Stutterer triumphant

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

His father said he’d be a late bloomer and at 73 David Seidler has become the oldest person to receive the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. He deserved it.

After having seen him on the BAFTA’s earlier this month, I hoped he would win. Of course his script was very entertaining and well executed (Apparently he had the idea ages ago, but at the request of the Queen Mother waited until after her death with writing the script.) Yet it was his anecdote in his BAFTA acceptance speech about having had a stutter himself as a boy and finding solace and strength in the speeches of King George VI that had me rooting for him.

To have a voice and to be heard.

It reminded me of an incident in primary school, involving a bright boy, funny, very clever and pretty popular. ( So yes I might have had a little crush on him. Alright. Huge. Crush.) We must have been ten or so reading a book in class, when he broke down middle of a sentence he’d been struggling to read out loud for two minutes. Again, we were ten. When you’re ten, actual sobbing isn’t cool. The whole class was silent, not sure how to react.

I remember our teacher trying to soothe him with a: ” It’s ok, I understand. You’re allowed to be sad about this.”  Thus she showed how a) patronising she was (God I hated her, even at the age of ten. Don’t speak to children as if they are dumb. They usually aren’t.) and b) how little she understood: these weren’t sad tears, these were tears out of anger and frustration. Sadness is a different feeling, it’s a feeling of almost resignation and that’s not what echoed through the classroom that afternoon.

The boy would be fine. A little google search has proven that he’s employed, a post-graduate who was socially very active and even set up a student society for his degree in cultural studies and…languages. Ironic? Perhaps a little, but it wouldn’t be any other way now would it?

Keen bean

The day started confusing with the delivery man waking me up and me in my sleepy state not yet quite capable of working out our front door.

It developed into quite an interesting day as I decided to make a trip to Piccadilly Place and visited the massive Waterstones there. As I am now officially ten days away from my screenwriting, I thought I might as well pick up a book on the topic. As I already own the late Blake Snyder’s theory book, I chose a book by Syd Field. A man who according to Google is “Hollywood’s screenwriting authority.”  Now, I am always a little sceptic about those kind of accolades but I had heard of the man, so thought to check out his writing.

The book titled The Definitive Guide to Screenwriting ( No one got anywhere without conviction my friends –  though after having had a look on the website this is only available in the UK )  is an interesting and a surprisingly easy read. To be fair, I have only read the first 100 pages or so of the 380 but hey, I can keep up and understand it. Surely that is a good thing.

Of course it sent me in a panic at first: all these ideas, the elements to a screenplay were  completely overwhelming. I started to doubt my concept that I intended to work on during the course. This is obviously ridiculous: if it was such a shit concept I still have ten days to change it. Having discussed it with my very cool sister, she convinced me that it isn’t necessarily shit and that I should write what I believe in. What is the point in trying to make something formulaic and fit a mould? There’s none. So with renewed vigour I decided to make a little bit of a head start on what I shall be devoting two months of my life to soon.

I say head start, but perhaps I should already have done this before.  Cue the fear that makes up my life at the moment: that everyone will know everything already, have amazing ideas and that I will just freeze, stumble and fail. Full stop. This will not happen. I know. It doesn’t help.

by a passionforletters.com Yes really

Let’s not dwell on it. For now, it’s me, Robert Zimmerman, the book, my new stationery and  a fresh notebook.  It’s Friday night, I am so not rock ‘n’ roll but I don’t care. I feel incredibly geeky and very excited as my brain has a moment of muscle memory: Ah yes, this what it felt like to feel creative, inspired and a little passionate!

Stationery!

Time is ticking away until that plane to New York… So I’m sure you’re all very relieved to know I have now actually made a list. (I know I know, to all of you who I told I had made list: I lied. Sorry.)

The actual list didn’t happen until this morning and already I felt more organised. Almost that organised I felt I had done enough, which obviously defied the point. So I managed to priorities the tasks ( I don’t lie on my CV – honest!) and I’m now left with only two things that are urgent. Ok, three. Three things that are urgent and the rest can calmly happen in the next two weeks. One of them is a haircut which could potentially be moved to the urgent list.

Then there are things like finding stuff ( adaptor, camera) print out stuff ( to be done nearer the date, because I will just lose them.) and buying stuff.

I understand they have shops in the US but buying stuff is one of the fun things on the list. ( Which already has a lot of not-so-fun things.)  Especially because it involves looking for stationery: I Love Stationery.

In secondary school the school year started with buying new stationery, everything that you used the year before got wrecked and you know, you wanted to have everything coordinated with your new diary anyway. Right? Right. This evolved from pop stars ( Oh I remember Peter Andre on a 1997 diary, six-pack and all…) to mono-coloured serious notebooks because world-weary you were really getting too old for this shit.

My current state of stationery is a sad affair. I have a lovely notebook set with cupcakes on the front ( yes yes, it shows where my head is at.) which I have almost used all of them and they are A6-size so not the best size for lots of writing that needs to be reviewed perhaps. Then I have two pens which I once borrowed from my former flatmate and that have her workplace’s name and logo on it… Then I have a couple of sticky notes and pair of scissors. This will not do.

What to buy? More importantly, where to buy? I popped into Smiths but was quite uninspired. See my sister has unfortunately set the standard by giving me a laptop case that looks a bit like this:

by Pat Says Now

In fact, it looks exactly like that.  What to do? I cannot possibly  mix this with a Justin Bieber pencil case…It just doesn’t colour coordinate.

pic by Ebay

Still there is always a solution somewhere Paperchase if I feel like animated cupcakes on my folders, Muji for minimalism-tastic or Rymans for the bulk and basic stuff. I know, I shouldn’t forget that I will have to carry all this paper weight with me but I am excited! Oh the possibilities are endless…

crayons by Muji - completely useless of course but pretty; Paperchase's pencil-case I mean: food with faces; Rymans boring black book but 192 pages 192!

 

I need a problem…

and not even like a hole in the head. Sura is back in town and we’ve been trying to

Thanks to Ryland Sanders @ redkid.net

develop our characters for Pilot X.  As I explained before, even though we are working on a pilot, you want to give them enough issues to have some potential growth in the next episodes.

 

Issues, wooden legs and eye-patches give a character, well, character. It makes them more interesting or more relatable ( is that even a word? I think I made that up.) What I mean is that you even in a comedy you don’t want just two-dimensional characters. ( Which is evidently hard in a pilot as you need to introduce everyone by exaggerating their personality: watch the very first episode of Friends and it will seem very weird. What on earth is Phoebe all about?)

Now, we have one character in our script who is becoming a problem for lacking a problem…Damn! And we made her up ourselves as well. Even worse, no one else to blame. In our desperation last Saturday we even sighed that we might have to kill her off… but we can’t.

She is our ‘magic character’, the one who has a lot of skills, which she gains and then loses interest, so she is capable of anything ( so whatever sticky situation we find ourselves in, she can get us out without it looking ridiculous.)

The problem is she that she loses interests so quickly that we don’t have time to develop that. Maybe that is her problem, her looking for something else even though she is not really ambitious, she kind of rolls into things ( it’s a comedy remember…) This is what makes her likable despite her being super.

Perhaps we need to go completely artificial and implant something on her. We considered diseases ( Sura was for, I was against: too dramatic) we considered her going into politics (because of her apathy haha)  etc etc.

Frustration all around: all the other characters are going from A to B over 10 episodes. Why can’t she just skip along as well…

I had hope that by typing this I might have an eureka moment. Alas, this has not happened. So back to the drawing board to think of a problem to give us a solution.

NY State of Mind aka The Other Other Thing

Only four days ago I said next week… Truth is that I am about to burst with excitement as this is something I have been planning since September. ( So some of you might already know about this, as I have made enquiries and made whispered confessions.)

Since I make the silly rules on this blog I have decided that this Friday ( my dad’s birthday: happy birthday papa!)  is an excellent time to let you know about my Other Other Thing:

In two weeks I will be on a plane flying from the Big Smoke into the Big Apple. For two months New York will be my new home, while I attend classes in screenwriting. Why? There is a long story that might unravel over the next two months. For now: Because I can.

It is the reason I have been sleeping on my sister’s floor ( Thank You!) and why it’s been hard for me to roll back into a job. I knew I was leaving and though I do believe in ‘information on a need to know’- basis, muggins here hates to lie, even if it is to get a job.  I believe it’s bad karma. When you are taking a bit of a gamble and hoping for the best, you cannot use bad karma – you need the world to work with you.

There is a bit to do still before I go (Where did I leave that list?) and now the nerves are mixing with the excitement. ( Hmmm, I don’t actually know anyone… Who will I hang out with for two months… What if they don’t like me… or more importantly: What if I don’t like them!)

Then there is the obvious: Why? What on earth can come of this? This is not a course with a guaranteed for life job at the end of it.  Is it madness to go on a whim in the times of economic crisis?  Judge me if you must but don’t worry: I can assure you, I’ve done all the worrying for you.

Fact is, in two weeks I’ll be writing to you from another metropolis on a wing and a prayer, and yet to bend a quote: even if it ain’t all it seems, with that infamous pocket full of dreams. For me, for now, that’s enough.

Library Life

 

Private library of Jay Walker by Andrew Moore for Wired.com

When I was a child, we used to visit our local library quite regularly. Unsurprisingly I was quite a bookish child ( being crap at any form of physical exercise and too impatient for arts and craft.)  It is where my love for books was honed – I appreciate that a Kindle might be light and useful but my dream is still to one day have a private library.

 

Being part of Generation Y means that I have used the internet for all kinds of educational exercises, but I also remember still using the library to find information. My secondary school rebuild its library right in the middle of the building: perhaps deliberate so it was easy to access, though it also meant it was the easiest way to get from one side of the school to the other. Cue dozens of teenagers loudly passing through when moving from one class to the other. When this was  prohibited it made the show even more spectacular: cue dozens of teenagers running loudly through before a librarian could get to them…

Uni-time meant trying to find the one book that everybody else was after too and sighing in cubicles over books to find the perfect quote for the essays that would always come too soon. ( And then got erased from your floppy disk. Nightmare.)

Thus was my experience of libraries until today when I decided to do a little research in the massive library opposite the flat. I chose my books, sat at a table and started reading. Soon I realised the man opposite me was obviously watching some program on his laptop, yes with headphones on but just loud enough for the rest of the table to hear. It must have been very entertaining because he kept laughing and then decided to have his lunch too; so now everyone could share the smell of his tuna salad.

Suddenly it struck me: had I become a library-purist? When I’m in a public library, I want silence, no smelly food, and people who keep themselves to themselves.

When I visited the library cafe I realised I had to adjust my expectations. Here the children’s section had a playroom, no one was shushed for getting excited about the Gruffalo, there was a media room and reading room with sofas with people reading newspapers and magazines, in fact there were sofas everywhere (one on which a Muslim couple was holding hands and kissing, which would have been strange but also made me wonder why they chose this place to do so.), the cafe attendant knew people’s lunch orders and a woman helped an older gentleman out with the self-scanning machine.

I discovered this was not just a library: it was a community, a refuge, as very few in a city like London. So I left the building with my £1.50 coffee feeling a little bit better about the world.

Codename: Pilot X

The need, the need... (Aw come on... you know you want to!)

As I find myself surrounded by pieces of paper, notebooks, stickers, highlighters, a bottle of water, a half-drunken cup of coffee and what is an attempt to lunch; this seems an appropriate time to tell you about my Other Thing ( Not be confused with the Other Other Thing which will be revealed next week.)

A couple of weeks ago, I got a very excited phone call from Sura. She and her sister Lina had come up with a concept that they’d like to have translated into a television-script and whether I wanted to have a brainstorm with them. ( Or mind-map whatever you kids call it these days.) Twenty-four hours later, the process of Pilot X had started.

It all went a bit quicker than expected: the rough idea is to write a script, shoot a pilot and attempt to sell it. A week after I had emailed a first draft, I find myself in a meeting with Sura and Lina, as well as Mr Z and Miss DB who will lead our production-team. To add to the surrealism of it all: this is done over Skype. I’m in London and they are in Antwerp.

We have pulled in all friendly favours we could, to try to make this happen. All parts are cast and we are finishing up some logistics on the production side. Two things:  my thespian-friends if you are wondering why we haven’t approached you – everything will be in Dutch (well Flemish; more about that later) so having some knowledge of the language was a requirement. Secondly, when I say ‘we’ I mean ‘they’, I am in London for various reasons mostly because of the Other Other Thing (next week! next week!)

I hope you’ll appreciate that I cannot write about the content of the pilot we are developing but – what ever happens – I want to write about the process. The process is a qualified enjoyable, with which I mean that there are times that it’s enjoyable in a masochistic sense. One of the biggest challenges (apart from coordinating 20 people’s diaries) is trying to explain and translate our concept to the people involved. This is obviously a big issue, if you cannot explain it to people who want to get involved and are rooting for you: try selling it to someone who is only interested if it could be a success.

So after a tiny panic, we came up with a virtual moodboard to explain the concept ( Wahey! Experience in Contract Publishing Not Completely Wasted!) Hopefully this will make it easier for everyone to be on the same page. (‘Hopefully’ being the keyword in that sentence.)

I’m currently worried that the script is too scrambled and too full: the joy of a pilot means that you have to introduce all characters and give them enough ‘issues’ that you can play with and develop later on.

Hence, the pieces of paper, notebooks, stickers, highlighters a bottle of water, a half-drunken cup of coffee and what looks like a 3yr-olds attempt to a storyboard. Told you. Enjoyable. An absolute delight!

To Be Continued