Category: Film (Page 2 of 8)

I Am Now Max Clifford

One of the problems facing writers is their anonymity; the old joke in Hollywood used to be that an airhead actress was so keen to further her career that she slept with the screenwriter.

And in a way, it remains that way to this day; for every Jo Rowling or Stephen King that you might recognise, there are a hundred writers who you wouldn’t recognise if you tripped over them in the street (where, I guess, they’d be lying due to the writerly tendency to seek solace in the bottle, but that’s a subject for another time).

And of course there are the Salingers of this world who actively avoid publicity and camera lenses – fine for writers, but not the sort of thing you can really do if you want to be an actor or member of a band (The Residents and The Art Of Noise have dedicated, but let’s face it limited, fanbases).

It’s an inevitable consequence of being the one who puts the words into the heads or mouths of other people, of course, but in an increasingly personality-driven age, where celebrity (of no matter how nanoscopic a level) is the great leg-up to success, what can a writer do to increase their chances? What, what, what?

I’m glad you asked that question. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and in fact I spent the whole of last night looking through my collection of Grazia and love it magazines, and I think I’ve figured out two of the best ways to get famous quick. They seem to work across a whole bunch of forms of entertainment, so I don’t see any good reason why they shouldn’t help writers (then again, I am an idiot).

Anyway.

1) Have a tragic story to tell

Maybe it’s schadenfreude, or maybe it’s schwarzwalder kirschtorte, but people love to hear tales of terrible tragedy. If your parents kept you in a sack in a box in the cellar even though they lived in a bungalow, then you shouldn’t shy away from writing or talking about it.

In all honesty, even if you didn’t have a tough childhood, you shouldn’t be afraid to make it up like James Frey did. Once you’ve sold millions of books, you might have to apologise, but by then you’ve banked the money, and apologising on the Oprah show is all the more bearable when you can go home to your gold-plated mansion in the Caribbean.

Be careful not to go too far, though; whilst we all know that the audience for tragic memoirs is always keen to hear more tales of childhood neglect and abuse, know the limits: claiming to have beaten to death by a cruel step-parent might make your offering of a manuscript hard to swallow, as might getting too far into the world of make-believe; only the most gullible of publishers would stick ‘Non-Fiction’ on the back of the cover of your memoir of how you suffered in Narnia under the Snow Queen, or how your home in Helm’s Deep was affected by a nearby battle.

2) Claim there was chemistry between you

This is an old showbiz trick, often used in films – if the film isn’t getting very good reviews, a few well-placed leaks about some on-set shenanigans between the leads can help increase press coverage. Obviously, this is rather dependent on the film – Two Weeks [sic] Notice and, more recently, The Bounty Hunter saved a lot of money they’d have had to spend on marketing by pretending the leads had “more than just on-screen chemistry, know what I mean, nudge nudge”, but it’s less believable when stated of the cast of Monsters Inc, and so blindingly obvious as to not even be worthy of claiming about the cast of Suburban Shagfest 3 – Spank You Very Much.

However, to do this you’ll need to have someone to claim to have chemistry with. This is fine if you’re married co-writers like Nicci French, very wrong if you write with a family member like PJ Tracy, but as most writers work alone, to avoid accusations of being in love with yourself (an allegation often levelled at more solipsistic writers, who tend to be at the literary end of the scale, or bloggers), it’s best to find someone else in the process to pretend to have been having an affair with.

For many writers, this will have to be an agent or editor, though this of course means you have to have been accepted (and not in that way) by them prior to this stage; it’s not likely to help your submission very much if the query letter has a PS saying “if you take me on I will do things which are illegal in several EU countries” unless you’re very confident both of your manuscript and of your own attractiveness, regardless of whoever opens the submission. And you’d probably need to send a picture to prove your point. A nice one, tastefully lit. With the top button undone, just to make sure. Yeah, you look good like that. Oh yeah baby, you know what I like. Uh-huh.

Um, seem to have strayed from the point a bit there, but if you’re going to go down the chemistry route (either real or faked), it’s probably best if you, or the person you’re working with, is a known quantity to the world at large. In most writing instances, that’s not likely, and even if it is the case, it may not work – Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller, but if she saw it as a way to get a foot in the door of writing plays, it doesn’t seem to have worked.

Anyway, those are my two theories, and if you give either of them a go, do let me know how you get on. You might think I’ve made a mistake by telling you how to do it, but I’ve already started to use these approaches as a leg-up into being published, and am hanging round literary agents’ offices with my shirt unbuttoned down to the waist. And if that doesn’t work, I plan to write a misery memoir about my traumatic years spent trying to make it as a writer.

All the bases covered there, I like to think.

Learn From My (Almost) Mistakes

So, on Tuesday night, the external hard-drive thingy attached to my computer died. It’s a cute little thing, about the size of a passport and about 300Gb, and thus the ideal place for me to store all my music and video files and the like (not to mention my writing).

But the computer suddenly stopped acknowledging the drive even existed, and so iTunes and other programmes were looking for information that wasn’t there. Yeek.

The fortunate timing for me was that this drive-death had happened within hours of me backing everything up onto another, bigger drive, so after buying another portable drive I was able to get things pretty much back to where they’d been. Okay, time and a bit of money wasted, but a small price to pay in comparison with losing all my tunes and videos. As the Young Ones put it, “Phew! That was close!”

Anyway, I’m telling you this not just because I treat this blog like some kind of online confessional/notebook, but also because the moral of my tale is one which has been said many times before, by better folks than I, time and time again: back up your stuff.

They often say you never know when a drive’s going to die, but the chances are that it’ll be when it’s least convenient for you (not in my case, but I’ve always been a freak), so save your stories, assignments or whatnot in a good location, and then save them again somewhere else.

If you’ve got a Mac, there’s the Time Machine software; if you’re signed up to Windows Live, you can use their ‘Skydrive’ facility to stash stuff online, or there are other services such as Dropbox which offer free online storage and access (and if you use that link, we both get an extra 250Mb free space), or you could just use plug-in external HDs or memory sticks or whatever you prefer.

But I strongly urge you to back stuff up, and get a routine going to do so, so that you can avoid the possibility that, as mine did the other night, your stomach suddenly goes cold as you realise that you may have lost all your funky music and draft writing…

I Think I’ll Get Some Pick N Mix Too

Obviously, it’s subliminal advertising – you know they make more money from selling snacks than from sales of cinema tickets?

I Am, Quite Literally, A Dancin Fool

… oh, hang on, I can’t find a film called Cardboard Box.
Ah well. Better kick off my dancin shoes.
As you were, everyone.

Strangely Attractive, I Think You’ll Agree

Do you agree?

Yes, I know, this sort of link-passing is what Twitter is for, but I don’t have a Twitter account, so here it be.

“Lee-ah” like Leela or “Lei-a” Like Layer? We Were Never Sure At School

For me and many other males of a certain age and inclination, the reaction to Princess Leia in the Star Wars films was one which changed as the years went on and morefilms came out.

When the first film came out, and I was 7 or so, she was just, well, there, being captured and rescued and arguing with the male characters and then dishing out medals at the end. I think I may have had the Leia action figure which came out, but it wasn’t my favourite or anything.

Then The Empire Strikes Back came out, and I seem to remember Leia having more to do – she was in charge on the ice planet, and more like one of the troops. Still, as a boy of about ten, I saw that she was a girl, and of course that meant she probably smelled like flowers and liked ponies or something. I don’t know, all right? I was young and foolish then (as opposed to older and … well, yes).

But a few years later, in Return Of The Jedi there was a frankly gratuitous scene with Leia in a metal bikini (much referred to amongst boys of a certain age, and the focus of an episode of Friends), which coincided with certain age-wrought changes in me to the extent that… well, yes, I found the scene oddly compelling. That’s how shallow and facile I was then (and probably am now, some might say).

As I say, the scene with Leia in a metal bikini in the 1983 film was pretty unnecessary really, and I don’t think it would be stretching it to say it was sexist. Fortunately, in 1995 a remodelled version of the Princess Leia action figure was released, and I think it’s fair to say that it went some way to addressing the unnecessary sexualisation of the character:


… well, maybe you find that alluring. It doesn’t do it for me, and I’m not alone in that, as apparently collectors call this the ‘Monkey Face Leia’ figure. I can see why, though it looks both simian and constipated.

Still, Carrie Fisher has demonstrated a sharp sense of humour about all this, I feel – in 2008 she said “Among George’s many possessions, he owns my likeness, so that every time I look in the mirror I have to send him a couple of bucks. That’s partly why he’s so rich.”

No, Of Course I Haven’t Seen It. I Like To Comment From A Position Of Ignorance.

You’ve probably seen the adverts for the film Valentine’s Day. Two thoughts:

1. Can we agree that this looks rather like Love Actually, with a shift of location and time of year?

2. Given that the film was released on Friday 12 February in the UK, I hope the studio behind the film aren’t going to be shocked if last weekend’s box office doesn’t equal that of the opening weekend…

And yes, the posters for it do resemble those of He’s Just Not That Into You, but you’d spotted that already, right?

This Offer Only Good Until Midnight (I Think)

Available for the first time on DVD since it was first shown on BBC TV in 2006, Stephen Fry’s two-part documentary series The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive is released tomorrow…

… but if you click here and buy it today, you can get it for 45% off the release price of £15.99.

If you haven’t seen it – and statistically, I’d imagine that’s fairly likely – it’s a very solid documentary, with Fry and people such as Robbie Williams, Tony Slattery, Carrie Fisher and Richard Dreyfus talking about how their life’s been affected by bipolar disoder.

Very much recommended, and a portion of the profits go to a mental health charity, so I politely suggest you click the above link. Trust me, it’s worth every penny.

The Never-Ending Story

Unlike many, many people, I haven’t yet watched the Doctor Who episodes The End Of Time, though I’ve got them through iPlayer, and they’re sitting on my computer awaiting my eyeballs.

In a similar fashion, I haven’t read the final volume in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, though I really like the books, and the finale is on my ‘to read’ bookshelf.

I don’t watch Heroes any more, though I cheerfully followed the first series all the way until the penultimate episode, and only missed the finale because I mis-set the recorder; granted, most people I know are suggesting that I didn’t miss much (either in that finale or what has followed), but I was oddly content with leaving it where it was.

I’ve written before about how mysteries and questions can be as satisfying as resolutions and answers, and it’s certainly a feeling that seems to be increasing in my thinking; which is odd, given that one thing that I find deeply satisfying if it’s present (and frankly irritating if it’s not) is a story in which it’s clear that the creator knows where they’re going and what they’re doing.

And yet, like a reunion of a much-missed band or sequel to a much-loved tale, the anticipation can overwhelm the reality, and your excited imaginings can far outstrip what’s actually delivered.

In part, this is an inevitable result of items being exaggerated in their importance; there’s a story which I love (especially if it’s true) that when a group of journalists were attending the official release of the ‘reunited Beatles’ song Free As A Bird, they were asked to turn away as the boxes of the single were carried onstage. One of them, apparently (and rightly) said ‘oh, for god’s sake, it’s only a record!’, and refused to turn away, at which point all the others did the same. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Beatles are far and away the most important band … well, probably ever, but a new song from them is, when all’s said and done, a song, and it’s unlikely that its four minutes or so of music and lyrics is going to actually, literally, knock the world off its axis or otherwise change absolutely everything forever and ever and ever.

I think there’s a similar hyperbole applied to many things, be they books or films or albums or comics or whatever, much of which seems to be intended to get people all giddy and excited and convinced that this thing really, really matters just long enough that they slap down money for it, and after that, well, so long and thanks for all the dosh. In a way, it’s pretty much evident from, say, the promotion for films – there are trailers and posters and interviews on chat shows and press releases dressed up as news reports (I’m looking at you, free newspapers), but within a day or two of the film’s opening, it’s almost as if the massed media has forgotten about what it was so recently talking about, and is trying to pretend its fleeting obsession never happened.

Seemingly the most obvious version of this, though it doesn’t quite follow the theory, is the way that winners of The X-Factor tend to vanish without trace for the best part of a year until they bob back up to the surface of public consciousness in late autumn, to ride the wave of pubic interest generated by the new series of the show. There’s a very real danger in this instance that the public – who are, after all, encouraged to pretend that this really matters as the series goes on, and to forget about people whose standing in the show they were terrifically excited about the previous week – will forget all about these newly-born ‘stars’ in the intervening months, though I guess it takes a few months of being strapped into Simon Cowell’s Strip-Away-Any-Vestige-Of-Personality-And-Ensure-We-Can-Flog-Them-To-The-US-O-Tron before they can be presented safely to the public. But I digress.

I guess one has to be realistic about the level of expectation involved – and when I say ‘one’, I mean you. And me. The final Harry Potter book or a newly-discovered full version of The Magnificent Ambersons or [insert your Holy Grail here] may be a terrifically exciting prospect, but as so many people felt about the Star Wars prequels or Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, the finished article may not live up to your expectations (which may themselves have been stoked by blanket coverage and exaggeration of the item’s properties and importance). Don’t get me wrong, I still retain a frankly child-like ability to get excitable about things which – in the long run, and often in other people’s estimation – aren’t really that important, but I’m trying to keep a sense of perspective, and realise that a comic which finally and definitively settles the fanboy question of whether Captain America could beat Batman in a fight* is, five years down the line, less likely to be quite so important to me, and may well in fact be a bit of a disappointment.

And of course, holding off on the climax has its own rewards (oh, stop that, you filth; you know what I mean): as far as I’m concerned, the story’s still taking place – David Tennant is still The Doctor (though I’m optimistic about the Moffat/Smith era), and Roland Deschain is still en route to the Tower, and neither story’s end has come as a disappointment.

Unlike – very probably for many of you – this lengthy and rambling post, whose end probably comes as a blessed relief.

*Of course he couldn’t – Batman would win hands-down.

As I Say, Trying To Make The Posts More Interesting, Even If There Are Fewer Of Them…

… which is why I had to share this.

Thanks to m’chum Dan.

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