Thursday, 20 December 2012

End of Year Review 2012!

A reflective John Cusack looks back on the year..
Well, that just about wraps up 2012... And I would've gotten away with it, had it been for you meddlin' kids!

Whilst 2012 was a marginally better (slightly less chilly/watery) version than Roland Emmerich's, for me it was a somewhat bumpy year, personally and creatively.

The year began with a rip-roaring start: Six episodes of my comedy/murder-mystery TV series "Backstabbers" were written, and were probably the most fun I'd had writing for some time. Writing a 1970's-set whodunnit to the backdrop of Thatcher's rise to power brought some hilarious, unexpected parallels!
Did I mention that "Backstabbers" has comedy AND drama?
The idea had been knocking around in various forms since 1998, but it was so easy to write that I almost went straight into Season 2... but let's not put all of one's eggs in one's basket, hey?

I struggled with writing for a few months due to severe nerve/jaw pain, but I worked mainly on ideas and short film scripts during this time (as much as the pain would permit). One of which - "Nostalgia" - made the long list for "50 Kisses", but alas not the short list. But, a script is a script is a script, so I put it on Circalit for the world to read - and it received glowing feedback. Absolutely blow-your-socks-off feedback! Go. Me.

In preparation for the London Screenwriters Festival, I wrote a feature length screenplay 'adaptation' of "Nostalgia", which took on its own life through the process; turning from bleak sci-fi thriller to a sort of "A Christmas Carol"-meets-Groundhog Day-meets-Eternal Sunshine tale, with lots of heart, emotion and a nice 'What-if' scenario:

"What if you could see inside other people’s memories? Heartbroken Jasper must venture into his ex-girlfriend’s memories to solve an unanswered question: Did she ever love him?"

(For more info, check out

Which brings us to LSF 2012! It was a great weekend of catching up with old friends and making new ones, and listening to some excellent talks: The best of which were held by Luke Ryan of Disruption Entertainment, which was the equivalent of having warm honey poured over your brain for a few hours. Actually, I've no idea what that feels like, so let's just say it was a damn fine cup of coffee with a slice of cherry pie to boot.

Luke Ryan tells it how it is...
Luke spoke about transmedia/multi-platform projects, which was informative and motivating. By the end, about a billion light bulbs had gone off in my brain. Being a writer who either seems to write low-budget quirks or mega-budget blow-the-crap-out-of-everything swagger, I repeatedly heard over the course of three days NOT to aim for low budget. There IS money out there, and investors WANT big ideas and they don't always want the cheap option. Hallelujah! (And I hope this is true!)

I managed to catch up on some talks that I missed post-LSF: "Just Effing Entertain Me"'s Julie Gray was inspirational, whilst the Jonathan Newman-helmed "I Wrote the Part with You in Mind..." talk with Sally Phillips and Ralf Little was hilarious and insightful; both left me kicking myself that I'd missed them live.

Sally Phillips, of 'Smack The Pony', 'Miranda' AND 'Justin's House'!
The "Speed pitching" session was an inspired improvement on last year's session: Whilst it was a mad free-for-all, I managed to pitch to those who I wanted to, rather than being allotted random folk. The results were:

Scott Free: Interested in the concept, took my one-sheet.
Ned Dowd: Warm, friendly feedback - He "got it" (to the point of suggesting casting options) which was great! Took the one sheet. Nice guy too!
Bad Hat Harry: Got the concept for 'Nostaglia', didn't really get 'Backstabbers' - but that was down to my last second 2nd pitch.
BBC Comedy: Got the idea of 'Backstabbers', but warned me off of taking it further due to a similar-themed episode of 'Psychoville'. (Even though I 'got' what he was saying, it's all in the execution)
Sky TV: Loved the idea of 'Backstabbers', said he could easily see it playing on Sky. Go figure.

"That's me in the corner..." Actually, I'm in the middle. Tall dude. Yeah. Hello.
And here we are in December: I'm currently working on a one-location/minimal cast project which has a rather neat concept. Currently the idea runs as a mixture of Assault on Precinct 13/Sleeping With The Enemy/The Quiet Earth/Half-Life/The Fly/The Keep, possibly with a bit of Die Hard chucked in for good measure! It'll all make sense soon, right?

"An agoraphobic conspiracy theorist fights for her sanity and life when she suspects the world is being invaded by a mysterious enemy."

And that's the end of that chapter. But, before I toodle off for two weeks of Christmas indulgence, here's my film round-up of 2012. Skol!

Recommended movies of 2012 (Scoring 3.5 or higher out of 5; some DVD's released theatrically in 2011)
Skyfall (Bond goes Dark Knight)
Madagascar 3 (Best one yet; colourful and fun)
Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (Endearing)
Avengers Assemble (Big, silly, blockbustery fun)
The Five-Year Engagement (Blunt must do more comedy)
Dark Shadows (Unexpectedly hilarious; lovely design, closest to Beetlejuice for Burton)
The Dictator (Made me laugh. Lots.)
Safe (Unexpected 70's tinged throwback)
The Hunger Games (Gripping)
21 Jump St (Very funny)
Damsels In Distress (Mad as a brush)
Brave (Beautiful to look at, lovely mother/daughter story)
Headhunters (Excellent 'Fargo' throwback)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Does what it says on the tin)
Ice Age 4 (Fun, best Ice Age animation yet; great Peter Dinklage voice work!)
Young Adult (Theron at her best; very bitter)
The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists (Great fun, good visual gags)
Midnight In Paris (The first palatable Woody Allen film for me!)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Books are over-rated, but this was in expert hands)
The Grey (Old fashioned, bleak survival movie)
Martha Marcy May Marlene (Beautifully shot, great performances)
Chronicle (Unexpectedly great - and I hate 'Found footage' movies!)
The Descendants (Class. Quality. Clooney.)
Crazy, Stupid Love (Enjoyable, easy-going rom-com)
Warrior (Great performances, if cramming all the Rocky films into one)
The Rum Diary (Hilarious, Withnail-esque comedy)
Fright Night (80's throwback! About time!)
Contagion (Gripping, if a little thinly spread)
Bridesmaids (Gross-out funny, yet likable)

Notable mentions:
Cabin in the Woods (The elevator scene, followed by carnage: I was suddenly a 12 yr old fx-obsessed film geek again!)
Haywire (Fassbender gets a good kicking, presumably for Prometheus)
A Dangerous Method (Knightly's hypnotic jaw)
Ill Manors (Splat!)

TV Shows of the year...
Game Of Thrones (Has the depth and detail that only a tv show can permit)
Damages (Is this the most under-rated tv series ever? Consistently brilliant)
Treme (Season 2 was even more leisurely than the previous, but still quality)

Which brings us to... THE WORST OF THE YEAR! (Scoring one or less out of 5)
Friends With Kids (Who cares about your pointless problems? Grow up!)
Battleship (Made me crave for Transformers. Good grief)
Like Crazy (It's your own damn fault for getting kicked out of the U.S.! Idiot!)
A Thousand Words (... and yet none of them any good.)
The Darkest Hour (Repetitive nonsense)
Womb (YUCK.)
The Dinosaur Project (Worst of the found footage films)
Elfie Hopkins (Cheap, badly made and self-indulgent)
Wanderlust (Rudd? Aniston? Why are you doing this to yourselves?)
John Carter (Go ON the journey with your hero. Do not play your best hand in the opening scene.)
Texas Killing Fields (Dull.)
The Three Musketeers (So slick it has trouble staying on the screen)
Attenberg (Didn't get it: Too weird)
Hesher (Didn't like it: Too in love with itself)
Johnny English Reborn (Did they learn nothing from the first one? Apparently not.)
Abduction (Vapid.)
Apollo 18 (Did I mention how much I hate found footage films?)
The Wicker Tree (Oh why why why why...)

And the ultimate worst of the year winner...

PROMETHEUS. So many things wrong with it, so little time or energy to devote to it. Let's just say the last time I left the cinema in such a huff was M:I 2.

Janek has never been so excited about rushing to his doom. High five, co-pilots!

Merry Christmaaaaaaas! See you in 2013! (Sorry, Mayans...)

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