So it’s been awhile since I’ve updated this website, which is what I said the last time I updated the website. Why the fuck am I paying for this thing?! Because one day I dream of regular updates where I have many important things to share and to entertain you with!
At this rate I’m updating it yearly (Although I missed 2011)…. At least you can see my twitter feed changing regularly on the side bar right? #grabbingatstraws but please do follow me on twitter @gpizzey (Oh god I’m so lonely!) .
So this time I really truly am going to try and remedy this grievous non-website updating oversight on my behalf. And to help me in my productivity I QUIT FACEBOOK! (Did I mention you can follow me on twitter?) That’s right I did the unthinkable, I unplugged from the machine man. I’m out. It’s been 4 days, stone cold sober. I’m off the face crack, BUT it hasn’t been easy. I’m getting the shakes, the sweats, the shits, everything. Is it related to Facebook, or is it the 4 day old chicken I keep eating? Doesn’t matter, either way I think I’m having Facebook withdrawal. It’s making me over compensate in real life. Now when someone tells me a good joke I don’t laugh, I simply say “Like” and then walk away. I talk in abbreviations BYB, TTYL, OMG, ROFL. I print out photos and stick them up on the front of my flat and write captions underneath them in vivid, then I yell at passersby on the street to “CHECK OUT MY WALL!”
I’m sure it will pass in time, but I should probably stop going out in the middle of the night and leering through people’s windows hoping to get a glimpse of peoples computer screens as they Facebook. I should probably stop touching myself while I do it too. Because you know… people might get the wrong idea… like that I have a Facebook addiction or something. Anyway I’m going to do a blog about my Facebook departure shortly. I wonder how many more times I can say Facebook? Don’t say Facebook. Facebook… I said Facebook.
I’ve been a very busy boy when not Facebooking. Most recently working on some new Pigville Productions, whilst still chipping away at that “Zombie” film which shall also get it’s own blog eventually. Until such times as these updates appear (definitely NOT in a year) then please enjoy the first 3 episodes of The Guy And Harley show below. Please feel free to Laugh, please feel free to share them (on Facebook, because I can’t anymore hurumph!) and then feel free to congratulate me personally so I feel like shooting the next one.
We didn't have much money and it was extremely difficult. There was heartbreak, triumph, despair, anxiety, disillusionment, laughter, pain and pleasure. Often all in the one day! But thanks to a remarkable effort from all the wonderful cast and crew(and some very dedicated Zombie extras) we did it!!!! Nobody complained and if they did, we fired them. To encourage everyone to complain less! And there was that one time we had to re-shoot the hardest day of production in freezing cold temperatures because we lost all the footage(damn you digital transfer!). I can laugh about it now of course, but not without simultaneously crying a little bit at the same time. Also the happy pills they have me on here at the institute have numbed me to many of my conflicting emotions and this straight jacket is really beginning to itch. Maybe they'll let me out here for the premiere? No Nurse Ratched I WILL NOT SIT DOWN!
This film shoot made me a little Cuckoo's nest, you know what I'm sezzin?
I can't really go into too much more detail about the tumultuous shoot(See reason one) but no doubt the epic struggle will be documented thoroughly in the making of portion of the DVD/Blu Ray. But until then here's a photo of me and the films #Cough# leading man(Harley Neville), to tide you over, as you can see by this stage I'm already deliriously Jack Nicholson esque!
"Shot 1000, What are you Kubrick?" says the exec producer. "What are you unintentionally paying me the highest compliment ever?" Says the Director.
Why does he have that egg beater? Is he really good at cooking? Is it symbolic of mans reluctance to go into the kitchen?! Well my lips are firmly sealed I'm afraid and as for when you can see this triumph of low budget wizardry exactly? Hopefully around the middle of the year. I'm working on the next cut with my lovely editor Tori Bindoff (weird name I know) as we speak. But in the mean time dear Zombie enthusiast, please check out the trailer below. Then share it with all your friends, then like it on facebook.... follow it on twitter.... and generally spam the shit out of it please, so as we might become the next low budget, Zombie movie, internet chaaaampion! Wooo, woo, woo, you know it!
What's it all about then you ask? Can't be bothered going into plot details (don't want to spoil it for you) but it's a Zombie Horror Comedy - it's being produced by the wonderful Zoe Hobson and her production company 38 Pictures, it's going to be shot in Dunedin around March 2011 and it's going to be DOPE.
"Ohhhh like there's not enough mediocre Zombie films coming out at the moment" I hear some of you say. Firstly yup your right there's been a lot of shitty zombie films lately, but on the same token there is literally NOT enough kick ass super original Zombie films coming out at the moment. In fact there's always room for good films in any genre no matter how over saturated they may be and that's why ISAZH is going to be worth your time.
Comedy - Tick.
Gore - In spades.
Horror - Naturally.
Original take on Zombies - Yup.
So trust me when I say "don't worry... I got this." As a super fan of Zombie films I would never attempt to do one if I wasn't bringing a feast of A-grade Zombie carnage with all the trimmings. Don't worry I know my Romero's from my Resident Evil's (The shitty film's - not the awesome games)
A special thanks must go to everyone who generously helped out with our pitch material. Shaun, Bryce, Tim, Jon, Mr H. Neville and Zoe (who was 8-9 months pregnant at the time!) and the entire crew who helped us shoot the promo. Many of whom will now be part of the proper shoot. Gotta love passionate talented people offering their time and expertise for free. Thanks everyone.
If you love the smell of rotting Zombies in the morning and want to be involved you can join our Facebook group and register your details for crew etc in the discussions section. This will be updated regularly with all that's happening on the film.
I'll also try and occasionally post updates about the making of it as I go.
What is The Project? Ummm only the greatest New Zealand comedy web series ever made. It's also by coincidence the only New Zealand comedy web series ever made. But why split hairs? All you need to know is that it's funny and you should watch it.
Episodes are available at www.theproject.net.nz Check out the trailer below.
Your still here? Well how bout a little synopsis: "The Project” is a 9-part Internet mockumentary show. A semi-almost completely-true story about two aspiring writer/actors and their quest to get their television show made.
Guy Pigden and Harley Neville were on the verge of stardom when their TV sitcom was optioned by a major production company. Sensing greatness rapidly approaching them, they asked a camera crew to film their epic mis-adventure as they attempted to get their “brilliantly original” concept from script to screen. This candid documentary footage charts their rise and fail, the high fives and the *facepalms*, it’s the rags to rags story which everyone can relate to. Go see for yourself!
Six months ago Pigville finished editing our glorious internet show known as The Project. I’ve mentioned it a couple of times on this site and have basically told everyone I know that it’s on the verge of coming out. Unfortunately it’s been on the verge of coming out for almost half a year. Why? Because just as we’re about to release it, some Producer type gets in touch and decides they’d like to try and do something with it. Why? Because it’s so awesome. That’s the general reason they give us, and who are we to argue?
In fact it’s becoming very clear we have made the best New Zealand Comedy internet series ever…. this is completely unrelated to the fact it’s the only New Zealand Comedy internet series ever. But while we wait patiently for these Producer types to decide where our comedic genius fits into the big scheme of things, we’ve had nothing to release to our peeps. Almost 2 years of our most recent work is just sitting on the shelf.
It’s very frustrating and it’s very depressing. We can’t expose our comedy to the world, and we always feel sad when we can’t expose ourselves. We’re dying to just pull it out and show it off on the Internet, in all its 15 part glory. Unfortunately we can’t, because that would be wrong. You see at the end of the day we want to be paid for this exposure and if we can’t be paid, then we at least want to make sure we expose it to as many people as humanly possible. So for the moment The Project must remain under wraps until the time is right.
This poses the question, what can we do while we wait, apart from these indecent exposure jokes? The answer was film another bunch of Internet skits for speedy release, to bring laughter and mirth to our content deprived fans. So that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.
Some of our talented crew.....and less talented actors.
Over the past three weeks Harley and I have been shooting a variety (well three) of different Internet webisodes in and around Dunedin. These will now probably act as a prelude to The Project. What exactly are these skits about? Well the beloved Wellington City Rubbish Police will be making their triumphant return with an important message about climate change.
We’ve also shot some footage for Lord Of The Rings. That’s right the Lord Of The Rings. We take an in depth exploration (Because 9 hours clearly wasn’t in depth enough) into Sam and Frodo’s journey toward Mount Doom. These webisodes are so emotionally revealing I have it on good authority Peter Jackson is considering using them in the special collectors extended extended Blu-Ray edition of the films.
The Hobbit and two men wearing silly wigs.
Some photos of the shoot can be seen in the photo gallery and the first of these webisodes should be out before the end of the year….or maybe January but definitely very soon. I might write another blog about the shooting experience, but I just wanted to announce good things have been filmed and are just around the corner. Also I’m working on a podcast that’ll be debuting in the very near future on the site. So stay tuned, the wait is almost over!
Even in Mordor there's the occasional Cafe. "That looks a tasty Flat white Mr Frodo"
In all the furore over Michael Jackson dying (R.I.P king of pop) nobody seemed to care when another icon passed away a week or two later. I’m talking about masterful 80’s film writer/director John Hughes. He was only 59, it was a heart attack, he was walking his dog. Which to me seemed a somewhat tepid and unfitting way for such a great talent to leave this earth, not with a bang but a whimper.
I was shocked. I was doubly shocked when no one seemed to care. I was waiting for the outpouring of grief. You know people teary eyed lighting candles and stuff while Elton John wrote a tribute song about him. Or his hometown declaring a John Hughes day in his honour. Cinemas putting on John Hughes movie retrospectives. A sold out memorial at the L.A convention centre and maybe even people tattooing “ I Heart Hughes” on their arms. But nobody did any of this and I ended up with a stupid looking tattoo.
When I mentioned John Hughes to a younger writer/director friend of mine recently, he looked at me quizzically, who? Hadn’t even heard of him (And you call yourself a filmmaker Henry, shame on you!)! But I guess maybe a lot of generation Y and Z aren’t familiar with his work, tragically he’s kinda faded into obscurity.
Maybe it was because his output through the later half of the 90’s and into the new millennium was pretty slim and because he was notoriously reclusive, refusing to do interviews or be photographed. But it almost seemed like John Hughes was already dead before he died! It’s the old saying out of sight out of mind and I guess people have forgotten just what a legend this guy was. Which is a shame because everyone would shit if Quentin Tarantino died of a heart attack tomorrow. Well this guy was almost the Tarantino of his day, if Tarantino specialised in teen movies.
Anyway I haven’t forgotten about John Hughes and so to pay my respects to one of my favourite directors I’m going to blog (more!) about his career and hopefully remind people of his greatness.
Lets be clear on this, John Hughes owned the fucking 80s. He was the KING. John Hughes was John huge. Looking at his track record in the 80’s his string of hits is almost comparable to Steven Speilberg’s. No he didn’t make a Jaws or an E.T (although one of his later 90’s films would come close in terms of box office gross), but every film he wrote/directed in that period ended up being financially successful, often extremely so. If John Hughes co-signed a film, you’d go see it. Basically back then his swag was on a hundred thousand trillion.
His rise to greatness started primarily as a screenwriter, his first really successful film was National Lampoon’s Vacation, (and it’s sequel). Chevy Chase was no doubt very grateful for the career. But his first true masterstroke came with his next movie, Sixteen Candles, which he also directed.
In fact it’s at this time that John hit a purple patch, where he could basically do no wrong. You’d think after one classic teen film under your belt, you’d turn your attention to other genre’s but nooooo instead he wrote and directed another teen film. Which turned out even better and more awesome than the first one.
I’m talking about The Breakfast Club, possibly the greatest teen film of all time.
Now you’d think with four classic teen films in the can, having not only dominated but re-invented the genre you’d call it a day, but nooooo he upped the anti once again. John Hughes made perhaps his best teen film to date, or at least second only to The Breakfast Club, I’m talking about Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
If you wonder why Mathew Broderick is still allowed to be in films (such as Godzilla and Inspector Gadget) it’s because producers still remember him from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. In fact it’s probably why Sarah Jessica Parker agreed to date and later marry him (there must be a good reason). The film is gold. And it’s even more amazing considering this was John Hughes fifth teen film, yet he still managed to take it in a completely new and unique direction and raised the bar yet again.
The reason John Hughes films stand up so well over time (well…. maybe the costumes haven’t) is because he treated his characters seriously and with respect, which makes sense because when you are a teenager it is serious! Unfortunately more recent teen films are more interested in making fun of teenagers than actually getting inside their heads. Filmmakers should pay attention, John Hughes had the formula down, the results where six of the best examples of the genre back to back.
While The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller, will probably go down as his best loved and most well remembered films, he didn’t fall off the radar after finishing his teen phase. Planes Trains and Automobiles was another huge success and showed John could do films that didn’t involve people going through puberty. It was also one of the last times Steve Martin would make a good film…. That was over twenty years ago in case you where wondering. The Film is ranked 10th best comedy of all time as voted in Total Film AND has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (thank you wikipedia for that info). Not too shabby.
The early 90’s saw John Hughes climb to even more lofty heights of success. Perhaps not in terms of critical acclaim but certainly in terms of money making movies. As I mentioned earlier, John Hughes did indeed rival Spielberg’s big money films with his own smash hit, I’m talking about none other than…. Home Alone (and it’s sequels).
Yep he wrote and produced Home Alone, which practically EVERYONE has seen and of course made about a gazillion dollars at the box office. John Hughes conquered the final frontier….kids films, he’d officially done it all.
Now don’t get me wrong, looking back at Home Alone it’s clearly not on par with his earlier movies, despite making about as much money as his first six combined! And yes, nowadays I’d prefer to head butt little Macaulay Culkin than watch him terrorise and disfigure a couple of bumbling but reasonably non-threatening robbers on Christmas Eve. But still at the time it was a must watch blockbuster, you can’t argue with the films success. John Hughes had peaked.
After Home Alone however, John never really recovered. Perhaps a victim of his own success he got stuck writing and producing more kiddy films, none of which where as good as Home Alone and none of which where even remotely close to his 80’s output. There was Beethoven (the one about the big dog). Dennis The Menace, where Walter Matheau gets terrorised by a blonde Macaulay Culkin knock off, in a borderline Home Alone knock off. Then came the undeniable classic Flubber (Seriously Flubber WTF?!) hmmm and perhaps worst of all, he is credited as having written the story to….Maid In Manhattan. Maid. In. Manhattan. When the greats fall… well sometimes they fall hard.
But can you really blame him? 15 years of quality films was a damn fine run at the top, it had to end some time. At that stage of his career I think he’d made more than enough contributions to the industry to earn some easy pay checks making sub par family films….I can’t ever forgive him for Maid in Manhattan though.
So it’s best to forget about his post Home Alone activities and remember him for his vintage 80’s material. It’s unfortunate he never got a chance to make another really awesome film, but then again a lot of writer/directors would give their left nut to have made as many consistently great films as he did when he was king of teen angst.
So I take my hat of to you Mr John Hughes, and I salute you. R.I.P. Thank you for inspiring me to try and write more gooder and for making some of my favourite films. Finally I’d just like to say….Don’t you..forget about him, I say don’t, don’t, don’t you… forget about him….ah fuck it, eat my shorts.
I want you to throw your pen, but hold the grenade
Explode to your grave – and go straight to hell
where your soul is enflamed for the road that you paved”
As a writer it’s important to get feedback on your work. But this is often the least enjoyable part of the process. On the one hand you want to know what people think, because you want confirmation that you are indeed a genius, on the other hand you don’t really want people to tell you what’s wrong with it and prove your not the genius you thought you where.
Of course it’s not going to help you at all if they tell you how great it is. The only way they can help IS by telling you exactly what’s wrong with it. Feedback is just one of those necessary evils.
There are a lot of reasons why feedback is often not welcomed with open arms by the writer. One: The more problems pointed out the more that has to be fixed and the more re-writing has to be done. A lot of Writers are lazy by nature (or am I just talking about myself?) so the prospect of doing more work on something you’ve already just done a HUGE amount of work on is never particularly appealing.
Two: When people start telling you what’s wrong with something you start questioning the overall quality of the work. The nagging doubts start circulating in your head, is this really any good at all? Have I made a horrible miscalculation by writing this? Have I royally fucked up? Has this been a complete and total waste of my time?
Three: Following on from two, there is always a chance that part of this feedback will point out a fatal flaw, some problem that never occurred to you as the writer but is now glaringly obvious. This problem is so big that it basically causes the script to implode. Foundations collapse, the story is ruined, there is no fixing this problem because it’s so big and the only solution is to start all over again. Arrrrggggghhhhhhh!
Four: All our life we have been conditioned to seek approval for our work, and to be gratified by this approval when it’s given. So to essentially request the opposite and demand criticism goes against your own human nature, like asking someone very politely to kick you in the balls as hard as they possibly can.
Of course all writers do need feedback. You need people to help you realise what’s wrong with your scripts, otherwise how can you fix and improve them? But because it’s such a hard thing to do, a lot of young wannabe writers don’t ask for criticism. They walk around with there heads buried firmly in the sand thinking their shit doesn’t stink. Trust me your shit DOES stink, and your scripts will always be bad if you subscribe to the belief that you are smarter than everyone else.
Nobody writes a perfect first draft and no one is infallible. You will make mistakes, these mistakes need to be addressed, if they don’t your story will suffer it’s a simple as that, just ask George Lucas (Yes I’m talking about The Phantom Menace!). Now that we’ve established that criticism is essential using Lucas theory, you’ve got another problem because getting the right kind of feedback is another headache altogether.
If someone says “I read your script and I think it sucks.” That’s not constructive, that’s not helpful and it’s only going to put you in a bad mood. You need to know why it sucks. And you need them to phrase it in such a way that doesn’t immediately make you take offence or bust into tears (even if the script really does suck). You need readers with a bit of tact.
It also pays to identify your audience, for instance there’s no point giving a teen sex comedy to your dad to read because he’s probably not really going to appreciate someone fucking a pie (prude). Try and pick people to read your work that would like that type of work if you weren’t the writer. Of course someone who is not your target audience is probably going to find more things wrong with it, which can be good. But it’s also hard to tell whether their objections are grounded purely in personal taste or are really legitimate concerns for you and your story.
Even when you have a good reader, at the end of the day a lot of issues are still going to be a matter of taste. Some people won’t like your jokes or characters, is this because they are really bad? Or is this because the reader prefers other types of jokes and characters? As the Writer it’s just as important to have good judgement when it comes to taking or rejecting the criticism as it is getting the feedback in the first place. Knowing when to make changes and when to stick to your guns is a skill in itself. After all at the end of the day you are writing for yourself first and foremost and you shouldn’t compromise your own ideas just to satisfy someone else.
It’s a constant tightrope walk your trying to pull off. A balancing act between remedying problems and ignoring peoples personal tastes that conflict with your own. It’s not easy. To summarise, find good readers to help you with your writing. Get good feedback and take the criticisms seriously…but not too seriously. Listen to some things…but not others, ummm take onboard ideas, but not every idea…. Be open, but not wide open… Fuck it you get the gist.
Also remember you should be grateful to the readers that are willing to spend their free time trying to help you fix your stories without making you cry.
So on that note I’d like to sign off by thanking a few of my readers for helping me improve my scripts, Harley, Henry, Joce, Karina…and Mike (Lazy Mike, made one good suggestion, doesn’t deserve a mention really). Thank you all, but please stop proving that I’m not a genius.
I am a fucking genius!
“Let me tell you dudes what I do to protect this,
I shoot at you actors like movie directors.”
Cut and Patience
With the impending release of our Web Series The Project just coming up around the corner, I thought I’d write a little piece on the editing process of making the show. Editing is something people don’t really think about when they see a film or show, but it’s often more time consuming than either the actual filming or writing….in this case much much more time consuming.
This photo show’s all the mini DV tapes we used filming the Project. That’s a lot of fucking tapes! Each tape is sixty minutes long and in case you where wondering there’s 47 of them. That’s 47 hours worth of footage, now each of these tapes has to be fed into my computer and then labelled so I know what scene and shot is depicted in that particular tape. It takes about two hours for me to capture and log one of these tapes. So that’s 94 hours of (mind numbingly boring ) work before I even start piecing together the actual 47 hours worth of footage!
Another way to look at it would be to say it’s around three standards weeks of a regular job if you worked about 30 hours a week and your job was labelling and filing a books numerically onto a computer (name, author, number), because that’s essentially what I’m doing with each shot we filmed (scene description, shot description, take number).
Once that’s done and the footage is labelled in Final Cut (my editing system of choice) the real work begins, that means piecing together each scene from the coverage we shot on the day. Coverage meaning the different angles we shot the scene from, i.e. A wide shot of all the actors to establish where they are, then a close up on me and a close up on Harley. From these angles, we’ll probably do each angle multiple times, so say the close up on Harley might be done 4 times (often more, because he can’t remember his lines), each time we do it is called a take, so from those 4 different takes I’ll cut together a master take which is all the best bits from each of his 4 takes. Occasionally one take will stand out as the best and I’ll only use that particular take. However it’s much more likely that the best performance will be spread out over all the takes and therefore it’s necessary to use parts from every take to create the best effect.
If it’s a scene between the two of us, I will do the same thing for me. These two master takes will then run together to form the complete scene. From that point onwards you are editing the scene as more of a cohesive whole. You’ll quickly discover some jokes aren’t working, or there’s unnecessary exposition, or that the scene is just too long to fit into a ten minute episode. That’s when you start removing the stuff that doesn’t work or is too long and trimming down the scene to what it will ultimately look like in the episode.
Of course sometimes you’ll decide the scene simply doesn’t work and completely remove it from the episode. Unfortunately most of the time you’ll never be able to reach such a conclusion without editing the scene together in the first place. So you’ve still got to do just as much work, it’s just that that particular piece of work will never see the light of day. Anyway assuming that you like the scene and you haven’t decided to axe it completely your done right? Like fuck you are. Now it’s time to clean up the audio and picture.
You see, because each shot is recorded at a different time, with the boom mike (the thing that records the audio) pointed at a different angle to get lines from each respective actor, each shot will sound slightly different. If the boom is recording my dialogue then Harley’s voice will be less audible and vice versa. If we’re trying to record everyone’s lines at once then it’ll sound worse than if we where just concentrating on one actor.
Sometimes the mike will pick up strange background noises in one shot, and not record those funny noises in the next shot. If you cut those two shots together it sounds horrible as the audio jumps from the strange noises recorded in one take to the silence recorded in the second shot and then back again as the scene plays out. These are just a few of the many hundreds of problems you’ll quickly discover whilst editing the sound.
It’s up to you to mix all the audio levels, smoothing them out cleaning them up and trying to make it sound like everything was recorded at the same time, and making sure every line is easy to hear for the viewer. I haven’t even touched on adding a music score, because that’s a whole new kettle of fish. Fortunately that’s something that wasn’t necessary for most of The Project, but is often another vital part of a short film/feature or tv show.
After that time consuming and tedious process you’ve got to do the same thing with the image. This is not as difficult as sound mixing, not by a long shot. In fact if your D.O.P/cameraman has done a good job fixing up how your picture looks, this should be a breeze. Colour correction is the process whereby you adjust the colour levels of your footage to match up…correctly(a bit self explanatory really). And that’s basically what your doing, sometimes the sun will come out or go behind a cloud between takes making your image darker or brighter. Occasionally (if you have a stupid malfunctioning camera like us) the camera will adjust it’s colour balance to make one shot look blue, while in the next shot everything will look orange. In the edit, you’ve got too re-adjust the colour levels to make both shots look the same. It’s a headache, but not the raging migraine sound mixing is.
So now you’ve cut together your scene, you’ve fixed up the sound and picture and you’ve decided it looks good. Congratulations, you’ve done one scene, now repeat this cycle several times over and you’ll have an episode, repeat it several hundred times over and you’ve got a series. YAY! Of course that’s before Harley gives me his notes and I have to re-cut everything all over again.
Now just going back to the beginning of the blog (if you can remember back far… I know it’s a stretch!) I said we shot 47 hours worth of footage, well once that was edited in it’s entirety, it equalled 15 ten minute episodes. So 47 hours of raw footage once edited equalled just over 2 hours of actual web show... so please excuse me while I go and blow my brains out.
Hopefully this has given you some idea as to why I’m now clynically insane and also why movies can sometimes take years to come out. It’s the fucking editing I tells ya! So next time you snort in disbelief when someone says they’re STILL editing something they started six months ago, cut them some slack and maybe give them a pat on the back for good measure… before they go on a shooting spree.
And finally I just want to give big up’s to The Project. I hope this blog has established just how much time and love has gone into it (And I didn’t even talk about the filming of it, which is another blog in itself!). It really is good and absolutely worth your time to watch and support. It’s coming very very soon and when it arrives I will be supplying the juicy details so keep your eyes peeled!
I’m not really an avid comic reader. I admire the artwork and always have, obviously a lot of my favourite childhood superhero’s came from that universe. But I could never really afford to buy them with any kind of regularity when I was growing up. Then a bit later when I finally started earning money, I found it too frustrating having to wait a whole month or more for a measly 22 pages of long multi issue stories. I haven’t read any comic’s in at least ten years. That was until last week.
A friend of mine recently offered to lend me the first 60 odd issues of The Walking Dead. I was a little sceptical, but my love of all things zombie compelled me to take a look at the first issue and thank fuck I did. The Walking Dead follows the adventures of Rick Grimes a former Police officer who after a zombie apocalypse decides to go in search of his missing wife and son. Along the way he meets some fascinating characters and a shit load of zombies. So far, so routine and as zombie premises go this one isn’t re-inventing the wheel. However The Walking Dead offers so much brilliant characterisation that it really doesn’t matter how unique the initial zombie plot is. Also at the end the day if Romero is your inspiration it’s hard to go wrong.
What makes The Walking Dead so good is the mantra often stated by it’s creator Robert Kirkman “No one is safe.” And he lives up to his promise in a big way. Really anybody can die at anytime, your favourite characters, the most sympathetic, the ones you think are least likely to bite the dust get killed at an alarming rate in ever more surprising and unexpected ways. You find yourself dreading each new page but unable to stop reading and speculating on “Who’s gonna get it next?!”
Making all the characters disposable and yet making them all compelling enough that you care about them and want to see them survive is a brilliant way to tell such a story. It’s a beautifully simple concept that keeps the comic interesting and fresh. When you read Spiderman or Batman, you know their not going to die, if they’re dealing with a popular super villain, you know he’s probably not going to die either, so what exactly are the stakes? Why do you care? How could Wolverine even die these days what with his super healing and adamantium skeleton? The lack of legitimate danger in those comics is the very reason they become so stale. The Walking Dead excels in comparison by implementing the opposite of this all to familiar formula. Nothing is sacred anyone can go at any time so it’s always interesting.
It’s amazing how such a basic principle can sustain your interest. Kirkman has often pointed out that in a world full of zombies people would die a lot. It’s true, so having a expendable roster of characters also adds a lot to the credibility and realism to the world their in (taking into account it is still a world full of flesh eating zombies of course). And it makes you think how much better shows like Hero’s could have been if they really killed off characters properly and not had them coming back to life every five seconds. What if Nathan Petrelli and Noah Bennet had actually stayed dead when it look like they got killed and what if Sylar never came back after season one? Wouldn’t the show actually mean a lot more now? But I guess I should save the Hero’s bashing for another blog, because temporary death’s is the least of its problems.
There are now 64 issues of The Walking Dead, it has completely infected me and like a hungry zombie I have devoured five years worth of comic in well under a week, it just keeps getting better and better as the story goes on with some epic cliff-hangers throughout. Whether or not you like comics If you’re a fan of zombies or just post apocalyptic tales (and quite frankly who isn’t?!) then you have to check out The Walking Dead. I haven’t even mentioned the artwork which is also supremely awesome, gory, brutal and very cinematic.
If for some strange reason you don’t want to take my word for it, it has just been announced that The Walking Dead is being made into a TV show written by Frank Darabont, you know the guy who made a little film called The Shawshank Redemption?! So obviously people are sitting up and taking notice. Unfortunately from now on I have to wait monthly for new issues, but if the quality stays this high it’s a small price to pay. Long may the dead walk the earth at a rather leisurely pace!
4.1 Guy Pigden
I’m not exactly the typically experienced writer featured in the profile. I’m still in the early stages of my career; although I am being paid to write I’m still waiting for my first official screen credit (not including my own short films).
However, at least for me starting out, even convincing people that they should pay you to write for them is no easy task (In fact it sometimes seemed almost impossible!) and somewhat of an achievement in itself. Certainly that’s how I felt before I signed my first contract and so I guess this interview is something for less experienced guild members, writers looking to score their first paid gig and get their foot in the door.
I got my first writing work in a round about way through the Writers Guild. I had worked as a runner and script reader for an independent production company in London (Scala Productions) and through reading and analysing a lot of good and bad scripts convinced myself that I could write them too (the good kind!).
I returned to New Zealand, formed a production company with my friends, and started shooting shorts films(which I wrote or co-wrote) as well as writing feature length spec scripts and TV ideas etc. I joined the Writers Guild and started entering the competitions and initiatives that they advertised with no success, which initially shocked me because I thought I was pretty good! Luckily plenty more rejections arrived and I had time to get used to the idea that maybe I wasn’t so good after all.
Then the Writers Guild came up with the Producers Directory, a fantastic document which gives you details on many of New Zealand’s top producers and production companies and even the types of material that they might be looking for (or will accept), which for writers with material to submit and no industry contacts is just an insanely brilliant resource. I used the directory to submit a TV show I had written and shot a demo for with my production team and several producers got back to me expressing interest and I ended up optioning the show.
Although this show has yet to be made, that work gave me the confidence to take myself more seriously and believe my writing to be of a high enough standard to continue to submit material to more producers, which in turn has lead to more contacts and more work.
Also attending the Date Nights and fantastic workshops organized by the NZWG and Script to Screen has been a great place for me in terms of networking and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Since my first sitcom was optioned, I have developed another unproduced sitcom and most recently co-wrote a treatment which got NZFC funding and I have just finished writing my first draft of that feature film. So far all my paid work has come from Auckland producers although I currently live in Dunedin. However, I am working with a great Dunedin Production company which I’m hoping will lead to some more local work as well.
I think living in an area which is not either Auckland or Wellington definitely makes it harder to get work. If you have good material to submit and you’re willing to do a bit of travelling when necessary, it shouldn’t stop you from getting work. But if you’re wanting to make a steady income as a writer you should consider moving to Auckland at some stage.
Why did you decide to become a writer?
Part of it was simple necessity in that I wanted to make films and so to have something to shoot I had to have a script. Also as a script reader I got to see what others were doing, or at least what the standard was for writers who had agents, and I felt I could write to that standard.
But part of it came from being a keen reader and enjoying writing stories as a little kid. When I was four I got my mum to help me co-write a story about He-Man and Skeletor (extremely original and in no way plagiarised from the cartoon of course). Writing was the thing I enjoyed most at school, english is the only subject I’ve ever managed to pass with any degree of competency (or in fact pass full stop!) so I guess even though I didn’t realise it at the time, the, um, writing was on the wall so to speak.
What’s your favourite genre/area to work in?
I definitely gravitate naturally towards comedy and I would say most of the things I come up with do have a large amount of humour within them. I also love sci fi and horror and really I’m just a film fan in general - there isn’t a genre I don’t enjoy if it’s done well. Eventually I would like to write something in every genre!
Your best writing experience to date?
The ones where I actually get paid, for some reason they seem to hold a particularly special place in my heart.
Writing experience you would never do again?
There isn’t one really. The things that haven’t worked out or went wrong somehow, have made me a better writer or taught me some valuable lessons. Not that I’d have necessarily felt that way at the time…
Your worst ever day job?
Window cleaning high rise buildings in Wellington. There’s nothing I hated more than walking around a metre wide ledge on the tenth story of a building without a safety harness attached, while gale force winds attempt to blow you away. I still vividly remember thinking, “If I fall now and die trying to get this window clean I shall be very upset with the way my life’s turned out… at least until I hit the ground.”
Your favourite writing prop?
Gotta be coffee, and an honourable mention goes to herbal tea when I’m trying to detox from all the coffee I’ve just consumed.
What aspect of the industry would you most like to see changed?
Haha, how much time do we have?
I’d like to see writers paid more for their work.
I’d like to see a shift away from $100,000 NZFC funded short films, and for them to be replaced with $100,000 NZFC funded digital feature films.
I’d like to see any writer with a good feature script be able to apply for funding as opposed to exclusively writers with a good feature script AND who’ve already got a screen credit.
I’d like to see all the horrible reality TV shows currently eating up funding and viewer brain cells be replaced by original scripted content.
I’d like to see more fun commercial New Zealand films that are less obsessed with our New Zealand-ness and more obsessed with actually being entertaining to watch.
I’d like to see more funding dedicated to web series and digital content so we can catch up with the rest of the world.
Currently working on…
A Sci-Fi sitcom, a normal-Fi sitcom, a couple of feature length scripts, a short film and a web series.
Your hot tips for other writers?
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, don’t rely entirely on the project you’re currently working on being optioned or getting funding. That only means that if it fails you have nothing to fall back on and the rejection is all the more painful. As you write, open a new file in your brain and start asking it what else can I do? What can I do if this succeeds? What can I do if this fails? What is my back up plan? What is the next thing I’m going to write? Then regardless of whether you win or lose you’ll have something else to move on to, you’re ready to create more opportunities for yourself and that’s very important if you want to keep building momentum.
People who want to write for the screen should seriously consider having a stab at directing and editing a project of their own. It doesn’t have to be large scale undertaking but anyone can get a hold of a handycam and some editing software and shoot a short film these days. The experience will help you gain a better understanding of the filmaking process as a whole and probably make you a better writer too.
Just because your screenplay doesn’t win the Nicholls Fellowship or didn’t get into the First Writers Initiative doesn’t mean it sucks. Just like when a producer passes on something you’ve written doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of optioning. Any time you’re submitting unsolicited material you’re playing a low percentage game - people’s tastes are very different and sometimes it is simply just that, a matter of taste. Or even more annoying the producer does like it but he/she is just not looking for that type of material (and you may never find this out). So don’t give up just because your script or show got turned down by one producer, or didn’t win a competition. If you believe in it, keep submitting it while working on your next project.
Writers write. So while it’s very tempting to post a new blog for your Facebook friends to comment on, or watch the last 7 episodes of Entourage season 5 back-to- back for research purposes, it’s much more important to keep writing your scripts. You have to be disciplined. Every writer procrastinates, true, but they manage to do it a lot less than the people who want to be writers but never find the time to finish their scripts. Don’t fall into the second category. If you want to be treated like a professional writer and be paid accordingly, then you should act like a professional when it comes to writing regardless of your current circumstances.
Embrace good advice and get feedback on your scripts. Yes people will occasionally hurt your feelings or come up with terrible suggestions. But they might also point out problems that never occurred to you and even solutions to problems that never occurred to you. A simple question like: “What if so and so did this?” may send your brain down an entirely new set of tracks, one which will lead to a much better script. So just remain open to other people’s ideas and let them help you make your script better. You’ll find it’s sometimes a lot easier than trying to make the script better on your own!
Perseverance is the key. I’m entirely convinced that you’ve never heard of the most talented writers because they gave up it up after the 2nd. 5th 10th or 20th rejection. So although you have to be talented, you will need just as much grit and determination along with that talent if you want to succeed. Writing for film or television is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and endurance is key. You’ve got to endure set backs, crushing rejections and moments of complete despair. But if you have the ability to pick yourself up and keep going you’ll get there in the end.
Films you wish you’d written:
Back To The Future
Dawn Of The Dead (remake)
Star Wars trilogy(original)
Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Dumb and Dumber
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s nest
The Big Lebowski
The Breakfast Club…. This list could go much longer so I’ll leave it at that.
You see as a writer your job is too write things, and you've probably got a lot of material rattling around in your cerebral cortex bursting to get out. So you sit down at the keyboard, you open a new page and you start writing... a blog. Completely unrelated to the real writing your meant to be doing.
You could say you get blogged down by writing them.... Haha, it took me two hours to come up with that. And therein lies the problem, as a writer it's much easier and more fun to write a blog. But you really should be writing something else something difficult and frustrating and time consuming. But something much more worthwhile in the long run.
So you probably won't be reading too many new blogs in this section, this section will be the neglected red headed stepchild of my site. Because to be honest I should be getting on with my scripts. Bigger fish to fry know wot I mean?
Think about it