Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Chronicles of Cannes: Part1

Okay folks I'm back from Cannes and writing here to give you the low-down on my experiences there, though I'm regretting not keeping on top of things and making a daily post while I was there so all of this might take a while and come at you in parts. Hopefully once I get started and get back into the rhythm of actually writing something other than my signature or a shopping list I will begin to post with greater frequency. Until then be patient.

Last year, as part of my degree in scriptwriting, everyone on our course was required to do a minimum of 6 weeks work experience related to our course. Through a student in the year above I got a 3 month internship at the London Script Consultancy working for a guy called Colin where I had an interesting experience getting one to one tuition in screen writing. Since working there I have kept in contact with Colin and his writers as he would like me to stay involved with the scriptwriting projects they have got going on there. Recently Colin called me up asking if I would like to go to Cannes this year for the film festival as it is something the script consultancy has been going to for some years now. This year they're taking some scripts with them with the aim of pitching them to production companies etc. to hopefully get something made. Obviously I jumped at the chance as this was a major opportunity for me to really see how the industry works and perhaps make some good contacts. I would definitely say that the experience has been an eye opener for me.

I booked my flight to leave on the late afternoon of Thursday 15th of May, the festival goes on for almost two weeks and I was going to be staying until Sat 24th. I'm not sure how many of you are aware of this but I really do not enjoy flying, in fact I very much hate flying and it scares me. What would make this particular flying experience potentially even worse than all the others was that this time I was doing it all on my own. No family, girlfriend, or friends to keep me company and make the experience a little more bearable. I was all on my tod and about to climb aboard a vehicle that I have been assured on a number of occasions (in fact every time I fly and every other time I whinge about my fear of flying) is statistically the safest mode of transportation.

Well I'm afraid the statistical likelihood of crashing does nothing to make me feel better, because like those people who religiously buy a lottery ticket each and every week believing that they are going to be millionaires come 7 o'clock, all I seem to be thinking once that plane takes flight and we're in the air is “what if I'm that one in a 11 million? What if that giant black hand of fate (if you win the lottery it's a big and gold hand made of light, if you're going to die in a plane crash its big and black and made of night so if you're taking an evening flight you won't be able to see it) comes and taps on the glass of my plane window and says – without the aid of an actual mouth I might add - “it's you!””.

Plus if flying is so safe then why is it every time you go on a plane you have to be treated to a moronic safety procedure of what to do in the event of a crash (putting on your life jackets, oxygen masks, escape routes etc.). If you are assuring me that this is the safest mode of transportation then why must we be prepared for the worse? On top of that, if the plane does indeed decide to go down while it is fifty thousand feet you are never going to get the chance to use those life jackets or emergency exits because you will most certainly die. The only thing that will save you then is an intervention from God or Superman.

And this brings me on to what really frightens me about flying: what the actual experience of being in a plane crash might be like. Every time I fly the scenario involuntarily ends up running through my head: Imagine that your miles up in the sky halfway into the flight and the engines suddenly decide to give out, or one of the wings dramatically snaps and off causing the plane to take a nose dive and plummet back down towards the Earth's surface miles below. It's pandemonium, everyone around you is screaming (you're probably screaming to), those useless oxygen masks pop out of their little compartments and some hopeful fool is actually trying to put on and inflate a life jacket, while everyone tells him it's no good it's not gonna save him but then suddenly they're all putting on life jackets, and they try and cling on to the same desperate hope that he has that they might actually survive this.

Then, if you haven't done so already, your life flashes before your eyes, but as you're 50,000 feet into the air that moment passes by quickly leaving you with a few horrible minutes to ponder your imminent death. After/during that, you start to dwell -not just a quick flash of thoughts running through your head - but actually dwell on all that time you have wasted in your life with meaningless pursuits whilst putting off all the things you should have been doing, wishing desperately for a second chance. At least if you died in something like a car crash the death could be instantaneous so that it won't give you time to think about this shit, or if you find out that tragically you only have six months to live due to some incurable illness it would at least give you some time to say your goodbyes to loved ones and a chance to achieve some of the things you hadn't earlier in life.

Fortunately as the flight was only to the south of France it would be a short one and by the time I was sat on the plane I had managed to calm myself sufficiently that I wasn't really pondering on the possibilities of a plane crash. Anyway I soon had other things to worry about as I had noticed a guy sat in the aisle opposite me that I didn't really want to see again. His name is Rob Brown, a film student from the Bournemouth arts institute and a former employee of Blockbusters, and we didn't get on with each other. I'm not sure I can put into words what really got me riled about the guy aside from his arrogance and the patronising way he would try to talk to me. I think he considered himself a bit of an 'auteur' and our opinions on things differed greatly so we were never going to get on that well. The thing is, towards the end of his time at Blockbusters I think he began to realise that a few of the people there weren't that keen on him and I began to wonder if I judged him a bit harshly to begin with. Especially as the last few times I saw him at work he seemed to have dropped that air of superiority that he had carried around him to begin with and he was much friendlier towards me. But then he lost his job, or quit, I'm not sure now why he left but I remember feeling relieved and guilty for feeling relieved that he had left.

Now however, he was on the plane only a few meters away from me and I had a decision to make: Wait until I catch his eye and perhaps make some sort of gesture of recognition like a nod of the head or mouthing the words “aright”, or alternatively never look in his direction for the whole flight and pretend that I just didn't see him, and if we do happen to look in each others direction just pretend to myself and him that I don't recognise who he is. Well me being me I plumped for the latter, which may sound like a harsh thing to do but I knew full well that he was probably weighing up the situation in the same way as I was and ultimately I believe he made the same decision. In many ways this turned out to be quite a ridiculous situation because I ended up spending more than just a short flight within 3 meters of this guy. Even after landing he was there when we went through passport control, he was there when we went to pick up our luggage, and even on the hour and a half coach journey from Nice to Cannes he was there.

You're probably thinking that like me, Rob was on this plane journey all on his own. That we were the only two loners on this trip to Cannes and had anyone known that we actually knew each other they would probably be thinking - like you could be now - “why didn't we just starting chatting to each other?” cos at least that way we would have some company for a few hours. Well the situation wasn't quite that ridiculous as the guy was with a whole group of his college friends, which gave him extra excuses, and me extra reasons, to pretend that we didn't see one another.

Anyway, when the coach finally reached Cannes I was to go and meet Doug - one of Colin's writers who had been an intern at the consultancy like I had but a couple of years before - at McDonald's of all places. It's funny that, you travel miles away to another country and the most identifiable land mark that you can find to meet someone is a bloody Macky D's. So with my clumsy and difficult suitcase in hand I left the coach and my pal Rob behind to go and find Doug at McDonald's.

To be continued...

Saturday, 10 May 2008

New laptop

I'm writing today's post on my brand new laptop so I guess you could call this a kind of christening for it. My reckless money spending that I vowed to put a stop on really did get the better of me when I purchased this thing though I have not come to regret buying it yet. I had a little trouble with it yesterday when setting it up, which is typical of me when it comes to computers. I don't know why but I always have headaches with them at some time or another and all I had to do to get this thing going yesterday was to turn it on and let it install itself - shouldn't be complicated at all should it? For anyone else no, but for me, most definitely.

And it's always the little things isn't it? Whenever something is wrong it's always some very small minute thing you've missed that creates the big problems - such as not making sure the driver installation disk is firmly clicked in to the optical drive. For about an hour yesterday I thought the optical drive wasn't working but it was only because I hadn't put the disk in properly. What a silly person I am! Would you believe I even called the support helpline before I realised that?

The other big headache was getting the wireless connection working. It took me about half an hour to realise that I had to turn my wireless on then about another hour to figure out what combination of keys was necessary to do that - though that hour was consumed by trying to get that disk to read in the optical drive because said disk was where the instruction manuals -with the information on how to turn the wireless on - for the laptop was kept. Having finally finished with all that yet another obstacle was placed in my path preventing me from connecting to the internet: None of us knew the password for the router in our house so I still couldn't connect to the internet. After some trouble I reset the router and created a new password, problem solved.... Or so I thought.

While I was now able to connect to the internet, two of my housemates were experiencing problems. Sophie and Geoff were able to use the new password and connect fairly easily but Paddy and Yoli were now locked out. Both Sophie and myself spent a couple of hours on Paddy's computer last night before I was finally able to figure out what was going on. From what it looked like every time we try to use windows to view available network connections it wasn't picking anything up. We realised that it wasn't that windows couldn't see the connections but that for some reason windows was not allowed to view or configure the connection. It seemed that another program on Paddy's computer was responsible for configuring his internet connection and it had used up its 90 day trial period so it was refusing to co-operate unless we bought the damn thing. We refused to play ball and uninstalled it. Windows was now back in charge.

Yoli's problem appeared more complicated - mainly because she's the only mac user in the house and the rest of us are mac illiterate - but in the end the solution was very simple. With hers we could see the connection but it just seemed the password wasn't working. After a bit of fiddling it just turned out we were typing the hex code in (whatever that means) and not the actual password I typed in when setting up the connection.

I had thought all the headaches were over but halfway through typing this blog Paddy came into my room with his laptop - it's not letting him connect again.

Fuck knows what it could be this time.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Monday, 5 May 2008


Sell! Sell! Sell!

Recently it feels like there's been even more pressure than usual to sell stuff at work. We've always got some promo running that we must offer to every customer but over the past couple of months they have really started cracking the whip. Telling customers about the promotions we are running has always been the part of the job I hate the most because I feel like i'm being a sleeze. When I'm out and about in town and people come up to you trying to sell stuff I can't stand it so having to go to work and become something I hate has been a problem. But over the years I've learnt to deal with it and conditioned myself with the mantra that "it's just another aspect of my job", the same as dealing with rental returns or checking out films. It's something I have to do to get paid - in some ways a bit like a Nazi soldier working in a concentration camp. The job he's doing is grotesque and evil but he has to do it, he's just following orders, it's his job.

Of course, ultimately though you do have a choice don't you. I don't have to ask every customer to take an extra rental or buy two bags of popcorn for £2, but there will be consequences if I don't. Generally it involves nagging. Getting customers to buy extra stuff at Blockbusters has no real rewards for us lowly employees. It's not like working in a call centre where you get commision for selling something. Nope the only incentive you have for selling as much as you can is that you won't get moaned at by your manager to sell more so long as you're hitting, or preferably exceeding, your sales targets. What's really horrible though are those employees who enthusiastically sell stuff and relish and beating their sales targets.

Frequently I have to deal with the boasts of a certain employee who is always so very chuffed with himself if he manages to convince a customer to take X amount of rentals, or purchase the latest computer games console with tons of extra goodies and peripherals. Just the other day he made a boast because he convinced a woman who had just bought an xbox 360 from ASDA to return it and come back to and buy one on one of the deals from our store instead. All the while he was telling me this I was thinking to myself "What the fuck is so great about that? Has Blockbuster given you a bonus in your pay packet for that? Have they sent you some superchecks (an odd type of currency that can be exchanged for goods and services from a variety of places, anything from Top Shop to Little Chefs)? Perhaps even a letter of thanks from head office for all your hardwork? Do you think they will even give you a pat on the back?"

I didn't say that to him but I felt he needed to be set straight on things. I told him how tired I was of having to try and sell extra shit to customers, how I felt like a sleeze everytime we try and push them into buying more stuff on a pathetic wage of £5.50 an hour. I told him how jaded I was feeling and that he will probably, eventually, start feeling that way too, but I doubt it. The guy loves the job. But who's the bigger idiot? Him for being a blissful and grateful wage slave or me for turning up there everyday when it makes me feel like this.

I'm exagerating a bit here, I don't always feel like this. I didn't have such a bad day today. Most of what is written here was something I wanted to write at the weekend but never really got round to doing it.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

I got 7 minutes to go

I've got about 7 minutes until I have to leave for work so this is gonna be brief, particularly because I have no idea what I'm going to write about....

Yeah I know, it's been a while since I've done one of these so perhaps you'd like a quick update on what's been going on in my life? Well I've been working mostly this past week now that i've gone full time at Blockies. Still hoping this other job I recently applied for will go through, although things may become slightly complicated if I get an interview and a job offer soon because I could have more notice to work before I could leave blockbusters and I'm taking a short holiday to the south of France in the middle of May to go to Cannes film festival. I'll provide more details on that at a later date as right now I've got about another 2 minutes before I have to leave the house.

So what else has been happening? Oh yeah as I was trying to get to sleep after work last night I heard through the TV in the next room that Boris Johnson has been elected mayor - shame on you people of London.

Look at that. Times up. Laters.