Cure For Wellness

A + B = F**K

Here we are: it's suddenly June.

The vfx tunnel has been a long and squirmy one this time — an epic five-monther, as opposed to my usual in-and-out crunch-time contracts. Why? A bunch of reasons, but mostly to get the chance to put on my big-boys' supe pants for a change; getting deeply involved in a film, as opposed to cruising across the finish line with a couple of shots to my name.

It's been.... fun, I guess. Different. A learning-curve. An eye-opener. A huge boost to my vfx skillset (I can't wait to comp again, now that I've tasted the other side). But for all those things, it's also been an experience that's given my usual work-life balance quite a solid kicking. No complaints, if I'm being honest. More just a statement of fact: my 2016 has mostly been about a film. There hasn't been the time for much else. (See the above pic for instance - my actual work desk right now. Hell, why not. Does a man really need much more than tequila, Spotify, and a wacom pen to enjoy a long Friday night stuck at his desk?)

Right about now is usually where I bang on about 'hoping it's all been worth it'. This one? As always, hard to tell, looking at it from the limited window us vfx types look out at the bigger motion picture, but it feels like it might be? Who knows. By the time it comes out, the aches in my bones, the slithers in the dark, and the wrap-party hangover will be such a distant memory. But I do think it might be. A unique project to have been part of, a director I've really enjoyed seeing work his craft, and a film whose story and content has taken us all to places of darkness in ways that feel almost.... refreshing... after working so many PG-13 comic book movies.

A little bit of dark-and-evil can be good for you sometimes.

My only regret in all this is the foolish (in hindsight) prediction that there'd be all this time available after hours to pitch a finished manuscript to a pile of literary agents. Nope. Nada.

And that's okay too. What's been interesting is that over the last week, I picked up 'Winners' again for the first time in a few months. And you know what? The extended rest has done us both some good. I've had the chance to read it almost fresh. Sink into it like I'd sink into any other novel. The verdict? Not bad. Still the polish I knew it would need, but far less than it could have been. Hell, I've quite enjoyed reading it. Messy pockets aside, it's got pace. I still like the characters. I don't hate the story. I wanted to continue reading. The only times I groaned were at some of the horrendous typos, and the occasional piece of dialogue-lameness, things that'll be long gone before y'all get your eyeballs anywhere near them.

In short, all good. I'll finish up on the movie soon, and take hold of something I'm not just 'seeing through' : there's a genuine confidence in the book now. After such a solid rest, I know exactly what the book is (and isn't), the positives far outweighing the negatives. I just hope I can capture and infect my upcoming pitch phase with that very same enthusiasm.

Wish me luck. Both with the pitching, and the wrap-party hangover.



'Winners' : done deal

You heard me right.
I think I've finished my second book, Winners.

Well, 'finished' is a tough call to make at this point, so how about: 'finished... enough...'?

Oh, who am I kidding; there'll be more work on it, especially once the querying gets going. But for now—minor moppings-up and a grammar/punctuation pass aside—I'm pretty happy with where it's at. Time to let it settle, give it and my brain a rest from one another, and to start throwing the first 10000 words in front of the right pairs of professional eye-balls.

So what's next?

Funny you should ask. I thought I'd be moving on to this great and crazy idea that'd been percolating in the back of my head for years, however it looks as though fate has other plans.

All it took was one of those long walks home, on a day where I'd (okay, I'm going to let you in on a personal secret here) set my Spotify app not to broadcast what I was listening to, just so I could play (and enjoy, with great shame) the soundtrack from Frozen, and suddenly, a fresh story materialised into my head. By the time Elsa belted the final strains of 'Let It Go', I had the bare bones of a story tapped furiously into, where it's since become the thing I've thought about and fleshed-out during every foot-commute since.

The book is tentatively called Beth & Stevie, and it's a different kind of love story.

I'm hesitant in saying too much more about it yet. Just know that I'm just as excited about it as I was at the beginning of Winners, and despite it being very early days, can't wait to start smashing out drafts. Until then, I've got a serious amount of reading to do. Where my last two books have been very much the product of personal history and imagination, while this is still true, there's a serious research component involved this time should I ever want to bring the outline to any respectful, three-dimensional life.

More on that later.

For now, you might have also noticed that the ol' vanity domain looks a little different. Take a look around, marvel at the wonders of WYSIWYG/shortcode template editing tools in 2016, and make sure you're all signed up to the all new mailing-list. (Not sure what I'm doing with this yet, though likely just very occasional updates if/when something amazing starts moving with one of the manuscripts.)

Oh, and if anyone needs me, I'm heading back in on a movie gig next week. Should be a good one - stay tuned. :)

Big Smashy Things

To cut a long story short, while I've had a great couple of months edging my novel forward after a successful and revealing round of beta-reading in Dec, other areas of life have intervened, and suddenly - a change of plan - I'm back for another round of vfx madness with my buddies at DNeg.

A sideward step for the novel perhaps, but not a backward one - the past couple of months I have also been quite busy setting up the additional business arms I have been hinting at over the last several months, now fully up and running (despite not having officially launched), paying clients and all. Even with a return to VFX, the virtual businesses are a solid step toward future-proofing my writing career; whenever the time comes to step away from the film stuff even further, there'll be something to keep food on the table besides the gamble of hoping a successful book might do that - from here on in I can focus on improving at the craft without necessarily needing treat writing like 'a job', something I always hated as a musician.

2014 is shaping up to be an interesting year. I've set up a company, had a pile of people read and critique my book, about to move into a (bought and paid for) new flat in East London, and somehow already squeezed in a movie or two... January has most certainly not been an unproductive month. (Side note: I could always do a little better on that 'blog more' New Year's Resolution...).

For now, I'll leave you with a little taste of the movie I've started working on this week :

Tipping Point

Ok, so I'm back. Last post was July, but who's counting?

Things got a little crunchy on Thor : The Dark World, but I went with it, without complaint, knowing there was a substantial writing break coming once it wrapped. Normally I'd be whining like a baby about a bunch of lost weekends and strings of back-to-back 18-hour days, but not this time. The work was genuinely satisfying - a really fun show to have been on for all sorts of reasons, and I hope it shows.

But, all this talk of Thor is SO last month. October is all about "The Brave". For the patient few who have followed it's meandering journey from afar these many long months, the wait is nearly over. I'm predicting several more weeks before I can release a beta draft to a few testers, but release it I will. Enough is enough. While it's far from a perfect manuscript, it's starting to read like 'a book', one which is about ready to have a shot at standing on it's own two legs, just see what sort of feedback it generates in the wild.

I am still looking for a few more literary randoms out there to donate some reading/commenting time to the cause, in particular "near-total strangers" who don't know enough about me or my history to be able to pick the book up stone cold. (No offence to the rest of you - you're either on the readers-list already or not, based on some really boring demographic criteria. Hell, I've got to save some of you to actually buy the thing...). By all means hit me up if you read a lot of books, won't be upset by the swears and typos, and have your interest piqued when I say : "one man's year-long journey back to relationship enlightenment, set in a quirky, globe-trotting world of sex, drugs and men in kilts". (Hey, so I haven't locked down my final pitch yet. So shoot me.)

For the rest of you, watch this space. I've got some big things in the works - not just the book - and a whole lot of non-vfx-filled time to do it. 

Until then, here's some music to get you into the appropriate frame of mind: Training Montage! :)


The Prisoner

I've already mentioned my obsession with filling up with random street observations. Since moving to London - a city where a lot more tends to happen on the footpath than a lot of other places - the folder has been filling up with even more snippets covering everything from street brawling, more crazy people talking to themselves, interesting new slang, declarations of love, lovers' arguments and even a couple of celebrity cameos.

The point is still to keep amassing this stuff for no other purpose than to mark and remember these glimpses into other people's lives, fodder for future scribblings. Completely lacking context, sure,  but this exact lacking it what makes it such a perfect catalyst for the imagination. Take this one for instance - written down back in May, discovered again today amongst the mess as I rummaged through the folder during a long render-wait:

"Early afternoon - sunny. A crowd of people is bottle-necking the Euston Street footpath-traffic. I think it's the media the way it's clumping in a tight circle, but there are no cameras. In the centre is a ragged-looking older man - a little hunched and twisted - being hugged in turn by every person in the crowd. Passing even closer, I notice he's old-school handcuffed, locked up hard by some Victorian-looking steel. The crowd are his family and old, old friends, all except two. One, a bearish type in a plain suit holding him tight by the elbow. The only other pair of eyes not on the cuffed guy belong to another man lurking right up the back - staring at me like cold death, tense and ready.

The prisoner looks tired and just a bit overwhelmed. It's like he doesn't want anybody to even be there (embarrassed?) but at the same time trying hard not to crack/melt and show how glad he is to see them, saying "y'all right" over and over as each person steps forward to smother him. The couple of teary women in the group must be his sisters. Family at least, not lovers. A couple of the men are trying to keep it together from behind the safety of their sunglasses. All  of them are of his own generation or older.

I look around to see which courthouse we are in front of, but the modern chrome and glass facade belongs to a hospital. To my eyes the prisoner suddenly seems much more tired, that embarrassment now seeming much more like preoccupation. I wonder how many years he's been locked up, as they're showing. Not just the bags and lines and crooked posture. More how dated everything else is;  the hair and facial expression of a young 80s crim slapped onto the decaying body of a tired, old, sick one - a rusted time-capsule. 

One last hug and he disappears in behind the doors without a look back, alone bar the brutes at his elbows."

Does he already know he's dying of cancer, or is he on his way in to do the tests that will eventually tell him so? Is he even sick at all - some worse injury concealed under his clothes? Why did his family choose to congregate in the street just to catch him for those few seconds in between getting out of a car and walking through the doors of a hospital, knowing full well they weren't going to accompany him inside? Will they be there when he comes out later? More to the point, why am I feeling sorry for this guy? What put him in prison in the first place? Was he sad because he was dying, sad because there were less people meeting him than the last time (like, no Dad), or sad because this would be the DNA test that will prove he was locked away an innocent man, those years now lost?

I've got piles of this stuff. Every entry spitting forth a hundred human questions, each begging for some back-story. Most of it is just taking up bytes - ordered clutter, digital hoarding, and feels a bit like insanity when you look at the pile as a whole. Or perhaps it'll be these same snapshots that find their way into a scene or a character and lend a three-dimensionality that pulls the entire story together, sparking the next big thing?

Hell, if nothing else, they've spurned a new blog post. That, and an anonymous, lonely-looking prisoner has a couple more random strangers on the Internet thinking about him tonight.


The Getting-Things-Done Spiral

I'm addicted, I'll admit it.

A while ago I decided that there were a few little weekly-recurring tasks that my my memory didn't need to bother with. Currently rolling an iPhone, I scheduled a bunch of repeating tasks. Really dumb stuff like "clean shoes" and "cut fingernails" - the sort of thing it's great to be doing regularly but you sometime let fall by the wayside or push to the back of the queue.

And that has worked well. But then, I started adding to the automation. Next came non-repeating events, in a way using that Reminders app for what it was intended: reminding. I'm far less internally organised than my significant other, and there's nothing worse than losing face when something like purchasing milk drops off one's radar. And again, this has all worked well. My little robot slave has been assimilated nicely into my daily habits, and I find I'm getting a lot more stuff done than before. More importantly, there's structure. (I like structure. Whenever I've gone through stages where I let things go, fall out of a routine, and just take everything as it comes, that's the only time I start feeling flat, aimless and a little depressed.)

Lately I've been having something of a personal-development renaissance. Not ready to drop the whole lot on y'all right here and now, but let's just say that, the novel and day-job withstanding, I've suddenly got eight distinct projects on the boil. It started out as a decision to bring a couple of my dormant-but-used-to-earn sites back from the dead, and has blossomed into something else. Naturally, I didn't want anything else to suffer as a result of wanting to dedicate time to that, so got organised about it, and yes, involved the machine yet again.

Reminders was too small. No, now I've gone all OmniFocus on my life's ass. Setting up projects, breaking each down into tiny chunks of tasks, assigning each a deadline, and hooking all that up to be constantly harassing me via my phone. And why stop there at the new and old projects? The writing stuff is in there now too, and yes, even the fingernails.

And more. In fact, I'm not sure I know how to stop. There doesn't seem to be any limit to how many aspects of your life you can break down into bits and assign a chunk of your week with a tick-box beside it.

This is all getting a bit OCD and I'm not sure it's healthy. I sat here this morning with the spare lazy hour of geek-time that had appeared and suddenly hit a blank. Not a blank spot caused by lack of having things to do, but that of not knowing where to start.

The last thing I expected to find at the end of the organisational road was chaos, but here we are.

Still, my shoes are clean, and my fingernails cut. That might be enough for a Saturday.