Tag Archives: british film

Screenwriting: Why concept is king.

writer, screenwriting, author, greenstreet, top dog, indie film, british filmI was recently told by my agent that a very well-respected scriptwriter had just read one of my recent efforts and had told him that it was the best script he’s read this year.

Now as someone who rarely receives praise for anything other than my tea making skills (which are, to be fair, legendary. Then again, I usually practice them when I’m supposed to be writing) my initial reaction was ‘holy f**k!’. This was closely followed by the obvious question, ‘so what happens next?’

Thankfully, that question was answered fairly quickly and if all goes to plan, exciting times lay ahead. However, as I reflected on things over the next few days, I began to wonder how I’d managed to create a script which had received such glowing praise from someone who certainly knows their way around a screenplay. For as I’ve written before, I don’t really consider myself to be a screenwriter at all.

OK, I’ve had some success in that area but I’m not one of those writers who will happily polish a spec script to within an inch of it’s life before they even show it to someone else. No, I’m more of a concept writer because in most instances, I’m more than happy to throw together a decent first draft and show that around to see if it gains any interest. And that interest is generally dependent on the concept because in my experience, scripts don’t sell scripts, concepts sell scripts.

After all, it surely stands to reason that not even a brilliantly written and constructed script will sell if the basic concept is flawed. By the same token, a brilliant concept will sell even an average script. Therefore my job, as I see it, is to develop an idea to the point where a producer will get excited enough about it to start talking money. After that, the whole thing becomes a collaborative process involving producers, directors and even actors with my role being simply to work with them to develop the concept to the point where the camera starts rolling.

As if to prove my point, about 18 months ago I received this email:

…had a concept pitch from a distributor you may or may not want a crack at pitching a treatment for…

A group of old-school, Krays/Richardsons era retired gangsters (Alan Ford, PH Moriarty, Berkoff etc) are all living off past glories in East London, thinking there’s no school like the old school. One of them is savagely murdered by a group of hoodies (they probably film it etc) and they go back to their old ways to exact revenge and clean up the streets. Think Harry Brown on crack with a smidgeon of the Wild Geese. And of course, nobody thinks its them because they’re OLD

Whadya think?

I thought it was brilliant and with the help of my good mate Gary Lawrence, we developed a half decent draft and then worked with the director to develop the shooting script of what became We Still Kill The Old Way. You see, it’s all about the concept.

And in case you were wondering, yes, the concept for the script which received that wonderful and confidence boosting praise is indeed, quite brilliant. But that’s all I can tell you about it for now.

Watch this space.

indie, self publishing, soccer, money, eastenders, danny dyer, football, soccer, brimson, top dog, green streetI am pleased to announce that Top Dog has been nominated in the ‘Best Action’ category of the National Film Awards to be held in London on 31st March 2015.

Obviously, we need votes so if you have seen and enjoyed the movie, please click on the link, do your bit and then help out even further by spreading the word!

If you haven’t seen it, then still vote! I won’t judge you.

wTop     riting, writer, screenwriting, screenwriter, author, kindle, indie, film, cinema

 

Screenwriting – Why you should take notice of dreams.

script, screenwriting, screenplays, author, writing, kindle, amazon, ebooks, self publishing, top dog, green street,As a writer, one of the questions I am most frequently asked is how I get my ideas.

This is of course, a perfectly reasonable question and my standard answer is always the same. I don’t get ideas for stories, I get ideas for endings. For me, as anyone who has read The Crew or Top Dog will know, it’s all about the last few pages or the last ten minutes and everything else is about getting the reader or viewer to that point.

Recently however, I found myself the recipient of an idea. It came courtesy of my subconscious and was delivered in the form of a dream. Yes, that’s right. I woke up with a fully formed three-act outline in my head.

Now this would be great if I’d gone to bed thinking about the relevant subject matter or had eaten cheese on toast before retiring but this came entirely out of left field. It’s not even in my usual genre, or anywhere close to it. But so vivid was it that I wrote it down and then mailed it to my agent for comment.

His response was almost immediate and the upshot is that I had this dream four weeks ago today and this afternoon, mailed him a first draft of the script. All being well, this will be in front of an eager studio boss ahead of our meeting next week.

Watch this space.

screenplay, independent, film, writer, gangster, murder, As I mentioned the other day, We Still Kill The Old Way is released on December 26th.

This will be my second movie of 2014 which is not to be sniffed at although if all goes to plan, that number will be bettered in 2015. Anyway, if you fancy it -and why wouldn’t you?- you can click here to pre-order.

Finally, the vast majority of my titles are now available in ebook format with the majority either free or just 99p to download. The full listing can be found here.

 

screenwriting, writing, author, indie film, self publishing, green street, top dog, 

 

A writers life. The agony of waiting.

writing, screenwriting, author, self publishing, filmThose who know me will be well aware that I am by nature, lazy. To me, all work is hard work and any effort, an effort.

As a consequence, when I see either my work, effort or time being wasted, I find it irritating. When I know from the outset that they are all going to be discarded and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it, I find it galling. And by galling, I mean f***ing annoying.

Sadly, that’s bog standard when it comes to screenwriting. I write a script and hand it over to someone else dripping with my sweat and blood and they then tear it apart. This is wrong, that’s wrong, more of this, less of that. It’s too long, it’s too short, we need a stronger character, do we really need a stock car racing scene, we’d never get Jennifer Anniston to do that, etc, etc, etc.

I listen to this, absorb it all, sulk for a while, admit they are right (usually) and so begin rewriting. When that’s done, I hand it over and the cycle is repeated until such time as everyone is happy or I tell them to stick it.

Whilst ultimately I accept that this process is a necessary evil if you want to get the very best you can on screen, the fact remains that for the writer it can be painful and often humiliating. Indeed, as I’ve said many times, if you can’t take criticism, don’t write and that’s never more true than when developing a script.

However, it is not the worst part of life as a screenwriter. Oh no, not by a long chalk. The worst part is the waiting.

You see I can hammer out a first draft in anywhere between three and four weeks and rewrite most things in under two. If the notes are minor, I can have the changes done in as little as an hour but certainly within 24. That’s what I do, it’s how I work.

Now I don’t think it unreasonable to expect that same level of commitment from whoever asks me to do that work but more often than not, I am disappointed. Indeed it’s not unknown for me to have to wait a week for a response to something which was apparently so urgent that I’d been asked if not told to drop everything and do it immediately. In one instance, so apparently desperate was the rewrite that I was made to feel guilty for going to watch Watford (on a Saturday!) rather than do the work although oddly, even after working through the night to deliver it, it took three days for them to get back to me.

Annoying… oh yes. Will I ever get used to it? Never. Will I end up killing? Possibly.

Recently however, even the agony of waiting for notes or feedback has lessened. Primarily because it has been replaced by the agony of waiting for something else. Decisions.

Now you would think after 18 years as a writer I’d be used to waiting for a yes or no on a project and having been along Commissioning Street many times, I thought I was. But this time it’s different. This time it’s not only big deal, but big league. And it’s not just one decision, it’s two, possibly even three. And it’s so close I can smell it.

So now, waiting isn’t about wasted time or effort and knowing I’ve got work coming back to me, it’s about potentially life changing phone calls or the abject desolation of rejection.

And if you want to know how that feels, just imagine checking your lottery numbers, realising you’ve got all of them and then not being able to find the ticket… the day before you have your driving test and just after your 16 year old daughter has told you she’s been knocked up by the local scumbag. That’s pretty close to how I’ve been feeling for the last two weeks. 

To compound things, the pressure of waiting means I can’t concentrate on anything else so days which should be productive are instead wasted trawling the internet searching for obscure motorcycles, watching video’s of morons who are seemingly intent on killing themselves or pissing about on Twitter. Things which more often than not, result in my getting told off for prevaricating or feeling guilty for not actually filling any pages with text.

It’s as vicious a circle as you’d ever want to endure.

Waiting. Yes, it’s an absolute bloody delight.

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Top Dog, green street, audiobook, hooligans, hooliganism, krays, gangs, ganster

I’m delighted to tell you that the audio version of Top Dog is now available to download by clicking on the picture to the left.

It’s been narrated by Karl Jenkinson who has done a brilliant job and joins the film, the paperback and the ebook to give a clean sweep for this title which is something of which I’m justly proud.

In other news, my next movie, We Still Kill The Old Way was shown to a selected group last week and was apparently well received. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of it yet so I can’t really comment but I’m sure, given the quality of the cast involved, that it’ll be awesome.

More information on that can be found by clicking right here.

top dog, green street, gangs, gangsters, UK film, indie film, hooligans, danny dyer, eastenders, sothcott, martin kemp, spandau ballet, ebooks, amazon, kindle, ibooks 

From novel to screen – The joy of adaptation.

manchester united, david moyes, liverpool, british film, ryan giggs, old traffordWith Top Dog heading for release on Monday, the PR machine has been running at full speed and one question which has repeatedly cropped up is how I found the process of adapting my own novel for the screen.

Rather than go into it all here, I’ll point you in the direction of an article I wrote for PureMovies.com which not only goes into it in some depth, but also talks about how the movie actually came about.

Thankfully, the screenings thus far have gone really well and everyone seems more than happy which is all I could hope for. But now comes the really important bit and that’s the public reaction so if you fancy a look and haven’t ordered a copy, you can do so via Amazon. Either that or simply head down to your local DVD/Blu-ray retailer early next week.

All being well, the reissued paperback will be not far behind as copies have already rolled off the presses. That can also be ordered online via Amazon or if you can’t wait and fancy the eBook version, that can be downloaded right here right now for the princely sum of £1.99p! It’s also available via iBooks of course.

kill, indie, british film, hooligans, krays, violence, gangsAway from Top Dog, work on We Still Kill The Old Way is almost complete with the final scenes being shot in Spain early next week. I visited the set a couple of times and have to say that there was a real buzz amongst everyone that something really special is coming together.

It’s a great script, the crew are fabulous and it’s being helmed by an excellent director in Sacha Bennett but the really exciting thing about this project is the amazing cast we have working on it. A cast which includes legendary names such as Ian Ogilvy, James Cosmo, Chris Ellison, Steven Berkoff and Lysette Anthony as well as a raft of brilliant young actors led by Danny-Boy Hatchard and Danni Dyer.

If that lot doesn’t get your juices flowing, nothing will. You’re going to have to wait for a few months yet but believe me, it will be worth it.

Exciting times.

 

 green street, top dog, martin kemp, elijah wood, hooligans, gangs, violence, crime writing, indie film, writing, screenwriting, leo gregory, brimson, 

The Folly of David Moyes.

manchester united, david moyes, liverpool, british film, ryan giggs, old traffordIt cannot possibly have escaped your attention that Manchester United sacked their manager David Moyes this week. Similarly, it cannot have escaped your attention that he has been replaced by Ryan Giggs.

I say it cannot have escaped your attention because it has quite simply dominated the news all week. Never mind events in the middle east, sinking ferries, missing aircraft, the forthcoming European elections, the launch of the Top Dog trailer, etc, etc, etc, the dismissal of a football manager from his multi-million pound job has been the main talking point on TV and in print. God only knows what it’s been like on TalkSport!

Now, the fact that this story is deemed of such importance that it demanded six whole minutes as the lead story on the BBC TV evening news feeds into all kinds of debates, many of which may or may not have occurred to you.

For example, the mere mention of a bankers bonus sends the nation into a rage yet the fact that a football manager who has been sacked from his job is handed a reported £7,000,000 payoff (which equates to over £137,000 for each of the games played during his short tenure. And that’s on top of what he’s already been paid) seemingly passes by without a murmur. Why? Is there really any difference between the two? After all, the money ultimately comes from exactly the same place. 

However, this blanket news coverage also brings back into focus an issue which has long been a source of some irritation to me. It’s this inference that we care. And by we, I mean those of us who don’t follow Manchester United. 

The media of course, think we do. They think that following football means that we must, simply must have all eyes firmly fixed on the top end of the professional game and that because as both a club and a global brand, Manchester United are so immense, events at Old Trafford must have us all on the edge of our seats. But they are wrong, very wrong. Because the truth is that other than a passing interest (accompanied by the odd wry smile) the vast majority of us don’t give a shit.

But worse than that, by bombarding us with blanket news of one club, they are being disrespectful because they infer that the achievements of Burnley, Brentford, Wolves, Everton and even Liverpool, or the fears of clubs such as Norwich, Yeovil, Millwall or Torquay are the less important. And they are not. To the people who follow those clubs, they are all they care about.

Yes, Manchester United are a great club and obviously they are news. But that’s all they are to me, news. Because my club are Watford and I care more about the construction of our new stand, the issue of Troy Deeney and the identity of the nutter who inhabits the Harry The Hornet costume than I do about what goes on in M16.

And the truth is, I always will. 

manchester united, david moyes, liverpool, british film, ryan giggs, old traffordAs the release of Top Dog approaches, I’m being bombarded with requests for news of premiers, screenings, Q&A sessions and all sorts of other stuff.

Without wishing to be evasive, the truth is that I can’t answer any of those questions at the moment because I don’t actually know anything. What I can tell you is that the Universal PR machine is hard at work and as soon as things are confirmed, then they will be revealed. Therefore the best thing I can suggest is that you follow the movie on either Facebook or Twitter.

And on the subject of Top Dog, if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, please click right here!

Finally, filming We Still Kill The Old Way is due to start on May 5th. Casting is still underway and it’s fair to say that we have some cracking names in the major roles.

News of those should be confirmed this coming week so please keep an eye on Twitter for details.

Oh, and if you want to buy the odd book, that would be nice! I’ve written a few you know and there’s more coming!

Exciting times!

manchester united, david moyes, ryann giggs, top dog, green street, british film, hooligan, krays, gangster, football, soccer, UKIP, Farage, sex, fetish, social media, twitter, facebook, 

Top Dog – movie trailer released.

Top Dog Film Poster

Just a very brief note to say that the trailer for Top Dog has finally been released and you can view it right here!

The movie will his the screens at the end of May and I’m delighted to say that the original novel which has been such a hit in eBook format, will be re-issued in print as a movie tie-in at about the same time. You can pre-order it from Amazon by clicking here.

In other news, casting is underway for We Still Kill The Old Way with shooting die to commence on May 5th whilst work is still progressing feverishly to bring both Wings of a Sparrow, Mister One Hundred, Three Greens and Our Boy to the screen.

I can also announce that after years of going it alone, SMA Talent have taken me under their very experienced wing and will be looking after me from now on.

Exciting times!

krays, martin kemp, leo gregory, hooligans, russia, world cup, screenwriting, author, writer, writing, litchat, violence, England, football, soccer 

Top Dog – movie trailer released.

Top Dog Film Poster

Just a very brief note to say that the trailer for Top Dog has finally been released and you can view it right here!

The movie will his the screens at the end of May and I’m delighted to say that the original novel which has been such a hit in eBook format, will be re-issued in print as a movie tie-in at about the same time. You can pre-order it from Amazon by clicking here.

In other news, casting is underway for We Still Kill The Old Way with shooting die to commence on May 5th whilst work is still progressing feverishly to bring both Wings of a Sparrow, Mister One Hundred, Three Greens and Our Boy to the screen.

I can also announce that after years of going it alone, SMA Talent have taken me under their very experienced wing and will be looking after me from now on.

Exciting times!

krays, martin kemp, leo gregory, hooligans, russia, world cup, screenwriting, author, writer, writing, litchat, violence, England, football, soccer 

Goodbye 2013… You were the year that was!

fate, writing, author, screenwriterSo that’s it, almost done. Another year, another 12 months of highs and lows which when bundled together, forge the latest instalment of the soap opera that is my life.

I’m not normally one to look backwards and indeed, recently tweeted ‘just because the past taps you on the shoulder, it doesn’t mean you have to look back’ which kind of sums up my outlook on life these days. However, 2013 is worthy of a bit of retrospect if only because in terms of my career, it was a game changer.

Key to this was inevitably Top Dog. Indeed, 12 months ago the very idea of my ten year old novel hitting the big screen was little more than a very distant pipe dream yet here we are, teetering on the edge of a first screening and all the furore which will (hopefully) come with a release. Thanks for that must go largely to Jonathan Sothcott, Martin Kemp and of course, Leo Gregory who have driven it through from concept to reality and along the way taught me more about the creative process than any college or university could ever have.

To say it’s been an experience would be an understatement but unlike working on Green Street which was nothing less than a bloody nightmare, this time round it’s been a blast and I can only say thanks to everyone who made it so. The entire cast and crew were magnificent to work with and fingers crossed, we’ll do it all again very soon.

On the publishing front, it’s been a brilliant year and I’m very proud of the fact that I now have books going back into print with more lined up to follow. That would not have happened without the combined efforts of Matt at the eBook partnership and Darren of Caffeine Nights Publishing and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to you both.

But equally, I have to say a massive thank you to everyone who has continued to support me by buying my books because in many ways, you are the most important people of all in my creative life. I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here writing this without your support and rest assured, you are and always will sit firmly at the top of my ‘keep happy’ list because without you, god only know’s where I’d be!

And so it’s onto 2014. A year which will see Top Dog hit the screens, the filming and release of We Still Kill the Old Way as well as the publication of at least two books. And that’s just what I have confirmed at the moment because the truth is, there could be more. Much more.

Indeed, whilst I’ll long remember this last year for all kinds of reasons, the one thing that will stick with me forever is that fate has method in its madness.

So goodbye 2013, you really were something special. But 2014 is going to blow you out of the water.

Happy new year everyone. Bring it on.

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The Crew. Top Dog, Green Street, Leo Gregory, British film, thrillerDespite having been around for what seems like forever, The Crew continues to sell well in both paper and eBook format which I suspect has much to do with the revised cover featuring a certain Mr Gregory. To answer a number of questions on the subject, no, the picture is not a still from Top Dog (you can see lots of those by clicking here) but was actually taken before filming commenced. When Top Dog is reissued it will feature a similar style cover as will the third book in the series which will hopefully be ready for publication late next year.

Wings of a Sparrow is also selling well in both formats and yes, I totally agree with everyone who has told me it would make a great movie! Sadly, whilst I have a script written it is not I who has to put up the money to make it but trust me, finding that finance is high on my ‘to do’ list for 2014!

Merry Christmas folks…. but do we have to have it every year?

writing, writer, sex, penguin, porno, madonna, christmasI read somewhere that the Christmas holidays are supposed to be a joyous time when we are all apparently meant to be… well, joyous.

Given that my twitter and Facebook timelines are awash with people moaning about everything from chaotic shops to equally chaotic weather, joy is something that is clearly in short supply today. It’s certainly absent here in Brimson towers although to be fair, I’ve never really been a fan of the festive season anyway so ironically, having something else to moan about is actually a bit of a positive.

However, in the interests of fair play, I have been giving the point of Christmas some thought over these last few days and whilst I appreciate the religious significance (even though I am not in any way shape or form religious) I am increasingly baffled as to why we bother with the rest of it.

After all, there can be few more stressful times than late December and let’s be honest, if you have kids or grand kids, the impact on the old bank balance can be catastrophic. More to the point, now that we can buy Brussell spouts pretty much all year round even the delights of Christmas dinner can be replicated whenever we feel like it.

Yes, I know there are all kinds of other reasons why the holidays are ‘special’ but when you sit down and think about it, most of them are bollocks. We’re all far more mobile these days so most family can get together relatively easily and even if we can’t, the internet allows communication in forms we couldn’t even imagine when I was a little ‘un. Equally, thanks to Netflix, Love Film and catch-up even the once highly anticipated post-pig out TV experience is largely a thing of the past.

OK, there’s the issue of time off work but when when you’re self-employed and work in an industry which tends to commence winding down at the beginning of December, the fact is that the whole month is lost which can be a pain in the arse.

The more I think about it, the more it strikes me that as a society we are being led not by the church, but by the supermarkets and the online stores and in these times of austerity, the question is, why do we do it?
Would we not be better of binning the annual spend-fest that Christmas has become and holding it once every four years instead?

It works for the World Cup, the Euro’s and even the Olympics and would it not be better all round to have something to really look forward to as opposed to dreading?

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A couple of bits of news: the editing on Top Dog is well underway and a rough cut should be ready for viewing soon. I’m actually dreading this as it’s the first time I’ll have ever seen one of my books brought toreaders, film, ebooks, itunes, amazon, blog, publishing, author, writing, top dog, brimson, screenwriting, the crew, green street, elijah wood, leo gregory, charlie hunnam, essex boys life but I have every confidence in Martin Kemp so I’m sure my worries will be unfounded.

More to the point, once the rough cut has been viewed firm decisions will be taken regarding release dates etc, so as soon as I have news of those, I’ll pass them on.

I’ve also taken a positive decision about my next book. I don’t want to say too much at the moment as things may change but suffice to say that it’s an idea I’ve had ticking over in my head for a long time and in many ways, it will be the book that I’ve always wanted to write.

Finally, could I take this opportunity to wish everyone who reads this a very merry Christmas and if you could do me one favour over the coming week it’s to take the decision not to drink and drive.

2014 is going to be a massive year and I’d like to think you’ll all be around to share it.

Top Dog – done and almost dusted.

clapper, film, kemp, sothcott, greens street, top dog, brimson, gregory

 

So that’s that. Whilst there are still a couple of days filming to go, to all intents and purposes my role as the writer of the movie adaptation of Top Dog finished when I drove out of 3 Mills Studio’s in East London last night. To say it has been quite a few weeks would be an understatement.

It’s no secret that my previous experience as a full-on feature film screenwriter wasn’t exactly great but it’s fair to say that as polar opposites go, Top Dog sits firmly in the epic category. Indeed, in all my time on set (and I was on set almost every day) I only had one gripe and that was yesterday evening after what had been a very long, cold and tough day. And no, I’m not going to tell you what it was or who it was with.

Credit for that must go to the amazing production team put together by producer Jonathan Sothcott who not only worked miracles at times but put up with me wandering around asking questions and poking my nose in.

Ironically, as a former military sort where every single thing is religiously and meticulously planned, organised and structured, film sets are actually something of a nightmare as they are, to say the least, chaotic places. Yet to a man (and woman!) the crew on Top Dog were truly brilliant and I doff my cap to them all for what they’ve done these last few weeks.

Much the same can be said of the entire cast who, from the simply awesome Leo Gregory through to the numerous supporting artists (or ‘lads’ as I prefer to call them) who came along simply for the experience of being in a movie, breathed life into my humble script. But I’m not going to talk about them purely because I don’t need to. You’ll soon see for yourselves how good they all were. Believe me, you will.

However the real star of the Top Dog shoot has for me been the director, Martin Kemp. As genuinely nice as you imagine him to be and frighteningly talented, he led from the front every single day and was an absolute pleasure to be around. Just as importantly, as I have previously blogged, he’s taught me so much about the process of developing a script and has even got me to the point where I’ve started to think that I might actually be half-decent at it! Who would have thought?

And so now it’s done, and now I wait. Don’t ask me what comes next because I have no idea. People talk about seeing rough cuts and afternoons in screening rooms but this isn’t my world and so I simply nod my head as if I know what they’re talking about.

What I do know is that when Top Dog is finally put together, it’s going to look fucking amazing. Because I watched it being made, and it was the absolute bollocks.

I cannot wait to do it all again.


top dog, brimson. hooligans, author, film, screenwriting, violence, crime, thriller
 Top Dog will be released next spring/summer but in the meantime, if you’d like to read the book that started it all, you can download it from Amazon by clicking on here

And don’t forget, Top Dog is actually the sequel to #1 best-seller The Crew which is not only available to download as an ebook, but has just been re-issued in paperback. Again, you can purchase that simply by clicking this link.