Oh my God, it’s another new live show already!
New dates will be announced over the coming weeks, but the first announced date (Colchester, September 18th) is on sale NOW by clicking the image above.
That was me at Horror-on-Sea earlier this month, delivering the gospel of never giving up.
You can tell I mean it.
I try not to stand on stages, or in lecture halls, or whatever, and say things I don’t mean. My sign-off line of ‘my conscience is clear’ (which I seem to have used for 9 years now, which shows how insanely time flies) is tied to that, I suppose.
You can tell I mean it, and you can probably also tell I’m tired. Not just because I’m just finishing up an hour or so of talking non-stop, but because not giving up is exhausting.
When I wrote that final piece of advice for the 2019 show (the last of 50 bits of advice scattered through it), it was as much for me as for anyone in the audience. My career over the last 15 years has had an awful lot of points at which I’ve nearly quit. Funnily enough, they often seem insignificant in the past tense.
One stands out, though.
Some time after we’d shot TrashHouse (my first movie), I hadn’t been able to sell it to a distributor. I’d sunk a huge chunk of savings and over a year of my life into something that looked unlikely to ever see screens other than those of cast and crew. This was before YouTube or streaming sites; there wasn’t even a way of allowing people to watch it for free.
I can remember dropping in and visiting my parents, having a coffee and announcing very calmly “I really blew this, and I think I’m done”. At that moment I not only thought I’d never get to make another movie, I also thought I’d never write another script. I looked out at the rest of my life stretching ahead of me without screenwriting and filmmaking at the heart of it, and I actually made peace with it.
Made peace because I’d given it my best shot. Made peace because I’d genuinely thrown everything I could into it, and my massive gamble hadn’t paid off.
This story has become a punchline to an anecdote I sometimes tell onstage (“I added three seconds of nudity and sold it to the very next distributor to watch it”), but it was something a lot more profound than that. The desire to quit resurfaces all the time. Every time a project collapses or someone in a comments section tells you to kill yourself, that glimmer of despondency flickers your internal resolve. Your motivation often feels like a pilot light threatening to go out. That’s the day-to-day version of ‘not giving up’. It’s just what you do.
The TrashHouse one was different because of that sense of peace. In that moment, at least, it wasn’t just that I felt like giving up. It was that I genuinely thought that I already had, and it was only inertia carrying me forward.
I think about that sometimes, but I also think this:
Don’t give up.
Don’t give up.
Feel like giving up. Think about giving up.
My name is Pat Higgins and my conscience is clear.
So, you missed the live shows?
Well, we’re proud to announce that the version of FEAR & FILM from the 2018 Horror-on-Sea festival was filmed, and is available to watch RIGHT NOW on Amazon Prime. It’s free if you’re a subscriber, or can be rented or bought if you’re not.
It was the first performance of the show we ever did, so forgive me for any stumbles or cock-ups along the way.
Just click the image below. We really hope you enjoy it.
We had a great deal of fun with the new live show at the Horror-on-Sea festival in January. We’re pleased to announce a chance to catch FEAR AND FILM in a non-festival setting, with a new date having just gone onsale.
Click below to get your tickets now – We recommend getting them early!
12th April 2018. Three Wise Monkeys, Colchester – FEAR & FILM
I spend a lot of my time teaching screenwriting in both classrooms and on one-day masterclasses (with webinars coming soon – see the note at the bottom). This means that I often end up studying concepts related to education that aren’t necessarily directly associated with screenwriting. One of these has been the concept of SOLO Taxonomy, which is a way of judging a student’s understanding of a subject. It begins with a very basic and uncertain level of comprehension of the subject, but gradually builds up to a far more nuanced and complicated understanding. One such model of SOLO taxonomy, as first developed by John Biggs and Kevin Collis, is used below. Although this exists, as I mentioned, primarily as a method of gauging levels of complex understanding, I have come to use it as instead a method of embedding theme in a meaningful way throughout a narrative.
As a bit of background information, I’ve been working on a screenplay about a masseuse trapped in a room with a mutating corpse. Yes, I use academic models to deepen the thematic content of splattery horror movies. That’s me. Let’s investigate my idea using a SOLO Taxonomy and see where it leads us.
Level 1 is prestructural. The concept in rawest, wooliest form with no further analysis attached. In my case: the concept of flesh.
Uni-structural is level 2. One single meaning of the concept. Flesh is the meaty stuff on top of the skeleton. We’re covered in it. I always was crap at biology.
Level 3: other uses and meanings start to come into play at this multi-structural level. At this juncture, we might well be thinking about not just our own flesh, but the other meanings and associations that we have with the concept. Sexualised flesh. Corrupted flesh and concepts of beauty. Eating the flesh of another to survive. Flesh as home to a parasite. Here is the level where I might be able to include different concepts within my own narrative. For example, if the central theme is going to revolve around flesh from the point of view of massage, we can start to mess around with these other concepts as parallel concerns.
Meat eating, for example.
My lead character is Lauren. Maybe I’ll make Lauren a carnivore, and another character (maybe my mutating corpse, before their unfortunate demise) a vegan. Maybe I’ll make Lauren sexually voracious on a superficial, physical level (seeing lovers as ‘meat’) which not only plays with some interesting textures, but also gets away from the virginal ‘final girl’ paradigm that we’ve seen on way too many occasions for it to be anything other than a bog-standard trope (albeit a useful one that’s often fun to play with). At this multi-structural level, however, we don’t need to join these different elements. The relationships between them is not what matters; at this point we’re just looking for different examples, and different ways to emphasize a central theme. We don’t need them to relate to one another yet. That comes next.
The next step is a relational level. Here’s where we start to feed these concepts into one another. Is it possible that we can use Lauren’s attitudes towards meat or sexuality to inform and deepen the central problem in which she is locked in a room with a mutating corpse? Might it be possible that the only way to dispose of the fleshy invaders in her room (which have erupted from the mutating corpse, as such horrible things often seem to) is to eat them? Questioning attitudes towards flesh in all of its aspects is where this relational idea comes in. If we can tie in ideas of flesh as food, flesh as sexual object and flesh as comfortable home both for the creature who wears that flesh and, indeed, for any invading parasite, our script is likely to become thematically richer. Every element starts to reflect back that central concern with flesh in a way that compliments and interrogates every other element.
It’s at this point that we might want to start thinking about how to state the theme of our movie in just one sentence. By progressing down the taxonomy and coming up with interlinked ideas of the different meanings of the central theme, we can perhaps produce a question that sums up the attitude of the film and the themes that will be interrogated. In this case, for lack of anything else at the moment, let’s go with giving an unsympathetic character the line “I don’t care whether it’s hanging on a human being, on my plate or torn up on a slaughterhouse floor, flesh is just flesh. Just a collection of atoms like anything else.”
By having a character verbalize this theme somewhere in the first act, we can proceed to pull that idea apart in whatever ways we can, whilst giving the audience confidence that, thematically, this is going somewhere.
Finally, we have the extended abstract level. This is where our different concepts are not only brought together, they are combined and used as a springboard for increasingly abstract thought or the different ways of looking at that central theme. For example, it may be that we can introduce the themes of flesh in ways other than just the ones that we have already discussed. How about visually? Could we introduce a colour grade onto the final film to make the movie itself look more like skin texture? OK, this kind of idea is likely to be out of the hands of the screenwriter, but it’s the sort of visual prompt that can work its way subtly into a script and find its way into the final movie. Perhaps themes of flesh as a canvas could be brought into play with ideas like tattoos? Perhaps the other career that Lauren is dreaming of following might be a tattoo artist rather than a masseuse, which would introduce the interesting idea that she is effectively trying to change her relationship with flesh itself?
Take the time to make your way through the SOLO Taxonomy from that initial blunt, unthinking statement through to a more complex, interconnected and abstract way of dealing with your central theme. You might end up looking at it in a whole new way. Even in writing up this exercise, I’ve grown rather fond of that tattoo idea (which certainly hadn’t occurred to me before I’d thoroughly examined the whole ‘flesh’ concept).
Have a good writing day. My name is Pat Higgins, and my conscience is clear.
Note from Pat:
LIKE THIS STUFF? Please follow me on Twitter (@zcarstheme) and share this article to people you think might enjoy it. After years of teaching screenwriting to people face to face, I’m setting up a series of webinars via jinx.co.uk which will range from simple Q&As to more complicated, focused classes on specific aspects of screenwriting and filmmaking. Hope you can attend. My first book, Bloody Screenwriting: Write a Killer Screenplay in 30 Days will be out later in 2018, so if you’re reading this in the future go and buy a copy. Thanks!
Pat’s first live show of 2017 takes place this Saturday at the amazing and brilliant Horror-on-Sea festival in Southend. This annual festival is a huge highlight of the year (every year!) for the crew at Jinx Media. There are countless premieres and special events, including the World Premiere of Slasher House II from our wonderful friends at Mycho Entertainment.
Pat’s show will feature a whole load of stuff about structuring horror movies, together with uncensored anecdotes and clips from his journey through horror cinema. Don’t miss it! Tickets are only a fiver and can be bought by clicking the logo below…
Here at Jinx Media, we’d like to thank everyone who attended our masterclass at the weekend. The event was a massive success, and we’ll be announcing additional dates shortly.
We’d also like to formally announce Pat’s new script consultancy service. Over the last decade, Pat has been offering feedback and notes on scripts in both professional and academic settings, and he’s now offering this service to the public.
If you’ve written a screenplay, Pat would be delighted to read through it and give a 30 minute session of feedback via Skype. As both a qualified academic lecturer and a seasoned industry professional, (who has both produced his own scripts and sold others to third parties), Pat will give honest feedback and suggestions regarding structure, character, tone and more.
Just click the link right here and book yourself an online Skype consultancy regarding your script!
I love running workshops and masterclass sessions on screenwriting.
Over the years, I’ve built up a real arsenal of exercises and techniques which can help screenwriters tap into their full potential regardless of whether they’re just starting out or have been writing professionally for a while. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time lecturing in very different environments, (having taught elements of screenwriting to everyone from film festival audiences to BA undergraduates), which has not only been fun but has allowed me to get used to using different techniques with different classes.
There are still a few places available for our full-day workshop in Southend-on-Sea on 4th June, but they’re going fast. We haven’t announced further dates after that yet, but I’m open to suggestions. If you can’t make it to Southend but would be interested in a masterclass taking place in your home town in the UK, drop me a line via Twitter. If we can find a suitable venue in your town, (and round up at least a dozen delegates wanting to buy a ticket), we might well be able to make it happen.
In the meantime, don’t miss the chance to grab one of the last tickets for Southend. We’ll be covering everything from idea generation to character motivation and crafting the perfect ending.
Look forward to seeing you there!