Screenwriting on the edge. #OnEdge20

OnEdge20

#OnEdge20 is a series of posts commemorating 20 years since I rolled cameras on my first short film.

DAY 2

The most important element in filmmaking is a screenplay.

Okay, so there are exceptions to this rule. Some film and TV productions are improvised, though these often use a rough story outline and rehearsals to find the beats and dialogue. Even though there may be no formal script, the template is there. Camera rehearsals help to refine and block the action before a take. It’s the same process as writing and rewriting a script before it arrives on set for interpretation by the actors and crew. Even those productions that have pre-vis animatics, or simply storyboards in place of scripted words on a page are using a script of arts — the screenplay is visual storytelling, so it’s all the same thing.

In yesterday’s blog post, I recounted how I came to adapt Christopher Fowler’s story into a short film in the first place. I alluded to flashback scenes that were scripted, but not included in the final film. The reasons for this change were twofold:

1. The flashbacks weren’t at all vital in revealing the story of Thurlow’s encounter with Matthews. A general rule of thumb is that if the scene plays, it stays. Another way to express that is — if you read through the script with those scenes omitted, and the story still works (or works even better) without them, then they can go.

2. By cutting them, we would save thousands of pounds that we would otherwise have needed to spend on casting a ‘young Doctor Matthews’, a host of schoolchildren, a teacher, and an exam hall — and then lighting and filming in that location for at least pone shooting day, if not two.

So, cut them I did.

I had already decided to keep my deviation from the original short story, in the form of the fetish nightclub sequence that bookended the film, as I felt this would be the most cinematic way to open the film (rather like shouting, “Hey everyone! You’re watching an actual proper movie with real production values here!”). And it did work. I remember when On Edge was selected to screen with Columbia TriStar’s I Still Know What You Did Last Summer in London cinemas. We snuck in one evening with our guests — actor Charley Boorman and his lovely wife, as they shouldn’t attend the cast & crew screwing at the Prince Charles cinema as Charley was off riding motorbikes with his pal Ewan MacGregor — and to our delight a couple of patrons genuinely thought they had sat down in the wrong screening room. Testament to the fact that On Edge looked and sounded like a bona fide MOVIE-FILM, not the low-budget indie short that it actually was.

I recall being very delighted about that.

Anyway, back to the script! Trawling through the archives for #OnEdge20, i chanced upon an earlier draft of the script (the version I sent to Christopher Fowler on a wing and a prayer) that included some of the scenes which I later dropped. You can read a scan of that 4th draft version — for the first time in, well, the history of ever — below. I must have annotated the script after doing my first location recce at the dental studio we used for filming (more about that location in tomorrow’s blog post) — as you can see on the first page I have corrected ‘reception window’ to ‘reception desk’ in keeping with what was available at the actual showing location. The script is never finished, even if only little details, there are always many changes right up to and including when you are shooting the film.

Talking of the shoot, I have also somehow managed (in the course of a gazillion house moves and life changing events) to have held onto the actual copy of the shooting script that I used on set during filming. You can see (in the scanned Shooting Script copy below) how each scene has been gleefully crossed out in lurid red pen. Each page we shot became a feather in my cap (as well as removing about a decade from my overall life expectancy in stress, worry and fingernail-down-to-the-quick tension — again, more about that in tomorrow’s blog post!). 

Be sure to check out the little diagram on page 5 of this shooting version of the script — this is basically Director of Photography Alan Stewart SAVING MY LIFE AND SAVING THE FILM. I have to post that ALL IN CAPS because it’s the TRUTH. Time is the enemy on a film shoot, and the universe always seem to conspire against you to ensure that you do not have enough of it. That little diagram shows how a brilliant DOP can simplify things for you, getting all the coverage (put simply – coverage is footage from angles that will cut together and give editing options later in the editing room so you don’t need to go back and reshoot costly pick-ups) so you can focus on directing and getting the performances you need. The doodles on that page show how the camera set-ups work for maximum coverage with minimum lighting moves — essential time-saving tactics that can mean the difference between getting everything in the can, or not. Alan is one of the best in the business, and it’s no surprise he has gone on to shoot big movies for the likes of Disney.

Also of note in the Shooting Draft are the scenes marked as ‘Deleted’. It’s pretty obvious to see which these are, and it is a revealing process to compare the Draft 4 script with the Shooting Script.

I hope this never-before-shared material is of some interest, and who knows, it might even be helpful / inspiring to anyone out there who is embarking on shooting their first short film.

IMG_7999

click to read On Edge draft 4

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 19.18.05

click to read the On Edge shooting script

Tune into the blog tomorrow for more #OnEdge20

Watch On Edge
on Amazon VOD
and DVD

Check out the On Edge
screening history & list of awards
here

Advertisements

Proof that one letter can change your life. #OnEdge20

OnEdge20

#OnEdge20 is a series of posts commemorating 20 years since I rolled cameras on my first short film.

DAY 1

Today is exactly 20 years since I rolled cameras on my first short film as writer/director, On Edge.

I don’t like looking back so much, I’d much rather keep my focus on what’s ahead. But 20 years does feel like a pretty significant anniversary, so…

To commemorate each day of the film shoot I will be posting about the making of the film, starting today (24th July) and concluding on the day we wrapped (28th July). I have trawled through the archives to find artefacts that have never been shared online before — until now.

And the first of these is a letter.

A single sheet of headed A4 paper, bearing the logo of Soho’s The Creative Partnership, and the signature of author Christopher Fowler.

It’s a letter that changed my life.

Twenty one years ago, I was studying for a Masters in screenwriting under the tutorship of guru Philip Parker. One of our assignments was to adapt an existing story into a short film script. Around that time, I had become aware of an emerging master of the short horror story, British author Christopher Fowler. I had already devoured a couple of his early novels, including the brilliant Roofworld, and was hungry for more, so I invested (very wisely) in a copy of his collection Sharper Knives, which included a blackly-comic, dental horror story called On Edge. I sat bolt upright in bed and told myself that this story had to be made into a film.

With my homework assignment as further impetus (I always work best to a strict deadline, to this day) I set about adapting the story. The assignment brief meant that the script had to be around 30 pages long. The story was at most going to come in at around fifteen minutes, so I created a subplot in which the impatient patient, Peter Thurlow, was set up for a painful fall by his estranged wife. I also opted to include a bit more detail about Doctor Matthews’ background. Visualising his ‘difficult’ schooldays via flashbacks, i intercut these with the main action culminating in some horrific business with a sharp pencil in an exam hall. (The gory escalation was intended to mirror the horror occurring in the dentist’s chair.)

The homework assignment was a success, but I knew that the film would be incredibly expensive to make at 30 minutes long. As a rule of thumb, at that time it would cost around £1,000 to produce each minute of finished film. To explain this further, I was determined that we were to shoot and deliver on 35mm Cinemascope, to present as cinematic experience as possible — an approach very much shared and supported by my producing partner Joseph Alberti at Robber Baron Productions. On Edge was to be our calling card, and we were confident if we got it right, we might get a feature film project off the ground.  So, in order to make the film realisable on a budget, I immediately dropped the spousal revenge subplot, cutting the script back to around 18 pages. (Still too long, but further edits were to come, as they always do.)

In a fit of youthful exuberance / pure madness, i decided to send a copy of the script to the author of the short story, Mr Christopher Fowler himself, begging him for the rights to make the film. He replied, and you can see that reply below. I have never shown anyone outside of the production this letter (and I wrote to Christopher last week to ask his permission one more time —  20 years after first doing so — but this time via email, and this time requesting permission to publish his letter on my blog, which I’m happy to say he granted. Thanks again Mr Fowler!).

I remember tucking the letter inside my copy of the shooting script, as a memento of the journey to getting the film made, sure, but also as a reminder to my future self — the future self who is writing this blog entry today — that all it takes sometimes is one person to see some potential in what you are doing, to give you a break, and ultimately to change your life.

Making On Edge changed my life in so many ways. It taught me a lot about directing, screenwriting, and of course the process of adaptation. I have since worked on many screenplays and films as a writer/director and a story consultant, and have published short stories and novels of my own.

Proof that one letter can change your life.

IMG_7997

Tune into the blog tomorrow for more #OnEdge20

Watch On Edge
on Amazon VOD
and DVD

Check out the On Edge
screening history & list of awards
here


Guest author Catherine Cavendish: ‘If You Go Down to the (Screaming) Woods Today…’

pic 1

…You had better be prepared to experience more than you bargained for. Especially if the woods in question are in the vicinity of the Kent village of Pluckley. Properly known as Dering Woods, this forest is more commonly known as the Screaming Woods – and for very good reason.

The area itself is situated just south of England’s (arguably) most haunted village – Pluckley – where it seems almost every building and piece of land has its own ghost story to tell. Pinnock Bridge has its Gypsy or Watercress Woman who is supposed to have set herself on fire from a combination of the pipe she was smoking and the gin she was drinking at the same time. She wafts around as a misty figure.

The Elvey Farm has a haunted dairy where an 18thcentury farmer – Edward Brett – fatally shot himself. He is still heard, muttering ‘I will do it.’

pic 2

A black silhouette of a miller haunts the site of an old windmill, while a red lady walks her small white dog around the churchyard and a white lady wanders around inside the same church. The locals at the time of her death must have really feared her. She was buried inside not one, but sevencoffins AND an oak sarcophagus. She’s still pacing around there though!

An unfortunate love affair led to the suicide (by poisoning) of the Lady of Rose Court, and a poor man who fell into a clay pit still screams in agony. A schoolmaster who hanged himself is still apparently trapped at the site of his demise.

pic 3

Now, after experiencing all that, you could well be forgiven for deciding to retire to the local hostelry (the Black Horse Inn). Surely here you could kick back and relax over a pint of foaming ale or a glass of comforting wine? Not a bit of it! After the phantom coach and horses have thundered by outside, expect things to start flying around you as the resident poltergeist gets to work.

But I digress. Back to the woods.

In the 18thcentury, a highwayman called Robert du Bois was tracked down and run through with a sword while he hid in a tree in these very woods. Another version states that he was dragged to the woods before being lynched. Either way, his are the screams which give the woods their name – along with a couple of other unfortunates, such as the army colonel who hanged himself and still can be seen dangling from his tree, and the ghostly soldier who wanders the woodland paths. Others who have simply lost their way – and never found it again – add their desperate voices to the cacophony from beyond the grave.

pic 4

Sceptics might say it’s just foxes. Everyone knows foxes can make a terrible racket. As if hell itself had opened and let the screams of the damned escape.

But those of us who know about such things, don’t need any such explanations.

Do we?

pic 5

There are plenty of sinister goings-on – and a terrifying some demon – in my novella, The Devil Inside Her. This is what to expect:

When nightmares become dreams, someone must die

Haunted by the death of her husband and only child, Elinor Gentry’s recurring nightmares have left her exhausted. She’s crippled by debt, and only the remnants of her former life surround her, things she can’t bear to sell, and wouldn’t make much profit from if she did. Then, for no apparent reason, the nightmares transform into pleasant dreams. Dreams that lead her to take back control of her life.

A string of horrific and unexplained suicides–and an unnerving discovery about Elinor herself—lead her best friend to seek help from the one person who has seen all this before, and things begin to spiral out of control. Hazel Messinger knows that Elinor’s newly found wellbeing is not what it seems, and Hazel’s not about to let the demon inside remain there permanently.

You can buy The Devil Inside Her here;

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

About the author

pic 6 

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy– Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plusThe Devil’s Serenade,The Pendle Curseand Saving Grace Devine.

Her novellas, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, The Devil Inside Her, andThe Second Wifehave now been released in new editions by Crossroad Press.

She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.

You can connect with Cat here:

Catherine Cavendish

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Pic 7

Thanks to Catherine Cavendish for another wonderful guest blog post!
Be sure to read her books, and connect with her on social media.


#TheStayMovie awarded Silver Award for Best Horror Short at Independent Shorts Awards in LA USA

The Stay

TheStayMovieSILVERISA

Thanks to the curators of the Independent Shorts Awards in Los Angeles USA for selecting The Stay and awarding our film the amazing Best Horror Short Silver Award!

Check the Awards website for the full list of honours.

36865701_2088807444480334_631847478026567680_nMany thanks to the cast & crew, and all our supporters for helping make The Stay a successful independent film production.

TheStayMovieISAos2018

Next up – DragonCon Independent Film Festival, Aug 30–Sept 3, 2018 Atlanta, GA USA!

TheStayOSDragonCon

View original post


See #TheStayMovie at HorrorCon UK next weekend!

TheStayHorrorconOS

If supernatural suspense / folky horror is your kind of thing, be sure to catch The Stay, screening in Official Selection at HorrorCon UK next weekend.

The film is part of a scare-packed programme, which includes talks, traders, tunes — and of course very special guests including the legendary Dario Argento and musical maestro Claudio Simonetti, Re-Animators Jeff Combs and Barbara Crampton — among many, many more.

If you’re brave enough to venture into the film screenings, let me know what you think of the film — in the comments below, or on Facebook, or Twitter.

Beast witches,
Frazer x 

HCUK-Poster-2018


Guest Author Catherine Cavendish on ‘Waking the Ancients’

Welcoming back Guest Author Catherine Cavendish to the blog today, with a fascinating post on her new book Waking the Ancients. Take it away Cat!

Set – God of Chaos, Friend of the Dead

My new novel – Waking the Ancients – centres on a sinister archeologist called Dr. Emeryk Quintillus and his deadly obsession with the last Egyptian Pharaoh – Cleopatra. His quest to possess her immortal spirit leads to his involvement with a major ancient Egyptian deity – the god Set.

Dangerous, unpredictable – but a good friend to have in a crisis, Set was one of the most ancient of the Egyptian gods – and exceptionally well connected.

Brother of Osiris, Horus the Elder, Isis and Nephthys, he was the god of storms, chaos, earthquakes, and all manner of natural disasters, but he was also a friend of the dead, helping them to ascend his ladder to transport them to heaven and he protected desert oases. He was unhinged in many ways and prone to extreme violence, right from the time he lay in his mother’s womb. Instead of waiting to be born naturally, legend has it that he ripped himself from his mother’s body.

Married incestuously to his sister, Nephthys, he was the antithesis of everything she represented. He was the earth, she was the air. He represented the desert and, as such, was infertile. She, on the other hand, had designs on her much more handsome brother Osiris who was married to Isis (evidently, they liked to keep everything in the family – a trait they shared with the Cleopatra’s Ptolemaic dynasty, among others). One day Nephthys disguised herself as Isis and seduced Osiris who, it is said, did not realise he had been tricked. A child, the god Anubis, was conceived out of this union and that is when the trouble really began.

When he found out about her infidelity, Set was enraged but decided to wreak his vengeance on his sibling rather than his faithless wife. He already had form in attacking his brothers. In a power struggle for control of Egypt which lasted eighty years, Set plucked out one of Horus’s eyes. Horus responded by ripping off one of Set’s testicles. Now that’s what I call a dysfunctional family!

Set was determined to kill Osiris and enlisted the help of his followers into tricking his brother. Set laid on a great feast in honour of Osiris and presented him with an elaborate chest which he said he would give to whichever guest fitted into it. One after the other tried, but failed. Then Osiris had a go and, of course, it fitted perfectly. Before he could escape, Set’s followers nailed it shut and tossed it into the Nile.

A distraught Isis found it, brought it home but was unable to prevent Set from taking it from her. He opened the chest and dismembered the body which was intact – except for his penis which had been eaten by a fish in the river. Set then scattered his body parts all over Egypt. Isis and Nephthys began searching for the pieces of Osiris’s body and reassembled them. Even without his penis, Isis managed to somehow magically conceive a son – another Horus.

There was another side to Set. On a positive note, he was the protector of the sun god Ra, who made his nightly journey in a barque across the heavens to rise again in the morning. But even in his role of protector, Set could not resist his evil side. He threatened Ra with storms if he did not treat him in the manner to which he felt was his due. Ra tired of his threats and expelled him from his barque. Other gods would assume his role.

In Wrath of the Ancients – Set’s role is pivotal. The obsessed Emeryk Quintillus enlists his help, but a terrible price must always be paid…

Waking the Ancients

Legacy In Death

Egypt, 1908

University student Lizzie Charters accompanies her mentor, Dr. Emeryk Quintillus, on the archeological dig to uncover Cleopatra’s tomb. Her presence is required for a ceremony conducted by the renowned professor to resurrect Cleopatra’s spirit—inside Lizzie’s body. Quintillus’s success is short-lived, as the Queen of the Nile dies soon after inhabiting her host, leaving Lizzie’s soul adrift . . .

Vienna, 2018

Paula Bancroft’s husband just leased Villa Dürnstein, an estate once owned by Dr. Quintillus. Within the mansion are several paintings and numerous volumes dedicated to Cleopatra. But the archeologist’s interest in the Egyptian empress deviated from scholarly into supernatural, infusing the very foundations of his home with his dark fanaticism. And as inexplicable manifestations rattle Paula’s senses, threatening her very sanity, she uncovers the link between the villa, Quintillus, and a woman named Lizzie Charters.

And a ritual of dark magic that will consume her soul . . .

You can find Waking the Ancients here:

Kensington Press

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Apple

Google

Kobo

About the Author:

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse and Saving Grace Devine. She lives with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.

You can connect with Cat here:

Catherine Cavendish

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads


It’s March 13th ~ and ‘The Daniel Gates Adventures, Vol. 1’ is out now!

out now!

It’s the 13th today, what better date for my occult horror novellas THE LUCIFER GLASS and THE LEPER WINDOW to be available in one volume from Crossroad Press?

Lucky (or unlucky!) for some — depending on your perspective on weird tales of demonic grimoires and cursed artefacts.

kick back, relax, and…

BUY THE DANIEL GATES ADVENTURES, Vol. 1

from:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

— and wherever occult tomes and evil mirrors are sold.

Explore the links above to read free sample chapters in your browser, or to send them to your Kindle/e-reader/mobile device!

you can take the horror with you – anywhere

ABOUT THE DANIEL GATES ADVENTURES:

Together in one volume, the first two novellas in the Daniel Gates Adventures.

THE LUCIFER GLASS

“It may cost you your soul. ”

Daniel Gates is a fixer. Whatever his client wants, he can get for a price. But the price of his latest assignment is a high one indeed. He is to travel to Scotland to exchange a rare demonic text, a grimoire, for a consignment of even rarer whiskey. Reading the grimoire, Gates learns of the legend of Lucifer s Glass and the unholy trinity of green-eyed demons who protect it. As he does battle with the demons, Daniel realizes too late that there is much more to his assignment than meets the eye. He is locked in a struggle to save his very soul from damnation.

THE LEPER WINDOW

“Do not gaze into its secrets.”

Daniel Gates’s last assignment involving a rare demonic book left him plagued by hideous nightmares, which are about to get even worse. When a page is stolen from Choronzon’s Grimoire, Daniel is sent to the wilds of North Wales to retrieve it for his mysterious client. But the stolen page contains dark, occult secrets, and he finds to his peril that he is not the only one desperate to find it. Daniel’s journey takes him to the very brink of madness and to the demons that await—beyond the Leper Window.

note to self – if you come across a demonic grimoire in your local library, maybe just put it back on the shelf…