A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls 1

A Monster Calls – Illustrated by Jim Kay

“The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Connor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster, though is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Connor. It wants the truth.” – A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness.

I’ve never been a big reader. Maybe it’s because I’m far too obsessed with stoytelling through either moving or still imagery. But every once in a while, I pick up a book that deeply affects me. So it came as a shock to me when I discovered that the collective work of one particular author was having a profound affect on me.

The Orphanage Poster

I first came across A Monster Calls whilst researching what J.A. Bayona was directing next. I’m a huge fan of The Orphanage. It’s a tragically beautiful and fantastical horror/drama film (something I should certainly fill another blog with). I became somewhat intrigued when reading the synopsis of Bayona’s upcoming new film, A Monster Calls, adapted from the book by acclaimed author, Patrick Ness,

Ness is categorised as a writer for the Young Adults genre (yes, that’s somehow a genre of it’s own). This would usually instantly put me off. The connotations of this genre scream Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner etc… All have their own merits… But are just not my taste.

Ness’ work is a genre in and of itself. He’s developed a voice far more unique, challenging and fascinating.

His books, to me, don’t sit in the Young Adults genre, but rather are about being a Young Adults, and most importantly, told from, their point of view.

And it’s here that Ness is truly succesful. In many ways, his work reminds me of Spike Jonze’s film adaptation of Maurice Sendaks, Where The Wild Things Are. David Eggars and Jonze fleshed out a story from an extremely short concept and made it speak from a child’s point of view. This is something that we as adults often presume to understand, but in truth have totally disconnected ourselves from. Being able to tap into that voice and mindset is vital to being able to understand and nurture our children. Because, let’s face it – We really can’t remember what it’s like to be a child.

A Monster Calls follows young Connor as he comes to terms with his Mother battling terminal cancer. Each night Connor is visited by a Monster, in the form of a tree. The Monster then tells him three stories each night, under the understanding that afterwards, Connor will tell him a truth.

This is already tough, real-life territory. But Ness handles it with respect and love. And here’s why:

The story itself is based on a concept by Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from terminal cancer prevented her from physically writing the book. She then trusted Ness to continue her work after her passing.

Wow.

That in and of itself is quite the story. I finished reading A Monster Calls whilst travelling on a National Express coach to London. I had the joy of embarrassing myself by flooding my face with tears. I’m talking full on floods of tears here… Full on.

The Orphanage is extremely akin to A Monster Calls in tone. Bayona delivered such a fantastic horror story, that was anchored beautifully by an emotional story about family. This seems to be a recurring theme with his work, The Impossible also explores the emotional connectivity of a family (this is also worth checking out, a powerful film based on a true story during the horrific tsunami of 2004). So it stands to reason here that Bayona will deliver a worthy adaptation of Ness’ book.

It also interests me to discover that Ness also wrote the screenplay – I would absolutely love to read this one day, purely with interest of studying how Ness has adapted his own work.

Chaos Walking Trilogy Covers

I’m also delving into Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy too. These too have a similar voice and are equally as hard-hitting as A Monster Calls. Again, more stories that have moved me to tears. In fact, Ness’ entire back catalogue is full of praise. It’s not often I feel excited to follow the work of one author. I will be keenly following his work and digging deeper into his previous collection.

Also, and equally importantly – You must check out the stunning illustration work of Jim Kay. His illustrated version of A Monster Calls is hauntingly sublime. I do hope they use Jim’s work as a basis for the design in the film adaptation.

 

About Patrick Ness (from Wikipidia)

Patrick Ness is an American-born British author, journalist and lecturer who lives in London and holds dual citizenship. He is best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls.

Ness won the annual Carnegie Medal from the British Librarians both in 2011 and in 2012, for Monsters of Men and A Monter calls, recognising each as the best new book for children or young adults published in the U.K. He is one of seven writers to win two Medals (no one has won three) and the second to win consecutively.

You Can’t Get Rid Of The Babadook

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I’ve not written a post for a while, for a good reason – I’ve spent a good amount of time writing the feature film script that I’ve been banging on about for what seems to be like an eternity. After having some downtime this last week (whilst busy with other work), I started to get withdrawal symptoms and I worried that I would lose momentum with the creative flow. But something popped up to inspire me back into the frame of mind… Just at the right time.

My script, Farises is a horror grounded in a firm sense of reality. No jump scares, no gore shocks… Just straight up drama that will make you feel uneasy, with a horrific turn of events and an almost hallucinogenic ending. (This won’t make much sense to you at the moment, but it does to me… Maybe it will be on the big screen in a few years down the line, who knows?)

I feel like I can count on one hand how many horror films have remained with me from over the last two decades. The traits of the genre consist mainly of constant jumps (with no build up of tension), excessive use of shock gore (the whole “Gorno” genre is ludicrous to me) and most importantly – A lack of character development and relatable drama. I simply don’t care about any of the characters, or what happens to them.

So when a good horror film comes along, it’s good to celebrate the filmmakers achievement!

And that horror film is The Babadook, an independent low-budget Australian film from Jennifer Kent… And her debut at that.

A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.

The Babadook is a cerebral, abstract piece that creates a connection between the audience and the characters. The story is incredibly isolated and restrained to the house for almost the entire film. What’s great about it is that it relies on you as the audience to determine the meaning fo the story.

For me, The Babadook is about guilt becoming a plague. And Jennifer Kent really understands how to manifest guilt as horror or as a monster. And you may not think it to start with, but this film has many monsters.

The performances are outstanding, especially as one of the lead characters is a child. The production design, cinematography and sound design are all top-notch for such a low-budget film. I won’t say any more about it for now, just walk into the cinema with an open mind and be prepared to think for a change.

The Babadook shares a few themes of my feature script – I’ve been worried for a while that audiences maybe won’t get my idea, that they won’t connect with it. And if that were to be the case, then I need to head back to drawing-board and re-think. But The Babadook has shown me that maybe I’m in with a chance… Just maybe…

Storyboarding Your Film Using an iPad

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Just a brief post here…

It’s already been around for a while, but in case you’ve not come across it, there’s a fantastic App called Storyboards.

Whilst I’m writing my feature film, I’m putting the finishing touches to the first draft of my short film All Be Seated. I have quite a clear vision of how I may want the film to look in my mind, but I’ve always been awful at drawing storyboards… And I find that they are so vital when shooting a short film with a tight budget and schedule. Storyboards is wonderful App that allows you to use photographic backgrounds and add characters, props, camera moves… etc…

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Today I began looking at how useful a tool it could be for me. It’s very easy to use, and one of the best features is that you can export your storyboards out as a PDF file after to share with your crew. So, I’ve done a few test shots on it for All Be Seated, and have also started using it for a music video shoot I have coming up at the end of the month.

Great App, I would highly recommend!

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Writing Your First Feature Film

Farises

For years I’ve been mumbling about writing and directing a feature film. And for years I’ve produced very little results in the form of a typed script. However, one thing I’m not short of is ideas. I’ve lost count of the amount of notebooks that I’ve filled with story ideas, character ideas, and dialogue ideas… Etc…

About four years ago, I began a part-time MA in Screenwriting. Reality kicked me as I accepted the fact that I couldn’t afford the tuition fees. So after only a couple of months of studying, I’d left the course and begun on the winding road of becoming a Freelance Filmmaker. As most freelancers know, being self-employed means that your work becomes your whole life. Before I knew it, I was knee deep in shooting corporate films, editing and even delivering filmmaking workshops. Through this experience I gained a wealth of knowledge and the ability to consider my practice more than I had before. But it also left me with no time to write. And even when I did find the time, it would be for maybe one evening out of a month.  I simply had no time to immerse myself within the world of my stories and bring them to life.

So now, rather than having to work lots and lots small, badly paid jobs, I’m finding that I’ve established myself enough to be doing fewer jobs, but at a much better and more realistic price. This leaves me with time to write. For which I am very grateful.

Back to the feature film ideas…

I have three solid ideas at the moment, based within the following genres:

  • Psychological Horror
  • Fantastical Drama
  • Fantasy / Comedy / Action (Book Adaptation)

The most progress made was actually working on the book adaptation. Although I couldn’t afford to option the rights, I contacted the author and his publishing company to ask if they would mind me writing a draft of the script and to then seek a producer, whom would then look at acquiring the option rights. I wrote around 50 pages of the script, sending it to the author occasionally for feedback. This was working wonderfully, until I ran out of time to continue writing. So I’ll be looking to restart with this project this year.

The main project I’m looking at currently is the Psychological Horror. This is actually a feature adaptation of a short film I made sometime ago. I’ve been developing the basic outline of the story now for around eight months. And I’m surprised by how solid the results are. This is a slow burning horror that starts out as a thriller and simmers away until it inevitably boils into a hallucinogenic horror for the final act.

My current task is making sense of my notes and structuring the story into a concrete form before I commit anything to script. And to do so, I received one useful tool from my short time doing the MA in Screenwriting.

Below is a story breakdown for the incredible ‘Some Like it Hot’:

Some Like It Hot (Breakdown)

The format really speaks for itself, but note that there particular boxes with their own headings, i.e.: Set Up, Focus Point 1, 1st Turning Point, Point of No Return… Etc… These headings were described to me as ‘Story Beats’ that one needs to hit in order to create an engaging and dynamic story structure. I guess this is much like composing a song and working withing the parameters of a scale.

So far, this document has been instrumental in helping me craft the structure to my feature. Whilst it allows you to take a general overview at how your story is structured, it also offers a way to spot those glaring plot holes that need to be filled in.

The next step for me is to write an outline, of which is an expansion of this document.

So, I’d better get to it…

I hope you find this tool useful for your own feature film scripts!

Best Wishes,

Dave

Looking Ahead

It’s been years since I’ve posted here. Quite litterally. And I’m not even going to fill in the blank space for you, because neither of us has the time and who wants to dwell on the past anyway? (See my profile if you wish to get the gist of what I’ve been upto).

There’s an important reason why I’ve started to blog about my filmmaking again. To put it simply, I miss writing about my practice and feel that it is a great way to share my experiences with others, and a way for me to reflect on the failures and success of my work.

My brother, Leigh and I have started our own production company, Wind-Up World Films Ltd. We’re offering Promotional Films, Music Videos and Narrative Films. Things are ticking over well, we’ve still got a long way to go before we can label the business as a success, but the important thing is that we’re making films and not sat around twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the next job to come along.

In the meantime, I’ve not directed a short film since Men Can’t Make Beds… Which was completed over two years ago. To say I’m anxious to do another one would be an understatement.

The majority of my work has been as a professional film editor, and as much as I enjoy it, I feel like I’m diverting my energy away from my core passion of writing and directing. Back when I was busy shooting short films, I felt a surge of positive confidence growing within me, making me a stronger person. Being sat in an edit suite for the last few years has now diluted that confidence, and I want it back.

So, with that in mind – I’m in the middle of writing my next short film project,                       which is titled All Be Seated.

See below for a synopsis:

This is a story about a bench. But not just any old bench. A bench that has the magical power to heal lives.
But now the fate of our bench is threatened with relocation, as housing contractors move into the surrounding field to develop an ugly new estate.

Who will fight for the future of just one lonely old bench? And what makes this bench so unique?

Yes, that’s right, I’ve written a story that has a bench as its main character.

So now, I’ll be blogging about my experience of bringing this odd film to life, sharing with you all my failures and successes… Anything that you might find interesting about the process and path we take.

Here’s to the futre…

Until next time,

With Best Wishes,

Dave

 

Summer Timelapse

Summer is fading...

Hi Folks,

Just a brief blog here to share a very short experimental video with you all.

Well, it’s autumn now, summer has faded and I needed something to remind me that, somewhere, there was a summer…

Over this last summer, I spent some time gathering some warm-summer-feeling shots as well as practiced some timelapse skills.

Creating timelapses is very new to me, so this was all just a practice. Honestly, the video has no meaning at all. It’s just me having a bit of fun with my new camera.

The more I use the Canon 60D (especially with my Sigma 30mm lens), the more I fall in love with it. Most certainly the BEST purchase I have ever made. It literally gets used all of the time.

Here’s the video, I hope it makes you all feel warm.

Enjoy the autumnal sunsets folks, they’re beautiful around this time of year.

With Best Wishes,

Dave

First Edit Complete

Director & Producer make their way on to Mumbles Beach on day 1... (Photograph by Rob Campbell)

It’s taken a while to get here, but the first edit for Men Can’t Make Beds has now been completed. Leigh (producer) and I have slowly pieced together the story into a format that feels very comfortable to move forward with.

So, what kind of snags are we hitting along the way? Everything (to some degree) but this is certainly no different experience to any other of our film productions. Most of our crew have been trained in Hereford, which as you can appreciate is not a great place for filmmaking resources. What we do have on our sides is that we’re passionate about making films. So the snags aren’t snags… They’re challenges met with happy faces!

It’s been really lovely to see the edit come together. We had edited it scene by scene to start with and finally stitched it together the other night. Tonight has been more about really making sure the transitions between the scenes work.

Men Can't Make Beds

I even just paused writing this blog so that I could re-watch the edit again. Yeah, it really feels like it’s working. There are a few things to sort out… potential minimal VFX work. We’ll get on to that this week, or at least start asking the right questions to the right people. We’ve also begun work on some of the design and art work for the marketing. The next poster to be released looks ace, I’m really pleased with it. That won’t be released for a short while though, stay tuned for this.

I’m not sure how we are for our October release. I would really love to get this film out there at the end of October… but we’ll have to see. It feels like things will start to move much faster now we have this initial edit to work from. Half of the problem is always piecing the puzzle together. Filmmaking is certainly puzzle solving!

Also, to add to the mix, the smashing Mr Christopher Blake has delivered some test music for the film… I’m happy to report that it’s awesome and exactly what we’re looking for. Can’t wait to see this come together even more.

Until next time folks, stay well.

Editing "Men Can't Make Beds" - That's my happy face...

With Best Wishes,

Dave