Here’s an extract from my feature film script, The Darning Needle. The Darning Needle has been with me a long time, originally writing the treatment for my MA. Since then it’s gone through many drafts, and the story and themes have altered as I’ve changed my perspectives on things and my writing ability has developed. In its final form, it follows the protagonist Elissa as she’s held back from achieving her dreams by the selfish motivations of those around her (even those closest to her). I’ve decided not to continue with further drafts as, as I’ve mentioned, it has been through many changes over a long period of time, and I think it better to start afresh with new works that can benefit from a purer, more focused vision.
First off, sorry this is a couple of weeks late. I started a PGCE in September (more on that later), and my coursework has taken priority. Right then, let’s get to it. Last year I congratulated myself on my most productive year to date and predicted big success was just around the corner! Was I right in my assumption? Let’s find out!
The Darning Needle did not achieve the big success I’d hoped it would, failing to be selected for the Wales Drama Award or the Script Room. However, in preparation for selection, I came up with three outlines for Doctor Who episodes that will come in handy if I do ever find myself brought before the BBC bigwigs; I hope to develop them further as well as coming up with a few more. I recently went back to treatment with The Darning Needle, planning a further draft, but it’s taken a back seat to my PGCE. The Darning Needle has been with me three years now, but being the best example of my long-form writing, it’s essential to continually update it until I come up with something new. I’d love to write a new feature, but with the busy year I have ahead, that may have to wait. I also received another rejection from the BBC after submitting two scripts to their Class Dismissed series (my one about Mr Plank the woodwork teacher was quality, the name alone sells it, I don’t know what they were thinking). I won’t be posting these, though, as there may be another opportunity to submit them in the future.
My greatest success this year by far has come with my filmmaking/writing in the short-form. In January, having wrapped up production on Bamboo House, I set my sights on Cardiff Mini Film Festival. Having been nominated the previous year, I was determined that this year I’d come home a winner. I tasked myself to write a number of scripts through January and then select the best for filming and submission. I wrote seven within the month (five in one week), and we managed to film four before the deadline. Three of them were nominated along with Bamboo House, and I did indeed come home a winner as The Prophet was victorious in the One Minute Wonder category! Further success would follow throughout the year, the films gaining multiple competition/festival nominations and selections; Goldfish reaching the finals of the Oniros Film Awards and Bob winning Short Film Sharer! Producing these successful films led to me making many new connections through networking at festivals, increasing my online presence via a Facebook page, creating posters for all my Outré Media productions, editing a slideshow advert and a showreel, and securing my first television interview! I did have one negative festival experience, but always striving to take some good from bad experiences, I decided to produce a festival submission guide so that others wouldn’t make the same mistakes I had.
It was also another great year for collaborations and making new connections. How Not To Be Single episode two – this time written entirely by myself – was completed at the start of the year, and it was unanimously agreed that it topped the original! Sadly, the planned third and final episode of the series has yet to surface due to various reasons including actors leaving the country. Studying for my PGCE, I would be unable to take on a large role on the project, but I’ve been encouraging the show’s creator to carry on with myself acting only as script-editor; so fingers-crossed! Speaking of script-editing, I also secured that position on the web series Long Shots. The series is still in post-production and I’m greatly looking forward to its release, it being the most prestigious, high-budget project I’ve worked on. Long Shots was one of two writing jobs I gained this year by passing an application/interview process, which has given me confidence of my high-ranking position in Cardiff’s writing community. The other job was for Stuart Thomas of Stu’s Reviews, who hired me to write a script working from his brief; hopefully you’ll be seeing the finished film later in the year. I also joined a new filmmaking group, Film Focus Wales. Through the group, I’ve redrafted one script, Snow White and the Seven Convictions, that went on to be filmed with me acting as sound recordist, and unofficial advisor due to my vast experience. Again, you’ll hopefully see this later in the year. Due to my PGCE commitments, I won’t be taking on any producing or directing roles within the group, but I’ve offered them a number of scripts I’m happy for them to film. One of which, Marching Orders, is in pre-production. Having not handed over complete control of one of my scripts before, I’m looking forward to the results.
My most fruitful collaboration has been with Rachel Pedley-Miller of Avant Cymru. Not only did I produce the trailers for Avant’s Killer Cells, but I was also asked to film and edit Lands of Our Fathers, a half-hour documentary about the Rhondda’s immigrant ancestry. It was quite the experience being the longest single project I’ve ever been involved with and documentary not being my usual field. It’s had one screening so far, and we’re hoping for more this upcoming year. James Humphreys has yet again proved an invaluable contact, asking me to take part in one of his ScriptDawg events, test-running Tell Me About It, Sam on stage before filming. ScriptDawg is a great venture and a lot of fun, but I have no plans to pursue theatre work as it is not my passion or where my talents truly lie. James also encouraged me to take up home tutoring via the Tutora agency. This not only became my main source of income for the year but also a truly rewarding experience as I helped a number of struggling GCSE students achieve passing grades. It also inspired my decision to take a PGCE. My hope when I graduate is to gain a part-time position as a lecturer so I can still carry on my filmmaking/writing career while having the security of a well paid permanent job and hopefully making a difference in people’s lives.
One thing I’ve neglected this year is film/TV analyses/reviews. I had plans for a few but my filming/scriptwriting has taken priority, which is definitely for the best as that’s what I want to make my career from. Nevertheless, analysing and reviewing other people’s work is vital for inspiration and keeping one’s screen language skills sharp, and it’s a lot of fun, so it’s still my aim to publish my thoughts on some films and Doctor Who episodes in future. I’ve been aching to do The Seeds of Doom for ages, so hopefully that’ll be on this year’s list. First and foremost to this year’s plan is passing my PGCE, though. This will mean I’ll have less time for writing/filmmaking, at least until June – I’ve already had to turn down the opportunity to write/direct for Emojis of Horror, which would’ve been a cool project – but as well as Film Focus and Stuart Thomas, I’m on the lookout for other filmmakers to produce my work. Getting something produced on a big budget by a professional crew would be ideal. For this reason, along with the great opportunity it’d bring, I’m determined to be selected for It’s My Shout 2018, so will be producing a number of tailored scripts, much as I did for Cardiff Mini Film Festival. On top of all this, I’ll be continuing to submit my films produced this year to competitions/festivals, and I’m confident they’ll be more selections, nominations and winners ahead, and I’ll make many more connections.
So, do I feel I’ve achieved big success this year? Sure. I’ve topped last year for productivity and recognition, and my ability continues to develop rapidly. But am I satisfied? No, I want more! And I’m confident I’m going to get it. I’m certain I’ll build on what I’ve achieved and see similar success this forthcoming year. I feel I can accomplish anything if I set my mind to it, and with effort and perseverance, all my goals will be achieved.
My latest showreel. Chiefly considering myself a writer, I wished it to highlight my ability to create striking and imaginative visuals, unique situations, concepts and dialogue, as well as displaying impressive camerawork and production values. All the films featured are viewable on my website.
My first TV interview, on Made in Cardiff’s The Crunch, discussing my award-winning films and filmmaking in general. Overall it was a good experience, that’ll hopefully prepare me for many more future TV appearances. The sound was out of sync on the clip from Bob, but it was still an excellent opportunity to promote my work, and I didn’t stumble over my words too much. More details on much of what I discuss, including my aspirations and my films and their development, can be found in the Films and CV and Contact categories and by exploring the rest of my website!
When setting myself the task of writing multiple films for Cardiff Mini Film Festival, I formulated many of my ideas, not by thinking of a social issue I’d like to tackle or a theme I’d like to convey, as has often been my method in the past, but by picturing a striking image and then forming the plot and the theme around that. It’s a method I plan to employ regularly from now on as it produced great results; showing memorable imagery is equally as important to a film’s success as meaningful substance. Bob (script) was one such film for which I used this method. Another was Goldfish, which originated from the image of a man staring into a goldfish bowl. The image Bob originated from was that of a grown man on a park bench, holding a red balloon. Once I had this image, it led to questions such as why would a grown man carry a balloon, and what could this symbolise? The themes of insecurity, benevolence, and release developed from this.
Bob carries his red balloon everywhere he goes, even though it prevents him joining in and causes him to be teased. But is it the balloon he needs to let go of, or something else?
Additional: Since my original post, Bob has been selected for the Oniros Film Awards August 2017, Hellfire Short Film Festival’s 12th Round 2017, Cardiff International Film Festival 2017 and St Neots Film Festival 2017, and won Short Film Sharer May 2017!
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.
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 been selected for Brighton Rocks Film Festival 2018 and Short to the Point November 2017, and won the One Minute Wonder category at Cardiff Mini Film Festival 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!