Coming Soon – String City

String City Coming Soon

Read the new novel by Graham Edwards, out January 2019 and available to preorder now.

In an interdimensional city full of gods, living concepts and weirder things, a gumshoe – a “stringwalker,” who can travel between realities – is hired to investigate an explosion at a casino.

He ends up on a frantic chase to track down and retrieve an unimaginable power source, while staying one step ahead of the ancient Greek Titans, an interdimensional spider god and the mysterious creature known as the Fool. If he fails, all things – in all realities – could be destroyed.

Just another day in String City.

Wrapping Marwen and String City

String City by Graham Edwards - Coming Soon

I always have mixed feelings when I come to the end of a writing project. When things have gone well, there’s satisfaction at finishing the job, but there’s also sadness that it’s come to an end … plus a dusting of fear that I maybe I didn’t do as well as I could have done.

Welcome to Marwen posterThis week it’s a double whammy. Firstly, I’ve just submitted the final draft of my latest Cinefex article – a comprehensive behind-the-scenes story on Welcome to Marwen. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film is based on the true story of Mark Hogancamp, who facilitated his own recovery from a brutal beating by constructing an entire miniature town and populating it with dolls. His dramatic photographs of his one-sixth scale world went on to gain recognition in the art world, proving the power of art therapy and the indomitability of the human spirit.

It’s a powerful story, and Zemeckis’s take on it is extraordinary – just as you’d expect from the visionary director of Back to the Future, Forrest Gump and Cast Away. A huge swathe of the film is set inside the miniature world, following the adventures of living, breathing doll characters, each of whom has a counterpart in the real world.  The backbone of my article is the story of how the filmmakers brought that miniature world to life, from set design and cinematography, to the physical construction of miniature sets and dolls, to virtual production and motion capture, to the painstaking art of visual effects. Of all the articles I’ve written for Cinefex, this may be the one of which I’m most proud.

You’ll be able to read my Welcome to Marwen article in Cinefex 162, out mid-December 2018, and available to pre-order now. I’m extra-excited because, as part of my research, I interviewed Robert Zemeckis himself. Rather than include that interview material within the main story, we’ve decided to pull it out as a standalone Q&A. So, two ‘Marwen’ articles for the price of one!

String City by Graham Edwards - draft cover. Illustration by Vince HaigThe second wrap of the week has seen me doing the final edit on my new novel String City, out January 2019. Actually, I’m not quite there – I still have one last copy edit to do, hopefully before the weekend. But, to all intents and purposes, my work on this book is done.

The novel is a hardboiled detective tale set in an otherworldly metropolis where the usual laws of physics don’t always apply. It’s fantasy, it’s noir, and it whisks its wisecracking interdimensional gumshoe hero to some pretty weird locations, as he tries to solve a mystery that threatens not only the neon-lit city in which he lives, but the entire surrounding cosmos.

Endings lead inevitably to new beginnings, and the two acts of closure I’ve engaged in this week are no exception. I’m already lining up my next Cinefex assignment, for an article that will appear in our February 2019 issue. I’ve also made a start on my next novel, which I’ll be working on through next year.

As for what these two new projects are about … you’ll just have to watch this space.

Cinefex Diaries – Venom and Alpha

Cinefex 161

The new Cinefex is just out, with Joe Fordham’s epic story on First Man gracing the cover. This issue, two of the five articles are mine, and they couldn’t have been more different.

First up is Alpha, which I actually finished writing in December 2017, ready for our February 2018 issue. When the film’s release date got bumped to the autumn, we rescheduled the story for inclusion in Cinefex 161. To cover this Ice Age tale of a young hunter’s friendship with a lone wolf, I spoke not only with visual effects supervisor Jeffrey A. Okun and the many artists under his direction, but also archaeological consultant Dr. Jill Cook from the British Museum, and animal trainer Mark Forbes. It’s fascinating where the research takes you sometimes and, in my quest to tell the story of how a team of talented filmmakers brought a wolf called Alpha to the screen, I ended up going to some pretty interesting places.

I worked frantically on my Venom assignment all the way through the summer, arranging interviews with visual effects co-supervisors Paul Franklin and Sheena Duggal, the team of artists at DNEG, director Ruben Fleischer, and a ton of other people, all while they were working frantically on getting the film finished for its October release. It’s a tough gig trying to join the dots on a story like this, when you’re interviewing people who haven’t necessarily drawn all the dots yet! The upside of all that hair-tearing is that the Cinefex story on Venom hit newsstands barely a week after the film was released. It doesn’t get more timely than that!

As always, I had fun putting together the promo video for Cinefex 161, which goes from historic first steps to shark-infested depths with its stories on First Man, Venom, Alpha, The Meg and A.X.L. Here it is:

Cinefex 160 is on newsstands now, and available to order at our online store. If you’re a subscriber, your copy will soon be touching down in your mailbox. And don’t forget our iPad edition, which features tons more photographs and exclusive video content.

String City – Teaser Trailer

 

Regular visitors to this blog will know I have a new novel out in January 2019, titled String City. To keep your appetite whetted, I thought I’d treat you to a teaser trailer, which features original music by my good friend Pete Riley. Thanks, Pete! Watch out for the full book trailer coming later in the year. Here’s the blurb:

String City by Graham EdwardsIn an interdimensional city full of gods, living concepts and weirder things, a gumshoe – a “stringwalker” who can travel between realities – is hired to investigate an explosion at a casino.

He ends up on a frantic chase to track down and retrieve an unimaginable power source, while staying one step ahead of the ancient Greek Titans, an interdimensional spider god, and the mysterious creature known as the Fool. If he fails, all things – in all realities – could be destroyed.

Just another day in String City.

String City will be published by Solaris Books on January 24, 2019. Preorder your copy now.

Cinefex Diaries – Kessel Runner

Cinefex 160 - Solo: A Star Wars Story

The August edition of Cinefex is out, and I’m chuffed to have the cover with my article on Solo: A Star Wars Story. I had a whale of a time researching and writing this one, interviewing the visual effects team at Industrial Light & Magic, creature designer Neal Scanlan, special effects supervisor Dominic Tuohy and many others.

I also checked off a personal bucket list item by chatting with director Ron Howard. Here’s a snippet from my interview with him:

“This isn’t a war movie with an ensemble cast. It’s about young Han’s rite of passage, running this gauntlet on his quest for freedom. I wanted to make it first-person and put the audience right alongside Han throughout the adventure, to give it an urgency and excitement … There are always elements of the American Western and Kurosawa’s samurai films in Star Wars and I wanted to add a kind of ‘70s energy to all that — which was already there in the mind’s eye of Larry and Jon Kasdan, who wrote with kind of a rock‘n’roll vibe. In addition, I always remembered that A New Hope had a very unpretentious attitude about the spaceships, the worlds. George Lucas always said you have to throw all that stuff away. Don’t go for beauty shots. Don’t linger.”

You’ll hear more from Ron in the complete article, along with a ton of juicy behind-the-scenes stories explaining exactly how the design and effects teams made their movie magic.

With the Millennium Falcon on the front cover on Cinefex 160, I naturally went all sci-fi with this issue’s accompanying promo video. It’s a mere minnow compared to the whale-sized visual effects feast that is Solo: A Star Wars Story, but I had a heap of fun putting it together.

The print edition of Cinefex 160 is on newsstands now, and available to order at the online store. The iPad edition features tons more photographs and exclusive video content, including visual effects breakdown reels for Ant-Man and the Wasp and Solo: A Star Wars Story prepared especially for Cinefex by Marvel Studios and ILM respectively.

String City – Coming Soon

"String City" by Graham Edwards - draft cover. Illustration by Vince Haig.

January 24, 2019 – put the date in your diary. Why? Because it’s the publication date of my new novel, String City. Huzzah!

Yes, I know, it’s months away, but the darn thing’s just popped up on Amazon, which means you can preorder it right now. Or, at the very least, admire the first draft cover design, which features a rather gorgeous illustration by the deeply talented Vince Haig. Can’t wait to see the finished thing in all its glory.

If you want to know what the book’s about, you’re in luck. My splendid publisher, Solaris Books, has prepared this tantalising blurb:

String City is a hard-boiled, interdimensional detective romp of high suspense and action. China Mieville meets Dashiell Hammett.

In an interdimensional city full of gods, living concepts and weirder things, a gumshoe – a “stringwalker,” who can travel between realities – is hired to investigate an explosion at a casino. He ends up on a frantic chase to track down and retrieve an unimaginable power source, while staying one step ahead of the ancient Greek Titans, an interdimensional spider god and the mysterious creature known as the Fool. If he fails, all things – in all realities – could be destroyed.

Just another day in String City.

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know a little bit about the strange metropolis of String City already. It first appeared in my series of novelettes known collectively as The String City Mysteries, which chronicle some of my dimension-hopping detective’s earliest cases. If you’ve never read those original stories, don’t worry. The novel stands alone.

I’ll have lots more to say about String City over the coming months. Stay tuned.

Cinefex Diaries – Going Solo

Cinefex 159 - Pacific Rim Uprising

My latest Cinefex story is Heft and Jank, an in-depth article on Pacific Rim Uprising, hot off the press in our June 2018 issue, Cinefex 159. I described the work that went into it in an earlier blog post – check it out here. Even while I was wrapping up the robots and monsters, however, I was gearing up for my next two articles, which have taken up all my time since then.

Deadpool 2First up was Deadpool 2. I was looking forward to this one, having written the Cinefex story on the original Deadpool back in 2016. It didn’t disappoint.

My interview list for Deadpool 2 covered a lot of ground, from production visual effects supervisor Dan Glass through all the many VFX vendors who worked on the show, namely DNEG, Framestore, Method Studios, Weta Digital, Soho VFX, Crafty Apes and Digital Makeup Group.

I also chatted with special effects supervisor Mike Vézina, makeup designer Bill Corso, aviation effects supervisor Doug Scroggins, and the previs supervisors at Unit Eleven, Image Engine and The Third Floor. Last and definitely not least came the film’s director, the supremely talented David Leitch.

Deadpool 2 took a lot of wrangling, but it was nothing compared to my second assignment – Solo: A Star Wars Story, the final draft of which I delivered just a couple of hours ago. This is the first time I’ve covered a Star Wars movie for Cinefex, so I was determined to get it right.

I ended up with another long list of interviewees, kicking off with production visual effects supervisor Rob Bredow, plus the visual effects teams at Industrial Light & Magic – who led the project – Hybride Technologies and Tippett Studio.

Then there were the guys at BLIND LTD, creature supervisor Neal Scanlan, special effects supervisor Dominic Tuohy and costume designers David Crossman and Glyn Dillon. And yes, I did manage to pin down director Ron Howard for a telephone interview during which he proved that he really is one of the nicest men in the business. As a movie fan who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, getting to chinwag with Ron was absolutely a bucket list moment.

I’ll tell you more about these two articles in a future blog post. Right now, all you need to know is that they’ll be appearing in Cinefex 160, which you can preorder from the website here.

Even as I was winding up Solo, was getting my ducks in a row for my next assignment, which looks set to start later this week. As for what film I’m covering, you’ll just have to wait and see …

New Novel Coming Soon

The title of this post says it all. But do I hear you ask, “How soon is soon?” I’ll just leave this here:

Writing Star Trek for Cinefex with Scrivener

"Star Trek Beyond" in Cinefex

I write for Cinefex, a bimonthly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects. In 2016, one of the many films I covered was Star Trek Beyond. Want to know how I tackled it? I’ll tell you.

First up, a few facts and figures. My Star Trek Beyond article was 8,300 words long – about average for the magazine. With photos, that equated to 21 printed pages. While researching the story I interviewed 13 people, generating roughly 45,000 words of interview transcript. From first interview to final reviewed draft, it took me five weeks to put the article together. In any one year, I’ll write a minimum of nine stories of similar scope.

Enough with the numbers. The job is all about the words, right? Quite a lot of them, as you’ll already have gathered.

I wrote my Star Trek Beyond story using my weapon of choice: Scrivener. I use this software for two reasons. First, during the research phase I’ll end up accruing about a zillion bits of information; Scrivener lets me keep everything organised within a single project window – transcripts, background notes, multiple manuscript drafts, handy image files, you name it. Second, the software lets me work on small sections of a draft as individual text files, but by switching views I can string those files together as a single manuscript. Given all the disparate chunks of information I’m wrangling at any one time, that’s really useful.

The Star Trek Beyond article started its life as an empty ‘Cinefex’ template, as shown in the image below. I’ve developed this format over time – it has a simple folder structure filled with all the basic placeholder documents that I know I’m going to need.

Blank Cinefex template in Scrivener

All my Cinefex articles start with this blank Scrivener template.

The ‘Title’ folder is my basic draft manuscript and contains just three files: ‘Introduction;’ an empty text template called ‘One;’ and ‘Conclusion.’ I use the ‘Special Thanks’ file to record the names of people who’ll get a credit at the end of the story, and I use ‘Titles’ to jot down possible titles for the article (this list grows as I write, and I rarely decide upon the actual title until I’ve finished). Below all these sit the ‘Transcripts’ and ‘Research’ folders. The former is a repository for all the interview material; the latter stores, well, everything else.

The USS Enterprise navigates the Necrocloud in "Star Trek Beyond"

As always, the real work on my Star Trek Beyond  story began with the interviews. Once I’d secured permission from the film studio, I spoke to everybody on my list, transcribed the interviews as a separate text documents, and pasted each one into my ‘Transcripts’ folder.

In a perfect world, I’d get all my interviews done first before starting to write. It almost never happens that way – something inevitably jams up the works. With Star Trek Beyond, I began to write the article when my ‘Transcripts’ folder was about half full.

I didn’t start writing at the beginning. Why? Because at this stage, I had no idea how I was going to structure the article. I had no beginning. Instead, I picked one of the many subjects that came up in interview – pretty much a random choice – and wrote a brief paragraph about it, supported by quotes copied and pasted from the relevant transcripts. For Star Trek Beyond, that starter subject happened to be the outer shell of the Yorktown space station, which I wrote about in a little document called (not surprisingly) ‘Shell.’

From there, I bounced on to other related topics – the space station’s superstructure, its atmosphere, the aliens that live in it. Each topic got its own document – based on my empty ‘One’ text template – but I didn’t yet start worrying about how they connected together. For now, I just treated them as free-floating index cards.

When it became clear that Yorktown was a major topic in its own right, I created a folder called (you guessed it) ‘Yorktown’ and put all those individual documents inside it. As time went on, I added other topic folders, such as ‘Enterprise Takedown’ and ‘Altimid,’ and rapidly filled those up too. Soon I had lots of folders on the go and was bouncing between them constantly, endlessly revising what I’d already written, adding new material, reordering text files by sliding them around in the Binder, constantly updating.

As the article grew, a structure slowly began to emerge. As we frequently do at Cinefex, I allowed the main body of my account to follow the narrative of the film, but for various reasons I chose to write a early standalone section about the film’s newly-built USS Enterprise. I also made inroads into framing material like the introduction, a short synopsis of the film, and some notes on the overall production and the way the visual effects team operated. Since I was lucky enough to speak with the film’s director, Justin Lin, I devoted an early section of the article to his comments. Justin also gave me some great closing remarks, which I combined with some insights from visual effects producer Ron Ames to help create my conclusion.

Locking down the structure enabled me to smooth out the joins between all those individual text files. Sometimes that was easy, but often I had to rework paragraphs or write new linking sections to join the dots. By this point, I was mostly working on the manuscript as a whole, rather than treating it as an assembly of separate files (Scrivener lets you switch seamlessly between the two ways of working). Working at the macro scale shone a spotlight on all the areas where I’d repeated myself, or waffled on too long about this, or given short shrift to that. So all that needed fixing too.

"Star Trek Beyond" Cinefex article - final Scrivener document

The final Scrivener document for my “Star Trek Beyond” article.

When I was happy with my final draft I used Scrivener’s ‘Compile’ function to export the manuscript ready for final editing in Word – the usual rounds of nipping, tucking and general tinkering. It’s weird, but documents always read differently in Word. Don’t ask me why.

My final copy edit marked the end of all the heavy lifting, although it was far from the end of the process. Cinefex editor Jody Duncan did her own pass over the manuscript and a separate review stage made sure all the facts were correct. After that came proofreading, typesetting and more proofreading. When I was deep into my next assignment, I received a set of all the images chosen to illustrate my Star Trek Beyond story, at which point I set about writing captions for both the print and iPad editions of the magazine. Only when that task was done could I finally wipe Star Trek Beyond off my ‘to-do’ list.

Every article I write for Cinefex is different, but I tackle them all in a similar way. The key to building big articles from a plethora of research is to keep all your raw material within easy reach, and to give the story room to breathe and grow organically at its own pace. Above all, never assume that you know what the story is when you first set out to write. The story will reveal itself to you when it’s good and ready. It’s all about trust.

Cinefex 148You can read my Star Trek Beyond article in Cinefex 148, available to order online at the Cinefex website. And you can download Scrivener for either Mac, Windows or iOS from the Literature and Latte website. If you’re feeling really bold, do both.

Cinefex 150 – Arrival and Allied

Cinefex 150

Looking for an extra stocking filler this Christmas? Then try the latest issue of Cinefex. It’s packed with meaty behind-the-scenes articles on four of this season’s biggest movies – Doctor Strange, Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Allied.

As soon as Arrival landed on my assignment list for this issue, I went straight out and bought Ted Chiang’s short story collection Stories of Your Life and Others, which contains the novella from which the movie is adapted. The story blew me away, and set me up nicely to interview visual effects supervisor Louis Morin and a bunch of talented artists from Hybride Technologies, Oblique FX, Rodeo FX, Raynault VFX, Framestore, Fly Studio and MELS VFX.

Arrival PosterI also got the lowdown on the design of Arrival, speaking with production designer Patrice Vermette – who together with his wife, artist Martine Bertrand, conceived the extraordinary graphic appearance of the alien ‘logograms’ – and with concept artist Carlos Huante, who developed the look of the alien visitors themselves. My only regret is that, despite my best efforts, I never managed to pin down director Denis Villeneuve for an interview. Mind you, at the time he was hard at work on the set of Blade Runner 2049, so I suppose I can forgive him …

My other assignment for Cinefex 150 was the wartime romance Allied, directed by Robert Zemeckis. Visual effects supervisor Kevin Baillie guided me through the movie’s re-creation of 1940s Casablanca and a bomb-torn London, with visuals brought to the screen by Atomic Fiction, UPP and Raynault VFX. Having spent a fair chunk of my boyhood avidly building Airfix construction kits, I also enjoyed speaking with an engaging fellow called Dave Hobson, whose company Gateguards UK built a full-scale replica Westland Lysander aircraft for the film.

As for what’s coming up, well, I’ve already submitted my single assignment for issue 151 – an in-depth look at the fast-emerging VR industry, primarily from the perspective of the many visual effects professionals who have made the move into the virtual realm. Despite putting that one to bed, I’m not ready to wind down for Christmas yet – as I write this blog, I’m deep into interviews for my next pair of articles in Cinefex 152, out next April. I won’t reveal what movies I’m covering just yet, except to tell you one of them looks set to be my most monstrous assignment to date!

 

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