, go figure).

It feels like I’ve been bleating on about my excitement for I’m Dying Up Here for months now and, after watching the show’s premiere, the hype was well deserved. With Jim Carrey serving as executive producer and a cast that boasts names such as Melissa Leo, Clark Duke and Ari Graynor, this new series from Showtime has all the ingredients of a hit. Throw in Sebastian Stan in the pilot episode, and, surprise surprise, I was utterly sold.

Set in 1970’s Los Angeles, I’m Dying Up Here, focuses on Goldie’s: a comedy club famed for priming the finest comedians for superstardom under the guidance of Goldie herself (played by Melissa Leo). The gang are a close knit bunch, so much so that when one of their own, the tragically dashing Clay Appuzzo (Sebastian Stan), makes it on to the Tonight Show, they find themselves huddled around the television together, anticipating the moment of truth: will he impress so much that he gets the couch? Of course he does.

But mere hours later, he walks out in front of an oncoming bus (sorry Stan clan, his role on this show is short lived… no pun intended), feeling like he’s reached his peak with nowhere left for him to climb.

It’s Clay’s story that seems to serve as the show’s catalyst, propelling viewers into the plight of these stars in the making. Stan enjoys very little screen time, however, what we do see of him is satisfying enough; he is, after all, seasoned in playing these tortured souls throughout his career and he brought just that to Clay. Stan conveys Clay’s pain in such a subtle yet convincing way that you just can’t help but lap it up. Not only that, but some of the writing of Clay really resonated with me on a personal level, particularly that line about being far more honest around strangers than loved ones. It’s something I endlessly wrestle with in life. Not to mention the feeling of dread I have about actually realising my own potential in my career, which I saw in Clay’s character.

But I have to admit, it was Clay’s ex, Cassie (Ari Graynor) that wowed me the most. Over the course of the episode, we see Cassie struggle against Goldie’s judgment that she isn’t ready to perform on the main stage and it’s her grief at losing (and being haunted, in a sense, by) Clay that forces her to evolve. I became so invested in her plight, that I was on the edge of the seat towards the show’s climax, when she finds herself on the main stage, faltering (David Flebotte and your glorious writing team, I salute you big time). But the kicker comes when she reminisces about her ex in the most lewd yet heartbreaking fashion. This was it. This was when I cry-laughed.

I cannot wait to see more of this show and you can bet your ass I’ll be blogging about it as the season progresses.

I’m Dying Up Here premieres on Showtime on June 4. You do not want to miss this!

In Defence Of Miss Sloane

It flopped in spectacular fashion at the US Box Office, making a measly $5m against a $13m budget and it’s a damn shame.

Miss Sloane follows lobbyist, Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) as she attempts to sway political figures into voting for increased gun-control in the United States. However, Sloane becomes embroiled in multiple scandals, from corruption to soliciting and ends up facing trial for some of her more dubious behaviours during her stellar career.

Every so often, a new tragedy brings the gun-control debate back to the table on the American political landscape and yet, change is seldom granted. Miss Sloane offers not only an insight into the process of steamrolling change into the political landscape, but a sense of satisfaction in what ‘could be’ for supporters of increased gun control. During an interview with The New York Times, the film’s director, John Madden, in this sense, explains that this the film an element of fantasy due to American politics being so far away from such a seismic shift taking place.

But the timeliness and divisiveness of the film’s subject matter is only one ingredient in the film’s magnetic draw. This highly stylised political thriller boasts a respectable supporting cast, sleek wardrobe and a gripping yet informative screenplay.

The thing that stole the show, however, was Chastain’s razor sharp portrayal of the insomniac, benzodiazepine addicted, tactical genius; the film’s titular character. Chastain nails the stoic and slightly smug nature of Elizabeth Sloane effortlessly, quickly flitting from quick rebuttals to spectacularly coming undone in private. The duality of Sloane makes for a character with so much depth and complexity that you yourself won’t be able to help but be utterly torn between loathing her and rooting for her wholeheartedly towards the film’s stunning climax.

The film had everything going for it. Where did it all go wrong?


It seems like everyone’s been talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest offering – ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2,’ and I’m no different. The film’s been lauded with praise for weeks now, with some even going so far as to say it’s Marvel’s greatest offering yet. But is the praise deserved? Well that’s exactly what I’m going to be addressing in today’s post. I can’t promise it’ll be spoiler free, but I can promise you it’s honest.

On Thursday evening, my friends and I settled down in our seats at our local multiplex to enjoy a double bill of everyone’s favourite intergalactic supersquad. Needless to say, we were hyped. But I can’t help but feel like I kind of shot GOTG’s sequel in the foot by doing this, because honestly, it pales in comparison to the original.

Where the original offered razor-sharp wit and effortless gags, making it a tall order to live up to, volume 2 quite clearly showcases a script that’s been overworked and heaped with needless funnies to the point where it feels forced and tired.  The running gags at Rocket’s expense is a prime example of such. Not only that, but the friction between the film’s characters feels a little superfluous whereas it came much more naturally in the first GOTG where the group first came together.

Not only that, but the entire plot feels rather scattered with out guardians being split across the galaxy and terse subplots detracting from the screen time of much more deserving aspects of Drax and Mantis’ blossoming rapport or Peter Quill’s ‘daddy issues’, for want of a better term. It feels messy, overloaded, in fact, tying in aspects of Nebula and Gamora’s relationship, the bolstering of the Rocket / Yondu alliance, or hiding behind possibly the movie’s biggest marketing ploy, Baby Groot. There are too many threads and needlessly so. Perhaps the Nebula / Gamora dynamic will come into play during Infinity War when the Guardians come to face the pair’s father, Thanos. I can understand the amount of screen time dedicated to Yondu because it further’s Peter’s emotional arc of the film, without giving too much away, but I still feel like the whole thing could have been far more simplified.

However, the film does provide some exciting tidbits for the future, namely the allusion to Adam Warlock, who fans hope to see cropping up in the MCU fairly soon and an astonishing FIVE scenes during the film’s end credits, including more Groot. Personally, one of my biggest hopes for the Guardian’s franchise is that Marvel consider making web-shorts with this particular character, especially after the mid-credits scene this movie serves up. And, given the interest in the character that my friends and I display often enough, I’m willing to hazard a guess that I’m not the only person who feels this way about our tree pal.

Possibly the greatest saving grace of the film is the soundtrack, as one would have expected. Offering cuts from ELO to Fleetwood Mac, George Harrison to Cat Stevens, ‘Awesome Mix: Volume 2’ gives its previous incarnation a run for its money and serves one big emotional punch when it comes to the film’s harrowing climax.

All in all, this instalment leaves a lot to be desired in comparison to the likes of Doctor Strange and Captain America: Civil War. I feel like the pressure to make a funnier, more jaw dropping sequel, has fallen short and leaves me wondering how the Russos, and writers Markus and McFeely, are going to approach dealing with these characters in Infinity War, where, I’m sure, there won’t be as much room for half-assed quips. Will the Guardians simply fall into the role of being the comic relief of the movie? Who knows.

Now, bring on Spidey in July and all-new Thor in November!

Sad Stories, Real Life and Meta Reflective Jargon…

Here it is, the last in this grand, self-indulgent saga of me explaining how my mind works when I try to write things that are (I hope) in some way, likeable to someone. I will admit, that on the eve of my final deadline before summer, I’m a little bit contemplative about what the future holds and whether, ultimately, embarking on an MA was the right decision, much in the same way as I did a year ago when I was wrapping up my journalism degree. But I’ll get on to why I’m feeling that way towards the end of this post.

In this edition, I’m going to be revisiting a project I’ve previously talked about – ‘Give My Ashes To The Coast‘ – and talking about the final product and how it’s evolved from the idea I posted way, way back in February. After that, I’m going to be addressing how writing about what I know has helped in my evolution as a writer. And finally, I’m going to be offering up some thoughts on blogging as a form of reflection on my creative practice in contrast to other methods. I hope I don’t bore you all to death in the process because I have a feeling this might be a rather lengthy entry.

So! First and foremost, I’m really stoked about ‘Give My Ashes To The Coast‘. It’s been a wonderful journey, writing this particular piece of work because, actually, it’s the first remotely sad thing I’ve ever written. Up until now, I’ve always written rather dark, macabre pieces of work that almost parody the idea of death and use humour to cover up the much more sinister undertones of my work. It’s kind of a reflection of how I am as a person; constantly using a smile, a laugh and sarcastic humour as a coping mechanism for my own problems because I’m far too much of a coward to tell anyone or to face them head on. Writing something that is so explicitly sad and having small parts of my own outlook on the world as the main driver for the project has been an unexpectedly therapeutic aspect of undertaking it. Not only that but that old writing adage – ‘write what you know‘ – has undoubtedly added to the emotional impact of the work as a whole.

But it isn’t just me and my own experiences. I had previously mentioned that the work is inspired by Deaf Havana’s latest album ‘All These Countless Nights‘ and the clear narrative that I was able to pick up from that particular work. When I embarked on the project, I felt like simply basing a screenplay on an album was an incredibly superficial way to go about creating something that I had already attached so much meaning to, and so thought it was necessary to go back and tease out some of the underlying issues behind the piece of work I wanted to create.

I had always been aware of the frank way in which musicians such as Deaf Havana had addressed the real life struggles musicians face; whether it be financially or mentally. In fact, the band address this in a recent interview where they talk about the amount of debt they managed to accrue while touring in support of their third album, ‘Old Souls‘ and the pressure that managed to put on the band. As someone who wrote extensively about the issue of musicians’ financial struggles, I was able to call upon one particular example from Music Producer, Count Eldridge’s documentary, ‘Unsound‘, where he offers the shocking statistic that only 1% of musicians can sustain themselves financially in the digital age. This is just one of the issues that my screenplay addresses in some way.

The second main issue my screenplay addresses is the emotional strain that musicians face. As I’ve previously mentioned, Deaf Havana themselves, along with musicians such as Frank Turner and even Bruce Springsteen touch on this in their work.

The idea for the main protagonist in my screenplay to actually experience the height of his own struggles after what looks to be his band’s final tour actually came from Bruce Springsteen’s recent autobiography, ‘Born To Run‘ where he talks about his own struggles with depression:

It also remains congruent with research that indicates that 68.5 percent of musicians believed they had experienced depression, while 71.1 percent believed they had experienced anxiety and panic attacks, compared to the 19 percent of people in the UK aged 16 or older who had said they had experienced anxiety or depression (Gross & Musgrave, 2016).

Ultimately, though, because I wanted to write something that doesn’t end well for my main protagonist, I wanted to kill him off at the end after he succumbs to his own demons. There’s even a nod to the infamous ’27 Club’ in there too. Everyone loves a rock star death, really, don’t they?

So going forward with these projects that I’ve been working on, I am planning on continuing with ‘Fangirls‘. It’s an excellent opportunity to develop my severely lacking filmmaking skills and to create more short episode scripts to showcase my understanding of how to actually carry through an entire story. Myself and my team are going to begin filming this over the summer and I’m hoping to have the first episode, ‘#SpiderSquad‘ online in July and continuing on a weekly basis after that for the other four episodes. As previously mentioned, the project aims to serve as a primer for my MA project, ‘The West End Cultists,’ in the sense that all the kinks with my film making and editing skills should be ironed out when the production of ‘Fangirls,‘ is complete, allowing me to create a better end product. With ‘Graves’ Girl‘, I feel like the project needs further work and development. It’s pitched as a short film right now, but it does have the potential to be extended to feature length. Some of the characters are gravely underdeveloped and certain minor aspects of the story can be teased out more. The main aspects where the project does shine is that it has served the purpose of personal development in the sense that I was able to collaborate with another writer on it and it’ll definitely go in my portfolio as is for the time being. Similarly, ‘Give My Ashes To The Coast‘, is going to be a mainstay in my portfolio. I feel like the quality of my writing on this project is by far the strongest and it tells a complete, satisfying project with the length that it’s at right now. It also satisfies the requirements of a long short by The Academy’s definition, so there is no need to extend the project over the course of the summer. Not that I’m planning on making a kick ass movie out of this and taking The Oscars by storm next year, as much as I’d like to. Last, but by no means least, I’ll be continuing ‘The Berlin Bug‘. It’s always good to have a back up and I’m a trained journalist, so a travel blog, complete with eye catching images, is a great way to update my existing journalism portfolio. This particular project has prompted me to go back to some of my old music photography and give it an editing update and to think of interesting articles to keep the project alive by delving into my own experience of traveling (that same experience that inspired ‘Fangirls‘).

I just want to round off this blog post by talking about the process of documenting my creative output on blogs. I was reading back through my posts over the course of  my MA, even dating back to the tail end of my journalism degree and I had found that I had, pretty much inadvertently, managed to maintain an interesting and insightful recollection of my creative process and the influences behind my projects. It also made me realise how my goals have changed, where I began to find my own ‘niche’ during my MA and the mindset I’ve been in all this time.

At first, when the notion of ‘documenting your practice’ was thrown at me at the beginning of my MA, I kind of balked at the idea. I didn’t see the merit of it, contrary to what a plethora of academics may have written about it. I mean, I just sit down and I write things. Or when I have to film, I grab a camera and I do it. I don’t attach any meaning to things like that while I do it and I’m not the type of person to sit and actually ponder that. But, for the purposes of getting through certain classes, I had to find a way to document my practice. Blogging was always going to be the thing I gravitated towards because I’ve unknowingly been documenting my practice all along! I hadn’t realised that until last night.

I feel like utilising blogs to actually contextualise and document my output has been such an easy, insightful and even enjoyable thing for me to do, in comparison to penning an entire essay at the last kick or having to actually talk about my work in front of actual people (it goes beyond introversion; public speaking is just a plain fear of mine). Perhaps it’s because I get to make use of a rich array of resources such as video content and external hyperlinks that I wouldn’t think to use in an essay. Or it may even be in the fact that I get to write in a more informal sense, safe in the knowledge that it actually might make sense (compared to verbally explaining things, which I just plain suck at). But honestly, it’s because I’m a writer. I have a style that doesn’t translate well into the crisp white expanse of a blank word document destined for Turnitin, and with blogs, I get to use that to my advantage.

In fact, I can pinpoint when I realised that no, I don’t want to make music documentaries (which was my main reason for applying for this particular course), I’m gonna make films instead. I know when I realised that I categorically sucked at making films and that my mum had been right along – I’m a damn good writer. And I’m fairly certain I’m going to look back on this post, a few months down the line, and remember exactly when I decided to blog about my experiences more, because it helps. So yes, documenting your practice is important.

Mic drop.

Collaboration, Music and the 1970’s

So today, I’m going to be rabbiting on about a screenplay I’ve been working on recently and all of the wonderful things that are helping to bring this particular piece of work to fruition. It’s called ‘Graves’ Girl‘ and it’s probably the most badass piece of work I’m writing out of the iconic trio of scripts I’m submitting this semester. But I’m just gonna give you a short synopsis of it first:

“Set in the 1970’s Marsha Gold, in her desperation, heads to one of new york’s most notorious strip clubs in search of a job, and quickly falls in love with her boss, Stanley Graves, an ex hitman. But all is not as it seems as remnants of his past come back to haunt him, namely his assassination of a high standing politician, Russo Salvatore, who swore to close all the illegal clubs in the city back in the 1960’s. Now, the politician’s son Salvatore Jr. is back for revenge and our protagonist is forced to adapt to the chaos, or be swallowed by it.”

Sounds great, right?

The first thing I’m going to tell you about this project is that it’s the first time I’ve shared writing duties before. Writing, for me, is such a personal thing. It’s something I do on my own. And, as someone who, outwardly, manifests themselves as a huge introvert, and inwardly has a mind that just won’t shut up, I tend to find that I get my best (and quickest) work done when I’m on my own. So working with someone else on a project was never on my radar.

Until it had to be.

Remember that book I talked about in my last post? The one by Pamela Douglas? Yeah, I’m mentioning that again. According to Douglas, I’m gonna have to get good at writing with other people and sharing my ideas with them, because it’s part and parcel of writing for television. So, I’m considering this screenplay to be me dipping my little toe into the dark and terrifying depths of collaboration.

It throws up so many issues for me that it’s hard to figure out where to begin. At times, during the writing process, I feel like I’m basically bombarding my co-writer, Jamie-Louise, with snippets from my dark and twisted mind (like a super villain, kinda). I’m finding it hard to strike the right balance in terms of how much I should be contributing, how much I should be communicating, how much of that bombarding I can get away with without sickening my writing partner off the project entirely. Because other people have lives too, you know? But I like a fast pace to any workflow and, no matter who I find myself working with, in any capacity, I feel like things become more considered and sometimes static.

I don’t know if this is me latching on to something that excuses my overthinking of all these interactions, but, according to the Myers-Briggs personality type model, I’m an ISFP. And lookie here:

Freedom of expression is often ISFPs’ top priority. Anything that interferes with that, like traditions and hard rules, creates a sense of oppression for ISFP personalities. This can make more rigidly structured academics and work a challenge.” – 16 Personalities

That feeling of perhaps having to censor myself a little bit may just be the kicker here. Maybe we need more structure. Maybe more communication on my end. Maybe the fear of overwhelming someone else stems from me and that’s why the project is taking more time to come to fruition. Who knows?

I’ve also realised that different people have vastly different styles of writing and it’s helped me to better understand where I really shine as a writer. For example, Jamie-Louise is great at dealing with emotions and exploring the relationships and reactions of characters. I’m all about action scenes and dropping little pop culture easter eggs in there. It’s great because sometimes, in everyday life, I feel like a bit of a cold, emotionless robot, and that sometimes bleeds its way into my writing, so it’s helpful in having someone else to balance that out to give the script some emotional depth.

Ultimately, collaboration isn’t the most natural way for me to write, but I realise that this is something I’m going to have to master. I can’t just see all my works as my babies in the future and I can’t be too precious about them being ‘all me’ as it were. That’s never gonna make for great television, is it?

But anyway, I can’t speak for Jamie-Louise, but I’ve been having an absolute blast researching the 70’s and getting into the headspace of being able to write that time period.

Influence from that era is bleeding into so many aspects of pop culture today from fashion, to film, television to music. It’s everywhere.

One of the things that inspired the idea of this screenplay being centred on a club is an upcoming show called ‘I’m Dying Up Here‘. Produced by Jim Carrey, the show centres on various clubs and characters from the Los Angeles comedy scene in the 1970’s. From the trailers they’ve posted, the characters seem to be bonded together as a family.

I’ve spoken about the show more than a few times on this blog and there’s a number of aspects drawing me in here. First and foremost, the cast is stellar, with Melissa Leo, Clark Duke and Sebastian Stan all gracing our screens. Secondly, the grading on those trailers is blowing my mind; completely in keeping with the decade. And third… Jim Carrey! What’s not to love? Check out the trailer below:

Another piece of media that I was really taken with over the course of my research was Ben Wheatley’s ‘Free Fire‘ which was produced by Martin Scorsese. The film itself doesn’t really inform any aspects of the plot of ‘Graves’ Girl‘ but it did prove one thing: your plot doesn’t have to be overly complicated for your film to get its point across. The whole film takes place in a damn warehouse and yet, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen when I saw it. Oh and thanks to this film, I now know that you can survive for a looooooong time looking like a human Swiss cheese with all them bullet holes.

Let’s be real here, it wouldn’t be a post of my blog if I didn’t gush about who I’m listening to during the writing process.

As you would expect, Brian Fallon and Ryan Adams are staples on my playlist for this project. It’s all those twangy, 70’s guitar sounds that do it. Surprisingly enough, Lana Del Rey features heavily too. It’s not so much her actual sound that inspires the writing; it’s more in her lyrics that heavily document power imbalances in relationships, paralleling the relationship of Marsha and Stanley in this screenplay. I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t blaring a fair amount of Rolling Stones, Derek and the Dominos, and Blondie. It’s been one heck of a time for listening to great music.


But there’s one interesting by-product of that. I can’t actually listen to music while I write anymore. I don’t know the science or the psycho-babble to explain this, but I somehow end up typing the lyrics to whichever song I’m listening to, instead of some kick-ass dialogue. Weird.

But anyway. ‘Graves’ Girls‘. Woo.