Submergence

I think it might be worth prefacing this by saying that it’s been a while since I’ve offered my thoughts on a piece of art, in any form. I might be a bit rusty. But I want to get back into the swing of things, after all, that journalism degree seems to be gathering dust…

I’m going to start off by telling you that I hate romantic films and I’m not a fan of thrillers. At all. Any whiff of Hollywood romance makes my eyes loll right back into my head. And thrillers? Well, nothing compares to ‘Die Hard’ does it? In fact, the only draws I saw in Wim Wenders’ film adaptation of J. M. Ledgard’s ‘Submergence’ was that it stars one of Glasgow’s finest actors, James McAvoy, and that I could see it on the cheap at the Glasgow Film Festival. You’ve got to represent, right?

The film follows a bio-mathematician (played by Alicia Vikander) and an MI6 agent (James McAvoy) who, after meeting at a remote, French bed and breakfast, fall head over heels for each other. But nothing runs smoothly in these kinds of tales, as the pair are driven apart by their respective missions – James ends up being battered by militants and poor Alicia ends up submerged at the bottom of the ocean.

Do they live happily ever after? Well, I can’t spoil it for you, because I don’t know. And that’s what perhaps bugged me most about this film. I JUST LIKE CLOSURE OK?! Let’s turn that assessment on its head: the film finished too soon, and I wanted to see more. More vast, sweeping visuals of the French coast. More of Vikander’s sensual, subtle performance (nothing new here). More of McAvoy’s cheeky, boyish and wholly Scottish (he’s not playing a posh English dude in this film, much to the joy of the audience – but for the most part, nothing new here either) charm. More suspense. More romance. And that, truly, is the mark of something impressive.

Yes, there were con’s to the film. Act two lurched from James’ angst to Alicia’s becoming tedious at times. And the film’s continuity in terms of hair, make up and costuming could have been tighter.

But, all in all, the film offered up gorgeous visuals and enthralling performances from the film’s leads. The script itself was, for the most part, strong, and, most importantly, I never managed to roll my eyes once. A fine job from Wim Wenders.

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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?

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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!

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.

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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.

Travel Blogging, Fangirls and The Big M.A

This is gonna be one heck of a long-ass blog and for that I do apologise, but needs must! Today I’m going to be talking about everything you see there in the title of this post.

Remember when I said, on this very blog, that I was going to abandon journalism as soon as I got that nice bit of paper telling me I’d wasted four years of my life on something I hated? I lied (gasp). I know, terrible, but hear me out, I promise it serves a purpose. Well, a few, actually.

I recently began working on a travel blog called ‘The Berlin Bug‘ with some of my colleagues from my MA programme, documenting our time in Berlin and supplementing it with some newfound photojournalism skills. Not only had I always wanted to create a travel blog (it’s one of my biggest passions, but you all already knew that, right?) but I’ve been wanting to up my photography game for long enough (hooray for skills development). Professionally, it’s great. Re-engaging with those existing journalistic skills will, I’m sure, prove useful when the inevitable happens and I don’t get filthy rich off the back of a six-figure pay check for a script I wrote for Marvel. It’s a necessity. It updates my existing portfolio of music journalism that’s gathering a thick layer of year-old dust and completely diversifies that.

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More than that, though, it provides an opportunity for reflection. I’m a writer who is hugely sensitive to location. I get inspired by seeing new things and being in interesting places. It even goes right to the action of writing; I find it painfully difficult to write anywhere that isn’t in the dead of night at my kitchen table. But I digress. By documenting and writing about the interesting places I’ve been, I hope that this can bring a richness to the locations in my screenplays by allowing me to cast my mind back to more interesting surroundings when writers’ block hits me.

So yeah, journalism ain’t so bad. In fact, it’s proving to be useful as I sashay (or rather wander aimlessly) into writing television scripts. See, in screenplays the action is used for expositions. But in television, dialogue is far more important, or so I’m told (I’ve latched on to Pamela Douglas’ ‘Writing The Television Drama Series’ and I can’t let go). As a journalist, you spend so much time manipulating quotes and selecting the best words; especially in broadcast journalism. So I fancy myself as more of a television writer. I’m willing to bet on that.

Which is why one of my main projects this semester is, you guessed it, developing a television series!

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‘Fangirls’ is a five-part web series that follows a group of girls who sell their possessions to cobble together the money to follow their idol, Dennis ‘Spider’ Dawson, on his first tour. One-by-one, each of the girls go missing until just one remains, Madeline Morrison.

The idea behind the series came from my own experiences of traveling around to see bands when I was younger, and, while I had an incredible time (to the detriment of my studies), there is much to be said about the mindset of young women and the rockstars they idolise. It’s a very one-sided relationship with a huge power imbalance that I’m essentially highlighting the absurdity of in a completely absurd manner. However, there is a fine line here; sometimes, during the writing of the series, I feel like I’m caricaturing the very scene that I once felt so much comfort in during my late teens. But I do feel that, as an adult, I have the clarity of mind to analyse those happenings and point out what’s wrong with them. Which is what ‘Fangirls’ essentially does.

The plan for the show is to begin filming at the end of May, through summer, with the first episode, ‘Spider Squad’, premiering in mid July.

The whole thing aims to be a primer for my MA project, ‘The West End Cultists’ which I’m starting to film in September. I feel like undertaking ‘Fangirls’, a much smaller scale project in terms of writing, will aid my time management when it comes to writing longer episodes and directing a lengthier pilot off the back of that. It should also throw up some meaningful learning experiences across all aspects of writing and directing that I can take forward into my MA project.

But September’s an entire summer away.

In the mean time, check out our Twitter and Facebook pages, and have a look at some character interviews we shot while blocking out a few scenes last week.

2017

Hi everyone. It’s been a while since my last update and the reason for that is honestly because since I finished last semester, I’ve been all ‘creativitied’ out. My writing has taken a little bit of a hit and so progress on just about everything has been slow since it’s an integral part of my practice. So today, I’m going to talk about future projects, exciting things and what’s inspiring me.

So the first thing I’d like to bring up is the trailer for Jim Carrey’s ‘I’m Dying Up Here‘ because, as you all know, I’m a big big fan of Sebastian Stan. I know he’s only going to be in the first episode, however, he completely owns the trailer. The series premieres in June and focuses on the Los Angeles comedy scene in the 1970’s. I’m willing to bet, even just by the trailer, that is is going to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing TV shows of the year. Check out the trailer here. It definitely seems to be the kind of content I’d like to take cues from in my work.

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Speaking of my work, I had my first day back at university yesterday. The class was mostly to clarify what we’re aiming to do for our masters projects. I’m very pleased to say that I’m going to be making another film – this time a mockumentary – called ‘The West-End Cultists‘. The film utilises my experience in journalism to explore the relationship between the press, the public and politics and offers a response to the press’ complicity in the rise of Neoliberalism in a funny way. I’ve been working on the script as much as I can recently in an attempt to get a head start, but again, writer’s block has gotten in the way. Nevertheless, I’m working my way out of that and I’m feeling incredibly inspired to get the project underway.

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It’s awards season in the film industry, and so it’d be completely wrong for me to ignore my film of the moment. Last night, I saw ‘La La Land‘. Finally. Now, I’m always sceptical of these over-hyped, ‘boy-meets-girl’, Oscar-baiting offerings. But this film completely dispelled all of that feeling. Right from the very beginning, I was sucked into the film’s toe-tapping, feel-good vibe and became wholeheartedly invested in the journeys of the film’s main characters, jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), and Mia (Emma Stone) an actress. As a creative struggling to actually realise my own dreams, the film affected me in quite a profound way. It restored my faith and optimism in my craft at a time when I’ve been unsure about my ability to make good on certain projects. One of them being my next film, ‘Mae‘, which I’ve been stalling; half from lack of motivation, half from fear that the final product might not be what I envisioned in my mind. It’s a huge parallel to the journey Mia and Sebastian take in the film. But perhaps in a more practical sense, the film’s cinematography provided a really nice example of what I’d like to achieve with ‘Mae‘. Just because I want the project to have a vintage feel to it, it doesn’t mean my film has to employ dull colour palettes or have my cast donning victory rolls and petticoats and ‘La La Land‘ hammered that notion home for me. In short, ‘La La Land‘, is an absolute must-see. I hope it does well at the Academy Awards (along with ‘Miss Sloane‘, ‘Captain America: Civil War‘, ‘Deadpool‘, and ‘Silence‘.)

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I promise I’ll update m0re often as I go through the process of putting together each of my projects for this semester. Keep your eyes peeled!

The Book Club

I’m very pleased to tell you all that my first short, ‘The Book Club‘, is now live and available for your viewing pleasure.

Looking back on the experience, I couldn’t be more proud of the finished product. I really look at this as a learning experience; riding a bike with the stabilisers on to gain confidence as a director and producer, before undertaking more complex works in the new year.

It’s been a great experience, collaborating with Lauren and Megan on this. I have this tendency to want to do everything on my own and as a result, take on too much, so it’s been a real learning experience for me to collaborate with other people. Now, I couldn’t imagine doing something like this on my own if I want to do a good enough job on it.

I’d also like to say a big thank you to Kyle, Lucy, Katie and Carey who all gave up a fair bit of their time to act in the film.

Please check out the film and let me know what you think.