Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Crossing Lines

This has been in the works for a while, but now the details are up on the Big Light website: I've written an episode for season 3 of Crossing Lines!

It's a US/European co-production, shot in Europe, with an amazing cast: Goran Visnjic, Elizabeth Mitchell, Tom Wlaschiha, Lara Rossi, Stuart Martin, Naomi Battrick, and Donald Sutherland. Yes, THE Actual Donald Sutherland. I know! Trust me, when you're writing a speech for THE Actual Donald Sutherland, your fingers tingle with excitement.

Season 3 was showrun/showran/showrunned by Frank Spotnitz. I was in the writers' room, with several amazing writers, all of us breaking stories, coming up with characters, writing index cards, and helping to put together the entire season. It was a really fun, exciting, creative time, and I loved working with Frank and the team.

My episode is number 6, called "Executioner". I don't want to give anything away, as it's very twisty-turny, but there's lots of tension and death, as you'd probably expect from me. Oh, and a few jokes too, as you'd also expect from me. Spoilers! Death and jokes! There's a trailer for the show here, mainly featuring the first episode of the new season.

But where can you see it? They're currently doing an on-demand rollout in selected territories, so have a look here to see how you can watch it. Details for the UK and US will follow soon, so watch this space. I'll update when I know dates and stuff.

So that's what I've been doing for some of last year and a chunk of this year. And that's why I put on half a stone in 2 weeks last year - the writers' room was well stocked with sweets, crisps, and biscuits, and I am only human.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Writers on their Writing Process

Hello, you! Have you done something with your hair?! It looks lovely! And it's moving-- oh god, it's not hair, it's SNAKES, RUN AWAY FROM THE SNAKES-- oh, sorry, my mistake, it's just the wind moving your hair. Not snakes. Probably.

As you may or may not know, I've been doing a (very) irregular series of videos, talking to other writers about their writing process. I did one last year with Amber Benson, which you can watch here, and I've just uploaded a new one featuring guest writer Mr Jason Arnopp, which you can watch here.

You'll know Mr Arnopp from his work in the worlds of Doctor Who, Friday 13th, The Sarah Jane Adventures, the horror movie Stormhouse, and his fiction (Beast in the Basement, A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home), but he's also got an exciting new book coming out next year, called The Last Days of Jack Sparks. You can find out more at his website here, which probably doesn't have mutant cyber spiders primed and ready to leap out of your computer screen.

If you do visit his site, you can find out about the FREE BOOKS he'll be giving away regularly. They're linked to his brand new Patreon page, with a video I directed on a long, silly day in Brighton - but there's no obligation, the books will be free to download either way. I'm seeing a lot of writers and other artists using Patreon, it lets you make ongoing contributions to help support the people whose work you like. I'm always in favour of writers getting paid for their work, so this is a Good Thing. Whatever you do, watch his video, because we spent blimmin aaaaages on it, and it's a right laugh.

We had a lot of fun chatting, and as always I found a couple of things that I can apply to my own process, which is partly the goal of this series. His process is quite similar to mine though, so there was less stuff for me to steal. What a selfish bastard he is!

Sorry about the terrible audio in the video - it's still audible, just very rough. My useless, cheap microphone didn't pick up much, so I had to boost it artificially in Final Cut Pro. It's a bit hissy and quiet, so turn your volume up and/or put on headphones. I've since invested in two proper, professional microphones, so this won't happen again.

While you're watching stuff on my YouTube channel, why not teach yourself to play the ukulele in 15 minutes? Or watch some short films? Go on, I dare you. Subscribe to the channel if you want to get updates when I post new stuff, which I will be doing more often now. Go! Share! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Margaret Jean Moran, 1932-2015

I lost my mum in July, just a few days after her birthday. She was 83. I’m not posting this for sympathy, I just want to mark the moment, and celebrate her. I want people to know a bit about who she was.

She was evacuated from London during the second world war, something I can barely imagine dealing with as an adult, never mind a young child. Later, she left school when she was 14, and pursued her dream of being a dancer - working during the day, taking lessons by night, persisting through sheer hard work and determination, eventually finding herself on stage in several musicals, where she met my dad. Things weren’t easy for her, and much later she lost my dad to cancer when I was 5. She was funny, independent, strong, smart, and quite unlike anyone I ever knew.

Before I left home, I didn’t always appreciate what she did for me. Sometimes (many times) I was an idiot and thought she just wanted me out of the house. She didn’t, she just wanted me to sort my life out, to be safe, to be provided for. She was the one who found the first college course (that I failed), the second one (that I passed), who brought me back when things went wrong, and helped get me over to London when my sister found me a job. She did everything she could to provide for me and make sure I could stand on my own two feet. She drove me utterly bonkers sometimes, she was no saint, nobody is - but she worked her arse off to protect me and give me a good start in life.

She loved a good laugh, and would instantly be reduced to a helpless, shrieking heap by Marty Feldman’s “bishop of no fixed abode” sketch, Julian and Sandy, or anything by Morecambe and Wise. If a TV show looked like it was about to feature male nudity, she’d lean forward with glee, announcing “ooh, willies!”

Over the last few years, she developed dementia, and we had to watch as a strong, independent woman who raised 5 kids slowly lost more and more of herself. It was horrifying seeing her anger, frustration and fear at losing memories, words, and her sense of self. It’s such a cruel illness, she was always smart but as it ate away at her faculties we had to talk to her as if she was a child, purely to stop her getting scared or upset. My amazing sisters and equally amazing brother-in-law bore the brunt of this, as they lived close to her, and rarely got any thanks - she didn’t realise she needed help, and would get angry at them for interfering in what she saw as her perfectly normal life.

Towards the end, she needed constant care, otherwise she would forget to eat. This all had to be paid for, as the care assessment insisted that she didn’t need medical care provided, just social care - despite the fact that she’d have been dead within a couple of days if nobody went around to feed her. The way it’s set up leaves a lot of people in the position of having to piss away everything they’ve ever worked for, just to get some basic medical help. When they’re destitute, *then* the system steps into help. It’s shit, and I don’t know how the people involved can sleep at night.

In August, we gave my mum a great sendoff with a lovely funeral service. We felt like we’d already lost her several years ago, due to the dementia, so I’m glad she’s not in any more pain or distress. It was awful to see it gradually erasing the person we once knew, so now we get to try and remember her the way she was.

Maggie in Severance is named after her, as was Peggy in Cockneys Vs Zombies. My mum’s name was Margaret, Peggy was her nickname (which she didn’t like, so of course we used it a lot to wind her up), and both characters are a shout out to her - strong, funny, capable women who you’d want on your ass-kicking team. She was very pleased at being played by Honor Blackman, which was fitting, as they are both Cockneys by birth.

She always looked out for me, tried to give me the best life possible, and would have taken a bullet for me (and probably argued it back into the gun). Goodbye, mum. And thank you. And I'm sorry for reposting this pic of you with a sparkler in your dessert, about to down a flaming sambuca at your 77th birthday party:

Reader, I'm proud to tell you that she downed that flaming sambuca like a champ. With the waiter chanting "sucky-sucky!" at her. It was a moment.

If you’re in the mood for charity donations, while you’re here, please consider Carers UK (supporting carers who often look after relatives unpaid with no help), the Alzheimer’s Society, Kirkwood Hospice (who looked after my sister Julia at the end of her life), and Thrombosis UK (who do vital research into a less well known condition that kills more than 33,000 every year). 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How to annoy people on Twitter

New to Twitter? Not sure how it all works? Constantly compelled to annoy people?? Just follow these handy hints, and become an instant expert!

Live in the context-free moment

If someone is talking about something over two or more tweets, and you come in halfway through the conversation, punish them for not summarising all of their previous statements at the start of each new tweet. Sure, you could simply click on their profile and read the rest of it to catch up, but they really should be thinking of you first.

Similarly, if a tweet seems to be saying something you disagree with, without any context, don’t bother looking at their other tweets, just furiously start an argument about the one you saw. Remember, don’t waste time building your anger gradually - you’re busy! - just go straight to white hot rage.

Make people your Google assistants

When someone talks about a celebrity you’ve never heard of, reply immediately and ask them who it is. It would be quicker and easier to copy and paste the name into a Google search box, but hey, they brought the name up in the first place, so it’s their responsibility to stop what they're doing and educate you.

Show off your superior knowledge

Did someone tweet about a few items on a related theme? Make sure to let them know about all the others they should have mentioned, starting with “You forgot ItemX” or “don’t forget ItemX” - even though there’s only 140 characters in a tweet, they clearly forgot about those ones and should have brought them up first. Better yet, they should have found a way to fit everything relating to that subject and the entirety of human history into one tweet. The idiots!

Find the exceptions

Has someone expressed an opinion? Make them defend it, even if you agree with them! People love debating on Twitter with angry strangers, so take up a contrary position just for fun. If they make a generalisation, even if it’s true, twist yourself in knots trying to find an extremely unlikely series of events that would provide the one exception to the thing they said - the goal here is to make them admit that what they said isn’t *always* true. Be as condescending as possible, so they won’t forget their mistake in a hurry. A good opening word is “Er...” or “Actually...” Hardly anything good on the internet starts with “Actually”.

And finally, the most important one of all:

Rain on everyone's parade

If someone says they like something - book, film, TV show, whatever - and you don’t like it?? Make sure to tell them *immediately*, so they know they’re wrong. Try to make them feel bad about liking it, because they’re clearly a weirdo for not thinking exactly the same as you, whose opinion is 100% fact. “Hey, I loved that episode!” - “Really?! You REALLY liked that? Are you sure you're not mistaken? Think about it properly: isn’t it possible that you actually didn't like it at all, and have exactly the same opinion as I do, in other words, the CORRECT opinion??”

Remember, we can’t have people enjoying themselves. Don’t love anything! It’s much, much cooler to just sit on a lofty chair of judgment shrieking at how awful everything is. We don’t like things on the internet. That’s not what we do. Now, go and make someone miserable for having fun!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ghosting - Canadian premiere

Canadianians! Specifically, Torontinos of Canadiania!

Ghosting will screen as part of the 38th Little Terrors short film event, on Wednesday 28th October starting at 9pm, at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto.

Crazy For You played at one of their previous events, and they're good people with excellent taste (apart from the administrative errors that keep letting my shorts in, obviously, and the hex I placed on them to ensure it keeps happening).

Full details are here, including info on the other shorts playing. Tickets are $10 for the entire evening, and are available here. You can buy booze, too! But obviously I'd never recommend doing anything like that.

Let me know if you go, and how it plays!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Festival screenings

Seem to be averaging one post a week for about a month now, so let's see if I can keep that going. Imagine! A regular blog post! Mankind was not meant to meddle with such things.

Crazy For You has been chosen to screen as part of the Twin Cities Horror Festival in Minneapolis, in the HorrorShow Hotdog strand, on Sunday October 25th at 5.30pm, along with several other shorts. Full details and tickets are available here.

After that, Crazy For You will play at the Crystal Palace International Film Festival on Friday 13th(!) of November at 7.45pm, as part of the Horror/Sci-Fi Night. Festival info is here, details of the night itself are here, and tickets for all nights are available here. I'll be attending, so say hello if you're going along. This will probably be the final festival screening, so could be your last chance to see it on a big screen. I'll talk more about where it's going after that later, so watch this space.

Also screening at the CPIFF is comedy horror short film KEEN-wah, on Saturday 28th November at 7.45pm as part of the Comedy shorts strand, and for the ticket price you get to see the awards show presented by Mark Steel, and enjoy a free gin and tonic. Details of the Comedy and awards night are here, tickets are available here. Why am I mentioning KEEN-wah? Well, it's the fantastic directorial debut of my partner Cat Davies, so I'm really pleased we're screening at the same festival. I also edited, and let me tell you, it's SO much easier to be ruthless when editing someone else's work...

Speaking of editing, I've become quite familiar with Final Cut Pro 7, editing my FrightFest idents, my shorts Three Minutes, Ghosting and now KEEN-wah, but I recently started teaching myself Final Cut Pro X - it's much, *much* faster than 7, I exported a 6GB video in 10 minutes as opposed to 4 hours... It edits a lot more seamlessly, it's way more powerful, and is a great update, so I'll be using that from now on for short projects.

I'll try to keep these posts regular-ish, although I'm mostly active on Twitter these days, at @jamesmoran, so keep an eye on that for more up to date announcements. I'll have some TV news very soon, when I'm allowed to talk about it.

Monday, October 05, 2015

My Crusoe ep on Sunday 11th October in UK

Yes, as threatened promised in a recent blog post here, my episode of Crusoe is on TV in the UK, this Sunday 11th October at 6pm, on the Drama Channel.

The Drama Channel is free-to-air in the UK, and is available on Freeview 20, Sky 158, Virgin 190, BT and TalkTalk 020. You can catch up using the UK TV Play service (on several TV systems or just on your laptop/tablet/phone). Or set it to record using whatever technological marvels you've got under your TV.

The episode is number 5 (sometimes 4, depending on whether they show the first two episodes as one bumper ep, this time they didn't), called High Water. Crusoe and Friday find an abandoned boat in a tree - will it give them a way to escape the island? What will happen in the remaining 8 episodes if they do?? Who knows?! YOU will, if you watch, this Sunday! 6pm! Drama Channel! Be there!