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Stephen Volk's Electric Darkness
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Author:  Andy [ Tue Sep 18, 2007 12:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Stephen Volk's Electric Darkness

Steve is the writer of Gothic, Ghostwatch, and the multi-award-winning ITV series Afterlife. He's also a fine short-story writer with at least one collection to his name. This is the place to talk to Steve about his Black Static column Electric Darkness and his experiences in the TV and film industries.

Author:  John Dodds [ Thu Oct 04, 2007 12:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Heart-warming horror

Steve, I applaud what you said in your first Black Static column about the prejudice against "the disturbing, the tragic and the ever-so-slightly downbeat" in the media. A lot of horror and crime films have a reactionary core, in that they ultimately let you off the hook at the end, or they are in love with the redemptive story. There's no redemption in the horrors of war, death, destruction and disease in the real world, after all.

Interesting you mentioned Glazer's Birth, too, a film I thought was excellent, in spite of the general antipathy towards it. I haven't seen Palindromes, but your assessment definitely makes me want to seek it out.

And, I'm still really hacked off that there will be no more AFTERLIFE!!!

Author:  Stephen Volk [ Wed Oct 10, 2007 2:11 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi, thank you for your reaction, and I agree with you about the deeply pernicious, Hollywood REDEMPTIVE CHARACTER ARC. Hm, I wonder if George W Bush has a REDEMPTIVE CHARACTER ARC? I wonder if the shit-hole producers I deal with in LA or their egomaniac, pampered directors have REDEMPTIVE CHARACTER ARCS?

See, you've got me going! Anyhow, I am glad my piece had an effect. And thank you so much for missing Afterlife. I am over my grieving process and hope to be on the go with something new Tv wise soon.

If you want to see something disturbing go buy the DVD of the French film THEM (original title: ILS).

Author:  davidjones [ Thu Oct 11, 2007 10:22 am ]
Post subject: 

Hi Steve

Long time no mither, how's the 'TELEPATHY' film going, or are your comments re: LA directors / producers a bit of a clue.
Redemptive charactor arc's.....according to Hollywood even Hannibal Lector turns into the hero...what gumph!

Regards

DJ

Author:  Stephen Volk [ Thu Oct 11, 2007 4:47 pm ]
Post subject: 

TELEPATHY: I just heard yesterday it is still progressing apace. Director is going to Latvia to scout locations later this month.

Author:  Toby Venables [ Wed Oct 17, 2007 12:17 pm ]
Post subject:  eclectic darkness

Hi Steve,

Just wanted to say ‘hear hear’ to your piece in Black Static about dark fiction, and in particular the comment about ‘social realism’. That is a major bugbear of mine. I don’t mind it being there – if people want to make it and see it, fine – what really grates is that it is seen as more worthy (of praise, of serious consideration, of money). Why people should think this way is beyond me, but every other week I see money being thrown at a scheme to get inner city kids together to make a film ‘about their own lives’. How inspiring for them. It’s the bloody X-Factor without EVEN the glamour! And don’t you think they’d really rather be making a film about zombies, lycanthropes or vampires (these can still, after all, deal with ‘serious’ issues by more effective means: vampirism as addiction; lycanthropy as alienation; zombification as society-induced brain death)? I don’t think we even need to ask. But why don’t the funders and film makers?

To be honest, I think it’s part of that Protestant outlook you mentioned: they don’t want those kids to have too much fun making their movies, because if they’re having fun it obviously can’t be doing them any good. It’s true there may be one or two who have their eyes opened by the filmmaking process, no matter what the end result, and go on to pursue it themselves. But I can’t help feeling the effect of holding up so literal a mirror may well be to encourage many to come to terms with their lives as they are*. A palliative. For me – and, I’d venture to say, for everyone – what is great about fiction is that it can go beyond. It can show you more than you have, more than you’ve seen, and sometimes more than would really want – higher heights, deeper depths. Certainly I feel I can say far more through this kind of fiction. My last completed script, BLACK DOG, is, on one level, a fairly daft supernatural story about a very nasty entity. But it’s really about depression and suicide, and presents what I believe to be a very faithful portrait of life in a bleak, declining Fenland community. It just so happens that it also includes a demonic thing that looks like a giant crawling bat covered in tar. But this monster actually doesn’t kill or harm anyone. It wants them to kill themselves, and through its insidious influence drives them to it. And that’s how such stories work; they make the metaphorical literal, and allow us to face it in a totally different way. I’d argue it’s no less ‘real’ than KES – and for my money, far more entertaining.

There’s a place for heartwarming and for social realism, of course – just not bloody everywhere.

Best,

T

*It might be interesting to mount a campaign against a social realist movie on these grounds, in much the same way that others have tried to ban the likes of Wes Craven. ‘Social realism is damaging our youth!’

Author:  Gary Mc [ Fri Nov 02, 2007 1:10 pm ]
Post subject: 

Quote:
My last completed script, BLACK DOG, is, on one level, a fairly daft supernatural story about a very nasty entity. But it’s really about depression and suicide, and presents what I believe to be a very faithful portrait of life in a bleak, declining Fenland community. It just so happens that it also includes a demonic thing that looks like a giant crawling bat covered in tar. But this monster actually doesn’t kill or harm anyone. It wants them to kill themselves, and through its insidious influence drives them to it.


Blimey, that sounds great... Let me know if it ever gets filmed.

As for Mr. Volk's column: bravo, sir! Loved it.

Author:  Stephen Volk [ Fri Nov 02, 2007 5:43 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thank you Gary! Your book Dirty Prayers is next in my bedside pile. I promise to tell you the horrible nasty things I think about it, too. The cover alone is making me wet my... oops, I really have.

Author:  Gary Mc [ Thu Jan 10, 2008 10:59 pm ]
Post subject: 

You read it yet, Volk?

:wink:

Author:  Stephen Volk [ Fri Jan 11, 2008 11:32 am ]
Post subject: 

Nah. I reckon all the blazingly good reviews you are getting, you bugger, it will just depress me. So I'm reading Richard Dawkins's THE GOD DELUSION first. Now, that IS depressing!!

Will do though. Fear not.

Author:  Tony [ Wed Feb 27, 2008 1:42 pm ]
Post subject: 

Although I'd accept some of Stephen Volk's comments about novels vs. screenplays (and I'd add, for example, that a lot of movies showcase better written dialogue than many novels - just look at Peter Hyams' 2010 in contrast to Clarke's Odyssey Two!) in his column for BS#3... I tend to agree with the view (of Joe Lansdale) that books are generally superior, because - despite all the possible craftsmanship involved - a screenplay is just an intermediary stage in the whole filmmaking process, and not the finished article.

To me, it's not the difference in quality that really counts in any comparison, but the actual purpose of the written work... A novel (even in a first draft) being usually much closer to a finished 'book' than a screenplay is to a 'motion picture'.

I always liked John Carpenter's statement:
"As a director, I am the author of my movies... If the writer thinks he's an auteur, then let him thread up his screenplay in a projector and we'll take a look at it."

Author:  Stephen Volk [ Wed Feb 27, 2008 3:06 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi Tony,

Thanks for your feedback and of course nothing is so black and white.

Dialogue is a red herring, with respect. Most screenwriters I know say they do 90% of the work (plot, theme, character, back-story, visual ideas) before they write a word of dialogue. Then again, I’m reading “The Abstinence Teacher”, a novel by Tom Perrotta, and the dialogue is much better than in most movies!

I think I’ve answered your viewpoint in the piece itself, citing the example of Shakespeare. A Shakespeare play on paper is WAY different in form from the finished, designed, performed, directed, “final product”. Yet most people would not use that fact to diminish its worth. (Some even say he is the high water mark of western civilisation.) But if you don’t buy that argument, that’s fine. I am just giving a perspective because I am sick and tired to the McEwens of the world and their holier-than-thou attitude. Sorry!

With regard to Carpenter: OF COURSE he thinks he is the “author” of his films – he’s a DIRECTOR! (He has been saying this for years and frankly it always smacks to me of someone with a serious self-worth problem: like, isn’t being GOD enough for the guy?) Anyway, please don’t get me going on DIRECTORS: that was my previous BS piece! I’m glad to say I received some positive comments on that from some esteemed colleagues like Stephen Gallagher and Tony Grisoni, who said I caught it about right, and they shared the metaphorical wounds.

I love some of John Carpenter’s films but it’s easy to reply to his egotistical and trite quote with an equally hackneyed one: Hand him 120 pages and say: “Go on, direct that!”

Steve

Author:  Tony [ Wed Feb 27, 2008 7:54 pm ]
Post subject: 

Stephen Volk wrote:
Shakespeare... the high water mark of western civilisation


Nah! That'd be SF, surely?
:wink:

Author:  Stephen Volk [ Wed Feb 27, 2008 11:14 pm ]
Post subject: 

Yeah, well, I agree there: I'd put Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, JG Ballard and Mr E A Poe (amongst others) higher up that tree than Old Bill, personally.

Hey - Maybe that's a future article! "How They Taught Me Shakespeare in School And I've Hated Him Ever Since." Plus, did he really have a Northern accent as in Doctor Who? Brummie, I'd have thought. And probably a pompous, self-regarding little twat. Just guessing.

Steve

Author:  Tony [ Thu Feb 28, 2008 9:27 am ]
Post subject: 

Stephen Volk wrote:
"How They Taught Me Shakespeare in School And I've Hated Him Ever Since."


Quite. :lol:
Thing is, the public and literati of yesteryear had to pick someone to be top of the heap... and his works have long since fallen into cliché. Today, it seems, we have... erm, Stephen King and/or Steven Spielberg..?
:roll:

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