Writers

Fred Dekker on Night Of The Creeps

21 Aug, 2014 Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Directors, Guest blog, Writers

As Film4 screens 80s comedy-horror Night Of The Creeps for the first time, writer/director Fred Dekker looks back on his filmmaking debut…

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Night Of The Creeps was written in three weeks.

At least, that’s what I read on the Internet. To be honest, I don’t remember how long it took. What I do remember is that my fledgling career circa 1985 was shifting into a higher gear with each passing day — I’d gone from being an English major at UCLA to a working member of the Writer’s Guild of America in less than a year.

My first writing job was an American Godzilla movie to be produced and directed by Steve Miner who, after helming the second and third Friday The 13th installments, decided it was time to fry bigger fish… or bigger prehistoric reptiles.
The movie was never made (its $30 million budget was considered too exorbitant!) but working with Steve opened the next door on my journey…

I’d wanted to be a director since the day I saw Jaws, so for me screenwriting was really a preamble to the director’s chair. I had an idea for my first film. It would be a low budget shocker, albeit with some redeeming social value, about a Vietnam veteran who decides to face his demons by writing a no-holds-barred memoir about his war experiences. I decided he’d hole up in a house alone, and slowly but surely the proverbial scary shit would start to happen. The audience, in turn, would wonder if he was suffering from PTSD, or if the house was actually haunted (spoiler alert: the latter).

I wanted to call it House (clever, eh?) and shoot it down-and-dirty in the very house I grew up in — my parents’ Victorian in Marin County, California. I mentioned the project to my college roommate, Ethan Wiley, but for various reasons – the Godzilla script, girl watching, making short films with my friends or having dinner with James Cameron about working on his script for Aliens (yes, that happened)… whatever the reason, I just never got around to writing it.

So Ethan asked if he could take a crack at it. The script he wrote was more comic in tone than the movie I’d imagined, but liked it enough to show to Steve Miner, who loved it and showed it to Sean Cunningham — producer/director of the original Friday The 13th. The next thing I knew, my first screen credit –“Story by”– was in front of the cameras (three sequels followed, although I never saw a dime).

Somewhere in the midst of all this was the apocryphal “three weeks” during which Night Of The Creeps was born. Again, I don’t remember exactly. What I do remember is this: a sleepless night, and a vision of a hard drinking, hard-boiled gumshoe picking up a phone and saying, “Thrill me.” (After I saw The Terminator, I named the character “Cameron” after my one-time dinner companion. Because why not?).

So…  I had a character, and one line of dialogue. That was pretty much it. But I knew he was a detective, so the question for me as a writer became: what was he investigating?

The floodgates, as they say, opened.

Because long before I was writing seriously, long before I’d come to Los Angeles to break into “the business,” long before any of that: I was a movie nerd. Correction: genre movie nerd.

So I allowed the library of genre movies in my head to spill out. I loved Animal House and the films of John Hughes, so what if there were a college romance plot? And what if that was the reason the detective’s investigating something? What if a sorority were besieged by an axe-killer? Or better yet – a zombie axe-killer? Or better yet – a zombie axe-killer infested with alien parasites?

Calling Night Of The Creeps original would be an error. But calling it an affectionate nod to all the B-movie tropes I’d absorbed in my misspent youth? Bingo. I was doing the mash-up to end all mash-ups long before anyone knew what the hell a mash-up was.

My agent found a producer who liked the script (his name was Chuck Gordon, and he would go on to make movies like Die Hard and Field Of Dreams and Waterworld. Nothing big). The first studio Chuck showed it to said yes.

It was official. I was going to be a director! I was also officially having an anxiety attack. But I soldiered through, and with the help of an amazing cast and crew, managed to cobble a movie together.

I had never had any formal training, and everything I knew about making movies was learned on the fly when I was young, shooting and cutting 8mm films or video. That, and watching anything I could, from any era, in any genre.

My “self-taught” approach made for some awkward moments on the set and in the cutting room, but my naïveté was also responsible for the film’s occasionally bravura style (my favorite scenes are Detective Cameron’s dream/nightmare, and the scene where he tells young Chris Romero the deep, dark secret that’s been haunting him for 27 years).

What did I learn from making my first feature? Three things, mostly. 1) Cast properly. I think it was Martin Scorsese who said that’s 90% of the job right there, and he’s right. 2) Keep an eye on pace, and get enough coverage so you can speed a scene up or slow it down in editing. And 3) Be veeery nice to the executives who are giving you the money to make your movie.

(Quick side-note on casting: I didn’t have an actor in mind when I wrote the detective, but Tom Atkins read for us and the second he left I turned to our casting director and said, “That’s the guy.” To this day, I think Tom is the glue that holds the movie together.)

As for the in-joke character names? An extension of the homage tone I was going for. After all, if you’re going to rip off a bunch of other movies, why not at least acknowledge the guys who made them? (Romero, Landis, Corman, etc.) More importantly, since this was my first feature – and it was ostensibly horror – I chose to specifically reference directors who had started out, or specialized, in the genre. That’s why there are no characters named Kurosawa… although Spielberg, Kubrick and Peter Hyams were probably my biggest influences at the time.

As we were shooting, I concocted another “mash-up” that was near and dear to my heart; a comic-horror adventure that would pay tribute to the “Our Gang” comedies and the Universal monster films. I asked my talented college chum Shane Black to write it and we were making a production deal for The Monster Squad even before Creeps was finished. Suffice to say, there wasn’t much time for me to reflect on the cultural impact of the work I was doing, and frankly, I was having too much fun to worry about it. It was only after both these films were released… and bombed horribly… that I realized they were barely blips on the Hollywood radar. I had committed the cardinal sin of any fledgling filmmaker: I had made two unsuccessful films in a row — a critical blow to my directing career.

It was years later that both films began to find their audience via cable TV and video rentals and word of mouth. Although considered “cult classics” now, at the time they came out they were redheaded stepchildren, beloved by only a few discerning genre buffs. Frankly, the disappointment was crushing.

So what’s the moral of the story? Well, for one thing, if I had it to do all over again, I might not have made two “comic horror” films — an oddball hybrid in any era, and rarely successful on a blockbuster scale (Zombieland notwithstanding). My true loves are adventure films and thrillers, and had I gone in that direction (i.e. more mainstream), my career might well have gone a different route, too.

But hey, hindsight is 20/20. And I’m truly gratified that at least Night Of The Creeps did find its audience… eventually. And maybe as part of Film4’s FrightFest, it’ll attract a few new fans, as well. You know what that would do?

Thrill me.

Fred Dekker
Los Angeles — August 2014

Author Q&A: Joe Dunthorne on Submarine

02 Oct, 2010 Posted in: Writers

Author Joe Dunthorne’s first novel has been adapted into the acclaimed movie Submarine by Richard Ayoade. Here, he tells Catherine Bray about borrowing from his own life, changes to the novel, and Richard Ayoade’s bedroom.

Noah Taylor in Submarine

Do you remember the first germ of an idea for Submarine?
I didn’t really write it like that. I was studying creative writing and I was just experimenting really, writing in lots of different voices and perspectives, just trying to find something that worked, and I wrote a short story which was more or less the first chapter in the novel, in Oliver’s voice. That chapter is about him going to see a physiotherapist and that was just something I’d happened to do recently when I was a student – I had a bad back and I went to see the physio.
The voice felt natural to me, and more than anything I’d written before like it was coming out fully formed, so then I just ploughed on. I don’t want to say the book wrote itself, that’s a bit of a cliché, but as much as a book has ever written itself, it was pretty natural. I say this at the end of the second novel, which has been absolute murder, so this really was a different experience.

 

How personal was the novel of Submarine – and did that cause any concerns when adapting it into a film?
It’s interesting. Lots of writers, including me, use their own life for their first novel. The novel of Submarine is a substantially altered version of my own growing up – there are various things that are real from my childhood and various things that are made up – so after that one remove you’ve already lost like, 50% of your real life. And then you get the second refraction in the film. But there are a few things that are still quite true to my growing up. My father is the father in the book, essentially, and if you put my dad and Noah Taylor side by side, they’re not that different, at least in terms of their facial hair.
And Richard obviously brings things from his own life and childhood into it, like the bedroom in the film, Oliver’s bedroom in the film, is a kind of mix of what Richard would have loved his own childhood bedroom to be like, with all the obscure film posters, and a mix of things that he actually did have in his room.
The plot is largely made up. Certainly the over-arching plot: the love story and the family, is all made up, which is slightly disappointing to some people when you tell them that your parents never almost divorced or whatever.

How did your Dad react to reading the book?
My Dad has been extremely good humoured the whole way through, which I think you get some of through the book. I hope in the book it’s a kind of loving portrait. It’s not a character assassination; it’s a warm thing and he seems to have taken it with good humour. Maybe you get a bit more of a lighter touch in the book, he’s got more jokes, anyway – I suppose there’s just more time to develop someone in a book. I think actually he enjoys his mini-celebrity as a film and book character.

What did you imagine would change when it was adapted into a film?

My expectation was that, for it to be turned into a film, it would have to be radically altered, simply because of the internal quality of the book. It was hard to imagine how you could make something that’s a 300 page monologue into drama. I was very much warned by people, my agent and publishers, that if it were to be made into a film I should brace myself for emotional trauma as my story got torn apart, so I never felt any pangs really. Plus I just love film so much, so that helps.

Was Richard Ayoade’s a name that was there from the very beginning as a possible director?
Yeah, it was. The whole thing was blessed with this very smooth development. Richard was the first idea that Mary Burke the producer had for a director. We met, we got on really well, we started watching loads of films in his attic. Then we went down to Swansea for a few days and I showed him all the places that I thought he’d use and he used none of them. And then when we found Craig it made total sense, and the same with Yasmin.
The whole thing just barreled along on a lot of momentum. I guess that’s the kind of freshness thing, it just never got stagnant. It happened really quickly. I hope it carried that freshness with it.

Screenwriter’s Diary, Part Two: Jack Thorne on The Scouting Book For Boys

02 Oct, 2008 Productions Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Guest blog, Writers

BAFTA-winning screenwriter Jack Thorne has worked on TV’s Skins, Shameless and This Is England, and wrote the Film4 production The Scouting Book for Boys, directed by Tom Harper. Here, he shares his diary from the making of the film

 

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5th September 2008

Went to a wedding tonight, which was notable for two reasons:

i) I got to have a proper chat with Andrea, who is co-producer on the film and, according to Ivana, amazingly amazing. Got to say she seems great. She was able to fill me in on the final week’s prep – they’re all in Norfolk now and seemingly having a great time. It is quite strange to talk about the film with someone so specifically involved in it and yet someone I haven’t really properly talked to before. Guess I’ll have to get used to that.

ii) The couple getting married – Steve and Katherine – performed the most amazing first dance I’ve ever seen. I don’t think Steve will mind me saying that he’s not the most coordinated person in the world. In fact, it’s a bit of an effort for him to stand up straight at times. But this dance – which they’d taken lessons for – was awesome. Awesome because Steve didn’t suddenly turn into Fred Astaire but instead looked fragile and worried and he didn’t exactly count every step, but he kept his eyes firmly fixed on Katherine throughout, with her giving him signals that it’s all okay and he’s doing fine.

It got me thinking about Scouting Book, which is a love story of sorts, and how we represent that love. Because the characters never actually say, “I love you.” I’m not sure I have ever had characters say that in anything I’ve written, partly because I’ve never said it myself – I’ve tried twice, for those that are interested, and fucked it up both times. But we do sort of know, almost instantly, they are in love and this love is slightly unconventional. I went home and looked over the scenes again and checked they sort of had that intense fragility I so admired in Steve and Katherine. I think they do.

 

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14th September 2008

Filming has started and I get an excited call from Tom to say they’ve turned over. He’s warned me in advance that now I’m the ex-wife and shouldn’t expect much from him from here on in. In fact, he clarifies, I’m his ex-ex-wife; despite our mini-break not being that long ago, Paul, the production designer, was his wife during prep, but now filming has started he’s an ex-wife too. Now Robbie, the DP, is where it’s at. The analogy when Tom explained it to me got slightly confused at this point, because he started saying that maybe actually we’re all mistresses and Ivana is his wife, but I don’t think she is – I think she’s a sister or something. Anyway, it was lovely to hear from him. And lovely to hear that the world is not turning all sorts of wrong ways.

On another note, I am now an investor in the film. In order to shoot on 35mm me, Ivana, Christian and Tom have all had to put up a relatively small amount. It’s so worth it.

 

16th September 2008

I had lunch with Marc Forster today (the director of Quantum Of Solace and Monster’s Ball). I have nothing to say about this other than he’s an awesome man. But he did meet me because of this script and I am very grateful to it. I’m basically just showing off. I met Marc Forster today. This is a good thing.

Have heard nothing from set. Left a call from Ivana. She hasn’t returned it. I guess I’m officially now the forgotten man. Still, Marc Forster likes me, so I don’t care. Or I think he likes me. I hope he likes me.

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22nd September 2008

I’ve still not talked to Tom at all since the first day’s filming and I’ve only had a chance to talk to Ivana twice. Though I have found her weakness: text messaging. Ivana loves texting. She’ll text anyone. She’s a text whore.

 

3pm 28th September 2008

Finally, the day has arrived – the next week is all about Scouting Book. I’m going to Tom’s house to watch some rushes and then I’m off to Norfolk with him and Adam Lock – the first AD, who also worked on Skins and who I thought I’d recommended for this job. When I mentioned this to Tom he said yes, I did recommend him, but he didn’t take my advice that seriously, my knowledge of filming not being great. However, when Paul Cripps, our production designer, said that Adam was great, Tom did take his advice very seriously indeed. I’ve never felt more like an ex-ex-wife. I’m quite seriously nervous. What if it’s really shit? It’s probably not going to be, but it could be.

 

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12am 28th September 2008

The rushes are beautiful. One shot in particular I think is amazing. It’s a shot of Tommo Turgoose walking along the Hunstanton Beach. In the background are the wings of an off-shore wind farm. It’s gorgeous and is so the sort of portrait of contemporary Britain that I was hoping for. (Yeah, I know, ‘portrait of contemporary Britain’ – shoot me now and make me write for the Daily Telegraph.)

The extraordinary thing in the rushes is that Tommo walks and talks like me. I don’t know quite how he’s done this: we’ve never met and Tom tells me that he doesn’t talk or walk like that in real life, but, like me particularly at that age, he’s got this thing where his legs don’t quite connect to his head but seem to move independently. It took me six attempts to pass my driving test because I have no coordination whatsoever and could never move the pedals in time with the gear-stick and definitely didn’t have any time to look at road signs. In fact, I’m not sure I didn’t eventually pass because my test examiner, Mrs Joy, who handled me for five out of six of the tests, was just being nice to me. At the start of the sixth test she told me to call her Valerie. Thankfully for the world, because of my illness, I’m not allowed to drive. Anyway, Tommo has channeled that from somewhere and maybe it’ll please no one except me, but it pleases me very much.

The only thing about the rushes that I’m still getting my head around is that Tom has made the decision to sort of heighten everything. All the characters, apart from the two leads, David and Emily, have a touch of unreality to them. In particular, Steve the security guard has a huge Elvis quiff and an odd way of talking. I think this will work. And think I’m dead excited about it and certainly tell Tom I am (be good). But it isn’t what I’m expecting, and to claim that I’m not sitting here in a slight state of flux, turning over exactly what it will mean, would be lying.

We arrived at the park at about 9 o’clock, with petrol station sandwiches and smiles and I meet Tommo for the first time. I’m slightly shy around him, to be honest. He isn’t shy and I overhear him arguing with the barman as to whether he’s allowed to buy beer or not. (He isn’t).

P.S. I’ve never been in a caravan this cold before. It’s freezing. I suppose it’s almost October but even with that considered, it’s freezing.

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10pm 29th September 2008

My first day on set. And I’ve never felt more like a spare part in my entire life. We’re filming at a real-life location, a police station, which means there’s no place for me to watch the action. So mostly I sit in the back room with Marnie, the awesome script supervisor, whose job it is to basically be another set of eyes for Tom, and to protect the script and check the actors are following it. She’s very good. We watch on a monitor, and when earphones are free, I use them, but otherwise I watch a silent film of my film filming.
Acting today are Steven Mackintosh, Tommo, Rafe Spall and Susan Lynch – brilliant actors all. I only catch the briefest words with Rafe, where I admire his haircut very much. Someone told me that he’s going to be the biggest star in Britain soon – I wouldn’t be surprised. Susan I’ve worked with before (she came and did a day’s workshop on the Honky Tonk project me and Tom are doing), where she made the lovely Jo Eastwood, an actor with Down’s Syndrome, cry by being fucking scary. She is, I think, the most underrated actress in the British acting thing. I think she’s awesome.

Steven Mackintosh was the only one that left me slightly star-struck, not only because of Care, which I think is one of the best dramas on TV in the last 20 years, but also because when he was Tommo’s age he was Nigel in Adrian Mole, the TV show of the book that defined my childhood. I know I’m sounding like a luvvie now, and I’m not, but I am dead chuffed we’ve got the actors we’ve got.

In the afternoon, we move to another location and take a look at the caves Paul, our production designer, has built. He’s done it using bits borrowed from The Descent 2 and Merlin. And the cave looks, well, like a cave. I’m not going to say awesome any more because I’ve been overusing it as a word. But it is.

I sit with Tom as he rehearses the actors for the afternoon. I say nothing. I rarely do in rehearsals for anything (radio, theatre, TV) for two reasons: i) I know how I want every line to be said and I don’t think it’s helpful to let them know this, plus I know that generally they land somewhere pretty close by the time a scene is finished, and ii) the sad fact about writers is that we’re seen like the oracle, somehow always understanding what a character thinks or feels. I don’t, and I don’t think I’m alone. Tom is great with the actors anyway – patient, inquisitive, careful. He is ex-theatre, albeit from a long time ago, and it really shows sometimes.

Anyway, now back in the caravan on my own. In bad news, Tony Maudsley, who’s playing Jim, is staying in my caravan tonight but has gone AWOL. Because everyone is on 5am starts I don’t think I should phone anyone to ask whether I should be worried. In good news, someone has told me two ways to warm up my caravan. The first is to turn the heating on. Yup, I should have probably done that last night. The other is to put the spare duvet in my room under my sheet. It works a treat – I’m a lot warmer now anyway.

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1am 29th September 2008

Tony has arrived. A very, very nice guy. Turned out – thanks to his SatNav – he went to the other Broadland caravan park in Lowestoft and, as everyone he tried to call was asleep, he then drove around for two hours hoping to remember where he came for his make-up and costume tests. I love the fact that there are two Broadlands, but I hope I’m appropriately sympathetic. He’s annoyed because he wanted to get pissed and do the scenes hungover, the way that Jim would be – he’s clearly going to be a perfect Jim.

 

9.39pm 30th September 2008

I can balance an egg-cup on my nose for four hours at a time and I know all the words to Never Ever by All Saints. Those apart, I have very few skills in life other than writing – if that can be described as a skill, although you can get doctorates in creative writing now. This I’m discovering on set as I just seem to clutter things up and get in the way.

And yet everyone is being really nice to me. Tom warned me that I might feel a bit left out on set. (Do you get the sense that this guy is quite protective? I think he might think I’m a small child.) In actual fact people are being lovely – particularly Julian and Shaida in the costume department, and Jody and Karen who do make-up. Working the length of days they are, and having to spend much of that waiting for the drinks break to do their work, you’d expect them to be savage and difficult, but they’re not. Julian in particular seems to have worked on everything (including Last Resort and My Summer Of Love), so it’s great to pick his brain about stuff. He’s a real horror film geek, in fact – so much so I feel slightly out-geeked and intimidated. (One of the many things that can turn me ugly is the fear that someone knows more about TV than I do.) But no, everyone’s been a good laugh, which is a relief, as I hate being hated.

I’m then in the office for a few hours because a note has come down from Peter Carlton, our exec, to keep an eye on David’s slyness. Tommo is brilliant but, unlike I was at his age, he’s a nice guy who trusts people and sometimes that comes across too heavily in his performance. Ivana and I go through the script looking at the remaining scenes and working out where David can really show his darkness and guile. It’s fun doing this and fun working with Ivana together on script.

In the afternoon I witness DP Robbie Ryan’s genius at work as he makes wet and overcast Norfolk look like a warm summer’s day. He understands filters, that man. Or someone does on set, because how the scene looks in reality and how it looks through the monitor are literally miles apart.

Paul Cripps then cooks me and Tom dinner and finally I get ‘face time’ with the great director. And once again I’m amazed at how relaxed Tom seems about everything. If I were him I’d be having several small kittens right now. This film is important for all of us but arguably his career is the most on the line – in fact, he turned some stuff down before this because he wanted his first film to be the right one. Yet stress seems to wash over him. I would write down some cogent greatness he expressed as we ate our burgers, but truth is, he was pretty knackered and talked bollocks for an hour.

 

  Watch the trailer for The Scouting Book For Boys

 

4pm 1st October 2008

I’m now on the train home having finally seen Emily and David together. Holliday Grainger, who is playing Emily, had the first few days of my stay off so I didn’t meet her at all until last night. What I knew was her auditions were amazing – she has a brilliant understanding of rhythm and comprehension, she makes lines work. But Emily is not an easy part and aside from the fact she’s beautiful (and that’s quite important), she’s got her spirit nailed. Watching her and Tommo on top of the toilets together, I’m so chuffed: the film will live and die on the basis of the relationship between those two, and they work brilliantly together. There’s genuine chemistry, wit and love.

I’m going home earlier than I should do because I’ve stupidly run out of tablets (stupid disease thing again), but I do actually think this is the right time to be heading back. I have very little to add to set, and in some ways I think I can take stuff away. And besides, I’ve a shitload of work to do on other projects.

I know some writers hang around shooting all the time, but this is the eighth or ninth thing I’ve had made (including shorts and TV) and this is only the second time I’ve ever attended set. The first shoot which I did attend was a disaster, so I hope I’m not a bad luck charm. I’m pleased I’ve seen it all at work, and how hard everyone is working. I’ve got to say sometimes the lengths people go to I find slightly embarrassing – this is just some shit I’ve knocked out on pieces of A4 after all. And then I have to convince myself that the pain I’m causing them is only the equivalent of the pain I caused myself all those months ago when slogging at this script. But mostly I feel happy to be part of something far bigger than myself. I like being part of a team: it’s why I write scripts rather than novels.

Screenwriter’s Diary, Part One: Jack Thorne on The Scouting Book For Boys

27 Aug, 2008 Productions Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Guest blog, Writers

BAFTA-winning screenwriter Jack Thorne has worked on TV’s Skins, Shameless and This Is England, and wrote the Film4 production The Scouting Book for Boys, directed by Tom Harper. Here, he shares his diaries from the making of the film

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My name is Jack Thorne. I wrote The Scouting Book For Boys. I want to call this diary Notes From A Hole In The Floor, after my first-ever screenwriting job. I was employed by a great man called Pawel Pawlikowski and a great woman called Tanya Seghatchian. Pawel liked me because, apparently, I was just like the lead character in a novel called Notes From The Underground (literal translation: Notes From A Hole In The Floor) and he wanted me to adapt the book for him to direct.

I hadn’t read the book when he told me this and was very excited both by the notion that anyone would want me to write anything – particularly Pawel, who is a hero of mine – and also by the notion I might be some literary romantic character. The first notion turned out okay; the second, less good, because it turns out the lead character in Underground is not such a literary romantic character. Instead he’s a nervous, angst-ridden, unlikeable guy who turns out to be a rapist.

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28 July 2008

Last week, me and Tom went on a recce to the film’s locations. We visited about 15 caravan parks, some forests, lots of cliff tops and numerous beaches. We also stayed in the caravan park that will be one of our principal locations for the film, and enjoyed the night’s entertainments.

Norfolk was never the location I had in my head for the film. I wrote it sitting in a caravan park in Wales about a childhood going on caravan holidays on the Isle of Wight. But the longer we spent there, the more right it seemed. The landscape is stylish, long, flat. I want to call them salt plain vistas. (I’m probably wrong – if so, blame Lionel Ritchie). I told Tom he could shoot one scene like David Lean and it really is David Lean-type country. He nodded and smiled.

But it’s the parks themselves that really pleased me. There were a few details I saw and now desperately want to get in the script – the habit of flying club football flags from the top of caravan roofs, a girl on roller skates dancing at the caravan karaoke, and a granny being pushed up a steep slope from the beach, her dress blowing in the wind. But mostly I was pleased how well the world fitted with what I’d written.

The other sort of purpose of the trip was to spend a large amount of time with Tom. When he first got involved with the project we sort of knew each other, but not well. Tom pitched for a script I’d written, but another director was deemed a better match. He sent me an e-mail anyway and we met up for a coffee and sort of got on. We’ve become friends since – a few dinners, some drinks, I’ve flirted (badly) with his wife, we’ve been 10-pin bowling twice and we’ve become genuine collaborators. We’re also working together on a one-off for the BBC.

It’s always interesting spending an intense amount of time with someone, when you get past the point where you don’t feel you need to impress each other anymore, and I think that happened this week. To put it in Bridget Jones terms, we’ve been having a romance and this was our mini-break. That moment when the relationship becomes truly tested… and I think we sort of passed.

I was reassured yesterday when he phoned me up about some script notes and I was feeling shitty. I’m allergic to heat – it’s complicated – and so behaved a bit shitty and he got angry and sort of said ‘why you being shitty’ and I sort of pulled myself together. A few weeks ago, I don’t think he’d have got angry or said that, because he’d be too worried about offending me. So the fact he did was sort of testament to the fact that, you know, sharing the same bed in a foreign country and cuddling actually works.

Anyway, now we’ve achieved that, I’m thinking about what my job is from here on in. I wrote this film two-and-half years ago, it’s been an idea in my head for six years and I was the lead character when I was 13 – so now that we’re a week or two before prep, it feels very, very odd. Exciting, but scary. And I tend to have the same thought over and over again: what if it’s really, really shit? And the thing is, you can sort of get away with that thought when you’re writing the thing, because you’re important then and people have to support your princess complex, but at this stage it’s a really unhelpful thought to have. Because, aside from tweaks and nibbles, my job is done, so I should be concentrating on making Ivana and Tom feel good. And at the moment, I’m not. Or not enough. I’m being argumentative, difficult and shitty and I’ve got to stop being/doing that. So that’s my resolution: I must be good. I blame ET.

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5 August 2008 9:30am

Final script tweaks before handing to the someone or other that Ivana says is very important. After today the script will be locked – which doesn’t mean there won’t be tweaks, but does mean that stuff like scene numbers have to be kept the same.
I need to plough a ‘middle way’ between Kertzer being odd and being more police officer-y. Anyway, I’ve only got one day because they’ve been ridiculously busy and have only just got me the notes (with a ‘these should only take one day, right?’ – be good, be good…) so it’s quite stressful, but I’m quite used to tight deadlines from telly – where they say ‘either you sort it or we’ll overwrite you’. If you don’t want to get overwritten, learn how to write quick.

5 August 2008 9pm

Hand in. Kertzer’s okay, not great. I’ve tried to pull back on the big mannerisms he uses, and the small practical notes were relatively easily fulfilled.

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5 August 2008 11pm

Or so I thought…

Hey jack most of this excellent – here are my thoughts: If you do get a chance to do these it would be great to get this out by about midday tomorrow! If you want to discuss anything, I will be up from eight.

This I wasn’t expecting and initially I am properly angry. I actually throw a DVD box-set across the room, which is quite aggressive behaviour for me. But then I read the notes and a) they’re not extensive, and b) they mostly correct stupid mistakes I’ve made. A lot of them are correcting things like scene headings, because the scenes have been written at different times so sometimes ‘night’ is followed by ‘day’ is followed by ‘dusk’ is followed by ‘night’. I am a loser for not checking this myself.

I guess now is a good moment to talk about how the script developed. I met Ivana on the back of my friend Dan Outram recommending us to each other. Me and Dan had just had a short film in Sundance (called A Supermarket Love Song) and Ivana liked it. Two years before, I’d developed this idea about a kid on a caravan park (the initial sort of jump-off point was actually a biography of Robbie Williams, which talked about his dad being a campsite entertainer, and I got thinking about what that must have felt like) who hides his friend in a cave and then it all starts to go wrong. Ivana commissions me via this new writers’ scheme that she’s set up at Celador. Anyway I wrote it, she liked it, she showed it to Tom, he liked it, she showed it to Film4, they liked it and paid us money to develop a new draft. Which is when it all started to go wrong..

I’m still relatively new and everyone was telling me what to change and I ended up with a huge script that polluted the idea of who David was. The trouble was not so much cutting stuff, it was keeping stuff. I think this is something that doesn’t get talked about enough – yes, you need to kill your own babies, but also you need to kill other peoples’ babies. Because people are nice, people kept telling me what they loved, and I felt obliged to keep everything they loved. Anyway, crisis point hit when we got a note from the lovely Diarmuid at Celador that I’d turned David into a psycho. At which point Tom, Ivana and I sat down and gently cried and discussed what the script really meant, and I went away and wrote a draft just for me.

As I wrote, another fortuitous thing happened, which is that the British film industry decided to set up its equivalent to the LA Blacklist. The Blacklist is an industry vote on the best unproduced screenplay in Hollywood. Anyway, because people had liked my first draft, Scouting got voted number two on the Brit List, and immediately people got more interested in the project again. (Number one was The Men Who Stare At Goats, which was then immediately sold to George Clooney for £1.5 million – not that I’m bitter.) Coupled with my slash and burn (I cut the script from 112 pages to 82 and really got to the heart of the story I wanted to tell, namely David’s), we were semi-green lit and Film4 promised us money. Hurrah!

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August 9 2008

The naming of the caravan park. Tom wanted either Sunshine Park or Sunbeam Park, I thought both sounded slightly ironical in a sort of Sunnydale sort of way. So I said can we go for Sunpark Caravans and he said “fine”. So that seems like the name, though now I’m worrying about whether it sounds too much like Sunpat peanut butter – my brother was really into it when we were kids.

I love naming things. When I worked on Skins, I named some characters after old friends – and these surnames are now everywhere. Basically, naming things makes me feel important. Other people really fuck about with names – Gavin & Stacy have got the surnames Shipman and West because the writers decided it was funny to name them after serial killers. Rather more sweetly, Mark Ravenhill named the characters in his play Shopping And Fucking after members of Take That.

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26 August 2008

I got that excited/scared feeling. Like 98% excited, 2% scared. Or it could be 98% scared, 2% excited, but that’s what makes it so intense.

Three bits of business; one, a meeting with a lovely man at Pathe, Michael Cowan, who’s just taken over the development wing. I have quite a lot of these meetings – going along, having a cup of tea, it’s sort of how the industry turns – but he’s particularly interesting because they’re distributing the film. Anyway, he was really nice about the script and it sounds like the company’s behind us, which is brilliant because distribution money is almost as important as production money, and as a low-budget film, we are not guaranteed it. They could still hate the final thing and put us out on one screen in Basingstoke, but they like us for now.

The second is that I went along to the production offices today because Tom said I should meet everyone and touch hands and stuff. I’m actually quite shy when out and about and generally can be relied upon to look awkward whatever the occasion. I haven’t gone to a party for about six years-– but that’s also because I can’t drink because of the weird allergy that makes me angry, which I talked about above. There’s also the thing of (and this happens quite a lot, or I think it does but this might be to do with inflated self-importance) people seem to look at me too much when they’re working on something I’m doing. Not the rest of the time -  I’m very unnoticeable, in fact – but I guess when you’re working on something and the writer comes in, you’ve got to try to work out where the script stops and he begins. I just nodded and smiled and regretted not bringing presents.

I am always amazed at the amount of people needed to make a project work and how hard these people have to work. Particularly tricky was the news that Diarmuid (yes, the guy who gave the ‘David is psycho’ note all that time ago) had taken to sleeping under his desk because he didn’t have time to go home at night. Now I occasionally fall asleep in front of my computer but my computer is in my house. I felt both amazed and incredibly guilty that people were working that hard on the film.

The third is, Ivana said we were allowed to celebrate. The film is going to get made – all the contracts signed, sealed, delivered, we’re go. I’d been waiting two years for this news, so we high-fived. Twice. It was good.