Calling all animators!

If you’ve visited this shamefully infrequently updated blog before, then chances are that in one way or another you already whose words you are reading.

But just in case, allow me to introduce myself:

My name is Simon Regan, and I am a screenwriter based in Bristol, UK. As well as writing and developing my own projects, I have also had the pleasure of collaborating on a number of projects with my very talented frequent writing partner Dom Brancaleone. In fact, I am doing just that at the moment.

But now I’m looking to do something a little different, and to do so I’m looking for the animators amongst you.

Whether you specialise in 2D, 3D, Flash, Mayo, stop motion, traditional or modern. Whether you are experienced or are just starting out, I want to hear from you!

For the past few months I have been developing an animated sketch show in the style of ‘Monkey Dust’ and ‘The League Of Gentlemen’ – with a little bit of the ‘Powerpuff Girls’ thrown in for good measure. Looking at the idiosyncrasies of human nature this surreal, stylised and silly sketch show will see a fictional cartoon double act perform a series of recurring and one off sketches with a variety of comedy characters. The ‘Gorrilaz’ of comedy, if you will.

But I’m a writer, a humble gurgler of words. To my confused and fumbling fingers the complex and intricate designs of stick figures elude me.

So that’s where you come in. Any of you. All of you.

I want to bring together as wide a variety of animators and diverse animation styles as possible to create a single unique patchwork quilt of a sketch show. It might be a complete disaster, or we might create something unique and interesting. In the very least, maybe you’ll have something to add to your showreel?

Now, I fully understand that animation is an incredibly focused and time consuming discipline, and we’re all busy people. Those who are able (or inclined) to work on longer or potentially recurring sketches can do so, while those who are busier or perhaps less experienced can try their hand at a shorter or one off sketch.

Like shows such as Monkey Dust, Twin Peaks or indeed Tom & Jerry, my hope is that the score will be a big part of the show. As such, I plan on eventually bringing in a diverse variety of musicians and DJ’s too. But that’s for another time, much further down the line.

For now, I want to hear from you – the animators. Whether you specialise in 2D, 3D, Flash, Mayo, stop motion, traditional, modern or something else I have no doubt forgotten. Whether you are experienced or are just starting out – I want to hear from you!

So, if this sounds like something you would be interested in, or if you just fancy a chat (we all get lonely sometimes), then I’d love to hear from you! Give me a shout via any of the contact details below and I’ll be happy to go into much more detail about the show and specific sketches.

Simon Regan is a graduate of the UK Film Council’s Advanced Screenwriting Program. He has written pilot episodes for both original drama and sitcom series, as well as in collaboration with other writers to develop a variety of web-based content. He also has a mighty ginger beard, if that helps?

He can be contacted via email at simonregan81@hotmail.com or via Twitter @simon_regan

“NO IDEA” Between Them.

Standing at the urinal, I feel a giddy sensation. I wasn’t used to giddy sensations when urinating. Not these days, anyway. And certainly not in a public men’s room in the heart of Bristol’s City Centre. In fact, I would go so far as to not recommend that anyone stand at a public urinal in any given city centre with a massive grin on their face. At any rate, I’d like to think that the days of heady excitement whenever I would go for a tinkle in a public place amongst my gender peers was long behind me. And yet, on this particular occasion, I most certainly was grinning.

Being the happenin’, technologically hip, man about town that I am, I had taken the 30 second window in which I wasn’t engaged in conversation with another human being to remove my mobile phone from my pocket to check my email.

Two days earlier, I’d received an email from my good friend and frequent writing partner Dominic Brancaleone. I rather look forward to these emails, as more often than not they signal the propelling forward of one project or another, in some way or other. In short, an email from Dom often meant I would inevitably have some work to sink my teeth into. But this particular email, two days ago, had been rather… cryptic.

Judge for yourselves:

“Just a quick message to say…
… I have a project for us!”

See what I mean?

Although, I thought the “x” was a nice touch. It certainly kept me on side.

I’d been collaborating with Dom on and off for a few years. We met on the UK Film Council’s Advance Screenwriting Program, and had immediately clicked. At the conclusion of the course, we kept in touch thanks to email and social media. Just the odd “How are you?”, “What are you working on at the moment?” sort of stuff, but our correspondence always ended the same way. With the automatic – almost unconscious – sign off that I have found to be the “go to” conversation ender between any manner of creative individuals.

“We should work together on something some time.”

A standard farewell, hilarious in its ubiquity amongst writers and film makers alike. I shamefully confess that it is something I have said (and had said to me) so often over the years, that I paid it no credence whenever Dom or I would use it to sign off 90% of our correspondence.

The writery equivalent of “Let’s do lunch, sometime!”, or “I’ll call you, baby!”

But then, over time, we started to exchange actual ideas. Before long we had written a comedy short about a group of inept documentary film makers (a sort of send up of exploitative “The Man With A Face For A Brain” pseudo-documentaries), and a frankly hilarious six part web-based comedy series revolving around two “odd couple” flatmates that was initially devised by Dom.

While a “rough cut” pilot for the latter of the two has been shot and is currently in post production in London, both projects remain in various stages of development, out of our hands. While I continued work on my own individual projects, and with Dom refining a feature of his own, our progress as a writing team was stagnating.

So, stood at that urinal two days after “cryptic-gate”, with that ill-advised grin upon my expectant face, it was with great curiosity that I opened his highly anticipated follow-up email. Contained within was something I could never have expected.

Having worked on a handful of 6-8 minute projects together, the last thing I expected to read was a pitch for a feature film script. But that is what I found. A little taken aback, I read the email over a few times and… well… I LOVED IT. A little ambitious? Sure. But such was the power of Dom’s enthusiasm that I was completely convinced that we could pull it off.

And so, in these last few months of back and forth emails, we have developed a clear narrative path and a working treatment from which to start the first draft of a script for “NO IDEA IN DA HOOD”: A comedy set in North London, highlighting the contrasts between the middle class suburbs and the high-rise tower blocks that surround them.

Will it be a challenge? Absolutely, but an exciting one! With the better part of 80 miles between us, the bulk of the exchanging of ideas will be limited to email and video calls, with face to face meetings likely being few and far between – not to mention individual family and work commitments to juggle too.

This process is going to be just that – a process. We are learning the art of feature collaboration as we go. How to split up the work? Page by page? Scene by scene? How to keep the dialogue consistent and uniform throughout? After all, it is one thing to work on a mini series together, developing a series arc but dividing up episodes, but a feature is a different beast entirely.

I did a Google Image Search for “Collaboration”, this is what popped up. I think it’s a kinda creepy.

We intend to blog about this process, from the inside out, taking anyone who wishes to read about it along on this brand new experience with us. We have no idea where it is going to take us, and only a vague idea of how we’re going to get there, but as we develop this script we want to try to keep everything as transparent as possible. Sharing the stories of the highs and lows, the struggles and the triumphs along the way. Hopefully by the end of it all – in the not too distant future – we will discuss what happens next, when we have a finished script.

There are already a host of exciting peripheral aspects to the film on the horizon – with all the usual Twitter, Facebook and YouTube Channel goodness to follow, once we have a finished script. As well as the pilot for the aforementioned mini-series, which we hope will be ready to share with you all in the near future. But, those are all things for another time and another blog.

In the meantime, please Retweet/Share this post for all your amazing friends to see by using the buttons at the bottom of this post.

You can keep up with updates regarding our “NO IDEA IN DA HOOD” progress – as well as all our other projects in development – by Subscribing to both This Blog and Dom’s Blog.

RESTLESS

A few weeks ago, I received the greatest news I could possibly receive. Words I had been waiting the better part of a decade to hear. When it finally happened, it was everything I could do to restrain my entire body from collapsing to the ground then and there, half weeping, half screaming with ecstatic joy.

In the last year or so, I have done many things which many (Facebook among them, apparently) would consider “Life Events”. I relocated nearly a hundred miles away from my immediate family and the only world I have ever really known, I have married the woman I love and the greatest person I have ever known. I have explored creativity within myself that I never thought possible. On any sane, reflective, objective, wanting to remain attached to my testicles day, I would never dream of comparing this “Life Event” to any of those. But on this particular day, just a few weeks ago, I came BLOODY close.

I should probably preface this BLOG with a few quick notes. Firstly, a note of sincerest apology to anyone who may read my rambling tangential offerings with any interest for the frankly unforgivable absence of bloggage in recent times. Secondly, this particular entry will regrettably be bereft of any direct relation to screenwriting or writing related substances. I can only hope to ease this twin poison arrow with the assurance that I have a veritable buffet of news on those fronts which I plan to serve up to you all in due course. For the meantime, if anyone wishes to change the channel to something about Gypsies or those delightful people from Essex, I understand. If however you want to push on through, then you have my gratitude.

If I’m perfectly honest with you, I’m not entirely sure why I’m choosing here and now to talk about this. It’s not a “woe is me” thing, or even “a look at me” thing. I don’t know, maybe it’ll become apparent to me as I write. All I know right now, is that this is all a bit strange for me. Strange, because this blog involves me doing something many of you who know me will know is not one of my strong points. Remembering. Not the best of rememberers, me. And yet, for as long as I can remember, I was a fidgeter. It’s what my mother always described me as, and quite accurately too. I never enjoyed long car journeys, or going to the cinema. It was always, uncomfortable. That’s the only way I could describe it. An uncomfortable ordeal. Blinding what should otherwise be a pleasant, enjoyable experience. I suppose 10 year old me these days would be diagnosed with some form of “Won’t sit down, shut up, or listen to grown up’s” disease. But back then, in the humble 80′s, I was just a fidgeter. It wasn’t even really something I noticed, or was particularly aware of. It’s only now, looking back, that I recognise it for what it was.

But around 10 years or so ago, I became keenly aware of the fact that my fidgeting was encroaching on my sleep. An all encompassing urge, a need, to squirm, to kick, a perpetual need to keep my limbs moving. Legs, arms, my every extremity, screaming at me to move. If the blood pulsating through me could speak, it would surely be screaming. Ironically, that scream would most likely be blood curdling.

Not long after, I met Cassandra. I won’t bore you with the sentiment, but needless to say I was happy. As we grew closer and spent more and more time together, I found that something as simple as cuddling up together to watch television in the evening, or lying closely in bed together at night, were ordeals. It seemed the greater the need to sit still, the greater my body’s desire to rebel. Did my body hate intimacy? “She’s not right for you, reject her like we – your faithful extremities – are doing”?

It was my mother-in-law – although at the time merely that scary lady who knew my girlfriend longer than me – who first introduced me to the term “Restless Leg Syndrome”. Clearly this woman is mental, I thought. It sounds like one of those bogus, new age, la di da labels attributed to wingers, whiners, and wankers. But sure enough, the next time we visited, I was presented with a page torn from a medical magazine of some sort documenting the very real… very… actually… bloody accurate symptoms I was experiencing. Shit. Maybe the mental girlfriend knower lady has a point? Maybe I’m not just a fidgety twat? I made an appointment with my doctor, my borrowed magazine clipping in hand. I was pretty excited. Giddy even. I have a thing. A proper disorder. And the smart man in the room with the bed with paper blankets is going to fix it. I’m troubled, but heal-able. Oooooh. Get me. When my name was called by the ridiculous and handsome (but not ridiculously handsome) doctor man, I followed him in to his office room.

“What seems to be the problem, Mr Regan”?

He pronounced my name as Reagan, like the president. But I didn’t care. Usually in times like this I would channel my father and proclaim that the correct pronunciation was “Ree-Gan”, and that “Ray-Gun” was the guy they shot. But not this time. On this occasion, I didn’t let it bother me. This was the man that was going to fix me. For him, I’d let it slide. This man would forever get a shitty pronunciation of my surname pass, for this was the man who would cure me.

Perhaps a little over zealously, I began reeling off my symptoms, only to be cut off before I barely began.

“Growing Pains.”

It was matter of fact. Just like that. His face was stone. It was sure of itself, and it was bored of me. I made a pretty feeble attempt at a protest, even producing the magazine clipping at one point, but it was no use. It was growing pains. The smartest man in the room had said so. I bowed my head, and I left his room. I think I even apologised.

As time went on, things got worse. My symptoms gaining momentum with every passing night, a perpetual nightmare, I was sleeping less and less. By around 2008, I was sleeping between 2 and 5 hours every couple of days. On average. Sometimes, I wouldn’t sleep for days. Until eventually, my body would give out and I’d collapse. I’d sleep in the backseat of my car on my lunch break at work, I’d ruin precious weekends with my wife and puppy catching up on a week’s worth of lost sleep. It was perhaps inevitable that my mind was soon to suffer. Concentration, short term memory, my ability to focus, all quickly rendered slaves to my convulsing extremities and their thievery of my sleep. Simple tasks, such as a trip to the shops, became a nightmarish experience. On one particular occasion I made my way from my house to the local shop, a literal 5 minute walk, armed with 3 every day items in my head. The moment a passed through those double doors my mind was erased. Not just in a typical ageing male “Why did I walk into this room, again” way. It was literally as though I had awoken inside my local Co-Op. If I’d have been lucky enough to be dreaming I’d have surely found myself naked at this point. But I was awake. Awake and bloody confused. I did the first thing that came to mind and I called my girlfriend. My girlfriend, who I’d only said goodbye to literally moments ago. With horror tinged palpably in my vocal chords, I announced down the phone: “Babe, I’m in the shop”. Predictably, I was met with a knowing “Yeah?”. Of course I was, that was where I was supposed to be. But apparently, I didn’t know this. “I’m in the shop, and I don’t know why!?!”.

And so, this became my life. I become Simmy, the absent minded beardy fella. And to be honest, I didn’t mind. What I minded, was that I still couldn’t cuddle up to my own girlfriend at night. What I minded was that I was still only sleeping when my body could no longer go on. What I minded was trying to hold down a 9-5 job, getting up for work when I hadn’t actually been to sleep yet. And it was getting harder and harder to hide it. Managers started to notice. Honestly, why wouldn’t they? I was a zombie. I barely spoke to people, barely emoted. My primary purpose each day was getting through to the next one.

For a long time, I whole lot of nothing happened. I saw GPs, specialists, neurologists. On several separate occasions I was diagnosed with depression, an iron deficiency, sleep deprivation, a central nervous tick, sent for MRI’s, told I had an abnormal fundus… I still don’t know what that means… and then diagnosed with depression again. Amongst all of this, I should note that I was actually prescribed something called Amitriptyline by an admittedly very attentive and sympathetic neurologist. He was very smiley… and was kind enough to note with some alarm in his eyes that he had just come straight off of an over night trans-atlantic flight, but compared to him, I looked like shit. We keep in touch.

But the Amitriptyline, it didn’t work. It helped me sleep, but the journey there was more painful than without it. My body wasn’t so much helped to sleep, as it was dragged kicking screaming. And then the following day I would be consumed by such an overwhelming fog for hours on end. And it had to stop. As simple as that. The ends did not justify the means. If you’ll forgive the platitude, it was like putting a plaster over cancer. Papering over the walls, if that makes you feel any better. I had gained a measure of sleep, but at what cost? The symptoms were not relieved, if anything they were exasperated by this macabre chemical concoction. And so I went back, to the life I led before. Of discomfort, of limited intimacy with the woman I loved, of lunch time nap times.

I guess I’d sort of resigned myself to that life. This was who I am. Forgetful, insomniac, Simmy.

But then there came a straw that obliterated the camel and his back.

My wife and I had moved. The west country was now our home, and while not everything was perfect, we were perhaps the happiest we had been in years. Cassandra for certain had never looked more at peace with the world than when we were on the beach at Sand Bay or in Weston Woods, just us and our dog. If we were to move back to Banbury tomorrow, those fond memories of her smiling face will be what I take back with me. But my screaming, angry limbs had of course followed me. The better part of a hundred miles from home and I was still experiencing all the pain and discomfort I had before.

I had a new job. It was basically my old job, in an office, twatting about with spreadsheets, but I was near the sea… so yay! It was on one particular day, after three straight days of genuinely zero sleep hours in the bank, that I hopped in my car and headed to work. Looking back, I know I should never have got in that car. I shouldn’t have even gotten out of bed. Call it adrenaline, call it bravado, call it stupidity, I know which one I’d vote for, I did it anyway. To cut a long story short, I blacked out at the wheel. Twice. The first time, I veered into the on coming traffic lane… luckily there was a distinct absence of actual oncoming traffic at that moment. The second time, I almost became one with a petrol station.

Let me be very fucking clear, I don’t tell you these things out of some misplaced machismo. I was a dickhead. A dickhead who could have killed people. Nevermind myself, I could have hurt innocent people, going about their lives. I pulled into the nearest layby I could find, shaking. At this point I was probably a third of the way to work. I made a decision. This had all gone too far. Shit had to change. I had lived in the South West for the better part of six months, with a known condition, even if I didn’t actually know what it was, and I wasn’t even registered at my local GP for Christ’s sake. And I now here I am attempting to drive to work when I’d been laid wide awake for over 3 days. I made the decision to turn back and head home. The trip back was surprisingly less eventful, perhaps my adrenaline was spurred by the imminent prospect of my bed. At home, I did some quick research and called my nearest GP.

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of having to call your local GP, you’re no doubt keenly aware of the patronising, almost lethargic IVR delivery that greets you. I was asked, monosyllabic, if my call was an emergency, the entire subtext of such as question being clearly rooted in “Explain why exactly you’re bothering me”. Is it an emergency? If the answer is No, then clearly I am to be labelled a twat with a tickly cough or a sniffly nose. Take some calpol and piss off home you waster. But what, praytell, if the answer is Yes? Fucking hell. Who answers yes to that question? Is it an emergency? No. If it was an emergency, I’d go to the fucking hospital, wouldn’t I? When I hear the electronic bleeping barely disguised as a humanoid practically daring me to proclaim my minor discomfort as an emergency, all I can do is look down at my arrogantly still attached limbs and sickening lack of exposed bone matter and think “FOR FUCK SAKE!! I’m trying to get a doctor’s appointment here, the least you could do is severe yourself from my body!!!”

But eventually, mercifully, I get through. I’m shaking. I’m actually shaking, and it’s just a pissing phone call. Maybe I was sleep deprived, maybe I was running on adrenaline, maybe I was scared she’d notice I pressed 4 and this wasn’t a real emergency. Either way, a kind voice soon greeted me. I demanded an appointment, and I was granted one. 3pm later that day. The end. Wow. I had to sit down after that. She hadn’t even sniffed at my “emergency” telephone pad offering. Just kindness, that’s all I was greeted with. I called work, predictably, thankfully, they were absent mindedly accepting of my absence. I’m in when I’m in. They’ll deal with me later. I went upstairs. It had been 15 torturous minutes since I returned home intent on sleeping the shit out of my bed. Naturally my wife was confused. Around 45 minutes ago I’d left for work, but now I was home again and trying to climb back into bed. With the last ounce of energy I had remaining, I begged of her to let me explain in a few hours. Mercifully, she relented, simply glad to have her husband to cuddle up to.

When I awoke several hours later, I explained everything to her. It wasn’t until the words actually left my lips and I saw her huge, terrified brown eyes that I realised what a cunt I’d actually been. She stared protesting, quite rightly, that no job is ever worth risking my life for. I felt awful. She was right. I’d risked not only my own life, but the lives of anyone who may have been on the road with me that morning. I had worried that my sleep would have somehow dulled my resolve and determination when heading to the doctors, but my distinct dressing down had only served to prove that I needed to be firm.

I marched in with steely determination. With my best no nonsense face, I barked my name at the receptionist and was beckoned – with all the icy tone I deserved – toward the waiting area. Sure, I’d been less than pleasant towards the receptionist, but this was about a state of mind. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer this time. I wasn’t going to meekly accept Growing Pains or Depression for an answer. Those days were over. If it had to be, then this was war. I knew what I had. It was what my mother-in-law had told me the better part of a decade ago that I had.

Sitting in my seat in that waiting room, I found myself seething. I’d never been seething before. It was weird. I went over it again and again in my head. The script I would play out the moment that door shut and he asked me what I was wrong today. Today? Today!?! I’ll tell you!! Oh, I was buzzing. No! It’s not fucking depression, it’s not fucking growing pains!! And here is a chair to your fucking face you arrogant prick!!! I was probably getting ahead of myself. It’s their own fault for making me wait so long in a quiet room.

And then, my name was called. “Simon Regan, please come up to room 3 on the second floor. Simon Regan, please come up to room 3 on the second floor.” I repeated that over and over as I headed toward the fabled room number 3. I walked in, and was greeted by the man who would soon endure my wrath. He asked me why I was there, and I politely, shakily, described my symptoms. I mentally gathered my arsenal, ready to strike. There were rude words – at least a 9 on the swear scale – sitting in the wings of my vocabulary, waiting to be called upon to spit like venom upon this arrogant prick casting judgement upon me. But they weren’t needed. None of them.

“Seems to me like you have a severe case of Ekbom disease , colloquially referred to as Restless Leg Syndrome.”

Love.

I was in love.

All the hate, the anger, the rude words, they fell away. The posh bastard gets it.

And so it came to be. The words I had waited the better part of a decade to hear. I had been officially diagnosed with Ekbom disease – aka Restless Leg Syndrome. Armed with a prescription tailor made just for people like me, I sent a text to my wife giving her the news. She would later tell me that she called her mother to share this news, letting her know that the diagnosis she gave me the better part of a decade ago had finally been confirmed.

And so here I sit. Fair enough, it’s 4am. But it’s a process, right? I take my pills every night, and so far they magic away the pain. The symptoms are all but gone. Genuinely gone. It hasn’t been without its hiccups along the way. After my first week on this regime, I made the utterly ridiculous decision to not take them over an entire drunken weekend. Then, Sunday evening I resumed my heady dosage. Early Monday morning, my phone’s alarm erupted with synchronistic precision. Bolt upright, I reached for my phone, mounted as always on top of my dog’s cage at the end of the bed. But something was wrong. As I tried to find my footing on the bedroom floor, it was as if I was attempting to stand inside a black hole. Confused, half awake, I elected to ignore my legs and focus on using my arms to pull myself up, but that didn’t work either. My entire right hand side had simply fucked off on holiday. On your own dickhead. I collapsed on the bedroom floor, my phone’s intentionally atonal alarm still reverberating throughout the room.

Inevitably my wife soon awoke, demanding quite rightly to know why I hadn’t killed the alarm in it’s sleep like a real ninja. Like the shit ninja I was, I quivered back that I couldn’t stand. That my body… didn’t work. Half asleep, her recommendation was that I stay there, until I could. It was sound advice. No arguing here, really. So I did. And eventually, normal service resumed. All limbs restored. But I learned a valuable lesson. My prescription is intended for Parkinson’s patients. It is a Dopamine Agnostic, meaning – in short – that it fucks about with the chemicals in your brain to make you better, so don’t fuck back.

When I started to write this blog, I told myself to just write it all out. Every minute of every pertinent moment I considered important to this story. Then, like any good writer, I would go back and I would rewrite, edit, peel back and sacrifice anything unnecessary. But on re-reading, I found that it is all necessary to tell this story. To explain why I needed to tell it. Every embarrassing moment, every time I wanted to punch myself out of existence. I kept it in.

So, listen, if you made it all the way to this point, please let me know. Comment here, or on Facebook. Subscribe, tweet, whatever. It would mean a lot to me to know that you at least got this far through something so selfish and self indulgent on my part. And if this goes some way to helping someone else suffering from RLS or related symptoms, then that’s nice too.

In the meantime, be excellent to each other.

A beardy sabbatical?

Superman had his cape.

Batman had the Bat Signal.

Jedward have… their hair, I guess?

Their identities. Their calling cards, if you will.

For almost an entire decade, I have had my very own calling card. I have had my mighty ginger beard…

 

BEHOLD:

 

I know. Instant erection.

Sometimes it is trimmed, sometimes it is wild and feral. Sometimes it is basically performing an Uncle Albert impression…

 


… But – for almost an entire decade – it has always been there. Warming my face, arousing my wife, announcing my masculinity. And I quite like it that way. I never ever plan to change it. Mostly because it is the source of all my super powers, but also because without I look rather like a toddler. A ginger toddler.

So I have known for quite some time that there is no way in HELL this beard was taking a sabbatical.

 

Not a chance!

 

Then, I got an email, almost daring me to join the ‘Bristol Mo Bro’s’ for this Movember.

 

“Ha!”

I scoffed.

“Not a chance!”

 

“But it’s for charity!?”, my intermittantly present conscience pleaded.

 

“Ha!”

I scoffed.

“Not a chance!”

 

And then… I saw it. Right at the bottom of the email…

Now… if you receive an email challenging you to grow a Mo and it contains a picture of Hulk Hogan and you don’t find yourself just a little teeny bit tempted… well then you sir are not a man.
So yes, I confess, I am maybe – just maybe – a little bit tempted.

 

And so, I throw it out to you, THE INTERNET! To my Facebook friends, to my Twitter followers and followerees…

 

Should this beard take a Movember sabbatical? More importantly, would you part with your pennies if I did? After all, isn’t that sort of the point?

 

You have four days to help me decide the fate of this mighty ginger beard!

 

“Wotcha gonna do Prostate Cancer… when MoMania runs wild on you!!!”

Ps. My wife’s initial reaction to my suggestion of grooming myself a Hulk Hogan Fu Manchu for Movember was “I WILL divorce you!”. So remember folks, a vote for yes, is a vote for marital destruction!

So that’s got to be worth it, if nothing else!

What Beardy Did Next

So, I thought I’d take a break from tradition, that is, if two blogs eleventy billion years ago is a tradition (my word processor just insisted that eleventy isn’t a word… foolish android). Essentially, I’m going to make a list. And it’s a list that is probably more for me than it is for you – but you still have to like it.

I should probably explain myself.

Around two weeks ago, I took a drive. I say I, in fact my wife and I took a drive. It started out pleasant enough – in fact we rather enjoy our road trips together – the open road, some tunes, and some banter. Except, something happened on this drive which I can only describe using the following powerful and moving imagery:

I know. It’s harrowing stuff.

On this drive, which had started out just as any other, with us running colossally late, tensions running colossally high – and choices of musical entertainment running colossally suspect – I found myself careering all the way from the dramatic, choppy shark infested open waters of the outside lane of the M4 Eastbound all the way across the uncharted murky waters of lanes gone by, into the cushiony warmth of the gentle lapping waters of the hard shoulder. Shaking. Heart pounding embarrassingly audibly in my chest, I made the call to Green Flag. After a few moments of elbow-nudgey-suggestive-eyebrow-raisey “Rescue Me” hold music, I was informed that a man much more masculine than I would be arriving in the next 45 minutes to save my wife and I from impending hard shoulder doom. He then signed off with the clear message that we must vacate our vehicle and shield ourselves on the other side of the barricade.

Once again. I know. It’s harrowing stuff.

45 minutes.

I didn’t tell the wife this, obviously. I may be a man of questionable testicular fortitude who cannot change a tyre on the hard shoulder of the M4 eastbound, but I am not a fool! Any minute now, I proclaimed, while secretly strapping myself in for a wet and windy wait.

It was during this long, wet and windy wait that I resigned myself to trying to catalogue all of my recent career aspiring escapades. Everything I had done in recent months in an attempt to “break into the industry”.

I couldn’t.

I tried. But I couldn’t.

Maybe it was the wind. Maybe it was the rain. Maybe it was the bit of wee that came out every time a massive fucking truck flew by. Either way, I came to the rapid realisation that I hadn’t a clue. And slowly, standing there, cold, wet, a little bit horny… a notion flashed through my mind. I’d always considered myself to be quite the workhorse where my career was concerned. Sure, I can be lazy. I like a beer in front of the TV. I like a lazy Sunday watching shitty movies under a duvet with the wife and the puppy. But don’t we all enjoy those things sometimes? For the most part, I’m pretty productive, pretty pro-active – aren’t I?

And so – a blog was born. And even though people have been asking what I’ve been up to lately, this blog is much more for me than it is for any of you tossers.

The following is a list.

A sexy, buxom, maybe-you-will-see-a-bit-of-nipple list, sadly it is not.

But still, it’s a list. It even has handy little headers to each you into each item. Plus, that way you can skip the boring ones.

This… my eternally patient readers… is “What Beardy Did Next”.

On completion of my latest 3 part drama serial, I spent the better part of early 2011 researching and submitting to Literary Agents I admired, respected, and hoped would be interested. They weren’t. Actually, most weren’t, but I’ll get to that later. Faced with this overwhelming apathy, I had reached an impasse. I had spent a year of my life developing and writing this serial, the third project I had sent out into the world.

It was time to change direction.

Collaboration

Dominic Branca… Branca… Dom Beno is probably the most talented person ever in the entire world that I know. Not only is he a sexy mother fucker, but I have come to discover over the last few years that: not only does he play a mean guitar, not only does he surf, not only does he tattoo his own mother – but he also writes a pretty mean script too.

Ever since meeting this sickeningly talented git on the Advanced Screenwriting Course a few years ago, he’s been bugging me to collaborate with him. Lucky for him, I recently had a gap in my schedule and we’ve been working on something hopefully quite special ever since. Watch this space, kiddies.

BBC Writer’s Room

This is something I had previously scoffed at. Arrogance? Probably. I’d like to say that it was because of the horror stories that I heard about people not hearing back for years upon years of their lives, only to receive a slip of paper renouncing them as black stains upon the very name of entertainment itself. I’d like, oh so very much, to say that this was why I had avoided submitting to the writers room before – but that would be a lie. No. In my arrogance I had not submitted before because I had heard that they did not want your submissions on their own merit, but in fact that were looking at the talent within your submissions to look for a new writer. i.e., for their staff.

How very dare they.

I worked for a [swear word] year on that serial. And they just want to read it and in the best case scenario I can end up writing for one of their daytime soaps, or I can write the words that the presenter man says in one of those count down shows!?!

How very dare they.

But about a month ago, I had a moment. Not a sexy moment, like a man has when his significant other has gotten out of bed before him and he reckons he has a good 10 minutes before she’ll return with the tea. No, a real, “FUCK!!! I’m a DICK!!!” moment. This moment was granted to me by the realisation that I had applied for – and accepted – a job I really didn’t want. In a call centre.

A place where a young woman exclaiming “I’m mad, me!!” because she’d writes with a green pen, is not only considered the height of hilarity, but perfectly acceptable.

It was at this moment that I realised something. I was being an arrogant prick. If I send my script to the BBC Writers Room, if they like it, by my reckoning, the absolute worst thing that can happen is that I end up writing the words that the presenter man says in one of those count down shows. I’ll repeat I little bit of that for emphasis:

“the absolute worst thing that can happen is that I end up writing…”

A job writing shit words for a shit countdown show is surely better than a shit job in a call centre. You arrogant prick!

Now all I have to do is wait the proclaimed 4-6 weeks to hear back from them. Magic.

Channel 4

A few people who follow me on Twitter (@simon_regan) probably already read about me applying for Channel 4′s 4Screenwriting course. It’s a course specifically for writers without a screen credit and professes to be designed to work around people in full time employment. From what I have read, it involves developing a television show with an experienced Channel 4 script editor. So whatever may come of it, it sounds like it would be an amazing experience.

The closing date is not until November 1st, so I doubt I’ll find out whether I’ve been selected for a good while yet, but it’s nice to have it out there in the background. Fingers crossed.

BAFTA Forum 2011

My most recent attempt at stabbing my way inward towards industry acceptance, is the BAFTA New Writing Forum. I discovered this one and managed to slip in by the skin of my teeth, with submissions closing on 6th October! They required a cocktail of supporting material, including a Character Breakdown, Industry Biography, A script extract, an Introduction to my script extract. Most of what they required I had naturally already done myself as part of the project development, but some of it (particularly, the bio and the intro) required some serious midnight oil arson in order to meet the deadline.

But meet it I did. And I quite enjoyed it, in fact. The one thing I learned from the screenwriting courses (in particular the Advanced) was that I tend to thrive much more with a deadline. A clear path and a rapidly approaching goal. Which is handy, given the deadline driven nature of the business. Unfortunately however this does not translate well to “self imposed” deadlines, like the ones I give myself.

“Okay, finish the first draft of this treatment by Friday, and you can have a biscuit.”

By Wednesday, the biscuits are all gone. Along with any incentive to finish that treatment.

Agencies

I briefly mentioned Literary Agents earlier (remember earlier? It’s OK, me either), well I did send my latest project out to a number of my choice agents. Most kindly returned my submission with a “Thanks, but no thanks”. That’s OK, I’m a writer. Rejections are in our blood. The odd one or two didn’t get back to me. That’s fine, they’re busy, I’m busy, we’re all busy people. Clearly I’m not for them. But a few months ago I did receive a request for a full script. Result. Once again, watch this space on that one.

Cold” Emails

Ever since I relocated back to the South West just over a month ago, I have made a concerted effort to track down and locate local independent production companies and organisations, to drop them a quick email just politely asking if they were interested in collaborations and/or whether they had any interest in taking on an in-house/freelance writer. Again, for every 5 I send, around 3 I wouldn’t hear back from. No mind, they probably thought I was secretly a porn star trying to spam them with images of all my in and out bits (cheers Kryten! Credit where it’s due). But a few, just a few did get back to me.

Keep watching those spaces.

Competitions

Finally, I have recently been focussing my attention on various screenwriting competitions. In particular, I recently wrote and submitted a 5 page short film script for the Circalit “Get Your Film Made” competition and a 1 page short film script for the London Screenwriters Festival’s “4 Days in August” riot themed competition.

Both were an amazing opportunity, and more importantly challenged me to think and write in ways I wouldn’t otherwise have. Plus, I’m guaranteed someone will actually read them. Premium stock in this business.

Unfortunately, I recently discovered that my LSF script didn’t make the longlist. I was gutted. Really gutted. Don’t get me wrong, like I said before I have received my share of rejections, but some reason this one cut deeper than most. I’m not sure why? Maybe I just really wanted this? Not just for the free LSF ticket, but for validation?

When I completed the UK Film Council’s Advanced Screenwriting course back in 2008, armed with a pilot and series bible for a 6 part political thriller workshopped and re-written within an inch of it’s life, I was riding a wave of confidence. I was full to the brim with all the validation I could ever need. But nothing ever came of it, or any other project so far. Maybe I was clinging too hard to one little competition, without even realising?

As evident by this rather mammoth blog, I have a number of other egg in a number of other baskets. And new eggs (or baskets, I’m not sure which is which in this rather flawed, flimsy excuse for a metaphor??) are popping up (out?) all the time. This time last week, I hadn’t even heard of the BAFTA Forum, last month the LSF Competition I got myself in such a dither over.

Incidently, I will be publishing said script online in the coming days. Providing that time, my own courage… and the ability to work out how to do so, all let me.

And so, to conclude…

When I started writing this blog a few nights ago, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to end it. Any writer will tell you – that makes me a twat. You should always know where you’re story’s heading. But I just had to write this – critical third act be damned! And then that LSF email came along and I suppose now I have my ending. Kind of bittersweet, but then that’s drama. My life imitating my art.

And that’s fine.

For anyone that is curious, my wife and I did finally make it to our destination… albeit the following week.

One sexy new tyre in place, we made it to the ‘Players Wardrobe’ in Hertforshire. As I tweeted at the time, if any of you are putting on any AmDram or theatrical type stuff I would recommend looking them up. Even if you’re not, you should look them up anyway, because they’re lovely. They were kind enough to show us around, giving a quick tour and allowing my wife a giddy rummage through all their theatre props and 1920′s all the way to modern day dresses, outfits and all manner or memorabilia.

We bought some dresses. A lot of dresses.

As a result, my house now smells vaguely of theatrical mothballs.

Blockage

This week, I have mostly had the flu. Or, you know, flu-like symptoms. Either way, I was basically bedridden and unable to function as a human being.

It was pretty serious.

But withhold your endless cards and plethora of sympathy… rush not to Moonpig.com. I’m all better now.

All I’m trying to explain is, that this week I basically had little to occupy my mind other than the rather minimalist interweb experience afforded me by my mobile phone. Even as an owner of one of these so-called “smart phones”, I find the experience a largely circumcised one. Like the real internet, but without the useful bit. It was while using this mutilated – more leathery – internet, that I noticed the rather interesting trend (a real trend, not a twitter trend) involving the subject of writer’s block being discussed. This naturally had me – in my own mucus-filled, frankly delirious, state – ruminating on my own habitual behaviours.

I’ve always considered the term a bit of a cop out myself. And it seemed, via my own rudimentary straw poll of fellow writers, that this term was a particular bone of contention. I had always seen the term “writer’s block” as one utilised by the inexperienced or – dare I say it – armchair writer, in a vain attempt to validate their own lacking dedication or even ineptitude when it came to the craft.

In TV writer Steven Bochco’s brilliant novel “Death By Hollywood”, his lead character (himself an ailing screenwriter) reveals his own secret to identifying a solid idea. He reveals that upon conception he lets the premise sit – unattended – for a week. If then, by the end of said week he is still thinking about the idea, then it clearly has weight and he should explore it further. It is simplistic, yet ultimately I cannot help but identify. In a roundabout way I too employ this methodology. Usually, this is due to circumstance. My mind will spawn a number of ideas while I am knee deep in another project, with no time to allow it the attention is perhaps rightly deserves. By complete happenstance if this idea is still swimming around in the primordial urinal of my mind then it has absolutely passed the most important test and is thus beckoned proudly through the vestibule of my psyche.

But that’s the point isn’t it? I had a minor exchange with a fellow Twitter…er… recently who pronounced the whole idea of writer’s block as “bollocks”, suggesting that any writer has a multitude of projects on the go at any one time and that if/when he was “stuck” during one project he would simply divert his attention to another.

Or is it? I have found many writers whom I have worked with to be very focused individuals, who would charge at a project hard and intent, battering it into submission until any given blockade was cowering in a corner, begging for it’s life in return for the lives of all the intelligent and well thought out ideas it was holding prisoner.

I have heard it suggested that no other profession professes to such excuses. Yet, writing is a creative medium. Writers, artists, bastard graffiti taggers, they all utilise a unique part of the mind. Granted, you wont often hear the phrase “I simply cannot stack these shelves, for I am ill-inspired”. But isn’t that just a little snobbish? Everyone experiences frustrations in their work. Is writer’s block simply not a quite typical equivalent to an office worker’s grievance at the perpetual cycle of despondence which his role induces?

Ultimately, I don’t know, I’m simply attempting to play devil’s advocate in this debate as it seems otherwise rather one sided. I guess what I am trying to bring to the table personally, is the growth of opinion. Before my definitely life threatening encounter with the bastard flu, I largely saw the issue of writer’s block as many others I know did – something which amateurs and wannabes used as an excuse. “How do I get over writer’s block?? Fucking write dickhead!” But through this process, I suppose a bizarre sympathy has befallen me. I don’t claim to quite understand it, but I do claim to want to at least try and articulate it. Is writer’s block akin to any employee’s despondence to their (probably not) chosen profession? I have spent most of my working life, while striving for the holy grail, enveloped by the customer service world, so I speak from a platform of complete empathy. As someone who encompassed this world (and trust me, it is a world unto it’s own) whilst desperately gripping, clawing, grasping at a world beyond, I can sympathise. I can empathise. I can understand. When that world insists you say “Yes sir, I’m sorry sir” 50 times a day, that breeds despondence. And while for me that was a world I fought to escape, that doesn’t mean that the same principles do not apply to the frustrations of so-termed “writer’s block”.

For me, whenever I found myself at an impasse creatively, I would either focus my attention on one of my other projects, or step away completely for 48 hours. Chosing to to spend my time with my familym or my xbox (whichever was shinier), But that was my method.

Writer’s aren’t some amorphous blob, or hive mind. The pathology may be typical, but ultimately all of us are individuals, with our own methodologies.

Is writer’s block a real thing, or a matter of laze? Can creativity be stumped, without predjudice?

Personally, I don’t think so… but do you?

The demon drink

I like a drink.

 

There, I said it. Perhaps, the greatest opening salvo to any burgeoning blog.

 

Perhaps not.

 

One of the virtues of unemployment, is the gift of daytime television. And what a gift. A particular favourite – as I understand it – is the ‘Jeremy Kyle Show’. That, boys and girls, is a blog unto it’s own. In fact, I can feel myself stabbing the poor innocent keys of my keyboard ever harder with every key dedicated to it’s name. You see, to these virgin eyes not yet encumbered by such entertainment, every part “ironic LOL” breeds eleventy billion parts “GRRRAAARRGGHH!!!”

 

No, my afternoon digest of choice fell to pseudo-intellectual discussion panels. And it was on one particular afternoon – I couldn’t dare to guess which – where one such show discussed our government’s struggles to accurately categorise what denotes “Binge drinking”. For those souls lucky enough not to dwell within these hop-infested waters, let me explain. In the United Kingdom, “binge drinking” is an epidemic. With individuals often drinking until their very under garments, become simply “garments”. In public. I know.

 

They spoke of ladies in their middle ages (not “the” middle ages) drinking perhaps a bottle of wine a day, and how perhaps this doesn’t differ that much in actual fact from the roughian on the street necking 45 litres of 75p cider, bought by their not at all dodgy uncle. So what, they asked, actually, truly, fucking, constitutes “binge drinking”???

 

Many of my friends, both social networked and social real lifed, are t-total, by choice. Quite simply, they don’t drink. On purpose. Most of them, are freelance. Self employed. It’s an interesting pattern, one that I’ve often pondered whether I should make the conscious choice assimilate myself into. As writers, musicians, artists, many of them often bewitch me with the virtues of the alcohol free pursuit in their chosen professions. While the 9-5 embrace bores the weekend and it’s binge drinking trappings, as freelancers every day is their weekend, and therein lies the true trapping. If every day is a weekend then when does the work begin?

 

Back around 2002/3, I got my early break in web-based journalism with an online music review website. I got to pick which bands and which albums I featured, and I took the opportunity to concentrate on acts that probably wouldn’t otherwise receive bandwidth. Around this time I also began flexing my fiction wings with a group of similarly minded folk, creating what could be looked back upon as an early text based take on the You Tube generation’s user generated content. Weekly episodic television. Complete with characters, plots and themes. And it wasn’t half bad, not really. But throughout this entire time, in writing every review, during every single MSN Messenger meeting, while writing every online episode, I was drinking. A lot. Til the early hours of every morning.

 

For me, alcohol was creative fuel. Maybe it was because I was young, maybe it was because I was writing shite and no-one was really on the internet yet so it didn’t really matter, either way it seemed to allow me to write what I considered my best work at the time. I was amazing. Everyone thought so, and if they didn’t they were obviously dick heads.

 

But bizarrely, these days the opposite is true. Maybe I’m getting older, maybe I was never that great. But these days drinking on the job is like pouring a thick, black tar into my brain. Alcohol creates a static, like white noise. And in watching these shitty daytime programs I find myself wondering, is this why? Is this what my friends were talking about? As a writer, I create my own chances. No one’s telling me to clock off, sure, but if every day’s a weekend, even if I’m sat at the computer, have I really clocked on? Is this why so many of my self employed or freelance friends end up subscribing to the t-total lifestyle? Because absolute discipline must exist in order to override temptation to slip?

 

I often wonder if I come from a different mould, as a dweller of call centres and the 9-5 admin assistant, striving outside of office hours to reach my goal. Would I feel differently were I to be out the in the trenches, toiling day to day, meal to meal, writing job to job? I sit here from a position which I cannot identify as precipice or dungeon. Am I better off on the sidelines, paying the bills but flittering with the sunlight of my goals, or thrusting myself into the lion’s gaping labyrinth? Afteral, I have more than my own mouth to feed and a roof with which to keep above us. For now, the choice is obvious. Thrust upon me. I must make a living. So I do.

 

But that doesn’t stop me from wondering about the so call “demon drink”. So many incredible, creative minds fell to it, but does that mean we should all avoid it? To drink or not to drink? Are all writers either righteously sober or pathetically drunken? IS there a middle ground? CAN there be a middle ground? Is it possible to… as I said in my amazing opening salvo… like a drink, and still be successfully freelance?