The Dark Side of the Earth: October 27th, 2010

This weekend sees the London Screenwriters’ Festival hitting Regent’s Park. The event brings together hundreds of writers and filmmakers for three days of seminars, workshops, speed-pitching and talking the toot. A couple of weeks ago, I saw that Screen West Midlands were running a scheme under which they would cover the cost of a festival pass for a number of regional writers. Since the passes cost UKP299, this was not to be sniffed at. I applied, with no expectations, but found out this week that I was successful. So that should be fun – read all about it next week on this blog.
This morning Katie discovered that Col is not the only crew member who’s been busy making a game. If you go to Ian Tomlinson’s marvellous website and click the little spaceship in the bottom left corner, you can play his version of Space Invaders, and very smart it is too.

The Dark Side of the Earth: October 27th, 2010

The Dark Side of the Earth: October 20th, 2010

Last time I posted, I didn’t get around to mentioning Ghostbusters night, which was the Friday before last. The Courtyard claimed to have got hold of an original 1984 print to screen, though on the day they ended up showing it digitally for whatever reason. Although this was mildly disappointing, it could not detract from the joy of seeing this classic on the big screen again. In true Hereford-is-tiny style, the film was introduced by Mike Jackson, an old colleague from my Rural Media days. His link to Ghostbusters was his direction of a nineties behind-the-scenes documentary on the second movie and animated series for ITV and Columbia Pictures.
After the film, Ian and Col came back to our place, where Katie had made an angel food cake with “slime” icing and I’d bodged together a marshmallow man out of actual marshmallows. In fact, this is a good opportunity for a shameless advertisement of Katie’s new website, a must for any allergy-suffering cooks.
But we weren’t the only people who had been busy. Col seemed very keen that we all play a “special” board game. He proceeded to unveil a heavily customised Monopoly set: Soul Searcher Monopoly. Each square on the board had become a location from the shoot – everywhere from the romney huts (Dante’s lair) through James’s house (Heather’s house) to The Crystal Rooms, each with its own property card, perfectly mimicking the Monopoly card designs. The traditional top hat, motorcar and so on were usurped by the Mustang, Vic’s car, the Hades Express, the hire van and the generator. Dante’s Chest replaced Community Chest, and all the cards in this and the Chance pack were themed around the shoot. “The police are called while you are filming a swordfight at the multistorey. Lose UKP20.” / “Screen West Midlands turn down your funding application. Lose UKP10.” / “Go directly to Castle Cliff [jail]. Do not pass go. Do not collect your travel expenses.” So authentic was this painstaking creation of Col’s that the game even ended with me being heavily in debt.
Ah, memories. Misty, water-coloured memories. Today, of course, is Soul Searcher day – the seventh anniversary of the start of principal photography. Traditional celebrations include cursing malfunctioning cameras, worshipping leaf blowers and burning effigies of David Dukes.

The Dark Side of the Earth: October 20th, 2010

The Dark Side of the Earth: October 14th, 2010

Set up the tables in the street, fly the bunting, book the band and fire off the twelve gun salute, because the pilot is finished. Hurrah! Only millions of pounds to secure and 85 minutes more to shoot and the film will be finished.
Yesterday Carl, Quay, Katie, Aidan, Aidan’s Random Friend and I went to view the 35mm combined print at Deluxe. Deluxe are out in Denham, on the western edge of London, and part of our route there along the A40 was the same as that travelled every day by Ian, Col and I for five weeks during the set building and shooting of the pilot. (A friend of mine once remarked that you know you’re getting old when you start talking about roads. How right he was.)
We were greeted at the lab by Paul Dray, who mentioned in passing that amongst their current clients is a certain S. Spielberg, presently shooting War Horse. Since Deluxe’s client screening room had “blown up” that very morning (hopefully not while Spielbeard was in it), Paul led us instead to the less glamorous Technical Screening Room. This entailed a journey through the heart of the building, past rooms piled high with film cans, fascinating glimpses of technicians doing techniciany things and an entire corridor cloaked in darkness like something out of Harry Potter’s Department of Mysteries.
The print looked and sounded as spectacular as ever. Once again, much praise was lavished on Ian Tomlinson’s artwork, which occupies the first two minutes of screen time during the “story so far” voiceover. I no longer saw the various elements that comprise the pilot, and which for so long I have scrutinised individually – the grade, the mix, the edit, the FX, and so on; instead I experienced one glorious whole. (As Lister said to Rimmer, “You ARE one glorious hole.”)
After that it was off to lunch and discussions of the latest script. In the end I reinstated the time travel, having got half way through a time-travel-less draft and decided my heart just wasn’t it. I was pleased to hear that the new draft was met with Carl and Quay’s approval, as I’ve lost all concept of whether it’s any good or not. Needless to say though, there are still changes to be made.
And finally, who’s presenting tonight’s season premiere (if you’ll excuse the Americanism) of Have I Got New For You? None other than Maximillian Clarke himself, Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch. I predict a “news detective” round, complete with cheesy magnifying glass graphics.

The Dark Side of the Earth: October 14th, 2010

The Dark Side of the Earth: October 5th, 2010

“Hey you, get your damn hands off of her!”
Yes, Back to the Future was re-released in cinemas last week to celebrate the 25th anniversary. For some reason Universal decided not to publicise it in any way, which was good, since it meant there were relatively few arseholes chatting and getting up to use the toilet. Unsurprisingly for a digital presentation, the picture was unnervingly sharp, which didn’t do the ageing make-up any favours. That minor niggle aside, the film was as wonderful as ever and a joy to behold on a big screen. As Col suggested, perhaps all filmmaking should cease now and cinemas should just screen great old films instead. Indeed, my local arts centre is following the eighties nostalgia trend by showing another cinematic masterpiece this Friday night: Ghostbusters.
It seems nostalgia is the theme of this post. On Sunday I went to Malvern to help my old schoolfriend Chris Jenkins move his stuff into storage at his mum’s house so that he could go off gallivanting around the globe for sixth months. This house, and more so its garden, was a key location for the original The Dark Side of the Earth, and seeing it again brought back many memories of that shoot – which was now almost fifteeen years ago – half my life ago. Christ, I’m old. There may be something very special coming to this website for the fifteenth anniversary, so look out for that.
After moving Chris’s stuff, he and I and the mono-monikered Jeff went for a curry, then on to The Prince of Wales. For those of you who haven’t been following by journals since 2001 (and who can blame you?), The Prince is a magical place where dreams are made, scripts about Star Trek happening inside a Cow are written and lots and lots of Trivial Pursuit is played. Well, all that stuff used to happen back in the day, anyway. None of us had been there for years, but I’m happy to report that, although it’s undergone some cosmetic surgery, somehow a pool table has been squeezed into the tiny lounge, and there’s a sign about free wi-fi over the bar, the vibe is very much the same. People with guitars and bongos were jamming randomly. I didn’t see anyone feeding beer to a dog, but then I guess the dog is probably dead by now. Best of all, when we asked the barman if they still had Trivial Pursuit, he disappeared round the back for a few minutes, then came back bearing the very same set we used to play with, complete with the newspaper cutting about the game’s inventors that Matt Hodges put in the box about ten years ago. All is right with the world.
So, to come finally to the subject this blog is meant to be about – The Dark Side of the Earth. It looks like time travel has got to be removed from the script. It’s really hard to see it go, but it just makes things too damn complicated. I’ve got until the end of the week to write the new draft, a deadline imposed by my wife Katie. You see, I act like a small child when I’m writing – sulking, throwing things around, whingeing “I don’t want to” every five minutes – and she just can’t take it any more. And frankly, neither can I.

The Dark Side of the Earth: October 5th, 2010