The first time someone told me about TV Tropes I didn’t get it. It was on a Facebook group and I thought I was being shown some online version of the dreaded (by me) writers’ manual: well-meaning books about well-made plays that sell better than plays themselves. Or Save the Cat, the most egregious example, which allows bad screenwriters to be just as emotionally manipulative as their heavyweight counterparts, through the use of bullet-pointed lists, like screenwriting judo. I haven’t actually read it, but I’ve never seen eye-to-eye with anyone who has.
Anyway, TV Tropes. It’s none of the above, and is actually fascinating. Yes, it’s reductive, but that’s the point. It’s MO is to spot common tropes in works of fiction, from Shakespeare to comic books. It’s not there to say whether they are good or bad: a trope is not necessarily a cliché, though the words are sometimes interchangeable. And the truly unique elements of any work by their nature won’t be in there. Thinking about what works have in common also helps us look at what makes each unique.
So, for the writer, it does have an instructive role, but without telling you to avoid or include certain devices. They’ll be there anyway. You have to resolve yourself to the fact that there’s nothing new under the sun, and that anything you do, however original, will contain tropes used elsewhere. Then once you’re okay with that you can then think, am I using these tropes well? Am I subverting them? Am I making them feel fresh? I realise I’m guilty of using the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope a bit, and this no doubt says something about me. But confronting that fact at least forces me to think about how I’m using it, which is something for which to be grateful.
Just thought I’d share this.
I’m rapidly educating myself in the practical skills of film directing and editing. One of my ongoing stratagems is to write and make original 2-3 minute long short films as often as life will allow. To inspire me, and to keep things varied and interesting, I’ve been basing each around an existing piece of music, which then informs the mood and progression of the action. Some of the films are silent, others have dialogue. Some are acted, some are just slices of real life. Sometimes I’ll listen to something and it just suggests to me a line like, “I can’t believe they let me get away with it!” or “how the hell did we both end up like this?” and wherever that comes from I’ll just run with it, put it in the mouth of a character, and see what coalesces around it. It’s quite liberating to write something you’ve no intention to show publicly. Art for art’s sake and all that.
Here’s the list of pieces of music I’ve put together to select from, on Spotify:
There’s a kind of a logic to them, they’re all instrumental (with one exception), all under three minutes, and they all end with some kind of harmonic resolution (with a few exceptions) – they don’t leave you hanging.
Obviously, none of the results of this exercise can be released commercially, not without clearance of the music (and it’s a paradox of filmmaking that it’s almost always cheaper to commission new compositions than to use something already out there, however appropriate), but thanks to YouTube’s licensing agreements, most videos featuring existing recorded music can be uploaded to YouTube non-commercially, with any ad revenue going back to the musicians. I may post a few of them here on that basis in the near future.
In the mean time, you can listen and enjoy, and if anyone out there is getting into filmmaking as well, feel free to try the same approach. It’s pleasingly inverted, if nothing else.
I am seeking a film producer to help me realise my first film. It will be a feature-length low-budget drama filmed and set in France.
While I have many years’ experience in writing plays for the stage, and have directed at theatres including the Hackney Empire, I’ve no experience in film outside making short inserts used as projections within stage productions. So, I’ve decided to openly advertising my search for a producer here as an adjunt to the usual informal networking. Maybe the perfect producer is out there somewhere. Maybe it’s you.
Qualities and qualifications
I’m looking for someone with a bit of experience under their belt or someone who is very hungry to learn: who has produced a few shorts perhaps, has worked alongside a producer on a feature, or has experience already in producing low-budget features. You will be responsible for raising funding (including your own fee), recruiting the production team and working with me to organise all aspects of the production.
You can be based anywhere, but London or southern France would be convenient.
Speaking French would be a huge plus, but it’s by no means a deal-breaker if you don’t.
The film will be a feature-length drama set in the south of France, in English with a mix of British, French and Australian characters: tense, funny, psychological, tragic and redemptive. It’s got a lot of darkness in it, with personal histories scarred by loss and abuse, but also a lot of light, and love and happiness prevail for some if not all of the protagonists.
The location and some cast members are in place, and I have a solid plan to shoot in September 2018. I expect to need to raise a budget in the tens of thousands (GBP).
I have a script treatment (synopsis) at the moment. The full screenplay is a work in progress. Please email me on email@example.com if you’d like to see either or apply for the role.
And please share this post with anyone you know who might be interested.
Update: This position has been filled!
I sort of already made this public (in a late-night Facebook conversation about good-love and bad-love, or it might have been real-love and fake-love). It’s the opening number from a show I’ve been writing. There is a dramatic context to this which is revealed in between the first and second choruses of this song, so I won’t post the remainder of it here, as I don’t want to explain the whole conceit of the (as yet unfinished) show. But I think this bit stands nicely on its own. Enjoy.
Cast your magic spell right over me,
Kiss me through a veil of night,
Tell me that you want my body,
Say you’re gonna treat me right.
Drive me to the gates of Hades.
I’ll bring a lunch; I’ll meet you later on.
I’ll buy you something stupid from the gift shop
Or an homunculus to torture when I’m gone.
And when we make our vows, high on glory, just a vessel,
We’ll be dancing, we’ll be spreading fire and light.
And when we go to bed, silk and roses, sweet and holy,
Hot and sweaty, we’ll ascend into the night.
And love will make us gods inside our bodies,
And tame the very thunder-rush of time,
And solder over every long-gone heartbreak.
Oh love, my love: your body next to mine.
I’ll let you decide what type of love is going on there.
I’ve been working on an idea for an opera – well, a sung-through somewhat sui generis* piece of musical theatre. For my own purposes I’ve been building a playlist of musical inspiration. Thought I’d share it here…
*Who am I kidding? It’s Brechtian, like Brecht but… unfinished.
New sites have gone up recently for my plays Voltaire’s Meteor and Cross Road Blues. You can head over to www.voltairesmeteor.com for news about forthcoming productions of this latest wee creation of mine. And likewise you can go to www.crossroadblues.net for info about my venerable script about Robert Johnson and the devil, including a small gallery of cool Robert Johnson tattoos based on the play’s poster artwork.
I haven’t posted here at all this year, so in the interests of proving to the world that I’m not dead or critically infirm, I thought I’d write a quick update. So what have I been up to?
Well, for the first half of this year, I’ve been working on an almost complete rewrite of The Last Priest, my 2007 play about French priest Jean Meslier, who was a secret athiest, and whose posthumous Testament was an early spark of the French revolution. I finished a solid first draft mid-summer, and will soon be meeting with the original group of producers, a cast of new and old members, a new director and a team that is being assembled without my knowledge or input, but in whom I have a lot of trust.
There are no firm dates for a production yet, but there is a new title (still, perhaps, provisionally): Voltaire’s Meteor: The Midnight Zeal of Father Jean Meslier. (Voltaire described Meslier as “the most singular phenomenon ever seen among all the meteors fatal to the Christian religion.“)
I’m also currently thinking of writing a film, not about Meslier though.
Watch. This. Space.
Peter will be returning from New York where his production of Signal Failure is at the SoHo Playhouse from 8th October-16th November.
Horses in the Rain is at the Rag Factory on 7th, 8th and 9th November at 7.30pm. Tickets are available here, priced £10.
I’m very pleased to announce that my play, Horses in the Rain, is to be presented for a limited preview run at the Rag Factory off Brick Lane, London this November.
Show dates are 7th, 8th, 9th November at 7.30pm. It runs for about an hour and a half.
Tickets are available here, priced £10. Full details are on the Facebook event via the link below.