Friday, 10 June 2011

Deviation Poster

For all you Deviants out there, here is the poster for this new Brit Thriller, starring Danny Dyer and Anna Walton. I think if you were at all skeptical about Danny being "as you've never seen him before", this piccy of him blows those thoughts out the water - he looks "proper psycho"! and of course Anna is amazing as usual... but don't just take our WORD for it, you'll be watching it VERY SOON!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Writing The Thriller # 6: Arena, "The Feel of the Piece"

In the last of this series, we will consider arena. Many writers believe erroneously that arena is solely the remit of the Director or Director of Photography, but this belief relies solely on the idea that arena is *only* about "what we see as image" or the location.

Arena is not just about image or the location of your story, but its whole world - "the feel of the piece". In creating your Thriller's "story world" like this, you may consider storytelling devices like non-linearity, voiceover or montage; mise-en-scene, allusion or motif. There are no "right or wrong" ways to approach arena per se; instead arena relies on consistency and context.

Consider the nightmarescape that is the arena of Se7en for approximately 80% of the movie. It frequently rains, thunder overhead; neon signs from strip clubs and food franchises mirror in the puddles on the ground. But it goes *beyond* grotty and horrible: this place is HELL, "abandon all hope ye who enter here." Mills has moved to the city to pursue a promising police career: he knows in this horrible place, there are the "ultimate" bad guys and he can rise through the ranks quickly. His Wife is not so lucky; she *was* a school teacher, but has no job now - perhaps intimating children have no place in this vile City. The City is a horrifying place, a conurbation so dark and twisted Mill's Wife, newly pregnant herself, cannot even imagine raising a child there to the point she tells Somerset first, asking for advice on whether she should seek an abortion.

But remember, John Doe does not choose this hellish place for the final showdown between him and Mills; instead he makes his terrible last confession to Mills' repeated demands - "What's in the box?" - in the middle of an open field, in bright sunshine - the strangest of contrasts. But then, Se7en has one of the most famous "downer" endings of Thriller movies: the audience expects Mills and Somerset to be triumphant and Doe to be vanquished. Instead, John Doe gets what he wants: death, with Mills' career ruined and his Wife dead. Somerset, having wanted to go into retirement with his head held high, instead is tormented by the proceedings that unfurled in front of him, which he was powerless to stop. In short, the good guys lose and the bad guy Doe (even though he dies), wins.

Notice from the above then, the arena takes in the story and RELATES IT to image and location. For the screenwriter, the vile, dark city gives Mills, his Wife and Somerset motivation for the way they look at the world and react to it. John Doe, a clever and manipulative man, takes advantage of Somerset and Mills, taking them somewhere seemingly innocent in the resolution - then blowing them away with his final revelation.

Using arena in this way makes the screenwriter's work better, but crucially does not do the Director or DoP's jobs for them, since they are still able to render that arena as image in the way they see fit. If story is the "job" of the writer, it makes sense to use ALL of its arsenal, rather than leaving arena out and concentrating instead on say, dialogue (as is so often the case in spec scripts).

Deviation has a very strong arena - and not just because its writer JK Amalou is also its director. Shot in our capital city, JK wanted to bring forth the "kind" of London audiences just don't see in Brit movies on average. Amber's car journey with her abductor Frankie is a "Road to Hell", bringing forth huge, dark, nightmarish vistas, crucially unlike the smaller, more "underground" dark minutiae "behind closed doors" called forth in the likes of Se7en.

So if you're writing a Thriller, best of luck!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Writing the Thriller # 5: Keeping Going (Structure, Part 2)

Jason Robinson, sound recordist for DEVIATION
In the last post we considered the notion of "dramatic context" within genre films, focusing on how the Thriller has "Flight and then Fight": in direct contrast to other genres, the Thriller protagonist will attempt NOT to engage with the antagonist's mission in the first instance, preferring instead to exhaust other avenues before realising that ONLY s/he can "vanquish the beast" and save him/herself.

We've mentioned before several times that Thrillers too often become dramas "with a bit of killing/fighting in". Another big issue affecting Thriller scripts in the spec pile is the fact they "run on the spot". In other words, the story does not feel as if it PROGRESSES: events may happen, but they do little to ADVANCE THE STORY.

Think again about that all-important *classic* Thriller movie poster, with the running protagonist.  If Comedy is about the "funny" and Horror is about the "spills", then Thriller is very much about THE CHASE.

Question: if you are being CHASED and your life (literally or figuratively) is actively in danger, what is the best thing to do -- stop? No, of course not:


But now let's consider actual running in real life. In sprints, the running itself must be fast - and is over relatively quickly, sometimes in just seconds. We cannot compare a movie to a sprint; it would be difficult to apply the notion even to a short film (outside of the "micro short" category).

Instead, a movie is more like a marathon. Runners must "limber up" and start off usually at a fairly steady pace. In The London Marathon (and other high profile running events), there will be a "pace setter" who will run the first five-to ten miles, before dropping out. In the same way, the writer of ANY film - genre or drama - needs to "set the pace" from the offset.

In the Thriller and Horror then, the pace needs to be fairly quick from the offset and they need to get faster: these two genres are the "elite" professional runners in the Marathon, whereas there is some leeway for Comedies, Dramas and sometimes even Science Fiction to be the amateurs in fancy dress running or even walking at the back of the race.

And of course, in the marathon, the more you run, THE HARDER IT GETS - and this should be the case for movies, too. The reason many films "run on the spot" is because they do not challenge their characters ENOUGH. Instead, writers shy away from inflicting the WORST they can possibly imagine... Why? It's difficult to say. Sometimes writers fall in love with their protagonists or antagonists and don't want to "put them through" the conflict - but that's at the heart of any narrative, not just Thrillers. Other times writers confess to feeling "daunted" by Act Two, saying it feels like a huge wasteland that needs filling.

In Deviation, there are no flashbacks; we are asked to invest in Amber as the protagonist and Frankie as the antagonist through their actions in "present time" alone. Sometimes though, writers may feel they must include lots more back story to "fill up the space" and "give" their characters motivation, via multiple flashbacks,  montages and other storytelling devices.

However, the Thriller is one of the most LINEAR narratives - even when it is non-linear. Consider two VERY famous non-linear Thrillers: Memento and The Bourne Supremacy:

MEMENTO: The main plot goes backwards; the sub plot - "Sammy Jankis" - goes forwards and both "tie up" in Leonard Shelby's realisation at the end.

THE BOURNE SUPREMACY: Jason Bourne is haunted throughout his main mission (ergo the main plot) by fragments of a memory of a door in a hotel. In each flashback, the memory gains more information - for him AND the viewer - until Bourne realises (again, at the end) what happened in *that* hotel room.

Note that these flashbacks are PLOT-BASED, not character-based, in the Thriller.  We do not see long flashbacks of Leonard and Bourne's lives as children;  their parents, siblings or friends; or what happened to them at school as we might in a drama or a comedy. Instead the audience is asked to consider PIVOTAL MOMENTS in their lives that *made* them the men they are today, via THEIR ACTIONS AT THAT MOMENT. The character learns about himself through what he DID, hence the old screenwriting mantra, "characters are not what they say, but WHAT THEY DO" - and the same goes for flashbacks in the Thriller.

So think on... Structure in the Thriller needn't be daunting. Taking the marathon analogy again, it could be broken down like this:

ACT ONE - SET UP - The pace setter (the writer) brings the characters and story in, hand in hand; the world of the story is established and the characters' motivations are made clear.

ACT TWO - CONFLICT - The pace setter "drops out", because the story and the characters are running on their own. This is when it starts to get more difficult... and more... and more... Don't EVER let up; the  characters might feel like their lungs are burning, but they're not dead yet, there's *still* some effort left for --

ACT THREE - RESOLUTION. Here in the Thriller, quite possibly all is lost for the protagonist. They're staring ruin or even death in the face. But there's the finish line in the distance! They get their last bit of effort together and race for it... or crash and burn. 

Concluding then, if you find *your* Thriller "running on the spot", consider the following in finding out why:

- How have I set my pace at the beginning?
- How does my pace develop throughout the narrative? (ie. does it get more difficult?)
- What does the character learn about the situation and/or himself/herself throughout the narrative?
- How does that character make that realisation at the end of the story - and what impact does it have on him/her and the other characters?

NEXT: Arena - "the feel of the piece"

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Writing The Thriller # 4: Dramatic Context, "Flight & Fight" (Structure, Part 1)

DEVIATION'S Director of Photography, Oliver Downey

In the previous articles we explored how secondary characters can support the protagonist or antagonist (or not!) in the Thriller genre and what this means to whomever is driving the action.

Thrillers are supposed to be by their very nature, thrilling. The clue is in the genre's title. Many people - writers and viewers alike - confess to not being "very sure" what separates Thriller from its close relative, Horror. In answer, it is very much about context.

In Horror films, a group of people is very frequently involved at the offset - these people are then picked off, one by one and often in bloody and extreme ways. Very often, the threat is not immediately identified UNTIL the first death or even beyond. In creature feature Horrors, there is frequently a character in league with the monster - as in the ALIEN franchise, starting with Ash and Burke - who will stop at nothing to ensure the alien is transported back to Earth, "crew expendable". In other types of Horror, particularly slasher Horror, there will often be a "weakest link" character who causes the deaths of other characters and themselves, either directly or indirectly. Sometimes Horrors have both of these.

All of the above can be thrilling for gore-hungry Horror fans, but it does not automatically qualify the film as an actual Thriller. As with all genre films, there are specific "markers" that distinguish one genre from the next. Those markers that differentiate Thriller from Horror then do not include lack of body count (action Thrillers often kill peripheral characters in particular indiscriminately); nor do they have a bias towards male or female characters, either; even the nature of the films can be similar - basically, both can be tense and even scary!

Instead, the Thriller includes an emphasis on the antagonist's actions driving the narrative (as already mentioned in the second article) and the reliance on the LONE protagonist who must make a series of decisions throughout the narrative in order to save his/her life and/or reputation. Instead of appealing to the group ("safety in numbers" - no matter how untrue), the Thriller protagonist must GO IT ALONE.

But what does this mean, in terms of Thriller structure?

Very often, Thriller movie posters have their heroes and heroines RUNNING on them. This is no accident. In terms of context, Thrillers are frequently about RUNNING OUT OF TIME - usually before the protagonist dies, literally or figuratively, depending on the *type* of Thriller. In conspiracy Thrillers, the (usually male) protagonist must fight the Evil Corporation before he is "spirited away" to certain death or lifelong imprisonment. In Action Thrillers, the (usually male) protagonist must rescue a wife, daughter or friend before a deadline or lose that person in question forever. In women-in-peril Thrillers like Deviation, Panic Room or Red Eye, the female heroine must escape the clutches of the (usually male) antagonist or she is doomed.

But remember that protagonist is frequently DRAWN INTO the mission of the antagonist/s: the protagonist infrequently initiates the mission him or herself. Instead, they find themselves in a waking nightmare, usually for at least the first half of the movie, reacting instead to what is happening to them in the first instance.

The Dramatic Context can be summed up here as "Flight". The protagonist will do all s/he to try and get away and NOT engage with the antagonist. This is frequently the half of the movie where the protagonist may appeal to authority figures, particularly the army, government or secret service, in trying to help them. These authority figures will often misunderstand the protagonist in some way during the "Flight" period - either on purpose or accidentally - leaving the Protagonist with a greater problem than they had before *for some reason*. The second half of the movie then can be summed up as "Fight". This is when the protagonist has realised they CANNOT appeal to anyone else to help them; they can rely only on themselves. This may mean the difference between survival and dying.

Sometimes protagonists in the Thriller die regardless, but *how* they die depends wholly on the decisions they have made in the "Fight" period. In other words, who will win - the protagonist or the antagonist? A win for the protagonist can mean death to the antagonist, even if it means the protagonist's own death. A win for the antagonist might not leave them alive to enjoy it too, but as long as they kill the protagonist by their own hand, the antagonist is the victor.

Too many spec scripts call themselves Thrillers when *really* they are dramas with a little bit of fighting or killing in. "Flight and then fight" is key in the Dramatic Context and is vital in setting the tone for your Thriller, especially when it comes to pitting your protagonist against your antagonist.

NEXT: Structure, Part 2 - Keeping going

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Writing The Thriller # 3: Secondary Characters

In the previous article we looked at the protagonist and antagonist in the Thriller: in direct contrast to many other genres, it's often the antagonist who drives the action in the Thriller, instead pulling the protagonist into their orbit, rather than vice versa. Similarly, notions of "good versus evil" often come into play in their characterisation, though it would be unwise to draw this in too broad strokes.  The various shades of grey often play a part in protagonist and antagonist characterisation in the best produced Thrillers: antagonists aren't "just good people", any more than antagonists are "comic book villains".

However, secondary characters are similarly important, as with all genre films. Even in Thrillers with small casts like Deviation - a film which concentrates mainly on Frankie and Amber, on their own, in the car - other characters must come into play.  Each secondary character must offer something to the narrative and "pull their weight"; they are not there for the sake of it, however interesting they might be. Yet how can we, as writers, choose the "right" secondary character?

Basically, we must look to the notion of ROLE FUNCTION in picking the "right" secondary character. Every character in Deviation - and indeed all good thrillers and genre movies - must make that all-important CONTRIBUTION to the narrative in terms of pushing it forward. It is no good *just* to have a "wise cracking friend" or "mentor figure" who does not perform a specific FUNCTION in keeping the story going. In other words, good characterisation is not just about about how "cool" or "memorable" that character is, but what the character DOES in the story.

Remember too Frankie drives the action in this Thriller (though it is important to remember this does not automatically mean Amber is a PASSIVE protagonist who just "accepts" whatever comes to her... She does not. Amber must come to a number of decisions in the course of the narrative pertaining to her own survival). WHO drives the narrative makes a direct impact on your secondary characters' role functions.

In addition to the above characters, there are also other peripheral characters such as "The Hoodies", "The Van Driver" and "The Mini-Cab Driver". These parts, somewhat smaller than those above, are usually present to demonstrate a specific element of another character (such as Frankie's ruthlessness) or a single moment in the narrative that drives home the overall theme of the story.

Concluding: when writers are told secondary characters must "pull their weight", they're essentially being told secondary must contribute that all-important ROLE FUNCTION. What this means:

*What* can this character GIVE or TAKE AWAY from the character driving the action - be it protagonist or antagonist? And what does this MEAN to the overall story? 

NEXT: Structure, part one: Dramatic Context, "Flight then Fight"

Monday, 4 April 2011

Writing The Thriller # 2: Characters - Protagonist & Antagonist

Last time we considered the “Primal Premise” and how the notion of The Universal Fear – that "something" *everyone* does NOT want to happen to them – is at the root of all good Thrillers.

Now it is time to consider the characters within Thrillers and how they differ not only to each other in terms of traits, but in terms of characters in OTHER genres.

The Thriller protagonist can be male OR female, much like in the Horror genre (and in comparison to say, the Comedy genre, which focuses very much on the male protagonist, even in the Rom-Com post Frat Pack/Judd Apatow). The first thing to consider in your Thriller’s protagonist then is not their gender, but rather their “goodness”.

In comparison to many other genres that may offer us a protagonist who is deeply flawed and even has unlikable character traits, the Thriller protagonist is frequently what can be described as a “good person” or “upstanding citizen”. This is not to say they have never made mistakes in their lives, but rather, in their hearts, they have something “good” that drives them – an uncompromising sense of right/wrong; formidable self preservation skills; or the ceaseless protection of an innocent or even society itself.

The Thriller protagonist needs this “good” element to them to make an audience believe not only in them as a character, but in their journey within the plot: what is the point of a Thriller protagonist going up against a sinister organisation to expose their shady practices, if we think he is a cynical and pessimistic person? How can we believe a Thriller protagonist will fight burglars, violent partners or strangers, if we think of her as a victim who is more likely to roll over and die instead?

Amber in DEVIATION has this “good” quality: she is a young wife and mother, keen to get back to her family after a long shift at the hospital where she works as a nurse. It’s important to note however Amber is no whiter-than-white saint and her life is far from “rosy”: like many working Mums, she has a lot of pressure on her, not least her partner Joe’s depression which she references in the film later when antagonist Frankie quizzes her. Amber is a three–dimensional character and no victim. She does not fall back on limited Hollywood stereotypes either: she HATES the situation she finds herself in and never once starts to empathise with her abductor Frankie. She does all she can to get away, he is “The Enemy”.

It's basic screenwriting to suppose every protagonist needs an antagonist, regardless of the story a writer is telling. However, what differs in the Thriller is HOW these characters relate to each other. In many genres, the protagonist has a goal they want to fulfill by the end of the movie and the antagonist's counter goal is to stop the protagonist achieving it by whatever means possible.

Conversely, protagonists in Thrillers are very often living their *ordinary* lives and are "pulled in" to the orbit of the antagonist's mission instead. If you recall, Amber in DEVIATION is in the "wrong place, wrong time" when it comes to running into our antagonist Frankie. In other words, it is wise to think of the antagonist's mission FIRST and *then* work out how the protagonist fits in.

The antagonist in the Thriller genre is predictably as “bad” as the protagonist is “good” - and Frankie is in lots of ways Amber's polar opposite. There are fewer shades of grey to Thriller antagonists than in other genres, like Horror or Action Adventure which often suggests “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” when it comes to antagonists’ motivations. In ALIEN and ALIENS, first Ash and then Burke are “only” following company orders; in JURASSIC PARK, Hammond wanted to create something wonderful, but instead creates a living nightmare.

Thriller antagonists then are frequently much darker, with much simpler and more selfish motivations. The sinister organisation wants to protect their own interests and will do anything – including murder – to silence whistle-blowers; home invaders want money or goods in the house. Frankie in DEVIATION snatches Amber because *he* wants to evade the authorities and escape the country; he doesn’t care about her, her life & the people in it or what she wants. He has no remorse for his previous crimes and little empathy for Amber or her fear. She is “just” the hostage.

Crucially however it is also important to recognise Frankie and his ilk are not “comic book villains”. None of them wake up in the morning with an EVIL PLAN and none look in the mirror and see “the antagonist”: instead, they all believe THEY are the protagonist! Frankie insists to Amber throughout their nightmare journey none of it is his fault and her abduction is “nothing personal”. In the same way, the Boss of the sinister organisation may express regret certain people “had” to be killed during the cover up in conspiracy Thrillers, or burglars rail against the fact the protagonist moved just days earlier into the previously empty building where the money or contraband is stored.

In short, when it comes to the protagonist and antagonist, we’re broadly speaking “good versus evil”… But whilst Thriller protagonists and antagonists may well be more “good” or more “evil” than other genres’ leading characters, it’s not wise to consider their role functions as simply “black and white” either.

NEXT: Secondary characters in the Thriller

Monday, 28 March 2011

Writing The Thriller # 1: “The Primal Premise”

You don’t have to go far on the internet to discover a lot of industry people believe that reading scripts is mandatory in order to write a good movie. And this makes a lot of sense: *just* watching movies does not cut it, since without the script there is quite literally no movie. The script is the “foundation” if you will, so appreciating what goes into the writing of one is necessary to get one's story off the page and onto the screen. Thriller is a genre that never really goes away, but evolves and changes, taking various elements in: mystery and moments of gore and horror are the most obvious, but from time to time the genre itself will also take in elements of comedy, human drama and even science fiction and fantasy.

So if the script is the foundation of the filmmaking process, the premise is the foundation of the script itself.

The word “premise” is defined in the dictionary as “a proposition supporting or helping to support a conclusion”. If we then apply this notion to Film then, we can view premise as a “starting point” for the story (note: not the WHOLE story), most often phrased as a “What if…?” style question in treatments and other story documents. Let’s look at some premises from really *big* movies of the past twenty years, regardless of genre:

“What if… Dinosaurs were re-created by scientists?” (JURASSIC PARK)

“What if… A child could see dead people?” (THE SIXTH SENSE)

“What if… The Earth stopped spinning on its axis?” (THE CORE)

“What if… You were falsely accused of killing your wife and sentenced to death?” (THE FUGITIVE)

“What if… A bright teenage girl falls pregnant and decides to give her baby up for adoption?” (JUNO)

Yet the premises at the heart of many spec Thrillers just don’t work. This can happen for a number of reasons, though most often for these two:

1) The premise is too convoluted. Easily the top reason for thrillers not working. As a result, scribes tie themselves and the plot in knots, so the reasons for various events happening and characters’ motivations for enacting them just are not clear. The reader ends up with a muddled view of the story world and is unsure what they’ve just read.

Here, a scribe needs to return to his or her premise and really figure out what is at the “heart” of the story – from here, s/he can then clarify how the plot works in relation to that “starting point”. There are lots of ways to do this, but one of the most effective ways of dealing with a lack of story clarity is to write a new treatment or beat sheet.

2) The premise is simply not “thrilling” enough. Sometimes a Scribe wants to create a Thriller, but actually writes what is essentially a human drama. The difference between the two is subtle, but significant: a Thriller is most often a literal triumph over adversity *of some kind*; a Human Drama might involve adversity as well, but very often involves the characters’ REACTIONS to that adversity and how they deal with it. In comparison, the Thriller frequently has an element of “vanquishing the beast” to it: Tom Cruise must bring down the Mafiaso lawyers in THE FIRM; Will Smith must overcome the government secret service in ENEMY OF THE STATE; Jodie Foster must defeat the burglars in PANIC ROOM.

But what does a Scribe do about a lack of “thrill” to their premise? This is where JK’s idea of what he calls “The Primal Premise” can really come into play. A primal premise plays on this element:

The Universal Fear.

A “Universal Fear” is one EVERYONE has – which transcends culture, class, race and even gender. It’s something everyone DOES NOT WANT to happen to them or their loved ones, for whatever reason. Evidence of “Universal Fear” then in the previous three examples:

In THE FIRM, Tom Cruise wants to do the “right thing” – he wants to expose the lawyers and their scam – but he DOES NOT WANT to die (a very real possibility, if he is found out). Universal fear: Who wants to die? No one.

In ENEMY OF THE STATE, Will Smith literally FALLS INTO the conspiracy, “wrong place, wrong time” – and could very well NEVER SEE his family or lead a normal life, EVER AGAIN if he does not resolve the issue. Universal Fear: being alone and on the run forever.

In PANIC ROOM, Jodie Foster’s home is INVADED by burglars, forcing her to wall up in her house with her child - AND during the night, her daughter suffers a diabetic coma from lack of insulin. Universal Fear: Home invasion… AND your child being in danger/dying.

With all the above in mind then, DEVIATION has that “primal premise”:

What if… you were trapped in your car with a madman?

DEVIATION plays on the Universal Fear of being kidnapped by a stranger. Like Will Smith in ENEMY OF THE STATE, Amber in DEVIATION is in the “wrong place, wrong time”, a staple of many Thrillers. Had she left work any earlier or later, she would never have run into the barbarous Frankie. In fact, in the first few moments of the movie – she *almost* turns back, which would have taken her out of Frankie’s range. But because she doesn't, she must deal with his campaign of terror and deal with what comes to her that night.

So if you feel your Thriller is not “thrilling” enough, consider THE PRIMAL PREMISE and what “Universal Fear” it plays on. Unlocking that could very well create the “starting point” that kicks off the action in your script and brings us toward that all-important conclusion.

Join the Deviation journey on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

NEXT: Thriller characters and how they differ from characters in other genres

Monday, 21 March 2011

Q & A With DEVIATION'S Writer/Director JK Amalou

What was your inspiration for Deviation?

Rather than be influenced by any particular films, I’ve been influenced by styles of movies. Mainly Film Noir of the 40s and 50s and the documentary style of the films of the 60s and 70s.

DEVIATION is precisely that: an innocent person thrown into a dark, bleak world in which there seems to be no way out. This in itself is a very film noir concept (THE SET UP, SUNSET BOULEVARD, etc). So I chose the shadowy, bleak world of the film noir and treated it with the more visceral and realistic storytelling of the 60’s and 70’s films (DUEL, EASY RIDER, etc.)

To be fair, I have not seen any movie in which protagonist and antagonist spend an hour and a half in a car, driving around town so I couldn’t possibly say that DEVIATION was inspired by any particular film. However, I could cite films like COLLATERAL and THE HITCHER as distant references.

Why did you choose the title DEVIATION?

That’s because it personifies the film on two levels.

First meaning is obviously that the whole film is a deviation for our main protagonist Amber (played by Anna Walton): she’s on her way home after a long day at work and she’s randomly kidnapped by a nutcase on the run (played by Danny Dyer).

Second meaning relates to the character of Frank played by Danny Dyer. As already mentioned, he’s a psychopath on the run. His psychopath nature could be construed as ‘deviant’ behaviour or a deviation from the norm.

Deviation's essentially a two-hander for most of the film between Amber and Frankie, with short appearances from other characters. How did you keep the tension going in the story? Didn't you run out of events?

How did I keep the tension going? Easy. Create a formidable antagonist for our heroine Anna. That’s about it.

The premise is already strong: how would you feel if you were kidnapped randomly? This already helps greatly in creating tension from the start. Put yourself in Anna’s shoes for one second: who is this guy? Why am I being kidnapped? What does he want? Does he want to kill me? Rape me? Where is he taking me? And as you progress in the story, well, you provide answers to her questions.

So the first step for me was to fling my protagonist in the worst possible situation. In Anna’s case, I threw her in the hands of a very dangerous psychopath with a record of murdering women.

The second step to keep the tension going was the antagonist, ie: the psychopath. I had to make sure that he was unpredictable, volatile and yet capable of utter generosity and gentleness. This way our protagonist never knows what she’s up against. Second guessing her enemy leads to nowhere as well: she can’t fathom or predict him. And this is important: this heightens the danger our protagonist is in.

Nothing new here. This had been done since the dark ages of storytelling which is awash with heroes having to fight some unknown, strange dark monsters. Our good old friend Ulysses had to deal with a few of these beasts.

Who did you have to kill/sleep with/blackmail to get funding to make it?

Nobody. If you have to kill / sleep with / blackmail to get funding for your film, you are going about the wrong way to get your film produced.

I just went down the usual, well proven route: write (hopefully!) a killer screenplay, get some known actors on board by using the screenplay as a lure and then sell it to potential investors.

Oh, and try to keep your costs low so that means that you should work with a very good producer. In my case, that was my producing partner: Lara Greenway.

What makes a "good" Thriller in your opinion?

What kind of thriller? There are many kind of thrillers. The Bond thriller? Yes, it’s thrilling but it’s a rollercoaster more than anything as we all know very well that Bond is going to come through his ordeals unscathed. Same with the Bourne movies but they have a darker tone. So, in that kind of thriller, you better come up with a real rollercoaster of a ride in terms of stunts, special effects, chases, etc. etc.

Or you have the smaller types of thrillers, such as DEVIATION. For me, that kind of thriller works only if a) it has a strong, PRIMAL premise and b) it has strong characters. The reason is obvious: unless I did it illegally, my budget wouldn’t allow me to blow up the Parliament or have a car chase in Leicester Square. Also this kind of character-based thrillers tends to have an element of horror too.

A primal concept/premise is exactly that: a life-or-death situation for our protagonist. And most importantly, this primal concept/premise must be absolutely banal in the sense that our protagonist is going about his every day, normal, borderline boring life and out of nowhere, he/she is hurled into a dangerous situation.

Again this is what I’ve tried to do with DEVIATION. Anna, a nurse, has just finished her shift. She heads for her car as she speaks to her partner and then her daughter on her mobile. She gets into her car about to drive off. Bang! A psychopath barges into her car, ties her hand to her seat: she is abducted.

Strong characters are of utter importance. Your protagonists have got to be people that we care for, feel for and love. If they are not, you are dead in the water. Who is going to care about someone who is unlikeable? Take Amber in DEVIATION. Who is going to give a flying monkey about her if she is introduced as some kind of dour, bossy and sarcastic head nurse?

As for your antagonists, they have to be scary. Really formidable. Would you be scared if you were kidnapped, terrorized, pursued by a Teletubby or a Womble or Mickey Mouse? Nope, I didn’t think so either.

Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, Annie Wilkes, Max Cady or Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci in GOODFELLAS) are the kind of characters you want. Would you like to be locked up in a room with them? I know I wouldn’t.

One word of caution though. Too many dangerous criminals I see in films tend to be a rehash of other movie psychopaths. Net result? They are so ‘unreal’ that they wouldn’t scare a 2 year old baby.

Without revealing too much about Danny Dyer’s character in DEVIATION, I based him on Raoul Moat (read and watched everything about him) and a real life ex-killer that I know. (He’s still alive so, out of respect, I am not going to name him. Also for those of you worried about my safety, he has gone straight a long time ago. Last time he killed was during a holiday in Cyprus. A pesky mosquito had the misfortune of entering my friend’s hotel room but I digress...!) Some other traits of his character were added after an extensive research into the sexuality of real-life psychopaths (Yep, I’ve got nothing to do with my time.)

Which are your personal favourite Thrillers and why?

THE HITCHER (the original!) had a great PRIMAL premise: young guy picks up a hitch-hiker and within minutes, the hitch hiker promises to kill him. And throughout the film, the hitcher – played by the suitably sinister Rutger Hauer – proves to be a formidable antagonist.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (the original). Yes, I know some see it as horror. However, one should also see it as a great thriller too. That bunch of young people were up against a seriously deranged man.

HALLOWEEN. Same thing. Sure, it had its horror moments but I see it mainly as a thriller as we watch young people in small town America being stalked by a psychopath on the run.

And of course, the wonderful BURIED. Now here’s a thriller that didn’t even have an antagonist. Well, maybe it has the semblance of an antagonist in the form of the Iraqi kidnapper but we never see him. However, this is a great example of bold screenwriting by Chris Sparling: a bloke wakes up and finds himself in a coffin, buried somewhere in Iraq during the Iraqi war. The result is not only terrifying but thrilling.

What are you working on at the moment?

Deviation, Deviation, Deviation! We are about to lock the picture edit and to proceed with the sound, grading, etc. Other than that, I am finishing a rewrite for a film which is due to go into production next month. If DEVIATION is a hit and I am allowed anywhere near a camera, I am also toying with a few ideas for my next film...

Monday, 14 March 2011

Deviation: New Shots From The Film

Great progress is being made on Deviation. There will be plenty of exciting announcements to come in the very near future, so thanks for watching this space and in the meantime, PLEASE let all your friends know all about the movie on Facebook and Twitter by sending the links and pics on and spreading the word.

Deviation was shot last year in November and December, two of the coldest months on record EVER, EVER. Team Devmov, not to mention our fab actors, braved the elements for the movie - so you better appreciate it! Of course, if you don't, we could always send Frankie after you all, like he went for poor Amber:

The unstoppable Danny Dyer might be the king of the indies, but you've never seen him like THIS. Frankie is a sick individual with a seriously warped view of the world, but he's also a character with layers - Frankie's NOT your classic 2D bogeyman. As Danny himself said, “Frankie is a complex guy, he’s not *just* a “psycho"... This guy is evil, but we can see why he’s ended up like this.” "Understandable" or not, I can't say I'd like to run into this fella down a dark alley:

Refreshingly, Amber does not identify with Frankie like *so many* thriller heroines - no Stockholm Syndrome here, thangyewverymuch (yawn!). In fact, she does all she can to get away, even appealing to outsiders for help like this chap here in the left of shot, Brian the Postman:

What happens, you say? Well that would be telling... But it's up to Amber, no one else, to rescue her! And about time too - we've had *quite* enough of sap heroines at Team Devmov. Here, earlier in the movie, Amber contemplates her fate as Frankie drives her in her OWN car across London:

So... What would you do if you were trapped in a car with a madman?

Hold that thought... imagine what Amber's going through. And what she MIGHT do in this movie.

Bet it's not what you expect.

Stay tuned! More photos and news very soon.


"Like" Deviation on Facebook - or suggest the page to your friends

Follow Devmov on Twitter - or RT/#FF to friends

Read producer Lara Greenway's blog here .

Read associate producer Lucy V Hay's blog here.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Frankie says... "Relax"? No Chance - GET YOUR LCWF TICKET HERE OR ELSE!

Team Deviation is supporting The London Screenwriters' Festival's new venture, The London Comedy Writers' Festival at Regent's College, April 9-10th, 2011.

Whilst Deviation is obviously NOT a comedy, what Team Devmov love about Team LSF is their ability to facillitate and encourage new writers and filmmakers as well as more established talent.

So do take a look at the events (London Screenwriters Festival's main event returns in October this year) and use discount code DEVMOV to get your £25 off tickets to April's Comedy Festival.

Don't make us send Frankie after you...!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Amber, The Character - Q & A with actress Anna Walton

You may still know her best as Princess Nuria in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, but this year we'll see Anna Walton explode on to our screens as Amber in Deviation.

Conceived as an "antidote" to all those sappy female characters who *deserve* to die in thrillers and horrors by writer/director JK Amalou, Amber is a real woman with real problems (not just the fact she's been kidnapped, either!). Anna dropped by for a quick chat with Team Devmov about what drew her to the character of Amber...

If you had to describe Amber in just three words, what would they be and why?

Able, Dogged and Resilient: because she is surprisingly resourceful even in the worst possible situation, has an animalistic determination to get back to her family and refuses to be beaten.

Do you have a favourite moment for Amber in the movie?

I have lots! I feel very proud to represent Amber as a character. I hope I would behave in the same way in the same situation, but you just never know until it happens to you. I like the physical moments, the fights... She's not a fighter, but she does a damn good job when she needs to. I think you can surprise yourself in a life and death situation. She finds a strength she never knew she possessed.

In real life you're a young mum like Amber. How did this help inform Amber's plight for you?

I believe parenthood is not something you can ever truly know until you are in it. The strength of love and the need to exist for somebody else, this is what makes Amber do whatever it takes to get away from Frankie.

Thanks Anna!

Get a flavour of Amber as a character and her plight in the movie via some of our "script snippets" we posted during Deviation's main shoot at the end of last year - read them all here.

Join the Deviation Facebook Page here for exclusive updates in the upcoming weeks you won't find here or elsewhere online! If you've already joined the page, then please suggest to your other friends. Many thanks!

Monday, 14 February 2011

All In A Day's Work

If you follow Deviation via Twitter or Facebook, you'll already know the edit has been coming along nicely, with several cuts done already.

However one of the big appeals of Deviation is the fact it's essentially a road movie/thriller in London - and writer/director JK Amalou has always wanted to create a script and subsequent movie that really does our fabulous Capital City justice, as do the rest of Team Deviation.

With that in mind then, everyone was out yesterday filming "cutaways" (that's film speak for extra shots), looking for vistas and shots. There were also some weather inconsistencies thanks to the snow back in November/December (ouch!), so there was part of a scene to film as well, though this time Anna and Danny (Danna? haha) were not needed.

Did it go well?

"We had some driving POV (point of view) shots to film, but the rain made sure that didn't happen," says producer Lara Greenway, "But I got to double as Anna and our fab graphic designer James Simmons doubled as Danny though in the car, so it's all good."

Anything else?

"Well, I got to bring out my SFX make up skills!" Lara smiles, "Though I thought I was still wearing it this morning, only to discover lots of REAL bruises! Never a dull moment."

Team Dev are out again in force filming again this weekend, so wish them luck!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Results Are In!

First off, thanks SO MUCH to everyone who entered the contest and voted in the poll - over 500 individual votes, with 1000+ votes total was an AMAZING response and beyond our wildest expectations!

Of the Deviant-generated taglines then, Stecyc Lukes wins with "Red, Amber, Dead" (377 votes) and ALSO occupies second place in the poll with "A journey with no red lights... only Amber" (371 votes).

Steyc operated a tireless one-woman assault across Facebook for her taglines (check out her pic, above!), so she's a much deserved winner. Steyc wins a subscription to Moviescope Magazine courtesy of the fabulous Rinaldo, plus a Screenwriters' Pocketbook, thanks to The London Screenwriters Festival.

Of the nine runners-up, there were further duplications (probably should have thought of that in advance, haha!) so in the interests of fairness we've taken each runners up FIRST, most-voted for tagline, then looked to the next new name in the poll. Results are as follows*:

- Maggie Thompson, "London's burning... rubber" (146 votes)
- Rifaht Aktar, "One survivor, two journeys" (142 votes)
- Sammi Lukes, "One long drive, two can't survive" (140 votes)
- Derek Wright, "Being of sound mind & body can be hard in London" (139 votes)
- Hummy Ackles, "Nursing is a deadly profession" (136 votes)
- Johnny Griffith, "She's used to saving other people's lives... tonight she must save her own" (59 votes)
- Nicky Weller, "Face your fear before your fear faces you!" (18 votes)
- Chrissy Brizzle, "His escape route is her ride home. Only one will make it alive"(16 votes)
- Harriet Barbir, "Snatched, latched, dispatched. It can be murder getting home." (13 votes)

All the runners up receive a Screenwriters' Pocketbook.

*IMPORTANT NOTE: Could all Deviants listed here please send an email (Bang2writeATaolDOTcom) or Facebook message detailing their postal address to associate producer Lucy V Hay by the end of this week (Friday Feb 11th) so we can co-ordinate the sending out of the pocketbooks ASAP. Thanks!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Nobody Panic... Yet

We've had a few enquiries from tagline comp entrants about the poll in the last few days. It would appear certain entries are "losing" votes somehow and I'm also wondering how so many other entries can have over a hundred votes, when the highest I've seen the counter total go up to (so far) is 260! (Clearly, something is going awry somewhere - whether it's the counter total or the entries' individual counters on the latter issue).

Obviously, we're really sorry about this glitch and can assure you I'm monitoring the situation. *Hopefully* it will right itself in the next few days and there's still seven days left... I did notice all was fine at approximately 7am yesterday for about an hour (!), so with a bit of luck the poll should sort itself out in the next week.

Just so you know: unfortunately, I have no access to the actual poll, 'cos it's an add-on/gadget thing from Blogger itself. I have however contacted Blogger to ask them about it and find out if it's a "known" issue and if there's anything specific I can do about it.

Thank you for bearing with us and best of luck to all the entrants. Keep on campaigning for your taglines!

Monday, 24 January 2011

VOTE NOW for #Devcomp Taglines

As you'll see on the right hand sidebar of this blog, the #Devcomp taglines are now available to vote for! [NOTE: if you view this blog via a reader, you will need to go to in order to make your selection].

Many, many thanks to all the entrants - we got a WHOPPING 64 entries total for the competition, plus quite a few more besides that I either couldn't enter on the basis of tone/story or were deliberately "jokey" entries. Most of the entries came in via Twitter - approx 40 or so - with the rest via Facebook and only THREE email entries. Interesting!

Don't forget there is a Moviescope Magazine subscription for the winner, plus a London Screenwrites Festival Screenwriting Pocketbook for the winner, plus a pocketbook for nine runners up too, so please DO be generous and vote for those taglines you think are the best/most appropriate to the movie as you see it.

Voters have more than one vote. PLEASE DO vote for your own if you want to - and DO canvass others to vote for yours via your own blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. All's fair in love and er, taglines! Also, please do feel free to offer constructive feedback to the entrants in the comments section.

Voting closes at 5pm on Friday, February 4th 2011. Looking forward to seeing who wins!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

And The Beat Goes On...

Just a short note to let you all know we're LOVING the taglines that have been pouring in via Facebook & Twitter in response to our #devcomp.

We've had some great ones so far, both in the thrillery tone of the contest (where the taglines have proved both imaginative and varied), as well as those "just for fun", including:

Danny Dyer gives this woman the ride of her life *snigger* - Kevin Lehane


*Sat Nav Voice* In 200 yards... die - Andrew J Carter

Very naughty boys! Ha ha...

Interestingly, most of the entries so far have come in via Twitter, with Facebook bringing up the rear... Only ONE email entry this week! Proving perhaps social networks are *the* place to be for writers and our fellow deviants?

For all the details on #devcomp and how you can submit a tagline, click here. The deadline isn't until Friday Jan 21st, it's FREE and you can have two entries per person. Good luck!

Friday, 7 January 2011

DEVIATION Tagline Competition

So, finally: it's *that* time for the announcement we've been mentioning on our Facebook and Twitter pages all week.

Deviation is pleased to announce a Tagline Competition. The brief is simple:

Create a tagline for DEVIATION. The tagline must reflect the tone of Deviation the movie, which is a dark thriller. For more information on Deviation and its characters, make sure you check out our round up of all the posts and articles about this film online, here.

The fab Rinaldo from Moviescope Magazine is offering a subscription to the winner of this contest and fellow deviant Chris Jones of The London Screenwriters' Festival has offered up ten Screenwriters' Pocketbooks: one for the winner and another for a whopping NINE runners up! Thanks guys!

Deadline for entries is 5pm, Friday 21st January and entrants may enter 2 taglines only. After this date, all qualifying taglines will be uploaded to this blog in the form of a poll and all you Deviants will have chance to vote for the winner!

NB. Entry must be via Twitter* or the Deviation Facebook page only wherever possible; all entries must be marked on both Twitter and FB with the hashtag #devcomp to be considered. If you have no Twitter or FB account, you can send the entry to Associate Producer Lucy V on Bang2writeATaolDOTcom, but please make sure DEVCOMP is in the subject line. *Please note Twitterati: you needn't take up extra space by adding either @devmov or @Bang2write into your tweets, just add the #devcomp hashtag & we will see it!

This is a writers' opportunity, so make sure you tell EVERYONE you know who is into the scribe thing! Please spread the word via your own blogs and social networks.


For anyone who doesn't know, a tagline is that little sentence or sentences you find on the movie poster or the DVD box. Famous examples include "In space, no one can hear you scream" (Alien); "They're here..." (Poltergeist) and "Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free." (The Shawshank Redemption). Find more examples of movie taglines in this huge list.

For more the more advanced screenwriters out there, please note we are NOT looking for loglines. If you're not sure of the difference between a tagline and a logline, please read this article.

If you have any further queries, please tweet us or leave a msg on our FB wall. Before you do however, please check out the terms and conditions below, as there is a strong chance they may answer your questions.


1) Deadline 5pm, Friday 21st January, 2011; maximum 2 entries per person and the tagline must reflect the tone/genre of Deviation the movie.
2) There is no charge for this contest.
3) Winner will be picked after the 21st January by the readers of the Deviation blog and social networks via a poll, which will be hosted here.
4) Entries must be made via Twitter and the Deviation Facebook page; entries posted in the comments section of this blog, on any other blog or social networking page (including those of the producers' of Deviation movie) will not be counted.
5) For non-social networkers ONLY: please send entries to Lucy V Hay on Bang2writeATaolDOTcom with DEVCOMP in the subject line of the email.
6) Tweets and FB wall posts must be hashtagged #devcomp to be counted as part of the contest.
7) Joke taglines are welcome, but will not be counted as part of the contest.
8) Taglines limited to the size of a tweet incorporating #devcomp or the allowed 420 characters on the Facebook wall, including the hashtag #devcomp. Those longer or without the hashtag are disqualified.
9) The tagline must not be a logline.
10) Good luck!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Round Up & Roll Up

So shooting of Deviation finished just before Christmas, but you haven't seen the last of us yet. In fact, in the days to come there will be an exciting opportunity for the writers amongst you - keep watching the Deviation Facebook page or follow Devmov on Twitter to stay in the loop and watch out for announcements.

In the meantime then, here is a round up of all the Deviation news and links in one place for your delectation - don't forget to check out this blog and our social network for more details too, including the ever-active producer of Deviation, Lara Greenway and the Hyper-tweeter associate producer Lucy V Hay, who can also be found here and here too. JOIIIIIIN UUUUUUUUSSSSSSSS!!!


From Live For Films on 23/11/2010 Details of Danny Dyer's new film, DEVIATION

From Write Here, Write Now on 24/11/2010 DEVIATION Update

From Scriptwriting In The UK on 24/11/2010 A rundown by Danny Stack of the filmmakers and doers in the Blogosphere, including DEVIATION

From Screen Daily on 27/11/2010 Danny Dyer Makes Psychological Thriller DEVIATION

From Cineropa on 27/11/2010 Danny Dyer takes DEVIATION [Also aggregated by Cafe Babel and Newsodrome]

From Phill Barron's Blog on 27/11/2010 DEVIATION

From The Bournemouth Echo on 04/12/2010 Bournemouth Graduate Gets Job On New Danny Dyer Film

From Live For Films on 06/12/2010 Danny Dyer Has A Big Tattoo In DEVIATION

From Dom's World on 07/12/2010 Danny Dyer - DEVIATION

From The Chris Jones Blog on 17/12/2010 A Writer's Guide To Getting Your First Feature Film Produced

From Live For Films on 17/12/2010 DEVIATION wraps in time for Christmas

Plenty more where these came from, too! Watch this space or join us on Facebook or Twitter.