By Stephan

Story of Your Life is a science fiction novella by American writer Ted Chiang, first published in Starlight 2 in 1998, and in 2002 in Chiang’s collection of short stories, Stories of Your Life and Others. It took 18 years from first publication for the novella to be highly acclaimed as the Denis Villeneuve‘s movie Arrival. And in between those two events? In that space we had screenwriter Eric Heisserer, writing feverishly away.

I loved Arrival, from the direction, to the theme, to the acting; but especially the screenplay. And in that regard we are very lucky that we have available …read more

Read more here:: StoryFactory

Happenstance led me to the chance discovery that this site had been hacked, quietly sending traffic to link farms in the background. While I think I’ve rooted out all the offending code, it did make me wonder why I still retain this site. I don’t write on it anymore, it doesn’t really have a place in my pantheon of writing destinations, and all the content is outdated.

So, I think I’ll migrate some of the better content (if such a thing can be found) from here to storyfactory.uk/blog/, but aside from that, I think it might be time to shutter this relic and move on. It’s been a ride…

As a creative freelancer in a digital world, you can never do enough. Even if you were mono-focussed on just one commercial activity, and assuming you weren’t cross-pollinating ‘work’ from your non-work life, there’s still all the related, necessary activity. There’s promotion and marketing, which can include web design, blogging, social media work, and networking. There’s advertising, and finance and logistics. Realistically, at best you’re doing about 50% creative work vs everything else. And in lean times, it’s so much more because you’re hustling so much harder of so much less work and money.

But, let’s face it, you’re going to cross-pollinate from your personal life. And chances are you have several irons in the fire at the same time. Either because you love it, or because you need it. Or you’re a masochistic type who just likes to suffer. Possibly some combination of the above.

Currently I’m dealing with a production company on a co-written script they’ve optioned, while working on pre-production of the same in case they drop the ball. I’m hawking around a TV pilot that’s getting some good buzz, while reworking an old feature script and a new short film. I’m making money taking photos of people, and sometimes things, while putting the finishing touches on my first photo book. I’m contributing to a collected work of short stories and blogging commercially. Between all of that, it’s no surprise that business-oriented, never mind personal, social media use has shrivelled to next to nothing, there’s just not time!

However, that’s an error, I need to make time for it, for the little blogs, the Facebook updates, the networking and the frustrating process of keeping my profile high. Putting a pause on all of that has meant I’ve managed to get so much more done, finally gaining traction in all areas. But somehow I need to find more time, and spread myself a little thinner. There’s no point putting out the work if there’s nobody to see it.

I’ve been working freelance as a photographer and writer for about a year and a half now, and while I wouldn’t give it up for the world, it does have its quirks and tribulations. In this series I’ll be exploring some of these tales of minor woe.

First off, days of the week.

There’s a regularity to office or scheduled work that some find frustrating and/or reassuring. You can plan around it, schedule things, secure in the knowledge that, while sometimes inconvenient, there’s a structure to it all. Sure, it means taking a day off work for going to the doctor, and you can’t make weekday daytime events, but you know where you’ll be, what you’ll be doing and know you’ll be paid for your labours. Not so in freelance world.

Events photography generally means you’re working evenings and weekends, when everyone else is free, so say goodbye to your social life. Clients often either suddenly realise they need someone at short notice or, worse, cancel at short notice.

If you feel stir-crazy and need to get out of the house to work somewhere else, you’ll find everywhere’s too busy on weekends, or closed on Mondays if you live in some backwater. Mostly you find these things out last minute. And you only realise that places are going to be either rammed or closed when you get there. Because you’ve totally forgotten what day of the week it is.

With little to structure the day or week, and when your hobbies are your job, and when you’re constantly pushing for new paying work, you end up working all days and all hours, which all blend into one. When you’re not actively working on paying work, you’re working on your portfolio or trying to attract new clients. So you’ll be working from when you wake, and carrying on working until you physically can’t do any more. Every day.  Each day blending into the next, only punctuated by gigs where you have to actually leave the house, when you end up double and triple-checking the calendar because you’re really not sure what day of the week it is. You end up as a bit of a hermit who only interacts with clients potential or actual.

So, if you’re in a regular job, take some solace from the predictability of its structure, embrace the social interaction it affords.

And if, like me, you’re not? Mourn with me, perhaps over a coffee sometime. Just not evenings or weekends. Or Mondays apparently. And I’ll probably cancel at short notice. Sorry.

Sometimes fortune can smile on you, and a meander past BFI Southbank and a peruse through the available films led me to successfully enquire about the scant remaining tickets. And so I found myself in NFT1 on a Sunday afternoon with an auditorium full of exciting young people for a preview of Big Hero 6.

Feast DogAs has once again become a tradition with Disney, the film was preceded by a new short film, the Oscar-nominated Feast. Disney uses these animated shorts as a testing ground for talent and technology, and Feast continues this as Paperman did in 2012. It’s a charming dog’s-eye tale of food and love, and it utterly delighted the audience, myself included. Considering though that Disney doesn’t see their animated shorts as commercial endeavours, it’s a shame they don’t do more to make them publicly available once the film festival screenings are over.

But the main event was Big Hero 6 itself. Some people have described it as ‘Frozen for boys’, in that both cover the theme of siblings and dealing with loss, but it didn’t have that feel for me. While the theme may have been a match for Frozen, I thought it felt more like How To Train a Dragon crossed with The Incredibles.

Based on one of Marvel’s more obscure properties, this is ostensibly a superhero team origin story, though this is an aspect of the story that is rapidly glossed over. Something I’m not too unhappy about, after all, aren’t we all a little saturated with origin stories?

It allows Big Hero 6 to focus on what Disney does best when Disney does it well: the emotional journey and general cuteness. In this case they have done very well indeed. There’s no doubt that with inflatable ‘personal healthcare companion’ robot Baymax, whose walk was modelled on that of baby penguins, they have created an endurable character, utterly different from other robots and from its Marvel origins. And the slightly trippy emotional climax at the end hugely affected the audience.

After the film, which the mostly younger audience loved, there was a Q&A with director Don Hall and producer Roy Conli. There was some curated talk about creative process which was good, but the questions from the audience were worth waiting for, once they got restricted to the under-12s. My favourite was by a little girl who was baffled as to how the humans were made to fly for the film. Director Don Hall did a sterling job answering the question in such a way that didn’t dispel the illusion that there was no difference between animation and people than can fly.

I’m not sure Big Hero 6 will attain the popularity of FrozenTangled or the peaks of Pixar’s output, but I enjoyed it and, more importantly, its target audience did too.

We often hear about the decline in cinema, the cultural decline, how everything is eternally somehow worse than before. I’m sure even I’ve been responsible for some of that on occasion. And so, I present you with this list of some of the my favourite things in 2014:

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Forget what anyone says, I think it was a bumper year for movies and there were loads that I saw that I really liked. An early highlight at the beginning of the year was Under The Skin which, while not to everyone’s taste, I really enjoyed. I loved the minimalistic feel of it, a narrative sparsity that never overburdened what was happening on screen. I also got to see the wonderful Laputa – Castle in the Sky at the BFI, which was a wonderful experience. Laputa is my favourite Miyazaki movie, so it was wonderful to see it on the big screen. It was also the year of Tom Hardy; as well as a scenery chewing performance in Peaky Blinders, I loved Tom Hardy in Locke and The Drop. The former, again, was wonderfully sparse; just Tom Hardy, in a car, talking himself and others through the repercussions of his decision. I thought it was wonderfully executed. The Drop didn’t make much of an impact, a lot of people hadn’t even heard of it, which surprised me. But it was a really nice slow burn of a movie and Tom Hardy is excellent again. One film I wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did was Gone Girl. I’d never read the book, nor heard much about it before seeing it, so it was great to be taken through the films twists and turns. And finally, it would be churlish not to mention Guardians of the Galaxy. Silly, flawed, slightly ridiculous? Sure. But in my view the best of film of the Marvel Universe so far; joyous fun that doesn’t diminish on rewatching and as close to a musical as we’ll likely ever see in big budget superhero blockbusters.

Icon-TV-150 I had a good run reviewing Peaky Blinders this year, but lets face it: 2014 was all about True Detective. The combination of Nic Pizzolatto’s script, Cary Fukunaga’s directing, Adam Arkapaw’s cinematography and Matthew McConaughey’s acting made this must-watch TV. Utterly compelling in its visuals and narrative, I know I’m not alone in being incredibly excited for what season 2 has to offer. A new cast, a new location, a new crime and overall feel, we’re all hoping the creative team can pull another piece of genius out of the bag.

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It would be impossible not to mention London Screenwriters’ Festival 2014, which involved meeting, and re-meeting so many wonderful people. The people, fellow creatives all, was more important than even the tentative nibbles from production companies for Underworld Calling or the excellent feedback from the Actor’s Table Read. These people continue to be friends, critics, supporters and cheerleaders, in a community I’m proud to be part of.

Some might argue that the most valuable part of the London Screenwriters’ Festival for journeyman screenwriters is the Pitchfest. Some writers even book a ticket for LSF just for the networking and access to Pitchfest, to pitch their projects and hopefully move their career forward.

So, how does it all work? First of all, have something you want to pitch! Now, this can be something that isn’t yet finished; this can get you very useful feedback in terms of how and what to pitch, and what to focus on in future. However, thinking positively, you really want polished work to hand so that if you’re asked for it you can smile and send them something you have some confidence in.

The next step is to look at the list of execs, producers, directors and agents at PitchFest. You’ll want to be quite focused in who you pitch to. Some pitchees will have restrictions in budget, medium or genre, so make sure you choose carefully. Pick several. Then, when the PitchFest schedule comes out, find out which slot(s) have the greatest concentration of your ideal pitchees.

Then, the big day; no, not PitchFest itself, but the opening of the booking system. This year that’s on October 18th at midday. Favoured slots will book up fast, so it’s a bit like trying to book Glastonbury tickets, except your entire career may depend on it. Okay, kidding. Maybe. A bit.

Then, the day itself. If you’ve never pitched before, queuing for the doors to open for your slot will be terrifying. You’ll panic that you can’t remember your loglines, pitch or name, that you’ve forgotten your business cards and one-pagers. You’ll fret and worry and panic. Then the doors open. As you all file in, you will see a large hall with a clock at the end and along the left and right walls, the execs, agents, producers and directors. Unless you were at the front of the queue at the door, there’ll already be a queue forming in front of some the pitchees in the room. So, you have to decide: Do you queue there too? You should, if they’re on your must-see list. But if not, consider one of the quieter tables, if the fit is good. That can also work as a great warm-up, to get you used to the idea of pitching, before facing the lion.

This was my revelation last year: Far from being monsters, sent to chew up you and your work and spit them both out with disgust, these are professionals who love what they do. And they want to love what you have, they want to meet you and like you and like your work. This epiphany made the rest of pitching much less stressful to me.

So, you have five minutes, and five minutes only with each person. After that you have to move on and go and pitch to someone else. You have five minutes to convince them that you and/or your work are perfect for them. If they’re not interested, they will often give excellent feedback as to why. And if they are interested, they’ll either ask for your card and/or one-pager, or give you their card for you contact them after the festival.

And that’s it. Keep doing it until you get the success you want and learn from each pitch you perform. And bear in mind that often Sunday slots are empty and you might get a chance to slide into a second session if you’re very lucky. And finally: If they suggest you get in touch with them to talk about your project? Do actually do that!!

So, good luck pitchers. May the odds be ever in your favour.

My review of Lucy didn’t contain my link to my tweetnotes on Under The Skin, so I’m embedding them here:


SurreySave is one of a number of new credit unions that sprang up in communities across the country in the wake of the banking crisis. Formally launched on the 9th of January 2012, SurreySave has been going from strength to strength, reaching 1000 members in March 2014, and three months later announced that members had deposited their first £1 million of shares.

Credit unions are financial co-operatives; not-for-profit and owned and controlled by their members. Decisions are made democratically amongst members, and there are no external shareholders. Most credit unions, particularly in the UK, focus their efforts on supporting the local community from which they stem and investing ethically. The intent is to be able to offer local members more competitive rates for loans and related services than banks and building societies.

Estimates from the World Council of Credit Unions put global credit union members at 118 million in 94 countries. They are especially popular in Ireland, America and the Caribbean. In the UK, there are over 550 credit unions and more than 550,000 members – and these numbers are growing rapidly.

SurreySave Credit Union has so far awarded loans worth over £750,000 to Surrey citizens and received many messages of thanks from those whose lives have been transformed by being able to access affordable credit. They pride themselves on offering finance to the financially excluded that cannot access standard high street banking. In this way they hope to improve the community as a whole, with an ‘all in it together’ philosophy.

There are numerous examples of Surrey citizens being able to access finance from SurreySave, rather than having to resort to loan sharks or pay day lenders. The rates are better, the trust is higher; and in the end the community as a whole benefits.