Off Script: a new publication

Before my new novel comes out I’ve decided to publish something a bit different.

Many, many years ago, when the world was younger, and the motorised horse was just born, I was a student. I studied long and hard (you can see why this is placed under ‘fiction’.) I studied Film and Drama – I wrote and directed two pieces during that period, one of which is thankfully lost forever (an adaptation of a Stephen King short), the other a twenty minute sci-fi/ actioner with mucho macho blood and guts. That one’s still around and one day I’ll get around to posting it on this site.

I also wrote a lot of scripts.

I liked writing scripts – they’re sort of novels with not so many, like, words, and like stuff.

I hadn’t written a script for a long time when I decided to treat myself to Final Draft – written about elsewhere on this here site and started to play around with it.

I’m still getting renewed with some of the conventions, and I know that although it’s the industry standard you still get a lot of people complaining about it – you know, like Word or Excel or any other ‘go-to’ production tool. Me, I still remember the days of having to try and align everything in a Word doc: it’s a lot easier and quicker using FD.

Anyhoo, they’re not paying me for this, so enough about them and their product: it’s not even available on Amazon so I can’t even scrounge a few pennies from affiliate linking to it.

The point is…I started writing scripts again: not instead of prose – that’s still the go to and my main concern, but along with a trip to a local Oxfam shop where I managed to pick up 10 scripts for £10 (a bargain – those suckers aren’t cheap to buy new), I started getting into the form again.

And so, I thought it might be fun to try and convert a few of my published, and none published, shorts into script formats.

I then even thought, for a brief mad moment, of starting to ‘make movies’ again. I knocked that idea on the head muchos quickly after remembering how close I came to a nervous breakdown making my dissertation piece back in uni days.

However, I thought, until Chris Nolan falls out with Jonathan and dries up for ideas himself, looking for material, better not to leave them just rotting in a cloud-based drawer.

So, coming soon…’Off Script’.

What is it?

A fool’s errand which will probably appeal to three people – me being two of them. (another story…)

Off Script is a collection of four scripts and a few odds and ends. Who’s it aimed at? Well, there’s a question…my way of thinking is this:

The collection will consist of four scripts with little in common other than the fact that they’d all be pretty cheap to make, and all are around twenty minutes in length. They’re all of a style anyone who has read my stuff will recognise – dark, twisty, and hopefully a bit of humour in there somewhere.

That’s what they have in common – where they differ in the levels of complexity required to make them into anything. So here’s a brief rundown and an explanation:

Phone Call – performed recently on stage, it’s a static, one-room telephone conversation with a small but vital role of a third person. The challenge for anyone making it would be to make a telephone call ‘filmic’.

Earning Wings – slightly more complex in that it’s an outdoor public location: small cast, some action. It’s a script version of a short published in You Could Make a Killing’. The challenges are around the filmic elements (I know from experience you can either go ‘official’ in getting shooting permits or you can go guerrilla and do things that would not be permitted by council or Health and Safety (Yes, I did film part of my dissertation on a new motorway that was due to open the day of shooting, and – in it’s post-apocalyptic landscape  required my co-star to walk half a mile on the deserted tarmac at five in the morning…) and also the translation from a first person, lots of inner monologue to something that translates onto screen: the fact that it is a vignette from a larger tale which should stand on its own is another element.

Male Fraud – a step up again in terms of characters, scene changes, motivation and change, and tone. Again, based on a short (although not a published one), the challenges here are in giving the characters within it enough emotional heft and the events that unfold in a short space of screen time enough space to breath into an (intended) Twilight Zone style 20 minute episode. It’ll be a challenge.

The Boot Sale – an original piece which, as of writing this, isn’t even finished yet. It’s got a good opening visual gag, and a fully fleshed idea: it just needs finishing. Again, a script that can be done on the cheap, but presents certain filmic challenges in terms of practicals, tone management, and timing.

So who would buy a book of four scripts that have never been filmed?

Well, probably next to no-one, but here’s the idea.

It’s going to be a mixture: the scripts themselves, the original shorts they’re based on where appropriate, a page or two of ruminations on each one, and a two minute walk through of how I think they represent the maturing of film style and technique through recommended movie viewing, a dash of film history, a soupcon of thoughts on film possibilities, and a chapter on scripts you’d be better off reading. Oh, and it’s got a rather great cover; that’s done.

It might work for weirdos like me who just like reading play or film scripts, it might work for anyone wanting to understand script styling from someone who is just trying to remember the basic principles themselves, or, and here’s the USP – for fledgling film makers who want something to practice with. (Of course, if a major studio comes in to pick one up all bets are off).

I’m going to try something different with this. Just as Stephen King makes his work available as dollar babies (ie they can be bought for a dollar on the condition the resulting movie is not made commercially available), I’m making all of these scripts available for free to film.

What’s more, my idea is to allow any completed movies to be hosted on my site as a show reel – benefiting from the swarms of traffic I enjoy from my dalliances here.

Of course, most young or not so young film makers have more ideas for scripts than they know what to do with, so it may be a futile gesture…but just in case, the offer is there and the movies will be made available on this here site…along with password protected pdf versions of each (it’s kind of difficult to have a working shooting script on Kindle alone).

So, there you have it – a ‘coming soon’ project, hopefully due in the next couple of weeks. Don’t worry about missing launch date: I’ll probably mention it again…

Keep watching.


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