Rogue One – the fanboys have taken over the asylum (spoilers agogo!)

Be ye warned, I have all the spoilers in the article below and we can only proceed on the assumption that you’ve seen Rogue One: A Star Wars story and stayed awake to the very end.

 

Are we cool…?

 

Very well.

 

Let us begin with a trailer showing a ton of shots that did not make it to the finished film…

I’ve seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story twice now, and I enjoyed it very much.

There has been chatter, some negative, about the stream of in-jokes and easter-eggs in the film, and no one has summarised this better than Adam Roberts in this article. But, despite all the scaremongering news of reshoots and rewrites (like this was the first film ever to suffer this), we have been gifted a very enjoyable film.

 

I’ve seen plenty of rave reviews, some saying it’s the best Star Wars film for thirty-odd years, though I wouldn’t go that far. When watching it for the second time its flaws became more apparent, and it got me wondering about the future of this series, which is very close to my heart, and the future of this kind of shared-universe storytelling.

But let’s start with the movie itself. It has a finale to rival any other in the series, and it’s full of incredible moments, but second time around I found the journey to reach that epic climax was slow and stodgy.

My biggest problem is our leads. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna are fine actors, but they’re both saddled with dour characters with downturned mouths. They’re very earnest and sober and lack any of the verve of Finn or Rey, let alone the swagger of Han Solo, or the infectious energy of Luke and Leia. They feel very one-note all the way through, and it’s hard work to care for them.

star-wars-rogue-one-jyn-erso-cassian-andor
Cheer up, guys… might never happen. Oh, wait…

I blub at the drop of a hat at the movies, but I felt curiously unmoved by their sacrifice at the end. It was as if they knew they were doomed from the start and allowed their story to play out with a defeatist tone. How many kids will want to be Jyn or Cassian when acting out their adventures in the playground? I suspect Rey and Finn will remain the top ‘bagsy’ for some time.

The story is a patchwork of rewrites and you can still see some of the stitching. There are visual clues of discarded story threads, such as the unexplained wreckage of a still-smoking X-Wing on Jedha, but that stuff just adds to the intrigue of a bigger story, and can make for fun speculation.

More problematic are some of the character beats: Bodhi Rook is interrogated by the big jelly-Cthulu-like creature which, Saw Gerrera assures him, will make him lose his mind. Yet, one quick chat with charisma vacuum Cassian Andor and suddenly Bodhi is tickety-boo. Wouldn’t it have been more fun to rely on a defective defecting pilot who is one sandwich short of a picnic? And what should be a perfectly simple plan by Bodhi to hook-up a cable during the final battle needs explaining not once, but twice, and at great length… it feels like a cut-n-shut script solution to a bigger story problem.

And why did Saw Gerrera need to die when he does? Okay, he might have had to stop to oil his legs, or take a fresh puff from his oxygen mask, but he was perfectly capable of getting to a ship with the others. It makes absolutely no sense, other than that’s where Joseph Campbell says the mentor should die if you’ve been studying The Hero’s Journey. I suspect there was more to this story thread, but it was lost somewhere in the rewrites.

And speaking of ships, why do space ships in science fiction movies land so far away from their final destination? You travel halfway across the galaxy to your quarry’s farm in Iceland, and park two miles from his house. Why??

rogue-one-03
“Sir, this is a really long walk, shouldn’t we have parked maybe a little closer to the–?” “SHUT UP!”

We also have an utterly pointless excursion by Krennick to see Vader’s compact and bijoux residence with hot and cold running lava, which feels like an awful lot of unnecessary shoe leather for such a short conversation. Wouldn’t a quick holo-call have done? Then Vader could have at least stayed in the bath…

But, much of this is nitpicking. Overall, the film was a blast. One for the fans, made by the fans. I think this film marks a turning point in the Star Wars canon, and how these kinds of films will be made. This is where the fanboys have taken over the franchise. Yes, The Force Awakens was made with affection and nostalgia, but, crucially, it was written by the man who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. Not a fanboy.

With these stand-alone stories we’re now seeing a progression to a different kind of storytelling, where men (and it is all men writing and directing these films) of a certain age, who grew up playing with their Star Wars action figures, are now getting to play in the sandbox of the Star Wars movie universe. When I first saw the trailers for this film, it reminded me of the games I would play with my toys as a child. Stories that focused away from the main saga, and were free to dabble in corners of the universe that we’ve not seen before. And it is play: watching the end sequence of this film – a triumphant, crowd-pleasing finale – it played out like a live-action version of the game Star Wars: Battlefront, each problem they were presented with felt like the next level of a platform game. Even Vader’s thrilling moment scything through rebel soldiers was seemingly taken straight from the Battlefront Hoth map…

Don’t get me wrong; this is all fun stuff, but these adventures are feeling less like iconic movies, and more like serial TV. We have a very capable show runner in the redoubtable Kathleen Kennedy, and we have the Lucasfilm Story Group (mostly comprising of women, which is encouraging), to keep everything on track. I don’t envy them. This must be like a game of Jenga, where writers have to make extremely delicate manoeuvres to ensure that the whole edifice doesn’t come tumbling down.

The Star Wars universe is no longer the vision of just one man, it’s a big business that will be squeezed for all its worth for at least the next two decades, in movies, TV, games, theme park attractions, books, toys, food and clothes. Along with Marvel, Disney, DC, Harry Potter and Bond, this is industrialised storytelling and it’s here to stay.

There was a time in the late ’80s where I felt like I was the only Star Wars fan in the world. The films were done with, they had stopped making the toys, and a fan could almost know everything there was to know about the saga. And then, when something new came along, like the Timothy Zahn books, it was a thrilling event, but an isolated incident. Those days are gone, and eventually we’ll reach a saturation point where I fear I’ll be sick to the tits with anything Star Wars. I’m guessing this is what fuels a lot of the impotent male rage you see online; the idea that something that was once special to them is now cherished by the masses, and – heaven forbid – girls. But to complain about this is to reveal a thin skin. I love that my kids are enjoying a golden age of Star Wars, that they can enjoy exciting stories with a cast of characters as diverse as those in The Force Awakens and Rogue One, but already I can see a day when the bubble bursts. All it takes is a disappointing opening weekend and the franchise will begin to die. And, with each new iteration of an increasingly-complex storyline, the odds of a disappointment will increase and the Jenga tower will fall, and the masses will suddenly be interested in a new shiny thing to decorate their bedrooms with. So, let’s enjoy it while we can. Just because a thing doesn’t last, it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. The fanboys and fangirls are running the show, and they’re off to a pretty good start.

 

 

 

 

Paranoia and delusion – the writer’s friends and how to cope with them…

I saw Florence Foster Jenkins last night, a fine and enjoyable film based on the true story of a socialite who sang opera in New York in the ’40s, eventually playing Carnegie Hall, despite the fact that she had something of a tin ear…

It also reminded me of the incredibly twisted film Windy City Heat, which Jon Wright gleefully introduced me to while we were in pre-production on Robot Overlords. This faux-documentary is an elaborate prank whereby Bobcat Goldthwait and friends fool comedian and wannabe actor Perry Caravello into thinking that he has the lead role in a crime drama called Windy City Heat and they do everything they can to sabotage his dream…

Intriguingly, even after she had heard herself sing on a record, Jenkins still couldn’t discern that there was a problem with her singing, and Perry doesn’t think that he’s a bad actor. And what’s really fascinating is that both of them have just enough talent, the tiniest sliver of ability, to make them think that they can actually achieve their ambitious dreams.

Making Robot Overlords was a dream come true. A British science fiction family epic, with huge stars, a great cast, a decent budget, and a fantastic crew. But I have to confess that while watching Windy City Heat there came a point where I wondered if this was Jon’s way of breaking it to me that the whole project was an elaborate prank, that it really was too good to be true… Thankfully, it wasn’t, and I’m an idiot to think so, but that was just me entertaining the poisonous friend of artist’s everywhere: paranoia.

I’ve yet to meet an artist or creative type who hasn’t feel like a fraud at some point, usually when the rejections, failures and doubts feed the paranoia to a degree where they think they’re a talentless hack. I get it on a regular basis.

Paranoia’s evil twin is delusion. ‘I can do that!’ is my default answer to any challenge, but there comes a time when confidence becomes hubris and you fall flat on your face.

Both can be crippling if you surrender to them, but I encounter them so often now that I think I can cope with both their peaks and troughs, and I’ve found the best way to do this is to use them as creative fuel:

Hubris and delusion are great when I’m faced with a challenge. Can I write this pitch/script/book/comic? Hell, yeah! I can do anything! I hitch a ride on that boost of confidence and get it all on the page and screw the consequences.

Paranoia and self-doubt are useful when it comes to editing. That awesome piece of work I did yesterday? Dear God, it’s a piece of crap. You’re hopeless. Do better! Instead of wallowing in pity, I try and use the critical faculties of paranoia to improve what’s already on the page.

I try to step back and see my work as objectively as possible, but it’s simply impossible to be certain, and I’ve had strangers tell me that they love my work, and I’ve had two-star reviews where they found it dull. Who can ever really know?

But, like Florence and Perry, I enjoy what I do. I write every single day and I love it. Florence sums it up perfectly, ‘People may say I can’t sing,’ she said, ‘but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.’

11 things I learned making a movie…

A version of this first appeared over at the Gollancz Blog. I’ve made a few tweaks since…

On our week of release, I was over the moon to be told that ROBOT OVERLORDS, the film I co-wrote with director Jon Wright, leapt to #3 in the UK Blu Ray chart, and #7 in the DVD chart. This news came just over 5 years after getting an email from Jon asking me if I’d be interested in working on the project. So now seems as good a time as any reflect to reflect on the things I’ve learned from writing my first movie…

COLLABORATION IS EVERYTHING

I expected a good level of collaboration with Jon and the actors, which was fantastic, but some of the most surprising and rewarding stuff was getting emails from the production design team asking for names for castles, banks, names of towns on maps, the date of birth for our hero for a sheet of paper, all of which are barely seen on screen. This was great fun as you’re made to delve a little deeper into the world you’ve helped create, prompted by a team of people whose sole purpose is to make it look as believable as possible, and who think of all those details that add texture and depth to the environment.

GET ON SET

To be honest, most days on set a writer feels like a fifth wheel: that paper script of yours no longer exists and the cast and crew are too busy trying to make it into a movie to accommodate you. But you’re on a movie set! For a film nerd like me this was heaven, especially on the day we shot at Pinewood, where I strolled around like I owned the place.

I was on set about eight days out of an eight week shoot (they didn’t have the budget to have the writer hanging around, plus I had a novelisation to write!). Jon and I had discussed protocol for dealing with any script changes on set/location, and agreed that he would take care of the day-to-day minor tweaks, but that we would collaborate on anything major. In the end, there was only one occasion where we had to make a major change and I happened to be on set that day. I was despatched to a trailer (I had my own trailer! For a bit…) where I worked on the revisions. I felt very important for at least forty-five minutes.

And the catering. Don’t forget to make the most of craft services. I put on quite a bit of weight.

PEOPLE THINK YOU’LL BE FAMOUS

“You’re going to be famous,” friends and relatives would say. I’d then ask them to name three screenwriters (that weren’t also directors) and most of them were stumped.

Screenwriters just don’t have the same profile as authors. Film is a director’s medium. And authors can’t be fired from their own book, whereas screenwriters get fired all the time, even from projects they originated! This time I managed to stay the course.

DIRECTORS AND PRODUCERS ARE THE HARDEST WORKING PEOPLE IN SHOWBIZ

There’s an alternate universe where our producer Piers Tempest didn’t option the film and Jon and I are musing “That Robot Overlords idea could be a goer, y’know.” Without Piers’ tireless work this film would never have been made. And Jon spent pretty much every waking hour either writing, sketching, pitching, listening, re-writing, answering roughly twenty thousand questions a day before, during and after the shoot. Over a period of about four years. That’s hardcore stuff and I don’t think he put a foot wrong.

ACTORS ARE AWESOME

I had a week of rehearsal with Callan, Ella, James and Milo, working to tailor the dialogue to their strengths. It was an absolute joy to see them take ownership of their characters, and the backstory stuff we worked on formed the basis of the first part of the novelisation.

And then the likes of Gillian Anderson, Geraldine James, Roy Hudd, Tamer Hassan and Sir Ben Kingsley start saying words that you wrote. That’s a series of pinch-yourself moments right there.

I have so many favourite lines in the film, but the one that makes me giggle every time is just one word. “Fecund.” And Kingsley delivers it with exactly the kind of filthy relish we were hoping for.

VFX IS ALL ABOUT TIME

You can do it well, cheap or fast, but not all three. Visual effects is a much-misunderstood industry, not least by me at the beginning of this project. The team at Nvizible pulled off nothing short of miracle bringing our metallic invaders to life on a budget that would barely pay for the Incredible Hulk’s pants on certain other movies. And they did it with meticulous attention to detail in a craft that’s a curious mix of hard science, pure art, teamwork, and all done with a rigorous pride in finessing stuff that might only register subconsciously with the viewer, but makes all the difference. They also have a terrific understanding of story and character. So much so, that I’ve even written a script with one of them.

PREVIEW SCREENINGS ARE BOTH TERRIFYING AND EUPHORIC AND ABSOLUTELY NO INDICATION OF THE FILM’S SUCCESS

We ran the gamut from children running screaming from the room (from one scene in particular, which became known as “the torture scene” by the producers) to others declaring it to be the best film they had ever witnessed.

We had the most amazing preview screening at the BFI Southbank: over 300 kids whooping and cheering and bursting into applause at the end, but we still didn’t manage to get the kind of nationwide distribution we wanted. Why? Myriad reasons, but it largely comes down to money. Marketing to 8-14 year olds is very, very expensive business (probably in the region of two million quid) and there wasn’t a major distributor in the UK willing to take the risk on an original idea. A shame, but that’s the reality of the British Film Industry at the moment.

REVIEWS ARE HILARIOUS (AND NEVER READ THE COMMENTS)

I read all the reviews and you’re soon able to discern if it’s going to be a good or a bad one in the first paragraph. There’s nothing more wonderful than when a reviewer latches on to what you were aiming for and sings your praises, there’s nothing more sobering than a critical review that nails a problem that should have ironed out before production, or might not even be the production’s fault at all, simply a compromise made due to limitations of time and money. And there’s nothing more hilarious than the cretinous remarks by the Simpsons Comic Book Guys who troll the comments pages of Youtube and IMDb and have yet to learn that not all films are made for males aged between 20-35.

The hardest bit has been keeping my mum away from the bad reviews, because she will hunt down and kill the reviewers.

FILM PIRACY IS RAMPANT AND MOST PEOPLE THINK THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH DOING IT

Somewhere along the line, someone managed to pirate a rather poor quality publicity screener of the film, and it was suddenly all over the torrent sites. We should have been flattered that it topped the torrent charts for some time, but the crummy quality of the pirated copy simply does no justice to the film.

What was remarkable though, were the number of people who would talk online about downloading/streaming the film from torrent sites and then tag our Twitter and Facebook accounts in their conversation! When you politely pointed out that what they were doing was illegal they became very apologetic and promised never to do it again, but there’s clearly a vast swathe of the population who enjoy their movies highly compressed with tons of digital noise and diabolical sound quality. Each to their own.

PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE RICH

I’m not. I still have a day job to pay the bills. And based on what I was paid for this gig, I will need the day job for some time. Screenwriting is not a get rich quick scheme. It might not even be a get rich slow scheme. Ask me again in thirty years.

WRITE THE NOVELISATION IF YOU CAN!

When Piers first suggested a novelisation of the film I raised my hand like the swottiest kid in class, “I’ll do it, let me, let me! And I know just the people who can publish it!” It’s been a privilege working with the Gollancz team to write a book that I hope stands alongside the great movie tie-ins I read when I was a kid. And you never know, if enough people like it I might get to write another one.

 

Photo by www.mpsv.co.uk
Oh, and always wear headphones, and always, always lurk near the director… Photo by http://www.mpsv.co.uk

 

Robot Overlords – HD download, DVD and Blu-Ray coming soon!

ROBOT OVERLORDS will be available to own in the UK on Digital HD from July 24th and on DVD & Blu-ray August 10th.

The Digital HD will be available across all platforms: Virgin Media, iTunes, Sky, Blinkbox, Talk Talk, Amazon, Xbox and Google.

The DVD and Blu-Ray are available to pre-order now from Amazon.

IMG_1021

The Blu-Ray is also available as a beautiful limited edition Steelbook.

Shiny...
Shiny…

All editions feature the same cool extras:

Cast and creator interviews at the MCM London Comic Con (featuring Gillian Anderson, James Tarpey and Craig Johnson)

A Making of…

A VFX special…

The cast reading an extract from the book at Pinewood Studios…

Matt Zo – Robots Never Lie Official Video…

The Comic Con extra is especially brilliant as poor lovestruck James pursues Gillian for an interview throughout the con.

So pre-order your copy now! But don’t just take my word for it…

 “A British sci-fi blockbuster, a must-see for all the family.”
   — Henry Fitzherbert, Sunday Express

Robot Overlords includes lots of things it’s impossible not to love, especially in the context of British cinema: hovering robot menaces, standing stones, a dour seaside location, a Spitfire in flight… while Gillian Anderson gives Paddington’s Sally Hawkins stiff competition for the title of Britain’s Best Mum.”
   — Kim Newman, Sight & Sound Magazine

“These are the droids you’re looking for…Robot Overlords proves, like Monsters before it, what can be achieved when you’re short of cash but rich in imagination. It’s also brimming with charm, and has a game supporting cast.”
   — Neil Smith, Total Film

“As with Jon Wright’s excellent last film,Grabbers, the pace never really lets up…Robot Overlords displays knowing intelligence, a sense of fun and a deep-rooted love for post-‘70s genre film. Unlike its titular villains, it’s sleek and it never malfunctions.”
   — Owen Williams, Empire Magazine

“The SFX are nothing short of incredible… What’s really astounding about this movie – not that fact that the team had this vision, but they managed to deliver it on a tiny budget, and deliver it well.”
   — Richmond Clements, Forbidden Planet

“Wright’s pleasingly pacy direction is infused with a palpable sense of fun and the film makes strong use of its various picturesque locations… Frankly, Michael Bay should watch this for tips and save himself a few quid on the nextTransformers movie.”
   — Matthew Turner, WOW 24-7

“Director Jon Wright makes the most of his resources, imbuing the action with an oddly endearing sense of string-and-glue DIY youthfulness.”
   — Mark Kermode, The Observer

“He may not have the Hollywood buzz of Christopher Nolan or the hyper-kinetic style of the similar-surnamed Edgar, but the director has a voice (and confidence of tone) that knows exactly who he is, whether he’s working with drunken aliens or giant robots.”
   — Ivan Radford, i-Flicks

“A surprisingly slick and stylish British sci-fi… An entertaining action adventure with impressive special effects.”
   — Maria Duarte, Morning Star

“Director Jon Wright – who co-wrote the script with Mark Stay – has come up with a brilliant concept that really works on a small budget… A rip-roaring adventure that harks back to the ‘80s. Perhaps they domake them like they used to.”
   — Kate Lloyd, MyM Magazine

   “Robot Overlords doesn’t outstay its welcome, it doesn’t rehash boring things seen in bigger blockbusters, it plays within a world with established rules and a history, it plays with characters who have clear goals and chemistry, and it has a lot of fun in the process… A really enjoyable slice of cinema.”
   — Andrew Jones, HeyUGuys

“Doing away with the massive spectacle set pieces and never-ending explosions, Jon Wright instead shifts the focus to the human side of the story. It’s all about the characters. This is where Robot Overlordsreally shines… An action-packed romp through ’80s sci-fi classics, taking the over-the-top spectacle of Transformers and flipping it on its head.”
  — Ryan Leston, Total Geeks

Robot Overlords is a fun entry in an increasingly neglected genre: the family-friendly sci-fi movie… A charming throwback to the adventure films of the 70s and 80s.”
   — Ryan Lambie, Den Of Geek

“A Children’s Film Foundation offering updated for the JJ Abrams era: we now get better VFX, lashings of lens flare and Roy Hudd as a kindly grandpa… More spirited and nonconformist than the Transformersmovies: the strategic deployment of a second world war Spitfire suggests this one may hold symbolic value for our newly confident industry.”
   — Mike McCahill, The Guardian

“A joy to watch, fun as anything, genuinely funny, tense, brilliantly made and with such grand spectacle at times it is hard to believe it is a British film, a proper British film. Your next big family favourite film.”
   — Andrew Jones, Box Office Buz

“Prepare to kneel before the Robot Overlords because this is one hell of a good film. Five stars.”
   — Paul Metcalf, Pissed Off Geek

“Giant Robots and Gillian… What’s not to like?”
  — James Mottram, Metro

 

Robot Overlords invade America – UPDATE FOR DVD!

UPDATE: Just to add that ROBOT OVERLORDS is now available on DVD, including from your digital overlords at Amazon.com. A big thank you to everyone who has bought it so far, and a big, metallic robot hug to the wonderful people who left us ratings and reviews. The good ones really help us!

The Sentry seems to have acquired a hoodie for the U.S. poster...
The Sentry seems to have acquired a hoodie for the U.S. poster…

And ROBOT OVERLORDS is available for VOD online streaming across all the major platforms, including Amazon Prime, Google Play and iTunes,

It’ll be awesome, but don’t just take my word for it…

 “A British sci-fi blockbuster, a must-see for all the family.”
   — Henry Fitzherbert, Sunday Express

Robot Overlords includes lots of things it’s impossible not to love, especially in the context of British cinema: hovering robot menaces, standing stones, a dour seaside location, a Spitfire in flight… while Gillian Anderson gives Paddington’s Sally Hawkins stiff competition for the title of Britain’s Best Mum.”
   — Kim Newman, Sight & Sound Magazine

“These are the droids you’re looking for…Robot Overlords proves, like Monsters before it, what can be achieved when you’re short of cash but rich in imagination. It’s also brimming with charm, and has a game supporting cast.”
   — Neil Smith, Total Film

“As with Jon Wright’s excellent last film,Grabbers, the pace never really lets up…Robot Overlords displays knowing intelligence, a sense of fun and a deep-rooted love for post-‘70s genre film. Unlike its titular villains, it’s sleek and it never malfunctions.”
   — Owen Williams, Empire Magazine

“The SFX are nothing short of incredible… What’s really astounding about this movie – not that fact that the team had this vision, but they managed to deliver it on a tiny budget, and deliver it well.”
   — Richmond Clements, Forbidden Planet

“Wright’s pleasingly pacy direction is infused with a palpable sense of fun and the film makes strong use of its various picturesque locations… Frankly, Michael Bay should watch this for tips and save himself a few quid on the nextTransformers movie.”
   — Matthew Turner, WOW 24-7

“Director Jon Wright makes the most of his resources, imbuing the action with an oddly endearing sense of string-and-glue DIY youthfulness.”
   — Mark Kermode, The Observer

“He may not have the Hollywood buzz of Christopher Nolan or the hyper-kinetic style of the similar-surnamed Edgar, but the director has a voice (and confidence of tone) that knows exactly who he is, whether he’s working with drunken aliens or giant robots.”
   — Ivan Radford, i-Flicks

“A surprisingly slick and stylish British sci-fi… An entertaining action adventure with impressive special effects.”
   — Maria Duarte, Morning Star

“Director Jon Wright – who co-wrote the script with Mark Stay – has come up with a brilliant concept that really works on a small budget… A rip-roaring adventure that harks back to the ‘80s. Perhaps they domake them like they used to.”
   — Kate Lloyd, MyM Magazine

   “Robot Overlords doesn’t outstay its welcome, it doesn’t rehash boring things seen in bigger blockbusters, it plays within a world with established rules and a history, it plays with characters who have clear goals and chemistry, and it has a lot of fun in the process… A really enjoyable slice of cinema.”
   — Andrew Jones, HeyUGuys

“Doing away with the massive spectacle set pieces and never-ending explosions, Jon Wright instead shifts the focus to the human side of the story. It’s all about the characters. This is where Robot Overlordsreally shines… An action-packed romp through ’80s sci-fi classics, taking the over-the-top spectacle of Transformers and flipping it on its head.”
  — Ryan Leston, Total Geeks

Robot Overlords is a fun entry in an increasingly neglected genre: the family-friendly sci-fi movie… A charming throwback to the adventure films of the 70s and 80s.”
   — Ryan Lambie, Den Of Geek

“A Children’s Film Foundation offering updated for the JJ Abrams era: we now get better VFX, lashings of lens flare and Roy Hudd as a kindly grandpa… More spirited and nonconformist than the Transformersmovies: the strategic deployment of a second world war Spitfire suggests this one may hold symbolic value for our newly confident industry.”
   — Mike McCahill, The Guardian

“A joy to watch, fun as anything, genuinely funny, tense, brilliantly made and with such grand spectacle at times it is hard to believe it is a British film, a proper British film. Your next big family favourite film.”
   — Andrew Jones, Box Office Buz

“Prepare to kneel before the Robot Overlords because this is one hell of a good film. Five stars.”
   — Paul Metcalf, Pissed Off Geek

“Giant Robots and Gillian… What’s not to like?”
  — James Mottram, Metro

The Black Spitfire – a spec script that’s learning to fly… UPDATED WITH REVIEWS

Feast your eyes on this (clicken to embiggen)…

A girl, a gun and a Spitfire...
A girl, a gun and a Spitfire… Artwork by Brian Taylor

The Black Spitfire is a script project that Paddy Eason and I have been working on for a couple of years now. Here’s our logline…

May, 1940: Headstrong young pilot Ginny Albion crashes in France as the Nazi Blitzkrieg sweeps across the country. Her passenger is Winston Churchill, and the fate of the world is in her hands.

Who could resist that, eh?

It’s a spec script – meaning that it’s not been commissioned by any entity – and we’re doing this in the hope that a producer or director will take it under their wing and make it fly (apologies for the abundance of flying metaphors throughout this post).

Spec scripts are nigh-on impossible to get off the ground these days: the studios are more interested in building on their existing brands, and anything original is branded as “untested”, putting the fear of God into those clutching to the studio purse strings.

But we’ve had a fantastic response from those who have read the script, and we’ve already met with a few eager producers. It’s still early days, but Paddy and I commissioned artist Brian Taylor to put together a poster concept (these things help when you’re pitching to producers and directors) and he blew our minds with the results, perfectly capturing the adventurous spirit of the film and our heroine Ginny Albion. Our model was actress Claire Garvey, who gamely posed for photos as I wafted slabs of polystyrene at her to make her hair billow (no budget for a wind machine, sadly) as Paddy snapped the pics.

If you’re in the industry and want to read the script, it’s over on the Black List, if you want the latest news do please follow us on Twitter @GinnyAlbion, and if you’re a producer with, say, £30 million handy, we’d like to buy you lunch.

We hope you like it, and we hope to see Ginny in action at the movies soon.

UPDATE: We’ve had some great reviews over at the Black List. Here are a few choice quotes…

“What a terrific read! The script starts off with a bang and our brilliant Ginny anchors a wonderful story about courage, self-actualization, love, and friendship. As our charming heroine, Ginny is flawed but never lacking in gumption or charisma. She leaps off the page and lights up an otherwise monotonous time period. Her rapport with Kit is absolutely darling, and the friendship that develops between her and Churchill is deftly written. Churchill himself is captured beautifully – from the wry commentary on his unlikely guide to the humor that arises from his verbosity, he’s all there and with a pout to boot. Although at times the narrative feels a bit predictable, it’s a delight to read. Tonally, it’s similar to INDIANA JONES, but this time we get a kickass female protagonist. Overall, a well structured story with engaging, dynamic characters, a commercial tone, and strong dialogue.”

“A great piece of writing and a killer idea, demonstrating excellent world building and character work… it’s a fantastic read and at the very least, the writers should have no problem getting hired off of this.”

“This script is rooted first and foremost in a strong and engaging lead with Ginny… She’s brave, funny, and moody all at once. She’s compelling to follow. The action is also quite exciting throughout. It’s cleanly written and easy to envision from what’s on the page. Later on, Ginny saves a number of Allied prisoners from German executioners at the last moment. It’s tense and fun all at once. Ginny’s relationship to Churchill is also cannily drawn and entertaining. The two bicker and fight and like each other. At one point, he excoriates her for radioing details to the enemy in a panic, and they argue and she shoves him down. He then stomps off in the middle of a war. It’s memorable and gives the piece a good sense of personality.”

“This is an invigorating and original concept that is sure to catch the attention of industry readers. The dialogue stands out as the major macro strength to the project as it’s upbeat, quick and natural throughout. The banter between Ginny and Churchill is funny a lot of the time, but in a very grounded way — especially after they land. It adds a comedic relief, that is extremely dry and grounded… Churchill’s voice and character development overall is fantastic and will prove to be captivating for readers as his dialogue is accurate to portray his place in history, but shown in an exciting way. One of the coolest things about his character is the standard he holds Ginny to the entire time, but also how he begins to trust her and respect her more and more as they continue on and it’s a fantastic moment when she holds the knife to his throat… physically and emotionally. Ginny’s character gets comfortable around Churchill as well and it’s tracked nicely alongside her growth as a character. It’s very triumphant in the end when Winston’s calling out for Ginny over the radio and along with being extremely cinematic it ties up their story well for the audience.”