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!

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

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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.

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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.

On a Spring roll …

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For novelists, November is a huge month, with a small endeavour known as  NaNoWriMo keeping them busy. It’s like the vomit draft I mentioned previously, aimed at getting some 50,000 words of a novel down on paper.

For screenwriters, the equivalent is Zero Draft Thirty – a month long attempt to bash out the first draft of your screenplay, or plan or rewrite – there are no rules. It fitted well with my three pages a day plan.

March was ZDT and I decided to adapt a thirty page short sci-fi story. I quickly realised that the twist at the end was really only the end of the first act and then came the hard part of upping the stakes.

I took vomit draft to a whole new level as I struggled to make sense of the story – and also struggled to not edit as I went along  – until finally, something clicked. It might only be 48 pages in total at present, as the 3 pages a day gave way to thrashing out the story, but it has a beginning, a middle and an end, and I’m pleased with the overall concept. My main character turned out to be fun too!

Although I found the rewriting process with the other two projects a lot of fun, I’ve parked this story for now – it was more of an experiment for my first ZDT – and am going to focus on another project that I feel more passionate about, one that has a beginning and an end but a higgledy-piggledy middle.  This one, a darkly comic crime caper, has been one of my main projects since I started to focus on screenplays and I’m itching to crack on with it.

Flitting between the two stories is a bit of luxury at present, as the two completed projects are now with a script consultant. The pilot I’m going to enter in Thousand Films competition, and the feature will be sent to Sheridan Smith’s production company, Barking Mad Productions – Sheridan very kindly put out a call for scripts and has promised to read all of them – I’m guessing she’s decided for forego sleep for a while!

All this is happening while putting together the next RLF Murderous Medway (21st September), for which we have some cracking authors already lined up. A pretty productive March, which has energised me for April!

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.

#RLF2016: Written Worlds, Inspiring Places

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For some strange reason 5 years ago, I decided to start a literature festival. Possibly I had too much time on my hands (I didn’t) possibly I just felt we were lacking a festival in Medway dedicated to writing, and somebody had to do it. I must’ve been mad, and I’m also stubborn, so here we are: the fourth Rochester Literature Festival 2016 kicks off this weekend.

Amidst the usual creative writing workshops, Cafe Crawl and author talks this year, the RLF has a wonderful day of craft activities planned for all ages.

The Turtle Moves, inspired by Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, sees a Juvenile Crafters’ Guild appear, as if by magic, in Rochester’s Community Hub, where you can design your own Luggage or bring to life a Golem, among other activities. Out and about in the high street you’ll bump into numerous characters – and even see a re-enactment of the Battle of Koom Valley! And shhhhh – it’s rumoured that the Librarian will be appearing in L-Space (Baggins!)

RLF Patron Lisa Cutts is appearing at Strood Library on Oct 4, alongside fellow crime author Simon Booker, while author of The Outlaw Chronicles, Angus Donald, is at Rochester Library on Oct 6. There is also a Local Author Day at Rochester Library between 10am-2pm on Oct 1.

The popular Cafe Crawl takes place on Sunday, Oct 2 and features the Canterbury Yarners, Fiona Sinclair, Nancy Charley, Johanna Coulson and Maggie Butt alternating at Bruno’s Bakes, The Quills and Cafe @172 between 12-3pm.

The festival opens with three creative writing workshops on Saturday, Oct 1: An Introduction to Screenwriting, A Guide to Self Publishing, and Building Your Make Believe World. It ends with a Writers’ Retreat on Sunday, Oct 9.

All the events apart from the workshops are free, and more detail and tickets for the workshops can be booked here.

If you pop down, be sure to say ‘hi’ 🙂

Seasonally adjusted for app use

I’ve missed the last few Seasonally Effecteds, so I thought I’d mosey on up  this month and catch up with all the lovely people who frequent Dot Cafe (last Wednesday in the month, varies occasionally, check before leaving), as well as try my hand with the Splice app again.

Another excellent mix of folks took to the mic; here’s a video snapshot:

The reason for laughter at the end? Roy was too quick for me and we did a little stop-start dance before we got the final take!

In order of appearance: Tendayi Sutherland; Thomas Kelly; Toby Marsh; Sam Rapp; Gavin Alexander; Nigel Adams; Lionesse X; Mike Orvis; Razz Saunders; Rachel Lowrie.

Visit www.seasonallyeffected.wordpress.com – email Roy if you want a slot at the next one.

Game of Thrones readers feeling a tad smug

Because we know what’s coming. And it ain’t just Winter.

Having voraciously read my way through the five books – and then started on the books about the books – over the past few months, I accept that I’ll probably be buying the DVD box set before the last two books are actually published. (I haven’t succumbed to the Sky monster).

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