Screenwriting (2)

In the spirit of Blue Peter, 3 ‘options’ went – in 1998 – to scripts I had prepared earlier. One was a screenplay all about the Gunpowder Plot, to which I’d added a love story (in the spirit of La Reine Margot, which I’d loved); I optioned it to a new company called Mogirl (geddit?).

Another was an option on the first script I ever wrote, called – over the years – Chillout (there was a rave scene in the script), Bank Holiday and Hope’s End. This was designed to be a first feature: a hitman and his driver, on the road north. I was paid for a year’s option and a rewrite but I must have been feeling confident because I blew most of the fee on a trip to Sicily, where I stayed on an organic kiwi-fruit farm on the slopes of Mount Etna. Each morning there was a thick layer of volcanic ash on the car, which must have helped with the kiwi fruit. I wrote till 2 while Matthew (of Room For Doubt fame) drove to see Roman mosaics; in the afternoon he’d come back and we’d set off for Taormina or Catania to have supper. It was the only time I’ve gone away specifically to write – and it (sort of) paid off. Thirteen years later, the script was filmed – after many more rewrites and a new producer – as The Liability, the movie I was preparing to introduce when the stroke happened.

The last option for that year was for a screenplay about a lunch hour, in real time. It was called Out To Lunch.

But the piece de resistance was a commission for a brand new movie, the result of a pitch to Working Title. When I was 7 I’d been to Orkney and had the official BEST HOLIDAY EVER (basically because my Dad actually stayed for the entire 2 weeks instead of being lured back early for the inevitable ‘office crisis’ – which apparently happened in August every year). Earlier in 98 I’d been back there, with my wife, and had seen again the Italian Chapel, built by POWs. It gave me an idea…

So I was writing for Working Title, the UK’s closest answer to a studio. On the strength of that, I was invited to the company’s Christmas writers’ drink. John Cusack was there because he was writing (and would star in) High Fidelity. But I wasn’t going to talk to him – I was much too insecure. Instead I talked to a middle-aged accountant who drew up budgets; she’d presumably popped in for a quick drink after work. Amazingly, I had something grownup to talk about: an offer I’d just made on a terraced house in North Essex (it was our 2nd home – and the one I still have now, where I’m sitting writing this, 20 years later, with the front door open onto the green…). She also had a 2nd home and as we chatted about how nice North Essex was and how easy it would be to go down there after a busy week’s work writing screenplays, I could almost think – at 36, while glancing at John Cusack – that I belonged.



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I had a stroke on July 26th, 2013. I was a screenwriter. Don’t do that anymore. But have found another way to write.

2 thoughts on “Screenwriting (2)”

  1. Im imagining you on a kiwi farm on the slopes of Mt, Etna, John-boyo. I fear my imagination is not winning.!!!!! 😱💋😘

    Peter Cartwright 11 The Green Mistley Essex CO11 1EU

    Tel: 01206 390 344 Mob: 07930 372 255

    Email: Sent from my iPhone



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