Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Wow, what a year! I don't think I could have asked for better.

I've always been an advocate of networking and all that hard work and effort I've put in has finally paid off. So here's what's happened to me this year and how it all came about.


(two examples of networking here)

One day in December 2011 I received a phone call from a friend I had met through several writing events, 'What are you doing, Dom?' he said.

'Nothing much,' I replied, 'just working on a spec feature.'

'Well stop because I have a job for you!'

And that's how it started. My friend had met the French producer/director team who make up Paramita Entertainment Ltd in Cannes a couple of years before and they contacted him to write a screenplay for them, from their original idea. My friend was too busy with other work, but knew it was the kind of story I love to write, and so recommended me for the project. I handed in the final draft at the end of March.


(one example of networking here)

Before LSWF 2011 I scoured the delegate list and came across Paul Clarke of Tape 13 Productions who was looking for a writer to bring his feature drama idea to life.  I emailed him to arrange a meet at the festival, he told me his idea and I fell in love with it. In January, after much persuasion and campaigning on my behalf, he finally agreed I should be the one to write the screenplay.

Playground was put on hold for several months while we both went off to work on other projects, but we stayed in touch, regularly swapping ideas about plot and characters. Although Paul was working with another production company on another feature drama he still hadn't found a production company to co-produce Playground. LSWF 2012 came around and I asked him if it was OK to pitch Playground to producers while I was there. He gave his permission and it paid off, as we now have solid interest in the idea from a big production company and an agreement is being drawn up so I can start writing in January.


(one example of networking here)

I answered an ad on Talent Circle and sent them a sample of my writing. They loved it. They read more of my work and loved that too. And they really loved my thoughts on their project, so they decided to go ahead with me as the writer. The contract was being sorted when the people funding the feature insisted the producer and director choose another writer with more of a track record in sci-fi. I was very disappointed but I didn't let it get me down. I was immediately offered a short film to write for the director and it was great to hear both the producer and director stating they wanted to work with me in the future. All I can say on that is there are now ideas afoot. Also, it would appear the sci-fi feature might be back on.


(one example of networking here)

Early in 2012 I attended The Prequel to Cannes event at Lighthouse in Poole. During the event there was a pitching competition and one of the contestants, David, came over really well. I voted for him and thought he should have won, but he eventually came in as runner up. I had a chat to David in the bar afterwards, swapped cards with him and we went our separate ways.

A few months later David contacted me and asked me to write a treatment for the feature project. He was really happy with the result so commissioned me to write the full screenplay - the next draft of which is due to begin in January.


(one example of networking here)

Again I applied to an ad on Talent Circle and my award winning script was requested. Johnny read it and loved it. He optioned it in August and the rewriting was completed a couple of weeks ago. I also introduced Johnny to my agent, as he was looking for a new one and he has consequently been signed up as well. Johnny, my agent and myself are all very excited about the finished screenplay. Faith has now been sent off for funding and hopefully filming should begin early next year. Also, now Johnny and I have the same agent it will make working together in the future a lot easier. 


(one example of networking here)

Yes, I have an agent. My dear lady wife had to go to London for a course for work so I decided to tag along and fit in a few meetings. At the end of the day we met up with the ever wonderful Steven Russell for drinks in the Soho Cinema Bar.

I've known Ste for many years from when he was working at Celtic Films and I sent him a feature screenplay he rather liked. Nothing ever happened with that screenplay but we did become firm friends over the years.

So back to the Soho Cinema Bar and after several pints of Guinness Ste told me his friend Christina had started up her own agency after working as freelance for another agency. He gave me her details, I sent her some of my work, she read it, we met up, we hit it off straight away and she was very eager to represent me. I kept her waiting a full twenty-four hours before I excitedly sent her a text that simply read, 'YES'.


Because I had originally decided to pitch to agents at LSWF 2012 I was thrown when Christina offered to represent me the day before the festival began. Luckily I had come prepared with some of my ideas in one page pitch format so I had something to hand to producers. I pitched my TV drama series idea to one such producer, a well known one with a solid track record in TV drama. I'm glad I did, as a week after the festival he requested to read the script.


I have work being considered by CBeebies, CBBC, Tiger Aspect, Holby City, a TV script editor who will pass on my work to his contacts at the BBC and ITV, and the head of a media company who is keen on hiring me as head writer on one of her projects in January, all of which are thanks to me networking like a demon at LSWF 2012.

So it just goes to show you can get ahead if you work hard and network like crazy. The only thing stopping you being where you want to be, is you!

I have a feeling 2013 is going to be a very busy year :-)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all XXX

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


It's all too easy to say 'YES' when you're starting out on your career, when you're eager to get work and make an impression, but sometimes 'NO' is the better word.

I see a lot of adverts on the web looking for experienced screenwriters for features offering no payment, only a credit, a DVD copy of the finished film and if you're lucky an invitation to the wrap party. But why should you give your time and talent for free? Presumably the producers/directors who place these adverts are expecting to make some money from their film, so why aren't they offering you a percentage of the producer's profit at the very least?

Unfortunately, there are too many writers out there happy to be taken advantage of and work for free. What you should be aiming for is a deferred payment so that when they get their production budget in place you actually get to see some money. At the very least, as I've said above, you should be offered a percentage of the producer's profit. If you don't get either of these then walk away and let some other mug get taken for a ride.

This doesn't just apply to new writers. There will be times in your career when you'll be asked to do something for free, because the producer doesn't have any money to pay you for another draft, or be asked to make changes to your screenplay you disagree with, or be pressured into unrealistic deadlines. This is where you have to make a decision as to whether what you're being asked to do is worth while.

Let's take being asked to do another draft for free because the producer doesn't have the money until he gets funding. Should you do it? What you need to ask yourself is, 'do I believe in this project and does it have a good chance of actually getting made?' If the producer is on the level s/he won't mind agreeing a deferred payment for the work. If they do mind then alarm bells should be ringing and you should seriously consider walking away.

What if the producer/director wants to make changes to your screenplay you don't agree with? If these changes make the screenplay better then you really shouldn't have any objection to them, but if the changes significantly alter your screenplay for the worse then you should think about saying 'NO'. It's always better to state your reasons to the producer/director why you don't think the changes will work and ask them what their thinking behind them was. It may just be there is another way you can help the director get what they want without ruining your hard work. Negotiation and finding compromises are the key here, unless of course the director wants to introduce dancing bunnies in wellies to your period drama because they saw it on TV once and thought it was funny. Then it's probably the right time to scream 'NO' at them, so loud it bursts their eardrums.

What about unrealistic deadlines? Again negotiation is the key. If you really can't write a second draft of a 120 page screenplay in 3 days then tell the director/producer the time you think it will take. If you can't come to an agreement then don't say 'YES' just because you don't want to be kicked from the project. What's better; to agree to meet the deadline and fail magnificently and put your reputation on the line, or walk away by agreement with no hard feelings?

'NO' isn't a word you should be scared of. Always be willing to put yourself out if need be, but also be prepared to say 'NO' if you feel you should.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I discovered something this week. Something really important. Something that will help me in the future. I discovered I should regularly go back to my old screenplays and update them every so often. Why? That's simple.

Back in 2006 I wrote a detective drama pilot episode. I thought it was awesome. It probably was at the time. It isn't so much now. I've had to rewrite it before my agent can send it out because my writing has improved greatly over the last six years, and what I wrote back then doesn't represent the standard of my work now.

So what I should have done is taken those old scripts out of my drawer every 12 months or so and rewrite them. By updating my old screenplays regularly they will then be instantly ready should I ever be asked for a specific genre of screenplay. That way it won't be a mad rush to update a work that isn't ready.

So I guess my advice here is never put away your scripts and forget about them. Occasionally, once a year maybe, get them out and go over them again. You'll probably be surprised at how much your writing has developed since you last rewrote them.

It pays to be prepared.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


I like my agent. I really like my agent.

What I like most about her is that she's brutally honest. Last week I had a request for a script. It's a detective drama pilot I wrote back in 2007 and she told me straight it needed rewriting before it went out. Her exact words were, "I know you can do better."

I know I've improved as a writer since I wrote the last draft and I totally agree with her, it does need a rewrite, if only because the protagonist is very passive at the beginning of the screenplay. That's something I've been planning to correct for a few years now but have never got around to. The protagonist needs to propel the story forward with his actions and I have now corrected this.

What's really great is that my agent really believes in my work and me as a writer. It's fantastic to have someone who is as passionate about your work as you are. It's awesome to have that support, someone fighting in your corner, someone to give you a boot up the arse when you need it and steeer you in the right direction.

A lot of new writers think it's just a matter of getting an agent and miraculously they'll then land a ton of work. But it's more important you're ready for an agent and they're someone you can work with. Having an agent who isn't passionate about you or your work is about as helpful as not having an agent in the first place. So if you think you're ready for one then take your time, do your research and choose wisely.

Remember, an agent is for life, not just for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

LSWF 2012 - The Report

I think I've recovered. My eyes are open at least and I have little more energy than I've had over the last couple of days. Who knew absorbing information was so exhausting.

I'm glad to report LSWF 2012 was a superb event, a big improvement on last year, something I thought was going to be impossible. And for the first time the festival sold out. Fantastic news!

I traveled down on Thursday early afternoon to sneak in a couple of meetings before early registration kicked off. The first meeting was with Johnny, the director of my feature Faith. He loved the second draft and only suggested a few minor tweaks. All good. Then I had a meeting with an agent. I was very nervous but soon calmed down when I met Christina. She bought me a pint and we were soon chatting like old friends. An hour later she offered to represent me. I nearly exploded with excitement!

This actually caused me a little problem. I had planned to pitch to agents on the Friday afternoon pitching session and didn't know what to do. Luckily I had brought with me a few one page pitches so I was able to pitch to producers. Always be prepared. The pitching went well and I had interest in a TV detective series and a joint feature project a major Hollywood type said he loved. Let's hope I hear back from them both.

On Saturday it was Justin Young's Holby script lab. Last year I was lucky enough to be picked for the Gub Neal session, which was awesome, but I have to say Justin's session blew me away. He explained what they looked for in a writer for Holby, how the scripts were written, the deadlines for each draft and the writing cliches to avoid. It was a very informative session and really encouraged me to send a sample of my work in. I put my agent on that task.

If you are planning on going next year then seriously think about the script labs. They are a great way to learn about a specific area of our industry and it's a more personal session too. I would highly recommend them.

Next up for me was the Clues For Success: writing detectives for film and TV. I'm a huge fan of Matthew Graham so I might have come over as an obsessive fan boy...I tried not to...but I might have dribbled a bit when I shook his hand. It was a great session which highlighted the importance of research and how much fun it can actually be. Who wouldn't want to go on patrol with officers in the back of their car, blue lighting it around town, cracking crime and keeping the streets safe. Awesome! I'll be ringing my local police station later.

Now you all know I'm an advocate of networking, so here's a lovely tale of how to take advantage of an opportunity. I was in Julian Freidmann's session on Writing For TV: why the goggle box is the best place to carve a career. Julian was being negative about new writers and TV, informing us that new writers would never get their own series commissioned for TV. I noticed the woman next to me was going mad, swearing under her breath and shaking her head.

When Julian opened up the floor for questions the woman next to me grabbed the microphone and stated her name was Rebecca de Souza from Tiger Aspect and that she disagreed strongly with what Julian was saying. She went on to inform the room that Tiger Aspect had just commissioned two shows from new writers and they were actively crying out for new talent, as long as they approached through an agent. When Rebecca sat down I leaned over and said, "Jolly well put," handed her my card and told her, "I'll get my agent to call you." I even impressed myself.

I would like to point out that I think Julian was trying to say completely new writers are unlikely to get their show ideas commissioned, where as if you have a credit in film and not TV then you have a good as chance as anybody.

Last on my list of ace sessions was Simon Phillips: Writing With Characters, where he discussed the changing points in screenplays and how if you don't use them properly the director and actors might interpret them differently. This was a particularity helpful session which gave me a greater insight into the notes Johnny gave me for Faith. It helped me see where he was coming from with some of his questions. A very involved talk and one for the more advanced writer I think.

And then of course there was the networking. I had so much fun chatting to old friends and people I had met for the first time. I used to hate networking, now I absolutely love it and can think of nothing better than approaching a complete stranger and striking up a conversation. It was so nice to meet many, many lovely writers and to witness their passion for the job I love.

On the whole the feedback on the festival was positive. There were a few complaints about there not being enough sessions for writers who's careers are more advance and who are now veterans of the festival. I also heard someone complain the speakers spent too much time talking about themselves rather than their insights and experiences with their craft. I disagree. I hunted down some excellent sessions which I not only found informative but which also recharged my writing batteries for the busy year ahead.

If you didn't go this year make sure you do so next. See you there.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Why are you reading my blog?

You should be preparing for the London Screenwriters' Festival next week.

You're still here.


Stop procrastinating.

Seriously, go away.

Look, if you don't get a shift on you won't get the most out of the festival and someone else who has prepared will advance their career, while you have to go back to working in McDonalds when the weekend is over.

You're going to start preparing now?


Get on with then!!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Sometimes I put a lot of pressure on myself and it's a silly thing to do.

I don't know why I do it. Maybe it's because I'm afraid of failure? Or maybe it's because I love writing too much? Or maybe in my desire to be helpful I don't say no often enough? Or maybe it's because I'm driven? Whatever the reason it occasionally brings me to a grinding halt.

Then I feel guilty because the crippling self doubt takes over and I actively avoid writing. I play Xbox. I watch DVDs. I mess about on Facebook and Twitter. I'll read a book. Or I'll just go and have a kip. Pretty much when I'm in that state of mind I'll do anything to avoid putting words on paper.

My wife has helped with that. She printed out a list for me of all the great things that have happened in my career over the past couple of years and made me pin it to my cork board. If I have a moment of self doubt all I have to do is look up and the list is there to remind me I'm actually rather good at what I do.

I've never missed a deadline, but even taking just a couple of days off makes it difficult for me to catch up. I always work to a tight schedule. I manage it though. Again I don't know how. I just do. For me to let anyone down is unthinkable. But I love deadlines and always work at a hectic pace. I can't work any other way.

So I'll plod on. I'll work evenings. I'll work weekends. I'll work late in to the early hours of the morning. I'll get it done. Because it's what I do. Even if there is something good on the telly. It's what us writers have to do. It's who we are. It's how we make ourselves stand out from the wannabes.

Get your head down and get on with it. I will be!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


I've read Johnny's notes, discussed the changes with him and agreed the direction the rewrite of Faith will take. Now all I have to do is sit down and make those changes.

I've lived with this story for many years during which it has changed, grown and morphed into something entirely different from my initial idea. The new draft will make further significant changes, changes which will both enhance the story and complete it. I'm very excited about it.

I'm never precious about my work. I know a film is a collaborative work and I always listen to ideas of how my work can be taken forward. I then weigh up each idea, assessing its impact on the story and characters. If I'm happy they will improve the screenplay I will implement them. If I feel they don't add anything, or detract from what I'm trying to achieve, then I'll let the person know my reasons for not making those changes. Hopefully they'll understand and agree.

It just so happens Johnny and I are on the same page with Faith and I agree with most of the changes he wants me to implement. In fact most of them I have thought of before and have wanted to make for some time. Now I have the opportunity to do so.

The one suggestion I didn't entirely agree with I'm still going to implement because it will improve the chances of the screenplay getting the funding needed to take it forward into production. The reason I'm happy to do so, despite my objections, is because Johnny explained the reasoning behind his suggestion and I agreed his argument made a lot of sense.

Better get to it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


How To Get The Most Out Of The London Screenwriters’ Festival - The Ultimate 2012 Guide


LSWF 2012 is six weeks away and by now, if you're serious about being a writer, you should be preparing for the event. Here’s a brief outline of what you should be doing in the weeks running up to the festival:

  1. Buy your ticket if you haven't already.
  2. Sign up for the speed pitching. It's a wonderful chance to get five minutes face-to-face with an agent or producer, and not an opportunity to be missed.
  3. Make sure you have accommodation close to the festival. If you have to travel a fair distance every day you'll miss out on valuable networking time.
  4. Practice, practice, and practice your pitches so you know them off by heart. You never know when you'll be asked to pitch and if you're not ready then you'll blow your chance (more on this later).
  5. Check the list of speakers every couple of days, research them, choose the ones you want to listen to (or even approach to have a chat) and have a list ready for when the schedules are published. That way you can plan which sessions you want to see in advance.
  6. Go on to the Private Delegate Network Page (only accessible when you've bought a ticket), research everyone on it, highlight people of interest you want to talk to and send them a preliminary email and arrange a meeting if possible. Remember though the delegate list will also have people on it from previous years who may not be going to this year’s festival, so it is well worth asking if they are.
  7. Choose your projects wisely. I would suggest that you choose no more than three and make sure they're finished, proof read and the best you have.
  8. Order at least 250 business cards, you'll need them. Make sure they're blank one side so people you speak to can write notes about you on them.

How To Prepare In More Detail

You've bought your ticket, printed off ten copies of your screenplay and now you're ready for LSWF 2012, right? Wrong!

It's not a matter of just turning up; you really need to plan for the festival to get the most out of it. If you don't then you might as well roll up your ticket, insert one end into your anus and light the other. No producer is going to see the genius of your screenplay, no agent your obvious talent, unless you approach the festival professionally and with at the very least a little forethought. You will only get out of the festival what you put in to it.


Above I talked about how you need to research your fellow delegates and speakers. This is very important. You’ll have an advantage over most of your fellow writers if you know who is going to be at the festival and what they are currently working on. There’s nothing worse than trying to talk to a well-known producer and not knowing what their last film was.

To give you an example I actually managed to get work from last year’s festival simply by scouring the delegate list. I discovered one producer who was looking for a writer for his project so I researched him and his company and then sent him an email to set up a meeting at the festival. To cut a long story short I will soon be starting the first draft of a feature film for him sometime towards the end of October when I finish the current project I’m working on. If I hadn’t done my research I would have missed the opportunity.


You should have already decided on the three projects you want to take with you to the festival, remembering to print off one page pitches for these to hand out if requested. Don’t take full screenplays. If a producer is handed twenty screenplays and one, one page pitch, which do you think he’s going to read first? I saw someone hand a very well known and successful TV writer a full screenplay and a pitch in a large folder last year. He didn’t take it home with him. Would you want to be weighed down with all that paper for your train journey home? Stick to one-page pitches…trust me!

Your one pager should be written in the style of your project, so if it's a comedy then it needs to be funny, and remember to make it visual. If you don't know what I mean pop down to your local book store, pick up a few random novels and read their back covers. Their story is summed up there and you need to sum up your project in a similar manner. Like your screenplays; write, rewrite and rewrite again until they're as perfect as they can be.

What you also need to do is work out a sixty-second pitch for each project. Why sixty seconds? Anything longer and you risk sending the recipient of your pitch to sleep. Keep it short and then if they're interested they'll ask you questions about your project. If you drone on all they'll want to do is to get away from you as fast as they can.

The pitch should be split up like this: *

  • Title - relevant to the script.
  • Format - film, TV, etc.
  • Genre - If you don't know what it is how can they?
  • Compare it to something else that has gone before (It's similar to Quantum Leap, but with robot rabbits.)
  • Then..."This is a story about... who...'

Once you've worked out your pitches for all three projects go and practice them. Pitch to friends, family, or to a video camera, so you can play it back and see for yourself how it works. Then practice some more, and more, so they eventually become second nature to you and you could even pitch them in your sleep.


Business Cards: The most important tool you're going to take with you and the one most frequently overlooked. I took 250 with me last year - you can never have too many - and handed out a good proportion of them. I couldn't believe there were delegates at the festival that didn't have business cards and were writing their email addresses and phone numbers down on scraps of paper. It shows a total lack of professionalism not taking any with you. There is absolutely no excuse not to have any. Get them now!

Get at least 250, they don't have to cost much, don't have to be fancy - all they need is your name, what you do, your phone number and email address - and should be blank on one side. Why? Good question and the answer is simple.

When you collect cards from other people and you've finished having a conversation with them, write down the highlights of that conversation on the back of the card. Why write this information down on a separate piece of paper and risk losing it? This information is important for following up your new contact after the festival. You'll hopefully be talking to a lot of people and it will be difficult to remember every conversation. I have one card from 2010’s festival that simply says 'fork man' on the back and is still even now more than enough to jog my memory of who he was, what he did and more importantly what we talked about. Remember to keep the cards you collect safe. Hide them away in your bag so you don't risk losing them.

I made a conscious effort in previous years not to hang around with people I know. I wanted to meet new people and forced myself to go out of my way and talk to as many strangers as I could. This is your best option to make new, and possibly valuable, contacts. I did check in with my friends now and again and I'm glad I did, as one of them introduced me to a producer who offered me work at the 2010 festival.

I'm not naturally social so I know how difficult it is to walk up to a complete stranger and start talking to them, but I did it and towards midday on the second day I was really enjoying it. Push yourself to talk to people and try and remember they are probably just as nervous about talking to you as you are to them.

There are a few simple rules that will help you with this:

  • Everyone likes people to show an interest in them. Ask them questions about their work and experience, rather than just barging in and telling them everything about yourself including your last trip to the doctor for that unexpected rash. If you show an interest in them, they'll naturally want to know about you and what you're working on.
  • Listen carefully, make eye contact, smile often and make sure you show an interest. There's nothing ruder than answering someone's question only for them to start playing Angry Birds on their phone while you do. I usually walk away at that point, or stop talking until they start paying attention again.
  • Always check the body language of the person you've met. If that person looks like they may be getting bored, stop talking about yourself and ask them a question about themselves to get the conversation back on track. If you keep yabbering on about you and your work they'll easily forget about you, or at least do their best to do so.
  • Get there early and stay late. Network while you eat. Network at the bar. Network while you're having a quick ciggy. Network in the canteen queue. However, don't try and network in the toilet. Someone who is taking a private moment in a cubicle to empty their bowels might not take too kindly to you popping your head over the cubical wall and saying, 'Alright mate, how's your festival going?' Make the most of your networking time, because if you don't then others will.
  • There will be a bar at the festival, but I suggest you don't drink, or if you do then just make it the one. People don't like being cornered by a slurring drunk waffling on about utter bollocks for several hours, giving them a hug and telling them they're their new best friend. Stay sober.
  • Buy drinks for others, especially producers and directors. It's OK to get them drunk, as you might find them more open to your 197 page factual TV drama about the woman down the road who looks after stray cats, if they have been well lubricated in advance.

When the festival is over leave it a week before you start following up on those conversations. Send polite emails to everyone you met and talked to. There are no bad contacts so don't leave anyone out, as any single one of them could turn out to the one that helps move your career forwards.

Essential Items You Will Need To Take:

  • Your LSWF ticket - DUH!
  • Your 250 business cards - remember these are your most important tool.
  • An empty business card box - to put all those valuable business cards in which you will collect from other people.
  • A copy of the schedule - print one off from the website the day before you go and highlight the sessions you most want to attend. The schedule will most likely change anyway, but at least you'll have a basic one to refer to (There is a fantastic phone app this year that has the schedule, a map and a list of speakers included to help cut down on the things you need to carry. Download it now.)
  • A map of Regents Collage - you need to know where you are going for each session.
  • Several pens - in case one runs out, you lose one, or some thieving little git 'borrows' one.
  • A small notebook - for the making of detailed notes about possible collaboration. You should always carry one anyway, to write down any ideas you might have.
  • An A4 pad - for the writing of notes while listening to speakers.
  • Ten copies only of the one-page pitches of the three projects you are going to take with you.
  • Your three sixty-second pitches - do not read these out from your notes, they are only for back up.
  • A fully charged spare battery for your mobile phone - you'll be surprised how quickly it will run out.
  • Your thoroughly researched speaker and delegate list - with pictures so it's easier to spot people while you're there.
  • Mints - no one wants to talk to someone whose breath smells like a camel's bum.
  • Money - for the buying of sustenance and plying producers and directors with liquid 'YES' juice.
  • A can of Red Bull - for the drinking of to keep your mind sharp should you suddenly find yourself flagging.
  • A smile, a cheerful disposition and an eagerness to soak up every ounce of information and milk every networking opportunity.

Summing Up

  • Remember your business cards, you'll need them.
  • Remember your one-page pitches, but only hand them out if asked for one.
  • Don't worry too much about missing a session if networking is going well, as the sessions are filmed and will be available on the delegates network after the festival.
  • Don't hang around people you know, go and mingle, talk to as many new people as possible.
  • Be brave.
  • Ask them about what they do and what they're working on, show an interest in their work and don't rabbit on about yourself.
  • Take every opportunity to network.
  • Stick to one drink in the evenings at the bar, so you can continue to network and don't come across as a dribbling drunk.
  • Buy people drinks; they'll love you for it.
  • Turn up early, go home late.
  • Make as many notes about what you learn as you can - remember to write these out in longer form as soon as you get home from the festival, as they won't make any sense in a months time.
  • Be polite, friendly and professional at all times. You're promoting yourself here.
  • Follow up any chats after the festival with an email.
  • Listen, learn, absorb.
  • There is no such thing as luck, only hard work and persistence pays off.

Have a great time, enjoy yourselves and come and say hello.

*Pitch format shamelessly borrowed from Julian Friedmann's session on pitching in 2010.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Writing is a full time occupation. Even when I'm not actually writing I'm still thinking about it. Plotting, character, structure, dialogue, they're all there in my head floating around, changing, shifting, becoming something else. I even dream plots in my sleep. It can be a little exhausting sometimes, especially when I've got a job on.

It's important to switch off every so often just so my head can have a rest. Easier said than done. I was going to take a day off today, but guess what I lined up for myself... I plan to read a 'How To Get Into Television And Stay There' handout from Yvonne Grace, catch up on some TV, read a few chapters of Lee Child's Worth Dying For and write this blog post. Not exactly getting away from writing, plots and characters.

And there in lies the problem for me, I can't escape and to be honest I don't really want to. I love creating stories, characters and exploring other people's work, be it printed or visual. I love reading books and handouts which help me improve as a writer and a businessman. I love letting my mind wander over the plots I have created and seeing where they take me. I just can't stop.

I suspect there are some of you out there who have the same problem and some of you who are probably trying to puzzle out what I'm on about. I think it's important to actually take yourself away from your writing now again, even if it's for only a few hours, to still the brain and quieten the soul.

I'm going to follow my own advice. I'm going to forget about what I planned to do today. I'm going to lie on the sofa and listen to music instead. Then I'm going to go for a walk with my youngest son. Then I'm going to pick the eldest son up from school. Then I'm going to eat my lunch. Then I'm going to play with both my children all afternoon until my dear lady wife comes home from work.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012


For those of you who might not know my award wining screenplay Faith has been optioned by Starfront Pictures Ltd and Johnny Kevorkian, director of the acclaimed British horror The Disappeared. But what does an option mean exactly?

The 'option' means Johnny has taken out the exclusive right to develop the project for a set period of time. When he's happy with the screenplay and he's secured financing he can exercise the option and take the project into production. However, an option is no guarantee the screenplay will reach the production stage. There are many factors that can contribute to the option being dropped, or simply lapsing. Johnny might not be happy with the results of the rewrites, or the project might fail to secure financing for example.

So the hard work doesn't stop when you get an option. In reality it's only just beginning. In the next few weeks I'll be given notes from Johnny with which to rewrite the screenplay and I'll have to work hard to deliver a draft he wants to take forward. I can't be complacent and I can't be precious about my screenplay. I have to be flexible enough to incorporate Johnny's ideas with my own and produce something we are both happy with.

It's also worth mentioning my screenplay isn't the only one Johnny has optioned. He's a director looking for his next project so it makes good business sense to option at the very least a couple of screenplays that interest him, so if one project falls through he's not left empty handed, with the need to start again from scratch.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Easier said than done when it seems things are falling apart.

Unforeseen challenges are what I call them and they usually happen when everything is going swimmingly. They creep up on you when you least expect them and throw your life into a mini tornado of chaos. Opportunities you've worked hard to create now seem to be slipping through your fingers and there's very little you can do about it.

But you have to stay calm. It won't help you getting in to a tizz about them. These things happen...quite a lot as it goes, and on occasion you will have to walk away and forget about them. There will be other opportunities, plenty of them in fact, so it's not worth getting hung up on something if it doesn't work out.

Your first disappointment will always hurt the most and that opportunity slipping through your fingers is the most difficult to let go of. But you have to. You'll probably experience an overwhelming sense of panic. You're big break is on the verge of disapeering before your very eyes and you'll feel like you will never get another chance. It happens to all of us. It's part of being a writer. Just remember whatever happens you'll get your chance again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


After reading the comments about writers from New Tricks actors Amanda Redman, Alun Armstrong and Dennis Waterman on the BBC News web page, and writer and director Julian Simpson's wonderful four lettered sprinkled replies on Twitter, I experienced a moment of utter disbelief and anger. When I calmed down an hour later I looked at the actors' accusations a little closer and wondered where the true blame for bland TV might lie.

For those of you who haven't seen the article Amanda Redman and her fellow actors basically accused the writers of New Tricks of making the show bland.

My personal belief is bland TV does exist and is a problem. I would like to point out I'm not saying Amanda Redman and her fellow actors are right and New Tricks is bland TV, because to be honest I don't watch the show so I wouldn't know. That is for other people to decide and comment on. However, there's a perfect example in the form of another show I won't mention, which I'm extremely disappointed to see returning to our screens sometime soon. It is a very bland drama, one I will be avoiding at all costs. But is it wrong to blame the writers?

From my experience the majority of writers aren't bland and are fit to bursting with brilliant ideas. There are a huge number of exciting TV scripts out there, several of which I've had the pleasure to read over the years. They have been bold and brilliant and shows I would happily invest my time in if they were broadcast. Yet none of the screenplays I've read so far have been produced and broadcast. This seems strange to me when long running shows that could be considered bland keep being granted new series every year.

What I do know is what I like and what I hate. For example I loved BBC 3's The Fades. It was brilliantly bold and original and yet it was cancelled after its first series. It won awards, but even that wasn't enough to save it. Is that the fault of the writers?

Perhaps the blame for bland TV actually lies with the producers and executives that make the decisions, who are afraid to stray too far from what they know in case it fails and costs them their job? They don't want viewers to turn off and are afraid to offend or alienate.

Or perhaps it's the fault of the viewers who happily sit and watch dull TV because it's become familiar to them as an old sofa or a favourite mug? If only they would switch off and demand something braver, more daring, more original.

Or perhaps the blame lies with the critics who poo poo any show that dares to be different? What do they know anyway?

One thing I know for sure the blame can't be laid solely at the feet of writers, if at all. We have to look further to find where the problems really lie in TV drama and to simply aim these accusations solely at the writers of the show is both wrong and naive.

After all you have to remember that unless you're lucky enough to be Russell T Davies or Steven Moffat most writers have to do as they're asked on a show or they get booted in favour of someone who will do as they're told.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I wanted to find out how a screenplay can change during production, so I asked the lovely Shiphrah Meditz, an up and coming writer/producer/director from the US of A, to write a guest post on the subject. And she duly obliged. Enjoy.

A Gunshot'S POV: How I Saved My Script through Sound

A week to production, and I was worried. A two minute gun battle that read really well on Final Draft was fighting every step of the way to be translated on film. It was for a 15 minute narrative short called "Where Snakes Roam" that I produced and directed in January 2012. My story follows two young girls who discover that their father is an assassin. For  the final, all-is-revealed fight scene, I needed loads of fake guns, blood and guts, special effects, combat choreographers, stunt crew, and lots of time to pull it off successfully. Also, we were shooting in a 1950s mansion in Austin, Texas. I was dealing with location logistics that included four stories and multiple porches which had to support eight actors, a chase scene, and two final shoot-outs. Furthermore, the budget was already allotted, and the crew and actors were working around their jobs and family time to be on set for four days. The scene would have severely eaten into the time required for other takes. While I'm a firm supporter of pushing beyond boundaries, I knew that filming this scene would most likely be a huge mistake since we lacked the proper resources and time to make the action work.

For those that are new to film, shooting great action is one of the hardest magic tricks to pull off on camera.   I'll explain why.  I like to compare an action scene to a video game.  A video game engages the player in a series of true or false choices that incrementally lead them to their goal.  The success of achievement and the reward factor drives the player through the video game.  For example, players rarely question how striving to win at a game makes them feel. In an action scene, you have the same scenario. Thus, the key element is to build emotion into the viewer beforehand and give them all the reasons why they need to  cheer on the hero before the blows begin to fly and attention is riveted on the ACTIONS of the characters. This way the action becomes equal to "enacted emotions," and every take must be carefully planned to convey the proper effect.  Of course the repercussion if that, if the emotions aren't properly stacked in the script, the actions may come across as "hollow" and predictable.

Thus any action requires well-rehearsed choreography with thought given to the 180 degree rule, actors who have had fighting experience to avoid amateurish reactions, on-set special effects sewn into the sequence to help the VFX artists in post production, stunt people with accompanying insurance and proper protection for the more dangerous moves, quibs to show a bullet's impact, and among other things, absolutely precise editing. To help the editor, I'd further have to plan how much action to show on screen, and how to have the viewer "imagine" the next reaction by keeping an actor's movement off-screen for as long as it occurs, and have it "enter" the screen just in time so the viewer isn't startled, but expecting it. This management of the viewers' expectations brings them into the action and rewards them with the actor's achievement (hearkening back to the concept of the video game).  Thus, as you can see, the list for requirements for an action scene can go on and on, and monetary expenditures only exponentially increase!

I drew and re-drew story-boards, and discussed them with my DOP, Gary Huff, and special effects artist, Jason Zentner.  I concluded that, given our time and resources restrictions, obtaining success was going to be questionable at best.  Furthermore, my script was taking a huge chance shifting the POV from the two girls in the final moment onto the father's fight with the gunmen. I risked losing the emotional climax in a plethora of fighting extras.

I cut the scene.

So, here I was, about to shoot a film that had a team of 25 people attached to it, and the crucial scene was gone. So, what did I do?

A movie plays upon the visual and auditory senses. I look forward to the day when filmmakers will have commercially viable technology to expand the cinematic experience to further sensory experiences, but, for now I turned to sound as the answer. I rewrote the scene as follows. 
The story sticks to the POV of the two girls. They are discovered by three men come to kill them, manage to outrun them and are momentarily rescued by their father. He tells them to hurry into a nearby forest and hide while he takes care of their pursuers. As they run through the trees, a carefully-planned "conversation" of gun-shots blast the air, along with fading organ chords, atmospheric effects, and a heightened audio of the girls' feet. Suddenly, they realise their father hasn't followed them and so they rush back.  In dead silence, they discover the house and lawn strewn with dead, bloody bodies, including that of their father.

Thus, I managed to preserve the important plot elements of the chase and shoot-out, but only filmed the crescendo and the aftermath of the gun fight. We shot the film, wrapped on time, and now "WSR" is competing for entry into several international festivals.

I love the film industry because of the organised creativity that it demands. There are always finite amounts of time, resources, and money...even on the biggest productions in Hollywood. The artistic challenge to work with these factors and still try to make a film to the very best of my ability is one of the many reasons why I love producing and directing films.

Speaking of which, I'm currently about to start my debut feature film, "The Dying Eye," in Edinburgh, Scotland. Production begins October 12, 2012. It's about a brilliant, young computer hacker who fights crime in the streets of Edinburgh while navigating love, political conspiracies, and hallucinations.

I'm currently holding an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the production. To read further and donate, go HERE.

Be a part of my team!  I'd love to have you on board!

You can also view her website HERE and her blog HERE.

Thank you, Shiphrah.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


I never used to believe in writer's block. Maybe I do now.

For the last three days all I've been able to write is this blog and I've had several attempts at it. I changed my mind on content three times. I've even made it to a paragraph twice before erasing and starting again. The words just won't flow for me this week no matter what I do.

I always work on two or three projects at a time so if I get stuck on one I can swap to another to keep my momentum going. However, this week I've hit a massive brick wall. I haven't progressed on any of my projects. It may be because it's the school holidays and I've got both boys running around driving me nuts, interrupting my train of thought every five minutes. It's hard to think when a four year old is screaming in your ear he wants food, a drink, the TV on, to sit on your lap and watch you work, to play on the CBeebies website or to go outside, which he could do if it wasn't raining. Or maybe I just need a break.

In the past I've scoffed at the suggestion of writer's block, but now I'm not so sure. I'm not even sure where this blog post is going. My mind is wandering. I've lost my focus.

One thing I do know for sure is that it won't last. Inspiration will come my way some point soon. I just have to wait for it to arrive and not feel guilty in the mean time because I'm not putting words on the page. Trying to force the words to come out will only makes it worse for me. So I'm going to take a break for the rest of the week and come back fresh on Monday morning with a clear head.

See you on the other side.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


There seems to me to be a new social networking site, app, or service launched every couple of weeks or so and I have to admit I find them very hard to ignore. I'm very happy using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and don't want to be left out should some new social networking service come along which could potentially be better than what has come before. I'm terrified if I don't sign up I'll miss out. But just recently I've been bombarded with requests to join far too many new networking sites, services and apps and I've finally had to draw a line.

It's easy to be lulled in by their flashiness, the promise of connection with like minded individuals, and it's almost impossible to ignore if someone you know has invited you to join. Odd thoughts run through my head whenever I get a new invitation like, 'will they speak to me again if I don't sign up,' or 'do they know something I don't'?

I know if I signed up to all the services I was invited to I'd spend all day checking them and never actually do any writing. So I've had to make a choice and I've decided to stick with the three I know best because I trust them. I do also occasionally use Google + although I haven't yet come to fully trust it to do what I want it to and I admit I don't really understand it enough to do so.

The other danger of these sites and apps is adding people because they asked you to without really knowing who they, afraid they might actually be an important contact one day. I'm guilty of this, especially with LinkedIn where my contacts now number nearly three hundred. I know I should go through my contacts and remove those I never communicate with, or have never met, but that is easier said than done. Again I don't want to miss out. To me every contact is important, no matter who they are and what they do. That's just me I guess. I'm a socialble person.

My advice, or though I may not actually follow it myself, is to stick to two or three social networking sites and only accept friend or connect requests if you've met that person in the flesh, or really believe they are a good contact to have.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Writing can be a solitary profession and many new writers can feel very isolated. It's important then to find like minded people you can meet up with now and again to chat about all things writerly.

Last night I went out for a few beers with the ever wonderful Mr Timothy Clague and the infamous Mr Danny Stack. We talked, we laughed, we took the piss and at the end of the night I had a renewed sense of optimism.

We have the best job in the world.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


When I've written screenplays in the past I have tended to play it safe. I'm always thinking and trying to second guess what producers might like. Is what I've written on the page going to make the budget astronomical? If it is I remove some of the more expensive stuff. Is the subject matter too controversial? If it is I tone it down a bit. Is there too much swearing or violence? If there is I cut some of it out. Are the characters so larger than life that they would be unbelievable in the real world? If they are I rewrite them. I don't want to scare producers off my writing and I've realised by doing so I'm effectively watering down my ideas instead of championing them.

My award winning feature Faith, a bleak portrayal of life through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old street prostitute, is directly responsible for all the work I have landed this year. None of my other writing has had quite the same impact. I've read other writer's scripts, the ones that got them noticed and continue to get them work, and I've read articles about how writers got their first breaks. Without exception they all have one thing in common.

Producers want to hear the writers' unique voice. They don't want to read a technically good screenplay with no soul, they want to read something that stands out from the crowd, that goes the extra mile. They aren't looking for average writers. They aren't looking for an average run of the mill story however brilliantly it is written. They are looking for originality. They are looking for a writer with something to say rather than someone who can simply tell a story. Faith did that for me. But why?

Faith was written at the end of three and a half very tough years dealing with depression. I poured all of that experience, all of those emotions into Faith. I didn't hold back and it showed. I doubt very much it'll get made, but then that wasn't the intention. The plan was to get my writing noticed and Faith did that. Other writers have similar stories to mine.

James Moran wrote a sitcom set in school where the children were routinely killed off by the ruthless headmaster. It was a dangerous, but highly inventive place to be educated and it got him noticed. That screenplay landed him an agent and plenty of TV work. It's the same with last year's Red Planet Prize winner Simon Glass. His first bit of writing got agents and producers sitting up and paying attention. (*)"I had an idea in my head for a play called Parlour Games, a play that was beyond hardcore and in many ways it’s still my favourite piece of writing as it is absolutely fearless, it doesn’t care who it offends."

So I've decided it pays to be bold. It pays to write something that goes a little further, that shouts to the world what type of writer you are and what you can produce. I've decided it pays to pour everything into a spec screenplay and be dammed with what anyone thinks. A nice, steady, technically well written family drama isn't going to cut it unless it goes further than the other thousands of safe but technically gifted screenplays that hit the door mats of producers, production companies and agents every day.

Bold is beautiful.

(*) kindly borrowed from an interview with Simon Glass on Danny Stack's blog. You can find the full interview here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


New writers often believe they need an agent to get work and that they can't progress without one. They think it's just a matter of getting an agent and they'll have all the work they can handle. They make it their mission to get one and go all out to do so. An agent becomes their Holy Grail and blinds them to everything else. They send work out before it's ready. They send work out before they are ready. They send work out just because they can and not because they should. And they wonder why they get rejected. I've made that mistake and I know for sure it's one that will continue to be made by new writers.

You are not ready for an agent!

There, I've said it. You might not believe it. You might not want to believe it, but it's true and I'll tell you why.

Agents are inundated with work from any Tom, Dick or Harriet who think that their one and only screenplay is the bee's balls and once an agent has read it then they'll recognise their genius and instantly snap them up. Usually the truth is their screenplay isn't up to much and their narrow-minded attitude reeks of being unprofessional. So they get a standard rejection letter and the agent opens the next submission. As I've already said it's a mistake I've made myself.

So what are agents looking for?

- For a writer who shows promise.
- For a writer with a back catalogue.
- For a writer who illustrates at the very least a basic knowledge of the industry.
- For a writer who networks, who meets new people in the business and forms relationships with them.
- For a writer who has been industrious enough to find their own work.
- For a writer with plenty of ideas.
- For a writer who is enthusiastic and self motivated.
- For a writer who is polite, approachable and easy to work with.

What aren't agents looking for?

- A writer they need to handhold through every aspect of the industry.
- A writer they need to help polish their work.
- A writer with no contacts.
- A writer with only one or two pieces of work.
- A writer with an inflexible attitude.
- A writer with unrealistic aspirations.
- A writer who is rude.
- A writer who doesn't even have a short film to their name.
- A writer who never chases things up.

Basically agents are in business not to help you out, but to help themselves. They are in business to make money. If they look at you and they don't see any way to make money, even if they like your writing, then they won't take you on. They can smell desperation! They want the maximum amount of return for the littlest amount of work...don't we all!

So if not everything in the first category applies to you and the second category feels more familiar then you're not ready. It would be a complete waste of your time and effort trying to approach agents, so don't. There are some exceptions to the rule, there always are, but it happens so little you are better off not even thinking about it. In fact you are probably better off buying a Lotto ticket.

When you're ready you'll be fighting them off, so resist the temptation to approach agents before you are truly ready.