Category Archives: books

Why I failed. 10 points…

I’ve given up on my screenplay. I hate giving up on anything. During my final screenwriting course session I reflected on why I failed.

1. I can always use the old excuse of life getting in the way. It has been especially busy for the last few weeks at work and participating in the Poetry By Heart competition, but you can always do things if you want to. However, teaching, more than any other job I’ve done, seems to drain you mentally and so I have time, just no brain space.

2. I didn’t love the story I chose. I wasn’t sold on it entirely and couldn’t figure out some of the characters.

3. I have been working on receiving criticism for the last few years. I used to be really bad at it, , but I know it’s a really important thing to get better at. However, I found the way the tutors gave me notes, was contradictory and unhelpful. I have realised that I need a lot of reassurance in my life.

4. I’m really not a writer. At all. I did finish The Hall last year when some friends and I did a writing competition, but it nearly killed me.

However, I have realised a lot of positives from the whole experience:

5. From doing the course, we have found out about a film production course at The Phoenix in May and June, which we may do and I think will be more my thing. I’ve also realised what a great place it is for getting involved, which will be really great when Joey lives here.

6. I have read some really nice books from the reading list. William Goldman and Stephen King have been great inspiration.

7. I’ve found a career I definitely don’t want to do.

8. I have realised that I was teaching screenwriting in a fairly conventional way. Although, maybe with more resources and variety. Two hours in a room with just one voice is tricky…

9. I’ve learnt all about formatting, which is very useful and really enjoyable.

10. It has been really nice doing something creative with Mark and seeing how much he enjoyed the process. I also really like his idea and hope he keeps working on ‘The Gloaming’.

I’ve also realised that I set myself big challenges and maybe I shouldn’t kill myself when I fail. It’s good enough just to try things.

I haven’t been completely useless though… My adventures on a screenwriting course.

Despite my lack of Top 100 film watching and assigned creativity, it’s not been all bad.  Nearly two weeks ago, Mark and I started a screenwriting course at The Phoenix (we seem to be going there a lot lately…).

It’s an eight week programme and by the end we should have written a screenplay and investigated structure, dialogue, character building and industry techniques.  We have also been given a reading list and we’ve got two William Goldman and one Stephen King books on writing to read.

The first homework was to write your favourite movie’s plot in four lines and then your idea in four lines.  This week’s assignment is to flesh that initial four lines out in to half a page and decide on a character that made an impact on you as a child.

My idea is based on the Simon Armitage poem The Manhunt ( although I may change the war by moving it to Afghanistan and also add the element of the wife having strayed before he came back wounded and the amplified guilt she would feel.  I like the idea of writing about war from a female perspective although I think I will have to do a lot of research first!

It's a start...

It’s a start…

New beginnings… but I’ve not forgotten

It's been a Richard heavy summer...

It’s been a Richard heavy summer…

I am writing this from my new office! I have never had my own desk as a teacher before, so it is very exciting. I’m not sure this is what they wanted me to be doing on my second day, but as everyone else has gone home and I have been here for over nine hours, I’m not going to worry about it.

I am now… (drumroll) … the head of English at John Cleveland College, a massive GCSE and A Level college. This is lovely and I was definitely ready to move on from my last school, but it means that I am no longer in charge of media and film and can’t persuade myself that watching all and any film is professional development. It’s all about boring old books now…

To prepare for this new challenge (and I’m pretty sure it is going to be a crazy challenge) I have had a pretty restful summer. My main reading has been Richard Burton books – both a biography and his diaries. This was all sparked by watching three programmes on the BBC about five weeks ago; the new dramatisation of the Burton/Taylor production of ‘Private Lives’ with Helena Bonham-Carter and Dominic West, a programme about Burton’s diaries and a two hour documentary about the making of ‘Cleopatra’. All of the programmes were great and I also really loved the books. I still don’t think I know anymore about his acting, or understand it, or especially like him, but it was amazing to learn about the crazy fame he had.

Anyway, this resting, holidaying and Burton reading has meant that I haven’t done any top 100 films this summer, but I am still hoping to work on them and have about five sitting by my telly to get on with. It just depends on the crazy workload that I encounter…

Holiday reading.

I recently had a lovely week in La Palma.  Completely by chance I ended up taking four books that were all about British issues.  Two of them were about film and were fascinating.  I’ve started to get really interested in the British film industry and the book about the Korda brothers was fascinating.

Holiday reading

March is cinematographer autobiography month – obviously!

This month I have been reading Jack Cardiff’s Magic Hour and Billy Bitzer’s His Story and so have coined it ‘Cinematographer Autobiography March’.

March reading

A few years ago I went through a phase of reading books about producers (such as My Indecision Is Final about Goldcrest and a great biography of Samuel Goldwyn) and really enjoyed it, so I thought this pair would be fun.  I really enjoyed the Jack Cardiff book, which had a lot of celebrity gossip (especially about Sophia Loren and working on The African Queen).  The Billy Bitzer book was written in rather an odd way, but it was interesting to read after recently watching Intolerance. Not sure what I’m going to go on to next…

It’s not about film, but it is ace…

So, I’ve been pretty rubbish with film watching and reading in the last month.  Consequently I haven’t blogged that much; it would have been boring.

Reading wise I have even shelved the Jack Cardiff autobiography.  But I haven’t not been reading.  Okay, it’s not about film, but Steven Pinker’s book about violence: The Better Angels of Our Nature – A History of Violence and Humanity, is amazing.Image

It was featured on the Culture Show as it had been nominated for the Samuel Johnson prize and I was interested.  I then managed to watch the end of one of the thousands of documentaries about the Nazis that are continuously on telly and felt that I really needed to read a book that tried to prove that we are getting less violent.  It felt important that I know that.  Anyway, it is over eight hundred pages long, but I completely recommend it.  I’m going to email him when I am finished and tell him how brilliant it is.

I did also manage to get back on the 100 top films list yesterday and will blog all about Touki-Bouki if I have time tonight.

The ‘book’ is finished and other news.

I don’t like writing.  I think I have made this clear before.  But, for some stupid reason, I got talked in to writing a novel/novella/short story/pamphlet for November/first week in December.  I always like creativity, I always like to join in and I always like to finish things.  This often leads to stress and furious, frantic tapping of the keyboard.

Anyway, I’m done.

Bloody done it.

Bloody done it.

It’s called The Hall.  I only got to 12,000 words, but I’m fairly happy with it.  Let me know if you want a copy – don’t worry Ma, I’ve already sent you one.

Although I really don’t think I’m good at writing – like at all, I did enjoy the creative process.  I liked the initial thinking of ideas and I enjoyed the structuring.  I probably also would have enjoyed it a lot more if I didn’t have to do it at the same time as working during the busiest term of the year, having an observation week and feeling generally run down.

StuMo hasn’t finished.  He was the one that talked me into it in the first place.  Not impressed.

Anyway.  Doing that, along with a full-time job, did take up most of my free time, but I haven’t stopped doing film related stuff altogether, obviously.  I have started reading the Jack Cardiff autobiography that Uncle John gave me, which is enjoyable, if a little light.  My gorgeous friend Nat also came to stay a couple of weekends ago and gave me a great book on the representation of history in cinema.  While she was up we also did a bit of old book shopping (it helps to live above a second hand bookshop) and I bought a book about Mayer and Thalberg and a 1930s history of cinema.

Looking forward to this lot...

Looking forward to this lot…

As a side note, I have also booked tickets to see 9 to 5, the Dolly Parton musical with Madkin – too excited.

Excuses and another two reasons why my Dad is lovely…

I have not had much time to work on my top one hundred films for the last couple of weeks.  As well as having a stupid mini-OFSTED faculty review thing at work, I am also writing a novella this month (Oh, hark at her!).  The creative task certainly wasn’t my idea (come to thing of it, neither was the OFSTED thing), I hate writing, but my friend Stumo talked me in to it and, I have to say, I am enjoying it.  I will post progress on the deadline (7th December) and let you know how I got on.

Anyway, I have still been reading film related books and magazines.  This morning I finished ‘Rin Tin Tin’ by Susan Orlean.  My dad bought me this book about two years ago and I finally got round to reading it.  He kept mentioning it and I started to feel very guilty that it was still sat untouched on my shelf.  My dad is great at giving books as presents.  He doesn’t do it very often, but when he does it means that he has researched it and he knows that you will really like it.  He has given me lovely hardback books on Gabriel Garcia Marquez, rude Shakespeare and the history of underwear. All have been corkers and I should have remembered that and started on this one earlier.  Although I have to say that I wasn’t hugely excited by the topic, although I knew that Orlean was reputed to be a good writer.  Dad had given me another book about Cheetah, the monkey from the Tarzan films and it was funny, but I didn’t think I needed to read another book about film animals for a little while.  How wrong I was.

It really is that good.

This book is fantastic.  It manages to cover one hundred years of  American history in a light and touching way.  The entire entertainment industry is laid bare as we track this dog’s (and its heirs’) journey from battlefield puppy to film icon.  But it does something even more interesting; it talks about the process of celebrity, our quest for permanence and our desire to love and collect.  Very serious topics for a book about a dog!

Anyway, sorry Dad – I have now read it and loved it.  I’ll bring it back with me so you can read it too.

PS – the second reason is that he is actually making me a steadicam, which will be better than all the other steadicams put together because he is aces.

Holiday reading.

I had a lovely half-term of film related activity – the V&A exhibition, ‘Imitation of Life’ and creative task and some reading.  I really enjoyed the Judy Holliday biography by Gary Carey.  Dad and I found this on Swanage railway station for 50p.  It’s actually a first edition and so I’m pleased with my purchase.  I have really loved Judy Holliday since seeing ‘Born Yesterday’ a year ago and have now ordered ‘It Should Happen To You’, also starring Jack Lemmon (another favourite).

And look at the jigsaw we did!

Thanks Uncle John!

My Uncle John works for the Oxfam book shop in Birmingham and looks out for film books for me.  I picked up these beauties (and a few more) at my dad’s 70th birthday party.

Thanks Uncle John!

I can’t wait to get stuck in!