Any External Source

The idea behind Any External Source was planted some time before I had the idea for Tasting With Somebody Else's Tongue. While I was wrestling with TWSET, I realised how AES could fit in. It was originally a short story, an appendix of TWSET. In a couple of paragraphs in the Preface to TWSET....

.....I mention that I saw AES as a reinforcement, a samurai which would help me explain what I wanted to do in TWSET. A few years later I looked at it again and adapted it as a feature-length screenplay, with more of a life of its own.

The screenplay is a slightly gory cautionary tale.


. . . . . Browser warning: the screenplay link above and the synopsis link below will open up as PDF files with Firefox, Safari & I.Explorer, but with Opera right-click on them and choose Save Linked Content As...

In a synopsis nutshell

A group of friends come up with a marvellous new invention, yet the success and their enthusiasm drive each of them in a search beyond acceptable limits for the unknown, which proves their downfall.
It has a sci-fi/fantasy edge to it, and would involve a lot of CGI.

In a synopsis curio

I got as far as submitting the screenplay (2006?) to sleazed-out, jazzed-up laid-back funked-thru record label Ninja Tune. I wanted them to come in as Producers and also to take charge of the soundtrack, which I wanted to be, well, sort of sleazed-out, jazzed-up laid-back & funked-thru. This is the synopsis which I sent them


The story does start out from a basis in reality, with three friends on holiday in Portugal: Chris, Spen and Denis. There is a drunken "what if..." speculation which they indulge in at the start of the film, and this also took place. The characters in the film, however, take this much further than the three real people did who you have the pleasure of seeing in the photo before you. Just as well, really, otherwise there'd have been no story. This photo would correspond to just before we see the three of them in the bar in Scene 1.

Something else from the story which also has a basis in reality, is Scene 10, a weird windmill repository outside Lisbon.

When Chris, Spen and me stumbled across this place on top of a hill, letting ourselves get sidetracked by road signs enigmatically pointing to "Windmills", I fought hard not to think of the place as a nursing home for old windmills, a windmill graveyard.
I tried desperately to think of a way of working it into some kind of story or drawing. Any normal person would have made do with enjoying the experience. But not me, no, I had to make something of it. "Wouldn't it be brilliant," I thought, "if we'd always had a policy of preserving all our old buildings and artefacts since the beginning of our history in this way? Instead, we go for the demolish and trash option. New is better, the only way forwards".
In the story, the three lads have a drunken brainwave, after which I wanted a short interlude of reflection: at this point, most of us soberly dismiss such bright ideas as being impractical.

The windmills gave such an interlude. And after this, the three reality friends did indeed dismiss the idea. But the three fiction friends were made of sterner stuff.

Problems 1 & 2

A couple of insights here into difficulties I came across when adapting the original story for a screen version


Problems 1: verbal vs. visual

The story revolves around their post-brainwave invention of a new electronic device. This records the ambiente of wherever you are. Not just the sights and sounds, but the smells, buzzes and vibes: the essence.  And when you play this back, that reality is recreated for you in awesome 3D. You can believe you are actually there. In the short story this is all explained with words, unsurprisingly. The reader's imagination can do the rest, the visualisation bit. But when writing it for a screenplay, I was snookered.

The first time we see this happening is in Scene 16. I reckoned that if I found Scene 16 a bit tough to follow on the page, so would anybody I sent the screenplay to.

So I storyboarded it. The following is the storyboard

The camera is focused on a device in the middle of a worktop. Red light lit. Its image is stretched/echoed a few millimetres away from itself, like a ghost image on a TV screen; the real device playing back the session has been moved a few millimetres since the session ended, while its played back recording is projected in its original position of a few minutes ago. A real device & an ambiente device. We hear voices off.

The camera pulls back, we see Spen, Chris, Denis and staff sitting around this worktop, talking, looking at the device(s) in front of them. A few people in the background, in white coats. We don't know yet, but this is a session being played back.

The people in the background are ghosted, like the device, because the real people have moved since the session, whereas their projections are in their original places. The Spen etc we can see in the foreground are not ghosted, because the real Spen etc are out of shot. There are ice buckets, bottles of champagne and a tray of upturned flute glasses on the first worktop, an empty tray, some used glasses and champagne spilled on the table.

The real Spen, etc walk into shot around the worktop, all sipping champers, some with bottles in their other hands, watching the very conversation we've been watching. The real people are all mostly silent, all smiling, all in a state of shock, shaking their heads, their eyes popping out. Real Spen, Chris and Denis watch session Denis and Spen struggling to find a way to define Chris's job. Real Berenice and Angélica shake their heads, they're still none the wiser.

Real Berenice gets a fit of the giggles and spills her champers. Real Spen reaches for a bottle to top her up. His hand vanishes inside a session bottle. "Sham champers!"

The tableau could look like John Cleese's Michelangelo's Last Supper, with extra apostles and three Christs -Spen, Chris and Denis.

Real Spen stretches over the table, leans towards the device past ambiente Chris, who he "kisses" on the cheek, grinning and winking at real Chris.

Spen turns the device off. The ambiente session and all ghosted elements disappear instantly. Silence. Everyone looks around to check that only reality remains.

Problems 2: Shee vs. Soph

My reasons for including fictional sci-fi horror AES within serious non-fiction linguistic TWSET are irrelevant now, as is whether it works or not. But here is another problem I had to wrestle with when adapting AES short story for AES

One of the characters in the short story is a woman called Silver Shee. The first thing was to change was her name. Though it is never explained, Shee was short for Sheelagh. But for the film, I realised the name Shee when pronounced would cause confusion, being mistaken for the pronoun "she". This confusion doesn't arise in the short story because you're guided by how Shee is spelt. But I still wanted a name with Shee's characteristics, namely a single syllable, one short for a full name, and preferably with the "sh" or "s" sound at the beginning, to keep the assonance with Silver. (Silver because she had been a silver service waitress). I drew all kinds of phonetic diagrams and lists with all possible combinations of consonants plus vowels, and it took me nearly 2 hours to come up with Soph.

Next was the fact that Shee in the story is all dialogue. She is very wordy, I think very funny, very offensive and her way of speaking is very peculiar. And I needed to preserve all that, or Shee wouldn't have been Shee. Nor would Soph in the screenplay have been Soph. But when I read the short story to rethink it visually, I quickly realised the scenes involving Shee were very static -she is in bed all the time- very long with not much going on around her: not a typical recipe for screen success. So I looked for ways of breaking her diatribes up visually. I had to dramatise the monologues. I also tried to put in special FX and computer-generated imagery: none of this exists in the short story. But gore makes a script more commercial and marketable.

So here are chopped up versions of the short story and the screenplay, with just the Shee and Soph parts. Obviously they are disembodied, and not intended to represent a whole. This is just an exercise to make a comparison.

One further point is that Silver Shee was never intended to be Silver Shee at all. Originally I was writing dialogue for a male character. I even had a name for him: he was based on an actual friend of my mum and dad's, Jimmy the Carpet Fitter. But I thought the dialogue I was writing for him was far too strong and offensive, too aggressive, and might even get me beaten up by fans of the royal family. So I stopped to mull it over.

I had very clear memories of watching a TV play years ago, with Patricia Hayes as a tramp. A quick google told me it was "Edna the Inebriate Woman" in October 1971. So I was 7 years old. Patricia's character swore with gusto; I recall her referring to fish on offer in a canteen: "That's snot that is! Snot out of your noses!" I fully expected my mum to turn the channel over at any moment. She always hated bad language, and it it would usually trigger her to change channels. But she didn't this time. And I was shocked: why didn't my mum react the way she used to when I was watching, say, Spike Milligan's Q programmes? I reckoned there were 2 reasons: this was a serious play, not a comedy, and it was a woman doing the swearing, not a man! Jump 30+ years to my dilemma with Jimmy the Carpet Fitter's language, and I thought if the character was a woman, it might take some of the sting and aggression out of the words, and stop me being lynched. Here's hoping!

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Copyright © 2005/6/7/8/9 by Denis Murphy. All rights reserved. Revised: 04 Oct 2012 03:56 .