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Friday, March 30, 2007

The Long Distance Screenwriter

So I've sent my payment off to Adrian Mead's seminar in June in Edinburgh... I had such a good time last time, plus the fact the lovely Marc Pye will be there made it a no-brainer... Except for one thing. I'm absolutely, 100% petrified of flying. I was even going to go on the train, but since it'll take FOURTEEN HOURS MINIMUM (one takes twenty one! WTF?) I don't really see I have any choice if I want to actually get there and back within three days instead of bloody nearly five! I've never been on a plane, I don't mind admitting it. It was never in the pipeline for years: I was so broke as a single Mum that I was barely making ends meet for years, let alone consider flying anywhere. Now I'm doing far better for myself and oh, got MARRIED so doubled the househole income, suddenly I'm able to actually CONSIDER things like holidays and flying and actually, it's a little bit scary! I had thought I would spend my entire life scraping around for a living (no way was I ever going near a fella again! Hah - famous last words) and had been quite comfortable with the idea of being mega-poor. We're not squillionaires now by any means - my husband works with kids who have behavioral difficulties, which is notoriously underpaid considering what he has to put up with - but in comparison to being a single Mum, perpetual STUDENT and Reader, the very bottom of the food chain, we're The Trumps. So that's one good thing about starting your adult life in the financial shit - you're grateful for anything you get! ; )

So, I'm flying up the night before the seminar from Bristol. Are you going? Some friendly faces would be good when I get there...I'll be the girl a deathly shade of white and shaking like I'm on some kind of drugs withdrawal. You may not get any sense out of me for the first hour or so, but I promise I'll snap out of it at some point. Hopefully. Even better, if any of you are actually flying from Bristol, let's meet up on the plane. With a bit of luck I may not freak out, though since I watched Snakes On A Plane only recently, anything could happen. So be warned...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Back To The Drawing Board

Well, RUN is finished...Finished as in as finished as screenplays ever can be anyway, if you know what mean. Many thanks to my Power of 3 and indeed all the other lovely people who had input, of which there were many. Some great suggestions were made and I stole your ideas guys so I could take all the credit and bask in the glory if people love it. If they don't however, it's YOUR fault! ; )

So: it's had six drafts: two page 1 rewrites and four overhauls, minor to major. It's gone off to the agent - I will be nervously waiting to see what he has to say. Maybe he'll think it sucks. No. Must think positive. He'll phone me in two days and say, "Wow! This is amazing. In fact, I think you're the best writer I've read in years. I'm going to sell it for a million pounds, but guess what: I'm not taking any commission, 'cos I'm privileged to have such a fabulous client." Alright, maybe that's going too far. But a girl can dream, right?

In other news, Lilirose has changed her name. Yes, she might be only ten months old, but she's making it very clear that she does not want to EVER be addressed as just Lili. She has to be called Lilirose in full or...wait for it...ROSIE! One of my sisters is called Rosie, as is my son's Dad's girlfriend, so this could get confusing. But hey ho, it's up to her. Never thought we'd start dealing with this sort of thing when she was so young: something tells me she's gonna give us grief as she gets older if she's already a Diva. Don't know WHERE she gets it from! ; ) Bring it on...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

And God says...

..."Can I have a script report, please?"

Well, not quite. But "God Says" was in the subject line of an email yesterday from a potential Bang2write client asking about prices and my first thought was, "WHY is God emailing me??" I was a little non-plussed, since if I had ever been good enough to earn a divine visitation, I had hoped to get a pillar of fire or a burning bush in the very least. An email doesn't quite cut it for me, I'm too much of a drama queen. I sent God a link to my Ink Tip page anyway. Perhaps he's looking for a human perspective on his script. I just hope it's not written on tablets of stone.

James Moran has been posting more of his amusing keyword searches over at his blog, so I was a little peeved to find my site counter doesn't let you look up keywords in this manner. I can have access to Google searches though, and so far mine have been montage+script format, sophocles+software, how to write a monologue? and screenplay copyright, screenplay contests and Scriptapolooza+winner. All rather tame. In fact the weirdest one I had so far until Monday was Lucy+writer+surname. Yawn.

So things got a little more interesting the other day when I found this one lurking in my stat list:

j.k amalou + wife

Someone out there clearly wants to marry him. Or at least find out who he may be married to. I'm going for the former. Let's place bets.

In the meantime, if YOU are JK's cyber stalker, then let us know!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I'm Old...

...I'm listening to Radio 2.

AND enjoying it!

It's all seventies and eighties, but even so.

I'm old.

Damn you all to hell you young whipper snappers.

Need A Mentor?

Sometimes you don't just need a Reader. You need a Mentor. Someone who's done or doing what you want to do. Someone who can give you advice about the realities of writing and selling, dealing with producers or just the fact that you need to stop procrastinating and GET DOWN TO IT!!!

If any of that sounds like you, then JK Amalou is your man. A successful director and producer as well as Writer, JK's in-between projects at the moment (he's just about to distribute his comedy THE MAN WHO WOULD BE QUEEN), so he is available for consultancy. Regular Readers of this blog will know I can't reccommend JK highly enough - he's had a hand in helping me develop ALL of my specs these last two years and suddenly, interest in them has JUMPED to say the least. The fact he's worked for such stalwarts as Polygram and Studio Canal and consulted for the likes of Martin Scorsese and Riddley Scott just sums it all up really.

Best of all, Bang2write Readers can get special deals from JK by emailing me first - so if you want a mentor, email me on Bang2write"at"aol"dot"com.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Rationalism and Empiricism

Philosophers talk about the nature of experience and how important this is in "knowing" stuff, which is called epistemology, or the theory of knowledge. Empiricists believe that we ultimately learn through experience, in opposition to Rationalists who believe in the concept of innate knowledge, or "knowing" stuff from birth, like we've been pre-programmed. In other words, this is a nature/nurture debate, with Rationalists going for nature and Empiricists going for nurture. Plato and Descartes were famous Rationalists, John Stuart Mill and David Hume famous Empiricists.

Me? I'm 60/40 in Rationalism's favour. Though I believe absolutely in Empiricism and how experience is important in defining and refining one's skills, I do happen to believe that one has to have a pre-disposition towards that skill in the first place - hence the thought in me that certain things have to be "innate". Hell, maybe that belief is innate. I'm not sure, since I don't even know where everything in me came from. Why am I a scriptwriter? No one else in my family is like me. Not one. Though there are many creative people, my mother is a fantastic pianist for example and won many music competitions and awards in her youth - yet none of them write. All are creative with reference to performance - something I have zero interest in: acting? singing? playing in a band? No thanks - and in any case, all of these interests are secondary to my siblings, bar one. One is a doctor, another a nurse. One is still "considering her options" though she thinks she might want to be a property developer. Only my last sister is even remotely like me in that she wants to be a singer and actor, which is of course nothing like a writer but considerably closer than the medical profession.

So, Rationally, I believe that BEING a writer is innate. It's not a job, where you clock in and clock out; it's beyond that kind of control. You ARE a writer, it's a state of being. But writing is an Empiricist pursuit as well. Take the redrafting process for example. Who writes a perfect draft, first time? No one, that's who. I like to think I'm a good writer, but always, always, there are opportunities missed, mistakes made, structure fucked up, characters unneccessary, arena forgotten and so on in every first draft I've ever written. Just yesterday I posted about my god-awful first script that had many drafts but is STILL THE WORST SCRIPT IN THE WORLD and should never see the light of day. I don't write crap like that any more. Even a mediocre writer has to move on, become more sophisticated, write more coherently.

So keep Rationalism and Empiricism in mind, especially when you've been rejected or you doubt yourself. You wouldn't want to be a writer if it wasn't IN you, somewhere, an organic part of you. And experience always makes us better. Practice makes perfect might be a cliche, but cliches are cliches because they carry a grain of truth.

You ARE a writer. So write. And learn.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Time

Why is it we're one of the smallest countries in the world, yet we still have BRITISH SUMMER TIME?? Who the hell do we think we are?? Yes, rest of the world: we will set the time because it goes through GREENWICH (WTF??) and you will sit up and listen!! The time is now EIGHT THIRTY! Actually it's bloody SEVEN THIRTY which means on a sunday I'm awake before I'm SUPPOSED TO BE which is against the laws of MY universe! Who asked ME whether I wanted the clock to go back or not? Eh??? Who even started it??? Does anyone know?

Aaaah: glad to get that off my chest.

One of my first screenplays was about time and how it was really an element like fire and water and out to kill us all. Didn't work out. I remember one person was quite enthusiastic about it, until they read it, and then they stopped calling me. My usual, enthusiastic, optimistic teenage self, I was convinced that they lost my number rather than didn't like it, so I made the faux pas of going round to their house and ringing the doorbell. The guy comes to the door, a look like thunder on his face: "Let me spell this out. I didn't like it. At. All." He says. The door slams in my face and me and my pregnant belly slink off into the night like a wounded beast. Only I'm sure it's not the script he doesn't like, but the fact that I was about to pop any moment: every knows that pregnant women (or girls, in my case) are discriminated against, especially in a cut-throat world like the media (actually, this guy was the producer of local TV that since lost its franchise to Carlton: revenge!)! Fascist.

Ah. How I laugh now when I read that draft. Not only is it the king and queen of WTF? drafts, it's got about 15 storylines, 7 billion characters and formatted like a play, since I figured there was no difference between film and theatre. Oh: it's also in Times New Roman. I only keep it to remind myself how far I've come the last ten years. It's quite a powerful tool too, especially when one of my (I think) good scripts gets rejected. So it serves its purpose in that regard.

What was YOUR very, very first script or story about?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Talking Dirty

DISCLAIMER: It's Friday and I'm bored!

Anyone who reads my scripts knows I like to write sex scenes. Alot. And Readers seem to like them, as this one recently made clear:

You write great sex scenes....Ooooooooh boy!

The thought of my giving a lone Reader somewhere a little bit of a thrill is always nice, but someone I showed one of my scripts to recently came right out with:

This sex scene...Where did you get your inspiration from?

It's one of the few questions I've ever had about my writing that I just didn't have an answer to - or rather, didn't dare answer without looking like a freak. However, I managed to anyway, since I blurted out, "I watch a lot of porn." WTF? Not only is that a ridiculous answer, it's not even true: like most women seem to, I bloody hate the stuff, it's SO DULL and predictable for one thing, before we even get into the moral issues.

So, this little episode got me thinking: are all sex scenes (bar rape scenes, but you all know what I think of them, people!) autobiographical?? If I think alot of writing is in re/presentation - the RE-presenting of what we have done and/or thought about - and I do think this, are we actually kissing and telling on all our sexual conquests every time we write a sex scene??

Over to you...

Strangers On Trains

My Mum always used to tell me not to speak to weirdos as I went out the door when I was a child. Sitting on the train on the way to London last weekend, talking to some random person opposite me it suddenly occurred: I am that weirdo my Mum warned me about!

Let me elaborate. I never take books or even magazines on trains. I'm not really sure why or when I stopped; I suppose I read so much, it's overkill. I hate iPods and personal stereos, so don't have music with me. I don't have a Gameboy or whatever their name is these days and I don't play card games like Solitaire as I don't know how (and I'm not interested, not disenfranchised, so please don't tell me how) and I am one hundred per cent allergic to ALL puzzles of the world, whether they're Sudoku, word searches, cross words or God forbid one of those little metal things that you have to separate! Agh.

I sometimes work on trains - ie. read scripts - but for the most part, I just sit there and let my brain go blank. It's one of the rare occasions I actually get to sit down without a PC in front of me or a baby yelling, "Mama, kiss? Kiss!" in my ear, so this can be nice. You usually find me in carriage D of any train: this is because I read an article by a physicist once who calculated that anyone sitting in carriage D is least likely to be affected by a crash, whether the train comes off the rails, is hit at the front or the back. I've no idea if this is true or not, but it makes me feel better about travelling through that infamous signal into Paddington so often.

So. If the train is quiet, I will just sit there, blank. It's bliss. However, if it's busy - most likely if someone sits next to me - I will talk to them. I can't help myself, it's a compulsion. Though people have moved out of the seat next to me, nine times out of ten they've talked back to me. About random stuff - some have been amazingly open about their families, partners, old schools, careers... You name it. For example:

- Once I met a German couple with a baby whom they nicknamed Faustus as a joke because he was the "devil incarnate" and wouldn't stop crying, but in Germany the deadline for registering babies is a lot shorter than in England so when their time was up they couldn't think of anything else, and he was still the devil, so they landed him with it for life.

- A 7"7 man managed to cram himself into a seat next to me once: he revealed he was a tree surgeon by day ("Guess you don't need a ladder?" I say rather lamely)and in CREATURE FEATURES as a sideline! That's right. Name a Bollywood or Brit Film with a monster in it and guaranteed it's him.

- I've met thousands of public school girls on their way to posh boarding schools, complete with hockey and lacrosse sticks poking out of the luggage rack, but the naughtiest one I met was an 18 year old from Derby who confessed to sleeping with both the rugby captain and the hockey captain - one male and one female - in the same night at the same party. Wowzers.

- I met the an executive from a well-known Juice company who told me all about the buy-one-get-one-free idea and how it works with companies and supermarkets which was interesting, but much more interesting was his reminiscing of his school days and staying at one friend's house that was full of cockcroaches and cats.

- I met a chap who lives oppostie the wreck of the Napoli at Branscombe Bay - he gave blow-by-blow accounts of everything they "salvaged", but then had to give back.

- I've met hundreds of PA's to various people whose names I recognise, but many more who claim to be the PA of someone I really do know or have met and I know they actually aren't, which I always find particularly interesting. There are ALOT of people on the Paddington train who are phantom workers at the BBC for example. One girl whom I spoke to for over an hour claimed to be Paul Ashton's line manager at The Writers' Room; unfortunately for her, I happen to know her boss, who is the line manager at a well-known insurance company. Still, I didn't let on and let her indulge her fantasy: why not?

Who have you met on the train? The weirder the better please...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why Are YOU A Screenwriter? Final Word on Adrian Mead

Well, I've almost gone through my meagre notes now... I didn't make many, 'cos I have to admit I never do (I was the lazy little bugger at the back in school sticking chewing gum under the desk), but actually Adrian is such a great speaker I was a little transfixed by the animated way in which he talks. It's so rare to find someone who loves his job AND to disseminate information the way he does - as mentioned copeless times on this blog, I've been to many dubious and dodgy screenwriting courses that are so SHOW ME THE MONEY! it's untrue, yet with this one it wasn't like that at all. A rare privilege.

Adrian defined five main "reasons" people become screenwriters. These are: validation, security, money and glamour, love of the process and the need to communicate. A little more detail:

VALIDATION - is writing something you do so people can say, "Wow, that's great!" or "Well done!" If so, then this is important to you.

SECURITY - do you write because you want the job at the end of it? Do you dream of earning plenty, being successful, getting your "name" as well as your work out there? If so, then you're writing for security.

MONEY AND GLAMOUR - Do you dream of red carpets, your Oscar Speech? Do you imagine when you'll be asked to talk on commentaries on your DVD or on Parky? Yes? Then it's Money and Glamour that's your bag.

LOVE OF THE PROCESS - Adrian admitted to being a writer here who hates writing...Sitting down and writing pisses him off, yet if for any reason he can't do it, he gets moody and hard to live with. This was an interesting confession and one many others in the room echoed. Myself, I love the actual act of writing AND get moody if I can't do it (quelle surprise!), but regardless, even if you'd sooner chop off all your toes than write another draft, YET can't not write it either, then you have a genuine love of the process.

NEED TO COMMUNICATE - If there are stories inside you that you JUST HAVE to tell, then it's this that is your strongest motivator as a writer.

Now all you need to decide is what is most important to you NOW and appreciate that this will change, dependant on circumstances. Adrian told us that one year he earned £100,000 writing: it had been his dream to earn mega-bucks and he was doing it. Yet he was miserable. So he had to re-assess. Upon re-assessing his goals and desires, he discovered a yearning to make his own films. Which he did, hence the production of Night People, which Adrian will duly be telling Write Here, Write Now more about in coming weeks.

The bad news is, essentially you are screwed on all of them. If you're writing for validation, you're going to get rejected more than a rejectee in a rejection factory; if you're writing for security, forget it: it's all freelance, there's no chance of knowing if you can afford the mortgage FOREVER or if you can send your kids to private school for the whole of their school lives - you might do well at first, but what happens if you blot your copybook and get blacklisted or get your hand chopped off by a crocodile during your holiday to the Amazon (what? Could happen: never rule anything out, always my motto!). Money and Glamour? Well, you might earn stacks in TV, but film?? You'd be lucky to get enough to afford a holiday to Skegness and as for Glamour - who remembers who wrote what? Even other writers don't. Love of the Process?? You're not safe even there...Your PC could always blow up in the very least, plus there's family commitments and that's even before you consider the fact that there will be times in your career where you're a writer for hire on ABSOLUTE SHITE that you TOTALLY HATE, either because of the actual material or the people you're working with. Finally, well - with the Need To Communicate there's always Writer's Block. Hah!

But none of that's actually important. What is, is figuring out where your motivation lies and how it affects your ability to work and produce drafts that get "out there" - either as saleable specs or as samples that will get you work. For me, security doesn't bother me: I've never had a "proper job" and started my adult life as a single Mum at the bottom of the food chain, so ANY money is better than none. Rejection of course bothers me, no one LIKES it, but I always get right back in the saddle by chasing up new opportunities which makes me feel better. Money, Glamour - I'm a Mum. Any money I earn is for the kids, not me and Glamour? What the hell is that? Not part of my vocabulary.

So, for me, my two motivators - at present - are the Need To Communicate and Love of The Process. I love writing so much and don't have enough time to write everything I want to write - which means I think Writer's Block is some way off yet. Though you never know.

What about you?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Power Of 3 Alert

"The Power of 3" is another of Adrian's techniques and one I thoroughly approve of: it involves showing your draft to three people for feedback, followed by another three once you've re-written in the very least. As I've posted before, I like to write at least 5 drafts of each of my scripts before I send them out; one should NEVER send out half-baked material and drafts should always be the best you can get before you even consider showing them to the bigwigs.

So: just to let you know then, I need a new three for my latest project. I've had some fabulous people helping me thus far, but they're v busy, I don't want to impose anymore and also, I'd like some fresh eyes on this script since it's gone through some major changes in the last few days. Girlies would be especially welcome, since ALL the people who've read it thus far have been male and I would like at least one lady's perspective since this is very much a GIRL POWER movie.

The logline is below. First three peeps to email me gets to be in my Power of 3, though be warned - this has got to be with my agent next week, so you have to be able to read fast (sorry!) 'cos if anything is really GLARING about it, I need some time for revision.

Wow, what a deal.

Come on, you know you want to. I will of course return the favour...!!!

RUN, thriller. Low budget. A mentally-fragile single mother thinks her policeman boyfriend is threatening her and her child's lives, but no one else believes her. Is she mad or he bad??

Pitches - Adrian Mead

A little more on Pitching from Adrian.

The most important thing about Pitching is ownership. This is your story, so personalise it. Make it accessible - even if that means stretching the truth a little. Relate the story to your own, or another's experience.

Did Adrian Mead just condone lying?? Well. Us writers fib for a (hopeful) living, don't we? Our entire career is built on what are essentially fibs: though we might tell our own stories, we tell them through the eyes and mouths of of fictional characters. It's important to remember that even in biopics, our representation of that "real" person is just that - and thus "unreal". I'll give you examples, by pitching my own scripts infomally, with this idea in mind:

HUSBAND AND FATHER, feature (low budget): this is a story about pregnancy, responsibility and child abuse. When I was a teenager, I had a friend who was abused by his parents. He was horribly treated psychologically, yet there was not one mark on him and Social Services never became involved. I knew about his torment, but did not appreciate exactly what it was doing to him. As far as I was concerned, his parents were just awful people and soon he'd get his exam results, go to uni and escape them. So, no one had any doubt that this normal, middle-class family was anything but - until he attacked and killed his parents with an iron bar. Originally blamed on a burglar, this only came out when his girlfriend gave birth to a little boy. It was this that gave me the idea for my feature, which focuses instead on a female character who kills her abusive father when he attacks her for damaging her dead mother's piano: she buries her traumatic past until she falls pregnant herself.

THY WILL BE DONE, feature (mid-high budget). This is a story about the choices we make and whether it's possible to attain redemption for even the most heinous of crimes. When I was a little girl, a child from my class went missing. She was gone for approximately six months: there were numerous TV appeals and her case even appeared on Crimewatch. Though I didn't know the girl well or even play with her much, I remember watching her heartbroken parents on the TV - these were people I'd seen at the school gates. It was weird. Eventually, her body was found in a warehouse on the outskirts of Birmingham. She was badly decomposed - police estimated that she'd died the day she went missing. It turned out that her older brother, aged eighteen, had accidentally killed her, panicked and hid the body. My script focuses instead on a man who loses his daughter during his regular parental access, only to discover she has been murdered when he goes looking for her and he is the culprit.

KINGS OF THE CASTLE, drama series. This is a story about making it against the odds. When I was fourteen, I went to work at a holiday attraction on the North Coast each summer. It was there I met my husband, who's a little bit older than me. He was a student and apparently became fixated with me, though I didn't notice - I was quite a young teen in that I wasn't interested in boys (until I was 18 that is, then I made up for lost time!). The Holiday Attraction was a castle, that had been built as a folly in Victorian times and then left to fall to ruin. The family who moved into it in 1979 built it up from scratch as a museum and theme park and employed people like me and my husband to show people around, work in the cafe, etc. I loved working here with lots of other young people and decided to write a family's journey of restoring an old castle into a functional business.

So...Only one is 100% true. Which one do YOU think it is?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The One Page Pitch - Adrian Mead

The One Page Pitch Doc is something that crops up in a lot of Adrian Mead's postings on places like Shooting People, so I was very keen to hear what he said about this on Saturday.

As Adrian says, no one is ever scared of one page. As a Reader, I can relate to this. Every time I get a load of scripts delivered, the first thing I do is check page count. If it's over 105, I get palpitations. For some reason, those extra 15-20 pages, take more time than the rest of the script put together. Or maybe that's just my imagination. But in any case: BIG SCRIPTS GIVE PEOPLE THE WILLIES (oo-er). One page then? Easyeeee. It's all in the psychology.

So what should make up your One Page Pitch Doc? Well, it should be continuous prose, for starters. Adrian was keen to stress that you should talk in visuals - in others words, choose your words carefully, using ones that have resonance and sum up the action of the piece. Also, simplicity is key. Much good advice. So often I find the problem new writers have in conveying the themes and even story in the script are to do with coherency - the infamous WTF? Draft: in other words, they've been too ambitious, make it too complicated.

What else should go in, then?

The title, obviously. What it actually is - is this a feature? A 60 min drama? A short? A series? Lots of writers forget to include this information, because they know it and forget that others won't. Make sure your Reader knows the genre and who your protagonist is. You should include your protagonist's goal ("wants vs. need" - sometimes these two don't always go together!) and indeed, what their obstacles are, including of course, the antagonist. Finally, sum up its theme in this section - what is it all about? Why are we watching this story, at this particular time?

Then - and this was the most interesting idea I found - jump straight to the end. If that first section was the set up, or Act One, go straight to Act 3. DON'T do Act 2, don't tell the story in minute detail. This is a pitch, not a treatment: hold something back. People who'll read this want the set up and how it ends...Everything else is superfluous. Hook them in, make them WANT to read your script.

And that's it. Very interesting. This is not the way I've been writing my pitch docs - I was taught a different way at university - but I'm willing to give this version a try. And if I get optioned out of it, I'm calling my next kid Adrian.

Or maybe not... ; )

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mr. Nice

Well, I'm back from the Adrian Mead Seminar in London... I had a fab day!

I've been on many, many scriptwriting short courses now: I make a point of going on at least one a year, since Adrian points out that the industry is constantly changing and it's always a good idea to keep one's skills up-to-date. Also, I like to be in a position to be able to reccommend courses to Bang2write clients and I can safely say: if you do no other, do this one. Adrian Mead and Clare Kerr were fantastic, really positive and helpful. Adrian is a great, not to mention funny, orator and much kudos to Clare and her band of Helpers who kept everything flowing not only in terms of coffee, tea and food but also pointing out who might want to network with whom.

Adrian offered a variety of insights that I'm sure will be dissected by a plethora of blogs across the Scribosphere, so I won't go into it in minute detail; what I will say that his and the rest of the team's attitudes proved really inspiring. So often one can go to these courses and enjoy them, but really just have confirmed what you already really know. This was a different kind of course, since it was all about enabling your life plan and your goals but without the touchy-feely-everybody-fall-into-each-others'-arms trust exercises that us Brits typically find embarrassing and a little bit scary!

He also emphasised the importance of common courtesy and being generous to each other: helping people out is what gets you ahead; it never hurts to be known as "Mr (or Mrs.) Nice". I totally agree with this. People have been incredibly kind to me over the years, going out of their way to advise me and help me find my way and now, having been a Reader for a few years, I have even been a position to return the favour on occasion which has been fantastic. Whilst Karma can be over-simplified, I do feel this very basic principle can really help the Media World go round and make it much nicer place to work, without the "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" cliquey idea, which promotes notions of industry fatcats locked away in dark little rooms.

In addition to the course itself, the event allowed ample time for networking, which was great. I saw all my usual "Homies" Lianne, Good Dog and Lara, but was able to meet Dominic, Pillock and Potdoll at last as well as numerous Bang2write clients past and present! I was also able to meet many other interesting people - I have your cards now, so I will be in touch very soon.

So a great day was had by all... In fact, the only downside was I now have a very sore throat from yakking so much. Oh: and Good Dog grabbed my arse in front of Adrian Mead. Thanks for that. I will get you back...Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow...But soon. Be very afraid, GD!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Adrian Mead Seminar

Well, like everyone else in the known UK blogging universe I'm off to The Adrian Mead Seminar in London tomorrow, so I'll see you there! In fact, the only bloggers I know who aren't going seem to be Danny Stack and James Moran, though given Danny's recent close contact with Adrian and his guest posts over at Scriptwriting and Scriptreading in the UK, he could very well be. Are you, Danny?

PS. If he doesn't reply, let's see if we can spot him David Attenborough style: James reliably informs me Danny has a beard that James doesn't approve of, so he urges us all to "point". So you all know what to do. Unless of course Adrian Mead has a beard and in which case, this is NOTHING to do with me. At all. You crazy weirdos!

PPS. Oh, there's a knock on the door... It's a man with a beard...And an axe! Danny, noooooooooooooo!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Monologue, anyone?

Well, I didn't win or even place in, the Teachers' TV Monologues Competition. Nuts. Any other entrants wanting to torture themselves with "Oh, SO CLOSE!" can view the winners here (actually, there was a whopping 725 entries, so that should deaden the pain).

The upside of this is, I have a monologue going spare. I think it's quite good (even if the judges didn't). Anyone want to film it? You're welcome to it, for free, as long as you give me a copy of the finished article. Just email me if you want to read it.

Any takers?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

5 Things You May Not Know About Me

Well, I've been tagged... Hooray. Never one to pass on a challenge, but since I talk about stuff to do with little old me alot, I may be scraping the barrel!

1. I have 34DD boobs. I started with 34B. To think people pay for 'em! Save yourself three thousand squid and have two babies instead.

2. My surname is not Vee. It's my nickname because my middle name begins with "V" (I'm not telling you buggers what it is, either so DON'T ASK!). My family call me the whole thing, as in "How are you, Lucy Vee?" Really.

3. When I was a child, I would cry when I stepped on snails. I also gave funerals for them and indeed every dead wild animal I found in the vicinity to my house. I had a graveyard full of pigeons, sparrows, rabbits, mice and shrews as well as all the dead family pets. I even made headstones. Morbid, hey.

4. I was a rampant activist when I was a teen but was never allowed to go to demonstrations, so made up for this when I was at university and got arrested several times, though I was never charged.

5. The best thing that ever happened to me (prior to my having the kids and getting married, natch) was when I was eight. My Mum, having discovered at a parents' evening that I had an advanced reading age took me into a bookshop and told me I could have whatever I wanted. I picked a few books but my Mum started pulling others off the shelf, saying "Have these ones as well!" I ended up with about 30. I was so happy I actually cried.

I tag...EVERYONE WHO READS THIS! HAH! IN YOUR FACES, BEE-ATCHES!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Thrills and Spills

The lovely Potdoll has been posting some very interesting stuff about Thrillers over at her blog in the last couple of days, which I've been reading with interest. As someone in the middle of revising a third draft of a first draft of a thriller at present, I've been struck by some of the coverage I've received on it recently which mostly consists of: "We need more decent UK-based low-budget thrillers". LONDON TO BRIGHTON immediately comes to mind, as does SEVERANCE (though that's more of a horror), but actually, I think those Readers might have a point. Where are they all? Have we all been missing a trick on this lately?

Can you think of any? What was good/bad about them?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Be My Friend...


...Or the birdie gets it.

I'm serious.

My MySpace profile has only had 259 views! I have only 15 friends!

I'm like, totally freaking, man.

Save me!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Destination

Haven't finished your screenplay, outline, novel, whatever?

Maybe you haven't started?

Maybe it's all still a dream to you: "One day I'll be a writer," "One day I'll send my script out, try and get an agent," "One day I'll try and get a production company interested in me."

Sort yourself out!

One of my philosophy students yesterday excused himself for not doing his essay on moral realism because he had been ill and because he had "too much other coursework." I told him: sorry mate. Time management is part of adult life.

So if time management is part of adult life, why do we invariably neglect our dreams? If you have no dreams, you have no life in my book. That's going to impact on your work, your family life...everything. I always say: "How can I say to my kids "Follow your dreams" if I don't?"

The point of this post is not to lecture you or say I'm great and you're not. Rather, I want you to sit down and say: "What IS my dream? HOW can I achieve it?"

It's easier than you think.

When I was a young girl, all I ever wanted to be was a writer. When I got pregnant as a teenager, I junked this dream because I had to be responsible. I was a mother now. I had no money, no house, no security, no boyfriend even. Bugger.

It was the worst thing I ever did.

Without my dream of TRYING it as a writer, I was half the person I should be - therefore I was half the mother I should have been. I became lethargic, bored. I loved my son, absolutely and totally, but there was something "missing".

So I went to university. I took my son with me. We had to do a variety of flits from flats infested with mice and cockcroaches. I had a boyfriend who was a nutter and my son's father followed me to Bournemouth and messed me around constantly. I was broken into. Mugged, twice. The gas boiler blew up at one place and at another my Landlord left us with no electricity for a week when the fuse box blew up. I was stalked by a lesbian called Gemma and my best friend who lived over the road turned into a psycho.

I loved it.

Why? Not because of any of those things. Shit happens. But I was doing what I wanted to do. That's what counts. Regardless of the shit.

So: you want something? Go and get it. It might be hard. But anything worth having is never easy... And maybe you'll never have it. I'm STILL trying. I'm making some slow progress, but I'm not there yet. Perhaps I never will be.

But the journey counts as well: not just the destination.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Unknown Readers

Well, it seems ironic that for me, as an "unknown" writer, that I have UNKNOWN READERS. That's right. I was looking at my site stats the other day and a whopping six per cent of my readership is from COUNTRY or COUNTRIES UNKNOWN. Weird. Are you "unknown"? I can tell you that if you're from Scotland, England, Wales, South Africa, Antigua, Germany, France, Poland or Iceland then I DO know you, albeit just location-wise. Having not had a site meter on my old blog, I can hardly believe my readership would be such a mixed bag! I'm touched. Or is it that I swear a lot and say lots of daft things, so you think this may be a porno site? Whoops, there I go again... Saying "porno" is going to clearly bring the pervs and the weirdos. Oops, I did it again. Perhaps I should change my name to Britney? Nah, have too much hair.

But anyway: if you think you may be one of those Unknown Readers drop us a line in the comments section and tell me where you are. I'd say email as well, but I appear to have a problem: yesterday I received NO EMAILS between 9 and 5. Not one. That may be unsurprising for someone you may think is a billy-no-mates who operates out of her bedroom in deepest, darkest Devon but I actually receive in the region of 60 emails a day minumum, including spam. This was further compounded by the fact that this morning I received two emails that had clearly been sent on TUESDAY. So, if you have emailed me recently, have faith: it'll get here eventually. If you need me urgently, leave a message on the blog or send to bang2write"at"hotmail"dot"co"dot"uk.

Oh, and one last thing: Bournemouth University tells us what we already know about authors with research on earnings. But what about screenwriters, hey??

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Seven Minutes...

So I wake up this morning, roll into the bathroom and there's a post-it stuck to the shower cubicle:

You have seven minutes. Or you die.

Now, this refers to a long running, shall we say discussion, ahem, between my husband and I that I take too long in the shower. As an ex-Field Technician for Thames Water and passionate environmentalist, he believes it's everyone's responsibility to conserve water, which is why he's in and out of the shower in approximately five minutes. However, I believe it's MY responsibility to shave my hairy legs and arm pits so no one dies at the sight of them (which is always possible). He says that's why I have the extra two minutes. I say he's a fascist. The row goes on.

However, taken out of context, that note is rather interesting in a screenwriting-sense: there could be a story in it.

So: you have seven minutes to do something - or you die.

What is it?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Missing

There's a saying or quote, I don't know who came up with it, but it's definitely true:

Easy reading is damn hard writing.

There are very few specs out there that are "easy" to read. As a Reader, this does not mean these specs make me go blind, mental or that they are full of typos or format errors. Often, they have poetic scene direction and a good "feel" of their arena: they offer witticisms, asides that can even make me laugh (that's hard, since my husband is fond of telling me I have had a sense of humour bypass, especially when it comes to South Park) and can even paint a vivid picture of what's going on, in every minute detail.

Rewind there.

Every minute detail.

Therein lies the problem.

Not enough "white on the page" is what makes specs hard to read. Too much detail can actually obfuscate what's going on. Why? Because you bamboozle your reader with so many details, they're not always sure which is the most important one. This is why the impact of certain character motivations, instances of something set up to pay off, dialogue etc etc can sometimes be "missed" when you get your coverage back.

I love that phrase. "You missed this in my screenplay which reveals why so-and-so did this or that or the other." I read hundreds of scripts a year, possibly thousands if you include those I read for fun (yes, it's a Busman's holiday but I really do read scripts when I'm not working as well! Have I lost my mind?? Possibly.) So, how can I miss something when I am so attuned to picking this kind of stuff up?

The answer?

You're not going to like it...

...It's your fault.

Detail is needed only to feed into character motivation that feeds into PLOT. Everything else - and I mean everything - is surplus to requirement. Yes, you need to give an insight to your arena as well, but should it overtake those two notions of character motivation and plot?

The short answer: no.

I'm not immune: I wrote what I thought were clever character motivations recently that fed into a nice, simple plot that didn't have too much black... Yet my coverage came back with "predictable" and "risible" written on it. Ouch. But you know what? The Reader was right. That's not to say I didn't think FIRST, "Oh but I put this in...Or that in..." because I did. But instead of emailing the Reader and saying, "I guess you missed..." I went back and looked instead...

...And there was only one person who'd missed ANYTHING.

Me.

So I went back to page 1. I re-designed the entire thing from scratch. Now, much better. Still only a second-first-draft but I'm back on track. But I'm not finished yet. Easy reading is damn hard writing and I've got a long way to go yet with this project.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Scriptapalooza Screenwriting Competition: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know...

Well, I was a ScriptapaLOSER last year in that my script didn't place at all, but as I always say, "you gotta be in it to win it" and my experience of entering was a good one, which is why BANG2WRITE was more than happy to talk to Scriptapalooza president, the lovely Mark Andrushko, this week...

1. There are so many scriptwriting competitions now. Why should screenwriters enter your competition? Being in our 9th year and endorsed by the Writers Guild of America west and the Writers Guild of Canada, I think Scriptapalooza has proven itself as one of the most powerful screenplay competitions out there. We have deals with over 70 producers, managers and agents who do all the reading, that's right, every script that comes in is read by one of these people. We actively push your script for a full year, meaning if your script comes in as a Semifinalist or higher, you get Scriptapalooza behind you for a full year. So, if you win 1st place or you're just a Semi, you get the same exposure for a full year. We get calls all year round from producers saying, "I'm looking for this type of script," then we look thru our finalists, runners-up and semifinalists to find this particular script. Our ultimate goal is to get you representation or get your script sold or optioned.

2. Some competitions offer feedback. Is there any plan for Scriptapalooza to do the same? Since all the reading is done by producers, managers and agents (they are listed on our website) they are just too busy to give feedback on every entry. I know other competitions give feedback, but getting feedback from an intern or hired reader is pointless...they can't do anything with the script...we go right to the source, we go to the people who can option your script, get you an agent, get you a meeting, sell your script or take it to the studios to try to get it made.

3. What "success stories" have you had of Scriptapalooza winners, runners up and finalists? What have they gone to do? We have had so many success stories, they are all listed on our website. I will mention a few: Craig Clyde, a past finalist, is shooting and directing his feature right now in Washington with LifeTime Network and PorchLight Entertainment. Robert Gelber, third place winner, sold his script to Level 1 Entertainment for six figures, a direct result of Scriptapalooza. 1st Place winner, Patrick Andrew O'Connor, won the competition and was hired by DisneyToons to write a feature. Again, please check our website, we have about 5 pages of success stories.

4. Why doesn't Scriptapalooza accept online entries like Bluecat and Final Draft Big Break? The reason we don't accept emailed entries is because then we would have to print each script, all the producers, managers and agents we deal with always want the physical script. If they like something, they pass it around their office and have other development people read it...I think the other competitions can take emailed scripts because they are not dealing with so many producers, agents and managers.

5. Do your Judges ever complain about any particular format errors, inconsistencies of character, grammar or spelling? If so, what types of thing annoy them? We do get calls about that and we're very honest with the judges that a lot of these people entering the competition are new writers but we always mention please judge the script on the writing, period. We don't judge on genre, we judge on the storytelling.

6. There's now a Scriptapalooza TV Writing Competition. Can we have some more background on that? We'll had the TV competition for 8 years now and this competition is very small compared to the screenplay competition. We only get like 500 entries per competition (held 2 times a year) but we have had some major success. 2 of our writers, that won the TV competition actually won Daytime Emmys for RugRats, the children's show. One of our other winners was hired by Comedy Central to write for their show. And now we started accepting Reality Shows and the only reason we're doing that is because 33% of what we see on TV is reality now.

7. Scriptapalooza says on the website there is no bias to judging in terms of genre. Out of interest, what types of screenplay have won? All types have won, actually looking back a few years, we have had comedies, animation, thrillers...and also the top 10 runners up are all very different and are all very good.

8. Who are Scriptapalooza's affiliates? Scriptapalooza is endorsed by The Writers Guild of America west and The Writers Guild of Canada. We are also sponsored by Write Brothers, the leading software giant, who make Moviemaker Screenwriter.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks Mark! Really comprehensive info there.

I'll be entering the feature comp - the early deadline is March 5th which is TOMORROW, but don't panic: postmarked on that date is fine apparently. The Late deadline is April 13th for those of you who need to give your drafts a quick polish and those TV writers out there have until April 30th to get your specs in. Best of luck and keep BANG2WRITE posted on your progress!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ode To Crampon-Fred's Nads

Well...Crampon will be going under the knife in the next hour and I'm feeling the pinch of extreme guilt!!

Oh Crampon, your claws are like razors
And you bite like some kind of fur-lined alligator.
But this is not why I remove your testicles!
Oh no.
I am just trying to be the best cat mother
I can be:
So you might never feel the pain
Of teenage pregnancy
Like me.
Or your girlfriend leaving you
To shack up with some Tom called Fluffy
And then screw you for maintenance
To fund her catnip habit.
Or your kids not recognising you
When you turn up on Saturdays
To take them down MiceDonald's.
Far better
To have never loved at all.

Amen.

In other news, I'm off to the sunny shores of um... London tomorrow. I'll be seeing my lovely Metlab students once again and then afterwards I'll be seeing my wonderful screenwriting bitches The OR, Lara, Elinor and The Good Dog for a spot of lunch like the media whores we are.

What are you doing this weekend?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Overheard

The kitten's six months old and stinking the place out, so the poor sod's having his knackers chopped off tomorrow. Ouch. Feel guilty, but what can you do? The would-be Casanova is trying to have it off with everything in sight, including my fave stripy socks. Not. Good.

So my husband made the appointment with the vet as I was getting the kids' tea last night: I'm a self-confessed eavesdropper and I'm sure he always lets me overhear such juicy titbits on purpose:

"The cat's name? It's Crampon-Fred. Yes, Crampon. As in the spikes you use to get up a mountain, you'll see why. No, actually: not the kids, my wife came up with it. Yes. She's a writer."

Ah: that explains it, then.