Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Raindance Ready

It's that time of year once again - the Raindance Film Festival begins tonight. As ever I'm working it as a screen manager, continuing a tradition that dates back five years now.

My responsibilities have grown a little this year. I was involved in the programming of the shorts films, and will play host to the shorts Q&A sessions on Saturday 24th and 25th. I've not done that before, so it should be fun to spread my wings. I've prepared by watching screeners of all the shorts online. There's definitely some gems on show. In particular I loved an Italian film called Viola, Franca - a biopic of a 17 year old girl who is raped, and in the aftermath fights back against Italian traditions. It's a great piece of drama by writer/director Marta Savina.

It plays - along with the rest of the shorts - this weekend. Please come along and check them all out.

***

Am I ready for the next 12 days?

Ha! Funny thing is, despite years of doing this, I go through the same panic every year. I look ahead to the next 11 days, and simply can't comprehend how I'll manage to get through it. Of course, I will - and as ever, will look back on it afterwards amazed that I ever had any doubts. It'll create an over confidence for the next 11 months that I'm indestructible at these things... before once more, I break down again and realise my panic!

As ever, I'll post my thoughts from the festival whenever I can.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Rejection

Recently I sent a publisher scripts for 3 of my comic scripts. Their reply pinged into my inbox today.

And? Well... ouch!

Rejection, and it hurt.

The email read:

Nothing really grabs me, I'm afraid. Starship S.O.S. isn't really a story. It feels "fantasy-turned-reality" but the change isn't earned by Fatou. Boom & Bust seems overly complicated with no real sense of payoff. (Yes, I appreciate it's only the first chapter, but I can't see where the mashup of two different cultures/decades/storytelling-styles via a nuclear war will actually take me anywhere I want to go.) Pfft Queues! is cute but trivial.

You know the expression "he/she wears their heart on their sleeve"? Well, that's me and that's definitely this blog. It's always existed to chronicle everything - the good and the bad - because I feel it's important to be honest; to share a realistic view of what's going on, never sugar coating things by pretending things are better than they actually are.

That's why I thought I'd share with you this step on my journey. It's an important, inevitable step in my life (career?) as a writer. How do I react to it? I don't know yet. Maybe it will knock my confidence overall, maybe it won't. I suspect it will make me even more determined to make the next thing I write as good as it possibly can be.

But, for now, there we go.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Double Bill: mother! & Dunkirk

One day - two very different films!

mother!


I went into this blind, having only seen a few seconds of the trailer. I hadn't caught any of the pre-release marketing campaign either, so I didn't know how decisive this was proving to be. For me, I was just excited to see a new Darren Aronofsky film - having loved or at least admired many of his others.

However... pretty much from the first minute I felt a disconnect from what I was watching on screen. Jennifer Lawrence emerged, soon panting, and stressing about things out of her control (that SHOULD NOT have been out of her control, like really) and I realised this was going to be a struggle to get through. It also became quickly apparent that the story was a bit of a non-starter, going nowhere interesting and - worse - building up to a twist that was bleedin' obviously heading our way.

Then things get silly. Lawrence stresses even more (just ask them to leave your house!!) and things grow absurder. An hour in, and I just want the experience to end. I consider getting up and just walking out - but decide, no, I should at least see things through to the very end. Mostly to see if my guess of a twist was accurate. It was. Completely.

Where did it all go wrong? Well, Aronofsky has made a film that he thinks is clever... but really isn't. No wonder it's proved decisive - as half the audience understand it's complete garbage, and the other half pretend to understand a deeper meaning, and feel the need to celebrate the films utter pretentiousness. Well, I'm having none of it. It fails on every level.

Dunkirk


Now that's more like it!

Christopher Nolan's latest film doesn't feel like the epic some would have you believe, but is still completely thrilling. Nolan is a master of building, and building - continuing to crank up the suspense for as long as he can. He's helped by a fantastic Hans Zimmer score that really does keep you on the edge of your seat, counting down the seconds... the valuable seconds... that could make all the difference between life and death for the characters.

It's not without its faults. At times it can come across as a bit twee, and reliable Kenneth Branagh to gurn his way through his scenes. But I can forgive the film those small missteps when the overall picture is one of thrills, that draws genuine emotion out of its audience. I spent most of the film just thinking "God, I wish we never have a war like this again - it's horrible." It also got me thinking what would happen if we did, and then thinking up my own stories for a modern day world war.

Anything that can provoke that much thinking has succeeded in my eyes.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Meeting My Idols

Forbidden Planet were lucky enough to land a signing session with Russell T Davies this week, to promote his new illustrated book Doctor Who: Now We Are Six Hundred. It meant I got to head to the London store, and meet the great man, fulfilling an ambition I've had for years.

In my late teens I eagerly read Russell's Doctor Who Magazine columns every month. He has such an amazing writing ability, even in something like a production notes column, that you can't help but be happy reading what he has to say.

There's the obvious Doctor Who connection, but I love Russell's writing for much more than just that. Casanova, The Second Coming, Queer As Folk... heck, Mine All Mine (I think I'm its only fan). So getting to meet Russell in person was a joy.

He was lovely, clever, witty and very, very flirty with everbody. I was star struck, and couldn't quite muster the words I wanted to with him - but after the long queue had gone, I got two minutes with the man himself and thanked him for his dramas. It was a pleasure, at long last, to cross paths with him!

I've been blessed over the years to work in event jobs where I get a chance to meet idols like Russell. Earlier this year we had Steven Moffat in the London FP store, which was another joy. And then there's names I remember from childhood - like Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch.

By nature I'm a comic book geek, so when people like Dan Slott or Matthew Rosenberg - or anybody from 2000AD - signs with us, it's thrilling.

Back in my days working at Leicester Square's Vue Cinema I'd meet famous faces every other day at premieres and fancy galas. I joke that I've met pretty much every high profile film star under the sun, which obviously isn't true - but I've met a lot. I have some highlights - like John Hurt, Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro.

I've a library of interesting stories from each of these meetings but... ever the proffessional... I'm not here to spill those stories. Instead... just know that I enjoy running events, meeting people, who are ' generally - every bit as lovely as Russell.

Here's to whoever is next through the doors. It's my pleasure!

*And apologies to anybody I've met who is not name dropped here. I loved meeting you all!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

A Typical Work Day

I work Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm at the head office for a well known cult retailer. Over the past 18 months, I'm settled into a work routine - which I thought I'd share with you. This is one of those posts that I'll look back on in years to come, long after leaving the company, and appreciate as capturing a precious moment in time.

The alarm sounds at 7am, but I'm lazy and generally don't wake up until much later than that! When I am up and ready, I wash and dress - and head straight out. I live in Woolwich, and work in Southwark. That means I take a bus (161 or 472) and tube (Jubilee line, from North Greenwich) to reach work. It clocks in at about an hours journey.

Once I reach the office I said hello to my colleagues Jamie and Jason, as well as the Mail Order team who sit nearby, before I eat my breakfast cereal and enjoy a - decaff! - coffee. (Why eat breakfast at work? Free milk!). Once all that is done I'm ready to get down to the tasks at hand!

I'm sent regular emails from people on my floor - from the comics buying team mostly, but also merchandise and books. It's my job to load products onto my company's website - which involves loading them onto a piece of software known as Filemaker, and building them from scratch. So it's me that adds the copy, prices, pictures and anything else you might see. Often I'm sent the relevant information needed, but I also have to go hunt it down online, or on occasion I have to create copy myself - which is harder than it probably sounds!

Comics ask me a lot to update covers for the comics and graphic novels listed on the site, or to make date changes. We send out weekly newsletters to customers - with a reach of tens of thousands - and it's my responsibility to assemble the newsletter for comics. This is basically updating covers again, to their final design, and piling them all into one Mailchimp campaign. That task itself takes about a day - and the newsletter is usually sent out on a Wednesday afternoon.

Lunch hits at 1pm. Me and Jason generally always take a walk together, to the local shops (it's a choice between Co-Op and a Tesco). During the walk we often catch up on events, have a bit of a gossip, and talk about the things we love like comics and films. Ironically I don't often buy anything in the shop, choosing to bring my own food in, so I'm only going on the walk for some fresh air and some friendly conversation!

The afternoons generally speed by - as we continue whatever tasks have been presented to us via email. There's usually a coffee break thrown in around this mark - and quick 5 minute meetings with my boss Jon, where we'll discuss anything from signings, to POS materials, to conventions.

If I'm very, very lucky I have a signing to attend at the London Megastore, so I leave the office early and head on over there. I'll set up, talk to my friends in store, meet the guest signing, and then watch over the signing session before going home. When there's no signings happening (sadly, most days) I stay in the office until 6pm - before I'm allowed to break free upon the world again.

Every day is filled with lots and lots of geek conversations - like what is so-and-sos best film, "did you know?" or "have you seen?", or silly jokes that reference back to something else from a favourite film or series. In that way, it's such fun coming into work every day and literally being surrounded by what I love.

It can be hard work and demanding at times - especially when 3 different teams are throwing product loads and other bits 'n bobs our way. But we manage, and it's all ok.

Hopefully that wasn't too mundane! You, still awake?