Surviving your first year as a debut author with Ed McDonald

I had the pleasure of speaking to the superb Ed McDonald on the podcast this week. Ed talks very honestly about his first year as a professional author, achieving his dream of getting published, and then he asks the question, “What next?” It’s a very revealing chat and you can listen here.

I was over the moon to see my friend Deborah Haywood’s movie Pin Cushion premiere at the East End Film Festival last weekend. It’s funny, dark, and cat lady mad with a brilliant cast. Have a look at the trailer here.

And if you’re looking for a major time suck, the BBC have opened up their sound effects archives for non-commercial use. There’s some really freaky stuff available for your delight. Listen to this doll singing Oranges and Lemons and tell me you won’t be sleeping with the lights on tonight…Oh, and I’m 77% funded on The End of Magic with less than a month to go! If you’ve not pledged already, now would be a wonderful time to do it. Just click here and hit that lovely blue pledge button.

Till next time, happy writing!


The Robot Overlords are finally here…

On 13th July 2010* I received an email from Director Jon Wright with the subject heading ‘Two page idea attached’. In it he outlined a movie idea that had come to him in a dream: a world where humanity had been defeated by an invading alien robot empire and everyone is ordered to stay inside their homes. Back then it was called OUR ROBOT OVERLORDS. Some of those ideas have survived through to the finished film, some have fallen by the wayside and others could still be used in potential sequels or TV series, but already the world felt strong enough to start bouncing ideas back and forth and start working on a script.

And so ROBOT OVERLORDS was born, and a mere four years, eight months and fourteen days later it’s in UK cinemas for the public to see. That’s pretty fast for an independent British movie.

Jon and I met back in September 2006** when he became attached to a screenplay I’d written called WAITING FOR EDDIE (later EDDIE’S DEAD). We were introduced by a Producer called Dean Fisher who had optioned WFE and had got the project into the inaugural Film London Microwave scheme. Over the week of workshops and development we all bonded, but I knew I’d get on with Jon because when we first met in a Nero’s outside Liverpool Street Station, we banged heads as we sat down and were both too polite to say anything about it.

We worked on developing a number of scripts over the following years while he made TORMENTED and GRABBERS, but ROBOT OVERLORDS is the first of our joint projects to get off the ground, and I have to admit that there are days where I feel like I’ve jumped the queue. Because what you’re supposed to do is make a mega low-budget horror or two and then you might be lucky enough to make the kind of science fiction adventure that you loved as a kid.

And it’s been one hell of a ride. I’ve seen and done some incredible things during its making:

Felt a strange, other-worldly thrill at the first shout of “Action” on set.

The firs take... ruined by a bunch of us taking photos on our phones. Photo by Paddy Eason
The first take… ruined by a bunch of us taking photos on our phones.
Photo by Paddy Eason

Watched actors of the calibre of Sir Ben Kingsley, Gillian Anderson, Geraldine James and many others take our words and bring them to life.

SBK gives it his all.
SBK gives it his all.

Not to mention watching our gang of heroes Callan, James, Ella and Milo genuinely become friends over the course of the shoot.

Jon chooses who get vaporised next...
Jon chooses who get vaporised next…

Stared in awe at a bluescreen stage and wondered what the ten-year-old me would make of all this…

Blue is the new green.
Blue is the new green.

Strolled around Pinewood Studios like we owned the place.

Author videos are so much cooler on the backlot of a major studio complex! Photo my
Author videos are so much cooler on the backlot of a major studio complex!
Photo my

And, bloody hell, Jon even let me be in it (and my family!)…

Me in the much-coveted role of shouty man in dressing gown...
Me in the much-coveted role of shouty man in dressing gown…
George, Claire and Emily in costume for our day as extras.
George, Claire and Emily in costume for our day as extras.

Being thrilled as Nvizible took our ideas and came up with stuff like this!

Robots  v Spitfire!
Robots v Spitfire!

And then I got to write the novelisation (available now wherever books are sold)!

I attended the premiere at the London Film Festival like a proper Z-list celeb!

All the beautiful people at the LFF premiere... and me!
All the beautiful people at the LFF premiere… and me!

And did my first panel at a ComicCon:

2000AD creator Pat Mills ran our panel!
2000AD creator Pat Mills ran our panel!


I’ve chronicled some of those events on this blog, and there’s a whole ‘shoot diary’ section in the book, and I’ll no doubt bore you with it some more over the years, but for a first film I could not have asked for a more incredible experience and I suspect I may never have it this good again. And now the film is now in the hands of the Great British Public.

Some folk have expressed dismay that it’s not on everywhere, and we do indeed have a limited release, but that reflects the reality of British indie cinema distribution at the moment. And you only have to look at the box office returns of the last ambitious Brit Sci-Fi Film to see why some lesser distributors were nervous about taking us on. But our bold and pioneering independent distributor Signature have a very clear strategy for the film over the coming year, and this is only the beginning. I have faith that you’ll all get to see it one way or another, but if you can see it on the big screen then do please go: plenty of people worked very, very hard to make it look and sound so magnificent.

See you at the movies…


*I keep a diary, so can very specific about dates.

**1st September, since you’re asking.

Robot Overlords UK trailer, poster and release date

Well, it’s been all go the last couple of weeks and I thought a quiet Sunday afternoon might be the best time to summarize the latest Robot Overlords news.

First, we have at last a UK release date of 27th March and a trailer:

And a quad poster to go with it (clicken to enlargen):

RO Quad Poster

We also have an official Facebook page, and I’ve started collating images from the film and the book over on Pinterest.

And the book is out this week, too, so there’ll be quite a few interviews and blog pieces from me over the next few weeks.

We’re very nearly there: after over four years of writing, filming and post-production, the film will finally be out in the wild. It’s a thrilling and slightly terrifying feeling: like sending one of your kids off to school for the first time. Hopefully the other kids will play nice…

As soon I have more new of the UK release I’ll post it here, in the meantime check out this clip over at Empire online. It features one of my favourite bits of Christian Henson’s score, so play it loud…


First look at Robot Overlords – excitement level: high!

Our chums at the BFI have released this cracking little behind-the-scenes vid for Robot Overlords. It features action, robots, our awesome cast, Jon, Piers and my big flappy hands…


… but don’t let that put you off. Tickets for the festival are on sale now and you can get them here. And the video is below, enjoy!

*Edit! I’ve learned that this vid might not play outside the UK! Gah! As soon as I have an international version I’ll pop it up. Sorry!


My Robot Occupation Movies #2 – Psycho

Second in a series – Imagine for a moment that the world has been invaded and occupied by an army of robots, and you could only grab a handful of DVDs before you were incarcerated… what would they be?


Psycho was the first film that I ever studied in any kind of depth. Up till then, films were just films to me. Good, escapist fun, but nothing I ever thought about in any kind of academic sense. I’d seen Psycho on TV. My dad, just leaving the house for a night out, saw that it was on, ‘Psycho. You’ll like that,’ he grinned, leaving me alone in the house and possibly scarring me for life.

It was unlike anything I’d seen before. I’d enjoyed horror movies with my friends, but they were always in glorious technicolor, never black and white. This one felt slow and talky, and there were only a couple of murders. To this teen, it was okay, but I preferred a bit more claret with my horror. But, that aside, there was definitely something odd about it. It made me think, for a start, which no other horror movie had achieved so far.

Then one of our teachers announced that he would be running an after-school film club and Psycho would be our subject. By now, I’d seen a few more of Hitchcock’s movies and was aware of Psycho’s importance, but I hadn’t seen it since that original TV viewing.

Well, we took that baby apart. We analysed everything: shot composition, shot lengths, the importance of light and shadows, the motif of birds – Crane, “Eats like a bird”, Phoenix, the positioning of the stuffed birds in shots – the abundance of reflective surfaces throughout, and even the colour of Janet Leigh’s underwear before and after she steals the money.

And the shower scene? Took it apart shot-by-shot. All 3 minutes and 50 cuts.

From then on, I would never look at movies in the same way. It made me aware of symbolism, motifs, music, casting, lenses, lighting, sound – all the building blocks of a movie. And, most of all, it had me hooked. Movies were now my thing. More than music. More than books.

Not long after that, my friends and I made a short movie for a national schools competition. Fresh off our Psycho experience, we thought we knew it all. Of course, the end result was mostly dreadful, but there was one scene where dozens of kids came charging out of their classrooms into a hallway (our film was about a revolution in a school), and seeing that cut together – the doors crashing open, the feet pounding, the kids running – was the first time that anything we’d done actually looked like a movie. The stuff we’d learned watching Psycho had, for a few seconds, paid off. We can do this, I realised.

Despite ripping its guts out, Psycho is still fun to watch. My sister and I still talk about it (it’s one of her favourites too), and its power hasn’t been diminished by the 1998 remake, or the poor sequels (though Psycho II isn’t that bad!).

The original was on TV just this week, and I subjected my 13-year-old daughter to it. She talked over the shower scene, ‘That’s what you get for using all my hot water!’, but stuck with it till then end. And now she’s asking questions… That’s what the movie does. Provokes dark and disturbing thoughts. Some have been explored in documentaries, films and books, not least Stephen Rebello’s excellent Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho, but the mysteries of the human frailties of jealousy and murder will always remain. So let’s leave the last word to the master himself…