My Attempt To Write A Simpsons Episode And A Few Other Experiences

You know, looking back it’s kind of laughable that my original intention for this blog was to write about my screenwriting career. In two years I’ve written a grand total of three articles about my chosen career path. Hopefully the other 236 posts I’ve published weren’t too much of a distraction!

So I suppose a little catch up is required. Previous posts told of the shooting of my first ever short film, The Right Choice; as well as its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Overall The Right Choice has done pretty well on the festival circuit, having played at four Oscar-qualifying festivals, and been accepted into 30 further festivals across the world.

Truth be told, 2018 has been a little slower than I though it would be in terms of screenwriting career progress. While I’ve pumped out 6 short scripts, most of the year has been spent paying back the debts I accrued in order to complete The Right Choice. No regrets of course.

Still, there have been two bright spots, one of which is that a small production company called Upwall Pictures has read some of my work and have expressed an interest in producing a few scripts. (It’s a terrible photo, I know!)

The second bright spot… Well, it’s a long story.

For those of you not up to date with The Simpsons TV show, last year there was a bit of a commotion over the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. An American comedian called Hari Kondabolu released a 45 minute documentary called “The Problem With Apu“; in which he criticised the portrayal of the Kwik-E-Mart owner.

Though I wrote an article about it at the time and stated my intention to view the documentary as soon as possible; residing in the U.K. unfortunately makes it impossible to access, even a year later.

One of the many reactions to the documentary was that movie producer Adi Shanker (of Dredd and the “Bootleg Universe” fame) decided to launch an unofficial screenwriting competition in an attempt to crowdsource a script that would take Apu in a new direction. He offered to take the winning script to The Simpsons writers; but if they refused it he would make it himself as part of his Bootleg Universe.

Now I’m going to be honest here, but I don’t agree with Shanker that “The Simpsons is sick” or that the portrayal of Apu is a “mean-spirited mockery.” And from the various clips I’ve seen of The Problem With Apu, I strongly anticipate that I wouldn’t agree with Kondabolu’s opinion of the character either. I like Apu and consider him to be a beloved character that I’ve enjoyed watching for many years.

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But as an aspiring screenwriter how could I not take advantage of this opportunity? After all, all good writers should be able to write for subjects they don’t personally agree with. I’m pretty sure Thomas Harris isn’t a secret lover of human flesh, despite him creating the world’s most famous cannibal in Hannibal Lector!

So I took a chance and spent a few weeks writing “Life of Apu” (LoA). And though it took quite a while, LoA was eventually selected as a finalist (and in turn became the above mentioned second bright spot!) I’m not entirely sure how big of an achievement becoming a finalist was, especially since I have no idea how many finalists were selected, or even how many total entries were received. But at least it was an acknowledgement that I had written something worth reading.

Alas the script did not progress to actually win the competition, which now leaves me with a Simpsons script gathering dust. So I thought I would throw it out to all of you to enjoy. Below is a little more about how I came up with the idea and my process of writing, but if you’d just like to read the script here’s the link: Life of Apu

(In fact, what’s written below might make a hell of a lot more sense after you’ve read the script. Also, when you click on the link, you don’t have to sign up for Dropbox. Just click the No Thanks button at the bottom of the popup)

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The seed of LoA was planted sometime in 2012/2013 while I was reading Apu’s Wikipedia page. Specifically I focused on the following line:

He graduated first in his class of seven million at ‘Caltech’ — Calcutta Technical Institute — going on to earn his doctorate at the Springfield Heights Institute of Technology.

I ended up misunderstanding the above line as it gave me the impression that these were two separate events. Basically Apu had come top of his class, came to America for some undisclosed reason, and only then decided to study for a Ph.D.

However, I now know that the episode Homer and Apu (Season 5, Episode 13) makes it clear that these events are connected, in that Apu specifically came to America to study for his doctorate. Yet being that the episode was broadcast in 1994, and I hadn’t seen a repeat in years, I assumed for far too long that there was some kind of untold story about Apu’s journey to America.

To be fair to myself that is technically true, as no episode has focused specifically on said journey. But I would spend the next 5-6 years checking the synopsis of each new Simpsons episode, wondering when the writers would tell this undisclosed tale.

That said, this desire to see Apu’s journey was nowhere near the forefront of my mind when Shankar launched the contest. Instead I planned to approach the screenplay according to the stated objectives given in the description of the competition:

“We are looking for a screenplay centering on the character “Apu” set in the world and cannon of The Simpsons that takes the character of Apu and in a clever way subverts him, pivots him, intelligently writes him out, or evolves him in a way that takes a mean spirited mockery and transforms him into a kernel of truth wrapped in funny insight aka actual satire.”

In other words they were looking for the actual character of Apu to permanently change for future episodes. But this fundamentally goes against the very core of The Simpsons in that once an episode ends, everything resets. I won’t deny that some changes have been set in stone (usually with character deaths). But for the most part, attempts to make major changes to the core of a character or to continuity is usually met with derision from fans. I still remember the public uproar when Seymour Skinner was discovered to actually be Armin Tamzarian in Season 9’s The Principal and the Pauper; or when a failed attempt was made to move Homer and Marge’s romance to the 1990s in Season 19’s That ’90s Show.

So my dilemma was this: How do I change the character of Apu without changing the character of Apu?

I quickly realised that the best way to do this was not to change the character, BUT instead change audience’s perception of the character. That may sound like it’s the same thing, but there are huge differences between the two. The former is a purposeful change, moving the character from one depiction to another. But the latter is done by presenting previously unknown information in order to influence the audience’s perspective; all the while keeping the character exactly the same.

The natural fallout of this decision meant that I couldn’t tell a story in the present day. Instead I had to set the story somewhere in the past. And that was my eureka moment. Here was a chance to tell that story I wanted about Apu’s journey to America, and yet still evolve the character in some positive way.

This may be surprising to some, but I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about what South Asians or Indian-Americans would think. When writing the screenplay the main priority were Simpsons fans. You may wonder why, considering the reasons why this entire endeavour kicked off. Nonetheless I realised that, even if by some miracle my script become a finalist, won the competition, was accepted by The Simpsons writers, and became a critically and publicly acclaimed episode; none of this would lead to an increase in Indian-American viewers. Sure they would watch for that one episode, but there is no way that there would be a significant increase of people watching the show. (Especially considering Indian-Americans only make up just over 1% of the American population.) But the 2-6 million people that watch The Simpsons every week? They’re the ones who are spending their time and money supporting the show.

Because of this somewhat skewed priority, mixed in with my own beliefs, it meant that LoA purposely did not address many of the issues that Kondabolu or Shankar had a problem with. For example, I made no mention of Apu’s accent or his name. Neither did I address the idea of characters being voiced by actors who are of a different race. In fact, Apu barely changes at all. He’s still a simple Kwik-E-Mart owner when the credits roll. Considering the contest objectives clearly stated they wanted Apu to change, it’s somewhat surprising (hell, a borderline miracle) that I even became a finalist.

(I suppose this technically makes me a terrible screenwriter as I ended up writing something that completely ignored the stated stipulations.)

Instead I focused on one issue that I definitely agreed with: that the success of Apu had a negative effect on how Hollywood and the U.K. chose to portray South Asians over the last 30 years. But I don’t believe this is the fault of The Simpsons. This is the fault of numerous writers, directors and casting directors outside of The Simpsons who have chosen to rely only on that one cartoon portrayal. As a result, the insane difficulty that South Asian actors and actresses must overcome ended up becoming the emotional centre of the story. To illustrate the South Asian desire to have new experiences and to stretch yourself in an acting world that is satisfied to merely pigeonhole you.

With all that said, there was still one other aspect that was crucial. It was important to me for Apu to remain a Kwik-E-Mart owner and not suddenly become a wealthy or successful man.

“Sacrilege!” I hear you cry. “Racist!” I hear you roar. But there is a method to my madness. There’s a reason why Forbes’ “The World’s Billionaires” list is one of the most widely anticipated publications every year. It’s because, unfortunately, we live in a world where the accumulation of wealth trumps everything else. Where being a good person or being a great family man is not considered a sign of being a “success”.

While it was important to me to show that it was okay to spend your life being a shop owner (as I’ve known many real life people to do so); it was also essential that Apu was considered a success because of how he treated his family. It wasn’t about the number of shops he owns or the number of buildings that have his name on them (as Kondabolu has stated he would like to see). Instead I wanted to show that true success is about looking after those you love and making sure you do everything you can to make them a success. Just like my grandparents did for my parents. Just like my parents did for me. And, maybe one day, what I will do for my children. It’s why, along with the South Asian actor problems I mentioned above, LoA very heavily focuses on family and the sacrifices we make to ensure that those we love can lead better lives than we did. The true definition of “success.”

I am, however, still in two minds about the script’s comedy. I am not a comedian. I can’t tell a joke to save my life, so just imagine how bad I am at writing one. So I’ll leave it up to much wiser people than I to determine whether or not I was successful. (Again, here’s the link: Life of Apu)

Still, LoA ended up being a most enjoyable pitstop on that long windy road to screenwriting success and I hope to do it again sometime.

Until next time, my screenwriting fellows.

Vijay 🙂


Sundance, Here We Come!

For those of you that have only been following my blog for a few months, you may not be aware that I actually started this endeavour in order to promote my screenwriting work. A place where people who were interested could easily find my projects.

But my last post on the topic was all the way back in December 2016. Obviously I pivoted a little and instead pursued a more pop culture approach, reviewing movies, TV and theatre. But I didn’t give up on my screenwriting career.

So for those of you not keeping track, we shot my first short script (titled The Right Choice) just before Christmas in 2016. The original plan was to have all the editing done by the end of January. After all, it was only a 10 minute short!

Alas, days turned into weeks and weeks into months. We finally locked down our final cut in May, nearly 4 months after our original deadline.

But then came the visual effects…

Scott Pilgram

For those of you who have never had to supervise the creation of visual effects, it is honestly an art unto itself. And an expensive one too. Safe to say the original amount I had allocated for visual effects was woefully inadequate. (Fortunately our VFX Artist, Heinrich Maas, was an utter godsend.)

That’s the thing about filmmaking. There are always these little things that go wrong; and end up adding a tiny amount to the budget. As a first time producer I made sooooo many mistakes. Sometimes quite costly mistakes. But you live and learn I suppose.

Anyway, after begging, borrowing and doing the unspeakable, we finally managed to scrape together enough to see us through to the end. And in September 2017 we FINALLY finished.

Directed by Tomisin Adepeju and written/produced by yours truly; below is the trailer for The Right Choice!

It’s hard to describe the weight that lifts off your shoulders when you complete a film. I suppose it’s kind of like giving birth. You struggle for months to get the project off the ground (so to speak!); a small bit of time spent actually doing the dirty deed; and then an intense couple of months until your film finally drops.

Well, I entered the film into about 30 festivals before getting to sit back and relax. We would end up being rejected from three of them before that one fateful day finally came.

November 20th. It was four in the afternoon and I was sat in bed, stuffing my face with chocolate fingers while watching Let’s Play videos of Star Wars Battlefront II (Calm down, ladies!) My mobile phone rang and at the other end was a nice young lady by the name of Kate Metcalfe.

She asked if it was Vijay she was talking to. I confirmed and then she proceeded to inform me that The Right Choice was selected to be screened at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival!



Sundance! The biggest and most famous film festival in the world! HOW?!?!?!?

I informed the director first. He refused to believe me. I spent a good five minutes trying to convince him! But he eventually came around. It was even his birthday the next day and he said it was the best birthday present he could have imagined!

And as the remainder of the cast and crew were informed, their reactions were all too similar. Shock, amazement, disbelief, crying and incredulity.

That last one, incredulity, was completely understandable. Deep down, I think most of us thought we had failed. Pre-production was tough, with a failed Kickstarter and crew members dropping out left, right and centre. The production itself over-ran, and we were still unable to get several shots that we wanted. And as post-production dragged on for months, it was hard not to lose faith. From Jan to Nov 2017, I honestly felt I had sunk £11k of my own money into an utterly pointless endeavour.

But getting accepted into Sundance was a validation. Someone important (or at least a group of people) were telling us: “No. You didn’t waste your time. You didn’t waste your money. You made something worth watching.”

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Of course, getting accepted into Sundance comes with its own challenges. Numerous pieces of paperwork and legal documents to fill in; as well as other financial obstacles (It cost me SIXTY-FIVE POUNDS to mail eight posters to Utah! What the hell, FedEx?!?!?)

But in the end, it seems my 22 month journey was worth it. All those sleepless nights, half a dozen times I fell sick with worry, and the constant delays led to something. I now stand on the cusp of my debut film having its world premiere at the most famous film festival in the world.

What a ride 😀 😀 😀

If I Could Write… Minions!

Has there ever been a supporting character that has taken over a franchise to quite the same extent as those yellow bastards?

Understandably more popular than this guy

I speak, of course, of the follically challenged minions known as… errr… The Minions.


First appearing in the wildly successful Despicable Me back in 2010, the Minions turned out to be a market executive’s wet dream. Like Stewie Griffin and Bart Simpson before them, the Minions were plastered EVERYWHERE.


Such popularity lead them to have a much increased role in the sequel, imaginatively named Despicable Me 2; as well as receiving a prequel spin-off ingeniously titled Minions.

To say that Minions over-performed would be an understatement on the same level as Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon referring to the sinking of the Titanic as…

… A rather serious evening.

And do you know how much money Minions made?



That makes it the second highest grossing animated film of all time! And if you’ve seen the film, you’ll understand how absolutely bat-shit crazy that final box office is!

So, the conceited and presumptuous screenwriter I am, what would I want to write if I got my hands on the Minions franchise? #Howtowriteabettermovie

thinking minon

A universal shared aspect in 99% of screenplays is that of the protagonist.  A central or primary figure through which the audience can experience and understand the world of the story.

Even in films of the more ensemble kind, such as Lord of the Rings, X-men or the Avengers, there is still a a clear lead character.

But the 2015 Minions movie did not have this. Instead they decided to centre the story around Kevin, Stuart and Bob; three Minions who were similar enough to be considered a singular character, but none of them were anywhere near developed enough to be a proper lead.

God knows which one is which

So how do we solve this problem?

Well, we take a leaf out of 2011’s The Muppets Movie.


What Jason Segel and his team understood was that there needed to be a new character. Someone completely unconnected to The Muppets into order to take the audience into that world. This is pretty much the only reason for the creation of Walter. (And also the reason why Walter is completely pointless in the sequel.)

So that’s what we need for a Minions movie. A completely new and unconnected Minion. Someone we’ve never seen before. But also someone who we as an audience can journey with through the crazy world of Despicable Me.

And who should this Minion be, I hear you ask?

All in good time.

So with that in mind this is how I would write a Minions story…

We open on a retirement party in Gru’s laboratory. Several of the Minions have reached old age and are jetting off to spend their final years on a sun drenched Caribbean Island. Gru and Lucy have also decided to go on holiday and will be taking the girls with them.


As Gru is about to leave the house, he asks Kevin, Stuart and Bob to create a few more Minions to replace their retiring workforce. (Yes, I’m ignoring the idea that Minions are naturally created)

Kevin, the sensible one, decides to to go down to the lab immediately and switch on the M.M.M. (Minion Making Machine). Soon the machine is pumping out new Minions at a steady pace.

But Stuart and Bob have made their way to the kitchen instead. They want to make a milkshake!


Into it goes all sorts of lovely things. Chocolate, sugar, spice and all things nice. But there’s a problem.

Neither of them can agree who gets the first taste!

And so a chase begins. Spectacularly over the top, the milkshake glass gets thrown all about the house, barely spilling a drop. The chase makes it all the way down into the lab, and to Kevin’s horror, the milkshake falls into the machine!


The Minions are devastated! The machine that created them has been completely destroyed! But as the Minions look through the wreckage, they discover something…


A female Minion!

The machine seems to have been affected by the milkshake and created a totally new type of Minion. Something no one’s ever seen before. Nobody knows what to do.

But she’s so cute! And so Kevin, Stuart and Bob decide to take it upon themselves to become her new fathers. And what do they call her?

Minnie! Minnie the Minion!

So we’re doing 3 males looking after a young female. You know what that means?

That’s right people…

Three Minions and a little… Minion?

There’s a cute montage of Minnie’s three dads trying to raise her, while at the same time trying to fix the M.M.M. Now since the Minions grow a little faster than the average human, Minnie is soon put in Minion school.

As we know from previous movies, Minions naturally want to be evil or serve an evil master. This attitude essentially forms the basis of their school curriculum. (Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!)

But Minnie’s different. The machine didn’t make her like other Minions. Why? Because she wants to be…



Unlike every other Minion, Minnie doesn’t want to serve an evil overlord. She wants to be kind and useful; and because of this belief she finds it difficult to get through school and keeps failing her classes.

For example, one role-playing test might be: How can a Minion help an old lady cross the street?

We see a variety of situations play out; such as hitting her with a bus so she flies across the street, attaching a rocket to her back, or even dressing up as a horror character and scaring her into running across.

But when Minnie’s time comes, she puts on a hardhat and a whistle and calmly helps the lady cross the street. The Minion teacher is flabbergasted and immediately gives Minnie a big fat F.


That, for all intents and purposes, is the journey we see our protagonist go on. A heroine trying to live in a world where everyone expects her to do one thing, but she wants to do something else. This choice, this journey, is what forms the basis of the film.

But there’s a subplot too. While Minnie has been trying to be good, Kevin has been trying to fix the M.M.M. But alas! Something has gone wrong. He accidentally programs it into being a different type of M.M.M… A Minion Murdering Machine!


Chaos ensures! With the monstrous M.M.M terrorising the neighbourhood it seems like all hope is lost.

But then Minnie steps up. While the neighbourhood has become a mini warzone, where the male Minions are using bazookas and all sorts of other weapons to try and stop it; Minnie, with her book smarts and kindness, does something completely different.

She walks out into No Man’s Land, her three Minion fathers crying out for Minnie to come back. She walks up to the killer robot, looks him straight in the eye and…

Minion Fool

Or what Minion?

Minion punch


Sorry guys, looks like the ending will stay secret for now!

Next Time: If I Could Write… Jurassic Park!

If you’re interested in reading more ideas I have for other franchises:

If I Could Write… Star Wars!

If I Could Write… Home Alone!

If I Could Write… Terminator!

Photo/GIF Credits: Sin City WikiMinion Nation, Brand ChannelGIPHY, Pinterest, Collider, Fanpop, Despicable Me Wiki, Ronnie Spirit,

All Original Art by Kaieri

If I Could Write… Terminator! (Part 1)

Author’s Note: This article ended up being really long, so it’s split into two parts.

Man, they really did try after Terminator 2, didn’t they? 3 Movies. 3 Sequels. And all semi to complete failures.

If only the movies were as successful as his… Ohhhhh. My bad.

For those of you that aren’t quite up to date with the wild ride that is the Terminator franchise, let’s recap!

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Erupting from the fevered dreams of director James Cameron, Terminator (T1) would be released in 1984 to critical and commercial acclaim; and make a worldwide star of the Austrian Oak known as Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Unlike today, where sequels are pumped out faster than a prematurely ejaculating teenager, the sequel known as Terminator 2: Judgement Day (T2) wouldn’t appear on screens till 1991. But that 7 year wait seems to have been worth it because T2 blew the doors off its predecessor with a worldwide box office gross of over half a billion.

It would be another long wait of 12 years before Hollywood saw fit to release a third installment in 2003. Witty called Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (T3), the film was profitable, though the critical and audience reaction left a lot to be desired.

Introducing “a lot to be desired”

Nonetheless, 6 years later Terminator: Salvation, starting Christian “We are done professionally!” Bale, would be released to even lesser critical and audience reaction; as well as the lowest gross so far.

Still, the phrase “scraping the bottom of the barrel” doesn’t seem to be a negative one in Hollywood’s books; and after years of Hollywood machinations the 5th film, Terminator: Genisys, would be released.


Atrocious spelling aside, the film would be met with the barest of shrugs and wouldn’t even reach $90 million in the United States.

And so here we are. In 2017 the Terminator franchise languishes in a ditch, a shadow of its former self. But do not fret fellow sci-fi fanatics. There is hope! The Terminator can rise again!

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That being said, there are several aspects that need to be taken into account when we go about crafting a new Terminator film.

1) Budget

We can’t keep making eye-watering $200 million Terminator films. I’m sorry, but for Genisys to make nearly half a billion dollars worldwide and STILL be considered a failure is unacceptable. I appreciate that might be difficult due to the various deals that might be in place from the previous Terminator films, but every time that budget increases, the blander the story has to be in order to get the most bums on seats (just look at the recently released Passengers.)

Admittedly this is partly due to T2. Because it was so successful, every Studio that gets their hands on the franchise thinks they need to repeat those beats. Well guess what? EVERY SINGLE TIME they make an action-y Terminator movie, the first thing everyone does is compare it to T2. Because of that we HAVE TO move away from the blockbuster explosion type deal. To this end…

2) Change Genre

The Terminator franchise has already shown that it can handle a change in genre. T1 is a stripped down, horror/thriller type film; while T2 changed to a big budget blockbuster. There is no reason why the Terminator franchise can’t change genre again.

The film I’m thinking of, while it would contain action beats, would fundamentally be a sci-fi/drama film. (Think Arrival or Contact.) It’s a risk, I agree. But in order to heal the “wounds” the Terminator franchise has taken over the past few decades, this change is absolutely necessary.

3) Creating one movie

This really is a wider problem with Hollywood, but we have to get away from the ridiculous idea that a story has to be told over multiple films/mediums. NO! NO! NO! One film. One story. One ticket. One experience.

We need to go “old school” and give audiences a complete story over 2 hours. 99% of questions they might have should be answered by the end of the film.

The fact that I have to use the phrase “old school” really says it all, doesn’t it?

But to clear, that doesn’t mean I’m against doing or even setting up a sequel. Rather we have to stop expecting audiences to pay for an unfinished story. All that does it create hatred and resentment for the Terminator franchise.

4) Introducing new characters

I love many of the characters that the Terminator franchise introduced. Their mark on pop culture is indisputable, with Sarah Connor in particular becoming an amazing example of the change a woman can go through when she’s fighting for freedom.

But as much as I love Sarah, John and Kyle, we need to move away. Respect their contribution and impact, but at the same time new blood is needed.

5) But keep Schwarzenegger

It’s not impossible to do a Terminator film without Schwarzenegger, and I honestly went back and forth on whether my idea should include him. In the end though, I have to take into account the commercial needs of the project, not just the artistic. The love that international audiences have for the Austrian Oak is necessary to create a successful film.


5) Try to respect the timeline of the original 2 films as much as possible.

Terminator: Genisys got one thing right: Spinning off from a certain point in the timeline to create a new story. The problem was that they went too early and ripped away everything we loved.

Don’t get me wrong, as X-men: First Class demonstrated, if you have to choose between continuity and a great film; choose the latter every time. But, in this case, I’m going to adhere to T1 and T2 as much as possible.

6) And do not f**k with time travel.

What a lot of the later movies didn’t understand was that time travel was never particularly important to the Terminator story. It was just a means to an end. A way to get a guy/robot from the future to the present day in order to tell the actual story.

Once you start introducing overly complex methods of time travel, then the audience completely shuts off. Either don’t mention time travel, or if you have to, then just mention it in the context of A—->B.

So, with the above mentioned in mind, my idea for a Terminator film can pretty much be summed up in one sentence:

What does a Terminator do if it fails its mission?

Really think about it guys. In all the movies, we’ve never seen a Terminator fail its mission and survive. Every movie where we see a Terminator fail, it fails because it’s destroyed before it can complete its mission.

That’s the story I want to explore. If a Terminator fails in its mission, what does it do afterwards?

Does it shut down or destroy itself? No, because T2 told us Terminators can’t self-terminate.

Does it travel back to the future? (Ha!) No, because as we know from all the movies, time travel is a one way trip.

So what does a failed Terminator do?

The easiest way to explore this aspect is to make a small diversion in the current timeline of T2. Rather then seeing the Terminator succeed, we need to watch him fail. In other words, we need to watch Sarah and John Connor die.

no will smith

I know what you’re thinking.

Vijay! You son of a bitch! You want to pull an Alien 3!

I know, I know. And if I was actually writing Terminator 3, then this opening is totally NOT what I would have gone for.

But this article has already gone on for too long. I’ll see you in part 2 for the explanation!

Click here to see my previous ideas in If I Could Write… Home Alone! and If I Could Write… Star Wars!

Sherlock: Why Mary’s Story Had To End

[Spoilers for the BBC’s Sherlock TV show]

It’s incredible to see the variety of emotions that people are experiencing after witnessing the final events of the New Years Day episode of Sherlock: The Six Thatchers.

But it’s also a little disturbing to see how many people seem love the fact that Mary was killed because of their hatred of the character. Indeed in looking at the difference responses I came across Katie Welsh’s review of the episode on Indiewire.

Though a very good (and quite funny) review, there was one part that stuck out to me:

(Mary’s) death is a problem, and not just because she was a welcome female face in the homoerotic sausagefest that the show can turn into if left unaccompanied. She has, in feminist pop culture parlance, been “fridged — killed off to further a male character’s story arc and fuel him with manpain. It’s yet another reminder that women are not central — not even important — to the story.

A fair point, but I think a little too simplistic when trying to establish why Mary was killed off. In reality the removal of Mary was absolutely necessary to keep the story going, regardless of how her death emotionally affected the male characters.

What do we know about Mary? She’s a bad-ass retired spy. She’s quick-witted and resilient. Incredibly intelligent and loyal. With all her amazing skills and experiences, the only person she’s second to is Sherlock. (And to be fair, I’m pretty sure she could kick the shit out of him.)

The most important thing to take away from this is that she is, for all intents and purposes, better than John in every single measurable way possible. And that causes a story problem. Not because she’s a woman. But because she’s not as dumb as John.

Think carefully about why John exists in the story. He’s there as an audience surrogate. He represents us. When Sherlock needs to explain something to John, he’s actually explaining it to us. That is the whole point of John’s existence in the story.

But with Mary in the picture, one single problem pops up: What does Sherlock need John for?

Mary is superior to John in every way. So why wouldn’t Sherlock just take her on all his cases? The episode itself points this out brilliantly at the 30 minute mark.

John: Mary, what are you doing here?

Sherlock: She’s better at this than you.

John: Better?

Sherlock: So I texted her.

John: Hang on, Mary’s better than me?

Sherlock: Well, she is a retired super-agent with a terrifying skill-set. Of course she’s better.

So the problem we have here is that Mary is the most logical person for Sherlock to take with him, but the audience need someone as dumb as John to go with Sherlock.

So what’s the solution?

Well, the first thing that would pop into most people’s minds would be for Sherlock to just explain everything to Mary. That would be an utter disaster of storytelling though. You would be taking a woman that has already been established as a strong, intelligent character; and dumbing her down so that the male protagonist has someone to explain the situation to. Do any of you think that’s going to fly in 2017?

So John (or someone equally as dumb) has to be the one following Sherlock around. So what’s the next solution? Writing Mary to stay at home with the baby?

Again, that’s another negative storytelling decision. While it wouldn’t be impossible to write a former female super-spy deciding to stay at home with the kids; can you imagine the backlash if she also allowed her husband carte blanche to go on a bunch of dangerous adventures? Especially when she’s clearly more qualified? Not only would it not make much logical sense, but it would look like a strong capable woman is being forced to stay at home so the boys can go on their little adventure.

Put simply: Mary has to be removed from the story for it to continue.

Now, to be fair, Mary didn’t need to specifically die. But there aren’t that many ways to remove her without fundamentally changing the direction or structure of the show.

Let’s say there’s a threat and Mary leaves in order to protect her family (like she does in the episode.) Would John have sat around, twiddling his thumbs, waiting for her to come back? Probably not. And more importantly, even after the threat is neutralised and Mary returns home, the original problem still exists

Okay then, lets say the writers still have Mary leave and just ignore that story thread. From now on its just John and the baby. Do you think audiences would accept that? I guarantee not. Every interview with the writers would have someone asking “When’s Mary coming back?”

And yes, I’ll admit there are a variety of other ways that they could have written her out of the story without killing her. Maybe she becomes disabled. Maybe she falls into a coma. Maybe she’s arrested and imprisoned for her crimes. But there is nothing more “clean” (story wise) than killing her straight out.

I know people are upset that the best female character in the show has been killed off. While it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that she was “Fridged”, it’s important for everyone to remember that a lot more thought than you might think went into writing that screenplay you’re criticising.

Some Thoughts On Passengers (2016) And The Art Of Storytelling

[Spoilers for Passengers, 24 (TV Show), What Lies Beneath and No Country for Old Men.]

You know what got me into storytelling? An episode of Star Trek. Specifically Season 5, Episode 25: The Inner Light. Written by Morgan Gendel and Peter Allan Fields, the episode was released in 1992, but I wouldn’t see it until 1997 when I was nine years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d seen dozens of TV episodes and films before this. But The Inner Light emotionally affected me in a way that very few moments of storytelling have managed to do.

Sci-fi was and still is my first love. No other genre dominates my screenplay work to quite the same extent. The number of stories that you can tell through the lens of science-fiction is essentially unlimited. Just watch the last 36 seasons of Doctor Who.

But alas, sci-fi is always difficult to get on the silver screen. Especially when studios can make much more profit on genres such as horror or comedy. That’s why I’ve always made sure to go see any big budget sci-fi film on opening weekend. Even if it doesn’t fully interest me. Thus, this weekend I went to see Passengers.



Fundamentally, Passengers falls into the hole which many other sci-fi stories find themselves in: A great idea with a terrible execution or ending.

While Jim’s (Chris Pratt) decision to release Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) from hibernation is sort of understandable considering what he’s been through, there is nonetheless no argument that (morally) he is completely in the wrong. As the film itself points out, he has essentially murdered the person he claims he’s in love with. A death sentence that takes 80 years to fulfill is still a death sentence.

While there are occasional overtures indicating the film is aware its hero has committed a terrible act, none of these hints are ever pursued. Rather the film prefers to tack on a Hollywood-style action packed third act and wrap up everything in a neat bow and a happy ending.

Since Jim is the person that we as an audience are meant to identify with, it is completely unacceptable that he gets away with committing such a heinous crime. The hero is (usually) someone we as an audience need to aspire to be. Admittedly while that might not be true in every single film, Passengers makes it clear that John is meant to perceived as the hero of the story. Flawed yes, but a hero nonetheless.

But what he does to Aurora is beyond the pale. To sentence someone to what is essentially a prison for your own sick satisfaction (even it’s not sexual) is still the height of egotism and villainy. Rather than being a willing and equal partner in their relationship, Aurora essentially represents a fantasy for Jim. A fantasy that he is willing to lie, cheat and betray to achieve.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a character getting away with doing something immoral or illegal. No Country for Old Men is a great example of that. The problem is when the hero (specifically the person we’re meant to “root” for) gets away with doing something immoral or illegal.

The TV show “24” often comes to mind when I think about this issue in storytelling. Jack Bauer did some terrible things in the pursuit of justice and freedom. But every time he did something wrong, the aftermath wasn’t a happy, go lucky experience. Bauer experienced a huge amount of loss and punishment throughout the series, ranging from the murder of his wife to the deaths of almost all his closest friends.

© FOX. All Rights Reserved.

Passengers came so close to being a strong four star or even five star movie. But the portrayal of its “hero” and his suffering female companion is so unforgivable that it brings the entire film crashing down to the 2/3 star level.

But, if I was to put on my screenwriting hat, there are several ways that this could be fixed:

1) The Minor Rewrite

The film would fundamentally stay the same up until the point where Jim is unconscious and is dragged into the medical pod by Aurora. However, Aurora is unable to save him and he dies.

Aurora then spends the next few months and years alone, potting around an empty spaceship. Like Jim before her, she slowly starts to lose her mind and is eventually forced to make the same decision as Jim, and chooses to wake someone up so she doesn’t have to die alone.

This way Jim is punished for his transgressions, but the tragedy of the situation is made even more apparent as Aurora is forced to make the same decision that he did.

2) The Major Rewrite

Choosing to make the genre Sci-Fi/Drama with an action ending was a complete mistake. Rather the film could take a leaf from What Lies Beneath and have its male lead become the primary villain. The film could have remained more or less the same up until the point where Aurora discovers she was woken up by purpose.

The film then descends into a horror/thriller where Jim becomes more and more unhinged and dangerous. The film eventually turns into a sort of cat-and-mouse game where both Jim and Aurora have to kill each other to save themselves.

3) The Page One Rewrite

Personally, this is my preferred structure. I would have made Aurora the main character. We should have followed the entire film through her eyes. Imagine she wakes up. There’s no one around as she wanders the ship, going through the same emotions that Jim currently goes through. But as she explores she comes across several piles of mess, like empty containers, dirty clothes, etc.

Finally she meets the first person she’s seen in days/weeks. Jim approaches her. He’s got a full beard. He’s crying. She’s weary, but he seems so happy to see her. He tells her that his hibernation pod malfunctioned nearly 2 years ago. She feels sorry for him and the film continues with them developing a relationship.

The film would continue with her discovering that he woke her up by purpose and it essentially turns into the horror/thriller mentioned above.

Other Thoughts

The tag line is super misleading. To the point it’s pissed me off.

There is a reason they woke up

I’m sorry, but when that’s your tagline you kind of give the impression that the reason for waking up is purposeful. Waking up because a meteor accidentally damaged your hibernation pod is technically a reason. But it’s in no way a meaningful reason.

By the way, I’d also love to know how the conversation went when they hired Andy Garcia. 🙂

Casting Director: “Hi Andy. Great to meet you. Thanks for coming in!”

Andy Garcia: “No Problem.”

Casting Director: “We’ve got a great new sci-fi film coming up. Really big budget, stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, and we’re releasing it during Oscar Season.

Andy Garcia: “So you’re releasing it–”

Casting Director: “That’s right. Only 2 weeks after Star Wars.”

Andy Garcia: “Wow! That’s some confidence!”

Casting Director: “The film’s about these two people travelling through space and we’d love you to come on board as the ship’s captain.”

Andy Garcia: “I’d love to consider it. When do I get the script?”

Casting Director: “Errr… small thing. You don’t have any lines.”

Andy Garcia: “Oh……… OH! Is it because I’m playing a type of robot that doesn’t speak human language? You know, like in WALL-E?

Casting Director: “No… You’re playing a normal human. But we just need you to walk through a door”

Andy Garcia: “That’s it?”

Casting Director: “Well, you’ll be wearing a captain’s uniform and we need you to put on a confused expression. But… Yep. Just need you to walk through a door.

Andy Garcia: “……………………………..You know I was nominated for an Oscar right?”


Wow! Shot my first film, won 2 awards, shortlisted for a £15,000 grant and lost my virginity!

What a week! What… A… Week….

Man, it was super hard at some points, but I managed to push through all the obstacles in my way and do something I’ve never done before…

…  Successfully shoot a short film! (I know what you were thinking… Perverts!)

Anyway, let’s go back to the beginning. In the early hours of 9th December, I received an e-mail saying that my short sci-fi screenplay, Message through the Stars, had been shortlisted for £15,000 grant from Film London!

What an honour! I was so excited!… Then I realised they wanted to meet me in a few days.

Now usually that time period would barely faze me. But I haven’t read that script in months! And I’m literally shooting a completely different short film the next day!

So I pushed it out of my mind and, on the 10th and 11th December, a group of us went to Kings Cross, London to shoot a screenplay I wrote and produced called The Right Choice.


You can follow us on our Facebook page here, but man, was that shoot tough! Being the first film I’d ever produced, there was one hell of a learning curve. Problems getting throw up at every turn, it honestly felt like the shoot could fall apart at any moment.

Me, about to have a heart attack.

The only thing that could have made it worse is if I’d been directing, but thank god I decided to let someone more experienced take the role!

We ended up over running by about 2 hours on both days, which cost a pretty penny, but fortunately we managed to, as they say, “get it in the can.”


Only a day later though, I was contacted by the contest organisers of the Reel Authors Screenplay Contest informing me that “A God Amongst Men” had placed as one of it’s Top 3 Finalists for Sci-Fi!

ARRGH! Top 3! I was so close! I had pretty high hopes for that script, especially since, back in early 2016, I managed to get it optioned for 6 months by Raindance’s production company. But alas, that didn’t lead anywhere.


My thanks to everyone at Reel Authors who felt the script was worthy enough to place so highly!

I honestly thought that would be it on the festival front, but only a day later and another festival win landed in my inbox! This time from Fantastic Planet: Sydney Sci-Fi and Fantasy Film Festival; and the script was Message through the Stars, the very same short that’s just been shortlisted!



My thanks to everyone at Fantastic Planet that voted for my screenplay! If anything, hopefully this screenplay win will convince Film London that my screenplay would be a good choice to give the grant to.

But I’m guessing the part you really want to read about is me losing my virginity? Well about that…




















If I Could Write… Home Alone!

The Home Alone movies are a strange bunch aren’t they? The ultimate example of parental abandonment and how the system is totally okay with not prosecuting rich white people!

Would have happened if they were black!

I jest, I jest! Nonetheless the Home Alone films really are products of their time. In a world littered with mobiles, Internet and constant connections, its rather difficult to imagine the same situation happening today. (Not that the originals were the height of plausibility)

Yeah, I could totally imagine Macaulay Culkin becoming Pres… Wait, WHAT!

For those of you that may have finer tastes in movies (or were born after the freelance parenting of the 1990s), the Home Alone franchise is always centred around a pre-pubescent boy who is left at home alone for an extended period of time.

The franchise kicked off in 1990 with the wittily titled “Home Alone.” Starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, it’s success would be followed by “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”

Having aged out of the role, Culkin would be replaced by Alex D. Linz for the third installment, Home Alone 3 (which, fact fans, stars a young Scarlett Johnansson!)

Having already stretched believability to breaking point on the silver screen, the final two films in the franchise, Home Alone 4 and Home Alone: The Holiday Heist, would end up being low-budget TV movies.

But like my previous Star Wars article, I do have an interesting Home Alone idea that I’d like to write. So…

Lets lock and load!

Doing Home Alone as a family film where a little boy is left on his own is vastly out of date and just wouldn’t work in the 21st century. Add to that is the fact that most of the love for Home Alone comes from the people who watched the original two films in the 1990s.

So firstly I’m going to ignore the latter 3 movies. The Home Alone I write will essentially be a direct sequel to Home Alone 2. But I would also drastically change the genre…

…To Horror!

Bet you didn’t see that coming, you little jerk!

Why horror? I’ll come back to that. First, have a look at the two photos below


These are the blueprints that Kevin draws up in order to plan for the upcoming home invasion in both films.

I’ll say that line again: These are the BLUEPRINTS that Kevin draws up in order to plan for the upcoming HOME INVASION in both films.

He’s 8 years old! And still only 10 in the second film! The boy’s a fucking child genius! While the drawings are crude, that doesn’t change the fact that Kevin has an phenomenal understanding of military-style tactics! We are talking Jigsaw from Saw-level planning here people!

So what we can assume is that Kevin would most likely be able to apply these skills to an adult life path. And based on the events of both movies, what industry do you think he went into?

Home Security of course!

And why wouldn’t he? He obviously has the skills, and with modern technology and a decent investment from a bank, he could easily set up his own firm.

And that’s where my story would start. Set about 30 years after the first film, we open on a TV advert for McCallister Securities (McSec). We see shots of homes, cars, businesses, military establishments and public transportation. All of them with stickers or posters saying “Protected by McCallister Securities.”

Towards the end of the commercial we see 40-year-old Kevin McCallister, the CEO of McCallister Securities, make an appearance to talk about a new upcoming piece of technology. Something that will change the face of the security industry. And he will make a personal announcement at the 1st ever McSec Tech show.

As one of the largest multinational companies in the world, McSec is essentially the Apple of the security industry. But Kevin McCallister himself is an absolute mystery. A complete recluse, he never leaves his house, and no one has seen him in public since the early 2000s. Instead he sends blueprints, designs and sometimes prototypes to his company, which they then mass produce.

Because of this the actual day-to-day running of the company is done by his younger cousin, Fuller McCallister (played by Macaulay’s real life brother, Kieran!) He is the only person to directly talk to or have contact of any kind with Kevin.

And why has no one seen Kevin? Why does he hide away from the world? According to Fuller, Kevin suffers from PTSD. The widely publicised house invasion of 1990, and the hunting of Kevin by gun wielding maniacs in New York, has apparently led Kevin to be somewhat weary of the outside world and he prefers to stay shut away. But is Fuller telling us the truth?

As the commercial ends, a TV switches off and we’re now in a boardroom. Two groups of people occupy the room. Each one is a competitor of McSec. (Think the Google and Amazon of the securities world.)

They’re both worried. For Kevin McCallister himself to come out of his self-imposed exile must mean, whatever this piece of new technology, it really is going to change the world.

Both companies are desperate. Their share prices are taking a hammering and they’re both willing to do anything to try and survive. In the end both companies decide that, since this piece of technology is in Kevin McCallister’s house, the only thing they can do is hire people to break in and try to steal it.

And so we’re introduced to our protagonist. Ellen, 40 years old, and a retired policewoman with some military experience who takes jobs like this to try and support her family. Her team of 5 have been hired by “Amazon.” However, “Google” chooses to only send one person as they want to reduce the risk of getting caught.

So this team of 6 enter the grounds of Kevin McCallister’s house and break inside (which was surprising easy.) But then… oh no… one of the team is injured! By a trap! Specifically this trap!

Now, as comedic as this is, do you know what happens when you get something of that weight, at that speed, smashing into your face? Here, I’ll let the doctors explain.

Losing teeth, losing your eyesight, broken nose, cracked skull and possible blood clots forming in your brain. And let’s not forget the excruciating pain! You are as close to death without actually being dead.

That’s when the entire team realise… They’re trapped in a house of horrors. They can’t escape. Kevin McCallister isn’t playing around this time. And everyone’s going to suffer.

That’s why I want it to be a horror film. Imagine creeping down the dark, dingy corridors of the McCallister house, not really knowing where the next trap is going to be. Fear surging through Ellen and her teammates.

There would be a mixture of traps from both Home Alone 1 and 2, with some new ones added in. But they would all be updated to be more technology based and the results would be far more brutal and realistic. For example this trap:

From what little knowledge I have of the human body, that amount of electricity (roughly 100V) for that 18 seconds would essentially start “cooking” the inside of your body. There would be such a massive increase of heat that your blood/water would boil and possibly explode whatever vessel/body part they’re inside of. Not to mention the complete loss of bladder and rectal control.

Who wouldn’t want to watch that?!!!

Anyway, after the brutal loss of several team members, there would be two survivors. Ellen and one of her men. And they come across Kevin McCallister’s personal workshop. And… Oh my god… They see that new piece of technology… It’s…


Sorry guys! Gotta keep some surprises!

Photo Credits: All photos © 1990 / 1992 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved

What happened next in… The Terminator?


Released in 1984 and directed by James Cameron, The Terminator was an astounding entry into both the thriller and sci-fi genres, and propelled both the director and his leading man, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to Hollywood stardom.

Yes, I know this is from Terminator 2. Sue me.


Set in an industrial factory, the film ends with the deaths of Kyle Reese (by the method of fiery explosion) and the Terminator (by the less fiery, but no less effective crushing method), thus allowing Sarah Connor to survive. Sarah then heads to Mexico and becomes a fugitive from the authorities.


To a certain extent we do know what happened next based on the events of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. A deleted scene from T1 shows that the events of the finale took place in a factory belonging to Cyberdyne. The surviving arm of the Terminator was taken to be researched and leads straight to the latter half of events in T2.

But let’s not go that far forward. What would have happened immediately after T1 ends?

Maybe the Terminator became a work obsessed undertaker?

Well firstly, no one knows that the Terminator is a machine. Everyone would assume he was human. And since he wasn’t at the factory, the authorities would assume he was on the run. And thus the largest manhunt in American history begins!

We are talking a manhunt on the scale of a Presidential assassination. The entirety of Los Angeles would be on high alert. This is an absolutely nationwide (if not worldwide) piece of front page news. The best real life comparison I can think of would probably be the Beltway sniper attacks in 2002.

The same kind of fear that the people of Maryland/Washington felt would be coursing through the veins of the citizens from LA. The emotional trauma alone would be off the charts. You know how many people the Terminator kills? Check out the video.

29! Twenty nine people are murdered in less than 72 hours! In 1984, that would make it the deadliest shooting in US history. And what makes it worse is that 17 of them are police officers from one station!

That immediately gets the Terminator on the FBI’s most wanted list. Right now, the 10 people on that list generally “only” kill 1-3 people. There’s no way someone who straight up murders nearly 30 people, half of them in broad daylight, doesn’t make that list!


However, there would be a minor few that would feel perfectly safe because of the fact the media has already widely publicised that the Terminator was hunting people called Sarah Connor.

But those women called Sarah Connor? They would be shaking in their boots! According to, there are 86 Sarah Connors living in the United States right now. Assuming that a similar number were there in 1984, I would not be surprised if all 86 were taken into police custody for their protection.

In this case “Protection” might as well mean “Sitting Duck!”

Within 24 hours I think the police would have found out that the Terminator had a German/Austrian accent and this now becomes an international incident. Now it’s not just the Police/FBI, but now the CIA are getting involved. After all it could have been a terrorist attack from a foreign power.

The governments of Germany and Austria would immediately pledge their full co-operation and I’m willing to bet 2-3 people who kind of look like Arnold Schwarzenegger are immediately taken in for questioning.

All these people would be released pretty quickly as they would have the cast iron alibi of it being impossible to get from LA to Germany/Austria in less than 24 hours. (Remember this is 1984)

By now the public outpouring of grief would be off the scale. Donations would come in from all over the country to help the families of all 29 people killed, not to mention the dozens more suffering from PTSD. And, similar to real life, there would most likely be public funerals for some of the victims, while a few would remain private.

What really interests me though is how seriously would the authorities take the story spouted by Kyle Reece in the police station?

The one line that stands out for me is the one said by Dr Silberman:

You see how clever this part is? How it doesn’t require a shred of proof? Most paranoid delusions are intricate, but this is brilliant!

I would assume every single person watching this video would feel the same. Clearly the man’s delusional. But I think what would come up time and time again in the investigation is how the hell did these two people (Reece and The Terminator) end up having the exact same delusion?

Over the next few weeks the press would be hounding the police, demanding answers on “The Phone Book Killer.” I assume several people would be arrested and released too.

The investigation would also intensify as soon as the police realised that Sarah Connor had gone missing. They would have no idea she had purposely gone into hiding, and so would have jumped to the conclusion that the Terminator has succeeded in killing her and hidden her body.

Gradually people would move on. In fact the next mass shooting, in real life, would take place only 2 months later, in July 1984, at a McDonalds where an 8 month baby was shot in the back. I can only assume that would have wiped out any mention of The Phone Book Killer from the newspapers.

Club Tech Noir (where Sarah tries to hide) would most likely close and maybe a monument would be placed there to commentate the 29 lost lives. (though this could also be placed outside the police station.)

Over time people would forget the events of those 3 days in May 1984. Maybe every so often the case would be reopened, or the story would be mentioned on one of those “True Crime” TV shows. But the events would more or less fade into history until 1995 when the events of T2 take place.

I won my first screenplay contest!


I am pleased to announce that I have won Best Screenplay for the 2016 Golden Blasters! The award ceremony was held The National Irish Science Fiction Film Festival last month and I received my trophy today!


The winning script was Message through the Stars, a short script about a young mother travelling at the speed of light to a distant planet, and needs to deal with the fallout this journey has on her only child.

It’s such a wonderful honour and I want to thanks everyone at Golden Blasters and The National Irish Science Fiction Film Festival for considering my screenplay and feeling that it was worth enough to win.

It may have taken 4 years and over a dozen screenplays, but I FINALLY won something!