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WHAT A YEAR!

Almost a year ago I started this Blog because I had just interviewed for the post of Resident Tutor at Bath Spa University where I was to be studying for my MA. The post included accommodation on campus and I was dithering about giving up my home and my jobs and all that entailed.

Well, almost one year later, and here I am packing up to leave campus having lived here since September. I am now jobless and homeless but the happiest I have been in almost two decades. It was definitely the right decision and what a year it’s been.

Moved to campus.

Wrote my first stage play.

   Shattered my ankle.

Lost a locum position because of this.

Stopped smoking.

Went tee-total.                      

Joined two dating sites.

Went on one rubbish date.

       Read a tonne of books.

Wrote a first draft of my feature-length supernatural coming of age thriller.

Became a short horror film reviewer for Ghost Town Records.

Got my first paid writing job on a short film script.

Wrote 16 short film scripts.

Wrote 2 short plays.

Found some amazing film people on Talent Circle & Shooting People.

Shot & edited my first short.

Wrote & shot my 2nd short film.

Passed all my modules.

On course for a first.                                                                                    

Failed to find a second job.

Used up ALL my emergency overdraft.

Wow.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Back To Uni

 

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COCAINE CHICKEN

Last night I met up with some film makers from Bath who had responded to my shout outs for crew and collaboration on Shooting People and Talent Circle. Five showed up and we were a really mixed bag of ages and experience and had a brilliant evening. Everyone is really keen to be involved so I’m finally going ahead. Yay! They are mainly all free all the time too which is just perfect and one of them is another woman and she is going to be my right hand man and has just come off making her own first short film so has lots of advice and handy hints.

I contacted them all using my writing name MJ Hermanny and without exception, they all thought I was a man, even after I emailed them the little detail that I would be wearing a checked trilby with a huge feather stuck in it – they just thought I would be a flamboyant man! Hilarious. I wonder how many would have turned up if they thought I’d been female. The shock on a couple of the older, more experienced film maker’s faces amused me greatly. They all stayed though.

I plan to shoot a found footage short which is currently in an anonymous competition so I can’t name it yet but it should be ‘easy’ to film and I wrote it specifically to be something that could be made with a very small cast and crew.

Today I will meet with a member of staff to sort out all the insurance and risk assessment issues with using non-students – thankfully, the fact that I’m also a member of staff means that there isn’t too much red tape to deal with. I can’t wait to set up the auditions.

This week I’ve managed to write 30 pages of my new feature script, 2 x 2 page short scripts around the theme of love for the London Screenwriter’s Festival competition. A 7 page short for Script Fest competition, I’m in the middle of a 15 minute play for a competition in response to a book called The Jilted Generation which I happened to have read and I must get my paid 10 page script first draft out by Sunday. And my essay – I have to write 3000 words on the marketing strategy I will employ for my final script and the essay must contain interviews from industry professionals and their advice. So, today I plan to email several writers, a script editor, a producer and a sales agent. I also need to find a manager to get in touch with – if anyone knows of one please give me shout!

I’ve seen tonnes of films recently but just can’t seem to find the time to review them. The two that I can’t recommend highly enough are Dead Man’s Shoes by Shane Meadows – I kept putting this off and putting it off, thinking it would be really violent and it has violence in it but it is unbelievably moving. It’s a great moral tale and the performances, especially Toby Kebbell (Rocknrolla) in his first film role, are just fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed This Is England some time ago too when I didn’t think I would.

The other knock-out film which I just can not get out of my head and which had scenes in it that I found very difficult to watch is Tyrannosaur by Paddy Considine (star of Dead Man’s Shoes). It moved me more than any film has ever moved me and I felt emotions that were uncomfortable and shed tears for characters who had done reprehensible things. Unbelievably excellent script and extraordinary performances from Peter Mullan and Olivia Coleman.

Mirrormask – all images of this film look amazing but on screen they just look low budget.

I also watched a very strange film written by Neil Gaiman called MirrorMask. It’s kind of experimental I guess, a fantasy film on a low British budget with the Jim Henson Company involved. Very odd. I don’t think I liked it very much.

I’ve also just read a fantastic book called Phallic Panic: Film, Horror and the Primal Uncanny by Barbara Creed- all about psychology and film monsters. I’m on the lookout now for the companion piece called Monstrous Feminine. Horror in film still fascinates me even though it rarely scares me and it is still the most popular genre.

Right, I must go and do filmy stuff – I’m hoping that now that I’ve got far too much to do I’ll actually get loads more done as I’ll have to focus more – instead of wondering how I’ll work on one thing all day, I’ll be charging around like a cocaine chicken getting ten things done at once. We shall see. 

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Back To Uni

 

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I’M A PROFESSIONAL SCREENWRITER!

 

I’m a pro!

Today I got paid £100 upfront for rewriting a ten page short film script. I am now a professional screenwriter!! It feels so damned good, I’ve had the most ridiculous grin on my face all day. I applied for the job on Wednesday morning with a couple of my sample short scripts and received an email at 7pm offering me the work and the cheque and contract arrived today. Rock on!

I’m also one of eight writers on a feature length film made up of eight short films on mental health for new production company Red Dress Productions. 

http://www.reddressproductions.co.uk/

They seem very professional and once they secure funding for the project I should get paid. Mental health is something I’m very interested in so I’m really looking forward to working on this and can’t wait for the first meeting. I seriously hope this pans out properly.

I also recently landed a film reviewing job on a new website. Its aim is to promote short films, in particular those in the horror genre, and new film makers. The site is still being built but you can have a look around to see what they’re up to. http://www.ghosttownrec.com/

It will work like a record label, hence their name, and will take on the best new shorts as ‘New Signings’ and create ‘Albums’ of certain directors. There is also a ‘Classics’ section which is what I’m currently reviewing for. It’s great fun. I’m loving all the movies and spending more time on there than I probably should be with all my other stuff going on but I feel I’m learning loads from watching these.

I’m reviewing for free at present in the hope that the site will take off, which I think it will as there is currently nothing like it and the web is saturated with short films from new directors looking for exposure.

 

William Blake’s Urizen

The MA is going well, into the final leg now, so getting stuck into my final script and essay. Loving my research at the moment, getting easily sidetracked by all those fantastic books in the library. Whenever I’m in there this little voice in my head says “so many books, so little time” and I get this image of an old man with a long white beard just sitting there reading and he’s been there forever, reading and reading.

I’m on top of my time management issues for the moment and treating the library as my office, getting myself in there from 9-5 and as most of the students have left campus and exams are over, it’s my own private office and I LOVE IT!

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Back To Uni

 

STORYBOARDING & BBC FINALIST

After spending a wonderful couple of hours in the library storyboarding the first page of my script (16 shots), I came home to an email from the BBC telling me my script Freer is  in the final six for a BBC Writers Room Rapid response brief. Details of the brief are here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/blogwritersroom/posts/Bread-Roses-Centennial-Rapid-Response?filter=none

and the judging process here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/about/bread-and-roses-terms-and-conditions

I got very excited when I read the email and went screaming out to my flatmate/colleague who I’m not really close to at all but I just had to share. I wish I could remain all mysterious and hug the news to myself until the final results are announced. Then I’d be able to either tell the world that I’m a winner or not say anything at all and nobody would know I’m a loser. My way means I get everyone really hyped up and hopeful  and then I let them down and it’s all a bit shit.

But for now I’m on cloud nine and the Creative Director of New Writing at the BBC will read my script. Which is a bit of a win even if it doesn’t go though. 

Back to the Storyboard.

What an amazing process. I have the film fully visualised in my head and I was actually able to turn my mind into a DVD player and pause, rewind, zoom to see what shots I would use. Hard work, but it’s all in there and I think my hours (years really) of watching films and reading books on film means that I have absorbed and understand film language.

The above pic is a particularly useful exercise from my Dramatic Structure module in the first term. We chose a Ladybird book to read and then had to storyboard it for 20 minutes and this taught us what the major beats and strong moments of the story were. Really useful for scene building and cutting out the padding.

I’m currently reading this AWESOME book:  

It literally gives you every shot and a story board and commentary from the directors who include Roman Polanski, whose first short Two Men And A Wardrobe is just brilliant visual storytelling, not one word of dialogue, and Jim Jarmusch, whose Coffee & Cigarettes is all chat. Both wonderful. I can’t recommend the book enough for film students and makers.

I’ve also watched all the shorts on CINEMA 16’s European Shorts & British Shorts which inspired and taught me so much. In particular Christopher Nolan’s first short Doodlebug just blew me away and what’s interesting is how much it foreshadows Inception

Here’s a link to a well received British short featuring an outstanding performance by Andrew Scott who recently played Moriarty in the BBC’s fantastic Sherlock Holmes. The site in general is a useful resource for shorts.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/filmnetwork/films/p00kmy38

And here is a link to a multi-award winning short and it’s screenplay. Read the script first, make a note of your thoughts and then watch the film. I’d be interested to hear what you think.

http://www.livingspiritgroup.com/podcasts/vodcasts/stephen-follows-on-sign-language/

Write, I must now do some academic work so that I actually have a 2nd draft feature script to submit next Friday…

Thanks for dropping by.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Back To Uni

 

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Old Dog, New Tricks

I passed my first two modules! Great relief. 

I was pretty confident about the Dramatic Structure essay having chosen to write Director’s Notes for my grand idea of a mixed-media-outdoor-promenade production of Romeo & Juliet which has been floating around my brain for over a decade and was therefore a dream to write. The tutor appeared to like it:

This is a wonderful and passionate interpretation of a play that, because of it’s fame, could have been very difficult to make feel fresh. You have succeeded brilliantly… You express the play’s complexity in a way that brings the drama to life with a real clarity…  It is also very well written. It grabs the imagination of the reader as well as being informative… Excellent work.

I have however been horribly hung-up and worried about the Theatre & Radio module. Having got off to the worst imaginable start last term where the tutor rubbished my fledgling idea in front of my brand new class-mates deeming it:

‘clichéd, old hat, awful like Britain’s Got Talent’ and ‘when did you last go to the theatre?’.

I was mortified, devastated and spent the rest of the day trying to keep my wobbly bottom lip under control before I got into my car and cried my soft little heart out.

She very obviously did not like my idea of a violent homeless lad who can only express himself through rap – she even said ‘I would love to see the faces in a theatre when you turn up with some rap lyrics’ and laughed her head off. I’d also mentioned nightmares expressed through shadow-theatre street-dance and the faceless members of society such as cops, social workers, employers etc wearing white masks.

 Anyway, it was the only idea I had and she told me to turn it into a three-hander set in his granny’s living room.

I tried.

I tried for three weeks to write what she wanted and couldn’t. It was a nightmare, my characters didn’t want to be confined they wanted to be violent and loud and expressive through rap and dance. So I finally got another idea and emailed asking if I could write that and she said: ‘no, write from your heart’. So I wrote my rap and physical theatre piece – the first 35 pages anyway and submitted it.

The feedback I got from my peers was astonishing, they loved it. The tutor? Well, she came to me last and she made a public apology saying that she had underestimated my talent.

By then the damage had been done and I didn’t really want to write anymore of my clichéd, old hat idea, even with the apology.

Then I smashed up my ankle and couldn’t write even if I wanted to. The painkillers didn’t make me all floaty and brilliantly creative they zonked me out and turned my poor brain to mush. I was given an extension but finishing that play was truly the worst writing experience I have ever had. I had to stop deleting my words so that I would have something to submit.

I never finished the play but I submitted it and I passed.

I properly dobbed her in it last week telling the course director what had she’d said and how she had made us all go and watch a rehearsal of a children’s play she had written instead of teach us about sub-text on one of our workshop days. The director was horrified and thanked me profusely for letting her know.

Felt much better after that.

 

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Back To Uni

 

TIME MANAGEMENT ISSUES

Ok, so I’ve been a little lax about keeping my blog up to date – only one post and I’ve been here two months!

So I’ve decided to take a leaf out of my marvellous and talented friend Caroline’s book and try and be more regular. She hit ten thousand views on her blog today – amazing!! Time management is the key and I’m aiming for a weekly post. My main problem was transferring pics from new phone onto the PC – would take over and hour – but after much rummaging around the net today I think I’ve found a solution – hurrah!

Here’s my student room complete with awesome new amp and speakers and all my old vinyl which I’m loving!

I’ve written my first play. It’s only ten minutes and I will get feedback on it in tomorrow’s class. In a week or so the best three plays will be chosen to be work-shopped by professional actors and then performed at the Master’s Christmas drinks evening. Fingers crossed for mine.

I managed to submit my 5000 word essay on time – only the first draft and a bit rough and ready. I absolutely loved writing it – it’s director’s notes for a production of Romeo & Juliet and I’ve had this big old open air, mixed media production buzzing around my brain for over a decade so writing it was a breeze and reminded me of how much I adore and admire Shakespeare – he’s da man.

I’m also writing a full length play which has to be in on the 28th Nov. I only have 12 pages written – eek – but lots of notes and I’m thoroughly getting off on writing rap lyrics for the main character – a troubled youth. I am in the process of arranging a meeting with some real troubled youths who rap to see if my lyrics cut the mustard.

  Last night I cooked for my housemates and then Polly and I wandered up to the Student Union bar for another bottle of wine – our first night-time visit there since Fresher’s Week – and it was deserted! A truly terrible drag act was on with about 6 people in the bar. We were horrified, who on earth is the event’s manager – someone’s nan? At least the wine was cheap.

Classes are a bit odd. We basically read and comment on each other’s work. And that’s it. So far anyway. I’m the second youngest in the group – can you believe it! The youngest is an American girl in her twenties, there was a lad in his twenties too but he dropped out yesterday – no doubt put off by all us oldies and our liquorice allsorts bag of ideas.

I can’t believe how fast the time is flying. I’m reading tonnes – the library is just amazing and I’m completely in love with it, I spend most of my time there. It’s got every book on screenwriting and playwriting ever written and I wander up and down the aisles and perch on those stool thingies and dip in and out of books about Shakespeare, youth culture, film making, writing for radio, plays, film scripts, TV scripts (Fawlty Towers is FUNNY even on the page!) And they have a huge dvd section too with up to date films and most TV shows. Utter heaven, I’ve even cut back on my DVD postage rental and saved nearly a tenner a month. Such a student!

The only downside is not really being able to socialise with the students, although I have a little tale to tell about that which I will save for next time, and the coffee on campus SUCKS!! Big time, awful, disgusting, yuck.

Luckily Bath, which is only a wee bus ride away, has oodles of independent coffee shops who know how to grind their beans. My fave so far is The Boston Tea House. Yum.

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Back To Uni

 

Freshers Week

So Freshers Week descended after one blissfully quiet week on campus getting to know my new housemates and colleagues Max and Polly who make me laugh so much. I giggle all day long. 

The house is wonderful with a view from the kitchen window onto a lovely lawn where a geriatric blackbird couple and seriously ancient jackdaw visit every day.

I did manage to get everything into the two cars and a dash home later in the week managed to see my old place spic and spanned with only a small amount taken out of my deposit to clean the carpets and a sweet Italian friend looks likely to rent it so I’ll be able to visit.

Pebbles looked a little lost when she first arrived at mum’s but has settled in very quickly and is just a ball of purry affection when I visit.

My buy of the year so far has to be my Hush Plugz earplugs from the Student Union shop. After two sleepless nights once the Freshers arrived they now cut out every sound and I’m once again sleeping like a baby.

We went to the Welcome Party at the Student Union where I was incredibly shocked to find heavy security in the shape of about six gigantic bouncers and the entrance cordoned off like some royals were about to drop in. It was nothing like that in my day at uni, no security, or even adults in the bar from what I can remember. Have the younger generation really turned into some sort of binge drinking, destroyers of violent havoc? I’m sure I will soon find out. (How old do I sound? – I can almost hear my creaking synapses firing.)

The party consisted of an extreme stiletto and g-string cattle market with drooling teenage boys but somehow the hippies managed to sniff me out and I found myself talking with a teenaged, long-haired, vinyl fan who also listens to Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and Santana. He very kindly steered me in the direction of a bar hidden in the corner of an empty tent where I managed to buy two bottles of Corona for £4 in less than 2 minutes while we had to send out a search party for Max when he still hadn’t appeared with our drinks from the main bar after half an hour. We found him fighting his way through the dance floor, sweating and having an Irish tantrum – but bless him, he hadn’t spilt a drop.

The bar was open from 10am every day with a party every night and doing our kitchen rounds every evening was rather amusing as we watched fresh-faced eager freshers slowly turn into walking zombies. The parties consisted of such diverse affairs as ‘Where’s Wally?’, Hypnosis, Popcorn canon and Pirate Night. I stayed home for most of these preferring to get tucked up tight before the noisy blighters started staggering home.

I’ve been wobbling my way around campus on my trusty old bike which I think looks like a Betty. My thighs hurt like mad on the way to the SU which is as far away on campus as you can get from our little house but it’s downhill all the way back which I love. I still can’t take my hands off the handle-bars but I yell ‘hello’ to everyone who greets me. I took Betty for a free safety check today and was gratified to learn that not only is she in excellent shape, she needs very little maintenance and is worth four times what I paid for her. Result.

Max & Polly on the grand drive of Corsham Court

Last thursday we went to Corsham Court to register for the academic side of things and I met my fellow classmates. The two other girls were missing and the rest consisted of four men ranging in age from early twenties to sixty odd. I’m looking forward to getting to know them, they all looked like they could well be as ditsy as me.

The place is amazing with peacocks everywhere; in trees and on battlements; I had no idea they could fly and they’re enormous. I collected a handful of stunning feathers while taking a stroll through the grounds.

‘Remains Of The Day’ among others was filmed here and a brand new studio has just been built for my course and they are desperate for us to use it. They provide all the crew and a director if required and there is a brand new editing suite and sound recording box so I may well get to film some of my short scripts.

Whether I’ll find time to do this remains to be seen as we received our course handbooks on friday and the amount of work to be done before the first class on Oct 15th is TERRIFYING!

The reading list is huge and we have to have an outline for a theatre or radio play as well as having completed scene by scene analysis on three plays. I am now feeling very daunted. If we’d started with a film script I’d be a lot happier – I’m a little out of my depth with this because I’ve forgotten all the bloody theatre stuff. I knew I should have brought my box of plays with me – I need to refresh my addled memory.

At the same time I’m extremely excited and want to be top of the Master’s Class!

discovered hidden in the grounds when I went for a furtive ciggie

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Back To Uni

 
 
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