Late last month I attended the 2016 Big Screen Symposium in Auckland. It was the second network-y thing I’ve done this year (ah yes, I neglected to mention I attended the 2016 PANNZ Arts Market in Wellington in March).

Cue shameless name-dropping as I saw:

As for the speakers, highlights were:

  • creative couple Cate Shortland (SomersaultThe Slap) and Tony Krawitz (Devil’s PlaygroundThe Kettering Incident) on writing and directing Australian television drama;
  • Jonathon Raymond on screenwriting for Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff) and Todd Haynes (Far From HeavenMildred Pierce); and
  • producer and BSS keynote speaker Heather Rae (Frozen River) on decolonising the screen.

Nice work, all around.

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I was working in the keep the other morning when I turned in my chair and saw a large grey shape in the doorway and thought, [EXPLETIVES], that is one big [EXPLETIVES] rat!

Then it lopped away at my big girly gasp which roused The Dog and The Puppy, and after some running and hopping and hiding, the interloper was captured alive.

Nice one, Stu.
The interloper, dubbed Stu, in captivity.

We’re not sure how the rabbit got into the fortress. Presuming it gained entry through the cat flap by the dining hall, it made it past our presumably sleeping guard hounds (their performance against their KPIs will be noted accordingly) to reach the keep which is at the opposite end of the building. I suspect The Kitten brought it in for some playtime but the rabbit is unmarked.

Anyhoo, we have a rabbit in Fortress Mamea. And it’s a cutie.

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FIREBUG: another pilot script

Earlier this year, the New Zealand Writers Guild added a new category to the SWANZ Awards for 2016: unproduced scripts for film and television.

I had a pilot script called Firebug that’d been kicking around the cave for a few years so when I heard about the new category I thought, What the hell.

It went on to win best unproduced television script.

I am rather chuffed.

Suppose I should shop it around now.

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Une poule.
Une poule.

Sharp-eyed (and long-suffering) readers of this blog may have put lua and two together to know that I’m working on a new play called Still Life With Chickens. It’s about an elderly Samoan woman who reluctantly adopts a barnevelder chicken and learns that there’s more to her sunset years than waiting for death.

I don’t usually announce projects in development but since Creative New Zealand has kindly provided a grant (and I’m a week behind on feeding this blog), I thought, What’s the harm in putting pressure on myself by announcing a work-in-progress that I’ll probably be asked about ad nauseum?

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Ice cream fork, Shreve & Company, Iris service, silver, 1903-1917.jpg
By WmpearlOwn work, CC0,

I’ve reached a point in a project where I can go one of two ways:

  1. go for the laughs — they’ll be earned laughs, but laughs nonetheless (not that there’s anything wrong with laughs); or
  2. go for the pathos — it’ll be painful but resonant and truthful (though painful).

Laughs are easy — at this point in development anyway (in front of an audience it’s a whole other thing). Pathos is a bit of a balancing act of grabbing an audience member’s heart and squeezing it just enough to leave an impression (and not, like, killing it).

A handy reminder at this point of development is to do what best serves the story — except that, with this project, it’s character-driven, so it’s down to how I best serve the character.

And if I want to serve the character to the best of my ability, then I must be honest with it, and see where that takes me.

… Well. That’s sorted, then.


(There’s a third way, of course: I could write both versions and test-audience the shit out of them.)

(Once upon a time I wrote a post where I said characters [are] only part of the story I want to tell — there’s something karmic going on here, I think.)

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Stand Alone

Rogue One, A Star Wars Story poster.png
By Source, Fair use,

Despite feeling burned and scammed by the prequel trilogy, then underwhelmed by the first of the sequel trilogy, I’m finding myself watching and rewatching the Rogue One teaser and trailer.

Why am I returning to this franchise after so much disappointment?

One, it’s directed by Gareth Edwards whose Monsters and Godzilla balanced big-creature spectacle with believable characters and emotions.

Two, it has a scrappy band of rebels that includes Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, and Jiang Wen.

And three, we know how it ends. The teaser and trailer have a Dirty Dozen or Wild Geese vibe so it’s not so much the destination but the journey.

Hell yeah, I’m in.

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Two six-ep mini-series were consumed recently:

Both have excellent casts, are slickly directed and written, jet set around the Continent, and are absorbing thrillers with compelling and flawed characters.

So why have I forgotten most of one while still mulling over the contents of the other?

It was the endings that sorted these two out — I was fully invested in each of them through the first five eps. In one show, the final ep was a stomach churner of suspense that followed the main players to inescapable and sometimes bitter resolutions. In the other, what began as a tense finale went limp partway through as it copped out with an ending where good triumphs over evil.

Who am I to say that it copped out? Well… what was I supposed to expect after five eps of betrayals and reversals and sacrifices? It certainly wasn’t what I got, I can tell you.

And what the heck do I know about inescapable and sometimes bitter resolutions? We’re all doing life, aren’t we? And, like it or lump it, betrayals, reversals and sacrifices come at a price.

So: beware endings.

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Box Watch: Offspring

Offspring Logo.jpg
By Source, Fair use,

What possessed me to try this show with The Goddess six years ago? Was it recommended to her and I was humouring her? Was it a weak/apologetic/fawning moment on my part? Was there channel-surfing and we got hooked like I did once upon a Wire?

At first I swore to merely be in the same room with her as she watched it — I’d be doing something (anything) else like knitting, taijutsu or practicing quick-draws — yet as every episode unfolded, I found myself sitting with my beloved as we were pulled into the world of a thirtysomething obstetrician and her family and friends.

Shit ain’t bad, yo.

When it wasn’t renewed after its fifth season we were both a bit bummed at the unfairness of it all.

But ooh, look — and just in time for an anniversary with the Better Half: a sixth season is playing right now.

I suppose the wool, gi and gun leather will have to wait.

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Fill in the Gaps

So I’ve raced ahead with a script but all I have are a beginning and an ending. I’ve avoided and prevaricated but that’s not getting me any closer to meeting a(n admittedly self-imposed) deadline.

Right, then.

Still Life With Chickens is the story of a cranky old woman who reluctantly adopts a barnevelder chicken and learns that there’s more to her sunset years than waiting for death.

I’ve written:

  • the first few scenes where —
    • MAMA tends her GARDEN which is a bit of a haven from caring for her housebound husband;
    • the garden is invaded by CHICKEN who has a taste for silverbeet;
    • Mama catches the chicken, then tries to find its owner to give them a piece of her mind;
    • Mama, unable to find the chicken’s owner, decides to look after it for a few days;
    • CUT TO some time later — like, several weeks later — where Mama and Chicken have come to an arrangement:
      • the old woman has someone to talk to;
      • and the chicken is given parts of the garden to eat and scratch up, as well as kitchen scraps;
  • and the last few scenes where —
    • Mama has mellowed noticeably;
    • Chicken disappears, forcing Mama to interact with her neighbours in search for the chicken;

Like I said, I’ve tried to launch myself from the tail-end of the first act with no success, while an attempt to work my way backward from that final act has been equally unsuccessful.

I listed some stepping stones:

  2. Something Happens
  3. Something Else Happens
  4. Crunch Time!

My stomach tensing with the possibility of knocking this bastard off — and recognising Joe’s 11-Step Programme — I sketched in some more details:

  2. Something Happens
    1. Could grandchildren visit? They’d love the chicken! Excellent opportunity for variations on If you really loved me, you would visit more often;
  3. Something Else Happens
    1. Mama attends the funeral of a contemporary, and sees the shrinking circle of peers;
  4. Crunch Time
    1. Mama’s husband is taken to hospital, leaving Mama feeling very alone, maybe?


I could be onto something here.


* I know this is one of those dry technical posts but I can’t bring myself to spoil the ending.

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