Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Overheated brain

I think it must be the weather that's putting me into this wierd mood. It's been too hot for too long, and even when there's impressive thunder and huge amounts of rain, the storm is over far too fast and all that's happened is that the humidity's gone up. So, I'm blaming the heat rather than the obvious alternative, which is the rapidly looming descent into frustration and despair.

I had a job interview yesterday (the only agency that would have me finally found me something). I didn't get the job. My office/admin skills were not as up to date as they might be. So, on the one hand I'm too smart for most jobs, but on the other I'm not smart enough to learn how to manage a diary and fill in logs and design a filing system these days? Right. On the other hand, the bloke was very nice and said I had good research skills. Too bloody right, and they cost me thousands of pounds and many years of intellectual agony to acquire. But at least now when I get asked "Is that Miss or Mrs?" I can go "No, it's doctor, actually," and then whoever I'm dealing with suddenly starts being much nicer. Yeah, it's bad and wrong, they should be nice to everyone, but I don't care, that niceness cost me dearly and I'm going to enjoy it.

I got the play finished (wehey!!) and sent off to someone who emailed me after Cannes, looking for suitable productions for fringe venues, and said she loved my titles and plots. It's amazing how a bit of good feedback like that can make me work. I also sent a short and a feature off to take their chances across the water in the Expo competition. Now I have to try to forget them, and decide what to work on next - I have three ideas in my head and partly on paper, all of which I love, but can't settle on one.

Edinburgh is shaping up to be fantastic - I have tickets for lots of films (including Clerks II - the first two showings sold out in a couple of hours, so they put on a third, and I got tickets - hoorah), we've got tickets for some stuff at the Book Festival including A's favourite poet (Simon Armitage), and we've got our Fringe programmes to work through. Apparently Michael Billington wrote something saying that people shouldn't bother with the Fringe; they should just "cut out the middleman and put it on in London straight away". Yeah, that's right, Michael, because as all you London-based journalists know, there is no intelligent life outside the M25, no-one cares about culture or films or theatre "out here", nothing interesting ever happens outside London, and there couldn't possibly be an audience for whom Edinburgh is more accessible than London, could there? After all, up here in the north we only care about chips and whippets. Damn, but these people annoy me. That smug attitude that nothing counts unless it happens in London. Sure, lots happens there - but it doesn't mean that good stuff isn't going on elsewhere. That attitude is why I gave up reading The Observer and am about to give up The Sunday Times. I could go on a proper rant about food critics and fashion pages, but perhaps I'll save that for another day.

A's out - her band is gigging tonight, and she spent the day on a school trip to Yorkshire Sculpture Park (what, they have ART in YORKSHIRE? Hear the sound of southerners fainting in shock), so she will be totally flaked out later and no doubt will sleep til mid-morning tomorrow. Ah, the joy of being 17.

See, I told you I was in a mood.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Does the scanner see into me?

I hope not, because then it would be obvious how my workrate has fallen away. Not much going on but I thought I'd better do an update in case people think the blog's died.

I'm trying to get the play finished (nearly there) but I find that if I've finished writing something, I go into a kind of slump and find it hard to do anything for a while - and having finished the sci-fi thing a couple of weeks ago, I've been slumping. I've also been pre-occupied with the job search situation (v bad) since I had to have an interview at the job centre where they said they would offer me "more help to find work". The use of the word "more" is interesting - it implies that they've been giving me "some" help during the past 13 weeks. The advice I was given was to lose most of the qualifications on my CV - I'm too highly qualified for jobs available in this area, and "bosses don't like having someone in the office who's cleverer than them". Meanwhile I phoned 6 temp agencies, and all but one said there was no point even registering with them because "there's nothing round here for someone like you". The other one said (in May) they could guarantee finding me a job. I rang them last week to remind them I'm alive. It really was worth spending all that time, effort and money getting some certificates, wasn't it?

So off we went to Cambridge for the weekend, to see some films and for A to check out the place to see if she likes it and wants to apply to the University (yes and yes). On Friday night we saw "The Science of Sleep" and both liked it. It's funny, and touching, and quite surreal. Gael Garcia Bernal does an excellent job as Stephane, trying to make sense of his relationship with his neighbour Stephanie (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) while his dreams increasingly leak into his day to day life. The film does wander a bit at times, and the dream sections work better than the real life segments, but it's so inventive and magical - definitely one to see.

We emerged from the cinema to find that the centre of Cambridge was full of loud drunken youths yelling and shouting - perhaps all city centres are like that late on a Friday night these days, I wouldn't know, but it was really pretty unpleasant.

Saturday we wandered round the city, which is very pretty, and visited a college; I like the way "new" bits of buildings are the ones that went up in 1830. In the afternoon we went to the UK premiere of "A Scanner Darkly" (sadly not quite the high excitement of the Cannes event, but at least this time I was wide awake). I loved it - A wasn't quite so sure. The rotoscoping really works for the story, I think, in the way it separates the viewer from reality, but leaves enough that's recognisable to hang on to. Having read the book again since Cannes, I realised how faithful Richard Linklater has been to PKD, and I really liked the "graphic novel come to life" feel to the film. Keanu, Robert, Woody and Winona were each perfect for their roles, Robert's manic riffs and Keanu's philosophising particularly good. It's funny, and deeply tragic, and a timely cautionary tale - I hope it gets a proper release here.

And last week saw POTC2 again - better a second time! I think second time round its easier to just relax into the ride, and not be thinking about how long the film is and what's going on, and as with the first one, you notice stuff on a second viewing that you missed first time round. And Johnny Depp's physical comedy is hilarious.

What to see this week? Haven't decided yet. I need to do some work first, though.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mixed bag

Good news: my short script made it to the first round qualifiers of the British Short Screenplay Comp.

Middling news: agent I met in Cannes doesn't want to rep MWG - however he gave a whole page of feedback and said he'd like to read the next thing I write, so I don't feel rejected, just slightly set back.

Other news: went to see "Thank You for Smoking" and thought it was funny and clever. Any film with William H Macy in the cast tends to be worth a look, and I thought Aaron Eckhardt was good too; and I loved the idea of the agents of death getting together for dinner once a week.

Also went to see POTC2. Liked it. Wanted to love it, went in hoping I'd love it, but I just didn't. It's funny, and cool, and there are some good stunts (although IMHO nothing beats the "swords and soundtrack" combo of the first Will n Jack fight in POTC1) - but it just goes on .... and on .... and on for too long. It's also a bit gruesome in places, and I wonder whether the combination of gore and length will mean some of the smaller members of the audience will be long gone before the final credits roll. Johnny Depp as Captain Jack is wonderful, some classic lines and some very funny moments, Orlando is a bit plank-like but does what's necessary; and I loved Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgard and Kevin McNally. What I hadn't realised was that its possible to do CGI bosoms - that's the only explanation for Elizabeth actually having a hint of a cleavage in the film, because the evidence suggests that Keira herself doesn't have boobs with which to produce said cleavage:

I'm the mother of a teenager, and if my teenager had bones sticking through her skin like that, I'd be getting worried and doing something about it.

But anyway back to the film - I think one of the problems with it is that the first one was such a surprise and no follow up can ever match that. I can remember seeing the trailer for the first one, and thinking, oh that sounds awful, a film based on a Disney ride? No chance. Oh go on then, I'll go just cos A wants to see it. Oh wow, that was fantastic!! And that whole bowled over, never seen anything quite like this before, can't happen again, feeling,means #2 has an awful to to live up to. Which it almost does. Almost, kind of, I'll see it again just for that kiss. I did like it. I just wanted to love it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Money money money

The regional screen agency turned down our application for funding - apparently they had five times as many applications as they could fund. They said a couple of positive things though - our plan is business-like, and the script is "economically written" - so the search for funds goes on. Had a very good meeting yesterday with someone who is involved in putting on screenings of locally made short films, and she gave me half a dozen names to contact, so hopefully somewhere along the line we'll get enough money in the pot to start work.

I need to get one of those little fancy bars that Optimistic Reader has, showing percentage of the script completed, only mine will show percentage of the funds we've raised. Where do you get them and how do they work?

The heat and the humidity have built up to the point where the thunder is rumbling, and the rumblings are getting closer. A big thunderstorm and downpour is just what I need, then this pressure headache I've had for three days might go away. One problem with a loft workspace - it's fiendishly hot up here at the moment. Still, I don't need a sauna, I just need to come up here and work all day - same effect. I'll be thin soon.

Had an email from someone I met in Cannes who was interested in scripts for fringe theatre productions, asking if my play was finished yet. Hmmm. Wellll ..... not exactly. Better get working on that again, hadn't I?

Edited to add:
the thunder rumbled off into the distance, the rain was so feeble it barely counted and just had the effect of raising humidity, and I sent three emails and had five phone conversations related to film funding. Guess this was a producer day.

Where are all the good men dead? In the heart or in the head? Am watching Grosse Point Blank, if I'd remembered that it had such a cool soundtrack (original soundtrack credited to Joe Strummer but loads of other really top songs) I would've rewatched it sooner.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Time flies

Ten days since I last blogged, where did the time go?

Actually, it was spent on getting my head down and producing the next draft of the sci-fi/thriller thing - I hesitate to call it sci-fi because it's not all that futuristic or anything, but there is some science in it - anyway, the draft is done, hoorah, and will go off tomorrow. It's funny how time just disappears when I'm really into a piece of work - I'm not thinking of "having" to do it, or of how much time I'm spending on it - it just seems to happen. Which is cool.

And because I've been working solidly on this project, my subconscious is doing it's usual trick of throwing up other ideas - do other people find this? That when you're looking for ideas they don't come, but when you're deeply involved in something, the ideas just kind of turn up? I used to worry that I would run out of ideas - "what if I never think of anything good again?" "What if I only have two stories to tell?". Now I worry that I haven't got the time to tell them all properly.

But the play isn't finished yet - oops.

I gave myself a couple of hours off and went to see "The Lake House" - and I loved it. Exactly what I was in the mood for - a sweet romance beautifully filmed (I want to do "the walk" in Chicago!), which makes me wish I had a magic mailbox and a time-travelling dog. And a beautiful house on a lake. And a sweet, thoughtful architect writing me letters. And why can't I get smooched like that at my birthday party? Oh, that would be because I don't have birthday parties. And sweet thoughtful guys don't fancy me. But apart from that, I think it's one of those films you either like, or you don't. Either you come out going "uh, that was stupid, time travel doesn't work like that", or you just sit back and let the "Persuasion" allusions work their magic. I also liked the way the film says that some things are worth waiting for, when so much of modern life is about "I want it NOW".

And in terms of waiting, I've booked us a weekend at Cambridge Film Festival where we'll see "The Science of Sleep" and the UK premiere of "A Scanner Darkly" (and this time, I'll try to have my brain switched on for the whole film, I promise - last time it was a bit "lights on, nobody home"), and we're going up to Edinburgh for a week when the Fringe, the Film Festival and the Book Festival overlap. I think we might be a bit busy.