Click the Pic N' Mix - past blog posts from Bang2write (click & scroll down for articles)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

WANTED: Sketches For A Pitch

UPDATE: Thanks for your emails and submissions and thanks also to others for their suggestions for artists, but I've now picked someone to work with - there is some AMAZING talent out there, thanks for your interest!

I don't normally do this, but then I've never wanted an artist before...

...Can you draw? More importantly, can you draw FAST and do the kind of technical wizardry that somehow makes those drawings into jpeg files (or similar)?

I'm looking for someone who will be able to do me three or four line drawings to support a pitch I'm writing and encapsulate its "mood".*

I'm NOT looking for really complicated drawings, nor am I looking for really BIG pictures - either filewise or literally. They needn't be in colour either. These pictures would become thumbnails on my pitch because I'm only allowed two pages, CURSES. So they need to stand out, yet be simple.

I imagine this would take one of you talented peeps two to three hours tops - you wouldn't have to read a whole script or anything. I wouldn't expect you to do it for nothing either: I'm rather broke, but I can offer a token fee of £50 OR if it's better for you I can do you some detailed feedback on one of your own scripts instead, run through them with you, that kind of thing. Sound cool?

If it does, please email me immediately on Bang2write"at" - if you could put SKETCH ARTIST in the subject line that would really help cos I get loads of emails on a daily basis and I can find you quicker then. If you could include a jpeg or bitmap file of one or two of your pictures or a link to your own website which shows your work, that would be even better.


*I envisage it working something like this: I send you my storyline, you draw me a few pics of how you see the main character, maybe a couple of elements of the storyline, something like that - which you'd then send back via email. BUT if you're REALLY busy though then this not a job for you, 'cos I would need them ASAP (we can negotiate, natch). I will of course give you full details of the pitch, where I'm *hoping* it will lead etc too (it's a speculative effort I'm afraid, no guarantees, but if I'm successful hopefully there would be more work in it for you storyboarding etc down the road).

Monday, July 28, 2008

Script Mistake # 4: Fatty Dialogue

We all know the scripts that have dialogue that goes a bit like this:

"Who am I? I am your husband, her brother and that kid over there's father. We've been married for fourteen years, but your persistent amnesia dear wife has meant I have secretly been having an affair with your sister (that woman over there) and I fathered all seven of her children without you even having noticed. And by the way, can someone get me some coffee? I only like it black because that's the way I had in 'Nam, a place I will never forget: I was just nineteen years old, straight out of High School..."

This is expositional dialogue. Okay, the above is an exaggeration, but sometimes scripts can have chunks here and there and yes - they always, always stick out a mile. A bit like when Captain Jack introduced the team in the very first episode of Torchwood (though I did stick with that), or when whatserface's mother said, "Your husband, my son" in Heroes, thus turning off my attention forever. Apparently it got better after that but as I've said before, I have movie-TV-related ADHD. One my attention is lost, it's lost baby.

Thankfully, I don't see that many scripts with expositional dialogue these days: sure, there is the odd line here or there that states too much, but it's usually to do with early drafts and ironing various things out. I hardly ever see truly expositional lines in polished drafts anymore - not in the way I would see them, say, five years ago.

However, screenwriting issues are like Hydras it would seem: chop one off and another rears its head in its place. This new issue? Fatty Dialogue.

Fatty Dialogue still states too much, it tells it rather than shows it - but in a way completely different to expositional dialogue. I'll explain.

Fatty Dialogue is often really rather good. Characters will regale each other with amusing anecdotes or make withering observations about their colleagues. Characters will impress me with their knowledge of a certain topic, maybe I will even get a lecture about an important subject as a professor character gives his class a talk in a university. Maybe there will be strained, character-revealing small talk around the dinner table. The problem then?

The story doesn't need it.

Good dialogue turns to Fatty Dialogue when it adds nothing to the story you're telling. Often writers will want to include their meticulous research into a topic that fuelled their story, forgetting stories have what I call the "L'Oreal" approach: "Here comes the science!" In other words, you only need a little to impress, don't let it get bogged down in the ins and outs of the issue, scenario, etc. Jurassic Park did this well: "We can bring dinosaurs back to life from the blood a mosquito sucked out of them." Really? They managed to find mosquitos who had been encased in amber that not only had sucked blood out of ALL breeds of dinosaur, but out of every period of dinosaur history as well? Handy. But who cares! The story needs dinosaurs - here's some bloody dinosaurs.

However, because of Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones etc, I get loads of action adventures starting with lecture halls, slide shows or videos explaining how *the thing* came to be in the story. And these scenes will last ages. Three, four, five pages are not unusual. Often the Professor will have to field hostile questions - and whilst this shows what a great, clever guy he is, it's not really that interesting: why? Because we want the story to begin - and the only way he's going to really do that is by getting out of that lecture hall and actually engaging with what whatever the problem or issue is, rather than talking about it.

Similarly, writers like to show sometimes how lonely characters are - even whilst in the midst of a big circle of friends. This leads to characters having long conversations about stuff we know they haven't done in order to impress their peers; similarly we can see how dysfunctional a family is around a dinner table, whilst watching TV, on a day trip. However, if none of this feeds DIRECTLY into your plot, then it doesn't matter how great your dialogue actually is, it still turns to fat.

Dialogue is like scene description - it's not just about revealing character, it's about pushing the story forward too. Why would a character say something for no reason? Sometimes we have moments that are all about character, sure, no one's denying it: and that is great for style, such as Donnie Darko's rant about Smurfs. But all the time?!

We are all worshipping in the Church of Screenwriting Moderation my friends.


Printer Name Invalid

Okay, I need your help.

The "Save as PDF" function in Final Draft is not working. Everything was fine until about a month or so ago - then it mysteriously stopped working. Every time I try and save as PDF I get the message "Printer Name Invalid."

I've tried reinstalling Final Draft, I've bought a new printer, I've tried screaming at it, even - shock, horror - asking it nicely.

Any thoughts?

Friday, July 25, 2008


Your usual dose of Vee-bloggy-goodness has moved - just for one day, mind - over to the delicious site that is Twelve Point.

So nothing to see here! Move along now - and get logging in over there instead. I'm the Guest Blogger today, so you either need to click on "Blog" or on the link under "What's New". My post is called "Familiar Stories".

And if you're not a member already, ARE YOU MAD? There's a forum, an "ask the agent" section, script leads, articles and much more. For just £29 a YEAR that's a supersized bargain. Do it! Do it now!

See you there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Research or Die # 5: Medical

NHS Direct - encyclopediac site that covers just about everything medical!

NHS Careers - another great site, this time about medical jobs

Guide To Medical Jargon

How to Deliver A Baby Safely Without A Doctor or Midwife

A Week by Week Pregnancy Guide

Demonstration of Mouth To Mouth Resuscitation - sign in required for this video

The Recovery Position - with pictures, step by step

What To Do When Someone Has An Epileptic Fit

What To Do When Someone Has A Heart Attack

How To Stop Excessive Bleeding

Guide To Types of Wounds Created By Blades

Methods of Injury and Suicide - EXTREME WARNING: includes graphic images and drawings, NOT for those of a delicate disposition

Factsheets About The Major Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Remember - if you have an idea about a topic or if you have any other links for inclusion on here or any of the other posts, send them to me at the usual address.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hello, My Name Is Lucy And I Am A Schedule-holic

I have a confession. Whilst I know all about the idea of TV "on demand" services, even applaud them, I don't use them. I don't even think about it. Does that make me a bad person? A TV-holic friend of mine thinks so: every time I say I "missed" a programme (a rare occurrence, but can happen), she chastises me with, "But you have it at your fingertips!"

And it's true, I do. I could easily call up BBC iPlayer (in my defence, I actually have at least twice, I even downloaded an episode of Ashes To Ashes but then forgot to watch it - FOR THIRTY DAYS); I could download 4OD or look at ITV or C5 catch ups of my favourite soaps, dramas and documentaries or sign up to a whole host of other options. But nothing moves me to move AWAY from my TV schedule, watching programmes when they're put out - or not. What's more, I NEVER press the red button.

For shame.

"You can watch today's TV - tomorrow." One of the adverts say. What a great idea. I'm a busy person, I need never miss a programme I like or want to see ever again. So why don't I???

I know what it is, of course. I'm OLD. This is what my mother meant when she said there would *suddenly* be new inventions, technology or ways of thinking that would suddenly seem irrelevant to me. And it's happened! Already! In Ye Olden Days, aka My Era, if you missed a programme on TV you might get the chance of a repeat in soaps ominbus or another for a drama about six months later. THAT WAS IT. And I still live in those days, like my Gran who would never eat pizza because it was (and I quote) "foreign food". Why am I finding it so hard to make the transition into "on demand"???

Because I am a stick in the mud.

I recall telling my friends when aged only 16 that cassettes were *way* better than CDs because they were "more portable". I was also of the opinion the internet would "never catch on" - pages were only full of porn and students going on about their fave bands, after all. I have never even TOUCHED an iPod, let alone used one: I've not even listened to a podcast. I've never played on a games console and the only one in my ohouse is an old school PS2 my husband brought with him when we got married (I pick it up occasionally to dust underneath). PDAs are alien to me and a blackberry is only useful for jam. I resisted getting Freeview until LAST YEAR, I've never had Sky or cable. Minidiscs passed me by completely and the only music on my PC is stuff I've uploaded from CDs, I have no MP3s downloaded, legally OR illegally. But I do HAVE a CD player - there's not one single cassette in my house now. I also have a laptop, but I bought it at Tesco, not one of those fancy shops. It's not a Mac though. I'm not one of those people that think mobile phones are evil either, I love my phone - but I've had the same one for 4 years, it doesn't even ring anymore.

Baby steps.

Maybe I'll catch up with the rest of you... In ten years. Just as well I'm only 28, hey?

What things seem completely irrelevant to you? Go on... Don't be shy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Check This Out

Terence at British film Magazine has been in touch, which is an online magazine about - you guessed it - British Film. It's a great FREE site, with loads of info and great sections on short film, indie film, filmmaking and interviews including screenwriter fave of mine Julian Fellowes! You can sign up for a newsletter too to alert you to new content. Always good in my book. Oh and did I mention it's all FREE???? Click here to go to the site.

Research or Die # 4: Times & Money

On This Day - fantastic BBC site that recounts everything that has happened on any day's date

On This Day In History - as above, but MSN's version

Today In Literature - similar to the above sites, but in literature (subscription required)

Today In Music - musical history

On This Day - another site that lists ALL historical events, including music, literature, war, etc

Crazy Fads - everything that's popular from decades past

20th Century History - useful timelines here

The People History - useful links to the decades and individual information about computers, money, how much things used to cost, etc

The Incas

Primary School Guide To The Aztecs - archaeological evidence, everyday life, etc

The Egyptians

The Romans

The Tudors

The Vikings - includes video

Primary School Guide to The Victorians - some useful resources here, including a timeline, games, guide to important people and info on child labour

British Currency Before 1971

Guide to Money, Tax and Benefits Presently Available in the UK

American Coins

Guide to Paper Money in the US

Gallery of World Bank Notes

Currency Converter

Monday, July 21, 2008

Script Mistakes # 3: Abrupt Genre/Tone Change

Imagine you're a script reader. You've just started reading a gritty realist drama about a girl whose family life is pretty rough, maybe somewhere up North or in the boonies down Sarf somewhere. The pace is pretty nice, characterisation's rounded, dialogue's okay. Nearly twenty pages in, you're beginning to understand the focus of this girl: she's going to run away to London, sure there's a better life for her there (only you *just know* it'll be even worse). This is the sort of stuff that would light Ken Loach's fire, no question.

Then you get to the first turning point... And it completely changes. The girl kills her parents Mickey and Mallory style. She kidnaps a kid from a post office queue when she's not able to cash in their giros. Maybe she has a shoot out with police on the way out for good measure. Whatever: from gritty realist drama, we're now in high octane chase-style thriller territory. (You might think I'm exaggerating, but I really have read scripts with genre changes as marked as this, sometimes even more so).

But what's wrong with changing your genre? After all, it keeps the audience on their toes, yeah? They better pay attention! Anyway, Tarantino and Rodriguez famously did this in Dusk Til Dawn. Right??

First things first, there's nothing *wrong* with changing genre in a movie - if that is your intention all along: it needs to be a specific, conscious style choice. I know there's that myth that Tarantino and Rodriguez met for a coffee and literally stuck two different scripts together, but really?? Come on! Whatever you think of Dusk Til Dawn, it was so flagrant all the way through that it gets away with it: we go from one highly implausible story to another with ease because of it. What's more, characterisation is consistent, even if story isn't - and that helps ease the transition: Seth accepts the vampires just like he accepts his brother's rape and murder of the bank clerk - with barely a blink, he just gets on with it. "I don't believe in vampires," he says, "Yet I see f***ing vampires."

Most of the specs change genre and tone accidentally though - it's not a specific, conscious style choice. What's more, in my experience both reading and writing it seems always to go drama - and then the genre of choice. Weird huh? Occasionally spec comedies I've seen will start incredibly mentally, they cannot "step up" in the second half, they've already "shot their load" as an (obviously male) reader friend of mine delightfully put it. Otherwise drama will set up for horror or thriller - making it fall somewhere in-between, neither satisfying nor intriguing to really grab a reader's heartstrings.

Changing genre is actually surprisingly easy to do; we've all done it at least once and we're sure to do it again. My most recent spec, a woman-in-peril thriller, went through three particular drafts that went horrendously wrong because of various accidental changes in the genre. Where do you draw the line between revealing character, setting up the plot and changing the genre? Sometimes it can be by just a hair's breadth - when one reader suggested I used a sexy new dream sequence for example, I thought, "Great! That's a good device for the thriller genre" and I did it. However I lingered a little too long on everything that went WITH it for before you know it, another reader says to me: "Your character is disturbed, so I thought I was dealing with a "Girl, Interrupted" style of film in the first half... Then you've got her on the run having kidnapped her own kid. WTF?"

Thrillers and horrors are the worst offenders for specs that go off the rails genre-wise I've noticed and I think I know why: writers want to increase plausibility for their characters' actions or want to have a "lull before the storm". Before you know it then, we're in drama territory for the first half and in hardcore genre stuff for the second, just like mine was. The problem with this then is it feels as if the goal posts are moved: you might get past the first ten pages, but if the story keeps changing track, how can you appreciate the whole of it or invest in the character's arc or the plot? It's like being on a car journey where the car isn't breaking down, but it threatens to, put-put-puttering all the way. Frustrating and not usually enjoyable.

Yet abrupt genre change is one of the least "accepted" points from coverage too: whilst writers may write back to me and say they were glad I spotted various points that were bothering them and were unsure what to do about (or other things they HADN'T noticed and can now see), very few seem to agree that the genre needs any attention. They will say that a character *has* to do certain things in the first half that *may seem* "dramery", but these are necessary to understand what happens in the second half. If that were the case however, all the major genre films we know and love could never have happened: it is perfectly possible to stay within the perimeters AND make things plausible, have a lull before the storm, whatever. It's like your Mum might tell you when attempting a Sisyphian task: start as you mean to go on. It's harder than it looks. Drop concentration for a second, give one idea just that bit too much house room and whammo - you're out of genre land and into the territory of accidental drama. And that's never good.

So: if you're writing a drama, stay with drama. If it's SUPPOSED to be a genre film - find out the conventions, break them, change them, subvert them, build on top of them: do whatever you want - please. Just don't try an accidental genre-drama hybrid that doesn't really go anywhere because it has an identity crisis.

What about you - any movies that have made it to screen that seem to abruptly change in some way?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Great News

Times have been harsh in the Vee Household money-wise this past eighteen months or so; we've had to really tighten our belts for the relocation to Bournemouth, plus the house move and several other nasty surprises that were wrong with said house.

But now it would appear there is light at the end of the tunnel, so we've bought the kids a lovely new trampoline for the garden. The upside is it was on special AND it's 13 foot across, more than big enough to allow me and The Hub to bounce as well.

So I will be bouncing all day today, no exaggeration.

What are you up to?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Script Mistakes # 2: Don't Care Characters

Some characters are indelible. They leave their mark, as if they've been seared on to our brains lasting even though S/FX, technology, props or sets may end up looking dated.

Sometimes it's because of their integrity and survival instinct, like Ripley. Other times it's because their self denial reminds us of what WE should really be doing too, like Miles in Sideways. Sometimes it's because they're a classic hero, protecting the innocent like John Book in Witness; other times it's because they are both protagonist AND antagonist like Riddick. Often a memorable character is memorable because they are what we wish we *could* be, but aren't. And bully for them: after all, movie-world is a lot simpler than real life. Or at least it should be, even when your plot throws up complicated questions. Yes I can explain.

Even a convoluted plot should be simple at its heart: easy to explain, in other words. If you end up saying, "Well there's this guy... And then he does this... So he ends up doing that... So next he does this..." and the person you're telling this information to is saying "Why?... But a moment ago... Yeah, but what for?...But what about the..?" every five minutes, chances are your main character hasn't got an identifiable goal. Instead it's become lost amongst a sea of OTHER STUFF. Before you know it, you have a sequence of seemingly random events, meandering from one thing to another, which might seem cool in isolation, yet just don't add up as whole. The end result? You just don't care about the character.

Think of the characters you really love. What was it about them that attracted you to them? Was it *just* the explosions, love scenes, clever dialogue? I bet you it wasn't. They may have done cool, sexy, clever or funny things, but the reason you love them is because you can relate to them.

I will hopefully never do battle with an acid-dripping alien and its mates, but I love Ripley because she is a contradiction of traditional male and female characteristics. She is not only fighting for her own survival, she is protective of her crew mates, working out how to save them, when she discovers the danger they're in. She acts on gut instinct like we might expect a woman to, but fights with her fists like a man (less usual for a woman). What's more, she's a woman in a man's world, even in the future - yet she can hold her own AND act upon her own maternal instincts in saving first Jones and then Newt. Talk about having your cake and eating it! This girl's got it all, she's male AND female - by the third movie, she even looks like a man and what do you know, she dies and takes the beast with her, the ultimate in destruction, a contrast to her more female stance of flight/fight in the first two movies.

Yet even if you don't agree and don't want to read any contradictory use of gender stereotype into Ripley's character, Ripley is still layered. She's vulnerable and strong. She's sarcastic, suspicious, pigheaded; but also loyal, resourceful, protective. She's a natural leader, she can think on her feet. But she's also naturally afraid of dying: she screams and cries like we imagine we would when faced with almost certain (not to mention horrifying) death.

In many of the specs I see, characters are too perfect or too flawed: there seems little in-between. I've read lots of specs about wife-beating, drunkards or self-obsessed floozies who discover the error of their ways and I've read plenty of characters who don't seem to have any issues at all: it appears to be all or nothing. But why can't our characters be layered and complicated, like people in real life?

We judge people in real life by what they do - or don't do. We don't require that much information about them either to do this. Having met someone a few times, observed them for the space of an hour total, we really believe we know quite a bit about a person. We may make guesses about their education, their belief systems, their family dynamic etc - and sometimes these guesses will be wrong, sometimes right. It's unlikely however that you make SERIOUS errors that lead to serious complications - instead you will have wrangles, problems, arguments: maybe a friendship or relationship will end because of it, but it's not usual that that error of judgement will lead to death or jail for example.

Your characters CAN have those layers that make them complicated without the need to delve into hardcore backstory that will obfuscate your plot. The way a character RESPONDS to situations tells us so much about them. The fact that Ripley returns for Jones tells us she will stop at nothing to get SOMEONE off that ship - but the fact she abandons him in the cat basket when the alien blocks the corridor to the shuttle tells us she values her life more than an animal's. This helps us believe her motivation earlier too: she WILL do what she can but she will NOT sacrifice herself - and of course that is why she does not go down to the cargo hold immediately when she hears Parker and Lambert's shouts and screams over the intercom system when they're in there with the monster.

We have an added bonus with films too: audiences CAN'T get it wrong, if we put the RIGHT things in. We can get people to relate to our characters if we want to; we can make people care about them and what they stand for. And we can do all of that without the need for acres of expositional dialogue or reels and reels of irrelevant subplot. We use the character's response to what we throw at them in the plot to give us an insight of how they are feeling - and show us what your character is feeling and suddenly your audience is emotionally involved with your character and willing to invest in their journey.

Over to you - favourite characters of all time? Why?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Needed: Your Votes!!!

Okay, this is nothing to do with screenwriting - unless you count the dreams of a young boy who *may* one day BECOME a screenwriter. Crush his hopes now and he may become an ACCOUNTANT or a Sewer Inspector. But you can save him!!!

My boy Alf is a mega Bionicles fan. Over at the Lego site they're running a voting contest on who has built the best new Bionicle character out various bits and bobs from other Bionicles.

Alf is currently in second place, just TWO VOTES behind the lead.

Vote for him! You know you want to.

Click here and then click on "Invincible Hahli". There is a little vote button in the corner of the description page.

Says Alf: "Anyone who doesn't vote for me smells of wee."

He said it... Ta!

Top 5 Script Mistakes # 1: Murkiness

In response to a variety of emails asking me what mistakes/issues I see most often in spec scripts (TV or Film), here are my thoughts... I'll try and do another "Research or Die" by the end of the week. Enjoy!
Sometimes I'll find myself writing in development notes that I'm not *really* sure what is going on in a story. No doubt this will be extremely odd to a writer who can see the action clearly in his/her head - and indubitably this is most often why a writer will accuse a reader of "not reading properly". After all, if YOU can see it in your head enough to write it down on the page once, twice, even multiple times, then said reader must be a complete thicko or staring out of the window rather than reading your script, right?

Afraid not.

Whilst we all know about the WTF? draft in which a writer goes totally mental in exploration of their story (and often realises this the MOMENT it's sent out, let alone read), there is the draft in which storyline threads just seem, well, UNCLEAR. A reader's not sure who the protagonist is maybe, why they're doing what they're doing - or even what they're doing at all. It all seems well... Murky. Sometimes it's not the whole draft, but various bits about it - usually the pay off and/or set up. Who's important? What's the significance of this, that or the other? Why does s/he do that and not this? Etc. It's these murky drafts then that seem to cause writers the most trouble in accepting. After all, what is murky to one reader *might not* be murky to another - and that's where second opinions or Po3s can really count, since if it's murky to more people than not, you know you have an issue.

So here are the main issues I see that can make drafts "murky" - none of them are more important or prevalent than any other by the way, I'm writing as it occurs to me:

Arena. I see murky drafts with regard to arena the most in the SF genre. Some writers have quibbled in the past with me by saying that I've admitted on the blog that I "don't like" SF, therefore I can't follow their scripts because of this. If writers want to believe this, that's their prerogative, but I'm afraid it's total rubbish. Whilst SF is by no means my favourite genre, I've watched a ton of it over the years (features and TV) AND I probably get more SF these days than anything else (except maybe horror or period drama as a tie). I've become very familiar with the conventions of SF then in the last year in particular, I've had a total crash course: I've had to. Plus I also seem to be talking to more people who like SF, though that could be accidental. But anyway: it seems to me that many writers make their drafts murky by paying MORE attention to the WORLD of the story (SF or not) than the story itself.

SOLUTION: What was important about your story in the first place, what made you want to write it? If it was the idea that you could write the next Heroes, I Robot, Alien, Bionic Woman or whatever, chances are you're thinking more about your arena than the story right at the heart of it. Invest in your character first and their journey, the rest can follow - whereas it doesn't *seem* to work quite as well the other way round to me.

Character. Lack of character motivation can lead to a murky script, we ALL know that - but interestingly character can have a propensity to murkify your script if you give them TOO MUCH houseroom every bit as much as too little. End of the day, you need a clear protagonist who needs to do something, end of. That's why we watch films. If we have every minute detail of a character's life it swiftly changes from a movie to a fly-on-the-wall documentary or worse. Characters should do what they need to to keep the story going, the story shouldn't be fashioned AROUND characters in film, it's a symbiotic relationship. TV obviously is slightly different - but every character should be able to "give" something to the storyline that continues, else why are they there? Similarly don't have too many, because the protagonist seems diminished and we end up wondering who and what we're really watching.

SOLUTION: Bring it all back S-Club Style to your main character (or what I call your "umbrella" character if you're writing the TV - the one that is the "be all and end all", Alex in Ashes To Ashes, Mickey in Hustle, Kate in Time of My Life, Hiro in Heroes, etc): why are we watching them? What's special about them? Why are we watching them now and not ten years from now in their lives? Opening with your protagonist from the very first page doing something that defines them is a good trick - I see way too many scripts that start with one character only for that character to disappear from the story altogether and be replaced with a protagonist whose goal is unclear.

Structure. It's rare that I write in notes a script has "too little going on", though it does happen - especially in Sitcoms. Just because it's TV and locations are limited does not mean it's completely dialogue-led, people do do stuff, even in continuing drama. Often a script will have way too much; it won't just have the one subplot even, but multiple threads. So what are we pursuing here? Is this a movie or TV drama about a man's triumph against adversity when he loses his job? Or about his wife's penchant for robbing banks? Or is this about their daughter's desire to win a karate contest? Or their son's bullying at school?? You may think that *no script* could ever contain four such differing strands but believe me I have read far crazier scripts than this! Whatever the case, too many threads and we just don't know where we are - story-wise, genre-wise, even character-wise because who is the protagonist if they're all vying for attention?

SOLUTION: Construct your plot according to convention - TV is very different to film for example. Make sure you do your research too: you might think all the theorising is junk but it is helpful to know what you're dismissing. Structure is how we make sense of EVERYTHING around us - you need a system (whatever it is and whatever you want to call it!) for writing your script AND for making it understood.

Scene Description. This is one of the main offenders for murkiness, though it often comes hand in hand with Arena I've noticed! Those same Scribes who obsess on the worlds of their story rather than the story itself will go to great pains to describe every last detail of a scene. Ironically, this often means a reader is left with LESS idea of what is going on, since if there is a lot of detail, then which is the important action/object etc in pushing the story forward?

SOLUTION: Less is more. Draw a reader's interest with well-chosen, lean scene description, cut all the fat off, don't overwrite. Only use those descriptions that reveal character or push the story forward - preferably both at the same time. Make your script sylph-like rather than outsized and suddenly everything will come clearer with regards to what is going on.

Looking at the above list, I definitely made my scripts Murky with scene description in my early days as a screenwriter - these days my Murky draft incarnations spring from a desire to cram too many details in for a character I've fallen in love with - I do this particularly with antagonists. It must be my evil side coming to the fore and taking over.

What about you?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

BlueCat Comes to London!

You must have been hiding under a rock if you don't already know that Gordy Hoffman and his excellent BlueCat Workshops are coming to London in August. What you may not know however is that I will be there too! I'll be at the weekend workshop on August 16th and 17th and can't wait - if you're going to be there as well, let me know.

For those of you who HAVE been hiding under rocks, here are the full details:

Bluecat London Workshops

Birkbeck, University of London
Malet Street, Bloomsbury
London WC1E 7HX

Aug 12 - 17th, 2008

Gordy Hoffman, the award-winning writer/director (LOVE LIZA, A COAT OF SNOW), USC School of Cinematic Arts Adjunct Professor and founder of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition, will travel to the UK this August to lead a week of screenwriting workshops at the University of London.

The creative principles of the workshops were borne out of over a decade of experience of judging the only major script competition in the world helmed by a produced screenwriter, a writer who continues to write today.

The BlueCat workshops help the writer develop the authentic, original voice behind every story that impacts the emotions of the audience, the essence of all commercially and artistically successful films.

If you care passionately about your script and story, this week will provide the tools to transform your commitment and concern into a compelling film.

The BlueCat Screenwriting Weekend Workshop

09:00 – 17:00 on August 16-17 in room B35 Malet Street

The screenplay is creative writing. It is imagination in action, the heart of every experience of the writer speaking truthfully and generously.

Writing creatively for the screen has no method, no formula, no rigid worksheets to comply with or enforceable rules hanging on a wall somewhere. Every conformity or formula determined and “discovered” by the screenwriting establishment can be blown apart by some of our most beloved movies.

But what cannot be argued away is that every classic movie we love has affected us emotionally.

This is always true.

There are principles of authentic storytelling. Yes. But these are not learned, but remembered from our own experiences of living our lives. The ability to tell a story lies inside every human being.

These questions, among others, will be examined at length at the workshop:

* What makes for a robust idea for a feature length film? How should I consider this idea? Where do ideas come from? What is planning vs. imagination?
* What are the various approaches to the first draft? Does an outline hurt or help? What is the true value of research? Can I just start writing now?
* What is the tone of rewriting? What are the goals of revision? What are the tools of de-constructing your first draft? How many rewrites is healthy?
* How does dialogue affect my audience connection? When is dialogue not cinematic? How does dialogue improve?
* How does description hurt your ending? Does description help an audience care about characters?
* Do all characters have a genuine place in my story? Can I write about people I hate? Can I write about things I imagine and never do? Does that mean I’m not "writing what I know"?
* Who is qualified to give me feedback? Are some notes simply worthless? What does praise for my work do?
* When do I become a screenwriter? Can I make movies where I live? How do I find the real film industry and make relationships?
* Are there other reasons why I’m stuck? How do writers write on a daily basis? How do I trouble shoot when I'm drawing a blank? Why do I get bored?
* Why is pitching my movie important? Do I have to be good with pitching? When does a pitch work?
* What does the personal voice have to do with box office grosses? What is my audience and how smart can I be? How will the audience identify with my own life experience?

Writers will engage in writing and pitching exercises designed to flesh out new ideas or rework existing scripts. Please bring your laptops and/or paper and pen.

If each person is indeed unique, it follows simply that each writer is unlike any other and can write a story no one else on Earth can. This purpose is the mission of this workshop.

09:00 - 17:00 on August 16-17 in room B35 Malet Street
Cost: £150

The Ten Page Workshop

18:30 – 23:00 on August 12, 13, 14 in room 629 Malet Street

These workshops will consist of 5 writers each submitting ten pages of a work in progress in advance. We will go over each work individually, discussing the specific, unique challenges each writer is facing on the page. This discussion will include the technical aspects of description and dialogue, the depth and reality of the characters, and how the ten pages reflect where the entire story goes.

The intimate, focused interaction with fellow writers in the workshop will provide all with a greater understanding of the work that lies ahead on their screenplay, and more importantly, a detailed sense of how they might develop as writers themselves.

18:30 – 23:00 on August 12 in room 629 Malet Street

Cost: £125

Register here.

Sounds great - I'm particularly interested in Gordy's thoughts on scene description and dialogue. Just a shame I can't make it to the Ten Page workshops too! If you go, make sure you tell everyone about it via your own blog, Shooting People or drop me an email and I'll publish your thoughts here.

ALSO: Check out Gordy's guest post on Robin Kelly's blog here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Good Luck

A great philosopher once said: "The best kind of luck is the kind you make yourself." Okay, it was The Care Bears. But it's true.

When you're a screenwriter, it's easy to fall into the thinking the THE WORLD HAS IT IN FOR YOU. Initiatives don't shortlist you? They must hate you. Agents don't want to read more of your work? They must be trying to destroy you. You haven't won a contest or got an option? Why, that is blatant sabotage.

It's hard, after multiple knockbacks, to not wallow in self pity and/or stick a fork in your leg. I'm not denying it. I've been turned down for more stuff in the last year than ever before. Worse still, I've made in-roads on various projects that have ended up going nowhere or grinding to a halt, so I don't even know if they're *still* opportunities. Do I follow it up still? Or am I kidding myself, is this a polite rejection (ie. you'll never hear from us again, LOSER!)? Then come the THOUGHTS OF DOOM: maybe I'll never get further than this! Argggh... Pass me the fork, stat!

The thing is though, this biz isn't actually personal (unless you make a habit of stealing script editors' lovers or running over literary agents' pets of course). If you seem to have an endless run of bad luck, it's not because anyone WANTS you to fail, it's just unfortunate that all your rejections have come at once. And sometimes those rejections can go on for weeks, months or even a year or more.

Of course, a writer always WANTS to make it personal: "If I get this much rejection and it's not them, then it MUST BE ME." Uh-oh, here we go. Suddenly you're telling yourself you're NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Your self esteem suffers, your creativity goes tits up. Before you know it you're a gibbering wreck telling everyone who'll listen that you have no talent. And if you don't do THAT and you *try* and tell yourself the tide will turn, you're secretly worrying everyone is SAYING you have no talent.


The only way to cope with this is to do what every writer doesn't do, because if they did it ALL the time, they'd never get any writing done:

Think logically.

I'm serious. The reason I've been rejected more this year than any other year in living memory is for one reason only:

I've tried for and been involved in, MORE STUFF. Duh. This is actual progress. I'm not looking for opportunities so much now, I'm looking to FIT THEM IN. So many of them won't deliver - doesn't mean it isn't worth a try. Besides, "delivering" has many different definitions in this business. Perhaps I'm doing stuff now that will mean my career is cemented down in the future? Whilst that would be nice, end of the day - I'm writing. I'm polishing. I'm networking, collaborating, being creative. And isn't that actually what this whole lark is about, as opposed to oodles of cash, a big house and foreign holidays (though I'll take all that too if anyone's offering, ta).

So don't invent stuff or scenarios or people in the shadows pointing figures. Don't imagine doors are shutting or that your time is wasted. Just get on with it. Sometimes you'll feel you'll like crap. Get over it. Make your own luck, create your own opportunities and maybe it'll pay off - and maybe it won't. But try and you can't kick yourself.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

More on Genre, Pt 2: Steven Sheil

Steven Sheil, writer and director of the horror film Mum and Dad, drops in to share his thoughts on genre!Why do you think genre has mass appeal, when drama films don't necessarily provide a draw for audiences when they're so celebrated by critics?

I think audiences like being told stories – and the more ‘story-like’ something is, the more they like it. With realist films, obviously you are still being told a story, but it’s one that is probably a little closer to the audience’s own experience – and therefore it’s more likely to produce feelings of empathy (“that’s happened to me”) than something more visceral (“I don’t know what’s happening and it scares/excites/thrills me”).

It always feels fake when you’re making a film, because it is – it’s based on creating an illusion, no matter whether you’re making a film set on a council estate about barefoot teenage mothers or whether you’re making something set on a spaceship, there’s an artifice about what you’re creating. I think with horror, because it often deals with unhuman or insane characters or entities, you get to fashion points of view (in terms of camera) which are often unnatural, allowing a degree of imagination in the style of what you’re telling which you might not employ in something more naturalistic. The audience going into a horror film knows that it is being told a story, something which happens in another world, parallel to our own, there’s no conceit that this is ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ (or if there is, it is formally acknowledged that it is – the opening blurb of ‘The following events are based on a true story’, a device used to amplify the frisson that the audience feels in entering this parallel world).

When the audience knows that what they are watching is ‘a story’, they unconsciously allow the themes and images contained within what they are watching to seep in and affect them – this is why horror films often have a very visceral affect, they work in ways that are fundamental to how stories work, kind of like how fairy tales work on children – (not the bowdlerised ‘moral’ versions, but the original, folk-tale versions which are more complex in what they mean and how they work).

This isn’t to say that horror films are the only films which work in this way, or the only genre where you might employ the same techniques of telling, but it seems to be an arena where, because of the subject matter, you can be quite direct in talking about style and effect and how they tie into and spring from the subject. People know what horror films are supposed to do, so maybe there’s less discussion about ‘what do you want the audience to feel?’ People like to be scared and horrified, unsettled and shocked.

Maybe critics like drama films more because they consider it to be more difficult a skill to present a ‘real’ world on a cinema screen, rather than something that is more a ‘story’ world, but I think audiences like stories more because they use more of the imagination.

When writing/making your film, why did you choose the genre you did, what appealed about it or made you think it would appeal to others?

I’ve been a horror fan for a long time, and I like what watching horror films does to you – it challenges, disturbs, unsettles you (I know that’s not everyone’s idea of what film should do, but I think it’s part of what films are for). I think that there’s often a misapprehension that people who like to watch horror films like to get off on violence (and I’m sure there probably are) – they see the horror on screen, the reaction it elicits in a horror audience (maybe a kind of squirming delight) and they conflate that into a supposition that it is the wish to commit those acts, however deeply hidden, which is at the root of the enjoyment.

In fact, for a lot of horror fans, the delight comes not from an identification with the aggresssor, but with the victim – and the things that make horror enjoyably disquieting are the ideas that the violence throws up – look how mutable the body is, see how fragile and yet resilient it is, look at how senseless, evil or insane people can be – it throws up possibilities, fears, dangers that we might not otherwise appreciate. 

A lot of films which might be touted as horror, often make an attempt to add another layer of meaning or importance or relevance to what they are doing. Rather than being ‘just’ a horror film, it might be described as being a metaphor about illness, or a satire on consumerism, or a psychological portrait. Obviously, there are horror classics which are each of these things – I’m not saying that horror films can’t do these things, just that a lot of times it seems that people are a little embarassed of making ‘just’ a horror film and try and develop it into something with more ‘meaning’. But the best horror films are often successful because they don’t try too overtly to tack on other meanings – the meanings and themes come out of the horror rather than being layered over the top of it. Horror films can be emotionally resonant, socially critical, psychologically perceptive, but they don’t need to stop being horror films to do this

We knew, going into making ‘Mum & Dad’ that there would be an audience for it. It might be a small, niche audience, but there will be people who will want to see the film because it’s a horror film, and because they want to see a new version of one of the old stories.

What place does convention have in genre film? What have you paid homage to?

I think convention has a massive place in genre film, but it is also something to butt up against. There are classic horror film stories – young people getting lost in the woods and meeting something evil, a monstrous being coming back from the grave for vengeance – which have a lineage that stretches back as far as the earliest stories that were told, and which tie in to the fears and fetishes of all cultures on the planet, and which are almost ingrained as story archetypes. So there is a certain expectation, even comfort (weirdly) is seeing those stories being re-told. But equally with a genre film I think you have a duty as a filmmaker to try and explore new landscapes or introduce new elements so that the film doesn’t just become predictable. (I also think that sometimes, even if the story is predictable, the place where the horror is situated need not be.)

With ‘Mum & Dad’ there were obvious influences – a couple of British horror films from the Seventies, Freddie Francis’ ‘Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girlie’ and Pete Walker’s ‘Frightmare’ – but no real homages to them (apart from Birdie being a kind of modern-day Girlie). Tobe Hooper’s ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ is also there – as it can’t help but be in a story about a fucked-up family of killers – but again, I tried not to homage anything too directly – it was more about tapping into a lineage of films. It was a big consideration for me – how much do you play within genre conventions and how much do you try and break out of them. You want the audience to perceive the film as a horror film, but you also want them to see something new, and not to be able to predict everything that’s going to happen. That said, because of the archetypal nature of the stories, the outcome isn’t necessarily as important in horror as what’s explored on the way. Again, I think it’s about where you suggest the horror is coming from – with ‘Mum & Dad’ I really wanted to work on the perversion of the family set-up – to make the horror be part of something we all share – the family – and to root it in the domestic, so that familiar things – knitting needles, chocolate biscuits, Christmas trees – become ‘horror-fied’.
Thanks Steven!

You can see Mum and Dad at Frightfest this August!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

If This Is A Rom Com, Kill The Director...

Okay, okay, the song was on the radio while I was writing that post title!

During my research for my genre article over at Twelve Point I was lucky enough to talk to many writers about their thoughts, but time and space meant I coulodn't include all of them or everything they said (boo!), so I'm going to put their thoughts here instead. Here's Steve Lawson, writer and director of The Silencer: if you read this blog regularly, you'll know I'm well up for Brit Film - and if that Brit Film happens to include extreme violence then, all the better! Here are Steve's thoughts on genre...
It's easy for film-makers and critics to forget that most people in the audience are not cinephiles, they're just regular people who want to be entertained. A good genre film should give people exactly what they want to see, and can transcend cultural and social boundaries because they play on primal senses such as fear and exhileration, rather than requiring an intimate knowledge and understanding of the society in which the story takes places. This is why martial arts film from China are a big hit in the West, but family dramas are not.

My film "The Silencer" is a martial arts/revenge thriller. I chose to work in these genres because I think visual action and the notion of avenging the death of a loved one are things that people from every corner of the globe can understand. It's also a matter of budget of course; martial arts is traditionally a low-budget genre and often works best that way.

Convention is extremely important to genre films - it's the conventions that actually make a genre, and if you break them you're arguably not really working in a genre at all. "The Silencer" combined two sets of conventions, those of the revenge thriller (think "The Exterminator" and "Death Wish") and those of martial arts movies, specifically Hong Kong movies from the 1980's which had an energetic brutality that is rarely seen these days. I think we got it right, as we have been accused by one reviewer of ripping off a Steven Seagal movie called "Hard To Kill" despite the fact that I've never seen it and know nothing about it! I can only assume we both followed the same set of genre conventions a little too closely.
The Silencer Official Website

The Silencer on IMDB

Buy The Silencer

Monday, July 07, 2008

You Are The Architect

They don't teach good time management in school. They should: instead of wasting all that time on stuff we will never ever use (Tangent Ratio anyone?? Okay, maybe if you're an architect or something...), why don't we get taught specific skills that will help us in our everyday lives? (Please note that I am NOT saying all academic stuff or stuff learned-for-learned's sake as a discipline is invalid: I'm a trained ENGLISH teacher, that would make no sense... But can we please just have a few more practical skills in the curriculum as well, maybe?? If nothing else it'll stop the crumblies complaining the whippersnappers can't do *anything* ;).

I'm actually good at managing time. I don't know why this is, though perhaps thinking about it I've never had much time to myself, so I've had to make every second count. Plus as a self employed person, if I don't manage time well, people won't use my services, so the prospect of having no work coming in ever again is a massive incentive for being on time and delivering when you say you will. People make assumptions of you based on how you manage time. If you can do it in time? Great, you're good. If you can't - ooooh, very bad. Simple as, really.

Very often my Bang2writers tell me they "can't" write or redraft something because they don't have enough time. In fact, I am guilty of saying something similar over at Robin's blog only the other day. When faced with the notion of writing a new TV drama series for the Red Planet Prize (deadline Sept 30th), my thought was immediately: "I'm doomed. I cannot possibly squeeze yet another project in. In fact, I can't even think of something I even want to write." I spent approximately twenty minutes not only bemoaning this to Robin via his blog, but also to my husband, all the while plotting the bloody and painful deaths of both Tony Jordan and Danny Stack for coming up with such *ridiculous* competition rules in the first place.

It was at that moment I realised that I had just done THREE things all at once without even realising. If I can treble up on most things naturally, why can't I create a specific strategy that will ensure I get a new project at least written for that all-important deadline? The answer - of course I can. The problem REALLY is, do I want to? After all, dealing with general life and job stuff takes time - do I really want to take even more time up on a project that a) may end up total rubbish and b) sink into the ether even if it's actually good?

The answer is, of course: yes.

As a writer it's easy to feel daunted by the multiple things on your plate and let it affect your creativity. But you can get over these obstacles, just like the heroes and heroines in your script. I approach my life as a series of broken down, smaller tasks and I use this in my writing, too. I have to, else I will never get anything done; there's not enough hours in the day. Yet by breaking elements of my writing down, in the last three years I have managed to write two shorts, four features, a TV script and a TV series script and Bible (there were a couple of abortive drafts of stuff that went nowhere too). Each of my "proper" drafts were not just redrafted once either, they had multiple drafts - if we're not including the notion of just "tweaking" them, but actual full-on structural redrafts, the removal of characters, changing of plot points, polishing of dialogue, etc - each of them has a minimum of 4 drafts and a maximum of about 12. So that's probably about a seventy five drafts all told. Over three years that's 25 drafts a year.

Suddenly seems more do-able? Or is that even more daunting? I suppose it's how you look at it. 25 drafts to me is a draft every two weeks, with two weeks off for good behaviour. Every one of us can write a draft of *something* in two weeks, even if it's a feature.

I'm a big fan of the "ten pages a day method" for features: I write a loose outline, (maybe even just bullet points), then write ten pages of script a day; after nine days (maybe ten) you have a feature. Yes it will most likely be utter rubbish. But first drafts always are anyway. Once you have the words on the page, you can find out what's wrong with your idea. You can change the way you tell it. If that means going back to page 1, so be it. Do it once, twice, three times - whatever. This fatalistic approach to feature writing has got me four features and I think at least two of them are good (they've got me jobs and collaborations on other stuff anyway, even if no one wants to make the damn things).

I write TV differently however. I'll plan to the nth degree. This invariably means I write less drafts - but it ends up the same amount of time, since the original draft time is now made up of planning time. I'll write the character bios, then a pitch doc first usually. I'll mess about with them and as I'm writing and rewriting those first two things, little "fragments" of scenes - dialogue, jokes, moments, scenarios - will occur to me and I'll jot them down in no particular order. Then I'll write a scene breakdown. Once I've completed all that I'll write the script, revising it up to three or four times but never as much as those feature scripts, probably because I had more of a "concrete" beginning.

Yet I love both approaches. I love the excitement of starting a new feature with a loose outline and seeing where it takes me - 9/10 I will end up in a place I never imagined. With TV scripts for me, the joy is in the prep and seeing my characters and stories come to life AS I envisaged them. Yes it's a bit of a contradiction but it works for me.

The thing to remember though is, there's always more than one way to tell a story. I often see writers getting caught up with one scene or a load of dialogue and wanting to keep it no matter what; they may fall in love with a character and do not want to get rid of them. Sometimes they believe their flashbacks should be kept or a voiceover. The thing is, if there's always more than one way to tell a story, you can chuck out any device, character, line, scene, whatever and still make it work. When you're writing a spec, you can do whatever you want! You just have to realise there is always more than one possibility and the world is your oyster - you can solve any plot, dialogue, character, arena or miscellaneous problem if you are willing to try.

End of the day: as a writer you are the architect. Except you don't use Tangent Ratio... And thank F*** for that, never understood it!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Black List

I hadn't seen last year's Black List, so if you missed it too, here it is. Thanks to Scott at Go Into The Story for posting the link over at his site.

If you don't know what The Black List is, it's the most eligible screenplays around written by the top writers of the moment - we're talking the likes of Tony Gilroy, Diablo Cody, The Coen Brothers etc. It's quite an education, since you suddenly realise what you're up against as a spec writer: these guys are already "in the ring" so to speak, yet just like everyone else they have to pitch and see if their masterpieces will get funding and get made - options, agreements, etc don't always guarantee success after all. Sometimes projects get abandoned, some get stuck in development hell, some never see the light of day for personal or political reasons. Similarly it's very useful to see how many "mentions" certain stories get at the end of the document - in other words, which are the most popular.

It's also useful to see what kind of scripts are doing the rounds over the pond - I was surprised to see a few Zombie movies in there for example and no obvious Vampire flicks (I did skim read it, admittedly: it's 37 pages!), plus I was interested to see what appears to be some family-orientated drama and Rom Com. Not that I would ever suggest a writer writes solely for the market of course, but it's interesting to see what the zeitgeist *could* be a year or so from now.

So, go and have a look.

Not Coming In

My mate Schuman has entered for Virgin Media Shorts this year with directing/producing partner Carolina - I recommend you go and check their entry, Not Coming In, out! It's a very funny and well observed little short and bound to put a smile on your face - it did me!

Friday, July 04, 2008


So I didn't get an interview for The BBC Writers' Academy. Again.

So here goes:

What do they want??


First Born Son??


That's it, I'm finished.

Aaaaah. Feel so much better.

Beer time, methinks. Then: ONWARDS...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Needed: Your Delicious Brain # 2

Are you a guy aged between approximately 15 - 30*?

Are you single?

Or do you know someone who fits this description?

If so, I need YOU (no sniggering at the back please!). Rather, your OPINION in answer to these questions:

What are the top three attributes a potential girlfriend should have?

What makes a girl attractive**?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section or email me on the usual address. I really need some thoughts in the next 24 hours - it's for a magazine article (not Scriptwriter obviously - if you would like more info first, I would be happy to tell you - just email), so please leave your real name and location (especially if you leave your thoughts in the comments section) so I might credit you (first names only, don't worry).

* Sorry to the old/married gits who frequent this blog ; )

** No swearing/seediness please! Muchos Gracias

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The New Face Of Scriptwriter Magazine

Is there anyone who DOESN'T know that as of today, Scriptwriter Magazine relaunches as an online mag, TwelvePoint? Well if you didn't, get over there now - £29 gets you a year's subscription to not only a bunch of lovely articles, but use of a forum, an "ask the agent" facility and all sorts! What are you waiting for???

But if you need a little more encouragement, you might just find an article on genre called "Expectation & Surprise" there by a gloriously talented female screenwriter who insists on keeping her light under a bushel, so I've had to out her here. Oh wait a minute - it's me. Well anyway: you might like it, go and subscribe and read it now please. Or I may just have to kill bunnies again.

UPDATE: Here is a link provided by the marvellous Andy Conway on today's Shooting People bulletin for a ten day free trial of Twelve Point.

FURTHER UPDATE: Anyone know how I can reset my damn blog clock (ie. tell me where it is for starters!) so it's right when I update at 7ish and doesn't read as the previous day??? Any thoughts appreciated.