Monthly Archives: May 2011

Reluctant to reply

I see a lot of adverts on websites like mandy.com requesting screenplays. I read them with optimism. Go back to them looking for a glimmer of possibility. But ultimately rejecting them as more trouble than they’re worth. Am I cutting my nose off to spite my face? I don’t know. I do know the promised credit. Festival submission. And copy of the film. Is not enough. If you want my work. I want to be paid. Even for a short. Getting paid means they take my work seriously. I am also a little suspicious of would-be directors who have no writing skill. Because it seems to me. If they have no writing skill. Then they have no understanding of how hard it is to actually write something. So no respect for the pages given to them. How do I know this? Because every time I have given a director one of my screenplays. They have requested changes. Massive changes. That change the story. As if I hadn’t thought about every aspect of the story. Every word on the page. And made a concious decision to write the story that way. It seems to me the directors job is to tell the story. As written. Not the other way round. Perhaps I will regret writing this. Because it will no doubt alienate potential collaborators. But that is what I am looking for. Collaborators. People who respect what I have done. Enough to tell the story. As written. Especially when requesting speculative screenplays. The posters of these adverts could write the screenplays themselves. That’s why I started writing. I had stories I wanted to direct. Failing that. If they have stories they want to tell. And are unable to put it on paper. They could hire me to write it for them.

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Dog to its vomit

You may have noticed that the previous post is very similar to a post I made back in October. I had to give someone a five hundred word example of my writing. I didn’t have one. So I went back to a previous post. And took another pass at it. I felt like the proverbial dog returning to its vomit. But why? I am very used to rewriting. Don’t they say “writing is rewriting”? I do numerous drafts of a screenplay. So why did this fell so different. Perhaps because I have made the changes in public? Or is it as the proverb concludes. So a fool repeats his folly.

It’s ‘cause you’re psychopaths!

I see the MiddleClass as psychopaths. When you say the word psychopath. Images of axe wielding homicidal maniacs come to mind. But the truth is considerably less histrionic. And comes in the form of the compulsive liar who always gets what they want. The social butterfly who leaves a whirlwind of destruction in their wake. Or the “interspecies predator” who controls others to satisfy their own selfish needs.

I have always been suspicious of the MiddleClass. Never really able to understand their demeanor. But when I came across Dr. Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist. While researching on my first screenplay. It all fell into place.

The checklist is the psycho-diagnostic tool most commonly used to assess psychopaths. It is a clinical rating scale of twenty items.

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning/manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioural control
  • Promiscuous sexual behaviour
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Early behaviour problems
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Criminal versatility

When completed. The test subject is scored anywhere between “0” and “40”. The prototypical psychopath scores the maximum “40”. A score above “30” diagnoses the subject as psychopathic. I see scores above “30” manifest all the time in the attitudes and behavior of the MiddleClass. Individual members may not be psychopathic. But as a class it’s a different story. Take that core member of the MiddleClass. Bankers. I’d score their behavior as follows.

  • Glibness/superficial charm (2)
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth (2)
  • Pathological lying (2)
  • Cunning/manipulative (2)
  • Lack of remorse or guilt (2)
  • Shallow affect (2)
  • Callous/lack of empathy (2)
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions (2)
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom (2)
  • Parasitic lifestyle (2)
  • Poor behavioural control (2)
  • Promiscuous sexual behaviour (2)
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals (2)
  • Impulsivity (2)
  • Irresponsibility (2)
  • Juvenile delinquency (1)
  • Early behaviour problems (1)
  • Revocation of conditional release (2)
  • Many short-term marital relationships (0)
  • Criminal versatility (2)

That’s a Checklist score of “36”. They should be banged up. But they’re not. They’re allowed go about their business. In the name of the free market. And a profit.

I see scores above “30” in the well dressed politician who demonstrates a complete lack of empathy by admonishing the long term unemployed. There in the grandiose sense of self-worth innate in parents who set up a school for their children. And there in the bankers who fail to accept responsibility for the whirlwind of destruction they left in their wake.

I have no idea what to do with this insight. But there is some small satisfaction in being able to j’accuse. “It’s ‘cause you’re psychopaths!”

Embarrassed by The Apprentice

If capitalism were a brand? What kind of brand message is THE APPRENTICE sending? I didn’t sit down and watch last nights episode. It was already on when I got in. And stayed on in the background while I busied myself with other things. In that half aware. Peripheral vision. Wallpaper kind of state. I was struck by how juvenile it all is. I realise this is a television programme. And these people are there as much for entertainment as anything else. But if these are the brightest and the best. Lord Sugar’s business is in trouble. They go about their task like a blind man in a patch of brambles. Snaggering here. Tripping there. Because as far as I can tell. They’re so busy trying to elbow their way to the front of the line. They don’t see the others in their team as anything but competition. The worst of it comes when they get to the boardroom. Where the team with slightly better result is rewarded with a trip to a peep show circus. And the others. The ones who did that bit worse. Get to play the greasy spoon blame game. The post task autopsy is like watching a child caught pinching a sibling. They shift the blame. And obfuscate. While holding their knees together. Hoping they will be believed. If they are. It’s off to slime another day. If not. They’re on their bike. Doomed to poverty. And the arbitrary nature of the labour market. If I were the brand manager of capitalism? I’d be embarrassed by The Apprentice. And what it says about my product.

Two hundred films in one year

I watch a lot of films. I tell myself it’s research. But it may have turned from professional interest. To mild obsession. Today we went to Blockbuster and hired four films to watch this afternoon. On top of the three I already have from LoveFilm. I try to keep a record of the films I watch. And so far this year I have seen one hundred films. That’s a hundred films in five months. Last year I it was one hundred and forty three. At this rate I will have watched more than two hundred films in one year. That’s new films I haven’t seen before. On top of the film I might happen upon while watching television. Or the films I watch repeatedly. The films I obsess over. Mainly those of David Mamet. I’ve watched some of his films so often now I can repeat the lines before they are said. Really annoying for anyone watching with me. Anyway. I must go. My obsession awaits. I have seven films to watch before bedtime.

Infantilizing the political system

I can’t help thinking the royal wedding. No to the alternative voting system. And today’s release of “THE KING’S SPEECH“. Are linked in some way. The royal wedding was marketed as a national event we could all unite behind. The resounding no to the alternative vote was affirmation of “business as usual” for the political class. And today’s film release is the icing on the cake of the heroic triumph over adversity myth that surrounds the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The truth is I think the cycle of recent events provides a bloody nose to those of us who would like to see this country as a republic. Because it does what the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha always does. They distract us from the real and lasting political change needed in this country. When I tell people I think we should elect our head of state. They look at me like I’m demented. “You want a president (insert the name of the politician you hate the most)?” I would actually like to elect every person who represents me. Because if I elect them. I can un-elect them. Make them accountable for what they do in my name. But that doesn’t seem to be enough reason for most monarchists. As if wielding my franchise is some how a silly idea. And I should know better. When I ask them what exactly the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha does for us. All they seem able to come up with is tourism. As if having big houses for commoners to visit is justification for infantilizing the political system in this country. Because ultimately that is what the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha does. Its presence treats the people of this country as a “child or in a way that denies their maturity in age or experience”. I wish we could grow out of it. The way I grew out of crazy hair cuts. But as long as the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha remains in place. We are doomed to suckle on their breast. Treated as children unable to emancipate.

Natured or nurtured?

I have been working through some ideas for a character who is for want of a better word a psychopath. Not the axe wielding homicidal maniac type. More your person who leaves a trail of destruction in his wake type. This got me thinking about whether or not the psychopaths behaviour is something constructed by environment or naturally occurring. Is it caused by some genetic deficiency? Or is it part of some contemporary malaise? Is their behaviour natured? Or nurtured? I’m not a great believer in nature as the organising force of society. It seems to me we left the forces of nature behind when we moved into cities. And allowed every aspect of our lives to be controlled in some way. From birth to death. There is an organising principle in place. A body to categorize. An institution to reward this behaviour. Or punishes that. I think nurture is the dominant force in our lives. And holds much greater sway than nature. I can see there are some elements of what we do that are natural. That come from some deep genetic imperatives. But from where I stand. The vast majority of our behaviour. The rituals we adhere to. How we interact. Are all nurtured into us. So if we are taught to behave in certain ways by the world around us. The psychopath must be a form constructed by society. If that is the case? And they are? What lay the foundations for their behaviour? Is it some twisted version of competitive behaviour? Amplified by some early setback? Or personality trait brought on by repeated rejection by a parent? All decisions I will have to make before long. I’m guessing it was both. Plus some as yet to undiscovered traumas.

Beyond three acts

Read this very interesting piece by John Truby at Raindance WHY 3 ACT WILL KILL YOUR WRITING. It made me think about the way my writing has developed. The first draft of my first feature screenplay was a monster. I think mainly because I tried to stick to the three act structure. But as Truby points out “the 3-act structure doesn’t work because it is arbitrary.” And “places no emphasis on character.” I think it actually gets in the way of character. It certainly did for me. Subsequent drafts. And subsequent screenplays. Have all developed beyond the three act structure. My most recent screenplay “THE SINGULARITY” has nine very clearly defined plot points. One every ten minutes. And it is every ten minutes. Because I structured it that way from the outset. It felt strange when I started. Like I was a Christian discovering evolution. But once I put the three act structure behind me. I was able to plot a story more in tune with my character.

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