Inspiration Attack! Or how indie band THE NATIONAL are responsible for my feature film debut, AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS


Where do films begin?

Is it the first day of shooting? On set when the cameras roll for that initial breathless take? Is it when your actors sign on? Perhaps when a big name star joins the cast?

Is it when your producers finally secure that last fingertip of finance, and you’re green-lit? Is it when the writer has the first glimmer of an idea?

My first feature film – the first I’ve written which has been produced – is finished, give or take a few tucks, cleaning its nose and making sure it doesn’t have anything stuck between its teeth.

AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS, directed by Johnny Kevorkian (‘The Disappeared’), produced by Alan Latham and Jack Tarling (‘God’s Own Country’), and written by, well, me (‘?’) is finally complete and will soon be flying out into the world to play at Film Festivals throughout 2018.

It’s been a long road. Ten years, to be precise.

Sam Gittins and Neerja Naik, two of the stars of AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS

Where do ideas for films begin? Ideas for any story, in fact? How do they spark into life?

The mundane truth is, for many, their genesis is lost in the mists of time. This is either because the project has gone through so many snaking, ouroboros-looping, transformations over the years, starting as one thing, briefly becoming five or six others, before transitioning back into a funfair mirror version of the original.

With AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS, however, I know EXACTLY when the idea came to me, almost down to the minute.

It began with melancholy-yet-fantastic U.S. indie rock band, THE NATIONAL.

Indie Rockers #soulful

The year was 2008 – just.

I was travelling back from a New Years Eve party with my then-partner. She was driving. It was snowy, I think (in my memory it’s snowy at least, though memories are tricksy things, but this fits the story much better, so let’s just say it was…), and I was reflecting on Christmas, an intense period of spending time with friends and relatives. I was thinking about the potential flashpoints for arguments, the many tensions these fraught times of year inevitably excite.

For Christmas I’d bought my partner the National’s most recent album, BOXER, and we put it on for the first time during the ride back to my place. I was a big fan of their previous release, ALLIGATOR, and thought it would be a great fit for her sensibility.

So, we trundled along through the snowy night, the new year fresh and crisp, and my mind drifted and dreamed i.e. didn’t pay attention to the outside world (as writer brains are wont to do). I was really getting into the music, slowly realising that I might grow to love this album (the opening piano riff to FAKE EMPIRE still gives me The Chills…)

Then, out of nowhere, one line spilled out of the speakers, and it was like hearing a sharp bell tone…

Writer minds – all creative minds, I think – are great at making connections, and that’s the root of inspiration. You hear one phrase, one word, one concept even, and possibilities suddenly unfurl, lighting up like branches in your mind, wider and wider as the shine spreads.

It’s like you hear a musical “Ting” echoing at the back of your skull, that pure struck chord, a “hey, wait…” moment. A spark that grows and fans.

The National lyric came from the song, APARTMENT STORY, and it goes like this…

Dowhateverthe TVtells… us.”


It’s incredibly rare for a whole feature plot to unfold from a single moment, like an origami flower (in fact, interestingly, the first image in the script used to be a bloody tissue flower slowly opening), but that’s pretty much what happened with AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.

Often stories have ugly, convoluted births, stitched together in a Frankensteinian fashion from different bits of other ideas. They are shaped – carved! – into something which is designed to fit a brief from a producer or broadcaster or any number of other imperatives which trump a pure story-telling urge.

Ideas this singular, sudden, and simple, are not common.

I knew instantly this was perfect. Knew all about what the film should be. It was horror. It was psychological. It was people trapped inside a house… and the TV was giving them orders. Why?

Who knows? Doesn’t matter for now…

But what the trapped people would choose to do with the instructions they were given?

THAT was the important bit.

Definitely, they’d argue about whether to follow the orders, or not, and that would generate A LOT of conflict, the engine of any good story… The people would fight… They’d make and then break alliances…

Eventually – of course – they would kill!


Furthermore it would all, very conveniently, play out within one single self-contained space… Which was a) an excellent arena to build a pressure cooker environment and b) perfect for a low budget film.

The wider context is this: I’m a writer who is lucky to get a lot of ideas, and my first love is genre film – science fiction, fantasy, horror – but my stories tend to be, well, let’s say… expansive in scale. As my first agent once archly observed, “… then your imagination goes off where budgets may not follow…”

I’ve got much better now, especially since I’ve started to direct myself, but at that time, in the Autumn of 2007, I’d been striving to come up with a grabby genre concept which was also achievable i.e. practical, small-scale, with a single location, low budget yet dramatic.

Something up-and-coming film makers could actually make!

AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS fit that goal to a tee: an incredibly simple high-concept pitch which, as a bonus, also offered all manner of rich thematic possibilities. For a very brief period, since I knew it had to be a horror film (they were TRAPPED! you see…), I considered the possibly that the Trapped People might be teens – because, hey, horror! – but then I quickly realised…

It had to be a family.


This was an idea about Authority, about hierarchy, about power relationships and trust.

There needed to be parents and children, a father, a grandfather, a mother, a son and a daughter, and their seething resentments, their decades of insecurities and sibling paranoia and/or entitlement, should be bubbling under even before they became imprisoned.

Furthermore, as the story grew from that first seed in my mind, other external events guided my thinking, and weaved their way into those spreading branches. This is always the case, since films are contingent on the precise time they are written in and what is going on in the culture at the time. You’re writing one story, but then you’re reminded of a story someone told you years ago – another note struck, another echoing bell tone – and that sets the narrative rocketing off in a completely different direction, almost by accident.

At the time the Financial Crash was just looming over us, the shadow of a tidal wave about to fall. In the Autumn of 2007 you had story after story on BBC News 24 about the run on Northern Rock. Endless images of worried people queuing round the block outside bank branches… and these reports in turn drove more people to go and queue up at the banks, in a catastrophic feedback loop. Northern Rock collapsed and had to be nationalised! It was insane.

AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS clearly also needed to be about the power of an all-pervasive media. We are a society cursed with both too much information and yet, simultaneously, somehow too little: if an expert on the news tells you that mobile phones give you brain cancer, but then another expert violently disagrees, who do you believe?

I don’t know? Do you? How can you tell?

Yet it’s of crucial, life-or-freaking-death import… It’s BRAIN CANCER, FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!!

If the TV gives you orders do you follow them because you believe it has your best interests at heart, or do you stall for time to search for more clarity?

Do you rebel and refuse, hang the consequences?

The story of AFI grew as I fed it news, and before long others became involved, creative partners, and they provided their own perspectives: producer Jack Tarling and development producer, Michelle Fox, then director, Johnny Kervorkian, all helping, spreading that tree of ideas, of light, wider and further as the years ran on, and the script was written, and we tried, then failed, then tried AGAIN (and again and again) to raise the money to make the film. All those connections…

But that tree, those channels, all the subsequent work by so many people – set builders, camera team, costume, make-up, on and on – flow back to that one single moment on the 1st of January 2008, and it’s incredible to think of something that has, over the last decade, consumed a large portion of my time, and proved such a huge leap forward for my career, comes back to twelve words in that one moment on that specific night:

“… stay inside till somebody finds us/ Do whatever the TV tells us…”

So, thank you to The National and Apartment Story.

There’s not much longer to wait now. It’s time for the Instructions to begin…

SLEEPWORKING wins all the awards…


… Well, not really, but it has been a wonderful few months for our film. First, SLEEPWORKING won the Audience Award for Best Short at the National Irish Science Fiction Film Festival 2013 (our trophy is the extremely spiffy steampunk ray gun seen to the left and below). Then we were awarded the Prix du Jury at the vast Utopiales Festival International de Science Fiction in Nantes (which would be the elegant glass monolith). THEN we won both Best Director at the Salty Horror Film Festival 2013 in Salt Lake City AND Best Short Cinematography at the HorrorQuest Film Festival 2013. Which brings our tally to seven awards and thirty-five festival screenings!


As ever, I must pay tribute to my exemplary cast and crew. An undertaking as complex as SLEEPWORKING is the work of many hands, and the hands helping me were the best in the business.

On a personal note, for many years I wrote commissioned screenplays for broadcasters, television channels and productions companies which never saw the light of day. It was like writing in a sealed room. No one ever got to experience the work and decide whether they liked it or loathed it. SLEEPWORKING is the first time my filmmaking has actually gone out into the world, and audiences are finally getting the chance to make up their own minds. That feels like a mighty fine award in itself. The icing on the cake is that the response has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been a great 2013.

Pew! Pew! pew! IMAG0742IMAG0734

SLEEPWORKING: Audience award at Full Moon Festival in Romania!


I am incredibly proud to announce that SLEEPWORKING won the Best Short Film Award at the wonderful Full Moon Fantasy and Horror Festival in Romania during August. This prize means even more to us as it was our first win by audience vote, so I want to thank all those who were kind enough to choose us. It’s a very special accolade. As an emerging film maker I feel particularly encouraged by this vote. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to make more, better, and longer films and return in years to come (perhaps in person!). That said, this is a team effort and a team win. As ever, I want to thank my exemplary cast and crew for their now multi award-winning efforts. A finer bunch of women and men you couldn’t hope to have on your film set! Well deserved back slaps all round.

Furthermore, SLEEPWORKING’s strong festival run continues to gather steam with four new acceptances in the last week alone: the film will now screen at the mighty Lund International Fantastic Film Festival 2013 in Sweden from 26th of September until Oct 5th, Manchester’s essential Grimmfest 2013 (2nd-6th of October), as well as première South American Puerto Rico Horror Film Fest and, finally, HorrorQuest 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Onwards and upwards. To infinity and beyond!

SLEEPWORKING: QUIET EARTH Review and “Making Of” Article

The Quiet Earth is very fine genre film news, reviews, and articles hub and the SLEEPWORKING team were absolutely delighted when they awarded the film their eponymous prize along with the Best Film award at the Festival du Film Merveilleux & Imaginaire in Paris a few weeks ago. Now they have posted a lovely review of the film, as well as giving me a platform to talk about the film’s genesis, influences, and the scarily demanding shoot. Here’s a sample…

“Everything in this little gem is what I like in modern science-fiction. Essentially fueled by the return to subtle effects, and a general aesthetics bordering more on the “realisme fantastique” of the french sixties and literary anticipation than your usual “oh look giant robots fist fucking lizards”-hypefest of retina destroying visuals. Being human in a different world not so far away from ours, basically Art as a way not only to entertain but also to explore the limits and boundaries of our condition.”

And a few of my musings…

“SLEEPWORKING depicts a cool-yet-nightmarish Kubrickian world five minutes down the line from our own, but it also explores a range of contemporary issues. In this future when you’re a sleepworker you literally have to graft every hour in the day, which isn’t too far from today’s post-crash dystopia where we’re constantly afraid for our jobs. We worry whether we’ll be able to support our families if we don’t agree to this agonising overtime, or take on grinding extra hours. In our world globalized business already mercilessly exploits its work force, turning us into sleepwalking drones. SLEEPWORKING uses genre tropes to explore themes of exploitation, madness, and greed. It’s not about five minutes in the future. It’s about here and now and we’re all sleepworkers.”

Read the full article HERE!

SLEEPWORKING wins Big in France!


I am delighted and honoured to announce that my short film, SLEEPWORKING, has been awarded the Prix du Meilleur Film and the Quiet Earth Prize at the very wonderful Festival du Film Merveilleux 2013. These are our first awards for the film which has already screened at/ been chosen as an official selection for ten international film festivals, including Screamfest LA 2013, Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival 2013, SciFi Weekender 4, SciFi London 2013, Balticon 47’s Sunday Night Film Festival in Maryland U.S.A, SFF-Rated Athens International Film Festival 2013, Haapsalu Horror & Fantasy Film Festival 2013, Trieste Science+Fiction International Film Festival 2012, and Fantasycon, the Convention of the British Fantasy Society. I am incredibly proud of the achievement of my exemplary cast and crew. A heartfelt thanks to all of them as well as the organisers, jury, and audiences at Festival du Film Merveilleux. C’est Magnifique!



sff2_0My scifi thriller, SLEEPWORKING, is an official selection at the 8th International Science Fiction & Fantasy Film Festival of Athens. There will be screenings of the film in the MIKROKOSMOS FILMCENTER at 21.00 on Thursday April 11th and 19.00 on Sunday April 14th as part of SHORT FILM COMPETITION ZONE-2.8th-sff-afisa-final-web


My science fiction short film, SLEEPWORKING, receives its official festial premiere on Sunday December 9th in the international science fiction film festival Trieste S+F (

Here is the trailer…