The loneliness of the on-set screenwriter – Our Robot Overlords set report

Yesterday I had a call from Jon, who kindly took time from his one day off this week (and I know that a director never really has a day off – he’ll be getting calls and emails all day) to give me an update on the first week of shooting for OUR ROBOT OVERLORDS.

Exteriors started with a night shoot in Bangor. Photo (c) Pinewood Films No.6 Limited
Exteriors started with a night shoot in Bangor. Photo (c) Pinewood Films No.6 Limited

The crew are working like a well-oiled machine, up against a tight schedule that leaves little room for error. The young cast – Callan, Ella, James and Milo – have bonded brilliantly and are delivering outstanding performances. Our headliners – Gillian Anderson and Sir Ben Kingsley – are just knocking it out of the park, and our army of extras on Twitter have decreed that Tamer Hassan may have delivered one of the best headbutts in screen history.

It’s fantastic to hear that it’s going so well, and my first instinct is to jump on a plane and see them in action first thing tomorrow, but being a writer on set can feel like being a stranger at your own birthday party.

I was delighted to be present at the very first shot of the shoot on Friday 31st May, giggling like a loon to see the story that Jon and I had worked so hard on finally coming to life. But after an entire morning of shuffling to one side, apologising to make room for various crew members who hustle by with big cables and lenses, you soon realise that you’re just in the bloody way.

The previous week of rehearsals was a different matter entirely. Working with Jon, Callan, Ella, James and Milo to get the scenes on their feet – spotting the bits that work and the bits that don’t, and then tweaking the script to play to everyone’s strengths – that was an incredibly productive time. I felt energised in a way that I’ve not been since running my own theatre company back in the day.

But on set, I’m a fanboy, watching the cool director and cast, buzzing around them a focussed and hardworking crew – this is the kind of stuff you see on DVD extras, and yet here I was in the thick of it… with bugger-all to do, but stand and watch and admire and be first in the queue for the catering (I heartily recommend the chili!).

Would it be different if Jon and I hadn’t co-written the script together? Possibly. Writers are a paranoid bunch, constantly convinced that we’re about to be screwed over (because we often are!). But Jon’s the guardian of the script on set, and I have complete faith in him, and I know that if there’s any kind of problem with it, he’ll be on the phone to me straight away. I am completely relaxed that the show is in very good hands, and I can’t wait to see the first rushes.

I’m hoping to be on set in about ten days’ time, so maybe another update then! In the meantime do follow us on Twitter @Robot_Overlords

PS. Also check out some of our tweeting extras – all wonderful people: 

@DocFourFour

@MichaelStuart69

@TONYJMcGREGOR

@leoniegillen

@mark_simpson

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Published by

unusuallytallstories

Author, screenwriter, and co-founder of the Bestseller Experiment podcast.

4 thoughts on “The loneliness of the on-set screenwriter – Our Robot Overlords set report”

  1. That is wonderful Mark! How I envy you. It must be so good to see such distinguished actors bringing your writing to life. I don’t suppose you remember me swinging you backwards and forwards saying ‘Wish! Here we go up again…who’s a clever boy!’ Your proud aunt Marion

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