Saturday, 10 December 2016

'Agents In Odd' - Pilot's Third Draft complete (11/12/2016)

The third version of 'In Red, There's Doom' was completed on Friday. I like how it's been shaping up, adding more dimension to the characters, as well as enhancing the mystery of the old house and the bizarre 'red room'.

The game plan, moving forward, is to do a fourth pass circa after New Year, and then perhaps a fifth before even considering doing the pitching rounds again. I learnt a lot from what happened with the various 'Miracles' pilots, and aim to at least avoid making similar errors and really having a fully polished piece to present.

I also did another production vlog on the subject, and what´s ahead, so check that out here.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

'Agents In Odd' - Read the former V.S.T Pilot, 'Time of Miracles' (19/11/2016)

Yes, been a while, but rest assured, A.I.O is proceeding very nicely and should have more work down through the new year.

Meanwhile, you can now read the final V.S.T incarnation of the series pilot, The Time of Miracles:

More details on the how and why on DA.

Monday, 17 October 2016

'Agents In Odd' - Pilot Undergoing Second Draft (17/10/2016)

First, yes, I abbreviated the title of the show. Wanted to make it a little snappier.

Now, onto the important stuff: a second draft of the new pilot, In Red There's Doom, is about to get underway, once I do the evaluation. I aim to get this knocked out in about a week or so, and really expand on the core premise, heavily rooted in real psychology concerning colour, as well as amp up the thrills within a confined location.
I truly do feel reinvigorated and very inspired by the long overdue change up of ideas. Hopefully, it will stay strong.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

'Very Strange Things', Retitled (6/10/2016)

So, after a good near two years, the time has finally come: the series needs a name change.

Firstly, because a certain Netflix show has a very similar title, which just won't fly with potential producers, and second, because honestly, the title is a little on the vague side. Very Strange Things just doesn't sound terribly exciting, and it's not even that clear as to what the show aspires to be. In children's programming, you want something attractive and informative, letting them know what they are in for and if that interests them.

The series will now be called Agents In Oddities. Work on the first draft of the new pilot, now titled In Red, There's Doom, began on Monday, and I aim to get more done over the coming weeks. More updates are to come.

Monday, 12 September 2016

'Very Strange Things' - Rethink, Reduce, Rewrite (12/9/2016)

Well, after sometime, it's time for another update. So, after a much needed rest over in Spain, I had a chance to really re-evaluate the project and especially, the pilot. For sometime now, even after all the rewrites and effort, something hadn´t been sitting right with me concerning the Miracles story. It had a lot of elements I really liked, and felt it gave a clear indication of what kind of show I wanted to create, but its Achilles heel was that, as the scope increased, so would a potential budget.

So now, I needed to find a story that was imaginative, yet far more cost effective and more friendly towards potential studios and production companies. I´m currently hammering out a treatment for a contained story concerning a phantom vehicle that should up the suspense, the mystery and the investigative prowess of our leads. I will also not be as madly focused on it as I had been with the many versions of Miracles. Instead, I will work on it more gradually, properly shaping and honing it to my standards in order to make it stronger.

Updates will be coming...

Sunday, 31 July 2016

'Very Strange Things' - A Temporary Hiatus (1/8/2016)

Yes, it saddens me to say this, but well, everyone needs a break in order to straighten out priorities and be able to then approach something near and dear with new eyes.

Work on Very Strange Things, pilot and active pitching, will go on a temporary hiatus while I sort out some other, more pressing personal matter, as well as tie up some other projects I'm working on to give me the room to tackle this. Now before anyone panics, no this is not over and no, I'm not going on some year long break: this is only for maybe a month or two, until autumn, until I straighten a few other things out first.

Plus, I've worked on this pretty consistently for close to a year, and I feel a little burned out by it. There's still something a little amiss with the pilot, I can't quite put my finger on what, and it needs more work. So anyway, thanks for regularly stopping by and I'll see you all very soon.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Doctor Who: Time Shadows - Charity Anthology On Sale Now! (28/6/16)

So while I work away on a few things, here's some other news relating to my burgeoning career as a writer:
After several months of hard work, delays and personal to-dos, Time Shadows, the unofficial, unauthorized Doctor Who short-story anthology for the benefit of the Enable Community Foundation, is now available for order! Enjoy a collection of 25 fun, dark or wild tales with all twelve Doctors, from a variety of veteran and new authors to the franchise (including Daleks' mainstay John Peel and myself, Abel Diaz), all connected by an over arcing story giving the anthology its name, starring Twelve and Clara. It also comes with a foreword from Gary Russell, an accomplished Who author (Scales of Injustice, Divided Loyalties) and script editor during the Davies era.

My own story is a fun little sci-fi western called Iron Joe, starring temperamental old Six and his steadfast American companion, Peri. Naturally I won't spoil much, just give you the little blurb:
The Sixth Doctor and Peri are aboard the recently inaugurated Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. However, the train is soon assailed by bandits, including one whose legend has spread all over the west. An unstoppable man of metal known only as “Iron Joe”.

Get your copy here and support a really good cause for the physically impaired and disabled. Every penny counts and we are beyond grateful for it and the lives you help make a difference to:

Thanks again and hope you enjoy our collective labour's fruits,



Monday, 6 June 2016

'Very Strange Things' - The 'Odd' Summer That Never Was (6/6/2016)

Now while business is a little slow on the pitching front,I figured it's time to delve back into some development history and talk about some of the behind the scenes with regards to the first major push for production, back in summer 2014 when CBBC were casting their net out for new children's series pitches. Back then, as longtime followers will know, VST was called The Oddities Bureau, and the pilot was The Black Bells, a story about a cursed abbey and a demonic monk.

Okay, so slight retreading there, but it's simply to ground the following: as it was being evaluated by the higher ups at the Beeb, I decided in my youthful hubris to begin assembling a rough writing team of colleagues and friends to start developing scripts for the series.They were all writers and I believed, for some peculiar reason, that it would save time later if I developed some more episodes in advance. Whether I saw this as security or perhaps a means of extra leverage if I ever got a chance to pitch or even contest the ultimate verdict, I can't recall but I called up four friends, two from University and two acquaintances from my Youtubing and got to work.

The basic plan was simple enough: I would write Episodes 1 and 2, opening the first half of the then series, while my team would write the other four leading up to the twist halfway through concerning Dan's real origins. I won't disclose their names publicly, but I allocated a general summary of the story for them to expand on, based on their prior strengths:
  • Episode 3, Judge Death, would've gone to someone who had a strong taste for comic books as I felt the story had a very comic book-y premise, as well as someone who had an understanding of striking imagery given his love of animation.
  • Episode 4, Beast From Ha-Des, went to the youngest writer of the group, someone who had a strong taste for kaiju and mecha, and so would be a perfect fit for a story about a stolen giant military cyborg.
  • Episode 5, The Fourth Pyramid, would've gone to the oldest of the four, himself an avid fantasy adventure fan with a mutual interest in Doctor Who whom i felt got the kind of story I was aiming for.
  • Episode 6, Sins of  A Father, would've gone to the only female in the group as I felt she was very much about character drama/emotion, and was the least fantastical story of the bunch, easing her in a little bit more to the show.

So, as stated before, while the judging was going on I left for Spain to enjoy some time off. Cut to a few weeks later, and not only has the project been rejected, but  out of the four, only one was working on the episode I had allocated them. This is not intended as any sort of smearing or insult against them, rather I'm just stating what happened: the writer for 6 responded late and said she was interested but busy with other projects, and a similar deal happened with the writer of 3. Then, 5's writer had also got caught up in personal business and voiced some issues he had with the pitch, and 4's was the only one who delivered a near complete first draft and, to be quite frank and he agreed with me, it wasn't very good. It was tonally all over the map, too ambitious for the likely budget, had some very awkward commentary on the Middle East shoved in and felt more American than British in flavour.

Ultimately, what had happened was a combination of poor communication between myself and everyone else, as well as being a little bigheaded and counting my chickens before they hatched, especially with an organization like the BBC. I was too impatient and didn't really try to sit down as much as I should've with my writers to really accommodate them with what I was asking them for. This is a critical element of team work, especially when it is both unpaid and speculative, and I felt I hadn't respected that enough. It was, ultimately, a humbling experience.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

'Very Strange Things' - Pilot feedback from Hurricane (19/5/2016)

Another month, another bit of professional feedback, this time from a British production company, Hurricane Films. So, let's have a gander, hmm? 

The story is very intriguing and uses both the genre types well, also the idea of a animated crime story is interesting. The pilot gives us enough information to want to watch the series to learn more about the Angel and the Plague Doctor. However some of the conclusions the characters come to are a bit out of the blue as we don not spend much time with 'evidence. Some of the dialogue was a little cheesy and some parts of the story were predictable. this pilot is effective in not giving away to much to begin with and seems like the story would develop as the series continues, but you should be careful to keep some simplicity as it would be easy for this script to become confusing.  

Hope this is helpful to you.

Naturally, will keep this on mind as I continue with the process of rewrites. Who knows? Maybe it won't be long before we're on a roll again...

Thursday, 28 April 2016

'Very Strange Things' - Slow Right Now (28/4/2016)

Yes yes, it's been a while. Alas, real life sometimes must take precedence over one's dreams and delusions of grandeur...

So, what's the status? Right now, it's a whole lot of waiting and seeing. Dear old Luke has his hands full, so it'll be decidedly dry on the concept art front for a while, and right now the V.S.T bible and pilot are being reviewed by about four different production companies, having just been declined by another two in the last week, including one over in Canada. It's also been submitted to Amazon Studios twice, who after a good while each time (almost two weeks the first, and just under a week the second), decided not to pursue it either.

However, these do not deter me and are the simple realities of wanting to work in the industry. Rejection is simply another part of the process, and I remain optimistic as ever. In the meantime, I've been contacting various production companies from writing work, and if you'd like to learn more about my other creative endeavours, visit my main blog here. Most recently I attended a fun little workshop for musicals, and have a few other things on the boil.

2016 will prove to quite an interesting year, if all goes well...

Friday, 18 March 2016

'Very Strange Things' - Concept art for Leads, Revised 1 (18/3/2016)

The round of rewrites on Miracles is complete, with another due to begin before too long (always refining, after all). In the meantime, I've engaged the incomparable Luke Ceranic to once again draw more concept art, this time experimenting with different styles for the show as well as being more conscious of animation budget and demands.

Here's the first such test:

This one is decidedly on the cuter side, built from more basic shapes and reining in the details. Not bad, in my humble view, but a bit at odds tonally with the show's more edgier, dynamic content, perhaps being a little too round.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

'Very Strange Things' - Rewrites begin Anew (8/3/2016)

So, taking cues from recent feedback, as well as my meeting with Alan Robinson, I decided to begin the fourth (now probably fifteenth or sixteenth overall) rewrite of Time of Miracles, the show's pilot. The emphasis will be mainly on reduction, cutting out unneeded 'fat and bloat' from the script, such as overlong or overcomplicated action, any rambling dialogue, excessive detail in the action lines that doesn't help the animator or the storytelling and anything that may hinder making a good first impression.

This should take no more than a few days, maybe three or four, alongside some recent punch ups I've done to the series bible.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

'Very Strange Things' - Meeting with Alan Robinson and State of Affairs (23/2/2016)

Today, after over half a year of emails, chase ups and general finger crossing, I was finally able to meet creative head honcho Alan from DotToDot Productions to discuss Very Strange Things. We met up at Turnham Green and over a drink at a local pub, discussed the project (albeit based on an older version of the pilot, from the Town era, and series bible) and its viability. Rather than beefy paragraphs, I'll nice and easily break down the key points, pros and cons of V.S.T. in his eyes and what the future will hold.

So first, his positives:
  1. Loved the pilot's writing, citing it as exciting, filled with plenty of description that would suit animation, funny and certainly distinct in the present market. Thought our leads were fun to be around and liked the ambition of the piece.
  2. Liked the episode variety and general writing of the series bible, feeling it gave a good all around look on the series and what it had to offer.
  3. Admired the thematic ambition of the show, being able to walk the line between fun adventure and something more emotional and grounded.
And now, the drawbacks:
  1. Its arc heavy nature put it at a disadvantage in the current animation market. Broadcasters prefer more standalone material that is easier to syndicate and schedule without worries for continuity. The sudden shift mid series towards historicals as well as the multi-parters would present a problem to this.
  2. Expense: A low budget animated series is about £3 million. Very Strange Things, as a generous estimate, needs at least £7 million to get off the ground, and broadcasters will only provide about £1.5 million of the total finance, if that.
  3. Felt the art style of the concept art was a little too much like manga and needed to be more unique.
  4. Felt perhaps the episode count (12 then, 18 now) was a little insubstantial and would compound the first issue, exacerbated by the multi-parters limiting potential stories.
From that, Alan proposed a couple of possible ideas of where to take the series:
  1. Keep on pitching to production companies, albeit with a low potential success rate given the obstacles. Look into more streaming services where concerns about broadcast schedule are all but non-existent.
  2. Turn it into a webseries, thereby retaining creative control and building an early fanbase.
  3. Turn it into a series of novels, thereby also retaining creative control and building both a fanbase and clout for the series to then be adapted back into animation.
Oh sure, it's disappointing that this wasn't a green light, but regardless, this was still a very informative and interesting engagement and it helped me get a real sense of what I was going up against from someone who lives and works right in the thick of it. The challenge and expense, though I anticipated some kind, is perhaps a little higher than I had assumed. Naturally, I will be taking onboard Alan's pointers, even if some have been addressed in subsequent rewrites when Town became Time.

That being said, the decision to adapt V.S.T. into alternate mediums, while up for consideration, is one I will not make lightly and until I feel I have exhausted all other resources. I feel very strongly V.S.T. belongs on screens and while it will be very hard,I'm afraid of the challenge ahead of me.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

'Very Strange Things' - Pilot feedback from Ireland (4/2/2016)

Another slice of professional feedback, this time from an Ireland-based company, and with an amusing little detail that does elicit a little embarrassment mixed with humour. Ah well, live and learn.
Dear Abel,
Sorry for the delay in replying to you about your script for ‘Very Strange Things’ which I have now read. It isn’t the sort of project we would make here at Calon as we tend to mainly produce series for pre-school audiences (Hana’s Helpline, Igam Ogam etc) but I thought your script was very well-written and well-paced with some nice characterization and concise, crisp dialogue. 

I don’t want to be a pedant but there’s a small typo where Jim becomes Tim around page 5. It’s refreshing to see such a professional script and you obviously have a talent for writing action. Your villain is also very distinctive and that is always a plus!

Good luck with your project in the future, etc. etc.

Definitely on a roll now with these two responses, and some potential offers on the horizon. 2016 is already proving to be an interesting year...

Saturday, 30 January 2016

'Very Strange Things' - Moving into a New Year plus pilot feedback (31/1/2016)

So then, this update is perhaps a tad later than it ought to have been, at least half of it anyway: 2016 has just begun and already it's been something of a whirlwind for me in terms of my personal life and affairs. Of course, it also presents fresh opportunities to keep on pushing V.S.T and get it seen out there. I am committed 220% to this whole enterprise, and what steps forward were taken last year I intend to improve upon and when I finally have my foot in the door, wrench it open.

Indeed, within just the past two weeks, I've been getting quite a fair number of responses from various production I've contacted: most amount to the expected 'thanks but not now' or 'we're too busy' bits which is completely understandable, though thankfully, I've gotten a rather bountiful trove from one Birmingham based house (who did I won't give away because confidentiality), but wrote this after having evaluated V.S.T's pilot and series bible. I feel it important to put up not just for archival purposes but also to show others working on their own series' where I hit and where I missed:

Dear Abel

Thanks for sending in your series bible for ‘Very Strange Things’ and thank you also for being patient in waiting for a response.

In short I liked the relationship between Dan, Risa and Heidi and thought the premise was full of adventure and appeal for a young audience. 

I have to be honest before I go any further and say that I think the format and scope of the production is a little beyond what we can comfortably accommodate here at Second Home.

That said, I’d like to impart some thoughts on the bible.

The sample script was pacy and had lots to pull you in and keep reading. The scope of seasons 1-3 sees some dramatic character change and conflict developing. when you mentioned about your sketches at the beginning, I was hoping to see some visual accompaniment to the proposal. I’d also consider changing the name. Given the epic scope and drama, ‘Very Strange Things’ seems a bit too weak a title to stamp this with. I’d suggest ‘Section 29 or something which includes ‘Bureau’ in the title. The one USP I think it has going for it is all the historical reference. 
If you look at something like ‘Go Jetters’ (pre-school I know) there’s an obvious geography lesson being told under the guise of disco lights and colourful antics! I think there’s something similar here in terms of dealing with historical events. It’s also not enough to say that this is an ‘adventure series for all ages’. If you want broadcasters to take you seriously then know your audience, be bold and name an age bracket. If a show then spills across age boundaries once on air, then so much the better. It also didn’t become clear to me initially about the obvious time-travelling aspect to this until I started reading the episode synopses. Mention this in your introduction as a selling point, rather than ‘who combat all sorts of bizarre villains and phenomena.

If you’re able to work up some visual designs/concepts to accompany this then great. Even in a rough form, they can be passed to a more experience concept artist for more detailed rendering.

I hope that proves constructive. And generally I liked it a lot. Keep going, you’ve got something in there.

Kind regards etc. etc.

That's probably the most thorough critique of my work I've received in.... oooh, a fair while. Naturally, I intend to mediate and see how I can work in this person's suggestion and keep on refining my material. Except the time travel bit. Don't know where that came from...