Getting Back into the Groove

Like my last post, this is going to be one of those ‘man, I’ve just been far too busy to even think about blogging’ updates. I put this mainly down to starting a new job which has disrupted my writing routine somewhat. Not that I’m complaining. I count myself lucky that I have a day job which is challenging, fun and rewarding. Yes, it can also be tiring but I find that doing fulfilling work in the day means I’m fired-up for writing in the evening. The feeling of achieving things, whether it’s finishing a web site or a draft of a script, is what seems to push me forward. I don’t think I’d be able to write if I had a shit job, I’d just get too depressed.

Luckily there are some parallels between what I do as a web developer and the craft of screenwriting. This was highlighted by an evening of talks I went to a couple of weeks ago run by Brighton web agency Clear Left on the subject of using the web to tell stories in various ways. Obviously the method in which a user interacts with a web site is different to how they watch a movie but a web designer’s job is to still engage with their audience and present a story in an engaging way.

First up was Phil Gyford who is the creator of The Diary of Samuel Pepys, an on-going blog which is updated daily with an entry from Pepys’ diary. Phil’s initial reason for doing this was to take what are several hefty volumes of text from the 17th century writer and break it down into a manageable format. Rather than sit down and read Pepys’ Diary as if it were a book, he wanted a way people could read it without being put off by the sheer size of it. The blog format seems perfect. A diary isn’t a story in the classic sense, it has no beginning, middle or end, or any exploding robots, so reading each entry as a separate entity makes sense. It also gives the reader a sense that Pepys is out there somewhere in history, writing his diary as the reader lives their own life in tandem. Phil has also put Pepys on Twitter and used some of his more mundane text as a daily insight into what Pepys got up to. Like everyone else on Twitter, he bad-mouths theatre performances, bitches about work and gets drunk.

There was also a talk by Gavin O’Malley about the creation of Spacelog, a collection of transcripts from NASA’s space exploration missions, including Apollo’s 11 and 13. The transcripts they started with were simply reams of paper containing radio messages between the NASA control room and the astronauts. The team digitised everything and presented it to the site’s user like a Twitter feed. So each message has a time stamp and a photo of who’s saying it. Still sounds pretty dull but it makes the text much more browsable and the mundane conversations are brought to life to a point where they become quite involving so that you find yourself scrolling through for hours. There’s even a nifty feature that graphs how many ‘tweets’ there were at particular moments so you can see where the action kicks in.

I might as well round-up what else I’ve been up too… there was April’s Moviebar which was a fun night, it seemed to be a bumper edition of great shorts.

I reviewed a couple of fantastic Hong Kong films recently released by Terracotta Distribution over at Electric Sheep; Sparrow and The Detective.

I also saw Source Code from director Duncan Jones. I preferred his debut Moon because it was a more in-depth and lovingly crafted retro sci-fi film. By comparison, Source Code is much more of a caper and it’s obviously more mainstream with an easier to sell high concept – Groundhog Day meets Quantum Leap meets Speed – with requisite love story and cheesy ending. But it was still very enjoyable, Jones has fun with the idea and there’s stuff about Quantum Physics and parallel universes there if you want it. I don’t think it’ll be this year’s Inception as it doesn’t feel quite as grand but it doesn’t take itself too seriously either so it makes for a fun ride.

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