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.