Monday, 18 December 2017

Screenwriting Advice for BA Students... From a Masters Grad (Part Three: To Degree or Not Degree)

Here's the sad truth: 

Most, if not everyone, doesn't care where you studied, or how much you paid, or how high your grades were. Of course, doing well at school is an indicator of your ability and talent, but it's far from the final say. Ipsoergo, if your BA is so worthless, therefore, your Master's is as well.

Might as well just gung-ho it with a copy of Blake Snyder, right?

If the answer was that straightforward, this post wouldn't exist, would it?

Here's the thing: just like agents, you do not need a Masters to become a writer and get work. I've already shown you the resources available that can teach you all about craft and business. Indeed, the steep price tags of these more advanced degrees can be turn offs, and with an industry loaded with contradictory stories about how people broke in, many completely clear of degrees, gauging their actual worth can be very tricky.

HOWEVER, a Master's in Screenwriting is not merely just learning how to write a better movie:
  • Careers: Other skillsets and career paths can open themselves up to you, that you wouldn't be exposed to by just reading. Not merely writing for film (feature and short) and television, but radio, video games, commercials, as well as development roles like script reader, script editor and then, finally, teaching and consulting. 
  • Professional development: on the course, you'll be getting your material developed, reviewed and critiqued by veterans with whom you develop a relationship with and can turn to for help. You can even, if you ask nicely, get them to read and critique non-course work, or run a CV or cover letter passed for a check. This also covers pitching and getting comfortable talking to others.
  • Work ethic: the structure and deadlines of the course will encourage you to start working more professionally and efficiently on your material. Learning how to turn around an idea into a script in about five-six weeks is a useful skill (not to mention, close to what is expected in the business), as well as how to generate multiple ideas (more on that in a bit).
Really, it comes down to you: are you better as a lone wolf, learning as you go, or do you need a guiding hand to help? Do you do better in class, with order and structure, or do you thrive on the wiles to the tempestous muse?

Let's say yes, you do need that class environment. What do you do next in course hunting?

What have I kept saying? Be A Discerning Shopper. Some degrees are undeniably better than others: fairer prices, better modules, more variety, more content and higher quality tutors. Just like with books and websites, similar criteria applies:
  • Tutors: Just like with writing gurus, make sure the tutors are practitioners and have some experience. You likely won't be taught by a titan like Julian Fellowes or Steven Moffat, but even someone who was a producer on Casualty or a development exec at Lime will be a stronger guide and mentor than just a regular film professor. They know your pain, your anxieties, and will be able to offer you support and even advice on what to do.
  • Module content: The course should offer a nice sample platter of the industry, covering all the key mediums, as well as a fair focus on the business side. There is no point in spending thousands on a course that, yes, can make you write well, but does not prepare you for the industry or suggest career options to explore while you prepare your material. Also, how is it structured? Does it feel like one subject flows into the next, or is it just a random jumble?
  • Reputation: The more presitigious an establishment, the more difficult the entry criteria will be, and just like pricing, this can be a hurdle. The National Film and Television School are especially strict, demanding an entire portfolio of work from you (if you want to try, start working on it now). Inversely, the smaller and less well known the school, the higher the chances are that the MA is not very good, especially if it's not a school that primarily specializes in media.
So, you like the course and the school. Great, but what are some other MA benefits?

Well, one of the big downfalls of newbie writers is getting stuck on one project: that one pilot or feature that will, somehow, magically propel them to riches and fame, and as a result, never diversifying or working on anything else. This is the screenwriting equivalent of abortion: denying your career life before it's even begun. As a writer, like it or not, you have to create many stories, not just one. Going on an MA will force you to learn how to generate mutiple projects in a timely fashion, and not get tempted to be glued to one 'magic ticket'.

Another benefit? Names do, somewhat, matter here: in more developmental roles such as reading and editing, being taught by someone with a modicum of clout and respect can be handy to drop into your CV to show you've recieved quality training in said discipline. Plus, depending on who and where you pitch your project to, what your tutor worked on may also come in handy as an extra hook (want to sell a crime series? Maybe mention that you were helped in its creation by someone who worked on, say, Luther or Prime Suspect).

What's more, as you'll recall from your BA, you'll develop a little network among your peers of people who can share advice and even work, to be read and critiqued. While they may not seem like much now, someday... you never know. A script read today for a classmate could equal someone getting you a job on a hit Netflix series a few years down the line. Plus, you get free script reads, which never hurts. You may even get to write shorts, if the course crosses over or collaborates with other ones at the school, such as directing or producing, which will beef up your credits.

However, what if the propsect of more school just doesn't suit you? What are your options if you'd like some type of class, but not as expensive or long term a commitment? Well, there are no shortage of shorter writing courses, online classes and weekend workshops that you can easily search up online. Some will even tackle other roles, such as Yvonne Grace's sessions on being a script editor.

No, these aren't necessarily a replacement for what a good MA can offer, but they do offer some of the same features and, with careful selection, you can add up several in row and enjoy a variety of teachers and approaches. Like with an actual degree, the same criteria applies: make sure they're reputable, cost effective and offers a good amount of stuff.

Whatever you decide to do, degree or not, remember this: INVEST IN YOUR EDUCATION.

No, you don't have to drown in debt with expensive degrees, but learning and improving your craft, any way you can, is vital. It's slow, it's difficult and can often be maddening, but if you put in the effort and learn your inciting inicidents from your midpoints, and your elevator pitches from your series bibles, you will already be beating out a lot of your competition. The harder you work and the more you read and write, the better you'll be. Simple as: no cheat sheet or secret formula can replace that.

So, you've worked hard on writing, and are starting to get comfortable. You've got a few scripts that are coming along nicely. What can you do in the meantime? Join me in part four, where I finally talk about your job prospects. SPOILERS: your first gig likely won't be as a writer.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Screenwriting Advice for BA Students... From a Masters Grad (Part Two: Freebies)

Now, where were we?

Ah yes, FREE screenplays.

Something to note: beware of 'script sites' that are just transcripts of TV episodes and movies, like SpringfieldSpringfield. They are not accurate in formatting by a long shot, and don't even serve to help analyze a given story all that well as they're usually poorly written and hard to read. Basically, if it doesn't look like this, don't bother:

Instead, here's where you can get actual screenplays for film and TV from:
But it's not only free scripts you can score over the interwebs: how about advice and tutorials? An immediate reccommend is Bang2Write, run by veteran consultant Lucy V. Hay. It's a one-stop shop, filled with great articles and lists on just about every facet of screenwriting you could want to know, told in a humourous and snappy style. Another good resource is BAFTA: they have an acclaimed series of lengthy and informative lectures by major screenwriters, including Emma Thompson, Hossein Amini, Charlie Kaufmann and David S. Goyer.

Furthermore, many of the gurus have websites full of resources, related to their paradigm (like Save The Cat), as well as The Writer's Store and There also exist a number of smaller sites such as the newer but pretty decent Word Dancer (it even has a complimentary Youtube channel) and TheBitterScriptReader (more geared towards the US, but worth a gander).

What about writers' blogs, as in, blogs run by actual, working writers? Danny Stack's site, Scriptwriting in the UK, is a great one: just like his book, Stack talks about everything and anything related to the business and craft. Another favourite of mine is Wolfblood creator Debbie Moon's blog, loaded with war stories, as well as some very helpful tips and tricks on what to do and where to look.

There's also  some podcasts you can listen too: Stack and Tim Clague strike again with their popular UK Scriptwriters Podcast, while over in the US, John August (Big Fish) and Craig Mazin (The Huntsman: Winter's War) have ScriptNotes: both discuss the industry climate, interview guests and offers all sorts of advice and weird stories.

So, you know have your books and scripts. Read as often as you can: in bed, on the bus/tube/train, during break and lunch, even on the tried and tested loo. It may seem obivous, but I want to smash my head against the wall with how many writers DON'T READ scripts and can't name screenwriters (Seen it with my own eyes too). Quick question: how on earth do you expect to get work if you don't know who's done what?

But surely, this isn't enough: you also need to do a Masters degree next, in order to really seal the deal. Or, maybe, you abhor academia completely and just want to go it alone. After all, Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson did, so so can you! It's just that black and white of a choice, right? Right?

Join me in Part Three when I talk about courses and the value of your education.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Screenwriting Advice for BA Students... From a Masters Grad (Part One: Reading Time)

All right then, ye student screenwriters, let's start with the basics: learning the craft.

Your course has, doubtless, provided you with a reading list, as well as some scans of specific book chapters on Moodle (or whatever your school's upload platform of choice is). Here's my two pence on the matter: a good screenwriting manual should be an informative and simple guide to screenplay construction. It should cover all the key elements (Character, structure, plot, theme, genre, drafting, outlines/treatments) with recognisable examples (Fellini and Bergman are geniuses, but I think a newbie will get more out of a comparison to Spider-Man 2 than Fanny & Alexander when first introduced to writing concepts) but never drowned in arcane or flowery language that's not useful when you're in trouble. Everything you learn must have a practical application; otherwise, it's a waste of time.

A key phrase that'll crop up again and again in these posts is Be A Discerning Shopper: You should definitely be using the reading list, though look up the books in the library first, peep in the bookshop or use the 'Look Inside' feature on Amazon. See how they read and if you can understand them before you put down cash. Some are easy and user-friendly, but not very informative, while others are very profound and detailed, but only useful at a very advanced level.

If you're flying blind, the amount of screenwriting books out there is astronomical, and seperating the wheat from the chaff can be very hard, especially if you're also on a budget (even on Kindle, the costs can add up fairly quickly if you need several for a course). The most common, and the ones that'll most likely be assigned to you, are:
  • Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field: the grandaddy of all screenwriting books and teachings, everyone's copied or borrowed from this book in some way. Three act structure, characters and their motivations, dialogue and its subtext, it's all here.
  • Save The Cat! The Last Book On Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Snyder: the book that is alternately thanked and blamed for modern Hollywood practices, Disney scribe Snyder created a durable 'beat sheet' to help one structure and plot out a movie that would be A) commercial and B) keep the interest of cynical readers and jaded audiences.
  • Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee: Possibly the most famous screenwriting book (thanks to its simulateanous lampooning and exhultation in Spike Jonze's Adaptation), the notoriously blunt McKee drills you like a cinematic sergeant in digging for 'the truth' in your story and characters, while battling the terrible scourges of cliche and hackneyed psychology.
  • Joseph Campbell's The Hero With A Thousand Faces and Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey: these cover the old chestnut of 'The Hero's Journey', first coined by anthropologist Campbell in the 1940s as a common pattern of storytelling tropes in classical mythology, and then popularised by George Lucas via Star Wars. Vogler's book more specifically contextualises it in film terms, with references to Star Wars as well as Wizard of Oz and other film fantasies.
  • Writing The Short Film by Pat Cooper and Ken Dancyger: Most likely the first book you'll get assigned. Basically, same gist as the first three, but applied to short films. Also, Aristotle's Poetics will be referenced A LOT by these books and your teachers, as it's basically the foundation of most dramatic writing theory.
Some others that may pop up, though slightly less well known or popular, include:
Head spinning yet?
And these are just the common ones.

For writing normal films...

What your course uses will vary, depending on your tutors. Be sure to ask what one they mainly use, as that's the one you may have to shell out cash for, just to keep up with classes. If your tutor's not too strict on using a specific tome, that gives you some wiggle room to use the one that's easiest to understand (If you're not already from a Literature or Psychology background, Poetics and Thousand Faces can be a slog to get through due to their language, and McKee is geared more towards an experienced writer than a newcomer, given how much he leans on dramatic theory and psycho-babble, some of it ripped straight from Aristotle).

Remember: everything must be practical. No one will give you a prize if you know some obscure Latin or French word if you can't write a halfway interesting story. Conversely, you're not original if you shriek, 'I hate formulas! I don't read! I wanna be rule-breaking!': everyone has said this. EVERYONE. Plus, how in the nine realms of Asgard can you break the rules if you can't be arsed to learn them? Yeah, sounds stupid now, doesn't it?

And then, as you get closer to graduation and want to open your options further, what else could you look up? Well first, here's one that, I think, should be mandatory for screenwriting graduates  and, to any film teachers and tutors reading this, ADD THIS TO YOUR READING LIST FOR THIRD YEARS:
  • The UK Scriptwriter's Survival Guide: Veteran film and TV scribes Tim Clague and Danny Stack (Eastenders, Doctors, Thunderbirds Are Go) give a practical, no B.S. guide on what you can do to help yourself get a foothold in the industry. It only came out in 2014, but I honestly believe this should be compulsory reading for all new screenwriters, as it will open your eyes to many possibilities, as well as give you useful tips and tricks to navigate the business.
And that's not all:
  • The Insider's Guide to Writing Television by Julian Friedmann: like Clague and Stack, it's a practical guide to British television writing. However, it is more geared towards business over the craft: The next three are more about the American system, but have more actual craft advice that is crosstransferrable to British shows. Ditto Making it as a Screenwriter by Adrian Mead.
  • Writing the Pilot by William Rabkin and Crafty Television Writing: Thinking Inside The Box by Alex Epstein are two popular staples, as well as newcomer Write To TV by Martie Cook. The market of TV gurus is a lot smaller than film, so being overwhelmed by choice is not as big a danger. These cover all you need to know about writing effective pilots, crafting shows with long term story potential, and what seperates a film from a TV character.
  • The Creative Essentials series of books cover different types of film and television writing, including comedy, thrillers and soaps, as well as other roles/elements such as script editing, reading and pitching. Contributing authors include Robin Mukherjee, Lucy V. Hay (more on her next time) and Charles Harris, among many others.
  • Of course, no matter if you go for film or TV, you still need to make sure your work is presentable. Your Screenplay Sucks: 100 Ways to Make It Great by William M. Akers and How Not To Write A Screenplay: 101 Common Mistakes by Denny Martin Flinn are good smack-across-head reminders of rookie blunders that can cost you dearly.
Now, you can use any of the titles above, but if you're more adventurous and want to give a go at a newer book, what should you look out for?
  • Author's credentials: make sure the writer is/was a working screenwriter, producer or development person, and has a decent amount of credits. They may not have worked on Breaking Bad or be BAFTA winners, but they've been where you've been, know your struggles and will be living proof of the effectiveness of their methods. People who are solely teachers will have less awareness of the demands of the industry, and may not be as helpful in giving you a realistic outlook or proper tools.
  • Gimmicks and cheats: I'm highly suspicious of any 'quack' miracle cures and formulas in these 'secret'-style books. 'Write a Great Movie in 10 Days', 'Write An Awesome Screenplay in 30 Days Or Less', 'The Secret Hollywood Formula: How you can write a blockbuster that sells', you'll know it when you see it in shops and on Amazon. It's snake oil: Good craft takes time and being able to write well, not to mention consistently, has to be learnt and earnt. There are no shortcuts and searching for them is the hallmark of a unready screenwriter.
  • Date: If it's focused solely on writing craft, then it's not a huge concern. If it also touts the business side, however, then aim for a book released/revised within the last 5-10 years, as the industry changes faster than ever before. Also, CreateSpace allows lazy authors a means to upload ancient books in sleek new packages, filled with outdated advice and terminology that won't help you, so beware anything that looks cheap or too new.
Returning to budget concerns, how many books should you own? Well, having a library card can be very helpful in balancing things, but I feel you should own a few, just to refresh yourself during breaks or holidays abroad, or to consult during writing. Minimum should be at least three or four: two on film, one/two on television, and then Clague and Stack's book as your job manual. 
Of course, you'll only get so far without knowing what a screenplay actually looks and reads like. There are printed screenplays available, usually for really acclaimed works like Pulp Fiction, Chinatown and Big Lebowski, but the format is often truncated to fit the smaller page size of a book, meaning a script that's actually 100 pages runs to 150. So, where can you read proper sized ones?

Join me in Part Two, when I look over how to find them, and what your free online resources are.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Screenwriting Advice for BA Students... From a Masters Grad (Introduction)

Oh joy, another writing blog with advice and recommendations. 

How novel. 
How inspiring.
How impactful.

But this time, it's for students. Wait, what?

Why single them out? Because I know what it's like for you right now, and I wish someone had told me what I'm about to tell you. Yes, you. The e-surfing student reading this right here, right now. You're not sure where you're heading, not sure where you are right now, armed with a degree you're not completely clear on and having just finished a grad script you're not entirely sure of.

I know that tune. All too well.

Being a BA student with screenwriting desires is hardly a new or unique phenomena: you realize directing isn't everything it's cracked up to be, and you just don't have the piss and vinegar to be a producer. So instead, you create that first step in any production: the script. You dream of Hollywood paychecks on franchise movies and Oscar glory, or perhaps the hordes of adoring fans at Comic-Con when you become a hot new Netflix showrunner, cranking out binge-friendly series and starting tumblr shipping wars by the thousands.

However, as soon as graduation is done and you start trying to get out there, you find the environment hostile and disheartening: agents won't look at you; producers and companies hide behind the seemingly invincible clause of 'no unsolicited submissions'; that short film that you slaved on during graduation isn't cutting it at the big festivals; even your precious degree doesn't make any impact. The day job at Sainsburys or Subway is still your day job six months, possibly even a year, on. Nothing's changed and, seemingly, nothing will. It's all been for nothing and you should've listened to Mum and become a lawyer instead.

You're wrong. So very, very wrong.

Soon to graduate from the Met Film School MA Screenwriting programme, and with some work experience on the horizon, I learnt a lot that, in retrospect, I wish I had known when I graduated with my BA in Film back in 2015, only to meet with failure and confusion for two years before signing up to Met in desperation. Some of it felt so obvious yet, bizarrely, was never discussed back at University. Certain half truths of the industry and its ways that I once thought were absolute gospel were, basically, fictions. In short, I didn't know jack.

Examples of these semi-fictions?
Interested now?

The goal of this series of posts is to help you, the graduating or even second year Film student with an eye for screenwriting, make smarter, stronger, clearer choices. I'm not here to give you magic formulas or exec emails, but to simply better prepare you for the industry and how you can actually make contacts, opportunities and yes, even a bit of money at it, even if it's not on blockbusters and prime time dramas. I should know, because I'm doing it right now!

The first part will be released next week, and every installment subsequent will be released fortnightly.And even if you're not a student and are just some fresh faced, wannabe screenwriter in the UK, then I hope these will be of service to you too.

Now then, are you sitting comfortably?

Good, then join me in Part One, when I look at the basics of craft and what you should be reading. Advance tip: get a library card.

Monday, 13 November 2017

So, You Want To Be A Movie Critic? A Handy Article for newbies from a Veteran

My reviewing days may be behind me, but that doesn't mean I don't have some fun things in the pipeline that aren't just updates. Soon, I will be debuting a series on here that I think you'll get quite a kick out of. It's related to screenwriting, but from a different, and frankly often overlooked, perspective.

In the meantime, I'll delve into one final time, to give you my own tips and tricks as I explain how to start being a film critic on the internet (this is primarily about craft. You can found countless articles and videos about audience growth, video production rates and everything else. This is just about writing a good review/review script and what you should know before you try):

Here's a little teaser to whet your appetite:

So, you’re a young, fresh faced movie geek. You’ve just watched your first Kurosawa or Hitchcock film; you’ve memorised all sorts of random facts about your favourite franchise (Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Jem and the Holograms, etc.), from the names of the production staff to what kind of tape the gaffers used on the set; And, the biggest one of all, you don’t have an immediate circle of people with which to share your passion. For them, cinema is just for big explosion fests, cartoons and maybe the odd ‘serious’ movie around Oscar time.

So, what do you do?

Jump onto social media and become a film critic (or reviewer, depending on your influences and how you view your craft and dedication) of course! Maybe a Youtube channel, popping out a couple of 5-10 minute videos a month, or perhaps a blog that you update every few days. You might even go to Wix or WordPress and start up your own website. Either way, you want to start talking about and dissecting movies.
But how? What are some of the fundamentals you need to get right? Well, as someone with seven years of experience in the field, spanning written and video content, I have a few possible suggestions:

Monday, 30 October 2017

Watch my commercial for Creative Access (29/10/17)

Hello, everyone in DA-land. Hope you're all keeping well. I've been quite busy with a number of things, I can assure, and hope to have some cool announcements in the coming months. (As always, follow me on Facebook:[link])

But anyway, let me show you something: Back in the summer, I wrote a recuitment drive short for Creative Access, a community organization that helps get BAME youth into the creative UK industries, like film and TV. I worked with some wonderful folks, like my director Juliana and producer Malick, and am very proud of what we did in such a short tiem frame (production was under three months).

Check it out here:

And of course, check out the site here:

Sunday, 8 October 2017

So, what's new with me? Projects update (8/10/17)

Alright, so with my reviewing career confined to the depths of internet history, what have I been filling the time with instead? As it turns out, several things.

First, I'm now in development on a short film for the Masters course. A post-apocalyptic drama about an age-divided society, in fact. Treatment's been signed off and now, I can get to work on actually writing a draft. Unlike the experience of writing Spider-Fly back in 2015, I feel there's been a greater understanding of time and budgetary limitations on the project, and a willingness to work within them.

Second, my own writing projects are progressing slowly but very steadily: my first children's TV pilot, Spring-Heeled Jack, has recieved feedback both from a development assistant as well as a professional screenwriter whose been gracious enough to give me his time for free, given he liked the premise enough (I'll talk more about it when it gains a little more traction). Work on a second, a swashbuckler set in 1840s Spain, has just completed its first draft, and I aim to have a second out by the end of the month. It's a love letter to properties like Three Musketeers and Zorro, and it has been quite fun to write. Especially the villain.

And third, I'm currently hammering out a treatment for a feature about the Spanish Civil War. An LGBT love story, in fact, set amidst the chaos of the conflict between Nationalists and Republicans. It was originally meant to be a miniseries, but feedback from trusted peers has advised otehrwise, feeling the core relationship is better suited to the shroter medium. Like with the pilots, once this gets more set, I'll let you know more.

And that's that for now. Thanks to everyone who wished me well when I announced retirement from reviews, and I hope to hear from you again soon.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Ending an era of Reviews (2010-2017)

There comes a moment in life, and it's never once, where we have to stand up and say, 'Well, time to move on.' It hurts: us humans are a consevrative bunch, taking comfort and even pleasure in routines, schedules and a general sense of 'normalacy'. However, for the sake of development, knowledge and even just plain old survival, we have to change. Lose what isn't working or not pulling its weight, and instead, focus on what is.

To that end, I am declaring my retirement from active online film and television criticism, after seven years and multiple platforms, running from Youtube, Deviantart and Blogger, to professional media and news sites like, Viral Thread and Blasting News. Decisions like these are not made lightly, but the simple fact is, I can't justify it anymore. I'm not a teenage movie geek with loads of free time anymore: I'm an adult with studies and employment to worry about, using what time he has wisely and with a clear goal in mind.

Recent years have not been kind to online content producers who don't come with a complete team at their disposal: between dwindling traffic thanks to all the competition from bigger, more professional sites, the constant tinkering of search algorithms that mess with any type of content planning and the utter collapse of ad revenue (not that I ever made a real penny from it during 'better' times) have made it very hard to justify devoting time to what is little more than an overblown hobby.

My passions lie in writing film, television, just writing period, not writing ABOUT them: I'm working like crazy to set myself up as, at the very least, a working screenwriter exploring all and any avenues to the industry, Two years of poor professional judgements and career moves have forced me to really sit down and prioritize what I want form life and sadly, that's not with reviews anymore. The time devoted to them is needed elsewhere, and what's the point in doing it if I feel far less drive than I did before?

A big thanks to everyone who stuck with me for a near decade and seen me change and evolve.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Monthly Round-Up (Reviews, articles and more) - August 2017

Summer draws to a close, and so too, I fear, will anothr chapter in my online quest.It wasn't an easy choice to make, and took much thought, internal debate and even libation, but I feel it was the right decision. But enough about that (more in the next post), let's get back to new reviews. As always, follow me on my official page for all news:

On ThirdActFilm I give you a special ITCFTBB review as I tackle the Christian animated tv movie, 'Joshua and the Promised Land':

Next, I do a Throwback Review on the 90s Tim Burton-produced cult hit, 'Cabin Boy':

Then, I return to an 80s oddball as I re-examine Robert Altman's 'Popeye':

And finally, I give you my own tips and tricks as I explain how to start being a film critic:

Get your copy of Time Shadows here and support a really good cause for the disabled:

And a final, but important, update on my own animated series, Agents In Odd (nay Very Strange Things), here:

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Feedback from Big Finish - The Paul Spragg 2017 Short Trip Competition

Normally I don't write about when I enter any sort of scheme, contest or opportunity aimed at writers: not just because, like many a Catholic boy, I fear jinxes, but also because it's rather pointless to do so. Why make a big deal out of something that isn't a certainty?

But this is different. And very nice.

Ian Atkins is the editor for the Short Trips, a range of Doctor Who audio short stories produced by Big Finish. For the last two years, they've held an annual contest to find new writing talent. How? Write a 30 minute short story, or rather its outline and opening, and then submit. The top 100 of their selection are the only ones who receive feedback from Ian, given the sheer amount of submissions they get.

So, lookie lookie what popped into my inbox:

Hi Abel,

Thanks for writing in. We had hundreds of submissions (as last year) and I couldn't reply to all of them. However, in some cases I wanted to make an effort where although the work didn't quite make the final short list, it was very, very good. I thought this was a wonderfully human story, beautifully character-driven even when neither protagonist is actually human, which takes some real skill. Thanks for letting me read it,

Best wishes, and do keep writing,


This was a real pick-me-up, and I am very, very grateful for the kind words and encouragement from Ian and the BF crew.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Monthly Round-Up (Reviews, articles and more) - July 2017

So, it's been a bit of a wet and windy summer in the UK, but hey, it's a proper English summer. I'm currently hard at work on a new TV pilot, as well as planning a couple of projects for the future. As always, follow my Official Facebook, for all news and updates:

Now, onto the reviews. On Blasting News, I cover the subversive Sherlock Holmes novel, 'The Veiled Detective':

Now, back to ThirdActFilm's WHOCap reviews. I bring Series 10 to a close when 'The Doctor Falls':

Next, I applaud the webhead's arrival in the MCU with 'Spider-man Homecoming':

Then, I tackle an 80s comedy giant in a Throwback review for 'Police Academy'':

I then do another top 4 list of war movies, inspired by Nolan's 'Dunkirk':

And finally, I tackle one of the mythical 'missing stories' from Classic Who, 'The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve':

Get your copy of Time Shadows here and support a really good cause for the disabled:

And be sure to check out the ongoing journey of my own animated series, Agents In Odd (nay Very Strange Things), here:

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Monthly Round-Up (Reviews, articles and more) - June 2017

It's boiling right now in London, but my time at MetFilm is still proving to be mighty fun. I'm drawing to a close on writing a Western screenplay, and just began sending out a book to publishers. As always, follow my Official Facebook for all news and updates as they happen:

This month will be the last full month devoted to Series 10 of Doctor Who on ThirdActFilm. But first, a brand new theatrical release review. On Blasting News, I cover the latest seafaring adventure of Jack Sparrow in 'Dead Men Tell No Tales':

Now, back to WHOCap. The Extremis trilogy draws to a rather underwhelming close in 'The Lie of the Land':

Next, the TARDIS team find Victorian soldiers on Mars, where the Ice Warriors are lying in wait, in Mark Gatiss' 'Empress of Mars':

Then, Classic Who veteran Rona Munro returns to write for the show as she ponders the disappearance of the Ninth Legion in 'The Eaters of Light':

And finally, the time has come for the series finale, as two Masters and Mondasian Cybermen turn up in 'World Enough and Time':

Get your copy of Time Shadows here and support a really good cause for the disabled:

And be sure to check out the ongoing journey of my own animated series, Agents In Odd (nay Very Strange Things), here:

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Monthly Round-Up (Reviews, articles and more) - May 2017

It's that time again! Both my life and the weather match: they're heating up. MetFilm is still proving to be one of the brigthest and most rewarding ideas I've had in a good while, and I'm now confidently at the head two, going on three, screenplays. As always, follow my Official Facebook for all news and updates as they happen:

This month'll be very simple, as I continue covering every episode of Series 10 Doctor Who for ThirdActFilm's WHOCap series. First, Poirot himself, David Suchet, stars as the sinister LandLord of a creepy house that gobbles students in 'Knock Knock':

Next, the TARDIS team find themselves running out of time and air in 'Oxygen', signalling the return of wunderkind writer Jamie Matheson:

Then, we get the first of the series' three parter, as the Doctor must seek 'Veritas' within the depths of the Vatican in 'Extremis':

And finally, the Doctor investigates a mysterious pyramid, smack dab in the middle of an international warzone, in the second part, 'The Pyramid At The End of The World':

Get your copy of Time Shadows here and support a really good cause for the disabled:

And be sure to check out the ongoing journey of my own animated series, Agents In Odd (nay Very Strange Things), here:

Saturday, 13 May 2017

A 'State of the projects' address (13/5/17)

So, a quick update on the world beyond reviews (which you will be updated on, as always, later this month) and what I've been up to in terms of my own creative efforts:

  • First term at Met Film School is done, with the second well underway. I developed a fun little fantasy comedy about demons in an office that helped reaffirm my love of creative writing, as well as the proper processes to generate it. Generic and overused as it is to say, I was fortunate to have a great class, great atmosphere, and great teaching. Even saw Andy Serkis' car one time as I was walking out of the facilities (and I can't say more than that, lest I breach some rule).
  • My children's novel, 'Eyes of Ra' has now completed its fourth draft, finished in an outstanding five days. I hadn't touched it in over two months, so this was a rather exciting, as well as refreshing, endeavour to work on. I even had some notes handy froma trusted individual from my school days who really know her way around a story.
  • I've been drafted in to help develop a feature: a pseudo sci-fi comedy adventure tale set at a university. Can't say much more than that at the moment, as its still in the treatment stage, but the producers are young, really game and determined so, 'break a leg', that this becomes something big and very, very rewarding. It'll be a lot of work, make no mistake, but every step counts in this type of business.
And well, that's all from me.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Monthly Round-Up (Reviews, articles and more) - April 2017

It's that time again, updating you on all the critical goodies, and where to find them. It's proven to be quite a busy but rewarding month for me personally, and MetFilm is going quite nicely. As always, follow my Official Facebook for all news and updates as they happen:

Over on Blasting News, I talk about the recently released historical epic, 'Outlaws' (also known as For Greater Glory), starring Andy Garcia:

After, on ThirdActFilm, I talk about what many see as the end of Williams' sap years in the 1999 holocaust dramaedy, 'Jakob The Liar':

Next, in the newest installment of ICFTBB, I talk about Ireland's own 'Fast and Furious' film... made just before the first 'F&F' was even shot, in 'Accelerator':

And finally,  I cover every episode of Series 10 Doctor Who for ThirdActFilm's WHOCap series, beginning with 'The Pilot':

Followed by evil emoji robots in a WHOCap for 'Smile'.

And now, with ludicrous speed, the 'Thin Ice' WHOCap review:

Get your copy of Time Shadows here and support a really good cause for the disabled:

And be sure to check out the ongoing journey of my own animated series, Agents In Odd (nay Very Strange Things), here:

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Monthly Round-Up (Reviews, articles and more) - March 2017

Time again, updating you on all the goodies, and where to find them. My Official Facebook, for all news and updates as they happen:

First, a double bill of reviews on Blasting News, starting with Hugh Jackman's final show as Wolverine, Logan:

And second, the latest 'Monsterverse' romp, Kong: Skull Island:

Next, over on ThirdActFilm, a Kong double bill, beginning with a Throwback Review for the 1976 version, starring Jeff Bridges:

Then, a brand new ICFTBB review of a King Kong remake you've never heard of:

And finally, a new recommendations list for 'Beauty and The Beast' if you're hungry for fantasy:

For more, also pay a visit to the SavageScribe DA Profile:

Get your copy of Time Shadows here and support a really good cause for the disabled:

Also, be sure to check out the ongoing journey of my own animated series, Agents In Odd, here:

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Back To School - Beginning my Masters Degree at Met Film (5/3/17)

Two years after I handed in my last bit of academic work, and now, I'm returning to higher education. I'm getting into film school, specifically the Ealing Studios based Met Film School, for a MA in Screenwriting. The course covers both the process as well as (most importantly for me) the business angle, including the much sought after questions of agents, as well as pitches, development and whatnot. It also offers in-course work experience and a post-grad programme with active industry links.

Like many things in life, this was not an easy decision. Aside from the hefty cost (partially paid for with my own savings from different jobs), I had hoped to be able to achieve my goals once I had left University with just my BA. Call it youthful hubris, or just plain arrogance, but I've tried going alone for two years, and it hasn't worked. Pitch after pitch has collapsed, never mind the slew of projects that never made it or I couldn't crack. As time went on, though I didn't want to admit it, I needed someone bigger, smarter and more experienced than me, to make things happen and show me a potentially better path.

The course runs from March 2017 to this time next year. Don't know yet if it'll also require a running log like Middlesex, so whether or not I'll be actively archiving what goes on I can't say yet. 

So, the next question arises: how will this affect online content for ThirdAct, Blasting News, Youtube etc.? Thankfully, I have a bunch of stuff already prepared ahead of time, including a double bill of Kong reviews, a list related to Beauty and The Beast, another Robin Williams movie review and, of course, weekly reviews for S10 of Doctor Who when it hits in April. Pitching for Agents In Odd will also slow for a time, though it'll never be far from my mind.

Buckling up right now, because things are about to get bumpy, but undeniably, exciting too...

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Monthly Round-Up (Reviews, articles and more) - February 2017

Time again, updating you on all the goodies, and where to find them. My Official Facebook, for all news and updates as they happen:

First, a review of the new Michael Keaton McDonalds biopic, The Founder, on Blasting News:

Next, a brand new ICFTBB review of The Asylum's Transmorphers on ThirdActFilm:

Then, if you liked the new Magnificent Seven, I've got some Western Recommendations:

And finally, a lengthy article on the significance of the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise:

For more, also pay a visit to the SavageScribe DA Profile:

Get your copy of Time Shadows here and support a really good cause for the disabled:

Also, be sure to check out the ongoing journey of my own animated series, Agents In Odd, here (fun ahead!):

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Monthly Round-Up (Reviews, articles and more) - January 2017

Well, it's a little later than I would've liked, but at last, I'm updating you on all the goodies in January, and where to find them..

As always, you can keep up with my Official Facebook page, for all news and updates relating to me and my projects:

So, first up, reviews for all episodes of Series 4 of BBC's Sherlock. To start, The Six Thatchers review on Blasting News:

And next, a two for one deal with The Lying Detective and The Final Problem reviews:

Over on, I review one of the year's first, and best, films, A Monster Calls:

Next, I do a WHOCAP on 4 New to Classic Who Recommendations:

Then, a review of 1975's Royal Flash, based on the Flashman novels:

An article on my thoughts on Noel Clarke's Brotherhood, the third and final part of the Hood trilogy:

More goodies over on my SavageScribe DA Profile:

Get your copy of Time Shadows here and support a really good cause for the disabled:

Also, be sure to check out the ongoing journey of my own animated series, Agents In Odd (nay Very Strange Things), here (fun ahead!):

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Moving into the New Year - 2016 in review and plans (3/1/17)

Happy New Year! 2016 is done, and it's feels redundant to make any kind of remark about it, as it's been more than well spoken for by social media. But putting all the political shenanigans to one side, I wish to say that this was an important year for me as a creative mind:

A few major stumbles, having followed a turbulent period in mid 2015 that juxtaposed graduation with the loss of a very valued collaborator and the resulting collapse of our project, forced me to really reevaluate how I want to go forward with my work. It not only hit home the fact that you have to go through a lot of pain and strife if you really believe in something's merit as a work, but to have a proper plan. Not a fancy buzzword or some vague thing in your mind, but an actual design to cover you in the event of failure. Having a Plan B through H is vital in something as turbulent as Film and TV.

I admit it: I got the balance wrong. I put so much stock in one thing that when it failed, I was lost. I made bad calls, blundered into situations unprepared and took on more than was advisable. I believed in quantity over quality, and lost focus of the things that I value most in my creations. I stopped saying and making what I wanted to, and just threw stuff at the wall in vain.

2016 made me decide: either commit to the long haul and fight, sodding those who want to hold you back for their own goals, or stop messing around with a pipe dream and do something else. Coming soon: Agents In Odd will starting its round of pitching within the next week, so break a few legs that that bears some fruit. The children's novel, The Eyes of Ra, is set for a third draft very soon, and that should be cranked by February. Some outside negotiations and the development contract should have some further advents in the next two months, so hopeful there too.

2017 means much to a lot of people, and for me, it'll be the first year in a while that I feel optimistic about, knowing that there may be something over the proverbial horizon.