HOW EVERY BLOODY FILM STARTS OFF NOW, but especially the ones you don't know much about or aren't sure you'll like or turned on more or less at random.

Black screen.

Sudden cut to some sort of sunrise or sunset, the sun huge against the horizon, shimmering heat haze. On the soundtrack a squawk of indecipherable radio traffic, and then, louder and louder and louder, the whomp whomp whomp whomp of helicopter blades. The silhouettes of three choppers appear over the horizon and get bigger and bigger.

SELF: Oh, Vietnam? It didn't sound like it. Maybe a flashback? Is the hero a veteran? Am I in the mood for that? Surely it was contemporary, must be Iraq or Afghanistan then. Could just be a fake-out, turn out to be police helicopters or traffic ones or something. Looks like another spot-the-frigging reference film anyway, lazy smart-arse cine-scum, when a writer does that it gets called cliche or plagiarism or -

As the engine noises peak the central helicopter, still black against the sunset, more or less fills the screen. Freeze-frame. It turns into a production company logo. Spoony five-note music signature.




Fade to black. Cut to:

Some kind of savannah. Drum and chant music. A mighty elephant thunders by, raising dust.

SELF: Mm. Africa. Mm. Could be picturesque and full of adventure but - bound to be some kind of colonial guilt lecture and possibly people with flies on their eyes.

An ostrich gallops by.

SELF: Oh, wait, hold your horses, gobshite. Ostrich Films.

Flamingoes fly across a sun almost as big as the one in the previous bit.

SELF: Flamingo Films?

A herd of zebras fill the screen.

SELF: Zebra Films, then.

Freeze. A zebra is enlarged and becomes a black and white cartoon logo. Cheesy six-note signature.



SELF: Aha.

Black screen, for longer this time.

SELF (settling back, lighting fag): Here we go.

Sound of a goat-bell. Fade up on a goat (wearing an iron bell) trotting along a track. We stay with it.

SELF: Switzerland? No. Maybe Southern US? Rural doom?

The goat wanders off the path through some grass. We still follow it.

SELF: It's going to find a body.

The goat stops and starts to munch the grass. It looks up at the camera and issues a pleased bleat.

SELF: Pretty cute bloody goat, anyway. I could probably watch a film with this goat.

Goat's head enlarges and turns into another logo. Caption:


SELF: Fuck it.

Longer black-out. Cut to:

A dusty wasteland stretching from horizon to horizon. The wind blows eerily, unnervingly, unendingly. Stray tumbleweeds bounce past. There's an indefinably ominous creaking sound. We track along slowly. A grain silo comes into view, then one of those circular-windmill-or-weathervane things. It periodically spins a bit and squeaks, but it isn't the source of the ominous creaking. We track along further to see that comes from a metal gate blowing to and fro in the wind. Some sort of deserted farmyard, possibly a ranch.

SELF: Film now? Promise? Hm. Could be atmospheric. Good cinematography. Definitely Southern US. Some kind of Southern Gothic? Could go for that.

The gate freezes and turns into a logo.



SELF: (drums fingers, wiggles lips)

Cut to:

A highway receding to the far horizon, we're low down and right in the middle of it. Faint engine noise in the distance.

SELF: Not falling for it.

Two cars appear at infinity, slowly get closer and larger. They are racing side by side along both lanes of the road. The engine gets louder and rock music plays, something energetic and irresistible.


The cars turn out to be classic muscle cars. They speed past us at 100mph, the camera in the middle, wild free laughter ringing out as they go, leaves and roadside litter blown in their wake.

SELF: Okay!

A moment later a hedgehog appears at the left.

SELF: Uh oh.

The hedgehog shuffles very slowly to the middle of the road and becomes a logo.



Self (rises and goes into kitchen to put kettle on again)

(Comes back in a hurry as more music plays. Sits, tentatively, then becomes increasingly rivetted, wide-eyed and open-mouthed)

The music is the opening of Bach's Matthew Passion, slowly building a sonic cathedral of soaring immensity upon a scaffold of plucked-out heart-strings. We are in a city, a terrible city, a city of sin and degradation. A blind man with no legs is begging on a curb, a man like a rodent with teeth filed to shark-points laughs to a croney as he stoops to steal coins from his cup. A fishnetted prostitute is arguing silently but violently with a pimp or a john. A child cries as a man in a string vest is throwing his mother through a door and down the steps, beating her at every step of the way. Another child stares at a window behind which siamese twins are stripping and cavorting. A cop looks the other way from it all as he takes graft from a mafioso in a limo. All of this in slo-mo. A Wall Street type is sneering and jeering at a moth-eaten street prophet wearing an end-of-the-world sandwich board. Sudden close-up on the coffee he is holding. It is vibrating. So are the remaining coins in the beggar's cup. Suddenly everyone is looking around in confusion. Then, up. Something is happening. Something is coming. A vast shadow passes over them all. The street prophet points. The tycoon's coffee is dropped, bounces, spills, the man in the string vest stops open-mouthed in mid-punch.

A great, graceful, silver flying saucer with a radius of ten city blocks hovers a hundred feet above them all.

Self: Whoa!

A circular hatch opens in the middle of the UFO and bright white light floods out. A figure descends, at first just a shadow.

Cut to a montage of all the faces of pain and despair and greed and hatred staring upwards, every millimetre of their etched marks of sin or suffering vivid in the stark white light. Those who are crying, stop. Those who haven't been, start.

Hovering high above them, arms extended, in the middle of the unearthly light, eyes blazing with the same light, beautiful beyond the telling, is Jesus.

Self: WHOA!

He turns into a logo. Caption:


SELF: (profound sigh, slumps on couch)

Very long blackout indeed.

SELF: See, see, whatever the frigging film is now, it's not going to compare.

Blackness, riven by a dramatic lightning bolt.

SELF: Lightning Films, no doubt.

The same again. The camera pulls slowly back to reveal a storm-tossed lake at midnight, framed by mountains, lit only by the lightning and what moonlight escapes the clouds. Keep pulling back until we're on a marble balcony looking over it, and then a luxurious late 18th or early 19th century room. Statues and paintings and beautiful objets d'art. A handsome man in a lacy shirt stands by the window gazing out and brooding.

SELF (grudgingly): Could be up my street but... still not going to compare.

The man swigs from a bottle labelled Opium, hurls himself at a desk with a savage energy, dips a quill into a brass inkwell and starts to frantically scratch at a parchment already half-filled with poetry.

SELF: Hmmm. Byron?

A comely serving wench enters, wearing a bodice and flimsy blouse revealing breasts like jostling zeppelins.

SELF (leaning forward, rapt): You have my full attention.

The man grabs the wench, throws her across the desk and throws himself on top. They turn into a logo.



SELF: You are lower than whale-shit.

Cut to:

A street on a grimy urban sinkhole estate. We are following behind the half-exposed arse-crack of a waddling tattoo-covered fat man in ghastly clothing. He passes litter, drug deals, feral kids taunting him. A finger of his hand finds its way down between his arse-cheeks, rummages around and pulls out some kind of fluff. He sniffs the finger.

SELF: See, see, and this is the actual film now, horrible by comparison!

The fat man's arse turns into a logo.




Black screen. Cut to:

A Trabant belching smoke lurches through a seedy street. Surely Berlin, surely before the wall fell.

SELF: Not going to get me.

A shady-looking man in a trench-coat and dark glasses gets out, looks around furtively, turns his collar up, crosses the street to an apartment building.

SELF: Not going to get me.

On the pavement outside there's an organ grinder and a dancing monkey.

SELF: Organ grinder. Dancing monkey. Not going to get me.

The man in the dark glasses stares blankly at the capering monkey as captivating but somehow disquieting serio-comic organ music plays and the musician smiles at him revealing a gold tooth. Abruptly he takes out a cigarette, lights it, and stoops to put it in the monkey's mouth.

SELF: Smoking monkey. Not going to get me.

While he's down there the man stealthily places what looks like a vast amount of currency in the musician's basket. He straightens and turns to survey the street and his hand reaches out behind him. The organ-grinder places a toothbrush into it.

SELF: No. Not going to get me. Toothbrush Films.

The man enters the apartment building. A drunken woman in a headscarf glares at him from a concierge's cubby-hole. He nods to her, but keeps the toothbrush hidden as he passes. Faintly suspenseful music plays.

SELF: Still not going to get me.

There's a shot from above of him riding up to an upper storey in one of those antique cage lifts. His hair may be a toupee.

SELF: This still isn't the film.

He knocks at a door. It opens a crack, on a chain. A woman's eye and a slice of her face looks out.

SELF: Is this the film? If this is the film you've lost me already because I'm no longer receptive to the information.

The man thrusts the toothbrush through the crack. The door slams shut repeatedly on his fingers. He snatches them out swearing loudly in German and starts to fumble left-handed in his coat. He pulls out a revolver and kicks the door wide. Close up of the chain flying off. Close up of the man's stunned face as he barges through and gasps. Cut back to his POV:

The woman still stands there but is only a slice of woman with one eye really as she has been chopped in about three vertically but this one slice still somehow stands before the door. As the man gapes a dwarf who was hiding behind the door leaps on him and bites his ear and stabs his other ear with the toothbrush.

Self: WHOA!

They all turn into a complicated logo.



Self (puts foot through TV screen)

(March 2020)