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!

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.

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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.

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!

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.

#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’ 🙂

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.

My Mind is Free

My Mind is Free play

I remove the scrunched up hair band from its hiding place. In all this time they’d never found it and it is now my only link back to my family.

I’d been taken, ripped away from Shona as I was plaiting her hair. My six year old sister’s screams keep me awake at night but her hairband keeps me grounded. Reminds me who I am and that Shona is waiting for me.

I decide that this is the day I begin my journey home. They will come soon but just one will be left. I’d loosened a bar in the bedstead and the lengths of rags I’ve been saving are tied together. I know their pattern. They will wait out back, dragging on those repulsive cigarettes. But the passage will be empty.

I slip the band around my wrist.

The lock clicks.

Continue reading

Sunday Slackers

fruitfaceFood: Guaranteed to get that diet started …

For writers: The Colour Thesaurus. Why have beige when you can have biscotti?

Environment: 40 different fruits on one tree

Architecture: You see, if it was a Woman-Cave, it would already have a bathroom!

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Medical Advances: No More Needles!!! Hopefully.

Art: For Geeks who love ruffs

Books: Gorgeous and amazing 16th century work

 

icebergAnimals: Handy hacks for dog owners

Nature: The forces of …

The kindness of strangers: A war story with heart

Images: Pixabay Fruit/Needle/ Iceberg