Dr Zeno's Pigs

The opening to a novel which is a spoof of the film ‘Apocalypse Now’.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, to be a pig

Sometime in the future


West Riding

Two feet splash through dirty shallow water as a young man in his twenties flees for his life. He struggles to stay upright as his feet slide on stones beneath the water. Soon he is out of the river and onto the safety of the bank. He tries to keep on running but eventually loses his grip in a marshy field. He stumbles to the ground, breathless.

The sound of the helicopters are louder, closer. He looks around to see if he can see them. With all his strength he struggles to his feet and tries to keep himself upright and moving.

The helicopters approach over a distant hill he has recently scrambled over. If he is to get away from them he needs somewhere to hide. He looks around; to his left a pine forest offered what might be his best chance of survival. It was a fifty yards away, his heart sinks, it seems miles away. He takes a deep breath and yanks himself into action and heads for the security of the forest. After a few yards he falls over, picks himself up but is soon on the floor again. He attempts to get a foothold but slips back into a pool of mud.

The helicopters close in on him. In the distance he can hear dogs bark; they approach from the opposite side of the field.

He picks himself up, crawls over a wire fence. He staggers toward the comfort of the trees and slumps against a giant pine. The ground is wet but he is too tired to stand or crouch. He slumps to the floor and prays they do not find him. To his left the dogs bark louder, to his right the sound of a helicopter which hovers above the fence where he entered the forest.

A line is thrown out of a side door of the helicopter and four armed men in red jumpsuits drop to the ground. They immediately see their prey and close in.

The young man is too weak to put up any meaningful fight and is grabbed by two men. Within minutes they drag him along the floor and throw him into the back of the helicopter. The side door is quickly closed as the helicopter takes off.


      After thirty minutes in the air the helicopter makes a low level approach toward an eighteenth century country house. It flies over a high metal perimeter fence and then over armed guards who control access to the house. As the helicopter comes into land in the middle of a court yard men and women in medical uniform rush toward it. The young man, now unconscious and strapped down to a stretcher, is off loaded and taken into the house. One of the female medical staff inserts an intravenous drip into his arm.

Once inside the building the unconscious body of the young man is moved to an operating trolley and pushed quickly down a corridor; on both sides are rooms which hold pigs in aluminum pens, only one pig to a pen. The rooms are bathed in white light, clinical, spotless. The staff who work in these rooms can often be heard muttering, ‘you can eat your dinner off the floor.’ There is not a single piece of dust, dirt or blood on any of the surfaces.

The young man on the trolley is quickly wheeled into Theatre One where a team of surgeons and nurses wait for him.

The leather straps which bind him are undone and in a single move he is moved from the trolley onto the operating table.

A tall unshaven medical assistant looks at the young man’s medical notes, ‘the kid works as a lawyer’ he says, then flicks through a couple of pages of the medical notes.

‘A lawyer doesn’t need a heart,’ says the surgeon, who then makes a few hasty cuts into young man’s chest. His hands move with the speed of a butcher in a shop. His bedside manner would not have been out of place in the days of Roman Britain. No one in the room is under any illusion that the health and safety of the patient is important.

There is the sound of cutting and then a long squelch; finally the surgeon’s blood smeared hands pull out the young man’s heart. The surgeon smiles as he turns to the nurse with the beating bleeding heart firmly in his hand.

‘Get this on ice immediately.’

She moves confidently toward him but suddenly trips and falls into the back of the surgeon. The heart flies out of his hands and spins through the air like an American football. It seems to fly in slow motion; spins, turns and unfortunately loses height.

In his haste to regain a grip on the heart the surgeon knocks over the bag of ice which is there to keep it at a regular temperature. Other members of the medical team also slip on ice cubes.

‘Catch it,’ screams the nurse.

The surgeon pushes one of the male nurses out of the way so that he can get to the heart.

‘Leave it to me!’, he yells to his subordinates.

The heart flies for a few more yards before it lands with a soft squelchy noise on the floor. In his haste the surgeon slips on a stray ice cube and falls on top the heart squashing it completely. The male medical assistant lets out a cry of despair, a nurse screams.

Oh no, oh no, oh no…’ whispers the surgeon as blood trickles from his cut mouth.


Washington DC, USA

      Three thousand air miles away the Stars and Stripes flutter in a warm breeze. The White House, a strong emblem of a great nation, stands proud and defiant since the day it was built in seventeen hundred and ninety-two. A symbol of absolute power which has been ready for anything which the cruel world can throw at it.

Inside is a conscientious President who serves his country well, who meets Triumph and Disaster and treats those two impostors just the same; though during the last few months he is not quite as fit as the American people have been led to believe. His future, his life, now firmly rests with the efforts and medical help from a friendly nation. He is a man in need of a new heart …

An ill looking President Rush in bed. He looks older than his fifty years of age. He is know as man who thinks like a forty year old but moves like an eighty year old. Two nurses help the President sit up. One of the nurses straightens his pajama jacket, he doesn’t like her fussing and gently pushes her away.

A Black American, Tina Johnson, mid forties, runs into the bedroom clutching a piece of paper. She has been close to the President since the first day of the Primaries. She looks worried. In her haste one of the heels on her shoes breaks. With great difficulty she tries to prevent herself from falling onto the President’s bed but fails. The President and his two nurses wince as Tina hits the foot of the bed and slumps to the floor.

‘Mr. President, we have a problem,’ she says, as she pulls herself off the carpet.

‘Tina,’ barks the President, ’the whole world has a problem.’

He grabs at the television remote control by the side of his bed and presses a button. The widescreen on the wall flashes into life.

‘You’re going to watch the news?’ Tina asks, ‘when did you last have a briefing?’

‘This morning but I didn’t like what I heard.’

A newsreader, with a Texan accent and a grim expression, brings the American public up to date: “Today the World is in panic as the Human Heart Virus spreads” booms out from the television set.

A gasp rumbles around the President’s bedroom.

‘Damn it!’ The President shrugs, then throws a book at the TV.

A fast paced montage of images from around the world are shown on the news programme accompanied by stern matter of fact reporters from various locations.

A young female reporter dressed in a bear skin suit struggles to keep her balance in a snow storm and shouts into her microphone,”in Alaska today it was reported that an Eskimo who was fishing by a hole in the ice cap had a heart attack and fell through the ice.”

A male fresh faced reporter in a smart suit stands by the London Eye and delivers his piece to camera, ‘many dealers are going down with heart problems and the stock market is crashing……’

‘Not much change there…’ mumbles the President.’

The news programme cuts back to the studio presenter, “The heart virus is believed to be caused by the wheat in bread, millions of people could be affected.”

People burning bread in India appear on the screen.

The President cries out, ‘Enough, enough …’ he turns to Tina, ‘call a meeting in the Situation Room.’


         The oval shaped desk which dominates the Situation Room is surrounded by men and a few women. A couple of the men remove their jackets, they look like they have only had a few hours of sleep between them; one or two of the women, all heels and skirts, stagger into the room as if they just got out of bed.  A White House photographer works the room grabbing all the public relation shots he can get. Most of the men have discarded their ties, many of them have furrowed brows, worry lines are in sharp focus. One of the women thinks about adding a touch more make up but decides it can wait. Briefing papers litter the desk, glasses with water are scattered around files marked ‘Top Secret.’ The TV screens which adorn the walls are all black save one. On the wall opposite the President’s seat a large screen shows a twenty-four hour news feed from World News Channel. On the screen a news anchor reads news no one wants to hear; the TV sound is off.

The President drums a fast beat on the table with his fingers, a slight exasperated look on his face. A Doctor enters the room, slightly embarrassed that he is late. He gives a childish smile to everyone in the room before making his way to the head of the table.

‘Late again, Henry,’ the President smirks, ‘you’ll be late for your own honeymoon.’

The doctor quickly opens his medical bag and takes out a stethoscope. The President opens his pajama jacket and the doctor listens to his heart. You could hear a pin drop then the silence is broken by a crash as one of the men knocks over his glass of water. The President gives the offender a stern look. The doctor continues to listen.

‘Sir, you’re all right for a while but try to take it easy.’

Tina enters the room. She has changed her clothes and looks a million dollars. All the other women hate her. She carries a large folder and has several documents in her hands. One of the men gives her a certain look. She knows what he wants but is not prepared to sacrifice a single kiss for a mere West Wing speech writer.

Tina approaches the President.

‘Sir, the heart which had been reserved for you has…met with an accident.’

‘What the hell happened?’

‘They gave it…’ Tina puts on a brave face, ‘to a young British guy by mistake.’

The President looks exasperated, ‘So, get it back….’

‘They tried that…’


Tina shuffles on her feet and prepares herself for a critical blast from the President then thinks it might be better to withhold the truth.

‘You don’t want to know the rest.’

The doctor steps forward with a sense of urgency.

‘Sir, a better option would be a transplant of a pig’s heart.’

At that moment an overweight man clutching an extra large salad sandwich breezes into the room. He looks deeply harassed, no tie, shirt sleeves rolled up, a cigar tucked behind his ear.

“Robert!’, the President smiles as the tie-less man grabs a seat, ‘Thank God you’re here. Give me all you’ve got.’

Robert breathes deeply, he slowly gets his breath back then hesitates.

‘Sir, the supply of pig’s hearts….’ Robert clears his throat and takes another breath, ‘the pig’s hearts for transplants has run dry. All the pigs in the USA have been affected by a clinical malfunction …’

The President slams his right hand hard down onto the table. All the White Staff jump as the President’s hand hits the desk.

‘So, fix it!’

‘Sir, they’re working on it.’ Robert shuffles the documents in his hand and passes a piece of paper to the President, ‘my guys have located a good source of pigs hearts and heart stem cells. They’re held by a Dr. Zeno …..’

The President glances at the paper, looks up at his staff, ‘where the hell is West Riding?’

‘England,’ replies Tina.

The President passes the paper to the doctor who then hands it back to Robert.

‘Robert,’ the President stands and paces up and down, ‘is this the best the CIA can come up with?’ He turns on the doctor.

‘What about Gorilla’s hearts you were playing around with? You did the first transplant two years ago…what happened to him?’

‘Well, it didn’t quite …’ stutters the doctor.

The President holds up both his hands, ‘Stop! ‘I’m tired of hearing about failure.’

The President looks at his CIA Chief.

‘Robert, you had a lab in Argentina messing about with Kangaroo hearts …’

‘Don’t ask Mr. President…..’

The sound of a door slammed shut somewhere in the West Wing highlights the intense silence of the Situation Room.

Robert moves close to the President and whispers, ‘Sir, we should ask the British for help.’

The President looks Robert in the eye and hopes for a sign of reassurance which isn’t forthcoming. He then beckons Tina to come close.

‘Tina, politely ask the Brits for their pigs and don’t mention the Revolutionary War.’

The President slumps back into his chair. A silence. No one wants to speak.

Tina breaks the silence, ‘let’s assume …they won’t play ball.’

Robert stands up, ‘that’s right, we won’t be able to just walk in and get them.’

‘Then we do it our way! The American way!’

With a single look Robert hints that he needs to be elsewhere and clears up his documents. The President waves him away.

As Robert reaches the door he receives an order from the President.

‘Robert, get a guy over there quick. A top man. Delta Force, a Navy Seal, someone who will get a result.’

‘What do we call the mission?’

Everyone in the room looks at the President apart from a few of the men who look at Tina.

The President thinks for a moment then …

‘Operation-Pump Blood.’


You can read the first nine chapters here:

Authonomy.com/books – http://tiny.cc/4jzhuw

to be continued …..

The Conversation – two

It started with a stroll through the park,
then quickly developed into a situation which created a spark.
A thought passed through a mind to excite, to receive an invite.

Someone not too far away imagined cries, deep sighs, a movement over thighs
as the situation meandered through non verbal communication.

Remember the lost lover’s lament
Be kind, turn on a mind, let a seeker find.


The Conversation

The Conversation

It started with a strawberry, cream and grapes.

It swayed to the beat of possibilities, subtle possibilities.

A short line here, an extended line there, a pause.

Suddenly it received a second rush of energy

with the arrival of a mango.

It developed and drifted onto a higher plane

but later the rain pushed in, the energy drained away.

Later it came, with the wave of a steady hand, to a satisfied conclusion.



JUNGLE by Ron Taylor

Every Man is a Puzzle is a term to describe the art I produce which explores the mediums of painting, photography, silk screen prints.

I only ever produce images as and when I feel like it. At times it is a passion and then my passion for words takes over and the ‘art’ has to take a back seat.

Trip on over to my Saatchi site. If you don’t like my art there’ll be another artist along soon.



Burnley in Europe

When I was a young boy I played football every day.

From the age of five I was out there, day in day out, every available daylight hour. Our home was opposite two football pitches. It was easy to get involved in a game.  Get in the my kit, which was my everyday wear of short trousers and any old shirt. In those days, the early fifties, kids were not a walking advert for worldwide brands and beer companies.

I was out of the front door, in my ‘kit’, across a narrow road and onto the pitch. A choice of two pitches, a muddy one or a less than muddy one. It was simple, cracking. Me and my mates could play from ten in the morning till nine at night. All free, no hassle.

When I started school I was picked for the school team. We played on good pitches, bad pitches in and around Atherton, near Bolton. I recall one game in the middle of a bad winter. I was playing at left back, it was a game in which we dominated the game. I hardly broke into a sweat for the whole game. By the time the game finished I was so cold I came off the ground crying. I was about seven at the time. As soon as I stepped into the dressing room they gave me a cup of tea to warm me up. After that I did think about crying about the cold at the end of every game we played; even in the summer months.


So, when Burnley Football Club became one of the first English teams to play in Europe I followed their progress with interest because I knew from first hand experience what it was like to play in Godforsaken places where the temperature was minus 4.

All one ever hears in mainstream media today is how Manchester United did this in Europe and did that …. you would think that no other team has ever played in Europe.

I remember those games Burnley played in Europe. I don’t remember the details but I do remember those games being the first I was aware of where an English side played beyond our shores. I recall the name the competitions the Fairs Cup, and the European Cup; both now called The Europa League and the Champions League.

Burnley were managed by the legendary Harry Potts, ex player for Burnley and Everton, he had spent half a season at Shrewsbury before Burnley lured him back to become their manager in February 1958. He then steered the side to the top of the First Division (now Premiership) securing the title on the very last day of the 1959 -1960 season at Manchester City with goals from Brian Pilkington and Trevor Meredith. Burnley had been in contention all season but had never led the table until this last match was played out.

 Wolverhampton Wanderers came second in the table beaten by only one point. That one point qualified Burnley for the European Cup.

M3500Brian Pilkington scores the opening goal at Manchester City. Burnley won 2-1. They had never led the table until this last match was played out.

1960 – 61 European Cup


Burnley’s first round opponents were Stade Reims, a French side, who had been the runners up in the European Cup the year before.The first leg was at Turf Moor on the 16 November, 1960; It was the wettest November since 1954. Northern Britain experienced stormy weather with widespread gales and heavy rain so it may well have been a cold night on the terraces at Turf Moor.
Burnley won the first leg 2 – 0.
BURNLEY V HAMBURG PROGRAMMEThe away leg was played at Parc des Princes, Paris on 30 November which the French side won 3-2. Burnley won 4 – 3 (on aggregate).In the Quarter finals of the European Cup Burnley met SV Hamburg.

The first leg was played at Turf Moor on the 18 January 1961. The home side won 3 – 1. On the return leg in Germany, SV Hamburg took the honors with a 4 – 1 win on the 15 March. Harris scored the only goal for Burnley. The Clarets were out (5 – 4 on aggregate).  Hamburg went out of the competition in the next round losing in a play off against Barcelona (a familiar tale there). The competition was eventually won by Benfica.

In 1955, ITV began broadcasting live matches from the newly formed European Cup. My parents only bought a TV set in ‘57 or ‘58 so I must have heard the Burnley games on BBC Radio.

One wonders how many Burnley fans made the long journey to Paris and Hamburg as cheap travel had not yet arrived in England.

What would a fiver get you back then? A flight from London to Helsinki cost £114 first class return and £80 economy; today that would set you back £289 economy and £820 business. Then the average house price in England was £2,530, a loaf of bread would set you back 5p and a season ticket to see Manchester United cost £8.50. I think people pay more for a loaf now and hell of a lot more for a ticket at the place not far from Burnley which is in Salford.

1966 – 67 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup


Burnley finished third in the First Division, 1965-66 season; that was good enough to earn a place in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (now known as the UEFA Europa League). Burnley marched on splendidly. In the first round they drew their away game against Stuttgart 1 – 1 and back at Turf Moor they won 2 – 0. In the second round encounter with Lausanne in Switzerland the Clarets lost 1 – 3 away but had a resounding 5 – 0 win at home. They dispatched Napoli in the third round 3 – 0 on aggregate with goals from Coates, Latcham and Lochhead.

Eintracht Frankfurt were the quarter final opponents.

BURNLEY v Eintracht FrankfurtAfter a 1 – 1 draw at Turf Moor a place in the last four looked on the cards, but Burnley were beaten 1 – 2 at home. Though Burnley’s Andrew Lochhead was the competitions second highest scorerFor a club which was founded 1882 their present day supporters will be well pleased with the way Burnley have arrived back in the top flight. They are without doubt one of the oldest clubs in the league and one of the pioneers of European football.They have been Football League Champions twice, in 1920–21and 1959–60, and have won the FA Cup once, in 1914. They are one of only three teams to have won all top four professional divisions of English football, the other two being Wolverhampton Wanderers and Preston North End.So, should the boys from Turf Moor get promoted from the Championship this year, who knows, maybe the club will be revisiting a few old haunts in Europe in the 2015/16 season. I will definately get out my old radio (if I can find it) and listen in.



I decided it was time to do a couple of interviews with people I have worked with in the film/TV business.

Sheila Gallien is the first out of the blocks.

Paul Bernard is a director/cameraman who shot behind the scenes documentaries for films as diverse as: Empire of the Sun, Gladiator, Harry Potter, Hugo and Fury (Brad Pitt) will be along shortly.


Sheila Gallien is a screenwriter, writer and consultant who worked for six years alongside Oscar-nominated screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. on projects including: Unfaithful, Cast Away, Entrapment, and Planet of the Apes.

A few years ago I bumped into Sheila Gallien online. I have worked with her twice. It made a nice change for me to be be asking Sheila the questions rather than trying to answer her.

Do you think there is one thing which marks out the writers who are successful in getting their scripts into production?

If you have a screenplay where the reader cannot stop turning the pages, you have a real shot.  No one knows the rest.   The market, the economy, and, I would argue, a mysterious  alignment of the heavens, will decide the rest.  I have not read very many scripts in my life that I could not wait for the next page, all the way through. Of those, some got entangled in the complexities of making a movie, and have not been made…yet, but have had actors attached, producers involved, money exchanged.

One that did get made was Hysteria, by Jonah Lisa and Steven Dyer. The draft I read was totally entertaining.  I read it in one sitting. Another may be turned into a TV show.  Another I read recently, in the faith-based arena, is going into production this month.  I don’t mean to sound flip, or to make it sound easy, but your script has to be loved by people.  If someone loves it, that someone might become your champion, or find your champion.  Then comes the process of putting together an extremely and increasingly complex puzzle to make a movie

How did you get your first job the film business?

I was laid up on vicodin after getting my wisdom teeth out and watched the major league baseball playoffs. I had been job hunting in the film biz for six months, with no success, and decided to answer an ad for a receptionist at a top sports agency.  In the cover letter, I made a clever and specific reference to a shocking loss, then mis-named the player “Dave” Eckersley instead of his correct name, “Dennis.” That quirky letter led to a meeting with the president of the sports agency. He later made a call to CAA and gave me a recommendation.

I started as an assistant to a writer’s agent, Bradford Smith, who then repped John Singleton. Then moved to Jon Levin, who repped writers, producers, directors and actors.  I left CAA to work for Bill Broyles, right as Apollo 13 started shooting.  It’s now been 21 years!

For six years you worked with screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. (Apollo 13, Castaway, Entrapment) Did you ever think about setting up your own agency?

No, honestly, having worked with the most successful agents in the world, I realized I didn’t have the drive for the business aspect of Hollywood that I would need.  And I need too much sleep.  When I worked at CAA, I interviewed the really successful agents. They all slept 4-5 hours a night.  They started their mornings reading, had coffee meetings, rolled calls on the way to work, worked all day, lunch meeting, dinner meeting, screening, gym, read some more.  You cannot believe how hard these people work.  I thought about producing, because I love working with the writing, but after working on set on Entrapment, around the clock, watching the producer and her endless, tireless drive, working 20 hours a day, sometimes more, never giving up, I didn’t feel that was my place either.  Unless, maybe, it was my own project.  I am a writer at heart.  I am grateful for the birds-eye view I have had in the business, and you never know what will happen. There was a CAA t-shirt when I first started.  On the back it said, “what I really want to do is direct.”  You never know.

You have been in many script meetings with A list actors and producers. What did you learn in those situations? Is there any one aspect of script development which continually rears its head in those meetings?

I keep referencing how hard people work. How relentless they are. How absolutely tireless.  The script meetings on Entrapment, which was in production, with two different directors, would go for eight to ten hours.  There could be an hour spent on four lines.  Brainstorming, arguing, reinventing.  Whole chunks of story will be dumped just to imagine a different, better way.  The writer will ultimately have to make sense of it all.  It is an amazing balance, to be open to totally reinventing, to not be attached, but to hold the structure and backbone, however it shifts, and make sure all those creative minds don’t explode the piece.  So I would say you have to be masterful in the story process, totally open, totally unattached, but know that you are the one that will have to make it work. You have to have unwavering confidence.  Then, when everyone has gone home, and you hold your head in your hands, you have to have chops, commitment, and courage.


What would you say is the weakest part in the majority of scripts by new writers? Tone, structure, character, pacing, scene length, description, introduction of characters?

There is the problem with story, then there is the problem with execution, and they are, of course related.  I would say, in general, what I see is a problem with the lack of compression which comes from a deep understanding of your story and characters.  This is why rewrites, and distance, make writing so much more powerful.  This is true even for seasoned writers, but it is really true for newer writers. A “seasoned” writer’s first draft, is the cumulative product of thousands upon thousands of hours of practice. Even then, a “first draft” is usually, for a pro, more like a fourth, or sixth, or tenth draft.  The first challenge is constructing a story that has power.  It starts with the heart of the idea. What does the character go through and why do I want to see the movie?  What will it do for me?

I think we forget to imagine ourselves in the theater and wonder, am I enjoying this movie?  Am I holding my breath?  What scenes do I see? Am I going to run home and tell my friends about it? Will I laugh or cry?  It comes to scope, in a sense.  This is why producers and buyers want loglines and the “one-sheet,” the picture of the movie.  It’s not because they don’t want complex stories.  They want the crystallization of the story.  I think, number one, writers don’t think big enough, grand enough, and REALLY see their movie on the screen.  It doesn’t have to be a “blockbuster” story.  Little Miss Sunshine is a classic example of a small story that made a big movie.  The scenes were entertaining, surprising, moving.  What it really means is questioning if your story will really MOVE people.  Entertain them.  Capture them.  If you have that story, that is the beginning.  You should have studied structure enough, through screenplays you love and books that speak to you, to have internalized how to create the story, then you learn by trial and error as you go.  You build it, and things happen as you build it, and surprises come, and you find out more about your characters. The story changes.  Then you refine it.  You test it against the structures you understand.  You can use Aristotle, Chris Vogler, Save the Cat, your own poetics.  Everyone has their own process.  Some people can do this in their heads.  But most writers stop far short of refining their work until it is so compressed the story literally bubbles out of the scenes.  I actually think screenwriting is more akin to poetry than it is to any other kind of writing, because done well, a picture paints a thousand words.  I love this quote from Stephen King: “An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”  

To directly answer your question, all of those things you mention:  tone, structure, character pacing, scene length, etc…these are all the tools of the trade, and you have to be good at all of them.  That said, I would probably rank tone as the least realized aspect of writing for new writers.  A great writer friend of mine said, “tone is the fence within which you build your story.”  If you don’t know your tone, you don’t know what your story is about, you don’t know who’s telling it, you don’t know your genre, you don’t know what you expect people to feel, and I would say you don’t know how YOU feel about your story.  I have spent many a conference devoted almost entirely to answering those questions.

Do you think a writer can learn everything from one source / influential writer or do you feel writers are better at being scavengers, grabbing what they can from anywhere?

Read screenplays.  Lots of them.  Read great ones.  Read them all from one writer, and then read more.  Watch movies.  Break them down..


During those years working with William? How did a normal day work out?

Bill cut his teeth as a journalist, and has a tremendous work ethic.  I kept regular hours, 9-6, Monday through Friday.  During regular research and creation time, his hours were similar, structured around meetings, research, initial writing, ideas.  I had assignments, and would put together chunks of research for him, depending on what we were working on.  We worked on lots of projects that didn’t get made–westerns, World War II movies, a Vietnam movie, a story about teaching creationism in the schools, a submarine movie, and others–as well as Cast Away, Planet of the Apes, Entrapment, Unfaithful.  As he would get closer to building his early drafts, he would work in greater, longer spurts, often before I got there, and long after. I would find a draft on my desk when I arrived in the morning, completed in the wee hours. Sometimes he would ask me to read specifically–for one character, a story arc, a story line.  Typically, though, he would just say “read for everything.”

As for his process, sometimes the studio wanted an outline, sometimes not.  He wrote in chunks, sometimes acts, sometimes other sections.  He would print it, read it, take another pass, give it to me.  I would read it, give notes, give it back to him.  It was a loop.  Then he would add more, go deeper into the story.  Finally it would turn to whole drafts, and the whole process continued, in an expanded version, usually up until the very last deadline.  Bill is a layering writer.  His early drafts are more sketches, then the characters and story deepen as he goes. After he turned in a draft to the studio or producer, he would get notes, and I would do notes on the notes.  I was privy to the vision of the studio, the director, producer, and Bill, and my job was to try in any way I could to support, remind, or, possibly, gently suggest if something didn’t seem to be working. Bill thrived on deadlines.  We would work until the very last moment on every script, and I can’t tell you many times, I am not kidding, I literally chased the FedEx driver down the street to catch him in time to get Cast Away off.  When we were in production, as on Entrapment, it was totally different.  Fox flew us to London, twice, where we had story meetings with the actors, producers, directors. They might go, as I said, 10 hours.  We went to locations.  Bill had personal meetings with different principles.  We worked until 3 in the morning, up at 5, back at it again.  Then back to meetings, more feedback, more ideas.


The film ‘Castaway’, you have written about the many drafts that were written for that film. What was it that nailed the final version? 

Cast Away was a very complex movie to make, and a lot of factors contributed to its ultimate production.  The very first draft Bill turned in was “greenlit.”  That draft was beautiful and poetic, but not enough of the story was externalized.  Tom Hanks responded to every draft, as one of the producers.  He knew he had to carry the whole movie.  I have said there were a hundred drafts to Cast Away, and there were.  When I read it now, the pieces are just so incredibly compressed, explosive.  In earlier drafts, we saw Chuck try to kill himself.  In the shooting script, it is told in passing, as Chuck has to go to the scariest place he knows, the scene of his own near death, to find not only the metaphorical strength but the material goods to fight his way off the island. The scene, structured this way, gave his character something to show in conflict, by arguing with Wilson, by revealing.  It took an actor of Tom Hanks’ caliber to play these moments.  There are many more like this.

There used to be a Good Chuck/Bad Chuck on the raft.  All of those fears and conflict got rolled into the scenes on the island, just bubbling out.  The first draft took Chuck through all the stages of creativity, including music, not just cave painting.  In the shooting script, you see the weight of the senselessness of his creativity if no one is there to experience it.  The whole series of paintings shows his endless long days, and how long it had been since he gave up.  Other pieces–visual pieces–added so much to the story.  Bob Zemeckis drove by a truck full of portapotties on the 101 near Santa Barbara, and called Bill to tell him he had the inspiration for the sail.  The irony that the waste of humanity, in every form, would save Chuck, is just nauseatingly delicious. It also gave a nice story point, why then, why was he able to escape then?  Years of development, six of them, distilled the story until every scene, especially on the island, crackled.  Not all of the drafts were productive. I am sure Bill would tell you it did not always feel like it was moving in a good direction.  It was painful.  But the details just kept getting stronger.

When I was on the set and saw Chuck swimming up from the airplane crash, and saw he had only one sock, I was awestruck. It was so visceral, to know that he would be facing four years with only one sock.  No socks.  Bare, naked, tender feet. When Chuck has to take Al’s shoes, the shoes of a dead man, and cut them so his feet will walk in them…these moments are, I think, what made the movie work. They are powerful story points, but the metaphor creeps inside of you.  It was there from its first draft, but the powerful, visual details that had to emerge, the compression and explosion of the story, that moved it forward.  And yet, even when the script was there in every way, the movie fell apart again.  It took the creativity of the business side of filmmaking to make the movie happen.  I won’t pinpoint who deserves the final credit for this, but the producers and filmmakers finally realized that the real stopping point was in the physical production.  How can they shoot a movie that requires such a huge weight loss, that is not gradual?  The lightbulb went off, the earth shook, and they put together a deal for Bob Zemeckis to shoot a movie in between, giving Tom Hanks the time to make those changes.  It was a miracle.


In your own work, how many weeks do you spend on research before you start to write? I find that one can prevaricate by spending another day or week in the library.

I tend to research as I build the story. I have written so much that is personal, so much of what I already know, that I don’t always do much initial research.  I research as needed. Nothing is more satisfying to me than struggling for a line or an idea, googling it, and nailing it!  It might be more useful to know how Bill Broyles did it, as he is a master.  He had an amazing capacity for absorbing material.  He also, perhaps because of his journalist background, had a very strong radar for what he needed.  He was incredibly disciplined and did not waste time on what he did not need.  He did not get distracted.  I learned so much from him that way.  I developed a laser sense of what I need for a story, and it translates to a sense of what the story needs for itself.  I would say do not spend more than three weeks researching.  Then get to work, and you will find what you need.

When you worked in Los Angeles you must have seen a script or two going nowhere turn into something exciting? What was it that ignited the script? A new character, a single scene … A simple addition to the plot?

Actually, I can’t say I saw that happen. Mostly I saw really good scripts that couldn’t quite find their way to financing.  What I did see was the power of tenacity.  When I first started at CAA, the Farrelly Brothers were hip-pocketed clients, and Dumb and Dumber was a script that was trying to find its footing.  The producer, Charles Wessler, was an absolute ramming machine.  He had a great script, lots of people loved it, but it couldn’t quite find the right packaging, and was not being prioritized.  He was relentless.  The agents worked at it, but he found an ally in one of the assistants.  She has her own story and I won’t tell it here.  Suffice to say that with a great script, and the power of tenacity, Dumb and Dumber went on to be the blockbuster we know it as.

What is the biggest mistake made by writers who are trying to break in?

Thinking it has to happen right now, that you are running out of time, that you are getting too old, that other people are taking your place.  That belief is what gets everyone in trouble.  Think about how you would approach screenwriting if you did not think you were running out of time? Or that someone would steal your idea?  You would read great scripts, lots of them. You would see movies. You would break them down.  You would see the ones you love over and over.  You would steep yourself in the craft of it.  You would invite your movie idea in and enjoy it, roll it around in your head. You would sit in the movie theater and imagine your scenes up on the screen.  What do your characters need to be doing that will thrill your audience?  You would take the time to write the story you love, know your characters.  You would not be afraid to change things, let go, rewrite.  You would believe in yourself.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Just do the work.  Deeply.



    Sheila Gallien:


     Consultancy offer:

http://sheilagallien.biz/2-for-1-consult-special-til-   jan-7

More than 400,000 youngsters are starting university in the UK this year. That means hundreds of thousands of parents saying goodbye.” BBC News

I don’t know why parents put themselves through this emotional turmoil. It would be better for all to say goodbye to them at home, take them to the railway station and wish them well from there.

When I left home for film school mum and dad took me to the railway station. I had one suitcase. I didn’t take the whole bedroom with me. Looking back I think that is the best way. You become independent far quicker.

I can understand that parents want the best for their children but I don’t think they help them by my moving everything but the kitchen sink down to the university campus. As for driving them down? We have a very good railway system in this country.

One thing, the most important, which this article does not touch upon is the parents who are going to suffer deep depression for the first time in their lives. Maybe the journalist didn’t want to make a daunting experience more traumatic. It cannot be easy to live in a house which has had some of the heart and soul taken away from it.

So, better to leave your children at the railway station. See them off. Wish them well. Don’t drive them down to the college, university. They are young adults now, not four year olds at the primary school gates.

Good luck.


Here is a short film I put together using an Apple iPad Mini.

I wanted to see what the small tablet is like to use for shooting, editing, music creation.

Here is the first video. I will post, at a later date, instructions on how to use the editing tool iMovie and the music App Garageband.

Comedy Carpet, Blackpool



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