Month: October 2015

The Ostrich Race

The Ostrich Race

The Ostrich Race Novel

Published in July 2012, The Ostrich Race is my first published e-book. The summary is written below:

“Gordon Paige, retired author, now lives alone, seven years after the death of his wife, Brenda. She was his life, and now all he has to fill the long days is ‘The Ostrich Race’, a competition that’s been running in Brenda’s family for well over a hundred years. But this year the Race is going to be different in more ways than one. This year, along with the regular players, there’s another, anonymous one, who seems to know a lot about the Race, and the only way Gordon can find out their identity is by tracking down the original Race entry envelopes. Little does Gordon realise, however, but during the next twelve months, his life is going to be turned upside down, with family secrets and lies being uncovered, until, at last, the shocking truth behind the player is revealed.”

The Ostrich Race is available as a Kindle e-book on Amazon or a actual book from Lulu.com!

Posted by jason in Novels
Gone Comic Book

Gone Comic Book

Gone Comic Book

Writer: Simon Birks
Artist: Tom Eddy (Website)

If a tree falls in an abandoned spaceship, does it make a sound?

Gone tells the story of a spaceship where all of the crew have disappeared. Waking up after many years of hibernation, the AssistA robot must piece together the mystery of the missing people, and try to get the ship away from the phenomenon just outside the window. But all is not as it seems, and AssistA is not as alone as it thinks it is…

Welcome to Gone.

Gone on Facebook

Posted by jason in Comics, Featured Slider
Sinners Comic Book

Sinners Comic Book

Sinners Comic Book

Issue #1 – Hope Is Dead

Today is not a good day for Hope Martinez.

Waking in a strange bed, with a not so strange body laying lifeless in the corridor, she panics. Disorientated and confused about the previous night’s events, Hope runs, but only so far as the black Limo waiting for her outside, and its mysterious driver who offers her a job she may not be able to refuse… gather the sinners.

Sinners on Facebook

Posted by jason in Comics, Featured Slider
Kick-Ass is Not Tough (Homework)

Kick-Ass is Not Tough (Homework)

Kick-Ass is Not Tough (Homework)

Well, being a writer (or just having it as your hobby) is great fun. The last few days I’ve had the arduous task of reading graphic novels in order to come up with an in-universe short comic. This is for the Millarworld Challenge which is asking writers to come up with a short story (around 4 or 5 pages) within the Mark Millar universe.

The options are:

  • KICK-ASS story set between Trades 1-3 (5 pages)
  • KINGSMAN story starring Eggsy/Gary (5 pages)
  • HIT-GIRL solo adventure set during the Kick Ass trades (4 pages)
  • STARLIGHT starring Young Duke McQueen on Tantalus (5 pages)
  • AMERICAN JESUS set during first trade (5 pages)
  • CHRONONAUTS set in the past, during first trade (4 pages)

So, having bought the Kick-Ass trades at the weekend (how much??!!) and also the Kingsman book, I’ve been working my way through them.

I’m part way through Kick-Ass 3 at the moment, and whilst it’s as violent as I thought it was, I’m enjoying the series. I’m leaning towards doing a Hit-Girl story, so need to buy the Hit-Girl trade (they didn’t have it!) so I can be sure I have the character down right, and am not duplicating any ideas.

Really, there can’t be any easier things to have to study for a competition than comics!

I’d encourage you all to enter – such chances in the writing industry are few, more so in the comics one!

Good luck and Kick-Ass!

Posted by jason in Blog, Comics, Simon's Blog
Last Contact : Blog 12 : The Pilot

Last Contact : Blog 12 : The Pilot

Last Contact : Blog 12 : The Pilot

So, it’s now June 2013, three months since we filmed the show. A lot of things have happened, but it’s that duck legs paddling furiously metaphor time, with very little having changed on the surface.

The editor is sending me updates regarding episode 1, and we’re hoping to get a rough cut of the whole episode over the next few days. This has to be okayed, and then the sound and the picture will be worked on. I hope that these won’t take too long, and that they’ll be a pilot episode ready by the end of June.

This means it will have taken a month or so for one episode, which is fine, but it does present me with a problem.

What to do with the first episode (ie. the pilot)?

I’d really like to get it out there as and when it’s ready, but ideally I should wait until we have the majority of the episodes completed before beginning to show them. But I’m just not that patient. Also, having the pilot episode out there may garner more interest for the rest of the series.

I really appreciate the amount of support that people (cast, crew, supporters) have given, and I really want to reward them for that.

But, if there’s a couple of month gap before we show the remaining episodes, will that be a problem?

Hmmm, what do you think?

Posted by jason in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 11 : Why?

Last Contact : Blog 11 : Why?

Last Contact : Blog 11 : Why?

Why do any of this? After all, I work in IT. I sit behind a desk, tapping at a PC all day, 5 days a week, most weeks of the year. I have no formal training in writing, producing, directing or acting. It’s costly, and timely, and stressly.

It’s especially stressly.

I’ve had to organise people and places, props and costumes, get cover for pets, shop for more people than I ever thought I’d shop for, and organise camera and sound crew.

I’ve taken two and a half weeks off of work (and I get paid by the hour), I’ve had to act in another film at the same time (that’s where I was on the first Saturday, when I originally should have started filming Last Contact). We’ve had to change actors at the last minute, manage issues with the property, worry about getting the right insurance, and then hope that I didn’t have to use the insurance (the excesses are how much?).

There’s been a website to create from scratch, maintain, write blogs for. There’s been a Facebook page to attract potential viewers, advertise with, respond to questions, and generally keep the interest levels up.

There’s been last minute costs that have cropped up, facilitating the use of the overdrafts. There’s now the learning of the editing software, and the countless hours that Marielle and I will have to sit looking at the terabyte of film footage we shot over two weeks.

Oh, yes. The whole thing took only two weeks. That worked out about 16 pages a day. Even more than they do on Hollyoaks, I’m told. Getting up at 7.30am, starting filming at 9am, taking 45 minutes for lunch, and finishing filming around 7pm if we were lucky.

So why? Why did I do all this?

Well, if you haven’t guessed already, see above.

Posted by jason in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 10 : Location

Last Contact : Blog 10 : Location

Last Contact : Blog 10 : Location

Wow. There are a number of things I’ve learnt so far on the Last Contact journey, but one of the big ones is how not so easy it is to find the perfect spot. No wonder cats take so long to settle down.

One of the things that was definite in my mind was where the sitcom was set. In a university, in a large room that could house three people’s desks with a kitchen off to one side. Wood panelling would be good, but it had to have a lived in feel, as if our protagonists had been there for years.

One thing I can tell you about locations for filming, they’re expensive. Super expensive. Prohibitively expensive. Basically, unless you know the person who owns it, or you just don’t tell them, you’re going to find it difficult to shoot anything.

And, typical of me, I wanted to film six episodes, around two hours of usable film. And like the 80/20 rule, but much worse, 120 minutes of usable film equates to about three years of filming. All right, maybe not three years, but a while. Two weeks worth of filming almost non-stop. And then maybe a little bit for editing.

So I needed to find a place to shoot that we could have for three weeks. It also needed to have other rooms that we could use for Bernard’s office and Nina’s office. At this stage, I hadn’t put any action in the kitchen. It was just a door that people went in and out of. But I’ll come back to that.

And hopefully, it’d be somewhere we all could stay, otherwise the expense bills were going to go through the roof. It was a long shopping list. Just so you know, when I was enquiring about locations, they were coming in at least £1000 per day. At least.

Not having £21k to spend on locations, I had to think of something else.

I turned to holiday cottage sites, since at least most of them would have accommodation provided so long as they were large enough. I looked at quite a few, and arranged to see one of them. It looked okay. Just okay. None of the others did, and I was getting worried.

So, on a dark evening we drove the hour or so to the place, which was off a country lane, off a country lane, off another country lane. You’ve got to love England.

But we saw it, and we walked around it, and by golly it was exactly what we needed. The main room was perfect, tall ceilings and lots of space. It had a couple of rooms we could use for the other offices, but the best part was the kitchen. The kitchen was great. It inspired me to move a lot of the scenes into the kitchen, which is a good thing.

And whilst the cost of renting it was not cheap, it was far, far cheaper than anything else.

With bated breath, we contacted the owners the next day with the proposition of us filming there, and thankfully, they said yes.

We had our location. That’s not the end of the location story. But the rest I’ll leave till another time.

Posted by jason in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 9 : The Series

Last Contact : Blog 9 : The Series

Last Contact : Blog 9 : The Series

I can’t recall exactly when I decided on the date I wanted to start filming Last Contact. It must have been around the same time as the casting calls went out, as I had to have some sort of sensible answer when potential cast members asked ‘If I got the part, when would I be needed for filming?’

But once it was decided for February, there was yet another, more pressing, factor. Will I have the whole series written by then? Or even half of it? I seem to work best under pressure, but four episodes in a few months was even pushing it for me.

Then reality, like a falling elephant, hit me; I didn’t really have a few months. Sensibly, I needed to have the series finished by Christmas (2012) so we could sit down and have a read through to make sure it was funny to other people who weren’t me.

That left about six weeks. I got to work.

Fortunately, I long ago learned that to write something of any significant length required the ability to just sit down anywhere you are, and write.

This also coincided with a new contract (in the day job) that meant I could journey by train. I like the train, it means I have to think less about what I’m doing, plus it’s not illegal to use a laptop whilst you’re doing it.

So, that’s what I did. I got on the train, sat down and wrote whatever was in my brain. I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, so it took extra effort (though it’s quite clearly not manual labour, so you don’t have to feel sorry for me or anything). As with everything, some of it was very good, and some of it was very not.

Trains being what they are, there were a few occasions where I missed my connecting train, and so had to wait at Horsham station with my laptop, a cup of coffee and a Tunnock’s wafer biscuit (this is so nearly heaven on earth). I wrote some good lines in the cafe on that station.

It was hard. It was a lot of work. But it was writing. And writing is fun. To me, anyway.

So, a week before Christmas I put the final dot and crosses on the i’s and the t’s of the final episode. I went through each episode several times, adding stuff, correcting stuff, changing stuff so that it was as funny as possible.

And what I was left with was really quite good. I’m very pleased with it. Especially when we had the read through and…

Wait a minute, that’s another blog post entirely…

Posted by jason in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 8: Writing Episode 2

Last Contact : Blog 8: Writing Episode 2

Last Contact : Blog 8: Writing Episode 2

The moment when you’re half asleep, and you fall over a rock and your whole body jerks spasmodically. That’s how it felt when I realised I needed more than one episode to show to people.

Episode 1 had been written for a while. Everyone I knew liked it. Some people I didn’t know liked it. Now I had to do it again. Fortunately, I still had lots of silly one liners to use from my initial line-dump, so I looked down them and selected the one that felt most like an opening line.

I also chose one that emulated the character set up from episode one. I felt I needed to copy it, but wasn’t really sure why. Strangely, in the rest of the episodes I specifically make sure I change the beginnings so they’re not the same. I’m not overly sure what it says about me. Perhaps it says I’m lazy. And inconsistent.

As for the plot, that was fine. I knew what was happening. And that was, not much. A lot of it has to do with the characters purposefully not going anywhere. This, of course, poses its own problems. Mainly, making the same place and people interesting for a prolonged amount of time.

I’m a great fan of the single location films, ‘Twelve Angry Men’ being a particular favourite. As was ‘Phone Booth’. I like the theatre, and I think it has something to do with that, the ability to make one or two locations interesting. Of course, the main way of doing it is the dialogue. No matter how many angles you can shoot from, if the dialogue’s lousy, then it’s not worth getting out of bed in the morning.

Hopefully that’s not the case with episode two. It was written quickly, and on reading it back, I often think it’s funnier than episode one. Will the audience think so? Not sure. Only time will tell.

Oh, and it has an extra character in it, too…

Posted by jason in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 7 : Interest

Last Contact : Blog 7 : Interest

Last Contact : Blog 7 : Interest

Pressure 4: Is a production company going to be interested in the script?

Time, like soap, is a slippery beast (and slightly more dirty). The key to living with it is to give it a bit of room. It’s a leap of faith in many ways. The script was out with production companies, and it would be several months before I’d hear anything. I had a friend at college, David, who, along with me and several others from our computing course, went to an interview at a local large insurance company. This would have been my first interview, and whilst I can’t remember it, I would have stuffed it up royally. I’m better now, but that’s got something to do with time.

Anyway, talk in the classroom (actually, cold and draughty huts that I’m sure wouldn’t be good enough for prisoners to be kept in) afterwards turned to how the interviews went, and if people thought they might get it. David’s answer was that he was ‘quietly confident’. I thought he must have done well if his confidence was that high. A few days later, the rest of us gets a polite ‘no thank you’ letter, and, lo and behold, he gets the job. Impressed by his bravado, I congratulate him, at which point he tells me he knew at the interview they’d hire him, because they told him before it ended it would.

So, the point of this, some people get told things straight away, some people are so good/fortunate/rich to get instant results. Us other schmucks have to wait. So I waited.

I left it three months, sitting on my hands and trying not to get involved. I really am a very impatient person. After three months I sent an email asking if the agent had heard back, and they said no. Another couple of months went by; another email, another no. Then, on the third email, he says that one of the production companies may be interested, but it probably wouldn’t come to anything.

So, naturally, I panicked. Any excitement I felt at even the slightest interest was held tightly in check by one simple realisation.

I’d only written one episode.

Posted by jason in Blog, Last Contact Blog