In case you missed it, here’s last night’s UNWELCOME spoiler special where I reveal just what I was thinking with that ending, and we also hear from actor and second unit director Rick Warden, cinematographer Hamish Doyne-Ditmas, and VFX supervisor Paddy Eason who shared some terrific behind the scenes footage. Enjoy, but be warned… there is repeated spurting of blood… repeated! Spurting!
Month: April 2023
Amita Parikh on the Bestseller Experiment
There’s a danger that writers can get stuck in our little worlds. I mean, most of use are stuck on our bums for most of the day. Getting off your backside is not only good for your health, both mental and physical, but you never know what might be around the corner. I really enjoyed chatting with Amita Parikh on the podcast, and loved the idea that had she not been lost in London and asked for directions, then her amazing debut novel The Circus Train might never have existed. She’s good fun, not least when she talks about how she coped with rejection…
Behind the Scenes Pics of UNWELCOME’s Redcaps
I was tagged last night in a post from The Prosthetics Studio, the geniuses who created the masks and other prosthetics for UNWELCOME and I discovered a treasure trove of behind the scenes images, many of which I’d not seen before. The studio is run by Shaune Harrison and Paula Anne Booker-Harrison, and the dedication to their craft is unquestionable. I’ve popped a few images below as a little tease, and you can find more on their Instagram and Facebook pages. And if make up and prosthetics is your thing, they even do courses here.
JS Monroe on the Bestseller Experiment
For me, the most intriguing part of this week’s Bestseller Experiment interview with JS (Jon) Monroe is when he talks about the development of his novel Dead Spy Running into a movie written by Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana) and directed by McG… But if you’re thinking, ‘Hang on, I’ve not seen that movie,’ then you’re not alone. After spending five years and ten million dollars on developing the film, Warner Bros decided they weren’t going to make it. Such is the insanity of Hollywood, this is not an uncommon story. Jon takes it all with good humour and is generous with advice for writers when it comes to the rest of his extraordinary career.
By the way, check out the difference in running time between this regular episode and the extended episode that we record for our Patrons and Academates. There’s an extra 42 minutes of me and Mr D discussing unique book launches, composite characters, self belief and rejection, ending consultants, the benefits of a Marmite novel, and why you should want to have your books burned and banned and much more! You can get all this and hundreds of hours of extra material when you support the podcast as a Chart Topper Supporter on Patreon here, or join the Bestseller Academy.
My Favourite Podcasts, Spring 2023 edition…
I thought it’s been a while since I discussed my favourite podcasts, then when I checked it turns out it’s been five blimmin’ years since I updated them! So click here if you want to see what I was listening to in 2018, and here’s a list of podcasts for screenwriters from 2016.
Okay, so in no particular order here’s what’s filling my ears and brain in 2023…
The Conversation with Nadine Matheson…
… is one of the best new podcasts for writers. Nadine is a bestselling thriller writer herself and she has such a friendly and conversational style that she always brings out the best in her guests. The most recent episode with Christie J Newport is quite astonishing when Christie discusses life with her illnesses and is a great place to start. Oh, and I’ve been a guest and so far it’s the longest episode which just goes to show what happens when you let me waffle…
… is more than a podcast. It’s rapidly become a sacred depository of rock history. Every week, musicians Gary Kemp and Guy Pratt speak to a legend of rock and it’s never dull. What’s great is that Gary and Guy have been there and done that and can talk with the greatest musicians as peers, but they’re also fans and remember to ask the geeky questions that we’ve always wanted the answers to. Their guests have included Nick Mason, Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher, but in many ways it’s a bit like Desert Island Discs in that the episodes that feature artists that you’re less familiar with can be the most entertaining and will have you rushing to your music streamer to download everything they’ve done. This episode with The Anchoress is a case in point…
… comes from Joel Morris, one half of the brilliant Rule of Three podcast, and this offers a similar insight to the things we love and bring us comfort, but its remit goes beyond comedy and has included Raiders of the Lost Ark, Animal Crossing, Curvy Brides Boutique and The Hairy Bikers. And even if you don’t hold these things with the same affection as the guests you’ll always come away with a new appreciation for them. This is another good podcast for writers as Joel Morris has a gentle genius for breaking down why things work so well. I always learn something new.
Fifty Years of Sh*t Robots…
… does exactly what it says on the tin. Hosted by writer and broadcaster, Matt Brown and Stephen Murray, senior lecturer at Teeside University, it celebrates all the weird and wonderful robots in film and TV history. From the glory of Maria in Metropolis, to Metal Mickey, and Tobor the Great, this will (eventually) cover them all. I was lucky enough to appear on a recent episode discussing Disney’s The Black Hole and that mind-bending ending with Maximilian…
When I last posted about my favourite podcasts, Film Stories was two episodes old. Now it’s established as one of the go-to pods for great tales of films somehow getting made (it’s really hard to get a film made… really, really hard) and celebrates them all. And the presenter Simon Brew also has occasional special episodes where he interviews filmmakers about their career so far. Here’s a recent one with m’colleague Jon Wright where I was delighted to get a fanboy mention…
You’re Wrong About…
A brilliantly simple concept: take the things we thing we know about and challenge those assumptions to reveal the deeper story. So far episodes have included The Donner Party, Tom Cruise on Oprah’s Couch, OJ Simpson’s Trial, Tonya Harding, and The Satanic Panic. A ton of research goes into each episode and it really shows. The only caveat for Brits: the presenters and guests use the word ‘like’ like a, like, comma, and it can, like, get a little, like, annoying… But if you can filter that out (and you should: get over yourself) it’s a really rewarding listen. This episode on Beanie Babies is a real treat…
If, like me, you grew up reading and loving the novelisations of movies then this is essential listening. I first heard this podcast when my writer chum Gavin G Smith discussed the Aliens novelisation by Alan Dean Foster and I knew then that I had found a treasure trove. I’ve been lucky enough to be a guest a few times and one of my favourite experiences was discussing William Kotzwinkle’s extraordinary adaptation of ET The Extra Terrestrial…
One of the few podcasts I’m still listening to all these years later, and it’s still one of the best for writers of scripts out there. The big difference is that Craig Mazin has gone from being that guy who wrote comedies, to the uber genius who wrote Chernobyl and The Last of Us, and the insights that he and John August offer are simply unmissable. The episode I always point listeners to is this untypical solo show from Craig discussing theme. This actually changed the way I write and I’ve never looked back…
I listen to Word in Your Ear every week, which features the wonderful Mark Ellen and David Hepworth discussing music. It can get a little too grumpy old men at times, but it’s always a good laugh. I’m catching up with the Richard Herring podcast, which is often filthy and hilarious. Films to be Buried With with Brett Goldstein is always thought-provoking and made me realise that the film character that I most relate to is Kevin from Time Bandits, and Adam Buxton still gets more of out of his guests that almost any other interviewer.
Oh, and of course there’s The Bestseller Experiment. We’re still going strong after six-and-a-half years and no sign of stopping. We’ve recently started adding more additional content for our supporters on Patreon and in the Academy, and it can be over half an hour of extra material per episode sometimes, and we also have over 130 Deep Dive episodes on subjects like marketing, writing blurbs, police procedurals, forensics, beta readers and much more, so if you want that good stuff then you can get your hands on it here.
Here’s a recent episode with the brilliant Delilah S Dawson…
And that’s that for the moment. My apologies to anyone I’ve missed out, especially if I’ve been a guest on your podcast… But why not bung a link in the comments and let’s get people listening…
Ten Years Ago Today: My Pitch for the Robot Overlords Novelisation…
Extracts from my diaries on Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th April, 2013:
A busy day. Worked on all sorts: the games and novel pitches, the novel sample chapters, and tweaks to the script. All very productive.
I road-tested the novel sample with Emily (daughter, then 13), who really liked it. I then printed it out and proofread very carefully, then sent it to Jon and Piers. They both loved it. Jon made the point of calling me to say so. He got the weird sensation of seeing it through the characters’ eyes.
Just waiting to get the okay from Katie (Williams, my agent at the time at The Agency) and then I’ll send it to Gillian (Redfern, editor at Gollancz).
Last tweaks to ORO (Our Robot Overlords, as it was still titled at the time) before it goes out again to cast, production and finance. It’s looking good.
Also sent the novel pitch and samples to Gillian. Fingers crossed.
I was working my little buns off! You can almost smell the desperation.
I’m often asked about pitches for films and books, so I’ve dug mine out and you can read it here…
OUR ROBOT OVERLORDS
A FILM TIE-IN NOVEL PROPOSAL
The robot invasion was unexpected, swift and catastrophic.
The war lasted eleven days, humanity’s losses were devastating.
The survivors now live in controlled ghettos in servitude to…
OUR ROBOT OVERLORDS
A major independent feature film starring Gillian Anderson and Sir Ben Kingsley, coming summer 2014.
The film shares the gang camaraderie of THE GOONIES, the intensity of DISTRICT 9, and the same heroic mythology of stories like STAR WARS. It’s aimed at the 12a/PG-13 audience: intense action, cool characters, terrifying villains.
THE WORLD OF OUR ROBOT OVERLORDS
“Our intention is to study all sentient thought in the universe. We will scrutinise this knowledge to ensure that no life form will ever threaten us again.”
Earth has been invaded by a malevolent empire of robots from the far side of the galaxy. They claim to be studying sentient life, yet they confine the human survivors in their homes for the duration of the occupation – over seven years.
“Don’t be alarmed. We wish you no harm. However… Disobeying our laws will not be tolerated.”
All humans now have a robotic implant behind their ear. This enables the robots to track our every move. If you step outside, beyond the set boundaries, you get just one warning from a patrolling Sentry. Disobey and you’re nothing but ashes floating on the breeze.
“Dad always said being frightened of something was the best reason to do it.”
Our hero Sean is confined in his home with his mum (Gillian Anderson). He’s convinced that his dad, a missing-in-action RAF fighter pilot, is still alive. He and his gang of mates will figure out how to disable the robot implants.
Sean’s mate Nathan is cocky, full of himself, and the first to run headlong into the action.
Nath’s sister Alex starts as the gloomy Eyeore of the group, but Sean’s heroism will give her hope.
Their neighbour Connor is the runt of the litter, but his ingenuity will save the day on more than one occasion.
They’ll dare to break the robot curfew, follow the trail left by Sean’s father, and will ultimately challenge the entire robot empire.
THE TIE-IN NOVEL
BY MARK STAY
I was always a massive fan of film tie-in novels when I was younger. The revelations in Alan Dean Foster’s STAR WARS, Donald F Glut’s THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and THE WRATH OF KHAN by Vonda McIntyre were all favourites of mine, revealing backstory not included in the film, deleted scenes and additional dialogue. These books were almost the only way to experience the film while waiting an eternity for either a theatrical re-release or VHS rental.
But the golden age of film tie-ins is long gone, and many are released as an afterthought, bringing in a jobbing writer to hurriedly cobble something together using the script, some storyboards and concept art.
However, as the co-writer of OUR ROBOT OVERLORDS I am uniquely placed to get a head start on the film’s production and release, and produce a novel that every fan of the film will want to read.
Aimed at the same YA/Family audience as the film, the tie-in novel of OUR ROBOT OVERLORDS will get inside the heads of the characters that director Jon Wright and I have created in a way that film cannot. It will be pacy, action-packed, commercial and will be designed to stand-alone as a gripping read.
We also want to make Gollancz full partners in the film. We can offer exclusive additional material: concept art, storyboards, filmmaker/actor Q&As, webchats and much more.
The novel will also be part of a bigger brand-building exercise that includes the film, its sequels, games, toys, collectibles and future books.
There is also a great opportunity for the film-makers and Gollancz to work together; cross-promoting our film to your fanbase of Gollancz Geeks, and your prestigious list of titles to the film’s fans.
Please find attached sample chapters from the proposed book, concept art and storyboards.
To see a sales trailer, using clips from other movies to give you an idea of the tone and style of the film, visit here (I’ve removed the link as it no longer exists).
Delilah S Dawson on the Bestseller Experiment
I’ve followed Delilah S Dawson on social media for some time and always been impressed by her passion for the craft and her generosity with advice, so when I saw her Tweet that she was looking for podcasts to guest on I messaged her immediately. And I was not disappointed. She’s a great guest and talks about her new thriller The Violence, writing for big intellectual properties like Star Wars, and the writing habits that have helped her become so prolific and successful…
Kate Baker – Academy All Star
Every now and then on the podcast we do special episodes for the writers who’ve come out of the Bestseller Academy and done amazing things. Watching Kate Baker take her novel Maid of Steel to publication has been a real joy and it was great to chat with her for this special episode of the podcast…
Ten Years Ago Today: Robot Overlord Rewrites and Panic Attacks…
Here’s an extract from my diary on Monday 8th April, 2013…
Slept badly last night. Panic attacks. It’s only 7 weeks till I leave. It’s becoming a reality now. Jon was looking at locations in Ireland today. Says he’s found a great ravine and a castle.
I got the official go ahead from Piers to work on the tie-in novel of Robots. Started work on the pitch and opening chapters right away.
PS. Jon and I did some good work on the cuts on Saturday. Molinare was empty. We found a quiet nook, ordered some tea and went about cutting thousands of pound from the VFX budget.
Some context: following on from my previous blog where I was asked to write the Robot Overlords novelisation, our producer Piers had to get it signed off by all the other producers. This will become a recurring motif through the making of the film and publication of the book: it could take forever to get a decision because so many people had to sign off on every major choice. It’s not that people were difficult, it’s just that there were so many producers and they’re all busy people.
In order to convince Gollancz that I was up to the job to write the novel, I put together a pitch which included a document outlining the project, a video with pre-viz VFX from the film (still a relatively new and snazzy thing) and about ten thousand words from the opening chapters.
This may have contributed to the late night panic attacks. To be honest, these weren’t anything new. I’d been having them for years, and still get them occasionally (had one just this week!), but I’m sure the big changes just around the corner we’re giving me conniptions. I had arranged to take a six-month sabbatical from work while the film was in production. This would not only allow me the time to write the novel full time, but I could also be more available to the film at its most crucial time.
Molinare is the post production facility just off Carnaby Street and where the film’s editing etc would be finalised. Jon and I were lucky to have it as a place where we could meet and work on tweaks to the script to shave away VFX in order to meet our budget.
Also, as an aside, Margaret Thatcher died on this day. I was never a big fan, but our current leaders make her look almost palatable. Almost…
More diary updates coming soon…
Ten Years Ago Today I Was Asked to Write the Robot Overlords Novelisation
Here’s an extract from my diary dated Friday 5th April, 2013:
Piers has officially asked me to write the film tie-in novel. I ran up to ask Gillian if Gollancz would be interested… they would! It all depends now on a deal being struck (and the film getting a release!), but I might be getting published, along with Claire, in 2014! Speaking of which, the first part of Claire’s advance has been paid: the company’s first bit of income.
So, let’s unpack all that… Piers Tempest was lead producer on Robot Overlords and in the run-up to production there was talk of merch like t-shirts and games, and also a book. I immediately volunteered for it, thinking that this could be a great way to get my first book published. And it made sense for me to pitch it to Gollancz, which is the SF&F imprint at the Orion Publishing Group where I worked.
Me running upstairs to ask Gillian Redfearn (I think she was a commissioning editor at Gollancz at the time. She’s now Deputy Publisher!) if Gollancz would be interested might sound like the deal was done there and then. It certainly wasn’t. In fact, and to their credit, Gollancz were wary of publishing an employee and I all sorts of hoops to jump through yet. But if you’re reading this and thinking ‘Jammy bugger’, then you’re right: I was taking advantage of my position within the company to get my work in front of a publisher. But also bear in mind that I chose to work in publishing precisely for this reason! So much of this business is about who you know, and if Gillian had said ‘No, thank you,’ then I had a long list of alternatives that I could approach. I had hoped that a day like this would come along eventually, and when it did I wasn’t about to let it slip by.
I was a little optimistic on the publication date of the book. The film had a premiere at the London Film Festival in 2014, but wasn’t released until March 2015. The book came out just before in February 2015.
And my wife Claire has beaten me to it in pretty much every field. She got an IMDb credit before me and her books were published before mine! Lottie and Dottie Sow Carrots was published in April 2014.
And the company? I was advised to start a Limited Company to manage the money coming in from our writing. In the UK, if you’re self employed and do your own self-assessment, if you have a good year, followed by a lean year (which is what it turned out to be) you can get walloped by a big tax bill. Having a limited company meant that we could manage the money without having to beg for rebates. And the company is still going ten years later!
Also from my diary that day…
Jon (Wright, director of Robot Overlords) gave me the fright of my life yesterday by sending me a grid with a list of cuts of VFX shots. It looked like we’re cutting back to virtually nothing! But then he explained the colour coding system on the grid. Blue is ‘cut’, orange is ‘cut from the “skimmed” version’ (which we’re preparing for the purposes of closing the deal), but we’re still intending to make the ‘full fat’ version, by chasing that extra £1m. We’re meeting tomorrow to go through the script.
A little context for this: we were still short of meeting our budget by about a million pounds, so we needed to write a version of the script where we could still make the film, but with fewer VFX shots. We had three versions: the ‘full fat’ was as written, the ‘skimmed’ version was with fewer VFX, and the blue version… well, we might as well have made it with stick figures. In the end, I think we shot something that fell between the ‘full fat’ and ‘skimmed’ version. But that’s a diary entry for another day…
Oh, and apparently it snowed that day, too!
If you’d like to read the Robot Overlords novelisation you can get a signed copy here.
The film is available to download from Apple, Amazon, Sky etc and is currently streaming in Amazon Prime in the UK.