Blow Out

Yesterday, I found myself staring at page 37 of a script. It’s due next week. No matter how long I stared, page 37 refused to fill up with Courier 12pt.

I downed tools and availed myself of the armoury:

I failed to draw a happy face but I ended the session with a smile.

I returned to the writing cave and was greeted with page 37. My fingers moved over the keyboard:


Of course: a little interlude never hurt no one.

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Mr Parker

Dean Parker. (Photo: David White.

I’ve come some way since my unforgivable near total ignorance of Dean Parker’s oeuvre. I’ve tried to make up for it ever since. (And just as well as I’ve had the pleasure and honour of meeting him on occasion.) I’m not afraid to say it: I’m a fan.

I found this excellent quote at The Listener:

What advice might you give aspiring playwrights and screenwriters?

One day you’ll declare that there must be no changes to your script, and then the producer will take you out to lunch. Midway through the lunch he’ll say, “I’ve brought you here to show you something”, and reach under the table. He’ll then hold up a phantom monster. “Can you see the monster?” he’ll ask. Wanting to humour him, you’ll say, “Ummm … yes.” He’ll say, “Do you know the name of the monster?” Defeated, you’ll bleat, “Ummm … no”, and he’ll say, “The name of the monster is – IT’S OUR MONEY.” Be prepared for this.

Ah yes: commerce versus art.

Once upon a time, my response would’ve been that that it’s still your story. Until they pay you out and replace you, you’re still the goddamned writer. And if you’d learned anything at all from my adventures, you’ll already have representation — the guild, an agent or a manager — who’re only a speed dial away.

Nowadays it can be… complicated. But not insurmountable. And you’re never alone.

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SWANZ and BSS 2018

The weekend was kicked off by the New Zealand Writers Guild SWANZ Awards. The ever effervescent Nick Ward MCed the event while I did my best Vanna White impression handing him the awards as required. It was a great turn out — my evening ensemble was admired (21st century Miami Vice, courtesy of various op shops), the food was good and plentiful, and it’s always nice to see so many writerly faces in one place.

The symposium was a more formal affair — collegial rather than fraternal — and was rampant with speakers and attendees, some of them I knew from one thing or another, and some I met for the first time.

Over the three days, I caught up with:

  • Alice, Mel, Alan, Allan, Kathryn and Rachel from the guild represented;
  • three from the class of 2016 — the unstoppable Maraea Rakuraku, the inquisitive William Duignan, and the observant Myfanwy Fanning-Randall;
  • former guild ED Steve Gannaway and his partner Alex Cole-Baker; One Thousand Ropes‘ Tusi Tamasese and Catherine Fitzgerald; PIFT stalwarts Aaron Taouma, Arnette Arapai and Sandra Kailahi; South Pacific Pictures’ Tim Balme and James Griffin; and Waru‘s Chelsea Cohen, Ainsley Gardiner, Paula Jones, Casey Kaa, Renae Maihi, Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu and Katie Wolfe;
  • Chantelle Burgoyne; South Seas’ Gerben Cath; the indefatigable Tony Forster; Paula Jones (no, the other one); Roseanne LiangChristina Milligan; producing titan Robin Scholes; Riverside Kings‘ Sarita So; and the redoubtable Louise Tu’u.

Speaker highlights of the symposium were:

  • an small-group Q-and-A with David Michôd;
  • a refreshing and irreverent talk by Neil Cross;
  • filmmaker So Yong Kim‘s oeuvre is a fascinating thing I need to look into;
  • agent Bec Smith‘s talk was a confirmation of how talent always finds a way;
  • and Oz drama commissioners Kyle Du Fresne and Penny Win, was an interesting session on how things happen across the ditch.

A bit of a blur but I’m glad I attended.

(I’ve done it again: even though I name-checked the Screenwriting Research Network Conference in August, I’ve neglected to write about this year’s Arts Market in Auckland. Next year. Promise.)

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IPod Nano 4G black crop
My humble running ipod is approaching its tenth anniversary. Before I had it for musical accompaniment, I made do with whatever songs I could huff and puff to*, invariably resorting to music from films from a misspent youth.

I was on an away-mission recently and I forgot to pack it for my travels. I still went for a run, and I noticed how loud my breathing was. It was loud enough that random citizens ahead of me would turn suddenly: they would visibly connect my appearance with whatever alarming noise they’d heard behind them, and relax. “It feels worse than it sounds,” I joked to one shell suit as I wheezed past. “I’m too tired to make trouble,” I gasped to an elderly couple holding onto each other.

When I write, I like to have some music playing. It’s a conduit away from the distractions of RealLife™, or a way of staying in the mood of the piece I’m working on. Over the years, I’ve pooh-poohed The Lovely Wife‘s occasional remarks about noises coming from the writing cave. But now that I think about it, it’s possible the music I’ve been cranking up might also have been a way to drown out my own noises of creation.

Not unlike how the ipod drowns out my wheezing when I’m out there trying to burn calories. It may be a little unnerving for those around me, whether at home or on the running trail, but it works for me, and I need all the help I can get.

* Yes: I’d be that wheezing bedraggled runner whose choked yet continuous breathless mumbling was supposed to be singing rather than the running commentary of a mental health system consumer.

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2017 Screenwriting Research Network Conference

University of Otago in Dunedin, NZ.jpg
By Nathan Hughes Hamilton –, CC BY 2.0, Link

The past four days have been such a blur of ideas, conversation, food and shockingly warm weather that I’m still having trouble believing it’s Thursday already — I only flew down on Sunday to get a headstart on things and —. Did I say I’m having trouble believing it’s Thursday already?

I was very chuffed to attend the 2017 Screenwriting Research Network (SRN) Conference in Dunedin this week. It took me a good day or so to get my head around what the SRN mean by “rethink[ing] the screenplay in relation to its histories, theories, values and creative practices”.

Screenplays as more than just the starting points for film and television productions. I could dig that. Kind of.

Since Monday, academics and practitioners have rubbed shoulders and broken bread together on the Otago University campus, and I thought everyone played rather nicely together. Highlights included — beware shameless name-dropping:

Big props to organisers Davinia Thornley, Al, Amie, Maureen Lloyd, PippaKatie Baddock, and a small army of volunteers for making the whole occasion smooth sailing.

The next conference is in Milan. How hard can it be to knock up an abstract on Screenwriting as discomfit: at which point did I begin to self-identify as a writer?

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Why I Hide From My Lovely Wife Reason #2

I’m always writing notes for one thing or another. It helps pass the time if I’m waiting in a very long bank queue, or trying to look busy and productive.

At some point, those scribbles on recycled paper are scrutinised in the hope that something interesting has popped out of my idling brain.

Below is an excerpt of an idea I’m doodling with:

Dramatis personae

-- an idealist who will be corrupted

-- an innocent who will be sacrificed

-- a damned soul who dares to seek redemption

As I looked at that role call and its accompanying notes, I admired my subconscious mind: this could be the beginning of something. Those three characters, executed with care and precision, could exceed their archetypal origins and become players in a story that an audience could care for — cheer for, even — unaware of the cruel fates I have in mind for them. Why, this story —


Our PET WRITER turns to find his LOVELY WIFE reading over his shoulder:


(off Pet Writer’s notes)

... Another rambunctious comedy, I see.

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Cultural Divide

WWoDisney 2015.png
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

The lights dim and you press Play on your entertainment system. You lean back in your seat to enjoy another entry in a well-loved genre. It’s quite likely a story you’ve seen a few thousand times by now, but you recognise the names of the creatives and you’re willing to give things a whirl.

You know the story, the one about the willful child who careens from one self-inflicted calamity to the next, while their forbearing parents, patient and compassionate (and invariably well-resourced), try their best for their child. And we know how it ends — on screen, at least: as our story reaches its appointed climax, the child — having spurned their awful, selfish and clueless parents for the preceding 80 or 345 minutes — returns to the arms of their parents, safe, secure and totally forgiven.

The earliest memory I have of exposure to such stories is from The Wonderful World of Disney television series when I was ten or eleven. That same memory includes 10-/11-year old me exchanging a look with my Awesome Sister, and together we would look at our Stern but Loving Parents, and we’d think, That shit would never fly in our family.

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Process Anecdote #103

I’ve just written the end of my latest project: my fingers were a blur over the keyboard as they typed direct from my subconscious onto the screen.

It felt rather satisfying getting these last few lines down:

Here’s the thing, though: that’s all I have in script-form at the moment. I have a three-page treatment I threw together a few months ago but it’s dry and plot-heavy.

I may have eighty or so pages of script to write but confidence is high: by golly, I know where I’m headed.

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