The Kid is 100 years old

The iconic film The Kid was released 100 years ago this month. It was a full-length silent comedy-drama film written, produced, directed and starring Charlie Chaplin, with Jackie Coogan as his adopted son and sidekick.

We probably all know Chaplin’s life story but Coogan was a Hollywood star, too. He worked in movies and TV until his retirement in the 1980s. If you know anyone who has seen the 1970s TV series The Addams Family, they will know him as Uncle Fester.

If you’ve not seen the film, it’s on YouTube – click here to watch The Kid.

Chaplin was undoubtedly more successful but Buster Keaton was his equal (more on him another time) and I’ve noticed that there has been a resurgence of interest in Laurel & Hardy – perhaps since the 2018 release of Stan & Ollie.

After silent films came the 1927 romantic-drama-musical The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson.

Have you watched the classic Singin’ in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds (the mother of Carrie Fisher who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars films)? This 1952 rom-com-musical was filmed in glorious technicolour. It was set in the 1920s, with a storyline that addressed the cross-over from silent film to ‘talkies’. It should definitely be on all movie enthusiasts’ must-watch lists. Similarly, The Artist, 2011.


Why do tragedies seem to cluster together? Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds both died at the end of December 2016 and it was in January 2016 (can’t believe it’s been five years) that David Bowie and Alan Rickman departed.

Last year started OK but quickly deteriorated with coronavirus and various lockdowns. We all know how well 2020 turned out. This year has begun the same way that the last year ended but all hopes rest on the coronavirus vaccines protecting us so maybe things will improve over the next few weeks.

And… always look on the bright side of life!

Writing Dialogue

Hi there! Have you been coping well during the 2020 pandemic? I hope so. Here goes with my first post in ages!

Writing Dialogue is my forté. When I was studying at the London Film Academy and Lincoln University, my fellow students often asked for my input. In particular, at LFA, the tutors often suggested that I was asked to re-write the dialogue for others’ projects, as there were several students whose first language wasn’t English.

I now help other aspiring writers, including those whose English is good but often too good to be authentic dialogue.

There is a major difference between writing a book and writing dialogue for a screenplay. The book needs words, including dialogue – but dialogue in a film is generally there only to enhance the action so only include ‘necessary’ lines, not a load of waffle.

If you have a clear idea of characters and you immerse yourself into their personalities, you know what they will say and how they will say it – this is why there is often a different writer for each character. A single phrase uttered by a character has to convey so much that it isn’t unusual for it to undergo several re-writes. Then, when the actor immerses himself or herself into that character, they will often have some suggestions of their own – some good, some to be ignored. As a student, I worked with an actor called Henry Douthwaite whose insightful suggestions were generally taken on board.

There are many helpful tutorials and tips on other blogs and YouTube relating to dialogue, should you wish to improve your understanding. There is an element of natural instinct to just know what sounds natural for the character. If you have it, great, but do listen to input from others.

Of course, there are exceptions, such as The Artist. And, 100 years ago, Chaplin required no dialogue!

Best of luck with your projects. Thanks for following!

I’m a Writer!

I’ve been a writer for a few years now but I’ve also thrown in the options of director, actor and everything in between. Looking at it though, writing is the thing I’ve done most of – not that you’d know it from reading this blog post so far 🙂

In addition to writing this monthly blog (and others) plus a number of scripts, I belong to a couple of writing groups where we contribute to each other’s projects. Writing is a great lifestyle but doesn’t pay very well until you become established, hopefully while still alive and able to enjoy it, e.g. Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, J K Rowling.

However, after four years of writing, making or producing student films, I realised that they were all kind-of ‘samey’ and plagiarised (mostly unwittingly) – I think we all need to read more and watch less (this includes me).

I’ve probably posted before that Hollywood churns out mostly formulaic films that appeal to the masses who just want a night out (or a night in) with their friends or family. These are the film equivalent of the old ‘Mills & Boon’ books that grannies used to enjoy.

My favourite writing projects are gritty scripts with subtle humour. It’s satisfying – but really difficult – to have twists in the story. The problem is that all stories have been told and writers just have to find new and interesting ways to tell them. Maybe this is why my recent reading has focussed on biographies and memoirs of real people.

The really great thing about being a writer is that you can also be a reader and call it research! And no, I don’t use an old typewriter like the one in featured above, even though they look really cool and I’d love to get one! I use Celtx on a MacBook for scripts.

RIP, Terry Jones

I came across this article: What Does a Producer Do? which reminded me of the Question song from Tom Wilson (Comedian/Actor who played Biff Tannen, BttF) – in particular, his reply to the question at 1minute+08seconds.

And this month, Monty Python’s Terry Jones died. He is credited as Producer of the 1996-1998 TV Series, Blazing Dragons (26 episodes that I’ve yet to see). However, he was more prolific as a Director, Writer and Actor across a number of genres which include documentaries as well as TV series and comedy sketches (Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Ripping Yarns, The Two Ronnies, etc.) and films/screenplays.

Brian’s Mum” was the Director and a co-writer of The Life of Brian“He’s not the Messiah…” as well as The Holy Grail (movie and video game), Erik the Viking and others. Terry Jones also wrote the screenplay for Labyrinth which was Directed by Jim Henson and starring David Bowie.

Finally, here’s an insight into the Holy Grail film outtakes with commentary by Terry Jones, RIP:


‘Tis the Season…

… to feast on all the Christmas Films again.  First, to list a few:

  • The Santa Clause trilogy
  • Love Actually
  • The Holiday
  • The Grinch
  • The Hogfather
  • Arthur Christmas
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Miracle on 34th Street

In that list are six that I like (or eight because there’s a trilogy) and two that I’ve yet to see (can you guess which two?). And, of course, there are many more: Joyeux Noel, Die Hard, Home Alone 2, Elf, Get Santa, Bad Santa, Jingle all the Way, Christmas with the Kranks, Gremlins, Scrooged, Christmas do-over, White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Nightmare before Christmas, In Bruges, the Nativity trilogy (TV films) and all the Muppet Christmases … and about 3,000 that I’ve missed.

I wonder why we say ’tis in this context and it’s most other times?

‘Tis also the season of giving and I’ve noticed an unprecedented generosity this year, not only on TV and social media but also in the local supermarket. There’s a place allocated for people to donate items that they’ve bought in the shop and Sainsbury’s promises to ensure that it reaches people who need it. The box was overflowing with customers’ donations.

Season’s Greetings
I’ll be back in 2020

p.s. The header image photograph was taken on a trip to Paris one Christmas, even though it may not be what it seems.

Film Binge!

2018: during the long flights to & from the USA, there was no time to sleep as Virgin Atlantic indulged my appetite for film! The films I can remember that I managed to watch were:

  • Ant-Man and The Wasp: 3♦ 4♥
  • Ready Player One: 4♦ 5♥
  • Incredibles 2: 5♦ 5♥
  • A Quiet Place: 4♦ 4♥
  • Tag: 3♦ 3♥

2019: we flew British Airways to the Caribbean and the films I watched were:

  • Shazam: 4♦ 4♥
  • Avengers Endgame: 3♦ 4♥
  • Spider-Man Far From Home: 3♦ 4♥
  • Horrible Histories (Rotten Romans): 3♦ 4♥
  • Men In Black International: 3♦ 4
  • Toy Story 4: 5♦ 5♥

My rating system above is 1♦ (bad) to 5♦ (good) for film making and 1♥ to 5♥ (top) for how much I personally enjoyed the films.

Agree/disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Forrest Gump & Boris Trump

Politics: very interesting… but stupid. The ‘Brexit’ deadline is looming (again) and this time it seems real*. I can’t add anything new to the myriad of opinions already published by young, old, left, right, selfish, misguided, nasty, caring, backward-looking, forward-thinking minority groups.

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it! 1,500 years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the center of the universe.”

I love the Men in Black films. One of my favourite film trilogies of all time is Back to the Future, which ‘predicted’ that Trump (Biff) would become almost omnipotent. And I can’t help thinking that if Forrest Gump ran for President, the good people of the USA would vote him in.

Meanwhile, something to look forward to, away from the real world. Here is a link to films that are scheduled for release in 2021, many of which look worth watching.

If you have any film recommendations, please let me know in a comment! Ciao for now.

*Update! Brexit delayed again but there will now be a general election just before Christmas, which is the most contrived election there’s ever been in my voting lifetime.

Both major parties have leaders that no reasonable person wants in No.10 (can’t wait to make a dark comedy of this in a few years’ time). And the Labour Party is currently promising everyone everything for free!


Life Goes On…

I love the cosiness of Autumn. Coolness edged with a warm glow from the mellow sun, enhancing the changing colours of leaves: green, yellow, gold, brown, red, russet and a deep-red-purple. I especially love the shine of lights on wet streets in the evenings.

Tamara is not the centre of everyone’s universe. Her story continues to develop whilst those involved in bringing it to life are on other projects and working to earn a crust. Life goes on. I’ll keep you posted.

Regular jobs with a steady income have continued to elude me therefore I’m also tweaking some other scripts. It’s weird that, despite my education, I’m not even qualified to sweep the road. Seriously! Such a vacancy was advertised and I smiled at the thought of Trigger’s Broom (Only Fools & Horses) and checked it out. The reality is that you have to be able to drive to do the job these days, something I haven’t yet managed.

Meanwhile, I’m involved on the fringes of a long-term design project (voluntary) which has nothing to do with film, other than maybe taking short videos or photographs as it progresses.

Building the Tamara Team

Update: The film company like the script and I’ve also sent them a Visual Narrative. They have asked me along for a meeting with a ‘bigger cheese’ to discuss working with experienced professionals. These may include a writer and director who will mentor my less experienced small team. Critically, we have secured an adequate budget.

I’ve been reworking the script and have created visuals for the characters and for the scene where the story is set.

We have, potentially, a couple of actors in mind who are known to us. Watch for an update next month.

Meanwhile… if any actors are interested (for a very modest fee) and available for a couple of days in the London area (timescale as yet unknown), the role descriptions are below!

  • Male, mid-40s to mid-50s, London accent
  • Male, late-20s to mid-30s, London accent
  • Female, over-50 (non-speaking)
  • Female, over-60 (non-speaking)
  • Male, mature, for voice-over (think John Motson)


Writing Time

I read somewhere that a screenplay should be 80 – 120 pages and will typically take about three months to complete a reasonable first draft. Add on another month for improvements and rewrites.

Of course, professionals writing for a TV company often have less than a week per episode but I’m a long way from that level! I have managed 8 pages for my short film – it was about a page longer but now it’s better quality. Based on the guidelines I was taught, 8 pages = 8 minutes of screen time.

  • According to Sundance: “a film that’s less than ten minutes has double the chances of being programmed” – so that’s good.
  • According to Hollyshorts; “You might find yourself in more festivals if you make a 5 minute short versus a 15 minute one” – also good.

And there’s some interesting stuff in this blog post from the New York Film Academy.

Meanwhile, I’ve progressed from the initial script approval to being asked to prepare a presentation for a pitch to investors and actors. I need to consider a time era and include a wish list of who I’d like to see perform the various roles.

It’s starting to get interesting!