5-4-3-2-1 Talent Campers are GO!

Like most writers, I’ve done my fair share of courses – short and long, online and offline – to help improve my writing. I’ve attended events and seminars to glean nuggets of info from those who’ve been there and done it, and signed up to numerous writing websites’ newsletters .

And now, I’ve finally taken myself by the scruff of the neck and gone for the Big One: Talent Campus, the London Screenwriters’ Festival’s rocket-fuelled 7 day, 4 week intensive workout.

I’ll openly admit, I thought it was too soon for me to take full advantage of it. But then I thought, what the hell? I’ve either got talent or I haven’t and it’s probably best to find out sooner rather than later, right?

I was still unconvinced though, and my application contained 10 pages of an incomplete script which was pretty much a raw first draft, where I teed up ideas to explore further along. I figured, if they accept that, I know I’m on the right tracks.

So here I am. The intense activity away at Ealing Studios starts on June 26, but we’re in the Pre-Ignition phase and they’ve already set a first homework assignment, a 2 page script for their Impact 50 project.

It’s something I looked at briefly before, but couldn’t come up with a good idea, mainly I think, because I was concentrating on my TV pilot for a competition. So I let it go – and then slightly panicked when the assignment came through.

Don’t settle on your first idea, it said, and eventually the snippets I’d been jotting down previously formed themselves into a workable plot: An elderly lady decides to protect her canine best friend from suffering the impact.

I decided to give her a cantankerous husband to play off, then decided to give him dementia – we lost my dad to the condition, and I’m involved in the local dementia action alliance, so I’m confident including it in my stories.

But then a funny thing happened. Having only two pages to play with, I ran out of room for the dog. So the story became: A woman whose husband lives with dementia shields him from the present by recreating a date from their past. Which hadn’t been in my notes at all!

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The Ballad of Steve and Peggy *Endgame Spoilers Ahead*

As promised, a more detailed look at one element of Endgame that’s got people’s knickers in a twist.

Again, spoilers coming up – for Agent Carter, too – so look away now.

Steggy

First of all, let’s touch on the problem that the writers (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) and the directors (Joe and Anthony Russo) both have a different viewpoint on how the time travel in Endgame actually works, and specifically, where Steve went at the end.

I’m favouring the writers, but the previously mentioned anomalies do come into play and it seems there is a method to Marvel’s madness, which I’ve picked up from an excellent and insightful interview with Markus & McFeely – you can see it in full here. They also drop the very exciting bombshell that they have a studio with the Russos and are working on other projects! (Not Marvel, don’t start. *dreams*).

The Russo brothers have stated* that Steve went into an alternative timeline, and there is evidence of this. Specifically, the new shield. Since his original shield was destroyed in the fight with Thanos, it makes sense that it comes from another timeline. Steve tells Sam “it doesn’t” (belong to anyone else), so it appears that in the other timeline, he’s handed it over to Sam before. *They also stated that Loki escape with the Time stone, so y’know, they’re a bit confused too.

Suffice to say, Steve creating a whole new timeline means anything goes – he could go back to before Bucky fell from the train, since his past isn’t the future in that timeline. Marrying Peggy, having kids, saving Bucky and the Starks, it can all happen without him affecting the original MCU timeline.

The anomalies here are that a) he doesn’t appear back through the portal, and if he was using the GPS tracker and the Pym particles then surely he would have? Unless, in the alternative timeline, Howard and/or Tony and/or Hank Pym have created another. Now, you could call that convenient – I call it exciting!

And b) the rules created for Endgame state that creating an alternate timeline can only happen if an Infinity Stone is not replaced, and since Steve replaced them all, he can’t have created an alternative timeline.

The case for the original timeline:

As I said, I’m with the writers, because a) it’s more romantic and b) they’ve written all the Captain America films, plus Avengers 3 and 4 and they created Agent Carter. Their intention was that he went back to Peggy in the original timeline, and the evidence in Winter Soldier and Endgame supports that. As they say in the video:

“Things need to add up emotionally more than they do logically …”

For clarification, M & M confirmed that two particles can exist in the same timeline (their quantum scientists told them about experiments done in the CERN Hadron Collider). Therefore, frozen Steve and future Steve co-exist and future Steve ensures their paths don’t cross once his younger self is defrosted.

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M & M confirm in the video that Steve returned to Peggy in 1948 – at the end of Agent Carter Series 2, so all of that happened. They reckon she had a falling out with Sousa. You can imagine the conversation:

INT. SOUSA’S OFFICE – DAY

Peggy and Daniel snog with abandon. A flash of light glints in their eyes as a god-like man appears.

Peggy

Steve?

Steve

Peggy!

Peggy

You’re late!

Steve

My ride hadn’t been invented!

Peggy

Er, Daniel. This is Steve.

Daniel

Aw, fuck it.

Steve

You got any oranges? I really fancy an orange.

Actually, Steve, being the considerate man he is, wouldn’t just turn up like that. He’d go to Howard first, someone whose shock would soon be overtaken by excitement and who could hide him effectively, then break it to Peggy gently. Or set her up for an enormous shock just for the fun of it. Either way works.

My (mundane) theory was that Steve went back in the early fifties after Peggy got a divorce. Steve, having visited Peggy from his defrosting in 2012 to her passing in 2016 would know her life story and when this happened. Therefore, having seen his photo on her desk in 1970, he had no qualms about going back to her.

M & M say Steve was always Peggy’s husband and father of the children seen in the photos in Winter Soldier (no husband in them, remember?). When I first heard there might be time travel in Endgame, this is totally what I wanted it to be (probably why I’m so happy with Endgame!).

The interview Peggy gave doesn’t have her mention her husband naturally “.. including the man who would eventually become my husband, as it turned out” – why not “including my husband…” if she were still married?

It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that the possible husband resented even the memory of Steve and if he was a bit of a manbaby, she’d only have to say “Why can’t you be more like Steve?” and boom, marriage over. Like I said, I’m a romantic.

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Before you start with the whatabout Sharon? she was a great-niece by marriage, not a blood relative, and defrosted Cap saw her as the closest thing he could have to Peggy. He’d no idea then he’d be able to go back. Anyway, it was only one, not-so-passionate snog – we got over Luke and Leia, we can get over that.

So there you go, Steve is now living a quiet life with Peggy, knowing that he cannot change anything in that timeline. There’s no social media and publicly, he usually wore a cowl, so it’s unlikely he’s ever going to get recognised in real life. How many times have you bumped into someone from the telly and not been able to place them? And there must be thousands of Steve Rogers in America – it’s not like he’s called Benylin Cumberband or something.

Personally, I love the idea of toddler Tony being babysat by Steve and no-one is ever going to take that away from me. This might have been exactly what they had in mind for AC S3. Disney+, come on!

When we see Old Cap, he’s simply made his own way to the portal site on the right date, waited for himself to go back in time and then sat on the bench. The only anomaly for me is handing off the shield, which he didn’t have – unless he stopped in Wakanda on the way back, and asked Shuri nicely to make him a new one.

*Update* Due to some snotty nosed little cretin arguing with me on Youtube (and completely undermining himself by stating that two Steves couldn’t be in the same place at the same time. Did I imagine Cap V Cap #Americasass?) my mind wandered enough to find another explanation for the shield.

And I decided that Howard Stark had kept some vibranium back, and was able to make Steve a new one. The more I thought about this, the more convinced I became. Why would you use this incredible material to make just one item (and leave it under your desk)? Knowing Howard, genius inventor, it’s completely in character that he’d have retained some to play with.

Steve’s words to Sam, equally, could be interpreted differently: It doesn’t belong to anyone else because he made the decision to pass it onto Sam. *Update* After seeing Endgame for only the fourth time, Steve tells him it’s his after Sam says he’ll do his best: “I know, that’s why it’s yours.” So, no anomaly there.

Just because you didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!

In conclusion, there is evidence and anomalies that support and undermine both versions, although there is nothing the Russo’s interpreted visually that isn’t in line with the writers’ intentions. But Markus and McFeely came up with the perfect reasoning as to why that is:

“It kind of depends on what Marvel wants to do going forward. We watched the Spiderman Far From Home trailer like everyone else and they mention branched realities and alternate multiverse … we didn’t know they were going to do that. So they may have a different need (to our version) going forward.”

Basically, Marvel left their options open.

And I’m left with the smuggest feeling of being on the same wavelength as the writers of five of the MCU’s best films.

I’m going to explode if I don’t talk about Avengers: Endgame **SPOILERS**

Avengers

I’ve seen it three times but I’ve friends who’ve still yet to see it, because they’re simply too busy. Consequently, I’ve had to resort to Facebook.

There are some real idiots on Facebook, aren’t there? I have to question if they even watched the same film or in fact, any of the previous MCU films, or whether their attention span has fled them entirely, since they clearly missed some of the major plot points. And that’s just the writers of online “news” platforms putting shit out there.

*It’s not a plot hole or an unanswered question just because YOU didn’t understand it!*

Ok, so now you’ve gathered I will be referring to said plot of Avengers: Endgame and if you don’t want to know – why are you still here?

So, the main issue: Time Travel. Specifically, the MCU’s version of time travel which is not like Back to the Future and sundry others mentioned.

Now, I should state that, as someone who couldn’t even pass CSE Maths and Physics (think GCSE failure and double it), I’m no expert in the quantum realm. So this is just what I think. But what I think is at least grounded in what I’ve seen and heard in the films. I guess I’m lucky they explained it in plain English and not algebra!

To preserve the timeline of the whole 22 film MCU, clearly they had to come up with something different from the usual Back to the Future type time travel. Hence:

“You cannot change the future from the past!”

Yes, it’s that simple a premise. Everything that happened in the earlier films has still happened regardless of any time travel shenanigans in Endgame. Because them’s the rules. They got a science adviser in about it an’ everything. This will be referred to as the original timeline.

Banner told the Avengers the rules. He and the Ancient One even drew a fucking diagram showing what would happen if the stones weren’t replaced. Seriously. The original timeline cannot be changed but if the stones aren’t replaced, they can cause an additional, alternative timeline.

But whataboutery …

But Loki took the Tesseract and disappeared! Therefore the space stone didn’t get replaced and surely an alternative timeline came into being? Yes and no. Loki took the space stone from 2012 and disappeared into a new timeline (Disney+). The space stone the Avengers took was from 1970 and it was replaced. So, original timeline intact. *Update* I saw an brilliant theory on Youtube that reckons Loki had learned to create a physical copy of himself, which he could have teleported back with the Tesseract to the point he stole it, to prevent a timeline anomaly!

But surely Steve would’ve told S.H.I.E.L.D everything about Hydra? Well, he could – wouldn’t have made any difference to events. Sure, he knew about Pierce, Sitwell and Rumlow and could stop them being hired but – cut off one head, and two more will take their place. And unless he was going to murder Zola in cold blood, the algorithm will still be created.

catws

Steve couldn’t save or rescue Bucky or save the Starks – everything that happened, happened. Even though he went back in time, those events are all in his past so he cannot change them. The best he could do would be to warn. There’s a reason Fury was suspicious of S.H.I.E.L.D – why else would he hire hijackers to attack the Lemurian Star? And know to always keep his light sabre with him? See? SEE?

But Gamora, how can Gamora still be alive? And Thanos? They were both killed in the original timeline. Indeed they were, but thanks to your traditional time travel, they came to 2023 from 2014, and all the events between 2014-2023 still happened.

But then, why can’t we just bring Natasha and Tony back? Because that’s not the story the creators wanted to tell. Tony was on a crisscross arc with Steve, and Natasha’s mission was to clear the red from her ledger. And you can’t just tear them away from their life in a different time because you miss them. Gamora knew exactly what was happening, and why, and it was a natural part of the story.

Natasha was clearly at her wits end and suffering, the only thing that mattered to her was getting everyone back, whatever it takes. I’m gutted too, I loved Natasha. I’ve more to say on Nat, the other female Avengers and how, if Marvel really want to, they could bring her back. In another blog post, hopefully soon.

But, but, but … Steve and Peggy – he went back and deleted her husband and children and their children and he kissed his own granddaughter. No, just no. Stop it right now. This is a whole other blog post too, otherwise I’ll be here all night.

Let’s just be happy for Steve that, post 2023, he’s content running a dog rescue home, with a nice sideline in gentleman’s knitwear.

There are some anomalies, of course there are – it’s a time travel story, so there are going to be, aren’t there?! And if we can’t suspend our disbelief and just accept an epic, rollicking great, adventure superhero film for what it is, then why are we watching?

Cap lifting Mjolnir, Tony’s final “I am … Iron Man” “AVENGERS. Assemble.” The portals. “On your left!” So many epic moments.

Don’t cry that it’s over; smile because it happened.

Do we have the right to tell true stories?

This was the question posed by filmmaker Vincent Lambe to justify his Oscar nominated film Detainment.

Subsequently, the overriding sentiment from most people was: Yes – provided you have permission from the victim’s family.

Detainment was made using the archived transcripts of interviews with the killers of James Bulger. Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were just 10 years old at the time they kidnapped the two year old from a shopping centre and terrorised him before killing him. The transcripts are in the public domain so permission isn’t needed.

However, as many pointed out, common courtesy dictates that you’d at least contact the family and ask for their blessing before you went ahead. This Lambe did not do – and therein lies the main issue for most people.

As the mother of a two year old at the time, my sympathies lie entirely with Denise Bulger and what she went through then, and what she is going through again now.

Another Twitter user took umbrage that I’d dared to express my opinion on the matter and after a long conversation, pointed out that I’m a screenwriter and they hoped karma would get me, by way of a project I’d spent hundreds of hours on being withdrawn.

I pointed out that it wouldn’t happen* – because I would never even begin to write a screenplay about such a sensitive subject without having got the relevant parties on board.

I guess for those who don’t remember this case – too young, outside of the UK, perhaps – it’s hard to understand why there is such a backlash against this film. But I do. I can remember the atrocities that small innocent boy suffered without needing to look it up.

For me, this is the side of a true story that simply didn’t need telling again.

*Sadly, the nature of the film and TV  industry means there are many projects whose collaborators put in hundreds of hours of work for them never to appear. It doesn’t have to be controversial.

Writing daze

The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra

You know I said I’d be writing at least 3 pages a day? I actually have!

Therefore, as we near the end of January, I can look back on the month and be really proud that I’ve now two complete project drafts. And it’s thanks in part to the excellent book (see above) by Pilar Alessandra: The Coffee Break Screenwriter.

I was stuck at a rough 12 pages for the pilot episode of my TV series, so, since it was Pilar’s weekend TV writing course that set me on the journey with it last year, I revisited her book to jump start me again.

Going into the weekend last year with just the basic concept, I came away with the full template for all the elements of a mini series bible, which subsequently turned into a 5 page document that set a strong framework for me to work from.

But knowing my characters and where I want them to go turned out to be the easy bit. So using Pilar’s book, I’ve begun to work through the 10 minute exercises and concentrate on one part of the script at a time. Before I knew it, I’d hit 45 pages. And I’m still only at the beginnings of the rewrite processes!

Having already completed the vomit draft (as I’ve charmingly seen it called) of my feature – Pilar refers to it as the speed draft (as in you write it quickly, not while you’re high) – I’ve started the rewriting process on that and already it’s gained another 4 pages.

It helps that I’ve finally made the effort to make more, dedicated, time. I’d let too many distractions keep me away from the writing but a new approach has proven worthwhile. This is essentially not writing just on the computer – printing the drafts off and going through with a red pen (like in the olden days) clearly works for me. Pen and paper, you can’t beat it.

Yesterday I was at the second Rochester Write Then Socialise and basically sat quietly for 3 whole hours working through the script, with Pilar’s book becoming more and more thumbed as the day wore on. The beauty of this was that once I felt a break was in order, I could reward myself by chatting to fellow writers over a coffee, the importance of which can’t be underestimated.

Writing is a lonely, solitary business and it’s easy to become isolated. While we were all concentrating on our own projects, the sounds of low chatter, tapping on keyboards and the scratching of pens reminded me I’m not on my own.

It’s been almost two years (I thought it was longer)

2019

Yep, almost two years since I last blogged. Outrageous isn’t it? Or would be if I hadn’t been busy with all sorts of things that, sadly, were just more important.

But here I am, having guilt tripped myself into it, mainly to get back in the habit of just writing freely – even if it’s a load of nonsense (which it quite likely will be).

I’ve been concentrating on screenwriting, which includes reading and watching lots of stuff too, and also organising the first Murderous Medway which – even if I say it myself – was bloody good. Quote of the day? “The quality of the panel discussions was as good as any I’ve heard at Harrogate” – from a regular Theakston’s Old Peculiar attendee.

So it’ll be happening again this year – details will come in due course. My personal aim for 2019? To write at least 3 pages per day. I’ve still a few hours left today …

First up though (and the guilt comes from having had this a while) from one of the Litfest’s lovely volunteer’s Christina, who did some work experience at a television production company earlier this year and shared her thoughts on how disabled creatives can break into the industry. Stay tuned!

Exploring Sicario

sicario

As you know from a previous blog post, I’ve been taking part in an online course, Explore Film, with the NFTS / BFI on the Future Learn e-learning platform.

I did this predominantly to help inform my scriptwriting and to learn a bit about the physical aspects of filming – thinking of light, sound and music – particularly when editing anything together for the LitFest.

I didn’t realise how much I’d absorbed until watching Sicario last night, when the cinematography of Roger Deakins and the score by Johann Johannsson completely knocked me out. I feel like I’ve watched a film properly for the first time ever. It’s an awakening!

Tutors Jon Wardle, Pete Fraser and Tom Woodcock will be so proud. Although I’m completely ruined for watching films now. I’ll probably revisit lots of old favourites and spend the entire time picking holes in them …

While Deakins feels we should be too immersed in the film to notice his work (see video above) he can be assured that while entirely immersed, I nevertheless saw the beauty he created, particularly in the most memorable scene for me – and others, it seems – with the sunset silhouettes, as the task force headed for the hidden route to Mexico, then the switches from night vision to infrared giving an almost game like feel. Trust me, it’s 9m 22s out of your life you will not regret. And pay attention to the sound too – more on that in a minute.

From the opening scenes, where the slants of sunlight illuminated the characters one by one (reminding me of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, actually) through to Benicio Del Toro’s ruthless (yet still I was rooting for him) dispatch of the evil drug lord, I was aware of the editing that created the movie’s pace, the perfectly pitched lighting – particularly of Emily Blunt in radiant blue at the cowboy bar – and every sound: the dog barking, the door slams, the slightest muffled footstep – now knowing that these have been added in after (probably), and not just filmed ‘live’ which, having no experience of how a film is made (apart from the odd bit of sweding) I always assumed was quite natural (how good are these people?).

How have I never heard of Johann Johannsson? I listen to Classic FM, I know Hans Zimmer, John Barry, Howard Shore, Thomas Newman – I need to have a word, because in all my time listening to that station, I’ve never heard them play this Johann. And I even watched Trapped, for God’s sake, and thought how haunting the soundtrack was. To be fair, the credits ran into the hundreds of thousands, so little surprise I didn’t catch his name.

I mean, I don’t get out much and it’s only because of the LitFest working with the Rochester Film Society recently that I’ve seen 3 films in the last few weeks (that weren’t repeats of Bourne or RED) but still … *note to self*: email Andrew Collins with a suggestion.

Sicario’s incredible score doesn’t sound as though played by an orchestra, reminding me of Week 6, where we captured our own ‘found sounds’. With its thumping heart beat mimicking your own “like the throbbing heart of a beast charging at you” as Johannsson says himself, it creates a menace to match the brutality of the film. Read the interview that quote comes from here – it says everything I was thinking, and is perfectly captured in the clip above. I’m off to listen to The Theory of Everything.

NEWSFLASH: SICARIO 2 ON ITS WAY! 

Continuing personal development …

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My ambition is to write a screenplay. A full length film. I’ve got the whole film playing out in my head – interrupted occasionally by the TV series I want to do. And chocolate adverts.

So I’m dabbling in online courses for film making and screenwriting, through the brilliant Future Learn portal – masses of free online courses you can do in your own time, or alongside potentially thousands of others. Do check them out.

The one I’m currently engaged in is ‘Explore Film’ and it’s pretty awesome – I’ve already watched some brilliant short films and am feeling inspired. Into Week 2 and there was the opportunity for some practical work. Today found me on location (at the ever welcoming Cafe @172/Dot Cafe in Rochester) with the lovely Sam Rapp, The Dyslexic Poet, and the also lovely Penny from the cafe (who didn’t need too much persuasion, since she’s another crafty creative we’ve found).

The brief was to write a 30 second script on the premise on someone in a room giving something to someone else coming into the room. I then had to storyboard it (you can see that on my Creative Arts Pinterest page. A must if you like stick men work) and then rope in some unsuspecting victims to film it with me (see above).

And this was the result. I still haven’t discovered the techy tricks that will make the video look as good on YouTube as it does on the iPad, which is annoying – but hopefully that’s something we’ll cover as we progress.