Wednesday, December 18, 2013


This will be my last blog until 2014, as I've promised myself I'll be taking Christmas off after all my hard work over the year. And what a year it's been... it's been quite exhausting. Here are the highlights.

  • I was commissioned for two feature screenplays PLAYGROUND and COWBOYS CAN FLY.
  • PLAYGROUND has been a big hit with all those who have read it both here and in the US, and it now has a Hollywood co-producer. Their agent at WMA also loved it.
  • Ruby TV are interested in me and my work, and I met up with them to pitch ideas in August.
  • Drama Republic have also shown a strong interest in me an my work and want me to come in for a chat, which will hopefully happen early next year.
  • I had a lunch meeting this month with CBBC to discuss my work and listen to what they are looking for. They have requested I send them one page pitches of my ideas in January.
  • I was one of a select group of people invited to a workshop by the BBC Writersroom with Adrian Hodges, the writer and exec producer of the BBC's new action & adventure show The Musketeers coming in January 2014.
  • I was also commissioned for a 30 minute short script with no dialogue, which I found not only a challenge, but also refreshing. It was a very enjoyable job.
  • I successfully pitched a football sitcom, created with my co-writer Brendan O'Neil, to commissioning editor Jon Montague of Sky and he requested the pilot episode and series bible.
Besides all those wonderful things I have two spec projects I'm working on with directors who I'm keen to work with, two TV series I'm working on with other writers and I've also been asked to script edit another film for the producer of COWBOYS CAN FLY.

All the above shows what you can do with a lot of hard work and some dedicated networking. I'm looking forward to finding out what 2014 has in store for me.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all, and may all your endeavours in 2014 be successful.

Now tell me, what have you achieved in 2013?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


A really great read for writers of any level.
I received my copy of the deliciously outspoken Lucy V Hay's book a couple of months ago and I've only just finished reading it. The reason; because it was jam packed with so many ideas, information and valuable insights I wanted to make sure I had absorbed it all before I commented on it.

Followers of Lucy's blog and various other scribblings scattered over the interwebs will know she is always a fantastic source of information, dedicating herself to helping other writers with useful articles and discussions. It's no surprise then that someone eventually asked Lucy to prove she knew what she was talking about and write a book. Thus Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays was born...or rather written.

Lucy V Hay: She knows stuff!
The book is split into three parts. The first focuses on what a thriller is. Thriller is a very loose genre term which actually contains a multitude of sub genres, all of which Lucy looks at in great detail, inviting the reader to think about how many there actually are. I was surprised.

The second section explores how to write a thriller, from picking your sub genre, the logline, the outline, the characters, the first ten pages and setup, the conflict to the showdown. The great thing about Lucy's book is that it doesn't just tell you HOW to write a thriller, it invites you to think over things yourself, using various examples and quotes from established writers, script editors and readers.

The third and final section was the one I found most interesting. Writers, of all levels, rarely think about the actual business of selling and making a feature, or TV screenplay. To me it's fascinating. Here Lucy examines how the industry works, and makes some suggestions on how to make it work for you. I love this section because I feel that to be a great writer you need to know how everything works around you. I don't think it's enough just to write a screenplay, hand it over to a producer and then forget about it. Knowing what is involved in production, from attracting named actors to budget issues helps a writer to give their screenplay the best chance of getting made. It's all invaluable information that every writer should be keen to learn.

Lucy sums up each topic of the book at the end of each section, so there's a handy reminder to quickly access if you don't have time to read the whole section, or simply just for a quick reference. And at the back there is what I consider to be the largest list of valuable resources I think I have ever seen listed on paper.

All in all a jolly wonderful and informative book that's a must on any writer's Christmas list. Get it! Read it! Learn from it! Enjoy! Shazam!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Danny Stack - sharing his knowledge with keen screenwriters.
So today I will mostly be pimping the legend that is Danny Stack, or more precisely his writing workshop held on Sunday 15th December at Lighthouse Poole.

If you're at university studying scriptwriting, or you've recently graduated and are wondering what to do next, or you simply want to learn more about what it takes to be a writer, then this workshop is a must for you. It's essential in fact, as your writing career, or the lack of it, depends on whether you go and listen to what Danny has to say. Yes, his information 'IS' that important.

I personally owe Danny a lot for the advice he has given me over the years, it really helped me to grow my career. His advice comes from years as a working writer and I've always found it to be spot on.

Here's a little about the course...

The Working Writer Workshop led by Danny Stack
Sunday 15 December 10am - 5pm
Tickets £85 - Students or Seniors £72
If you’re interested in screenwriting, then this new one-day workshop will cover how to get started and how to get ahead. 
Join local screenwriter Danny Stack (whose credits include EastEnders, various children's series and the new Thunderbirds reboot for CiTV) where he’ll reveal his tips and insights on how ‘the system’ works and how you can make it work for you, from getting an agent, your first commission, and everything in between… and beyond! 
You won’t find this information in books or seminars anywhere else. This is a proactive, honest and practical look at how to survive as a working screenwriter. 
The course will be particularly useful for those who already have some screenwriting experience but beginner screenwriters will also benefit from the shared insights and practicalities, all of which will help towards getting that first writing payslip.

Think you can't afford it? If you're serious about wanting a career then you simply cannot afford 'NOT' to go.

Why even attempt to try and learn this stuff yourself, spend months, years struggling to find writing work when Danny can show you the way in a seven hour workshop. Believe me I wish there had been a course like this when I left university back in 2001, it would have saved me 6 years of heartache and got my career off to a much quicker start.

Don't delay, book your tickets now. You're a noodle if you miss out!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


So somewhere in one of my recent blogs I seem to remember mentioning the words 'emotionally honest', but what does that actually mean?

I read a lot of new writers' screenplays through my reading service and the one major thing I notice is the lack of 'emotional honesty' in their work. Too many characters simply spit out lines that sound cool, usually with a flippant or jokey tone or attitude, which rarely do anything to enhance character. When I use the word emotion I don't mean characters simply getting angry, shouting, hitting out, or that so over used cliche of the single tear running down a character's cheek. As a writer you have to dig deeper.

In every scene you have to ask yourself...

  • What are the characters' goals?
  • How will they go about achieving these goals?
  • Who wins out at the end of the scene?
And most importantly...
  • How do the characters feel and react to other characters' actions in their attempt to achieve their goals?
It wasn't until I learnt how to do this, how to keep the characters' actions and responses 'emotionally honest', that I started to receive a great deal more interest in my work. I finally understood there are many different emotions and many layers of each, which emotions and their strength and how they show themselves, all depends on who the character is. The key is knowing your characters well.

Here's a scene taken from my optioned screenplay FAITH. Michael has just suffered an epileptic fit and his sister, Faith, is cleaning him up.

Faith and Michael sit in the bath. 
Faith stitches the wound above Michael’s eye with a needle and thread.  Michael winces but doesn’t move. 
Scars cover Michael’s back, arms and chest, evidence of an old horrific beating. 
With the final stitch in, Faith tenderly washes away the blood. 
A gentle kiss and she wraps Michael into the comfort of her arms.

The scene illustrates just how close these two are. Despite the pain Michael lets his sister stitch up his wound... he trusts her to look after him. Equally Faith, once finished, kisses him gently and holds him tight in her arms to comfort him. That simple gesture alone speaks volumes about much she cares for him and the type of character she is. No words were needed. She didn't need to blurt out her concerns. She just had to hold him. And the old scars on his body hint at Michael being hurt in the past, adding another layer to a very powerful and emotionally honest scene.

Think more about each line of dialogue, each action and importantly the reaction of your characters. How can they help build emotion while keeping it real?

If someone's relative is killed most people wouldn't head off on a killing rampage, or try to extract revenge. Some would fall apart, stray, become lost, others would busy themselves so they didn't have time to think about things. A little extra care and thought could really make the difference to your characters and screenplay.

One book I recently discovered has been a great help in assisting this process is; The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi. Although written with novelists in mind I have also found it translates well to screenwriting. Hunt a copy down and get working, and soon you'll be writing characters and scenes that readers won't be able to put down.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Back again and I still haven't caught up with all my LSWF emails, so if I spoke to you at the festival and you haven't heard from me yet, I will be in touch soon...I promise.

And straight to the second session from Pilar Alessandra - Dynamic Dialogue.

Here's what the lady had to say on the subject.

  • There should be no idle chit-chat in a screenplay, no greetings or anything like that, as all dialogue must have a goal, either to show character or move the screenplay along.
  • Think of the many ways for a character to communicate and express themselves through dialogue. Below are some examples.
    • Lying.
    • Euphemisms.
    • Interrogation.
    • Flattery.
    • Sarcasm.
    • Joking.
    • Anecdotes.
    • Truth.
    • Silence.
  • Think about who has the power in the conversation. The one who has the silence 'ALWAYS' has the power.
  • Think about what your characters want in the scene and how are they going to get it using a verbal strategy. This will drive their dialogue.
  • Subtext: This gives cues to the audience about the real subject or truth of the conversation. Visual cues such as physical action can help, like a 'tell' that shows what the character is really thinking.
  • To understand how subtext works in dialogue choose a couple of your characters at random and place them at a funeral. Then write three pages of dialogue without mentioning the name of the person who has died and the words FUNERAL, DEATH, DYING, COFFIN, VICAR and MOURNING. This is good practise and will help you improve.
  • As above keep away from key words in your dialogue, this will help avoid exposition. Talk around a subject not directly of it.
  • Think about how people talk. Here are a few ideas to help stop your characters sounding the same.
    • Where are they from?
    • What is their background?
    • What is their job? They will likely drop words into conversation associated with their profession. The language of profession. Do they speak lawyer, doctor, or road-sweeper?
    • What are their likes?
    • What are their goals?
  • Avoid trying to write accents, use phrases instead, then your dialogue will be truer to character.
  • Think about a characters' verbal rules. Do they...
    • Swear lots?
    • Apologise all the time?
    • Use sarcasm a lot?
    • Talk slowly?
    • Talk loudly?
    • With pauses?
    • Use the wrong words?
    • Rant?
  • What is your characters' rhythm of speech?
  • Casting your characters mentally also helps to find their voice. Clint Eastwood would say the same line differently to Jim Carey. This will also change how the scene plays out.
  • It's sometimes helpful to think which instrument your character might be. Piccolo = fast and high pitched. Double bass = booming and slow.
  • To avoid long speeches in a screenplay, or monologues, write it down in full, then pick the one line from it that sums it all up. It saves on over using dialogue. For example in Rambo our overly muscled hero is listening to an aid worker give her reasons for why she wants to go into a war zone to help people. In the original screenplay Rambo gave a long speech detailing the many reasons the aid worker should not cross the border, including rape, torture and death. In the end the speech was cut with only the last line remaining, "Go home!" Those two words have much more impact than a whole speech effectively saying the same thing.
  • Think about what genre you are writing in. This will also affect your dialogue. Comedy = funny one liners. Thrillers = over talking loses tension.
  • Your characters will play games with their dialogue, games they don't realise they are playing. Take the line, "Tell me you love me." Now without using it write three pages of dialogue where one character is trying to get the other to do exactly that. How do you play it? Who wins and how?
  • There are other ways of getting around exposition. In The King's Speech the voice coach gets the King to talk about a traumatic childhood event by singing it. In another film, I can't remember the name, to get away with a large chunk of exposition the scene was written with the Pope swimming laps in the Vatican pool, while a Cardinal walked up and down talking and keeping pace. Think how wonderfully visual that was.
  • Remember with genres there must be what Pilar called a 'button' at the end of dialogue in a scene. With drama there should be a cliffhanger and with a thriller you must, '"seal the deal."
As ever Pilar's advice is brilliant and spot on. I love this lady! I might even buy her book. There is a lot in this post for even an experienced writer to think on. After all it never hurts to brush up on your skills.

One more small report to come which I will probably upload Friday. Laters!

Friday, November 08, 2013


And so having finally hunted down a few of the delegates I wanted to meet up with I then decided, on a whim, to drop in to Pilar Alessandra's How To Write To Maximise Impact session.

I've never been one for script gurus and have always been a bit suspicious of them, but I was hearing good things about Pilar and her sessions and I'm happy to admit I wasn't disappointed. Most of what she talked about I already knew, I've been writing for 12 years after all, although I did pick up a few nuggets of valuable information, and it's always good to get someone else's view on things.

To illustrate Pilar's advice I'm going to use made up examples, so please excuse me if they're rubbish, they are just to show what I'm trying to say and not intended to win an Oscar.

Pilar's Suggestion 1 - "The action line is the setup, the dialogue is the punchline."

That idea stood out for me because I'm about to do a second rewrite on a comedy script and I realised there is far too much dialogue in the screenplay, so it was a poignant reminder that action can speak louder than words.

Joey flies into a rage, smashes the office to pieces in front of Rich and Dave.

DAVE: What an idiot.

RICH: Yeah... he does realise that's his laptop he's jumping on and not yours?

DAVE: Let's just wait until he calms down and then you can tell him.

Gradually Joey's rage subsides and he slumps to the floor.

Dave and Rich survey the damage.

DAVE: No way I'm clearing that up.

Which suddenly Becomes...

Joey flies into a rage, smashes the office to pieces in front of Rich and Dave, who watch impassively.

The chair... smashes through the window.

The desk... becomes kindling.

The filing cabinet... torn papers fly everywhere.

The laptop... he jumps up and down on it, the keys splinter off in every direction.

Gradually Joey's rage subsides and he slumps to the floor in a heap.

Dave and Rich survey the damage.

DAVE: No way I'm cleaning that up.

Pilar's Suggestion 2 - "Don't use BEAT, use action to replace it."

I don't often use 'BEAT' or 'PAUSE' in my screenplays but I have noticed a lot of new writers do. A screenplay looks better and reads better without them.

MARCUS: Do you love me?


JANET: I don't know.

Will then become...

MARCUS: Do you love me?

Janet walks to the window, stares out blankly.

JANET: I don't know.

Pilar's Suggestion 3 - "Stopping to explain something ruins the pace."

Action should be short, efficient and to the point, especially in moments of high tension.

Dave yanks the brown, suede leather steering wheel, slides the car, a battered brown Capri with a smashed wing mirror and front number plate hanging off, around the corner. He barely misses two pedestrians, a man in his early thirties wearing a coffee brown suit, and a woman tottering along in bright red heels.

Then becomes...

Dave yanks the steering wheel, slides the car around the corner, barely misses two pedestrians.

Pilar's Suggestion 4 - "Don't be afraid to use minor sluglines to keep things moving."

Don't reset your scene every time or it will slow things down and really irritate the reader.


Alan opens the door.  Simon barges past him.

SIMON: Where is she?

Simon exits another door.


Simon enters. Sees she's not there, exits quickly.


Simon enters, skids to a halt.  Janet sits at the kitchen table, her head in her hands.

Then becomes...


Alan opens the door.  Simon barges past him.

SIMON: Where is she?

He storms through to...


Sees she's not there, rushes in to...


And skids to a halt.  Janet sits at the kitchen table, her head in her hands.

Pilar's Suggestion 5 - "Remember emotional responses to discovery."

If something happens how does your character react to it?

Nick steps out onto the roof.  Two hundred zombies face him down.  Nick quickly closes the door again.

Then becomes...

Nick steps out onto the roof.  Two hundred zombies face him down.  Nick pales.  He steps back and quickly closes the door.

Pilar's Suggestion 6 - "If you want to draw the eye to something, put it on its own line."


Nick steps out onto the roof.  Two hundred zombies face him down.  Nick pales.  He steps back and quickly closes the door.

Then becomes...

Nick steps out onto the roof.  Two hundred zombies face him down.

Nick pales.

He steps back and quickly closes the door.

Pilar's Suggestion 7 - "Use CAPS sparingly. This is important!"

Remember, caps should only be used the first time a character is introduced, for mini sluglines and very rarely for anything else.


MAX KICKS in the DOOR, SMASHES his fist into the DRUG DEALER's face, CRACKS his nose.


Max kicks in the door, smashes his fist into the Drug Dealer's face, cracks his nose.

Pilar Suggestion 8 - "The fight scene.  Emotion before the fight.  Emotion after the fight.  Who won?  Who has the power?"

1 - Emotion before the fight.
2 - Tone of fight.
3 - Method or weaponry.
4 - Fight move 1.
5 - Fight move 2.
6 - Upper hand.
7 - Winning moment.
8 - Emotion after the fight.

This is just a guide and there can be more fight moves if you need them. This can also be used for fights in dialogue or power games.

Lot's of great advice for new and experienced writers alike. A really great talk.

As much as I loved The Fall and Broadchurch sessions, Pilar's first session was the stand out one of the festival for me. That little lady is AWESOME!!!!!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013


I hunted through the crowds of delegates to try and find those lovely people I had contacted before the festival and arranged to meet with. But with seven hundred people milling around the words needle and haystack came to mind.

Eventually after much exhaustive searching I settled for sitting down and listening to the extremely lovely John Yorke and the very talented Chris Chibnall chat about Broadchurch in the marquee. Unlike The Fall I had actually managed to catch up on all the episodes of Broadchurch before the festival, so I knew there would be no spoilers for me... I hate spoilers!

The first thing Chris Chibnall was keen to talk about was how Broadchurch was not a normal who-done-it. He deliberately wanted a strong emotional core and as with The Fall to focus on the emotion of loss rather than have anonymous victims. That was what I loved about both shows, Broadchurch especially; it was emotionally draining, very emotionally honest, as we witnessed how the death of the boy not only affected his family, but the community as a whole. Broadchurch could have been a community anywhere, even the community you or I live in, and that's what makes the show so appealing and unmissable.

I find that with crime drama, or any genre for that matter, the more of an emotional stake you have in the story, the more you emotionally connect with the victims, their family, their friends, as well as individual police officers with their own troubles, the more it has an impact on you. Broadchurch achieved this expertly. I'm not saying shows like A Touch Of Frost or Luther aren't worth watching because they don't explore who the victims were, because they are still very well written and extremely enjoyable and both are favourites of mine. What I'm saying is emotionally driven stories have a far greater impact and stay with the viewer for much longer.

The second thing Chris drew attention to were the red herrings. He pointed out they were actually smaller plot arcs playing out alongside the main one, with separate emotions, all of which were resolved emotionally at their end. During the series each character had two secrets; a personal one and one from the night of the murder, all of which had to be tied up by the end of the series.

The third thing Chris mentioned that stood out for me was that he was pleased with the quality of cast he was able to get, even those who didn't have much screen time, as they helped to make the series. He put this down to writing strong characters, great parts and powerful speeches that actors would want to play. Chris pointed out Pauline Quirke signed on despite her character having very few words of dialogue until later episodes, none in the opening one, simply on the strength of the character.

Another truly enlightening talk and extremely enjoyable. I can't wait to see what Chris Chibnall comes up with for the second series.

Monday, November 04, 2013


I had a first draft commission deadline to complete for the Monday before the festival so I didn't get as much time to prepare as I would have usually. Still, as I travelled up to London on the Thursday morning by train I felt as prepared as I was going to be for the weekend, and as usual my excitement grew.

After four feature commissions in the last two years I had already decided to concentrate on TV at the festival, focusing my pitching and my schedule on British TV drama. The festival didn't disappoint.

First up for me was crime drama with the producer Gub Neal and writer Allan Cubitt of The Fall. If anyone hasn't seen The Fall them my question has to be 'why not'? It is unmissable crime drama, brilliantly written, ingenious even, delivered by producer Gub Neal, the man responsible for some of the most iconic crime series on British TV over the years. You have no excuse not to watch it.

So I sat down in the room eager to hear what they had to say. Allan started off by explaining how thoroughly he researched every aspect of the show before he began to write, going far deeper into the research than he needed to do so. He explained he did this because he wanted the research to bring a real truth to the series, to how the police react at crime scenes and especially how the killer would act not only with his victims, but also at home with his family. He pointed out if a real detective walked into a crime scene and lifted up a piece of evidence with a pen, like you see in so many crime shows both here and in the US, the crime scene would instantly be compromised.

Allan approached the script from an unusual angle quickly deciding he didn't want to create a guess 'who done it' crime show, but instead reveal who the killer was from the start and create the suspense and intrigue by not revealing why he does it. He explained that with a 'who done it' there is a lot of exposition, especially at the end when the crime is solved piece by piece to a room full of potential suspects and the culprit is finally revealed, where they conveniently tell why they did it. Allan wanted to avoid this at all costs, instead allowing the drama to come from showing the killer's home life and his sense of detachment, despite him being married with two kids. The characters start from where you don't want them to be and this is much more interesting, which is why the killer is shown with his family.

He went on to explain that in real life killers spend roughly 3% of their time killing, the rest of their time has to be filled with something, usually normal, daily activities. Showing the killers' family life, and how detached he is from it and them, helps to balance this and allows more of an insight into the mind of the killer. It also helps to keep the killings realistic, so there isn't a massive trail of dead bodies left behind by the killer.

The show concentrates on the moral accountability and not anonymous victims like other crime shows do. The audience learns as much about the victims as they do the killer and the cops, so the deaths have more impact and aren't frivolous. By doing this Allan drew the audience in because they can believe it might happen to them, has indeed happened to others, making the story more relevant to the viewers' lives. Could a killer be living next door to us, leading a perfectly ordinary life? It's possible and  a very scary thought.

Allan went on to say he deliberately didn't show any back story for Gillian Anderson's character, instead revealing who she is through her actions. Sometimes things can be left unsaid and unresolved, as with the ending. Gillian Anderson's character was also created with a sense of detachment, from her fellow officers and relationships, to show her likeness with the killer. Her character and the killer are also all about to control, control from different sides of the fence.

A great talk, very insightful, very informative and fantastic to see Gub Neal doing what he does best.

More on Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


15 days and counting...

The London Screenwriters' Festival 2013 is almost upon us and what better way to celebrate this than by rewinding the blog back to October 2012 and my very helpful LSWF preparation guide.

Follow the link and enjoy :-)

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


Work began last week on the first draft of a new commissioned feature.

I love first drafts, the freedom to explore plot and character, seeing what works, what doesn't, and experiencing those moments of pure joy when the screenplay almost writes itself. Oh yeah, and it's hard work. How do I currently write a first draft? Like this...

The way I work can change from script to script, although there is usually a familiar structure in there somewhere.

First of all comes the treatment. I use this to make sure the producer and I are on the same wavelength. There's nothing more embarrassing than to finish a first draft and find out I've gone off on a tangent, away from what was originally discussed. This has happened to me once before, a basic error, one I'm determined to never repeat. The treatment is really a rough outline, 6-12 pages in length, to make sure the inciting incident and the turning points are all there and the story,  characters and their arcs work. The treatment is a guideline, my version of what I'm going to write, and it will change, sometimes drastically, with each draft. But at least looking at the treatment the producer knows where I want to go with the idea. I'll usually get a few notes and have to change some parts, but once the producer's happy then it's on to the next stage.

Characters. I spend as much time on my characters as I can, because if I don't get these right then the screenplay won't work. So I work on their background, their personality, how they talk, what influences them, what drives them and more importantly what their major flaw is. I know I'm happy with my characters when they become as familiar to me as my real life friends.

Index cards. Forty of them to be precise. I love index cards. I use them to scribble the major points, or incidents of my plot on and then play around with them until I'm happy with their order. They don't have to be detailed, they are just a guide to make sure I'm hitting every turning point, etc.

First draft time. I'll work from the index cards, crossing them off as I go and use the treatment if I need more detail. I try and aim for 5 pages a day, although I've done 30 in a day once, aiming to have the first draft completed in around 21 days. This then usually gives me a week or two to play around with the draft, check the character arcs, the dialogue and give the screenplay a quick spruce up.

Then I send it off, get my notes and a whole new level of writing begins...the rewrite!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Good news for Danny Dyer fans, his latest feature began filming yesterday, Tuesday 17th September 2013. I'm really looking forward to this one as Danny is now choosing meatier roles than he has done in the past, moving away from the cockney wideboy characters he is well known for. I wish JK, Danny and the cast and crew all the best, and let's hope this film is a cracker.

Hitman thriller Assassin starts shooting, more cast announced

London - Production has commenced on hitman thriller ASSASSIN written and directed by JK Amalou and produced by Jonathan Sothcott. The film stars Danny Dyer, Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp. It is the first time the Kemp brothers have starred together in a film since cult classic The Krays.

Holly Weston (left) and Anouska Mond (right) join the cast of Assassin.
In addition it is announced today that Anouska Mond (ill Manors), Holly Weston (John Carter), Eddie Webber (The Firm), Robert Cavanah (Fall of the Essex Boys) and Deborah Moore (Die Another Day) have joined the cast. “I think JK and I have put together a really cool cast,” says producer Sothcott, “I have had my eye on Anouska Mond for some time, I think she’s really got something about her.” Amalou adds “we searched long and hard looking for our leading lady but as soon as I met Holly Weston I knew she had what it took to play the complex part of Chloe. The female characters play a bigger part in our story than is usual in films of this type and I really feel we have nailed the casting.”

The movie, which will be distributed in the UK and Australia by Anchor Bay, will be filmed on location in London, Sussex and Surrey. “I want to show a side to London that isn’t just Soho and Canary Wharf,” says JK Amalou, “really make the city into a character. But I also want to get out of London, life extends beyond the City.”

Assassin tells the story of Jamie (Dyer), a professional hitman hired to kill corrupt politician Tony Boyd (Cavanah) by mobsters John and Lee Alberts (Gary and Martin Kemp). The night of the hit he meets Chloe (Weston) and begins an affair with her, only to discover that she is Boyd’s estranged daughter. Spurred on by her friend Alex (Mond), Chloe begins to think that Boyd’s death was not the accident it appears and when she begins digging, the Alberts hire Jamie to kill her too. As his world collapses around him, Jamie has to chose between survival and the girl he loves in an action-packed climax that can only end one way – death.

Assassin is a Richwater Films/Silver Leaf Productions co-producion.

About Richwater Films

Richwater Films is a London-based independent film production company with interests in publishing, music and multimedia. Richwater’s first film, vigilante drama Vendetta, is released to UK cinemas in November. Upcoming projects include Top Dog for Universal, We Still Kill The Old Way for Anchor Bay, big budget action pic Renegades and London terrorism thriller Age of Kill.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Never give up... on anything... ever!

This really shouldn't need saying but you would be amazed at how many people simply walk away from something when it doesn't work out, either because they are disgruntled with the way things ended or they simply can't be bothered to stay in touch. In the last couple of years there have been two feature projects I was due to write, that for one reason or another didn't go forward. I may have initially been disappointed they didn't work out but I made sure I kept in touch with the producers and director concerned. And it paid off. Both projects have been given a new lease of life and I'm back on board as the writer.

There are many reasons why a project doesn't go anywhere, it's frustrating for sure, but what you can't afford to do is simply walk away and forget about it. Stay in touch with the producers/directors. Occasionally ask them what's happening with the project; don't bombard them every week though, once every month, or couple of months is fine. If you show an interest, even if they eventually go with another writer, they will still remember you for your interest and enthusiasm.

I can't say this often enough; the more chances you make for yourself the more chance there is of one, or more of them paying off. If you don't take a chance how are you going to get anywhere? And it's always better to have too much work than to have none at all.

So remember to stay in touch, you never know when a project that looked dead in the water might resurrect itself.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I used Grammarly to grammar check this post because my usual proof reader is too busy stuffing a sausage and bacon sandwich in their face to check it for me.

I was discussing the pros and cons of sending out unfinished work with a few people last week, and how I felt it was a big mistake. In past employment, I've seen job applications where the only correct spelling was the applicant's name. Even if you're not very good at spelling, or grammar, isn't it a good idea to spend the extra time to make sure everything is spelled correctly? Would you employ someone who couldn't even bother to check their application before they sent it? I know I wouldn't.

The same goes for screenplays, enquiry letters and even emails. As a writer, everything you send out says something about you. I fully admit that my grammar and spelling is below par which is why I get everything proof read before I send it out. If you're a writer people expect you to be able to spell, they expect you to be professional in everything you do. If you send them something unfinished they are going to think you are lazy, don't take pride in your work and can't be bothered, the complete opposite of what they are looking for.

You might think it's OK to send unfinished work to friends, or people you've know for a long time... wrong again. Everything has to be the best it can be, even a first draft. The only exception to this rule is a proof reader, who won't mind if you send unchecked work their way because that's what they're there for. So to stop you making such basic errors get in the habit of making sure everything you send out, no matter what it is, or whom it's to (even if it's to your mum), is checked, checked and checked again.

If you're not luckily enough to have someone to read your work like I do, there are some great resources on the interwebs you can use, like Grammarly, which will check your work for you. Grammarly is extremely helpful. It's a little more involved than I actually need, but it's done the job I asked of it and now you are reading this (hopefully) error free blog post. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


When it comes to competitions, I usually have the luck of a horseshoe en route to the glue factory. I could win the lottery and they’d lose the ticket. I could be picked for a once-in-a-lifetime cruise aboard the Titanic. Indeed, the only contest in which I’d truly fancy my chances, is Russian Roulette.

And so it was with no shortage of liver-damaging surprise that I greeted my win in the competition in April. The prize – a storytelling course with the great John Yorke. The worry – that I would finally give the great John Yorke sufficient legal grounds to take out a restraining order. Or hitman.

Please understand, I don’t make a habit of stalking scriptwriting gurus. Robert McKee, Syd Field, Linda Seger – rest easy in your Egyptian cotton beds. But I have had the great pleasure of hearing John speak several times during my nascent scriptwriting career and have always admired his energetic expertise. The man knows his onions. And he knows how to make you tune in to them four times a week.
Mary Evans tries not to faint when she meets the legendary John Yorke.

For those of you unfamiliar with his work (I can lend you my scrapbook), John cut his TV teeth in continuing drama, single-handedly storylining EastEnders for a spell before moving to Casualty. He was soon lured back to The Square and can pride himself in killing Ethel Skinner, shooting Phil Mitchell and landing Zoe Slater with Kat for a mother. He has been at the cutting edge of drama commissioning and production for Auntie, C4 and currently Company Pictures, gestating such pearls as Shameless, Life on Mars, The Street and The White Queen before they hit our screens.

John is possessed of the rare knack to make you feel as if you already knew his teachings – or at least should have done. His book, Into the Woods, is a quite unparalleled exploration of storytelling, not prescribing how to tell a story, but asking why so many settle into a recognisable and psychologically satisfying shape. In short, he’s just bloomin’ marvellous and as the course approached last week, I found myself conjecturing if, when faced with the real deal, this self-possessed woman in her mid-thirties might start behaving like a Harry Styles fan with a fistful of knickers.

I needn’t have worried. From the very beginning, John put aside all legal concerns to be incredibly generous, not only to me, but also to the other six lucky golden ticket winners with whom I shared his time. I’ll confess that previous encounters with fellow writers had me a little worried about this one. All too often, aspirant writers are either uncomfortably pushy, or frankly, certifiably insane.

But the group was simply fantastic and the talent and banter truly made the three days an exhilarating experience. We hearken from a variety of backgrounds – Jon, Mike and Gareth are filmmakers, Nic a director, Sean is a playwright and Piers and myself are TV writers. To varying degrees, all of us are on the nursery slopes of our scriptwriting careers, looking for the ski-lift to success. Everyone was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to mine John’s scriptwriting knowledge. And that lunch was included.

Day one was all about back-to-basics. This is an exercise I would heartily recommend to any writer, regardless of where their career has landed thus far. John talked about the bare bones of storytelling, some of which were very familiar, others sent my brain off in new directions. Is your protagonist active? Does your story create anticipation and then defer gratification? Are you giving your viewers enough to do to join in the dots themselves? Do you love your characters? And of course – does your script show not tell?

We then delved into story archetypes and the brass tacks of telling a tale. Who is the protagonist and who or what is the antagonist? What does your character want? What journey will you send them on and what gets in their way? Do you have a clear inciting incident? What is the crisis and how is it resolved? If these questions are unfamiliar to you, make them your best friends. But even if you’ve heard them a million times before, post-it them back to the front of your brain. It’s bread and butter stuff, but it sure as Snyder makes a more filling sandwich.

Day two was structure day. I confess that I approached this with the equivalent enthusiasm for haemorrhoid surgery. Like many writers, I have had a slow and painful fight against the need for structure. I came to regard structure like I regard my mother – annoying and interfering, but ultimately necessary. And is the case for both, that didn’t mean I had to like it.

But by going over the five-act paradigm time and time again using examples from film and TV, John slowly encouraged us to take the stabilisers off and have a go ourselves. I found myself not only tolerating structure, but really enjoying the structural scaffolding it provided. We took examples of arguably weak stories from continuing dramas and had a go at rewriting them ourselves, using our character revision and newfound structural know-how to improve them. And by Jove, it worked.

Day three was comprised of a single exercise: to watch a docu-drama and turn it into a movie treatment, before pitching it to the group – in just two hours. This project had been advertised earlier in the course and I had already been considering which particular feminine complaint or terminal grandparent would keep me from attending it.

But armed with some new weapons in my scriptwriting artillery, I found myself not only feeling able to have a go, but really enjoying the experience. Intense – certainly. Successful – not entirely. But considering how I’d have tackled the task just 48 hours previously, I was really rather chuffed with what we’d created. Like all my colleagues, I left that day feeling very sorry I wasn’t returning the next.

I cannot adequately express how fantastic an experience I enjoyed, courtesy of the There wasn’t a moment I didn’t enjoy. The camaraderie of my classmates, to whom I wish every bit of their inevitable success, was joyous. The chocolate digestives were apparently inexhaustible. The benefit to my scriptwriting career… here’s hoping. If it helps others, here are the top five things I took from the course:
  1. Is my protagonist always active (good), or is s/he reacting to events (baaaad)?
  2.  Do I have clear and plausible turning points at the end of every act, which throw the drama in a new direction?
  3. Do my characters have tangible desires, regardless of whether or not I plan for them to achieve them?
  4. Am I making my audience work hard enough?
  5. What forces my protagonist to change?

It is of course to John Yorke that I must extend my warmest and most heartfelt thanks. In my day job as a journalist, I often interview the supposed great and good of celebrity and learned a long time ago never to meet one’s idols.

But I could not have found a warmer, more generous, supportive and knowledgeable guide through three wonderful days. I can’t wait to apply these new ideas to old scripts and watch them straighten up at the spine like they’ve been pulverised by a Norwegian chiropractor. And I hope, for his sake, that John doesn’t have a snowy car accident anywhere near my house. For John, I steadfastly remain, your number one fan…

Mary Evans

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Last night saw the debut screening of Lighthouse, Poole's Centre For The Arts' latest initiative INDIE SCREEN DORSET, with a showing of writer/director Suki Singh's debut feature Emulsion, shot entirely in and around the Poole and Bournemouth area.
Lighthouse, Poole's Centre For The Arts

The concept for Indie Screen Dorset was created by my wife Susie Carver, a marketing executive for the Lighthouse, and was introduced to showcase the best of Dorset's film making talent and to give filmmakers with a local connection a platform to screen their low budget features. Lighthouse has previously screened The Harsh Light Of Day and Verity's Summer, two films with a strong local connection, and it now seems that indie film will become a regular feature of the Lighthouse cinema programme.
"Suki was one of the first guys I met when I moved to Bournemouth. I was immediately impressed by his talent and ambition, but also his honesty and generosity. He's gone on to be a real inspiration, especially with Emulsion as it just goes to show what can be achieved when you just get out there and do it, not to mention Suki's down-to-earth attitude. We could all learn a lot from the Sukimeister!" - Danny Stack - Screenwriter.
Writer/director Suki Singh's Emulsion
Last night's film Emulsion was shown to a packed cinema, having sold out an hour before the screening, after which people were still arriving looking to get tickets to see it. Introduced by local Screenwriter Danny Stack (Doctors, Eastenders, Octonauts and co-creator of The Red Planet Prize) the film was a huge success and the Q&A conducted with Suki Singh after the screening proved extremely popular and insightful.

"I was very proud to screen EMULSION at the Lighthouse to a sold out crowd, as everything was filmed locally. It was great to share the film with the people who helped make the film happen and also to inspire local film makers to make a start and encourage them to make their films right here, in Dorset! We have some of the most prestigious media courses in the United Kingdom, so it makes sense we grow talent locally. So thank you Indie Screen Dorset for choosing EMULSION as your first film." - Suki Singh - Writer/Director
Want to see if your film qualifies? You can find the terms and conditions for submitting your low budget feature HERE.

I'm already looking forward to finding out what the next indie film to be screened at Lighthouse will be.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Do you know your loglines? Could you pitch your work right now if you were asked to? Well you should be able to.

"I'm not very good at pitching," is not an excuse. It's one I've tried to use in the past, but I now realise it was just laziness because I didn't want to have to memorise all those loglines for my many projects. Yet that is exactly what I must do and have done recently. I never know when I might get the chance to pitch my loglines, so knowing them off by heart makes it easier to drop them into conversations when I do.

I've stuck to my most recent projects and tried to get a good mix of genres so I will always have something to pitch whatever the producer or director is interested in. If they suddenly tell me they are interested in sitcoms and all I have to pitch is crime dramas, it's going to be a very short, uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing conversation.

Look at it this way; if I'm not interested enough to learn the loglines of my projects why would anyone else be interested in hearing them? Producers, directors and agents don't want to listen to a babbling fool, they want to listen to someone who is passionate about their work and can communicate the essentials of the story in a relaxed and confident manner. To achieve this I've had to practice, practice and practice over the last few weeks until the point where I now believe I am confident enough to pitch my loglines to anyone at anytime.

A good tip is to get used to pitching your loglines to your partner and friends, anytime you can. They should be able to give you valuable, constructive feedback you can trust and you can use this to hone those loglines further. The more you practice the better you get. I've been pitching mine to my wife in bed at night, although I'm not exactly sure, "F*@K OFF AND GO TO SLEEP," could actually be classed as 'constructive feedback'.

Good luck with pitching your loglines.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Summer holidays. The kids are at home, full of energy and running around your ankles like Duracell bunnies. How on earth are you going to survive the next six weeks without having a nervous breakdown, and more importantly, get any work done? Here's my top tips to keeping the kids occupied during the summer holidays while still finding enough time to write ...

TV and DVDs - Too much TV will result in a very grumpy, bored child who won't leave you alone. Use it sparingly and it'll keep the kids quiet for you when you really need it. Playing the occasional DVD or sitting them in front of Cbeebies will buy you a bit of head down time in front of your screenplay, but don’t abuse this option!

Snacks – Small children graze constantly, and get grumpy when they can’t, so have a good supply of healthy snacks on hand to keep them going throughout the day. If your kids are anything like mine you’ll probably find it’s better to keep chocolate and sweet treats to the afternoon, to avoid morning hyperactiveness!

Garden – The garden is your friend in summer. If it's sunny and you have a laptop, let the kids play in the garden while you work outside. You’ll still have to join in with their play, but you might actually get some work done in between times.

Break up your day –Set yourself ‘shifts’ - work for an hour, then play with the kids for an hour, then back to work for an hour, and so on.

Outings - Arrange trips out so you all have something to look forward to and don’t end up driving each other stir crazy. Let them run off some steam and (hopefully) tire themselves out a bit – the park, soft play, bikes rides etc

Summer Scrapbook - My  wife came up with a brilliant idea to not only keep our eldest son occupied, but to also ensure he practised his reading, spelling and writing over the summer. Buy your child a scrapbook and get them to write about what they do every day over the summer holiday. They can also draw and add pictures to make a summer diary of their activities, which they can show to their teachers when they return to school.  Hopefully while they are doing this you will get a few moments to get some precious work done.

Compromise - Remember it's all about compromise. Don't think you'll be able to do the same level of work you were able to do while the kids were at school; it's not going to happen. Set your sights lower then you won't be disappointed (and more importantly, frustrated) with your kids when you don't write as many pages as you would normally do. You should be aiming to write a page a day, then things won't get too hectic and you won't be pulling your hair out in big clumps. Patchy hair doesn't look sexy, it just looks like you have mange.

Playing with Friends – Brilliant! The kids have been invited out to play with a friend – and you get a whole day to crack on with your writing. Just remember to return the favour – you’ll need to have little people over to play at some point, too. That may even get you some more writing time, as the kids occupy each other ...

Kids are fun! – At the end of the day it was your choice to have kids – so have fun with them!  All work and no play makes Dom and most other writers  a very dull boy/girl indeed. So try to play as often as you can with your kids. Build some memories.

Bribery – If all else fails, good old-fashioned bribery can sometimes do the trick! Just make sure you keep your promises - how do you expect them to if you don't?

Although tempting, cattle prods and tasers are not a legal option. Engage your kids, play with them occasionally and make sure that when you are working they know you are not to be disturbed. Give them time and they'll hopefully give you time.

What are your survival tactics for the summer holidays?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013



Right, is there anyone here that shouldn't be? Come on, own up? Why are you still here then, I've already told you there are spoilers? Off you go. Yes, yes, come on, out you go. Bye!

At last we are alone...

Neil Cross is a genius! There I've said it again, but exactly why do I think he is one? Neil is one of those rare breed of writers that knows how their audience ticks, how to play on their fears and how to get them to sit on the edge of their seats biting their fingernails, and that's not an easy thing to do. Last night's episode of Luther is a case in point. How many of you can't wait to see the final episode? Me neither! I WANT to see it NOW!!!!

When we left Luther last night his best friend had been killed and his girlfriend was about to be kidnapped, leaving us on a knife edge, making us will next Tuesday to be here already. But how did he do it?

First off, in the character of Tom Marwood, Neil Cross has developed a very sympathetic character. When we first meet Tom he saves a man and a woman from a gang of young thugs who are intent on beating, raping and robbing. Tom blasts two of the attackers in the chest with a shotgun and returns to hold the hand of the beaten man until the ambulance arrives. We instantly know that although he is disturbed he is still trying to do good and we feel for him. This is reinforced when we learn of his personal tragedy and sense of injustice after his wife was raped, murdered and shoved into the airing cupboard by an offender recently released from prison. Neil not only makes us sympathise with him, but also want to be him, reeking vengeance where injustice has prevailed.

We can also sympathise with Luther. He would love to be able to do what Tom is doing, or just turn his back and let him get on with it, but he knows it's wrong and he battles with his conscience. He'd love to see the scumbags off the streets just as much as Tom, but doesn't believe the way he is going about it is the right way.

At the end of the episode, just when Neil has made us love Tom, he goes and rips out those feelings and stuffs hate back in. DS Ripley has Tom cornered. Tom wants him to walk away. We all know DS Ripley isn't going to do that. We scream for him to do so, will him to just walk away so a much loved character doesn't get killed, but what happens? Neil Cross doesn't let up, he has Tom shoot DS Ripley in desperation, turning Tom from a sympathetic character into a hated one, with one pull of the trigger. The wife and I were totally hooked.

But Neil didn't stop there, he played on our fears once more when, in the last scene, we see Tom outside Luther's house ready to kidnap Luther's girlfriend Mary. Now it's Mary and Luther we sympathise with, Neil Cross having turned everything on its head. His genius lies in understanding the human psyche. These events COULD happen in real life. They WOULD happen. We all know it. And therefore it terrifies us. We are all just one psycho or one wronged person away from a Luther storyline. Bloody genius writing. Absolutely spellbinding. It's the kind of dark, character driven writing I love to do myself. Totally unmissable!

And not only has Neil Cross done this with the Luther series but also with The Fixer, which ran for two series. Again with The Fixer Neil didn't shy away from the unpleasant, the stuff that makes us cover our eyes, or suddenly run to the kitchen to make an urgent cup of tea. And most of all Neil's genius lies in making it all believable, making it real for those who watch it, playing on our fears and emotions like he was simply strumming a guitar. That is why I think Neil Cross is a genius. I hope I get to meet him one day because I would like to shake his hand and buy him a pint.

Oh and Alice is back next week...

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


You get yourself work, then an agent, then the money starts to roll in and you can sit back and relax... right? Wrong! Being a professional writer is harder than you think.

Three feature commissions down, one spec optioned, possible TV work lined up and you would be forgiven for thinking I've made it. I don't think there is any such thing as 'making it' to be honest, unless I was to suddenly morph into the genius that is Steven Moffat. And that's not me being negative, it's just a fact of the writers' life. Once you've had some success the pressure is on, it doubles almost over night, not only to keep the work coming in but also to make sure everything you do is top notch. You can't afford to rest for a second! You have to make everything work!! Failure is not an option!!!

The three commissions I've had so far have paid me a few thousand up front with the remainder as a deferred payment either when the budget funding is in place or on the first day of principle photography. Making feature films is quite often a lengthy process, so while I'm waiting for all that lovely money to finally make its way into my bank account I still have to look for new work.

But you have an agent? Yes I do, but I still look for my own work through the contacts I have made over the years and people still come to me direct asking me to work on their projects. My agent sends out my work, gets me meetings, negotiates my contracts and collects my money, and she's very good at all of that. If I didn't search for my own work though I would be forever worrying where the next cheque was coming from. Besides, I still have to build a name for myself. Three feature commissions is a great start but none have gone into production yet, or hit the cinemas. When they do I'll become a more viable prospect for producers, especially if the film makes a shit load of money. Producers like money! Everybody likes money!

So yes I still agonise over ever word in my screenplays, dread the possibility I might never work again, fight the paranoia I'm not any good, worry endlessly over up coming meetings and constantly fear failure... but by jingo it's still the best job in the world.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Us writers are all one big family and we should always look out for each other.

I'm always grateful for the generosity of others and in turn I always try and pass on what I've learnt to those willing to listen, who wish to improve their writing and careers. I don't profess to know it all, or to have the right answer every time. I just give advice from my past experience, the things I've learnt by making mistakes. It's all I can do.

The last couple of weeks has been a shining example of this. I've been out for drinks with two pairs of new writers. They've bought me drinks and then picked my brains on writing and my career so far. They found it helpful and informative and I got drunk for free; fair swap I think.

Over the last fortnight I've also been advised, encouraged and complimented by professionals who have worked in the TV industry for many years. I emailed one to ask advice and he replied within twenty minutes with words of encouragement, excellent advice and a hearty 'Good Luck". He didn't have to do that, but he was gracious enough to spare me the time out of his busy day to answer my question. Then another writer I've been communicating with read one of my screenplays, complemented me on it, offered her help anytime I might need it and suggested we meet me for a cuppa the next time I'm in London.

There would have been a time a few years ago where I might have been amazed at this, but I've learnt since then that there are a lot of lovely people out there and if you're polite, don't bombard them with your work or questions, they are more than happy to give their advice and encouragement. It gives me a lovely warm feeling of togetherness when this happens, especially as writing is mostly a solitary experience.

That's why I reply to all of my emails, answer any questions I'm asked and give what time I have spare to those seeking advice. It's the least I can do to return the favour of all the advice and time given by those who are more advanced in their career than I am.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Ask The Writer published an online interview with me last week, where they asked in depth questions about my journey as a writer. Two writers have already emailed me and thanked me personally for the interview, calling it insightful and inspirational... well I do like to help out. You can read my interview here.

I've always been very grateful for the advice others have given me in the past, so it feels natural to me to give advice to new writers, to help them avoid the pitfalls - of which there are many - I fell in to along my journey. That's what I love about the writer community, it's all one big love in where we go and share our wealth of knowledge. And I love helping others.

So do you have anything to share with your fellow writers, any hints, tips, or experiences? If so add a link to them in the comments below and let's all influence others to be better writers. Looking forward to reading your links.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


Writing subtext in dialogue should come automatically to writers, but I still see a lot of on the nose dialogue in the scripts I'm sent to read. So how can you prevent obvious dialogue creeping in and make sure your screenplay is layered with rich subtext?

The way I do it may not work for everyone but at least it will give you an idea of how easy it is to weave subtext in. For me it's like building blocks, you start at the bottom and build up. When I write a first draft I always write the dialogue in plain English so I know exactly what is happening in any particular scene. I don't try and hide what is being thought by the characters, I just write it plain and on the nose.

I was just wondering how are you and Sam getting along, have you patched up your differences yet?

No, I hate him... in fact I wish he was dead.

When I sit down and do another pass on the first draft I will look at the dialogue in every scene and decide how I'm going to get rid of the obvious dialogue and replace it with subtext.

I saw Sam the other day.

I fancy a tea. Want one?

This is why subtext is important. It's not what the characters say, it's what they don't say and what they imply. The first example is too obvious while the second shows how reluctant George is to mention Sam and equally how much Ruth is determined not to talk about him. Ruth's reaction illustrates just how she feels about Sam without stating the obvious.

So if you're stuck on how to write subtext then just write it plain English to start with, then go back and try to hint at what you want to say, without actually saying it in an obvious way. Your screenplays will be richer for it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Right I'm off on a well deserved holiday and I won't be back until the 5th June.

I need one I can tell you. I was getting a bit fatigued with all this writing and no break, so I'm looking forward to just relaxing (can you do that with two kids in tow?), reading and emptying my mind of the clutter it's accumulated over the last two and a half years. It's been a roller coaster ride and it's only now that I realise I haven't stopped once in all that time. I am so looking forward to my time away :-)

So I'll leave you with one thought - At the beginning of this week I went out for a drink with two local film makers and while I was eagerly supping the fruits of their generosity they asked me if it was worth going to the London Screenwriters' Festival. I nearly choked on my pint.

Five hundred delegates, producers, directors, writers, great speakers, fantastic opportunities to network, pitching to industry professionals who CAN get your work made, great conversation and of course the script labs. That's just a small taste, as I'm sure I've missed loads out. It's an awesome three days and well worth the money. WHY WOULD YOU NOT WANT TO GO????

Book your ticket and I'll see you there in October.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


When I finished the rough draft of my current feature I posted a picture on Facebook and Twitter of my index cards all crossed off. Some of you asked what they were and what I used them for, and even though I've talked about this subject before, I really think it's worth mentioning again. It basically works like this.

Go buy a pack of index card, doesn't really matter what colour, unless of course you want to use a different colour for a different act. Count out 40 of them and start writing short paragraphs of each scene you would like in your script, one to each card. You probably won't have 40 scenes in your head yet so plenty of those cards will be blank. Not to worry you're about to fill those in next.

The index cards should be split like this: 10 for the 1st act, 20 for the 2nd and 10 for the 3rd. Card 5 should be the inciting incident, card 10 the end of the first act, card 20 the midpoint, card 30 the end of act 2 and card 40 the end of your screenplay.

Now you fill the rest of those cards in and pin them up on a wall somewhere, a nice big wall so you can spread the cards out. Don't worry if you change some of your ideas as you go along, that's why you bought lots of cards, because your plot will change as you discover gaping holes in it and areas that need more work. It really helps to visualise your plot and where its faults lie. When the 40 are full, get writing that screenplay.

Cross off each card as you go and if you get a little stuck move on to another card and come back later to the one that was giving you trouble. When they're all crossed off that's your first draft complete.

Of course these are not hard and fast rules of how you should plot, but this is how I do it. Things change fast as I write and I often find scenes will change, new scenes will be added and some will be removed altogether. The index cards are only a guideline to help me focus on my characters. Of course you could go a little over board and write each characters appearance on those cards in a different colour, so it all looks very pretty, but that's up to you.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


Sometimes life is stranger than fiction and can often provide a writer with a rich source of crazy shit to write about.

Take the news story of the three kidnapped woman in Ohio who finally escaped their captor this week, after one was held captive for ten years. Relocate the story to inner city London and you have a very intense, low budget, psychological horror. Brilliant!

Then what about the singer who hired a cop to kill his wife? Could that work as a low budget UK film?Or what about the story of three people dead after a ship crashes into a port? Could something more sinister be at play that caused the crash? Aliens perhaps? OK, maybe that one's a bit silly, but I think you get my drift.

There was a news story a few weeks ago, I'm not going to tell you which one, that grabbed my imagination by the dangly bits and gave a sharp tug. Now I can't get the idea out of my head even though I'm supposed to be working on other things. And it's constantly growing and developing into a living breathing thing. It's alive I tell you....ALIVVVVVVEEEEEE!!!

So watch the news. Read newspapers. Search the web. Your next script idea is out there waiting for you.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


I was catching up on Danny & Tim's internationally renowned UK Scriptwriters' Podcast (LINK), while I was walking the dog the other day, and they were talking about making time for yourself.

Tim mentioned he had booked some time off in February, writing it in his diary as he would any other appointment or deadline, to focus on his own work. He did this because he found when he was busy with commissioned projects he had little or no time to work on his own spec screenplays and by setting aside time for himself he was able to do just that.

I was chatting to Daniel Martin Eckhart at LSWF last October and he was also talking about taking a year out from his commissioned work to focus on his own ideas. He had been working non stop for years on other people's projects since he was handed his first commission and felt it was time to concentrate on his own specs.

I have the same problem. Back in December 2011 I planned to write a second draft of my comedy heist feature A FIST FULL OF EUROS, then in January 2012 I landed my first commissioned feature screenplay. I've been working steadily ever since and I still haven't found time to get back to the script. And I probably won't do for some while yet, as after I've finished my latest commission I'll immediately start a new one.

It's the same kind of problem I had when I worked full-time and struggled to find the time to write. But I made myself find the time, made myself sit down and write, even when I didn't feel like it.

It's great being busy but I do miss working on my own stuff when I'm working for other people. So I've decided to book myself in my diary for some me time, one day a week until A FIST FULL OF EUROS is done. But which day to choose?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


The producer and director of my first commissioned feature have moved on from my polished draft and rewritten it themselves. I have to admit I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about this at first.

It was a very tough first commissioned feature to write as the producer and director were very precise about what they wanted, even to the point of spending four hours on Skype with me going through the final draft of the script line by line. It was incredibly difficult to put my own mark on the script and at times I became frustrated, especially when I didn't agree with what they were asking of me. I worked very hard on the script to give them what they wanted while also making sure it was the best it could be. Now they have informed me they have moved on from my draft.

I haven't seen the new draft so obviously I'm a little nervous because I know some of their suggestions for changes wouldn't have worked. It's hard to accept that things are now out of my control as my name will still be on the credits. I keep thinking, 'What if the changes they made don't work? What if they've made the screenplay worse? What if the screenplay is now utter rubbish and everyone is going to think I can't write?' Of course that's just my writers' paranoia popping out to say hello and I really shouldn't be listening to it.

The fact is there are always going to be changes to a screenplay, even during production, and as a writer I have to trust the vision of the producer and director. It doesn't matter what I think. It's their film. What matters is the producer and director get what they want. My doubts and fears don't come into it.

So I've decided I shouldn't fear being rewritten as it's just part of a process. I did my job. I did it well. A new draft is not a bad reflection on me. I've given them a great base from which to move forward and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished film.