In a chair like his he worked his magic.

Alonso was classically Italian — round and good at what he did best. It was a niche service, a storefront slotted in between an aging fish and chip place and the only butcher for three miles. The closest barber was across the road and Alonso benefited more from them than they did from Alonso. A small concrete island in the middle of the road separated the two provincial lanes.

People would come from all over and they would find Alonso outside his store smoking, waiting for his appointments, booked singularly in his only chair, and with generous time on either…


It does happen, but not all the time.

Windows down and I can hear the kids playing before we pass them by along the side of the school, the buildings flat then tall, loose gravel crunching under the tires. A whistle in the distance and I pull onto the yellow line at the square head of the long thin carpark and Julie and I climb out.

She heads for the canteen at the front of the shed at the bottom of the hill as I slide the doors at the back of the van open and haul out the first of the boxes. I carry them down towards…


A still from episode 10 of Retcon, ‘Fulltime’

Welcome to Retcon, your first choice for a second chance.

The first season of Retcon, released online as an independent web series, leaned into the restrictions inherent in the coronavirus lockdowns around the world.

Written, produced, and shot from my laptop in my flat in London — before we returned home — with a team of Australian collaborators, the show hinged on that distinctive call. The last thing travellers do before they leave.

The series had both benefited and suffered from the Zoom-shot format restrictions. Scheduling became simple, production was streamlined, and we experimented with the format to avoid the ubiquitous video-on-black screen we’d all become unpleasantly used to. Opting…


It really had no idea what to do with it, which you’d suspect was not a surprise, but it was an avid tennis player already. Perhaps it was more the shape of the ball, that it was made for feet not for racquets held in the hand, that bewildered it so.

It pressed at the ball with its long foot, careful not to pierce it although the surface was already flaking away. The ball rolled away revealing a tattered new side and the wallaby leapt at it but its toe just punted it away towards a eucalypt. …


This is a very short story about a stage manager who cut a hole in the roof of the theatre to let the Moon shine in over the midnight show forgetting that as the seasons changed the usefulness of the hole would wax and wane.

Local critics at the first and second preview found it to be a cute touch but cloud cover on the opening night seemed to spoil the illusion somewhat so, in a calm frustration, our stage manager did not sleep. Instead, he cobbled together the longest ladder he could out of whatever happened to be loose…


Two brothers, one job, no hope.

Lemon Moon is the precautionary tale of two brothers, Clark and Winslow, who abandon their lives on Earth to head for the new opportunities on the Moon. But the only thing they’ve ever done together is run a lemonade stand as six-year olds so they’re trying that again on their new, sparsely populated home.

Over the 2020 Easter long weekend, with the whole of the United Kingdom in lockdown, social media use spiking, and Netflix beginning to run out of new shows, I decided to put my social experience to use to market the pilot (currently only) episode.

With just…


Foxe Basin, by USGS.

It must have come from the grounds around the school, from what’s left of old forest at the base of the bricks bearing the height of the Overground. Your light is dim and yellow, the only one in the street still not off, and you feel the cool of its streaking light even from the first floor.

You slowly cross the living room trying not to wake the couple downstairs with too loud steps and pull an almost-dry coat from the off radiator. You go back to the couch but you look out the open window as you sit to…


Captain Jack in Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest, and At World’s End is the best character in the franchise, and Barbossa in On Stranger Tides and Dead Men Tell No Tales is the best character in those movies. But this list isn’t about them. It’s about the side characters that get caught up in our fun pirate protagonists’ wild adventures.

Fair warning: All these characters are from the first three movies because that’s where all the cool characters — except the mermaid— are found (sorry Penelope Cruz).

Tia Dalma, the Voodoo and Obeah sorceress played by Naomie Harris who’s the fourth best Pirates of the Caribbean character.
Tia Dalma, the Voodoo and Obeah sorceress played by Naomie Harris who’s the fourth best Pirates of the Caribbean character.

1. Ragetti

Pintel & Ragetti are the OG characters and the best…


This guide is for keen filmmakers who want to keep creative during coronavirus. It assumes you have no budget and want to produce and distribute a web series in lockdown anyway — like I did with Retcon, a sci-fi series about a time travel agency.

Why Zoom?

Synchronous video tech would be ideal — there are a few rapidly improving streaming options — but Zoom is easily accessible and more understood. It’s also the one with which I have the most experience.

A Zoom call layout, which we’ll turn into a sweet new show or short film.

1. Write it.

Easier said than done but just write a good episode. …


This is what happens if you ignore the advice in this guide.

Look, yes, it’s reductive to compare complex realities to crowdpleasing popcorn flicks but Count Dooku and Saruman the White are fun characters who both pursued, and were destroyed by, the promise of absolute power so strap in.

1. Appreciate The View From The Top

Dooku wasn’t just any Jedi — he was Yoda’s apprentice— and Saruman was the leader of the sect of wizards to which Gandalf belonged so neither of these iconic, beard-stroking magicians were small fry in the grand scheme of things.

Head space/fantasy wizard is a pretty cool gig so don’t take it for granted just because someone with weird eyes wants to sell…

Zac van Manen

Writer, producer, social.

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