Goldfish

Inspired to produce something simple to suit Cardiff Mini Film Festival’s criteria, I wrote Goldfish; a script based around the protagonist’s confined environment. It illustrates how you can miss out on life by not breaking from routine; paralleling the life of the protagonist stuck in his tiny flat with that of his goldfish. Although the premise was simple, I felt the production would benefit from some expert lighting and colour grading to further highlight these parallels and enhance the slightly surreal tone. For this purpose, I brought onboard Steven Owen, whose lighting served Bamboo House so well, and his associate Jack Longley. Both proved invaluable.

Synopsis

Huw lives a life of routine, never leaving the familiar environment of his flat. In an odd break from tradition, it’s up to his pet goldfish, Gil, to put an end to his static lifestyle.

Additional: Since my original post, Goldfish has been nominated in the One Minute Wonder category at Cardiff Mini Film Festival 2017 and selected for Loch Ness Film Festival 2017.

The Prophet

The Prophet (script) was inspired by an old proverb I came across on the internet:

“The man said to the Prophet, ‘give me advice’. The Prophet said, ‘do not get angry’. The man asked repeatedly, and the Prophet answered each time, ‘do not get angry'”.

I found the proverb amusing as the man persistently questions the Prophet even though he’s already given his answer, seeming like he’s attempting to aggravate him and get him to contradict himself. This was the basis for the film. I also incorporated subtext about the irrationality of having an unquestionable text and the hypocrisy of religious violence.

Synopsis

A modern-day prophet has some sage advice for an inquisitive young man, but he’s not about to take it without question.

Additional: Since my original post, The Prophet has won the One Minute Wonder category at Cardiff Mini Film Festival 2017.

 

Bamboo House

Bamboo House is a script I completed over a year ago. I initially entered a shorter, less Welsh centric version to Jameson First Shot, but was unsuccessful. The brief was to write about the great and/or unexpected things that can happen when you fear less and invite life in. I found out about the competition not long before the deadline and only had a week to prepare. I adapted the script from a premise I’d come up with a few weeks before, which meant that the protagonist was quite a bit older than the intended lead, Maggie Gyllenhaal. I thought this could be easily achievable with a bit of makeup, but I have a feeling this, along with some of the locations and shots, may have been over-ambitious and put the judges off, as judging by previous winners, they were looking for maximum simplicity.

I later entered a version very close to the one available here to It’s My Shout. I was unfamiliar with the competition when I saw it advertised on the BBC Writers Room; the brief stating they wanted scripts with scope for budding actors of ‘all ages’. When I later checked the It’s My Shout website, it stated they wanted scripts with scope for as many budding ‘young’ actors as possible. By this time, the deadline was upon me, and my script had just one young supporting character. Again, I was unsuccessful.

I was not discouraged by my failure, in fact, it not only motivated me to enter as many competitions as possible in future (including the two mentioned – making greater efforts to fulfil the brief) but to film the script myself! It was the success of my previous film, Total Investigation Television, that really got the Bamboo House project rolling. Total Investigation Television was nominated for best Short Fiction at Cardiff Mini Film Festival 2016, and it was there that I met Boyd Clack and Kirsten Jones, who were hosting the awards ceremony. After pitching the script to them, they wished to be involved in the project. With actors of their calibre and reputation onboard, there was no question that Bamboo House would be filmed!

From extensive storyboarding, securing the perfect locations and shooting test footage, to enlisting trusted crew I’d worked with in the past and fresh talent with expert skills, I made every effort to make sure Bamboo House was the very best film it could be. I leave it to you, the audience, to judge if I achieved my goal.

Synopsis

Mair, recently bereaved, spends her lonely days in her empty flat. Her visits to Bamboo House, her local Chinese takeaway, her only departure from her introverted lifestyle. It is there she meets Griff, an eccentric man with an insatiable sense of fun. On a romantic day out, Griff encourages her to fear less and invite life in. But will Griff’s own fear that Mair is unable to move on from the loss of her loved one put an end to their happiness?

Additional: Since my original post, Bamboo House has been nominated for best Short Fiction at Cardiff Mini Film Festival 2017.

How Not To Be Single – Episode Two: Party

How Not To Be Single is a YouTube comedy series created by James Musgrove of J.A.M Productions that follows the highs and lows of four friends struggling with single life. I’m working on the series as co-director, cameraman, and scriptwriter. Although I was merely a mentor during the writing of episode one, due to my extensive experience and a fast approaching production date, I was asked to write the entirety of episode two; working from a brief from James. Matt was to move out of his old place and in with AJ, the lads would throw a housewarming party, and they’d all have to fail at being single due to their various foibles; the rest was mine to play with!

For a moment, you may think you’re rewatching episode one as it starts similarly with a knock at Matt’s front door. This isn’t derivative writing but an intentional motif that I wish to reflect Matt’s recovery from his break-up. Episode one, he couldn’t even answer, now he can but in low spirits; what will episode three show? The main characters’ personalities were so wonderfully defined in episode one – AJ, the father figure who pulls everyone together, Pat, the anally-retentive math geek, Simon, the mouthy narcissist, and Matt, the insecure victim in need of his friends’ support – that I made sure these characteristics were continued in episode two, but I also added some development, particularly for Matt and Simon, so the series doesn’t stand still.

The word constantly going around my head during writing was ‘dynamic’. Although a sitcom will inevitably have far more dialogue and be less visually driven than your standard short film, I didn’t want any scene to be solely about the dialogue and strove to always have an interesting action, location or visual element at play. This, as well as elements of the brief, led to a vastly increased cast that delayed production due to actors’ availability. The challenge of episode three will be continuing with this dynamic style while sticking to the main cast. We’re on a high after episode two, having surpassed our goals despite setbacks, and believe we’re more than up to it!

Career Plan 2016-2017

At the beginning of the year, I found myself in a much securer position than at the beginning of the previous year and with a clear objective for the year to come of prioritising the development of my own work over critiquing other people’s.

My main focus has been The Darning Needle, a 3x45min drama that I’ve submitted to the Wales Drama Award. It’s my best and most substantial work to date and the first full-length piece I’ve been satisfied with (although a writer is never truly satisfied and I’ll go back to it if required). I’m eagerly awaiting the results of the Wales Drama Award, and preparing other work to present to the judges if I’m successful, including an outline for another full-length piece and a Doctor Who episode! At some point after the results, I should be able to share some extracts from The Darning Needle and these other pieces. I’m hopeful for success, but failing any, I’ll have another chance to submit The Darning Needle to the BBC via their Script Room in December.

I’ve also been seeking success with writing in the short form. Last September, I set myself the target of writing three short films by January with an eye to film the most suitable as an eligible contender for competitions and festivals throughout the year. The first I finished was Nice Guy. I felt this was least suitable as it wasn’t up to the standard of the other two and its critique of internet culture would require the potentially long and costly development of a fake social network to avoid copyright. The second, Total Investigation Television, was the script I chose to film. It still provided a critique of internet culture but was far more easily realised; being shot in the style of the social experiment films it satirised. I was happy with its realisation, its production led to connections with some brilliant actors and organisations that I hope to work with again, and it’s also received some recognition! It’s due to be shown at Made in Roath Arts Festival on October 15th, and was nominated for Best Fiction at Cardiff Mini Film Festival 2016, but failed to win. The final script I wrote, and possibly the best of the three, was A Love Story at Lin’s Kitchen. I decided not to film it immediately as I wanted to submit it to a couple of competitions that offered the prize of having it produced by professionals. Sadly, like Total Investigation Television, it was not successful. I feel on all these occasions, I missed out due to my entries incompatibility with the criteria, so next year I’ll be preparing more suitable applicants.

A further unexpected achievement came through our nomination at Cardiff Mini Film Festival. During the networking after-party, I introduced myself to the award hosts, Boyd Clack and Kirsten Jones, and asked them if they’d be interested in starring in A Love Story at Lin’s Kitchen; now retitled, Bamboo House. They loved the script and agreed. Shooting commenced yesterday, and you can keep up to date by watching our video diary. Being my first film to feature professional actors, Bamboo House provides me with a great opportunity, as this will not only enhance the production but potentially draw greater attention to my work than ever before. It will be made public on YouTube in November and submitted to competitions and festivals thereafter; including those we missed deadlines for last year – Cardiff Independent Film Festival – and others that Total Investigation Television was not suitable for due to its limited visual scope. With professional actors onboard, impressive locations secured, and greater opportunity for sophisticated cinematography, Bamboo House should be my greatest production yet!

As well as instigating my own projects, I’ve played significant roles in other people’s. I helped out first-year film students at Cardiff and the Vale College, acting in one of their shorts. I also helped third year scriptwriting students at the University of South Wales, assisting at script development classes. It was here I met James Humphreys, a fruitful connection as I went on to perform in a live reading of his script, Ringland, and was later asked to act at and script edit his first ScriptDawg event, and time permitting I’ll be taking part in all future events. I’ve also been told by senior scriptwriting lecturer, Sian Summers, that she’ll inform me of any further opportunities to assist at the university, which I’m very hopeful to do as I feel my tutoring/script editing ability has been put to good use. Another project where these skills have been utilised is YouTube sitcom series, How Not To Be Single, created by James Musgrove. I helped James develop the script for episode one, taking an advisory position, and then went on to co-direct and film it. Episode two I wrote myself, working from a brief from James, and again I’ve been co-directing and filming. It will be released later this month, and we’re confident it will top episode one! With this huge increase in filming, I hope to produce a showreel very soon or even multiple ones, focusing individually on my acting, camerawork, and writing!

Despite all my filming and scriptwriting work, I’ve still found time for reviews and analyses of film and television. These include E.T., the Star Wars saga, all the X-Men universe films, Ghostbusters 2016, and the classic Doctor Who serial, The Ark. I was particularly proud of my X-Men and Doctor Who posts. The X-Men posts perfected the more light-hearted yet informative blogging style I’ve been trying to move towards after writing formal university essays for years. Next year sees the release of Spiderman: Homecoming, and I’d like to review the Spiderman franchise in a similar style, as well as the new Wolverine film so I can maintain my complete record. I was pleased to be able to debunk the negative and unfair fan opinion of The Ark, and I’m still hoping to produce many more Doctor Who posts in future. Critiquing at least one story from each Doctor is my next target, as well as an overview of all the Dalek stories with an accompanying video ranking my best to worst! I also plan to post about Star Wars: Rogue One this Christmas and Trainspotting and its sequel upon its release.

I’ve exceeded my objective as this has been by far my most productive year. I’ve produced my best work, made great connections and received recognition for my efforts. I feel my ability is still progressing at a rapid pace and I’m more focused and confident than ever. I’ve achieved more than I could’ve hoped for, but I feel now that I’m in such a strong position, next year will reap even greater rewards. Big success is just around the corner!

Fear of the Unknown (The Ark)

Is The Ark racist? It’s become a popular opinion in recent years, with various bloggers championing it, but is it true? Let’s take a practical look at the story and see what we discover. The Humans are travelling on the Ark with their seemingly willing servants, the Monoids; their destination, Refusis II. They are aware Refusis II is inhabited but know nothing about the Refusians. When the Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions arrive on the Ark, they accidently bring a deadly illness and are put on trial for their lives; accused by the Humans of being Refusian spies out to destroy them! When the prosecutor, Zentos (Inigo Jackson), reveals it is irrational feeling rather than reason that leads them to this conclusion, Stephen (Peter Purves) protests the Humans’ intolerance.

STEPHEN: the nature of man, even in this day and age, hasn’t altered at all. You still fear the unknown, like everyone else before you.”  

Only when the Humans overcome their prejudice against the newcomers to their world and let the travellers free is the situation resolved, as the Doctor is able to cure the illness. The Doctor leaves them with a parting message, “travel with understanding as well as hope”. So far, the story’s intention seems clear, to encourage acceptance of difference, not fear and hatred. However, it is the second half of the story that has provided the most evidence for the accusations of racism. The travellers return to the Ark 700 years later to discover the Monoids have now enslaved the Humans. It’s been suggested that the Monoids represent migrants, as they came to Earth to live with the Humans when their planet was destroyed, and that their rising up to overthrow the Humans reveals a reactionary fear of migrants doing the same in Britain. Unfortunately, the Monoids are depicted as crueller masters than the Humans, as although the Humans were seen to consider Human life more important than Monoid, and the Monoids served them, it seemed to be an amicable relationship, with no evidence of the Monoids being mistreated. Whereas the Monoids use weapons to inflict pain on the Humans and keep them in order, and plan to destroy them once they get to Refusis II. But is this intentional racism? No, not at all, just ill-considered, unsophisticated writing, accidently contradicting the message of the story. Yes, this could have been avoided if the Monoids were depicted as more sympathetic creatures, but to label it as deliberate racism is to be completely ignorant of how scriptwriting works. Both Stephen and the Doctor, the show’s moral conscious, give speeches condemning the Humans’ behaviour (“they were extremely intolerant and selfish”) and blaming them for the Monoids’ revolution.

THE DOCTOR: “they were treated like slaves! It’s no wonder when given the chance they repaid you in kind!”

Unawareness that a writer who wishes to send a prejudice message against migrants doesn’t write this kind of dialogue is baffling. However, the most glaring oversight that is always made by The Ark’s attackers is that the Humans are migrants too! Earth, the Humans’ home, has been destroyed, and they are travelling to Refusis II to make a new one; this is the whole thrust of the story! When they arrive at Refusis II, the Refusians insist that they must settle their differences with the Monoids. Once they do, they welcome the migrants to their planet in peace rather than enslaving them like the Humans did the Monoids. Again, the Doctor offers his message of hope and understanding, clearly signposting it as the story’s central moral.

It’s sad that a story that’s tried to promote the need for races to peacefully co-exist together has been labelled as racist by people putting two and two together and making five, but also blame must be put on the writer for not fully thinking through the connotations of his work. An example of how practical deliberation must always be employed by both writers and critics.

The Ark

Monoids and Humans, happy together.

Additional Note: One recurring piece of evidence given by those accusing The Ark of racism is that Dodo (Jackie Lane) calls the Monoids savages. THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN. She hears the sound of drums from her cell when THE HUMANS are conducting a funeral and says, “sounds like savages”. A no longer politically correct word, but it’s never used as a slur against the Monoids.

How Not To Be Single – Episode One: Rally

How Not To Be Single is a YouTube comedy series created by James Musgrove of J.A.M Productions that follows the highs and lows of four friends struggling with single life. I’m working on the series as co-director, cameraman, and scriptwriter – acting as a mentor during the writing of episode one, offering advice on dialogue, character and plot development, and writing episode two; coming soon! We plan at least three episodes, and although the scenarios are heightened for comic effect, we wish to present relatable experiences and provide positive messages about how to feel confident and comfortable being single.