Pat’s intro to the premiere of the new movie from Jinx Media, recorded live at the Horror-on-Sea festival on 23rd January 2016.
On June 4th 2016, there’s another chance to spend the day doing screenwriting development exercises with Pat Higgins. At a yet-to-be-disclosed location in central Southend on Sea (sounds very mysterious!) this is a rare opportunity to work in a small group to hone your screenwriting skills in a fun and supportive environment. Click the image for more information, and be sure to act quickly to take advantage of our ridiculously discounted Early Bird specials. Less than an hour from London on the train; why not spend a lovely day at the seaside with likeminded folks and kick your screenwriting career into gear?
If you want to write movies, this is the one for you.
I don’t often use this site to talk about non-Jinx stuff (I’ve got my Huffington Post blog for that), but I thought I’d just pen a few words to mark the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and to try and briefly explain what it means to me.
I was taken to see the original Star Wars on opening night at the Southend Odeon by my parents, who’d won tickets for the screening from our local paper. I was three years old, and it was an evening screening – thus, instantly exciting and unusual. My brother had been following news stories about the impending release for weeks, and had been piecing information together as best he could. For some reason, I turned up at the screening expecting the cast to be there (particularly, oddly, Peter Cushing), but felt no sense of disappointment that they weren’t. It just felt so insanely big, exciting and grown-up to be going to the cinema in the evening.
I absolutely loved the movie, right up to the point where my three year-old body staged its own rebellion and I fell asleep. My mum took me back to watch it again the next week, at a more pre-schooler friendly time, this time I made it through to the credits grinning and over-excited.
Thing is, it’s pretty traditional for writer/directors who were taken to see Star Wars at a tender age to cite the movie as the reason they became filmmakers. That would be a lie (or, at very least, an act of mental revisionism). I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker whilst watching the squid fight in the cinematic re-release of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea a few months later. Star Wars didn’t make me a wannabe filmmaker. What Star Wars made me was a fan. A fan of movies; big, bold, amazing movies that have this weird power to take you someplace else for a couple of giddy hours.
By weird coincidence, my parents won tickets again to the opening night of Empire three years later. By that time I was six or seven, and determined that I wouldn’t fall asleep. I emerged triumphant as the credits rolled, and said to my brother Col “and Han DIDN’T get frozen like we’d heard”. Col advised me to the contrary and I realised that yes, goddammit, I’d fallen asleep again for about twenty minutes towards.
Return of the Jedi. Southend Odeon again. Opening night again. Tickets from the paper AGAIN (Jesus, did nobody else enter those competitions?). That time I stayed awake, and watched the end of the story.
Except, of course, it wasn’t the end of the story. Tonight, over 30 years later, I’m heading back to Southend Odeon to see the story get picked up. That’s kind of a long journey to go on; kind of a ridiculous level of expectation. I’m spending the day ducking spoilers (in fact, I’ve written this as a kind of mental diversionary tactic to stop me reading ‘just one’ more review, which might be the one to trip a landmine of information I really didn’t want to know.
There’s an appendix to this story, related to those pesky prequels and their own respective opening nights, but that appendix is a diminished thing in my mind in comparison to how I felt on those nights in the 70s and early 80s and hope I hope against hope that I might feel tonight.
Just a kid in a cinema being taken somewhere far, far away without ever leaving his seat.
Wherever it takes me, I’m sure I’ll see some of you there.
Ever wanted to write a movie or a TV show?
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The long-awaited fifth feature from Jinx Media, The House on the Witchpit, will have its world premiere at the awesome Horror-on-Sea festival in Southend, Essex on January 23rd 2016. This will be straight after the first performance of Pat Higgins’ 2016 live show/masterclass/thing “Watch Horror. Write Horror. Make Horror” – full details can be found over at the Horror-on-Sea website.
The House on the Witchpit is an unusual movie for a number of reasons, some of which are discussed in Pat’s latest article for Huffington Post – “Why You Can’t See my New Horror Movie”
Screenwriters get introduced to the idea of the ‘elevator pitch’ with the following scenario:
Imagine that you found yourself in a lift with a Hollywood power-player, and you only had that 60 seconds or so to sell them on the idea of your movie. 60 seconds to convince them that the idea might be worth further investigation. 60 seconds to make them care.
This scenario works quite well as a means of making people think about the hook of their story. Amazingly gifted screenwriters can still be amazingly poor orators, and those words that flow so beautifully on paper can often dry up to a series of splutters and false starts when someone asks what their brilliant movie is actually about. Focusing on communicating the essence of a proposed movie in an incredibly short space of time can be a really useful exercise, but the idea of actually pitching in a lift is largely meant to be a metaphor.
Nonetheless, last year I accidentally found myself pitching in a lift to Joel Schumacher. And, hey, I was a teenager when The Lost Boys came out. It’s one of those movies that made me who I am; everything I’ve ever written has contained elements of both comedy and horror. There’s strands of Lost Boys DNA running through every screenplay to leave my office. I owe Joel Schumacher a lot, and I finally got to repay him by babbling for around a minute about a screenplay that I’m extremely proud of called Your Lying Eyes.
Let me back up a bit. First of all, I’m not one to engineer meetings with people whose work I admire. I feel much happier watching and listening to such people rather than speaking to them. There’s a speech about never meeting your heroes in my script for The Devil’s Music which sums up largely how I feel about it. There’s simply too much riding on it for it to be any fun. Look, I’m a massive Springsteen fan, but if you gave me the chance to sit and have a drink with the guy I’d probably run a mile. Not because I’d be intimidated (people are just people, after all), but what if it went badly? What if we simply didn’t get on? Would I still feel the same way about Thunder Road, or would there be a nagging ‘but…’ in the back of my head every time I listened to it?
So, in the interests of never getting a nagging ‘but…’ every time I watched Falling Down, I probably wouldn’t have engineered a situation where I got to pitch a movie to Joel Schumacher in a lift. But the London Screenwriters Festival had other plans.
If you haven’t heard of the festival, it’s now the largest screenwriting festival in the world. 800-odd screenwriters and speakers, plus a fair few producers and agents knocking about. Lots of people drinking coffee and talking about movies, lots of interesting events and cool stuff. On the Sunday of the festival, I had a meeting about Your Lying Eyes lined up which I was excited but mildly stressed about. It’s a really good script, probably the best thing I’ve ever written, and for this particular meeting I was determined to bring my A-game.
My mate Jim Eaves and I grabbed coffee, and we ended up in a queue for The Elevator Pitch. This was a thing set up by the festival where screenwriters could do the elevator pitch thing for real, usually to somebody connected with the UK industry. I figured it might be a nice little dry-run prior to my meeting. I figured it might be with someone I’d spoken to previously (either at the festival or in the world at large).
It wasn’t, of course. It was Joel Schumacher.
I think it’s safe to say that my tight-as-a-drum pitch got punctured somewhere on its way out of my mouth and emerged as a bundle of jumbled character motivation and messy beats. Seriously, though, what do you want from me? Dude directed The Lost Boys, for chrissakes.
So elevator pitches are sometimes very real. And not just at orchestrated events at screenwriting festivals. My mate Jim I mentioned? On another occasion, he ended up randomly in a lift with a certain notorious Hollywood mega producer. But that’s his story to tell, not mine.
What floor do you want?
On the set of House on the Witchpit last month, I had a conversation with my DoP about imagery cropping up over and over again in films that I’d written or directed. I sometimes lecture about film theory, and have therefore spent many days of my life discussing the recurring imagery of the great filmmakers, but I’d never particularly thought about it in the case of my own flicks. Other than Kim Newman once calling me an “Essex Auteur” in Empire a few years back (many thanks, Kim!), I’ve never had any cause to wonder whether the tiny-budgeted horrors that I’ve introduced to the world (or, indeed, the scripts like Strippers vs Werewolves that I’ve sold to other people for them to do with what they will) have featured any commonality of theme or image. I certainly never consciously intended there to be any.
That being said, surely I must have experienced a sense of deja-vu at trying to get fake blood out of tuxedos or evening gowns at the end of a feature shoot? Five out of eight scripts/movies have resulted in a tick in the ‘Bloody Formal Wear’ box. That’s nothing, of course, compared to the ‘Female Stabbing Someone’ motif, which I only seem to have avoided in one script, including those that haven’t been produced or sold yet.
These recurring visuals weren’t a conscious decision, but now I’ve started picking through my stuff looking for them I’ve a feeling I’ll be extremely aware of them from this point onwards. That’s not to say I’ll avoid including them, of course, just that I won’t be able to do it in quite such a state of blissful ignorance.
And what’s the deal with me and eyeballs?