Days 1,088–1,089: A Very Fiji Christmas

24.12.11-25.12.11: Wiping the hangover from my forehead, I exited my bed in a manner reminiscent of a slinky going down the stairs. It was 11.15am. Check out was 10am. Oops. A quick shower and some heartfelt apologies later, and I fell asleep in the TV lounge waiting for the rain to stop. The afternoon of Christmas Eve I darted into Suva Town for a little bit of (traditional) last minute shopping. I needed to get a little gift for today’s Secret Santa. I then headed over to Sandy’s brother’s place and met up with Sandy, Peter and Ann, as well as a bunch of Sandy’s mates a good old fashioned Christmas barbeque. As with barbeques in the UK, it was raining, but since when has that stopped anyone? Peter has just got back from Durban where he was one of the Fijian delegates. Just want to…

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Day 1,087: Suva Ascending

23.12.11: The good ship Southern Pearl arrived in Suva on last night. However, since we had been to Wallis and there’s a particular breed of snail that exists on Wallis that the Fijians definitely do not want on their island, we weren’t allowed to enter the port until morning, lest one of them naughty snails was hiding on the bottom of an improperly cleaned container and was eluding the snail-hunter-in-chief by hiding in the dark like some crafty badger. So we drifted out in the ocean for the night. You’ve got to be careful when drifting: you can move massive distances, even with the engine off. Hit a reef and it’s game over for your career at sea – you’ll be lucky to escape jail. Do you know how long it takes for a cargo container such as the Pearl (top speed 15 nautical miles per…

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Day 1,086: How To Write A Blockbuster – Part IV

22.12.11: Antagonists This is the easy bit. Your antagonist could be a rival news anchor, a monster from the black lagoon or the protagonist’s own fear of commitment (although if your script is based around fear of commitment, I hate you). It’s just some thing that keeps throwing obstacles in the way of our hero. Wants vs. Needs Before you embark on the journey you must spell out very clearly is what your main characters heart’s desire is. It might be to go into space, get with the girl or win the world tiddlywinks championship. But that alone does not a good film make. What you can play with, and what you can be more subtle about, is what the character really NEEDS. Self confidence, trust, education, friends, the monster to stop eating his friends etc. The most blatant example of the wants vs. needs fandango…

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Day 1,085: How To Write A Blockbuster – Part III

21.12.11: The Re-writes Begin... There are certain rules you have to stick to in order to write a successful movie script. If you would prefer to ignore these rules, write a novel instead. The rules of movie making are pretty much set in stone and you’d have to be either very brave or very stupid to break them. Reservoir Dogs follows the rules. Casablanca follows the rules. The Godfather follows the rules. The Shawshank Redemption, Being John Malkovich, The Big Lebowski, Little Miss Sunshine, The Matrix, Gran Turino, Platoon, Raging Bull, Inception, Annie Hall, The Wizard of Oz... no matter how clever you think your favourite movie is, chances are, if it turned a profit at the box office it follows the rules. You want to see a film STICKS IT TO THE MAN and THROWS THE RULE BOOK OUT THE WINDOW...? Okay. Every film ever…

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Day 1,084: How To Write A Blockbuster – Part II

20.12.11: The Premise First up, work out the basic premise in your head. Don’t worry about making it all make sense just yet, just worry about the main features of the story. At the very least you should have a strong set-up, a strong dénouement and a good title. Unfortunately for you, the best movie titles of all time, Ice Cold In Alex, There Will Be Blood and Snakes on a Plane have already been taken, so you’ll just have to think of another one. At this point, if all you can think of is a single scene, you should really consider writing a short movie instead. The Audience This is important, possibly the most important thing about scriptwriting. You need three things to tell a story: a story, a storyteller and an audience. Otherwise you’re just talking to the wall. It’s interesting that British people…

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Day 1,083: How To Write A Blockbuster – Part I

19.12.11: I’ve been spending my days and nights (mostly nights) on board the good ship Southern Pearl practicing the ancient art of writing. I’ve been writing my blog (of course) which will one day become my book (it’s now pushing 750,000 words, so it’ll have to be edited down somewhat – James Joyce’s Ulysses is only 250,000 words). I’ve been writing Programme Bibles for TV shows you may never see and writing film scripts the names of which you may never see in backlit marquees. I don’t mind, I just enjoy writing. And then inflicting said writing on my family and friends. Writing, especially fiction writing, appeals to my love of two things: puzzles and logistics. Since I was a kid I’ve loved puzzles. It’ll come as no great shock to anyone that my favourite video games when I was growing up were the point n’…

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Day 1,082: There And Back Again

18.12.11: The hard part done, the crew of The Southern Pearl could now afford to let their hair down for the five day sail back down the Pacific Ocean to Fiji. It was time to fire up the barbecue! With pork, steak, lamb, chicken, fish and sausages on offer, it was not a time for going hungry. Unless you're a vegan or something.            

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Day 1,081: BOOM! The Marshalls!

17.12.11: When standing for election in for Manchester University Student’s Union back in the late 90s, you were not allowed to have your name appear in the student newspaper in the run-up to polling day, even if you had written an article, supplied a photo or even edited the damn thing: you’d have to use an alias. It may have been perfectly acceptable to send an email to every Muslim student on campus implying that your opponents were both gay and Jewish, (two things I’m told will not speed up your visa application for Saudi Arabia) but having your name credit in the student paper was a big no-no. To get around this silly no-name rule, Mr. Julian Marshall (now chief newshound at the NME) added the question “Pacific Island Nation (3,8,7)” while compiling the weekly crossword so that he could get his surname into the…

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VIDEO: Last Exit To Serbia! (2007)

In the summer of 2007, myself and Stanley "Stan" Stanrydt, two grown men with the mentality of 13 year olds, set out on an epic journey across the heart of Europe in search of music, beer, broads and a decent sausage. In a Mazda sportscar we christened 'Traci Lords' (she was underage but could still squeeze us both in), we shot through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Croatia in order to arrive in Novi Sad, Serbia, for the rather epic Exit Music Festival, held in an ancient fort on the Danube river. There we watched the likes of the Beastie Boys and many other bands that I vaguely don't remember. After four days of drunken debauchery, we sobered up and decided to take the long way round back to the UK. So we went to Sarajevo and Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dubrovnik…

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