Saturday, 20 February 2010

Murphy's Law of Rewriting

I stumbled up the worn stone steps from my laboratory this morning as "the pale sun poked impudent marmalade fingers" over the turrets and crennelations of stately Penge, having uncovered - the hard way - my latest theorem:
The effort required to implement a new idea in your script is inversely proportionate to how simple it seemed when you first jotted it down

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Academy Pictures initiative

Here's a copy of a request that I've just posted on Shooting People and Talent Circle:


I graduated with an MA Screenwriting (Merit) from Bournemouth in 2008, and I'd like to hook up with a producer and/or director to apply for the Academy Pictures development initiative for Bournemouth students and alumni.

I'm currently tweaking the first draft of a feature-length script that I think would fit the criteria of the initiative. Please get in touch if you're interested in collaborating on an application (and hopefully a rewarding partnership beyond that).  The deadline for submissions is March 8th. 

NB - As specified by the guidelines, this initiative "is aimed exclusively at Arts University College Bournemouth, Bournemouth University and Bournemouth partner college undergraduate, post-graduate and alumni filmmakers. If you’re at Bournemouth, or you went to Bournemouth, you are eligible."

PLEASE don't contact me at the moment if you don't meet one of those criteria.

Tom Murphy

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Vampire Diaries, ITV2

Here's a review of The Vampire Diaries wot I writted for Orange (in a state of exhausted delirium after getting home from tonight's sensational shenanigans at Selhurst Park).

Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev and Paul Wesley in The Vampire Diaries (c) ITV

Vampires! Aren't they great?! They're so sexy, aren't they? And doomed and romantic and passionate! And it's like a really good metaphor for, er, something…

If you've not already had the life sucked out of you by Twilight and True Blood (and even our very own Being Human), here's another tale of awkward cross-species teenage romance, doorstep-bothering and neck-nibbling.

In the small town of Mystic Falls, high-school hottie Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) was still grieving the death of her parents in a car crash. However, the new school year was made considerably more interesting by the arrival of the pale and interesting Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) – a diary-keeping vampire who's trying to keep off the red stuff.

Elena's boy-hungry mates were keen to get their claws into the new boy in town, but instead Stefan showed a great deal of interest in Elena. Later we found out why: she's the spitting image of a girl he loved – and lost – in 1864!

Meanwhile, a shadowy figure started to rip lumps out of the locals, and it looked like Stefan had given in to temptation after all – until it turned out that his not-so-nice brother Damon had also rolled into Mystic Falls. Damon's not as bothered about who he sinks his teeth into, and it looks like Elena could soon be at the very pointy end of a love triangle.

Naturally, as its set in an American high school, it's all cheekbones and lipgloss, plus the limited range of reactions and facial expressions you can see every week on shows like 90210. And there are long, meaningful stares between Elena and Stefan. A LOT of long, meaningful stares.

The series was co-created by Kevin Williamson, who was behind the Scream films and Dawson's Creek, so you know what to expect. However, even with blood-thirsty hunks on the loose it still doesn't feel that dangerous: it doesn't have quite as much bite as Gossip Girl, for instance. Still, vampire fans who haven't had their fill of high-school shenanigans will probably lap it up.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Mo, Channel 4

Here's a quick review of Mo that I wrote last night for Orange.

From a more writerly point-of-view, I thought that screenwriter Neil McKay did a good job of combining the private and public aspects of Mo Mowlam's later life. The film moved beyond regular biopic material with thought-provoking stuff like the suggestion that she could have had her brain tumour for years before it was diagnosed. As a result, all the things that set Mo apart from other politicians - her lack of inhibition, straight-talking etc - could have been symptoms of the disease rather than her own characteristics.

Although Julie Walters is obviously a brilliant actress, I was a bit worried by the casting in the first few minutes, as it seemed hard to look beyond the actress to the character beneath. The opening ten minutes also had more pat-the-dog moments than last year's Crufts, as it was made clear to us that the lusty, pint-swigging, approachable and committed public servant wasn't like other MPs. That made it look a bit like it was going to be a hagiography, but the tone soon became much more complex.

I'm not an expert on the subject, but McKay seemed to steer an efficient way through the complications of the Northern Ireland peace process in which Mo played such a large part (although there appeared to be quite a bit of info-dumping, followed by Mo sighing in exasperation, "Do you think I don't know that?")

More than anything, though, I think McKay's script showed that research is the key to an drama that goes beyond the obvious and makes us see the subject in a new light. He clearly conducted extensive interviews with those close to Mo, and seeing her life from every angle offered him a greater number of choices and the ability to draw links between the various aspects of Mo's life. Even if you're not writing a biopic, doing thorough research on your arena or the subject you want to examine will give you all the ammunition you need.

Link: Interview with Julie Walters, Neil McKay and director Philip Martin (found by tireless blogger and screenwriter's friend Robin Kelly)

Anyway, here's the Orange review:

Mo Mowlam was that rarest of things: a politician who people trusted – and even liked. This engaging but ultimately harrowing film, starring national treasure Julie Walters, soon painted a vivid picture of the Mo we thought we knew: earthy, unpretentious, committed and with a gift for puncturing pomposity.

The film started in the run-up to the historic 1997 election, when Mo was suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumour. The prognosis: two to three years. However, despite her concerns over her political future, the news of her illness cemented her as a public hero – “the people's politician” – in sharp contrast to the slimy Peter Mandelson (Steven Mackintosh), who kept turning up like a bad smell throughout the film.

After the election victory came the main part of Mo's story, as she was given the seemingly poisoned chalice of the Northern Ireland job. The film combined the personal and political aspects of her life, as her unorthodox political style broke down long-standing barriers. However, as the peace process reached its climax, Tony Blair began to take over, snaffling much of the glory for the historic Good Friday Agreement. Her authority also began to diminish as the new institutions began to take shape.

Before long – after a jaw-dropping pregnancy scare – it became clear that Mo's final decline had started. Her paranoia about the “devious c***” Mandelson proved justified as he was given Northern Ireland and she was shunted aside. With her anger and bitterness towards Tony Blair eating away at her, and without a strong political challenge to drive her forward, her illness began to take over.

The last part of the film was difficult – even heartbreaking – to watch, but it was also admirably candid about the difficulties that faced Mo and those around her as she approached the end of her life. Feeling that her life had meant nothing, she started to lash out at those closest to her, before finally finding peace again. She died in August 2005, at the age of 55.

This film was an honest and worthy tribute to this complicated woman, and Julie Walters' typically committed performance – supported ably by David Haig as her husband, Jon Norton – made it compelling viewing. With public faith in our MPs at rock bottom, it was a reminder of how unique a figure Mo Mowlam really was.