Archive | February, 2012


22 Feb

I received an email yesterday from someone I’m honoured to call a friend. He has encouraged my writing career since I was around 14 – publishing my poetry, and later editing my novels, and still later publishing my play, and coming to my opening nights, and bringing constant wisdom to my life. Honestly though, Robin Malan is a friend to everyone who loves words and books and writing. He is dedicated to producing, promoting, and protecting words. Is it any wonder then that he thought up a scheme like this?

“Would you like to help me celebrate my fifth rebirthday?

Let me explain. It was on palindromic 29.2.92 (that’s the 29th of February 1992, for those of you calendarly challenged), it was on that leap-year day …

that my heart ♥

very nearly stopped ♥

me dead

in my tracks

… but – happily – it decided: ‘Not Yet.’ ♥

I was nursed back to health by a loving sister and cardiologists and dieticians and friends. I’m very glad that happened, because I’ve been able to do a whole whack of work in these 20 years that I wouldn’t have done otherwise! For instance, there wouldn’t have been any of the post-1992 Robin books! And there wouldn’t have been any Robin involvement in any of the following: No Triangle Project! No GABYS (Gay and Bisexual Youngmen’s Support-group)! No Gay & Lesbian Helpline! No Young Gay Guys column in Exit! No editing of English Alive! No Siyagruva Series! No IBBY SA! No Cape 300 Foundation! No Arts & Culture Trust! No Junkets Publisher! No Playscript Series! No Collected Series! …

So each leap year I sort-of celebrate my rebirthday. And 29 February 2012 will be my fifth rebirthday, 20 years after the heart attack.

I’m not having a party – that could be tempting fate!

Instead, you can help me celebrate this way:

§         Take a book – any book of any sort – that you’ve read and leave it in some public place for someone to pick up and read.

§         Before you do that, write this inside the book:

Pick me up

and read me.

Then drop me

for someone else

to pick me up

and read me.

If you feel like doing that, that would be good!”

I want to take Robin’s appeal wider. Such a simple one.  So I want to declare the 29th  #pickmeupandreadme day.  Won’t you do just as Robin says, and then send me a tweet with #pickmeupandreadme or write a comment about where you’ve dropped your book – you could send a photo, or a title, or make it cryptic. Let’s give books legs this Leap Day, the same way Robin was given legs 20 years ago.


5 things playwrights should tattoo onto their eyelids

15 Feb

Having spent hundreds of hours readings scripts for three different contests over the last few weeks, here are my top 5 tips to writers when submitting. My experience in this instance is with reading plays, but I imagine the rules apply to other genres too.

1. For the love of sweet kittens, put in page numbers
2. Unless specifically told NOT to, put your name and the title on the script (You’d be amazed how many don’t. I am no longer amazed. I am sadly despondent.)
3. DO NOT develop your own bizarre code which you then try and explain, like “if you see a double // then it refers to the character remembering and reflecting an earlier scene, and an {L} means that the mood lifts”. Stick to standard formats and KEEP IT SIMPLE.
4. Put character descriptions at the beginning. Please. Oh do. I find it rather disconcerting to discover on page 50 that a character is a man who humorously has a woman’s name, and not, in fact, a woman.
5. Meet. The. Deadline.

Play it again, Danny Rubin

2 Feb

I’ve stopped a few times today to think “Gosh, Danny Rubin must be proud.” Rubin, in case you didn’t know, wrote the script for Groundhog Day. And it seems that the notion of Groundhog Day being a day – or a thing – that endlessly repeats has entered our collective consciousness. People who have never even seen the movie know that meaning – some even think of that before the odd notion of a groundhog seeing its shadow when they think of Groundhog Day. That is a very impressive piece of scriptwriting. Of storytelling.

And this all reminded me of the Writer’s Guild of America’s marvelous campaign: Somebody Wrote That. What better gift could a writer have than their lines becoming part of our everyday lives? I quote Princess Bride on a regular basis. William Goldman wrote that. Thank you, Mr Goldman, for “Inconceivable!”, “I do not think it means what you think it means”, “I’m not saying I’d like to build a summerhome here, but the trees are actually quite lovely” and of course, “as you wish”. One of my plays is entitled “I’ll Have What She’s Having”, a line by the phenomenal Nora Ephron from When Harry Met Sally. And I’ve been known to throw around a few Terminator lines, by James Cameron and William Washer Jnr. Heck, I was even taught how to say “Go ahead, make my day” – Joseph C Stinson’s immortal line – in Latin. Age fac, sunt gaudeum, if you’re interested. (CORRECTION: I am informed that my Latin teacher stuffed this up, and there should be no “sunt”. Age fac gaudeum.)  I recommend it, it sounds most delightfully rude. Oh, and one of our cats is named Tallulah, inspired by Bugsy Malone (which also gave us the pleasing “rat bastard” insult).

Schnitzel was never served with noodles until Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the lyric into the Sound of Music – now it frequently is. You don’t have to have seen James Dearden’s classic Fatal Attraction to know what a bunnyboiler is. And several of us wish for a TARDIS of our own.

I asked some people which films and TV shows they can’t go without quoting, which have become part of their daily lives, and here are some of those gems – and, where possible, links to the scripts. It’s a delightfully motley collection, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Thanks to all of you for your ideas.

And thank you again, Danny Rubin, for giving us a curious quirk of culture. Here’s to many more.

“Free to those that can afford it, very expensive to those that can’t. ”

– from Bruce Robinson’s Withnail and I

“Put the candle back!”

– Gene Wilder’s Young Frankenstein

“That rug really tied the room together. ”

– the brothers Coen, The Big Lebowski

“Vanity, my favourite sin.”

– Jonathan Lemkin and Tony Gilroy, The Devil’s Advocate

“Dude. Where’s my car?”

– from Philip Stark’s movie of the same name

“I haven’t processed everything yet. My brain isn’t really functioning on the higher levels. It’s pretty much fire bad; tree pretty”

– from the team behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, led by Joss Whedon

“Alright Mr De Mille, I’m ready for my close up.”

– Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, DM Marsham Jnr’s Sunset Boulevard

“Were you surprised. I was SO surprised.”

– Eddie Izzard

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

– William Goldman’s The Princess Bride

“And where truth, crushed to earth, rises again, more phoney than a dark eye.”

– Ben Hecht’s Nothing Sacred

“I’m feeling very Olympic today.”

– Lynn Siefert, Tommy Swerdlow, Michael Goldberg’s Cool Runnings. Devastated this script isn’t available.

” It’s a victimless crime, like tax evasion or public indecency. ”

– the writing team behind Will and Grace

“A man with a mole on his nose.”

– from the writing team of Moonlighting

“You’re all gonna die. The only question is how you check out. Do you want it on your feet? Or on your fuckin’ knees… begging? I ain’t much for begging!”

– Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusset, Vincent Ward’s Alien3

“Anyway don’t listen to her coz everyone knows her fanny goes sideways. ”

– Matt Lucas and David Walliams’ Little Britain

“How am I not myself?”

– David O Russel and Jeff Baena’s I Heart Huckabees

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

– Sidney Howard, in his script adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind

(BONUS: read this post on Letters of Note about producer David Selznick’s plea to the censors to keep that line in.)

“Carpe Diem”

– NH Kleinbaum’s Dead Poet’s Society might not have originated the line, but it did make it familiar to a new generation

“Boy, I would love to see the world through your eyes.”

– David Lynch and his team on Twin Peaks

“I’d buy that for a dollar.”

– Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner, Robocop

“This is going to be legen – wait for it – dary.”

– from the legen-waitforit-dary writing team of How I Met Your Mother

“Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today. ”

– Danny Rubin, Groundhog Day

Deadlines are a girl’s best friend

1 Feb

It is a truth universally to be acknowledged that a writer in possession of a good idea must be in want of a deadline. It has just been proven to me, yet again, how important that mythical line in the sand is. Without it, I can take ages tweaking, editing, faffing. With it, I become a lean mean focused writing machine. I have written 106 pages in the last week. And it felt good – the same burn people claim from gymming, that’s what I feel from intensive writing.

So I am seeking deadlines – and obviously ones attached to productions, payments and contests work best, but I’ve also recently discovered a writer’s group with a weekly “check in” – and consequences if you don’t reach your goals. Collaborative projects are also a lovely incentive, because of the responsibility you feel to someone else.

And then there’s the unmitigated joy of scheduling. I have to go and schedule February now. Yay, spreadsheets!