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 Simon 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 Simon in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 6 : Pressures

Last Contact : Blog 6 : Pressures

Last Contact : Blog 6 : Pressures

I thought I’d share with you the stress I’ve felt in creating and filming Last Contact. I hope sharing it helps. Me.

Pressure 1: Am I going to finish writing the first script?

This isn’t confined to Last Contact; any script I start has a precarious journey to the final page. My brain is fantastic at distracting me when I have something I need to do, but since I need it to survive (or so they tell me) I have to stick with it. Last Contact was easier than most because of the way I wrote it, and the fact that I enjoyed what stupid things the characters would come up with next. Some writing is simply creating the characters, and then shepherding everything they come up with.

Pressure 2: Is anyone going to like the script?

I’ve written lots of stuff. That happens when writing is a passion. And it is. I have to write. I don’t do it for the money or fame (although I don’t not do it for that either), I do it because I have to. And some of the stuff I’ve written isn’t good enough. It either requires (more) reworking, or it requires a match and somewhere to watch it burn. Last Contact didn’t seem to suffer from any of that. It was liked in its initial outing. No one smiled nicely that way that says ‘It’s tosh, and you wasted my life’, instead just saying ‘Go for it’ and that’s as good a compliment as I could have hoped for.

Pressure 3: What am I going to do with the script?

So, after having a script that people like, I had to worry about what to do with it. The normal way of things is to send to production companies or agents and see if anyone is interested. That’s the normal way. Of course, I went and started recruiting people to help produce it myself. The first person involved was Martin Gooch, a director who contacted me through Shooting People website. He liked the script, and we went to his agent who agreed to send it out to the production companies. Knowing that this sort of thing takes time, I sat back, relaxed and waited. Anxiously.

To be continued…

Posted by Simon in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 5 : Plot

Last Contact : Blog 5 : Plot

Last Contact : Blog 5 : Plot

So, you’ve got some funny characters and some funny lines; what’s next? Well, surprisingly I found, a bit of a plot. When I wanted to send the first episode out to production companies for consideration, I had to come up with what was actually going to happen in the rest of the series.

Looking back at my initial document, it seems I did write down the briefest of outlines for each of the six episodes, but it wasn’t anything I could distribute; not unless I wanted them to realise how unorganised I actually was.

So, I created another document which loosely followed those initial ideas, and expanded on them with what I knew about the first episode. Reading them back now, I’m quite surprised to see that I’ve probably incorporated over 50% of the ideas there.

One of the basic premises for Last Contact, is that it’s a little bit like organised chaos; I’d probably go so far to say that its unorganised chaos, but that would just be chaos, and that lacks something of a punch in the delivery.

So, plotting organised chaos is a little tricky. I would hardly know what was going to be said in the next line, let alone page or scene. Some things came together very well. And other elements I created in the latter episodes, I would retrofit into the earlier episodes.

That being said, Episode One is surprisingly close to how it was first written, surprisingly. And it ends exactly how I planned it to end from the beginning.

It was just the bit in the middle that I wasn’t sure about.

Posted by Simon in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 4: Cast

Last Contact : Blog 4: Cast

Last Contact : Blog 4: Cast

The great thing about Last Contact was that I knew three of the main four members of cast shortly after finishing the first script. In that modest way that I possess, I decided to cast myself as Harry, (after all, who else could possibly be so naturally sarcastic?), Marielle as Laura, (who else could be so quirky?) and Griff (who else could be so John?). And with the three of us cast, it took the pressure off a bit.

Then there came the hiatus, where I looked for some crew, then sent it out via a friends agent to see if it could garner any professional interest before I had to fork out the cash to make it myself.

Well, after a year of toing and froing, where nothing very much happened in the Last Contact world, we were back where we started from, looking for cast.

I used 4 websites: CastingCallPro, ShootingPeople, Mandy and StarNow. The good thing is I had responses from all four. A couple of actors applied from multiple sites, which, knowing technology like I do, was a very sensible move. It also showed keenness, that, unlike many people, I actively look for in anyone I have to pay.

Rashmi was the main character I wanted to cast first. She was the last of the main four, as well as requiring an actor of Asian ethnicity, and the lack of responses for the role bore my initial concerns out. Thankfully, and unexpectedly, Bhasker Patel responded for the part of Bernard, and I wasn’t about to turn him down. Bhasker recommended several excellent candidates for Rashmi, and Pooja Shah was cast.

We auditioned for the role of Nina, and saw several excellent actors. Unfortunately, we had to change finally choosing Zoe Harrison who displayed just the right level of unhinged-ness we were looking for.

When we were casting for the role of Nina, we auditioned Helen Jenkinson, and whilst initially we went with another actor, both Marielle and I immediately wanted to use Helen. I thought I could write her in a part, but eventually the delivery man changed gender, and everything was okay.

Then, due to some unforeseen circumstances, we needed to find another Nina, and we immediately asked Helen. The fact that she appears as two different characters is absolutely right for Last Contact, and I think she nailed her performance as Nina.

The icing on our superb cake came in the form of Norman Lovett, Holly from the early Red Dwarf series, who signed on to play Trevor. It was an excellent and fortuitous catch, and one that lends the Last Contact cast with that sci-fi edge I wanted to give it.

Unfortunately, as the shooting dates grew nearer, Bhasker was unable to afford the time to play Bernard, and we were delighted when Norman agreed to play the part.

Oh, and they’re all very nice people, too!

Posted by Simon in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 3 : Props

Last Contact : Blog 3 : Props

Last Contact : Blog 3 : Props

By the tender age of 42 I should have learnt never to work with children, animals or props. Especially props. Especially when I have to find each and every one of them. Especially when one of them is a full suit of armour. And a very large key. And a surfboard.

My word, a surfboard! What was I thinking?

Thankfully, the internet had been invented by the time I had to find them (doubly thankful as that’s how I intend to distribute said sitcom), so it was only a matter of (endless, mind-numbing) weeks to Google them all to my front door.

All 120+ of them.

But now I’ve got them, I suppose it’s fair to say that they’re the only tangible part of Last Contact I have for the time being, so being able to see and touch them makes the whole process all the more real.

But if you ever think about writing a sitcom, maybe you should sit yourself down and give yourself a jolly good talking to first (preferably out of view and earshot of anyone else) and remind yourself that props, whilst they may be great on the page, actually have to come from somewhere, and preferably somewhere close (not America, in the case of the large key).

All that’s left to do now is to make or buy the small things, the easy things. Oh, and find a decent sized van to move them all to the location in…

Posted by Simon in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 2 : Ideas

Last Contact : Blog 2 : Ideas

Last Contact : Blog 2 : Ideas

There’s a saying that if something that’s been forgotten is worth remembering, you’ll remember it. I think that’s rubbish. If you’ve forgotten it, then there’s no amount of therapy that’s going to bring it back to you, unless it was an idea about going to see a therapist.

Ideas arrive every day, a bit like spam mail. But unlike spam mail, there’s no way of automatically sorting through them. So, every idea that arrives gets written down, and played with, like a new toy at Christmas. And like the new toys at Christmas, the only thing that makes us play with them the next day is our own interest.
If we’re not interested, then what’s the point? You’ll get a boring script, that’s mediocre to start with, and quickly becomes padding that’s not even worth picking up. And that’s just littering.

In a way, the idea for Last Contact was a slow drip dripping torture of reading those news stories about countless, pointless, university studies. I know I’m not alone, but every time I’d read one, I’d wonder how the hell they could ever had got funding for it, be it putting snails on the moon, or recording which way a toad jumps when being forced to listen to Justin Bieber (away from the speaker would be my guess).

I’ve mentioned it before, but the first line on the first bit of (virtual) paper I wrote about Last Contact reads:

Sitcom about someone who has had their project funding pulled, after spending the last 20 years studying it. Maybe alien intelligence.

Personally, I think the most amusing word, and the one which says the most is ‘Maybe’. It reveals just how little I knew what it was going to be about. I like aliens. I like zombies. In the end, I guess it boiled down to a choice between the two, and the number of jokes a couple of zombies can crack is fairly limited, I’m sure.

I know the first lines came pretty soon afterwards. And they worked. They made me laugh. Without fail. They even made me laugh the next day, and the one after that. I’d had a funny idea, and I didn’t need to see a therapist about it (although laughing out loud in an office can get you some curious looks!)

And now, as the days count down to the shooting of the series, I’m looking forward to being able to make other people laugh at them, too. And maybe it’ll give those people ideas, and the great avalanche of spam ideas will keep on rolling.

Posted by Simon in Blog, Last Contact Blog
Last Contact : Blog 1 : Names

Last Contact : Blog 1 : Names

Last Contact : Blog 1 : Names

‘Last Contact’ was simply called ‘Harry’ before it was called ‘Last Contact’. And before it was ‘Harry’, it was called “Sitcom about someone who has had their project funding pulled…”, and, in fact, still is in the mess which makes up my Google Drive folder structure.

It’s odd, because usually I’m quite good at coming up with a great title for a project, only to find it far more difficult to recruit any decent words worthy enough to be attached to it afterwards.

But maybe that’s why I like Last Contact so much.

To say Last Contact was written is a bit of a misnomer. The first episode was actually pieced together (and not very carefully, at that) from a series of stupid/absurd dialogues I’d written over the course of about a month.

I can’t remember exactly what the first lines of it I wrote were, but looking at the Drive document, it’s probable it’s the one shown below, which is good because it’s one of my favourites.

"Didn't we have some chickens, once? Where did they go?"
 The team all look upwards.
 "What, you mean, abducted?"
 "No, they just went upstairs. More space; you know what chickens are like."

As you can see, there were no names at this stage of writing, and at times it’s only at the point of transferring them into a script that I decide exactly who does say them; and then I change that a couple of times until it works.

I can’t tell you where the names of the characters originated from. Usually this is a process of working out the probably age of the character, and then going onto a naming website and seeing what sort of things were popular in the year of their calculated birth. It’s not rocket science. It’s maths. And maths is something I do have a qualification in.

Posted by Simon in Blog, Last Contact Blog
10 things you can’t help doing even after leaving your technology at home

10 things you can’t help doing even after leaving your technology at home

10 things you can’t help doing even after leaving your technology at home

We’ve all done it, got to work, or the train, or wherever, and realise you left the tech at home, sitting on the side, or next to the bed! So, why do we keep on doing stuff related to it? Take a look at our “10 things you can’t help doing even after leaving your technology at home”, and relate!

1. Wonder whether you’re near a WiFi hotspot


Are you still looking at random windows hoping to see a WiFi hotspot sticker? Ask yourself this; why? Because I’ve got some bad news, humans without technology don’t need WiFi.

2. Retrieve headphones to block out other people


There’s a reason headphones were invented… to block out the crazies… but without the technology, wearing them makes you one of the crazies…

3. Feel your pocket vibrate


There’s some sort of rapid evolution (radiation) going on, because with or without your phone, your leg picks up those messaging vibrations.

4. Subliminally search for power points everywhere you go


This is like a ninja art nowadays… the moment you walk into a room, you are aware of every single outlet on the wall… but now what can you use it for? That’s right. Nothing.

5. Keep plugging the charger in


Muscle memory at its most devilish! Why do you keep plugging the charger in? It won’t make the technology appear? Fool.

6. See something that would have made a great picture


Spot an insanely funny moment you just wish you could share with everyone? Oh, well. Chances are people won’t notice it in the sea of cat photos or George Takei updates!

7. Think of five people you really need to speak to


Normally you wouldn’t ring anyone, right? But now you can’t ring them, some weird piece of DNA programming is demanding you speak to them immediately. I’m afraid only close proximity can help you now.

8. Have an urge to listen to your audio book or read a Kindle book


Yeah, you just got to that point in the book and you were really looking forward to keeping going… and what’s that? Someone else is talking about it near you… quick, grab the headphones! Oh no! You can’t use them either! (see 2 above)

9. Plan out your next move in an on-line game


Got a great move you were desperate to put into play today? Oh, well, by tonight, someone will have plundered all your resources, and you’ll be back at square one!

10. Realise the world is truly a beautiful place


Yeah, the world is beautiful – with sunsets you can’t photograph, and incidents you can’t tweet about. Best you just appreciate them with your own eyes!

Posted by Simon in Blog, Simon's Blog



When the world falls apart, our salvation lies in being able to find each other.

Shot in April, August and September 2014, Symbiote tells the story of Lola and Clay, two very different people, dealing with a post-apocalyptic event in their own way.

Clay is holed up in his late father’s home, unsure of whether to stay or leave, whilst slowly running out of food and hope.

Lola is on the run, constantly moving, desperate to find somewhere safe. After they make contact over walkie-talkies the pair decide to try and find each other.

Posted by Simon in Featured Slider, Features, Films