MELBOURNE CRIME DESK: Australia’s new ‘Arrest Anyone on Two Wheels’ Law

The end of WWII left a generation of lost, young men with no place to go except for the dusty highways where they would ride on two wheel metal beasts, through endless days and nights trying to find someplace to belong. They had names like Hells Angels, The Finks and The Mongols. But there was no place in society for these broken men so they embraced being outlaws in both spirit and law. Two decades later the Vietnam war began and as the years passed, more and more veterans returned to a country that didn’t recognise or want them. And more young men hit the road in search of meaning and freedom. Those days have passed and now thirty years later biker gangs have clubhouses, run charities, guns, drugs, legal businesses and not so legal businesses. At times, violence has spilled out into the streets, and the innocent have become a permanent fixture in the landscape of collateral damage.

 

To combat this in Queensland, Premier Campbell Newman is introducing ‘biker specific’ laws that brand 26 bikers gangs as criminal organisations. They apply to anyone on two wheels,  wearing a patch and who congregate in groups of more than three.

Here is what they are facing:

  •  Jail terms of between two and five years for members of outlawed gangs who are caught associating with each other
  • The Supreme Court would be responsible for determining which gangs are outlawed, based on evidence provided by the Police
  • The gang members would be given no warnings before charges are applied

The laws are being introduced into Queensland as I type, and are highly likely to be replicated within Victoria and NSW.  I endorse the dismantling of criminal organizations. Arrest those who have murdered, throw the book at those who deal in drugs, and jail the swine who pop off automatic gunfire into suburban streets.

AWESOME!

LESS CRIME!

But wait? Hold on a minute?

Don’t we already have laws for criminality such as that?

So what the hell is going on now?

 

If these laws are to be passed within Victoria, it would make it legal for authorities to arrest biker members who fraternise with one another, wear the same colors, and congregate in certain prescribed  areas. Sounds okay if you don’t think too hard about it. But if you do think hard about it, who else could these laws be applied to? If we are to brand organisations criminal because they are a bunch of people who all wear the same colors, hoon around on motorcycles and fraternise together then what about the Australia Post Service? They’re the biggest bloody biker gang in the entire country… AND THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!

And who decides what defines a criminal organization? These laws could easily be applied to activist organisations, unions or any group the Government decides to dislike for whatever reason. These new laws are so vague, they don’t even need to specify a reason for such damaging branding. If that’s the case, what happens if by some horrible accident we, the Australian people, accidently elect some crazy bigot, then who’s the next target? Religious groups, book clubs, girl scouts, football teams, people still wearing Ed Hardy tee shirts? These laws can be applied to any group any Government sees fit to dislike at that given point in time. If this was sixty years ago, these laws could have been applied to Women’s Liberation or Civil Rights Groups. In our current climate could they be applied to Same Sex Marriage advocates and let’s not forget about the big one… Religion. Because people of any religion never fraternise with one another, wear similar outfits, and congregate in certain prescribed areas. And now more than ever, Australia has a diversity when it comes to religion and culture.

Arrest criminals. Arrest killers. Arrest drug dealers. But once you start arresting people based on the associations they belong to, the weak and fearful will begin doing so toward anything and absolutely everything they don’t understand. And when that happens we lose who we are as a society and the promise of who we can be.

If you want to create an outlaw, create a law that excludes people from society, and you’ll have more than enough of them than you can handle.

First published at Murder is Everywhere

Sorry, Cormac

 

So, I was at this 90s party the other week… a lot of my stories start like this, although they are not always 90s parties. I’m talking to a girl in Lisa Loeb glasses and trying to think of the name of the one hit Lisa Loeb had that was on the Reality Bites soundtrack. Then I’m thinking about how cool Ethan Hawke was in that movie and how he still rocks a goatee even though the 90s were over fifteen years ago. Then I thought, could I pull off a goatee? Would I look cool like Ethan Hawke? Then I gave up on that idea; no one could look as cool as Ethan Hawke. The girl in the Lisa Loeb glasses went to grab a drink and left me with a guy in a Kurt Cobain cardigan so bad that Kurt Cobain wouldn’t even be caught dead in. He had his head buried in his phone, checking Twitter, Grinder or whatever and when he glanced up for a split second to see that I was still there, he must have felt obliged to say something, so when he opened his mouth the most generic stranger on stranger questions came out of his mouth.

So what do you do for a living? He asked.

I’m a writer, I said.

Yeah, he said with his face lit from the phone. Written anything I would have read?

I generally don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge on what people at parties have read.

Not sure. I use a pen name.

Oh, yeah. What’s that?

A pseudonym. When you use a…

No the name?

Cormac McCarthy, I said.

The fact that Cormac is fifty years older than me, American and the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize didn’t seem to register with Cobain.

What kinda stuff you write?

I wrote All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Blood Meridian, The Road

The Road! His head snapped away from his phone and I could see it took his eyes a moment to adjust to the real world. I love that movie!

Well, a movie and a book are two different…

My girlfriend is reading it right now! He threw a look over his shoulder and waved to a girl who was dressed as Brenda from the hit TV series Beverly Hills 90210. This guy wrote The Road, he yelled.

What?

THE ROAD!

Brenda made her way past a couple of Reservoir Dogs and a Forest Gump to join us. You’re Comac McCarthy?

He’s the guy, I told you. He wrote the movie.

The book, I said again.

Brenda sized me up. I wasn’t sure if she was buying my ruse and I didn’t care one way or another but then she said, I’ve been trying to get into it. It’s a bit shit though isn’t it?

I looked at her, I looked at him and back to her again. What?

Yeah, I just can’t get into it. No offence.

No offence?

You should see the movie, babe. Cobain said. It’s probably better.

I left my heart and soul on the page. I said complete with hand gestures to demonstrate the process. Years!

I’m sorry, she said, I’ll stick with it.

Hey! Cobain said as if he had just had his first thought. Have you got it on you?

She dug her hand into her Country Road bag (very popular in the Australian 90s) and pulled out a movie tie-in edition of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Will you sign it?

Of course, I said. I took out a pen from my pocket, because Cormac always carries a pen with him and I flicked through the first couple of pages and scrawled out a very illegitimate signature and handed it back.

Then I took a beer and got the hell out of there.

So if you see an autographed copy of Cormac McCarthy’s movie tie-in edition of his masterpiece, The Road on ebay, tread lightly and please… I still haven’t looked it up, so if anyone could tell me the name of the Lisa Loeb song that was on the Reality Bites soundtrack, that would be awesome

First published at Murder is Everywhere

How not to get screwed when a producer options your novel

screenwriter

Writing a novel is a war of determination, self-doubt, rebellion, bad grammar, cheap beer and downright guts before it’s finally unleashed to the public. If you’re lucky, the book will get a few good reviews, a few sales and then the phone will ring and a producer says: ‘Hey, we want to make your novel into a movie.’

Now, before you call up the girl who dumped you in high school and brag, make sure you have a contract that properly protects you. Most producers are honest and genuine but there are still a few sharks out there.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before optioning your film rights:

Is the producer capable of making a movie?

Good intentions are lovely but they won’t get a movie made. Before optioning the film rights to your project, access whether or not the producer is capable of making a film. If they have made films before, this is a great indication of their ability of getting your project up. If they do not have any feature film credits, do they have any television or short film credits? Also, feel free to ask them what their plan is for developing and financing the project is. If they are cagy or vague about their plan, they may not have one. And just because they have produced a business card that says they are a producer doesn’t mean they can produce a feature film.

The option fee

Never option the film rights to your novel for no fee whatsoever. You don’t need bucket loads of Scrooge Duck cash to swim around in for a producer to hold your films rights but they should pay something. Paying you a small fee is a clear indication that they value your work. If they cannot pay that small fee, it’s possible they may not be able to afford to put together the project at the early stages of development as that process does come at a cost (an option fee being one of them).

Movies can take years to develop and finance so be reasonable about the length of the option period that you grant a producer. I tend to like an option period of six months to no longer than four years. Never option the film rights for life. What you don’t want is your project sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering dust especially if you have other interested parties.

Getting Paid

If everything goes to plan; the screenplay is in place, the key creatives have been attached, there’s money on the table and a shoot date has been set, make sure your contract stipulates that you get paid on the first day of principal photography. Not on completion of the shoot, not upon distribution, not when Santa comes but on the first day of principal photography. If the catering can be paid, so can the writer.

Credit

If you are also the screenwriter, credit gets you your next job. Your credit needs to be clearly defined and on all appropriate materials such as the poster, trailers and of course on the film itself. Try to avoid phrasing such as ‘The Producer will endeavor to…’ or ‘The Producer, to the best of their ability will try to ensure to…’. If the producer can guarantee their own credit, they should be able to guarantee yours too.

Negotiations

You want to keep your writer/producer relationship positive and sometimes negotiations can leave a bad taste in your mouth. It’s always best to have an experienced representative to negotiate on your behalf. An agent is always is the perfect way to go, if you don’t have an agent, hire a lawyer or alternatively the Australian Writers Guild of the Writer Guild of America both offer services in this instance (if you are a member, which you should be!). Negotiations can be tricky so you need somebody in your corner who knows what your rights are. If a producer doesn’t want you to take their contact to either a lawyer or an agent, there’s a reason for that and even more reason to seek advice. Negotiations should not be nasty, you’re are seeking a mutually beneficial deal but if they do turn nasty remember, you own the project and you can do whatever the hell you want with it.

Stay out of it!

Stay the hell out of the production of the film. Let the filmmakers make the film. Unless you have had substantial experience in film production you have very little to contribute on set and will ultimately get in the way.

3 Things never to do during production:

1) Suggest dialogue changes

2) Suggest shot selections

3) And never, ever, try to pick up the lead actor

Your novel will always be your novel, but the film will always be somebody else’s baby. Respect that filmmakers are storytellers too and if they genuinely love your story, they are going to lay their careers and hearts on the line to see that story on the screen.

First Published at Momentumbooks.com.au

30 WAYS TO KNOW YOU’RE A WRITER

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You know you’re a writer when…
  1. You don’t know how to do anything else
  2. Your back is sore
  3. Your taste in music is awesome and you have a rocking record collection
  4. You can go days without speaking to a single person
  5. Anyone who likes your writing is immediately far sexier than they were before they told you they liked your writing
  6. You spend most of the day staring at the wall
  7. You have at least one unpublishable manuscript hiding in your office
  8. Whenever you’re doing something else, you feel like you should be writing
  9. You never leave the house without a book
  10. You keep telling yourself you need to go to the gym, but to the gym you never go
  11. You drink too much coffee during the day and too much booze during night
  12. You believe stories can change the world
  13. You see people who say ‘I don’t read,’ as Morlocks
  14. You know what the hell a Morlock is
  15. You can convince yourself that laying on the couch, drinking beer and watching re-runs of Miami Vice is just part of your working day
  16. You believe that people who say ‘I would write a book, I just don’t have the time’ should be beaten with a copy of Crime & Punishment
  17. Nobody really knows what you do
  18. Complete strangers pitch you stories to write
  19. You are egotistic and insecure at the same time
  20. You fear going to an accountant
  21. Your favorite place in the world is your desk
  22. Your second favorite place in the world is a bookstore
  23. You fear that reading a bad review is one day going to give you a heart attack
  24. Working from home has lost its appeal
  25. It matters to you where a comma goes
  26. Typos haunt you
  27. You feel guilty about writing
  28. You feel guilty about not writing
  29. People ask you ‘Where you get your ideas from?’ and you tell them there’s a little shop around the corner from your house that sells them
  30. There is absolutely nothing else in the world you would rather be doing than writing

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First published on Murder is Everywhere