Monday, May 02, 2005

Outlines and templates

No-one knows where I can get an actual bucket of plastic spiders, do they? Just in case I want to do an epic LOTR-style battle sequence for toy-fu at any point. I'm sure I saw such a thing once, but have had no luck on the internet. I told Matt of my pain and he looked at me sadly and said 'You have my my sympathy. Many a fine project has failed due to a lack of a bucket of plastic spiders'. Which was a thoughtful thing to say.

I've been working on outlines and templates this weekend, which has a pleasantly architectural, almost masonic feel to it. Being self-employed, I only realised yesterday that May 2nd was a Bank Holiday, which doesn't have much impact on me, apart from lots of the shops are closed. But not any of the ones my friends work in, which they're all very pleased about. I always thought it was illegal to expect people to work on a bank holiday, but a few years in retail swiftly disabused me of that notion.

Anyway, back to templates and outlines. Something that mightily confused me when Agent Ginny first started getting me meetings was that they'd go something like this:

MEETEE: So I loved your spec script.
ME: Great.
MEETEE: Loved the dialogue, loved the structure, loved the setting. Love, love, love.
ME: Well that's good to hear.
MEETEE: I showed to Sally over there, she doesn't like anything, and she loved your script. Didn't you Sally?
SALLY: Don't talk to me. I hate you.
MEETEE: So all round loving, enthusiasm and warmth. And love.
ME: Well that's great! I've some ideas for casting, and I've burnt a CD of-
MEETEE: So if you want to come up with some outlines for more scripts, we'd love to see them.
ME: ?

Which confused me for a bit. And still does. But, once you've got an in with the right guys, they don't need to see a full script before, in theory, they start giving you development cash. Which comes in useful, although in the future a new kind of writer may evolve who thrives purely on herbal tea and actors' stories. And then look out, quite frankly.

I still prefer to write a full script, and then try and get it out there, which I've had to accept is a bigger risk: there could be some problem with it that makes it impractical to film (which in kids TV includes: characters who are too young and therefore will be kept out of school for filming, characters who are too old and therefore are likely to alter over a the course of a few short weeks in terms of skin, height, voice and for all I know, number of limbs), scripts depicting violence against kids (boo - and see here ) and many many more), or the script might just turn out to be, you know, rubbish. On the plus side, having committed yourself to writing a full script without any real likelihood of pay shocks many development execs to the point of tears ''seriously, he wrote this without being paid!' 'Ooh, imagine what else he'd do...'. I think it puts them in mind of medieval monks ruining their eyesight in guttering candlelight, completing the last few lines of an illuminated bible before being led quietly back to their cell for some broth. Ooh, salty.

So you need to do a bit of both. It gives Agent Ginny a bit more to work with anyway, which keeps her off the streets and out of trouble. Pleasingly, my shortsighted devotion to writing actual scripts means development people have some solid samples of work to look at, ranging from kids animation to pilot sitcoms to full screenplays.

And I'm being unfair to development people, most of whom will quietly tell you over a glass of whisky at two in the morning that they're not paid quite as much as you think, and they spend their every day looking for a script they can get enthusiastic about, and, most days, not finding one. In fact my last meeting with a development person went like this:

DP: So we loved your script.
ME: (sulkily) Well give me a million pounds then.
DP: (laughs politely) Well it's not quite the area we're looking for. So if you fancy coming up with-
ME: God, 'whatever'.
DP: I'm sorry I can't give you a million pounds.
ME: You do know I came up from Cornwall for this?
DP: Yes I'm sorry.
ME: I mean I'd try and talk to you about what I want to write, but you won't have a clue what I'm talking about, will you? There's no passion in the your jejune little world, is there? You're not a fan. You've never queued for the new Buffy boxed set, or heard of Neil Gaiman, or-
PD: Actually I'm a huge Sandman fan.
ME: Oh. Really?
PD: We've actually been developing a project with (names not very well-known but very talented and certainly up-and-coming British comics writer)
ME: Oh. Can I send you some outlines for stuff then?
PD: Yes.
ME: Can I have some herbal tea?
PD: Yes.
ME: I like meetings.

38 comments:

Steve Dix said...

I read that as "So, you need to do a bit of broth"...

patroclus said...

Jejune! A criminally underused word. Marvellous.

cello said...

Jejune; that has always been a favourite word. Well, not always actually. Only since I was about 15.

Anyway it's a tough old life being an artist, demanding great vats of stoical, yet dynamic, optimism. Can we help in any way? We think you're brill and if we were DPs you'd have already had a million quid, broth *and * herbal tea. And a monk, quite possibly.

cello said...

Snap, Patroclus! We're typing jejune appreciation at the same moment!

patroclus said...

Did your appreciation of the word "jejune" also come from Brideshead Revisited by any chance, cello?

Lizzy said...

There seems to be a lot of jejune appreciation going on here, so might I just ask what it means?

james henry said...

3 entries found for jejune.

je·june P Pronunciation Key (j-jn)
adj.
Not interesting; dull: “and there pour forth jejune words and useless empty phrases” (Anthony Trollope).
Lacking maturity; childish: surprised by their jejune responses to our problems.
Lacking in nutrition: a jejune diet.

Orthoclase said...

I didn't find any spiders at Archie McPhee, but can you use a mini pigs or poison dart frogs?

cello said...

No Patroclus, It wasn't Brideshead. That came later. It was in a Latin class where the master was at pains to point out that 'jejune' had no etymology in common wuth 'jeune', despite there being some small overlap in meaning.

james henry said...

Hmmm, let me get back to you on the frogs..

Cello, your picking up when I use fancy words is support enough. Can I say that I got the word 'jejune' from a Judge Dredd novelisation in 1998? I like to think I'm widely-read in the shallowest possible way.

patroclus said...

It was the single best line in Brideshead too:

"When at length I returned to my rooms and found them exactly as I had left them that morning, I detected a jejune air that had not irked me before. What was wrong? Nothing except the golden daffodils seemed to be real. Was it the screen? I turned it face to the wall."

Paul Pennyfeather said...

Best lines in brideshead P17 of my copy (much thumbed- which I now limit to two readings per year- birthday and Christmas if you must know):
"On a sheep-cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate the strawberries and drank the wine- as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together, -and we lit, fat Turkish cigarettes and lay on our backs, Sebastian's eyes on the leaves above him, and mine on his profile, while the blue-grey smoke rose, untroubled by any wind, to the blue-green shadows of foliage, and the sweet scent of the tabacco merged with the sweet summer scents around us and the fumes of the sweet, golden wine seemed to lift us a finger's breadth above the turf and hold us suspended."
the best sentance in english- but than again I am PP so I would say that wouldn't I.

patroclus said...

Very romantic, PP. The three-times repetition of "sweet" must be there for a purpose. Probably to signal that everything's going to go horribly wrong very soon. I love Waugh, and Decline and Fall is my favourite, you'll be pleased to hear.

Paul Pennyfeather said...

The impending doom is a laid on quite think (lifted only to fall etc)- if only the book would end their on page 17, but it must continue towards death (momento mori etc)
As James has just so eloquently pointed out via a telephonic communication "It's a bit gay"- have I wasted the finest literature on a blog about Judge Dredd novelisations?

james henry said...

Judge Dredd was ace. Particularly the one where he fired a rubber-tipped bullet into a lift where this perp was hiding? And the noise went BUDABUDABUDABUBUD and when the lift doors opened the perp had been shot like a MILLION TIMES.

I keep trying to lower the tone of the blog, but no-one will let me, which, secretly, I quite like.

I tried Waugh once. What was it good for? Absolutely nothing.

Paul Pennyfeather said...

say it again

patroclus said...

*All* books should end on page 17. That way I might have half a chance of catching up on all the fine English lit, sci-fi, graphic novels etc. that I'm always pretending to have read. And ha ha ha to the Waugh joke. This is shaping up to be a top comments thread.

patroclus said...

Actually I've never even pretended to have read a graphic novel. I don't know *what* I was thinking there.

Paul Pennyfeather said...

Lots of books would be better if you only read the first 17 pages.
Cf: http://www.theonion.com/news/index.php?issue=4117&n=3
Umberto Eco's essay on how when he worked as a cinema usher he only saw the first 10 minutes of any film.
I tried to find a reference for the eco, but got waylaid by his essay on how to spot a porn movie and the imposibility of making a 1:1 map.
All of which were much more interesting than this comment.
Please stop reading and get yourself a copy of "Misreadings"

emma said...

I think you can get buckets of plastic spiders in hamelys. If not why not try collecting those plastic spiders meant for 8 yr old boys out of packs of shreddies or coco pops if your desperate for some??

james henry said...

Hammmeleleleleelys had a definite absence of plastic spiders when I was in last week, although I did hang around too long in case I looked like a prevert. And for the amount of spiders I'm thinking of, I'd need to eat a lot of shreddies.

cello said...

Vague memory of wholesale plastic spiders being on sale at places like zoos and the Natural History Museum.

belladona said...

I order those exact spiders for one of my museum shops, (I think there's about 8 - 12 different varieties) I'm not sure offhand of the supplier but I'll check it out when I'm next at work. They do all sorts of insects, frogs, butterflies and bendy snakes that are really good for contorting into odd shapes - they hang off stuff nicely.
God, I sound like a salesperson for keycraft or whoever it is. The butterflies are a bit odd actually. They were never meant to be rendered in even the finest plastic.
There is a company that do tubes of dinosaurs and probably spiders but I've never ordered from them and think I may have thrown the catalogue away as they were insanely expensive.
I'll stop now.

james henry said...

Magic! Thanks Belladonna (I think the first load of spider came from a tube).

I took the virtual tour of the Rivers Pitt museum - v cool.

cello said...

Did you drool over the cabinets?

james henry said...

I rather did - they were fableous (made-up cornish misphrasing there). Didn't really take it in though - must go there at some point on spurious 'research' grounds.

cello said...

James, have I missed it or is there no button on the forum to get back to your blog? I feel Izzy deserves a rest, so no rush. But it would be handy.

james henry said...

Good point.

belladona said...

Yes! you must! It's glorious, though you may need a lot of time to fully appreciate it.
I can always send you some spiders if all else fails.

james henry said...

I shall consider you my Spidery Plan B. How you view this is up to you.

belladona said...

Do I get some kind of costume?

Patroclus, do you mean to say you've never read The Sandman? It'll convert you.

Fizzy good said...

I just acquired the Brideshead Revisited boxset. You know, of the TV series.

I'll get me coat. I'm neither intellectual enough nor sufficiently lowbrow for this, I rather feel.

Mummy/Crit said...

I know where to get a massive inflatable redback if you're interested...
Crit

james henry said...

Spidery Plan C. Excellent.

Fizzy Good, there's room for everyone.

Paul Pennyfeather said...

Please destroy your box set of videos of Brideshead. There is a very dodgy sun-bathing scene in which Jeremy Irons unwisely bears his chest, causing much disquiet in the Pennyfeather household.
I fear it will put you off Waugh for life.
Reading Waugh is a bit like watching Woody Allen movies- start with the early funnier ones.
10 housepoints for the first person who can name the film. (i prefer you earlier funnier movies)

james henry said...

stardust memories?

Fizzy good said...

I could never destroy the boxset, it's a family heirloom. I'll smash things indiscriminately though, to make up for it. Starting with the opening credits of The Good Life.

By the way, James, Google tells me that you're right there. Everything I know, I learned from Google. Or kindergarten. Or something.

Mummy/Crit said...

Massive inflatable redbacks not available online as far as I could see, sadly. They are great tho'. May cost as little as Aus$10 (aka 4 pounds-ish). The non-online version of the Australian Geographic (whence cometh the redbacks) also has the aformentioned tubes of spiders, I think...happy to be plan C.