Friday, December 22, 2017
Michael Armstrong, the controversial screenwriter and director used to live round the corner from me in London at the tail end of the last century.
I often used to run over to his flat in the middle of the night to binge watch videos alongside British actors with household names, all of whom went to RADA with Michael.
At drama school, Michael quickly realised he wanted to be a writer instead of an actor and went on to write and direct films like the controversial Mark of the Devil, and The Haunted House of Horror.
(Quentin Tarrantino owns a private copy of the latter film and selected it for his Austin Festival, as one of the most significant films depicting the Sixties in Britain).
I was honoured when Michael asked me to write the Forward to A Star Is Dead, his latest screen play book about the Sex Pistols.
I saw them perform only once: their second gig at the artist Andrew Logan’s studio in Butler’s Wharf. None of us had heard anything like them before and minutes after they started playing everyone walked out en masse.
The reason why Michael’s A Star Is Dead script with the exploitation director Pete Walker attached (and to star the Sex Pistols) didn’t get made was because the Pistols disbanded shortly after Michael’s final draft.
It was a tragedy, as the band's manger Malcom McClaren loved the script, as Armstrong’s laugh out loud funny script was more outrageous than the Pistols themselves.
Michael‘s prolific series of screenplay books (available from Amazon) include the House Of the Long Shadows, The Image, a short starring David Bowie in his first screen role and Eskimo Nell, a classic spoof of the old school British Film Industry, which Armstrong wrote and acted in.
Although I have attended screenwriting classes over the years, the only useful thing I learned in all of them was chatting to fellow participants at the bar during the intervals. But after reading Michael Armstrong’s published screen play books I finally understand the craft of screenwriting.
Each of Armstrong’s screen play books include a History of his screenplay, with various drafts of his screenplays followed with a Glossary of Terms and advice on how to read a script.
Michael is currently writing books on all his screenplays and as he’s written a vast body of work over the years, this task should take him quite a while to complete. I'm already making space on my bookshelves for them.