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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Structure and Pace

Yesterday I talked about Story and Plot, how they were ultimately married yet lead very different lives: I'm reminded here of me and my husband, for although we are married (durr) and have some stuff in common like the kids and cats, we couldn't be more different: I like to write. He likes to run wild on the moors like a savage. Really. So it comes as no surprise then that Story and Plot's kids, twins Structure and Pace, are also very different.

Structure is male and ego-centric; why wouldn't he be, when people talk about him all the time? He's the focus of many books, seminars and drunk screenwriters at parties: "I jussssst can't get my structure to work, man! Wass am I doing wrong? Eh? eh???" When he comes into the equation, he's posing all over the shop and for some reason I always see him in shades and a cowboy hat. In addition, he's the older twin, by a good ten minutes and always reminds us of this. He also has a severe personality disorder, since people like Aristotle, John Truby and Chris Soth keep trying to reorder him and change him around (couldn't resist).

Pace then is the younger, female, more reserved twin. I see her in my mind as a ballet dancer, dressed in pink - though she's so versatile she could take part in Swan Lake and get covered in blood in a Rob Zombie movie in the same week. She's more contemplative than Structure, but definitely more flighty; she's not so stuck in her ways. She'll change according to the brief, whilst Structure makes demands of the writer: don't have an Act One longer than 30 pages! Where's your midpoint? Get me a skinny latte and a croissant!

Alright, not that last one - though I could do with 'em - but I find it helps to visualise these two things in particular, since it's often these two things that get neglected in the scripts I read. Though many books, seminars etc are devoted to Structure (there's even a search label for it in the archives of this very blog), very few focus on the notion of Pace. Like Story and Plot, the two are interconnected. You have good Structure, your Pace will be good. It's a symbiotic relationship.

We already know what Structure is = The 3 Acts for me, but for others The Mini Movie Method, 22 Steps, Stating Intent etc - but what is Pace? Well, referring to the dictionary, we have:

A rate of activity, progress, growth, performance, etc; tempo.

This is a great help, I think: the notion that time is passing, that it's got to keep interesting, but ultimately build up to something is a notion I think we all do well to aspire to in our writing. Often in spec screenplays, Structure may be obvious, with a nice set-up, turning points in the right places etc... Yet the resolution falls flat. Or one half is interesting - and the other half goes off at a tangent. Or the writer suddenly thinks: "Argh! I'm on page 70 - let's wrap this baby up!" and whammo, it's the end, just like that. These are just three ways Pace can suffer in a screenplay; there are many more.

If you take Pace into account then at the same time as Structure, you can ask yourself the following question:

Is this the most dramatic thing that I can make happen at this time in the screenplay?

It's this question that counts when you've got your story nailed - it helps make your Structure (and therefore your Plot) work as it means that if you answer "Yes" to the above, your Pace is good. Yet there are many specs out there that have scenes that lack Pace. Why is this? The most common scenes I see that bring down Pace are:

- Over-reliance on phone calls
- Static scenes - pages where characters come in and out of rooms with one room as the "focus" for no apparent reason
- The Protagonist not being obvious and/or appearing and disappearing in the narrative - ditto secondary characters and their particular role functions
- Long, "Wonder Years"-style Voice-overs where the Protagonist spends so long reminiscing the narrative lacks forward-looking momentum
- Characters thinking about things
- Peripheral characters popping up for several pages, then never being seen again
- Yoo much black on the page - especially extraneous info, like what characters are wearing when it's not important to the plot
- Flashbacks without a discernible pattern to them
- Over-reliance on triviliaties when characters are speaking to each other ("How are you/I'm fine, how are you? Fine, thanks for asking...")

So, how do you fix the above? Well that's for tomorrow my pretties...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Story Vs Plot

So Phill Barron has this post about character vs story, with a hilarious (not to mention foul-mouthed) paraphrasing of Tony Jordan's assertion that it's character, not story, you should start with when coming up with your ideas for scripts.

Yet should you start with character? This is an interesting point. Certainly when I was at university I had a lecturer who was absolutely positive it was character. He would bang on about the fact we had to know EVERYTHING about our characters, even what they "had for breakfast". We would get character sheets where we would have to write character profiles and in seminars tell our peers just what made our character "tick". This was often fun - usually 'cos there was a ruck about sexism or stereotypical notions of gender, race and whatnot - but was it useful? Undoubtedly. But did it mean those students, including me, wrote coherent drafts?

One thing I see again and again as a script reader are great characters, floating around in a sea of structure-less story. Sometimes these characters have no story at all - just a series of events that seem disjointed or even innconnected altogether. It's so common amongst those writers who've completed their first few scripts that it's practically normal. You probably did it; I know I certainly did. Why? Because we didn't understand just how important story is in constructing a screenplay, and if Story is important, so its wife Plot, their son Structure and its little sister, Pace.

Yet what is the difference between Story and Plot? How does Structure differ to Pace?

I ask my Bang2writers sometimes what their story is about. They might say something like, "It's about this girl and she gets abused by her husband, so she cuts off his nads and puts them in a jar and travels across America being chased by Police but as a symbol of oppressed women everywhere, chucks the jar of nads into the Grand Canyon where they smash and get eaten by vultures." Niiiice.

I think the problem here is that particular client has mistaken plot for story; we have so many interchangeable terms, it's easy to get confused. When I say story, I'm looking for something like this when taking the above example into account: "This is a story of David versus Goliath; a woman fights back against her abusive husband." This is why "they" say there's only about five or six stories in the world. You can boil all "stories" - no matter how convoluted they are - down into a few pigeonholes. David and Goliath? What about all creature movies, ALIEN the most obvious. Good Versus Evil? Try STAR WARS et al and most kids' movies. Fish Out of Water? How about a lot of comedies (CITY SLICKERS), some thrillers (WITNESS) and definitely a lot of dramas (YOU CAN COUNT ON ME).

So if story is the seed, then plot is the tree it grows into: the blow-by-blow account, if you like. My own script mentor always says to me, "You get caught up in your characters; you're the one always saying that characters are not what they say but what they do, SO ARE WHAT THEY BLOODY DOING??" (He's a hard task master... He beats me, too. Really.) Novels can get by for pages and pages with nothing but character; can a film? No. An audience would soon get bored. When the movie AMERICAN PSYCHO came out, a lot of people were outraged about the portrayal of Patrick Bateman: it was suggested, certainly among my circle of pseudo-intellectuals, that the combo of female screenwriter and director had "misunderstood" the androcentric point of Patrick Bateman's homicidal tendencies - that he didn't have one. He was privileged, bored and psychopathic in the book, so killed people (mainly women, though also a child). In the film, it was suggested - blink and you'll miss it* - that perhaps Patrick Bateman was living within his own mind movie, that he never killed anyone at all: he just wanted to. Perhaps he was this other guy people kept mistaking him for, that Patrick Bateman was his alter-ego whom allowed him to explore his frustration.

The reason for the disparate interpretations may have also been one of irony against a book that proved scarily misogynistic to me that it made me feel quite ill, but also because film demands a POINT for a protagonist's actions for the plot to work. We have access to a character's thought patterns in a book, thus their motivations are more clear - or not, if they don't have any; we are given a reason for that. However, in a film, the character needs a leg-up from plot: what you see is what you get, ergo motivations must become clear from what they do. If the point is there is no point, why are we watching?

Tomorrow:
More on the twins Structure and Pace.
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* Patrick in the restaurant with Evelyn, drawing the scene on a napkin in which he killed the girl with the chainsaw; in addition, the girl being unable to raise any of his neighbours whilst he was killing her with the chainsaw; the killing of the cops and doorman in the style of a 70s-style thriller with no comeback; the answering machine message which his colleague "mistakes" as joke - whilst also mistaking Patrick for someone else.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

If It Wasn't For those Pesky Kids...

This Power of 3 malarkey, how to do it and what constitutes good feedback has got everyone talking, it seems. Since posting on Thursday I've had a deluge of emails and IMs and have noticed a variety of conversations on blogs, message boards and forums ranging from concurrence to the faintly bemused to the full-blown attack on amateurs and newbies.

The "newer" writer - as in, the writer who has written only a few scripts - will always get a bum deal it seems. Sometimes it would appear that the more experienced a writer becomes, the more they forget what it was like when they first started. It happens in all professions; it's long been documented for example that junior doctors work 84 hour weeks, eventually become consultants and then forget they ever did those 84 hour weeks: what it felt like or how desperately tired they were and worried about making a mistake. Perhaps it's human nature?

What I've always liked about writing and creativity though is it appears to be completely devoid of expectation on the basis of gender, race, religion or life experience. You literally can bring to it what you know - or not, as the case may be; that's the power of research, especially in novels. The more experienced you actually become in the craft of writing, the more coherent your story becomes: the better your plotwork, character, dialogue, etc is. Your first script will never be your best, just as no first draft is ever the best realisation of your story on paper, no matter how experienced a writer you actually are.

But here's an interesting question for you:

I am 27. Is it not possible for me to be as good a writer as someone who is 47? After all, they have lived more - twenty whole years. You can get a lot done in that time; raise a child from 0 to adulthood; travel the world, establish a career, or all three and more. We hear a lot about my generation - fewer of us are having kids, getting married or even co-habiting. I heard a survey on the radio recently where 58% of 30 year olds said they do not consider themselves old enough to have a child or get married and they spend between £70-80 a month on crap off eBay as standard. Most are not yet in the job they "really want", yet most don't even know what job that actually is. Welcome to the MTV generation, where we may travel more by air than twenty years ago, but nearly always to the same place apparently.

Is this what writing is all about, life experience? And those younger cannot possibly measure up?

But what about this: is the writer who starts in their 20s a better or worse writer than somehow one that starts in their forties? Or does the latter have that life experience to "fal1 back on"?

Or is this all more a case of those older always say the next generation coming up is somehow worse or more inadequate than theirs (and we have it all to come)?

Over to you...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Free Training Course

Metlab ran for the first time last year and as regular readers of this blog know, I was involved in the course as a script editor. The brainchild of John Sweeney, the course has undergone some radical changes this year - not least the fact IT'S FREE! Read on for more details that were posted on the SP e-bulletin this morning below.

For anyone wanting any insights on Metlab, you'd do well to ask the lovely Elinor. She was a student last year and wrote a wicki-wicki script called Penny Dreadful (that some of you may recall from Alternative Pitch Fever) which has already got plenty of reads and her some meetings. As for me, I don't know yet whether I'm going to be involved this year or not, but I'm hoping so. Watch this space - and if you apply, let us know as usual!
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The new Metlab programme at London Metropolitan University will start in late Autumn and run, initially, for one year. We will be looking to select between 5 and 7 scripts for development over this period. The aim will be to produce well-made film projects - good stories, well told that are commercially viable. The working model for the development of the script will be based on my book Successful Business Models For Filmmakers, with special emphasis on the Viability Threshold Theory. This model also reflects the new business models emerging within the film industry both here and in the US. When the scripts are completed they will be presented, on a one to one basis, to key UK film industry executives, along with a business and marketing plan demonstrating their commercial viability. The business and marketing plan will be created by Metlab.

The programme will be free, but each writer must agree to make any changes to the script that Metlab request. Also, as with the studio system, in return for having spent time and resources developing the scripts and the marketing and business plans, if the script is made into a film and released, then a small percentage of the box office reverts to the university.

The criteria for selecting the scripts will be that they: can be made for £500K using digital technology; are genre specific; have a clear target market; have the potential to recoup 3 times their cost of their production.

As regards the book, although just published, universities have started to buy it and recommend it to their students on filmmaking courses, which means you may be able to access it free if you are a student. If not, you can read about it here and, if you wish, purchase it at nearly 20% discount off the retail price of £23.95.

I will be at the Edinburgh Film Festival chairing a panel discussing this year’s Metlab programme on Mon Aug 20 - 11:30 - 1:00 PM in the Talisker Room in the Sheraton. On Tues 21st Aug I will be talking about the book, Successful Business Models For Filmmakers, at 11:30 - 1:00 PM in the Glenkinchie Room in the Sheraton. So, if you want to find out more then come along and ask questions or just introduce yourself and have a chat.

To apply for the new Metlab programme, please submit a 1 or 2 page synopsis to filmverty@msn.com.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Power of 3 Ruckus

Even if you have never been to an Adrian Mead class, there's a good chance you will have heard of the famous Power of 3: it's bandied about in The Scribosphere as bloggers appeal for each other to help them with their work. And why not? It's a good way of getting feedback, for free. Whilst I'm never one to do myself out of a job, I do happen to believe that writers should get the best value for their money. Whilst there are always writers who prefer to work with Readers from that very first words-on-paper draft (and why not if they have the spandoolies?), I happen to think it works best for most writers if they work through the more obvious plot-hole/character-motivation stuff before sending to a service like Bang2write that will concentrate on the hardcore, in-depth stuff like problems with Deus Ex Machinas, structural issues, etc - if for no other reason than most people don't have hundreds to spend on a draft, knocking it back and forth between rewrites and a professional Reader.

But anyway. The notion of asking 3 separate people to read your work and give you feedback. Is a simple one. Isn't it?

Well actually, there is a technique to it. That's why I've posted Adrian's handout from his classes today (below this post). The Power of 3 is not about finding 3 people to read your script and them telling you what they think of it. That way trouble can lie, as this email to me demonstrates:

I did that power of 3 thing - I couldn't believe it! She was so rude! She practically told me it had all beeen done before and that I should basically go back to the drawing board or give up!


The notion of asking questions as your feedback is a good one, since it can avoid this kind of confrontation. Now, I intervened between these two ladies and they have since kissed and made up (hence my posting the fragment of that original email, thanks girls), but do remember you could be treading on someone else's dreams: rather than saying you didn't like something in a script, first ask yourself if you would like to hear this. There will always be scripts in the world you don't like. The people behind these scripts are real, they've poured hours into this - and besides, even if you don't like it, who is to say you are the arbiter of good taste and the authority on whether the writer in question should go back to the drawing board? Okay, you might think it sucks worse than a...sucky thing... but how would you like it if someone told you that? And it's no good just saying it's "just your opinion" either: whether something's your opinion or not, careless words can hurt. As writers, we know this.

It's worth remembering too there are cultural differences, even between those who speak the same language. Just as males and females *can* react differently to the same feedback, Americans and Brits can have different ways of saying the same thing. For example, I was interested to learn from one American associate that it's thought in the US qualifying constructive criticism with phrases like "In my opinion..." is redundant, since obviously it's their opinion: they're saying it! However, at school us Brits are taught that we must use these redundant phrases, for fear of being thought unnecessarily direct or rude. Similarly, different countries in Europe have different ideals: from my time as a TEFL teacher I was shocked by some of the Austrians' behaviour in my class, because they would tell their classmates they were "the best" all the time every time they did well in a test. Never having met an Austrian before, I found it confusing that they behaved like this until a more experienced TEFL teacher told me that in Austria self modesty is thought of as absolutely ridiculous and they subscribe very much to the notion of "blow your own trumpet, since no one else will do it for you." Suddenly my students' behaviour became more understandable and less irritating - just like that.

A Power of 3 does not last forever either, as this irate emailer points out:

I read his script and he read mine, fair do's... Difference between us is he keeps sending it back with every rewrite! I told him I didn't have time, then tried ignoring him, but he just keeps emailing and emailing...

I think it's great that writers no longer hold on to their scripts for fear of their ideas being "nicked" like they seemed to when I started as a Reader five years ago, but now the balance seems to have been tipped the other way: I've heard several writers complain of having similar things happen to them. Before sending your script out to people, ask yourself: is it solicited?? For example, I have several e-friends and real-life friends that I know I can always rely on to read my stuff, since I always read theirs. However, I have just as many that I would always ask first, each time I want to do a PO3 - usually people I have never met in real life.

So - the moral of this tale? A little courtesy and a little empathy go a long way.

Sermon over. Now read Adrian's handout below.

Amen.

Power Of 3: Adrian's Handout

WHEN IS MY SCRIPT READY TO SEND OUT?

"Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it." - Publilius Syrus

WHY YOU NEED FEEDBACK
Ask any industry professional for the number one mistake writers make and they will almost always agree it’s this -

SENDING OUT WORK BEFORE IT’S READY.

It is almost impossible to see some of the mistakes you have made when you have been working for months on an idea. Even the best screenwriters and authors work with an editor. You need feedback.

Good feedback helps you to fully realise the potential of your story and communicate it clearly. Most importantly you need to get used to the process, as screenwriting is highly collaborative. If you don’t want to change a word go write Haikus.

Remember, industry professionals will not read rewrites so you get one chance to convince them of your talent… or get labelled as an amateur.

So how the hell are you supposed to know when your script is ready? The following is an excellent way of making certain you are giving your script the best chance of achieving its full potential.

WHO TO ASK
You need to be very careful when seeking people to give you feedback on your work. Most people start with their loved ones and family. However, there are a number of crucially important factors to getting the most benefit out of asking non -professionals to critique your work. NEGATIVE PEOPLE DO NOT ask the bitter, twisted and failed wannabe writer that you met at a party, even if they are the closest thing you have to someone with writing experience. Why? Because they hate you!

You have had the audacity to actually write something! You are now their competitor in an already evil and unjust world. They will subtly (or not so subtly) do everything in their power to kill your enthusiasm and your project. Learn to recognise them. They are like urine soaked alleyways at two in the morning, a shortcut that can kill you. The longer route may seem hard work but you will actually reach your goal.

POSITIVE PEOPLE
Do not underestimate the power and savvy of the punter. You were one before you became a screenwriting genius! The average TV and film watching public is now pretty sophisticated in their ability to say what they like and what they don’t. Find someone with a positive attitude to life and who likes TV and Film. This could be friends, family or other writers you’ve met through a writers group or forum (but watch out for the negative types). Next you need to do EXACTLY the following in order to make this work to your best advantage.

THE POWER OF 3
This is a great tool and used properly can make a huge difference to the quality of your work. It may seem like I’m asking you to do a lot but by now you should have started to realise how competitive this industry is. If this is too much you shouldn’t even be considering a career as a screenwriter. Remember, every time you start wanting to protest repeat the mantra - “if I keep on doing what I’m doing, I’ll keep on getting what I’m getting.” If you haven’t got your big break yet it’s most likely because you are sending out work before it is ready. Use this technique. It works!

1) Find three positive people. Ask if they would be willing to help you develop your career and give feedback on your script. It doesn’t matter who they are but it is important that you treat them like PROFESSIONALS.

2) Teach them how to give feedback. Ask them to immediately scribble down any questions that jump out after they have read the script. Ask that they always couch their comments as QUESTIONS. Explain that this is the normal way professionals work and that it really helps you to develop the work. Tell them that they don’t have to worry about coming up with comments or critique. All you want is for them to ask any questions that arise from reading it.

3)If possible arrange to meet each of them (separately) somewhere quiet once they have read your script. Offer coffee/beer/food as your treat.

If the other person is also a writer and you are unable to meet, offer to be a Power of 3 reader for them and make sure you give a prompt response to the work they send.

4) When you meet up ask again that they always couch their comments as QUESTIONS instead of telling you what they think is wrong. Be attentive and take notes. During the course of your meeting they will inevitably slip back into wanting to tell you what would work better (especially if they are another aspiring writer.) Each time gently stop them and politely ask that they keep to couching everything as questions. DON’T try and answer the questions or justify what you have written. Just take a note of their question.

Why questions instead of advice? Well, how do you react to the following type of feedback on your script – “I just thought that it was horrible, the way the hero just walked out on his wife and kids." There’s a very good chance that one of your readers is your beloved. We tend to be much less patient with our loved ones and the last thing you need is a domestic argument because you start becoming irritated. Or, remember what I said earlier about “Write what you know.” Perhaps you have drawn on some personal stuff for your script (the break up of your marriage?) It is likely that you are now snarling at your script editor...

Okay, how do you react to this example? - “What was it that made the hero just suddenly walk out on his wife and kids?” Different? Being asked a question feels less critical and forces you to consider whether or not you have explained your characters motivation clearly enough.

This is also why you need 3 feedback readers. If all three ask the same question you clearly have a problem you need to address. If only one comments it may just be that the reader dislikes the character or subject based on their own experience or prejudice. You don’t want to end up re writing for the wrong reasons. Now that you have your notes from 3 sources you cross check them against your script. Plan what you need to rewrite. Do it. Print it out and re-read. Tinker a bit. Now stick the script in a drawer and ignore it for a month. One month later take it out and read it. You will immediately have lots of stuff you want to rewrite. Instead make notes. Now you repeat the whole process again. Find three new people. Teach them how to give feedback. Get notes and rewrite. Print it out. Tinker. Put in the drawer for a month. The whole feedback process involves you doing this three times 3x3. Three lots of feedback three times. The Power Of 3!

Of course in some cases you will be working to a deadline to enter a competition or scheme. If you do a shortened version of this method, such as less time between new drafts, it is vitally important that you do not also cut corners with the number of sources of feedback. Remember 3x3. It works!

WHY “ADVICE” IS BAD
Don’t let your feedback people start telling you HOW to rewrite your script. That’s not what you want out of the process at this stage. What you will end up with is three people’s versions of what THEY would write. This is about you figuring out the story YOU want to write and working to make sure you are telling it the CLEAREST way possible. It also requires much less work to write questions rather than coming up with solutions. As a result you get quick feedback and people don’t feel put off doing it again. The Power 3 method helps you to build up a circle of people you can rely on.

IMPORTANT: DON’T TRY AND ANSWER THE QUESTIONS DURING THE FEEDBACK SESSION, JUST WRITE THEM DOWN.

Use the books and sites I recommend to address any problems you have with structure and character. I am fully aware that this seems like a lot of work but actually it isn’t compared to the results. Using “The Power Of 3” gives -

1. A massive boost to the quality of script that you are going to send out.

2. It actually speeds up the development process because you aren’t struggling on your own, half-tinkering and losing enthusiasm about your work.

3. It teaches you to work with feedback, act professionally in a meeting and handle notes.

I have been amazed how rapidly people’s work and skills have improved when they have employed this process.

Join a writers group, an online forum or contact some screenwriting bloggers. There are lots of them out there employing this method already. Google Adrian Mead Power Of Three and you will find lots of positive folk to swap scripts with.

So after this my script is ready to send out? No. First you need to send some small token of thanks to your long distance feedback people and ensure you give them fast turnaround on their work.

Next you need to do a dummy run and test that your script is watertight. It’s time now to consider using a professional script feedback service.

PROFESSIONAL SCRIPT FEEDBACK SERVICES
These vary widely in price and quality. For a fee someone claiming to be a trained professional script reader or editor will give varying levels of feedback on your script. There are different options to choose. The more in depth and extensive the notes the greater the fee. I use two for each script in order to cross-reference the notes with my own and my business partner. The following organisations and individuals have been widely recommended:

Danny Stack www.danny@dannystack.co.uk
Bang2write www.bang2write.blogspot.com
Script Factory www.scriptfactory.co.uk.

I find it useful to get a US take on the script with some film projects that are being aimed at an international market. However, the quality of reports has varied widely and as they are often considerably more expensive than the UK I am loath to recommend any American organisation at this time. There are many more individuals and organisations than the ones I have mentioned that also offer this service. Contact the company or individual direct and get background on the reader’s level of experience. Post some queries on writer’s forums and get recommendations and feedback from other writers about their experiences.

Use professional script-reading services when you have taken the script as far as you can by every other means. Sending in rough or under-developed drafts is just throwing money away. Once you have thoroughly utilised The Power Of Three technique, received a couple of professional reports and done your rewrites your sample scripts should be ready to show the world.

Stuff of Interest #2: Script Calls

Many thanks to Lianne, Anya, Eat My Shorts and Billy The Kidney for asking if I'm okay this week since I haven't posted since Monday... I can assure Billy in particular that I haven't "dropped off the edge of the known universe" or been eaten by my cats: I've just been really busy with work. I've had so many scripts lately my head is about to explode. Not that I'm complaining - bring it on!

Whilst I get another post together, here's a couple of script calls for you... As always, if you use 'em, let us know how you get on.
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Cinelight Studios - Comedic Thriller

We are looking for completed feature-length character driven suspense/thriller scripts with strong comedic elements that offer a new take on the genre without being parodies. Which is to say that we're looking for scripts that do for the thriller genre what 'Shaun of the Dead' did for the horror genre. We are looking for scripts that are available to option or buy, so if you want to direct or produce your script yourself and have no prior experience in development, packaging, producing, and directing feature length films for theatrical release, please do not submit.

WGA and non-WGA writers may submit. Budget will be between $1 and $2 million.

Among others our credits include the comedic sci-fi adventure "Waste of Space" slated for release later this year.

TO SUBMIT:
1. Please go to www.InkTippro.com/leads
2. Enter your email address (you will be signing up for InkTip's newsletter - FREE!)
3. Copy/Paste this code: q0xu9b2vu9
4. You will be submitting a logline and synopsis only, and you will be contacted to submit the full script only if there is interest from the production company.

IMPORTANT:
Please ONLY submit your work if it fits what the lead is looking for EXACTLY.

If you aren't sure if your submission fits, please ask InkTip first. Please mention you heard about this from Jeff Gund at INFO LIST, and please email any questions to: jerrol@inktip.com.

Lighthouse Screenplay Competition

Deadline August 1st!

Submit all genres.

Grand Prize - $5,000

1st & 2nd runners-up - $1,500/each

Top two scripts guaranteed to be optioned to be produced!

All scripts will receive feedback from working industry professionals.

All submissions must be postmarked by August 1st.

Send submissions to:
Lighthouse Screenplay competition
5160 Vineland Ave, Ste 107-220
North Hollywood, CA 91601

Lighthouse Screenplay Competition website.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Stuff of Interest

They say opportunities are like buses... After posting the one for IPTV yesterday, here's a couple more to feast your eyes on.

Scottish soap River City is looking for a Script Editor. If it wasn't set in Glasgow, I'd be biting their hands off, but everyone knows you gotta eat haggis every day up there as it's a matter of national pride and anyway, kilts were so last year dah-link (as David Bishop and Miss Read know). But if you're not into fashion and love eating sheep's intestines, go for it with my blessing. Check it out here. Many thanks to the lovely Marc Pye for the heads-up, who's a veteran writer on the show.

Secondly, Thom Poole of Electric Sky Productions, Brighton, has got in touch about his documentary project:

The project I am working on is a documentary for a Major broadcaster (sorry to be cloak and dagger it’s just that it hasn’t been fully commissioned yet so can’t really go into too much detail) about people who have Imaginary friends.

It isn’t going to be a ‘shocking’ documentary, more an exploration of what it is like to have an Imaginary Friend as an Adult. How does it effect day to day life? Do they let other people know about them? Do they come from a feeling of isolation or loneliness? Are they just someone who is around in the background who can be called upon to mull things over with?

So if you feel you could contribute or know anyone who could please feel free to get in touch.


If you're interested in contributing to a documentary about this intriguing subject, you can contact Thom on thom.poole@electricsky.com or via the website.

Lastly, hello to Ellin Stein, my colleague at Metlab and fellow script reader. Ellin has a rather fabulous article in last week's Telegraph about screenwriters being the "Cinderellas" of the filmmaking industry. Click here to read it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Opportunity: IPTV Programme Content

So, IPTV - that's Internet Protocol Television to you dunces at the back - is on its way. Yeah.

No idea what it is? I didn't either. This article explains it pretty well, but essentially it's television over the internet. Apparently, ultimately the internet will be integrated into TVs via broadband in the same way some of you will already have tellys with set-top-boxes inside... Making it an inside-box? Whatever. Shut up Lucy.

So what's this got to do with us lovely screenwriters? Well, as The Lovely Tim at Projector Films and The Man Adrian Mead always say, we gotta be on the look-out for as many opportunities as possible to get our work out there and made. So here's one for you.

Bryan Gartside is launching his own IPTV channel, aimed at 16-30 year olds. Bryan's Head Honcho at The End Of The Pier Film Festival and has worked with the likes of Kevin Laffan back in the day, creator of UK soap massive Emmerdale, which now goes out a whopping six days a week. So he knows his stuff and is embracing this new technology and inviting us to do the same.

Apparently there will eventually be about 700 IPTV channels and Bryan's will be one of them - but as he rightly says, it's "content that counts": what's the point in having so much choice if all we get is a load of crap to watch? He points out that new content is sparse on TV: even with all these new digital channels, there are stacks of repeats, advertorials and music videos on loop. Less and less new work is getting commissioned. If we want the best chance of getting our stuff "out there", we need to really keep up-to-date with these type of advances and know what we're talking about in order to persuade people like Bryan to commission us.

Get to the point woman! What is Bryan looking for?

First off, Bryan is interested in hearing from all you indie feature makers. If you have made an independent, British film that hasn't been aired on the internet and hasn't got its own distribution deal to DVD or theatres, he would like to hear from you: Bryan plans to eventually have a section only for British indie films on this new IPTV channel. I think this sounds like a wicked idea, since so few video chain stores will stock even straight-to-DVD Brit indie films.

Secondly, he wants to hear from writers/filmmakers he can develop a relationship with in terms of producing projects with serious potential of getting made and on to the channel. In other words, he's looking for people who may defect from existing channels or shows to this new outlet, or filmmakers who can pitch a viable project.

If you don't fit into either of those two categories, don't despair: though Bryan doesn't want short film scripts, he may be prepared to look at scripts by writers of the following:

- Comedy
- "Couch material": sofa magazine shows, film reviews, lifestyle shows, etc
- Game shows and Quizzes
- A soap of some kind
- A programme within a programme, kind of like "Wayne's World" (a show about two guys/girls who their own show) or a "behind the scenes"-thing like Tony Jordan's "Moving Wallpaper" about Echo Beach.

Remember: the age range of this channel is 16-30 years, so bear that in mind when pitching a project.

Send ideas, queries, etc (no scripts in first instance please) marked for the attention of Bryan Gartside at info@eotpfilmfestival.com.

Good luck - and let Bang2write know how you get on!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Digital Shorts: The Lowdown

As promised, my notes from last night's Digital Shorts Roadshow with South West Screen. Enjoy.
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Present were Sarah-Jane Meredith and Arilda Tymko from South West Screen; there was a pretty poor turn-out, just twenty or so people, though perhaps this was because of the timing: I would imagine most people are at work at 4pm on a thursday. Of the few that were there, people had travelled quite far, from Totnes, Tavistock and even North Cornwall as well as Exeter itself.

It was explained that Digital Shorts is a nationwide scheme, combining the talents of local screen agencies with the UK Film Council, so don't despair if you don't live in the South West of England; your local agency will have its own equivalent. Check out this list for contact details.

South West Screen commissions 8 films per year and have worked with such industry stalwarts as Aardman Animation, ITV West, Cornwall Film, The Engine Room, Calling The Shots and Somerset Film in producing them. ITV West are no longer involved however because they "haven't the slots" for showing the shorts like they used to apparently.

We watched several screenings of previous shorts commissioned under the scheme: this was especially helpful since I was unsure where to even start. You hear of so many shorts being about depressing stuff and I was encouraged to see that none of them were - one, Ramble On, was hilarious (see the links below to watch it). Also, I hadn't thought that animation would be included (it so often isn't), so this was particularly illuminating.

Sarah-Jane and Arilda explained there are some broad perimeters to Digital Shorts, set down by The Film Council. These are:

- Shorts must be shot digitally; this is not a scheme for those wanting to work with film.
- Shorts must be no more than ten minutes and budget must be no more than £10,000; in reality, budgets typically are between £3,500 and £7,500.
- Shorts must be original and for a broad audience - or a particular audience (i.e. you must know your audience/genre well)
- They want good ideas succinctly told
- Everyone working on the film must get paid their proper daily rate.

There are roughly 100 applicants a year; 15 or 16 will be shortlisted before that final 8 is commissioned. You can apply as teams, but not as organisations this year.

When applying, the shorter your pitch document the better: they don't ask for scripts in the first instance, though they think they may ask for writing samples, as writing a good pitch does not always mean one can write a good script - though this appears undecided for definite as yet. When I asked, Sarah-Jane said that "one sentence" would be an ideal length for a pitch and that up to two pitches can be submitted for the scheme.

Writers don't have to direct their films, but they should let SW Screen know about their preference as early as possible.

The scheme is open to everyone, but 18-25 year olds are particularly encouraged this year, with up to three shorts ear marked especially for this audience.

Documentary is particularly welcome - they've never got one through the scheme before and are keen to put this right! They are also flexible when it comes to narrative structure, but they don't want any artist film, however.

TIMELINE

- The scheme opens in September for approximately 6 weeks.
- Once applicants are shortlisted, the final 8 will be commissioned and training and script development will take place from approx November '07.
- Filming *should* take place early '08 - no short should have more than a 2 day shoot.
- Delivery of the film will be in March 2008.

Those commissioned on the scheme should be aware that South West Screen owns the copyright to the finished article.

LINKS

Shorts that have been made through SW Screen's Digital Shorts Scheme:

One to One by Isabel Anderton.

Indians by Omni Productions.

Ramble On By Tom Parkinson. Watch it online here.

A Short Collection of Hilary Flamingo's Dream Vocations by Harriet Fleuriot.

For a list of sites where you can watch short films online, click here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

SW Screen: Digital Shorts

Right, I'm off in a bit to SW Screen's Digital Shorts Roadshow. Full report tomorrow, if my brain hasn't exploded, leaked out my ear and then been eaten by one of my three cats. I'm promising nothing.

For those of you unaware of this scheme, this is what it's all about:

South West Screen Digital Shorts Roadshow
19 July 2007 - Exeter Phoenix, 4pm to 6pm


In September 2007 South West Screen and the UK Film Council will be seeking to commission approx 8 innovative short film ideas from individuals based in the South West. This roadshow will provide the opportunity to hear about the Digital Shorts scheme, talk with the commissioners and see films which have been supported under the scheme over the last four years.

This year, in collaboration with Creative Partnerships, we want to encourage people aged between 18 - 25 and who are not in full-time education to apply. Ideas should be no longer than 10 minutes (5 minutes is a preferable length) and budgets will be between £3,500 and £8,000. Script development is built into the process as well as a residential development programme. We are looking to commission approximately 8 shorts, up to three of which will be earmarked for the 18-25 year age range.


Sounds pretty good. Any S Westers out there planning on going in for this? If so, let me know, so I can eliminate you. Whoops, giving away my evil plans to take over the world again. I mean, congratulate you on your ambition. Ahem.

Argh

Well, this house move has gone from bad to worse and has now plummeted, face first, into the very depths of HADES.

I can't make it this saturday for our Scribosocial.

Of course, I'd far rather go to the pub with you lot, but the small fact of having nowhere to live this September unfortunately has to take priority and I've got to go to Bournemouth - again - to look at houses. Since when were there NO houses on the market?? The ones we have seen, I wouldn't keep chickens in. I. Am. Serious. Money for old rope these buggers want. I defy them all!

However, no reason it shouldn't go ahead anyway... For those of you who asked, I was thinking of this pub. But pick whichever you want! ; ) Unfortunately my email seems to be playing up and won't let me send anything - "send one email at a time", WTF? I am! - but I'll try again later. But those of you who've read this and know someone who's going on saturday, tell 'em about the change of plan, just in case!

Have a great time. Tell me all about it. *Sigh*.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Dream Within A Dream

Hello to Script Pete, who emailed me the other day with this question:

"Character is institutionalized.....deluded into imagining she is a singing star! Do you consider, beginning @ page 49 the next 26 pages are mixed over 60 pages.....too many in dream? Dream scenes I was told is difficult to put on film? 109 pages total ie: 26 dream 83 real..."

I find the difference between dream sequence and "reality" in film a bit of a contradiction in terms; whenever people talk about reality or realism in film, I wonder if there is any such thing, philosophically-speaking? Edgar Allen Poe says, "Is everything we see or seem, but a dream within a dream" (which horror buffs may also remember from John Carpenter's The Fog) and I think this applies nicely to movies, since everything in them is but a dream within a dream to me, even those supposedly "realist" or "real time" pieces - after all, how many times do we see Johnny Depp go to the loo in Nick of Time? None. Alright, it's only supposed to be an hour and a half and perhaps fellas can hold it in better than us laydeez, but if some hardcore criminals were threatening me and my daughter's lives, I'd probably have an even weaker bladder than normal, know what I'm saying?

But it's okay. 'Cos it's not reality, it's a representation of reality. That's why the line drawn between reality and dream then needn't really be that stringent. Just as we needn't see anything that doesn't feed into the story (like going to the loo - though in thrillers people are often murdered in the toilet and heroes can be attacked in public toilets often, though they usually manage to slam assailants' heads into sinks, etc: Go Arnie!), we also needn't worry too much about what's "real" and what's not, since it's more about context. Let me explain.

The context of your movie or movie script has more to do with its own internal logic, than the notion of reality. For example: if we are concerned with notions of reality, then we'd have to deal with statistics. What is the likelihood of getting attacked by a group of highly trained, hardcore criminals tooled up to the nines in real life? Um... Probably zero. Yet it's happened to John McClane four times. More facetiously, what is the likelihood of being attacked by an acid-dripping alien and then going back for more, only to die and then be ressurrected 100-odd years later and do it all over again? You know who I'm talking about ; ).

It's the old, "it gets worse and worse" scenario in movies: oh, we're being attacked by werewolves? Damn. Oh we're being attacked by werewolves AND we're in the werewolves' own house? Double damn! Oh - and you guessed it: there's a couple in here with us as well?! (Dog Soldiers). Because of this then, all movies have a certain "nightmare" quality to them, regardless of genre (though this does of course lend itself particularly well to horrors and thrillers). We all know, watching any film, that quite literally things will get worse before they get better. Even in dramas, where it's more about the minutaie of life, it still focuses on personal tragedy or problems; that character has to face something or someone, in order to triumph - even if the stakes are not their life. Miles in Sideways will not die if he doesn't knock on Maya's door. But a little piece of him will be lost forever. That is a tragedy. Yet Miles has to go through a nightmare of humiliation, embarrassment and bitterness to come to that realisation.

So, if internal logic governs your story, then it should also govern whether the use of dream sequence is appropriate. The most famous dream sequence of all, Alice In Wonderland, gets blasted from time to time because it can be construed to be a cheat on Carroll's part: we go into this fantastic world, only to find it's a dream. Argh! I didn't know the word deus ex machina when I was a child, but I remember gnashing my teeth when my babysitter Caroline came to the end of that book. I promptly tried to rewrite it, coming up with the story of Alice and The Brown Sauce Spider. I remember the Spider liked Brown Sauce. But that is all.

In answer to Script Pete's question then, it really depends how he sets the dream sequence up in my view and most importantly, what it is for. >Edit due to 17 year old spoilers FFS< The thing to remember with the "it was all a dream" thing is not to imagine that audiences will accept it as just that - a dream; there has to be a reason for it, an organic way of fitting it into your tale, otherwise an audience will feel cheated, just like I was by Alice In Wonderland at the tender age of six.

What about you lot, out in www.land? Any fave dream sequences? Over to you...

Friday, July 13, 2007

What Kind Of Writer Are You?

Many thanks to the intriguingly-named Billy The Kidney who emailed me asking what type of preparation is "best" before diving into a draft head first. Before I begin, I should probably offer some kind of disclaimer, but you know the drill: writing is subjective, so preperation - and what constitutes preparation - is also subjective. I had a writer friend once who believed that preparation for a night's writing included snorting four lines of coke, drinking innumerous bottles of Bud and smoking fifteen cigarettes. He would then write for approximately twenty hours solid and produce about three pages. He's now with the Hare Krishnas (actually he burnt out and became an English teacher, not that I'm *ever* one to sacrifice facts for drama).

Those who read this blog regularly will know that I trained as a teacher a few years ago; it seemed the sensible thing to do, since writing and reading can be sporadic and having completed several placements, it was something I thought I would enjoy. In one sense, I was completely right - if teenagers didn't do my head in royally. Perhaps I'm jealous because my own teenage years came to a grinding halt prematurely as I became a mother at the tender age of 18. Or maybe I never let go of my inner teen so resent the competition. Whatever, talk to the hand, or the elbow - you're not worth the extension, etc etc.

However, when I was doing my ill-fated PGCE (though it does admittedly come in handy with the script reading/editing etc so isn't entirely useless, though it's not what I intended it for), we had to do a module called - you guessed it -Teacher Education. This involved thinking about education and the learning styles of our students and structuring our sessions accordingly. Niice. There are many, many theories about education and learning styles listed here. I'll save you the time and trouble though: they are all generalisations, so therefore bullshit. Anyone wanting any insight into the brains of their students would use their time far more more usefully by actually listening to what their actual students say and do (every group's different, after all) but hey ho: what do I know? I've only got a bit of paper saying I know about this shit. Which I don't, 'cos no one does.

But anyway. Sometimes people can outline stuff in a "one size fits all" way that can prove useful, if only on the basis that one can sort of see what they're going on about. If you know what I mean. For me, that guy is an education theorist called Kolb. Whilst people do not remain set in their ways and are, I believe, fluid in their style of learning (who does what a particular way ALL THE TIME??), He outlines four learning styles in the classroom that I at least have witnessed to some degree or another at various points in time. These are:

1. The Activist Learner. Active Experimentation (simulations, case study, homework). What's new? I'm game for anything. Training approach - Problem solving, small group discussions, peer feedback, and homework all helpful; trainer should be a model of a professional, leaving the learner to determine her own criteria for relevance of materials.

2. The Reflector Learner - Reflective Observation (logs, journals, brainstorming). I'd like time to think about this. Training approach - Lectures are helpful; trainer should provide expert interpretation (taskmaster/guide); judge performance by external criteria.

3. The Theorist Learner - Abstract Conceptualisation (lecture, papers, analogies). How does this relate to that? Training approach - Case studies, theory readings and thinking alone helps; almost everything else, including talking with experts, is not helpful.

4. The Pragmatist Learner - Concrete Experience (laboratories, field work, observations). How can I apply this in practice? Training approach - Peer feedback is helpful; activities should apply skills; trainer is coach/helper for a self-directed autonomous learner.

Of course we are ALL these things at some time or another: whilst I am a Theorist when it comes to learning new (largely academic) things, I am completely Pragmatic when learning how to do something phsyical like driving. However, the fact that I remain without a driving license but have lots of certificates about theory-based stuff says quite a lot about my personal bias. My mother says I live my whole world in my head: the fact then I have never wired a plug or used a lawn-mower just underlines it.

Yet what if we were to apply these learning styles to our styles as writers? that would surely affect the kind of prep we do. But let's first look at those writing styles that I will (completely unscientifically) relate to Kolb:

1. The Activist Writer. If an Activist Learner needs active experimentation, then anything that involves the exploration of their story and its possibilities is bound to appeal here. I would imagine video games, deleted scenes and bonus material on DVD or interactive websites would help an Activist writer in their quest at looking at structure, alternate endings, etc. If they're game for anything, perhaps a few visits to galleries, museums or seminars will be in order - not just about writing, but anything that sounds remotely interesting. A mentor or Reader would prove particularly useful to an Activist Learner, as would being part of a Writing Circle, message board group, forum or community like The Scribosphere. At the end of the day though, they don't want their hand held; they want guidance, but ultimately go their own way.

2. The Reflector Writer. This writer would keep diaries and have masses of notebooks with ideas in. Perhaps they brainstorm a lot on trains and they'd have well-organised folders on their PC, laptop or PDA. When a person gives them feedback, they might seem disinterested or even hostile to the untrained eye, but actually they're mulling everything over: it all has equal worth and must be broken down over a period of time. They would be found most likely at university studying scriptwriting where they will take copious notes, but even after they've left they will endeavour to follow the lecture route, signing up for courses with a high theory content, as opposed to ones in networking, time management, etc. They will see their scripts as successful only if others show interest or award high grades, etc.

3. The Theorist Writer. This writer loves related stuff like philosophy and english literature and will attempt to introduce allusion and metephor throughout their work. They do immense amounts of background reading, will have a bookcase full of Aristotle, but also weirder stuff like quantum physics as they struggle to relate it with Plato and the poet John Donne in their narrative. A lot of their ideas are heavy going and relate themselves more to the WTF? draft as they tend towards incoherency in earlier incarnations. Talking with a mentor, a Reader, other people is not helpful: they must struggle on alone.

4. The Pragmatist Writer What you see is what you get: workshops and individual and peer feedback/tuition is particularly helpful to The Pragmatist. They read stuff - put it into practice immediately, though sometimes they are not ready for it and get lost. Probably least likely to produce a WTF? draft, but most likely to get confused and produce two storylines as they struggle to bring in all the concepts (structure, character, arena, etc) - the infamous King Lear draft.

Do you recognise yourself in any, or all of those? I would say I am a Theorist-Pragmatist, which is supposedly in itself a contradiction since feedback is unhelpful to a Theorist and of utmost importance to a Pragmatist. However, when considering the notion of preparation vs. the actual writing of the draft, it's easy to see where my contradiction is: whilst I am very happy to show off my drafts at whatever stage to whomever asks, I never, ever show my outlines to anyone. Why? Because they're like my thoughts - and like my thoughts, full of holes. It's unformed, bizarre - lacking in coherency. And most crucially: I am the only one who can fix it. I'm probably not, but that's what I believe at the end of the day. So: whilst my drafts may be anyone's, my preparation is mine: it's like I have to have a baseline from which to grow before I can show anyone the writing itself. Hands off punks!

So, what would these writers like to do in terms of prep? Here are my thoughts:

1. The Activist. Anything goes - so the internet, DVD, idea generating software, books, whatever it takes. They'd be in touch with the peers, probably more likely to have a writing partner who would in themselves become a resource. Index cards would probably be useful, as would post-its and other physical paraphernalia that could be moved about and experimented with. PROBLEM: the trouble here could be they spend so long on the prep, they neglect the actual writing.

2. The Reflector. This writer most likely has an internal dialogue with him or herself, so diaries, blogs etc would be their passion, as would those seminars, so presumably their prep would rely upon that notebook of thoughts and quotes. Perhaps they'd write treatments or short stories. PROBLEM: I think this type of writer is most likely to dive headfirst into a draft without enough, not realising the plot is not as formed as the idea behind it.

3. The Theorist. This writer too has that internal dialogue and is most likely to lock themselves away - which could prove fantastic or disastrous. Like The Reflector, The Theorist may start before their plot is ready - or alternatively, they will nail it down completely, writing short stories, treatments and scene breakdowns galore. PROBLEM: one thing both types of Theorist's work have in common though could be a lack of empathy with their Reader, it's so clear in the writer's own head.

4. The Pragmatist. Like the Activist, physical ways of preparing the narrative and plot would prove useful, but a pragmatist is more likely to ask for ideas and help in my opinion than the Activist - they'll call, email and instant message their friends and colleagues with bizarre questions like: if you had been bitten by a dog that you suspected had rabies and couldn't go to the hospital because you live in the middle of nowhere, would you tie yourself to a tree before you go mad so as to protect your family? (Yes, I got that email!) PROBLEM: because they are so open to ideas, they may try and implement too many people's and get confused.

So, to answer Billy K's question, which is "best"? Well, I have my own thoughts. I don't like index cards. I don't see the point of writing out story beats and moving them around. It just doesn't do it for me. I don't like idea-generating software and I hate writing character profiles, I find it boring. I don't use tape recorders and I rarely use my ideas notebook: I carry one because it's something you're "supposed" to do, but privately I think if your idea is so great, it doesn't get forgotton, it takes over your whole life. But I do like writing out my plot as a short story, since it exposes logic holes. Whenever I've done this, my plot's been tight; whenever I haven't, I've stumbled on to a big gaping space. I also like to write extended treatments - as many pages as it takes - as well as lists and synopses. All my prep then is written, inside my head, all my own work. The typical Theorist.

Which are you?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Your Vision

A writer writes. It's the nature of the beast, the whole point. You write because you have to, because you have a need to communicate a story in some way, whether that's because you want fame and fortune, respect and security or because you want to give the world a message. Whatever the case, I'm sure you are all aware of what I call THE URGE - that moment where an idea hits and you have no choice but to get it down on paper. You may be in bed, picking raisons off the carpet or going to the post office at the time - THE URGE can strike any time, often when it's most incovenient (like last night, when I was attending to the cat litter trays. Niiice). But it's cool. It's what makes us, us: writers. We see stuff a little differently maybe, we're on the lookout for ideas and half the time we don't even realise it. Stuff gets stored in our brains, lays dormant for years at a time, before a small spark lights up your mind: sometimes it's a slow burn, others a full-blown conflagration. But we always have to give in. Writing our specs is the only way we can put those fires out or at least keep them under control.

The great thing about specs is they're entirely ours. We can write them however we want them. You want to set it on the moon? Why the hell not. You want to write the wo/man you wish you were or the life you feel you should have had into this piece? Who can know. As long as you keep that spec to yourself, your dreams will come true. You are the best writer in the world. You have written the best story in the world. Wicked.

It takes guts to show others your spec. Not because people will point and laugh like at primary school, we're all adults here, but because this is not a commissioned work; this is something you have dreamt up, something youbelieve in. When people tell you then it's "hackneyed" or "trite", it's hard not to take it personally. You may have spent hours away from your family to write this supposedly trite and/or hackneyed script. You may have made sacrifices to write it, emotionally or financially, perhaps both. So when someone is insensitive about your work, it smarts.

As a Reader, it's easy to open a script and groan. All those little phrases, at your fingertips, ready for those "bad" scripts: not enough white on the page. Tells it, doesn't show it. Too much black on the page. Information inaccessible to an audience. Doesn't push the story forward. Disjointed/indiscernible structure. No character arc. Extraneous information. Directing from the page...blah blah BLAH.

As Readers, we just pick up those white pages, flick through them or scroll down a screen. It's not personal to us. Yet it's personal to the writer. It's easy to forget that hard work has gone into a spec - yet a writer won't forget the hundreds of hours they've spent on it, feeding the kids fishfinger sandwiches in an attempt to save just twenty minutes to squeeze those few extra pages out. They won't forget tramping home from work and then staying up into the middle of the night. And they won't ever forget careless coverage that comes in with those script reading phrases I've already outlined, as trite and hackneyed as they are.

A writer - any writer, novice or professional - has The Urge to tell a story. Sometimes a Reader won't know what that story is, despite a large page count and several acres of prose. We all have to start somewhere. Writing isn't something you can just "do", it takes practice and development.

Bang2write* began after I made a posting on Shooting People the first week I joined back in 2004. Someone had made a posting about having to wait a long time for expensive coverage, only for it to be vitriolic and upsetting. Having completed two very long placements with literary agents throughout university, I had been reading for various others for some time as well as TAPs and I enquired if people would be interested in a low-budget, no-frills type of script reading service that promised a quick turnaround with an emphasis for those writers who wanted advice and help in becoming coherent storytellers. I expected a few replies, maybe 4 if I was lucky...

...I got 27. Two were professional writers whose names I recognised; I nearly had a heart attack. But Bang2write was born and has done steady business ever since. Many of my clients return to me and some have even become my friends and colleagues, which is great.

My aim was always clear: to be supportive of writers, without engendering false hopes. It's a tough market - I know that, I'm a writer too. Perhaps that's why it works, or perhaps it's because I actually do really like script reading. By providing notes or reports for writers privately, as a "safe" environment, I feel like I'm helping them. And reading others' work also helps me, keeps me on my toes if you like. And that's a must.

*If you want development notes or a script report from me, click here.

The Results Are In...

I know you're slavering with anticipation, so I'll just get on with it...

We have two winners of the pitch/synopsis category: Killer Looks by HRH Anne of Cleves and Broken Bird by Laura Anderson! Well done laydeez. Honourable mentions (in no particular order) go to the writers of Penny Dreadful, Eclipse, The Life You Make, Elizabeth Taylor Man, Givin' It The Bird, Silent Screen Lover, Raging Gurrl, The Fearless and The Vampire Apocalypse Articles.

And in the logline category, we have a clear winner with Bollywood Thrills by Niraj Kapur, followed by Dominic Carver's Shotguns and Incontinence Pants, with David Bishop in third with his Trial and Error. Well done to the writers of Rehab, The Harvest, The Untitled B Movie (!), Family Wedding, Burnfield, The Pact and Guardian Devil, too.

Commiserations to those people who didn't score: don't let it get you down. It is worth remembering that sometimes a subject matter just might not appeal, rather than your actual logline/synopsis. However, I think this has proved a really interesting exercise for all involved and a definite learning curve. Let's do it again! But not for a while. Busy-busy laydeez and gents. My people will call your people. Ciao.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stolen

Okay: which one of you b******* has stolen my sitemeter???

I left it under my archive. It's not there any more.

Just bring it back and we'll say no more about it...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Scribosocial

Is the social still on for July 21st, Martin asks in the comments section of the previous post.

HELL YES!

Dunno 'bowt anyone else, but for me, these last two weeks have been rubbish! Just endless torrents of work, cleaning, losing house buyers and getting rejected (which presumably I am again since I've heard nowt from The Royal Tapes! How many times can the BBC reject one person? Well, in the last two years, including the Writers' Room, try 19 times! I will get through that door. Oh yes. And then Auntie will be sorry!!!).

So. It's you lot and me, down the pub, Saturday July 21st, for a much-needed knees-up. You're buying your own, but chatter and networking is free. What more can you want?

Except a venue, of course. Where the hell are we going? Suggestions in the comments section please.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Are You A Girl Or A Boy?

There's been a lot of talk recently over at English Dave's, on the SP e-bulletin and on Robin's blog (ok, I started that one) about the issue of gender and whether the UK is living up to its transatlantic cousin's standards in terms of churning out quality television drama.

Whilst whether the UK is as "good" as the US has to be a question of interpretation one could argue CSI vs. Silent Witness, ER vs. Casualty et al until the cows come home, drawing not only on opinions on writing and directing etc but also philosophical notions of media impreialism - the question of gender, though perhaps more loaded, probably presents far more ammo for conversation.

I've always been of the view that women are from Venus and men from the depths of Hades since I've never met one who replaces the loo roll when it runs out, ever (love you really fellas), but I've been forced of late to consider my stance on media stuff. Whilst there's no question that I'm a "Sisters Doin' It For Themselves" type of gal in real life and I'd sooner stick pins in my eyes than become one of those simpering wives out of Stereotype World who bake bread and darn whilst discussing the wonders of kittens, I have begun to wonder if I am male or female in terms of how I consume my media products. Let's consider the evidence.

Movies. Whilst all movies can be watched by all people, I think it's pretty fair to say that genres are favoured by one gender over another: rom-com is not also known as the "chick flick" for no reason and I've noticed, queuing at the Odeon to watch my beloved horrors and action movies there are usually not many other single females on their own (I am often on my own - not because I'm sad and have no friends, honest - but because I'm going for the EXPERIENCE, not a social call: if I wanted to be sociable, I'd meet friends in a cafe, not a cinema). In this same way after quizzing some of my male friends they too admit they go to the cinema on their own or even watch DVDs alone first before watching them with friends since "this way they don't miss anything". VERDICT: MALE.

TV. My TV watching is extremely varied. I watch all the soaps, some reality TV (stuff like Hell's Kitchen as opposed to Big Brother though) and a hell of a lot of kids' TV, though I only watch one game show: Deal or No Deal. I tend to watch TV only after 6 o'clock however, since I listen to the radio throughout the day. Though I watch "female" UK drama and more traditionally "male" US drama, I watch probably 60/40 in British shows' favour, though since we got digital and I discovered 5 US, I've added numerous American crime shows to my list and added approximately one hour to my viewing schedule. Crucially, though it may appear on the surface that I am a telly addict, I'm usually multi-tasking of an evening. This may include making the next day's dinner, writing notes for script reports and/or helping my son with his homework. VERDICT: FEMALE.

MUSIC
. Whilst it's no secret that I wouldn't know what to do with an iPod if someone hit me round the head with it and I don't really see what the point of a podcast is, even if you can download them to your PC (I'm just. not. interested), no one can accuse my music collection of being female. With names like Type O Negative, Korn Tool, Nine Inch Nails etc in there you can imagine what I am: a goth type. I've even managed to get semi-technical and store it on my computer as well. Wooooh. VERDICT: MALE.

RADIO. I like Radio 2 a lot: they play a lot of eighties, my fave decade and I enjoy the current affairs show in the morning. I've developed a liking for digital radio of late since I realised you can get it through the TV (duh) and I've developed a liking for radio drama since preparing for The Royal Tapes and also for Silver Street on BBC's Asian Network. I've also discovered the listen again facility, how joyous is that? In addition, I like the Kerrang Channel, since it plays all my faves like Rammstein et al. Though I started listening to the radio for work (getting a feel for radio drama in particular), I can now honestly say I like this medium a lot, especially since it allows for my multi-tasking at the same time. VERDICT: FEMALE.

INTERNET. I use the blogs every day, obviously and most days create a post, sometimes two though rarely three. I read the news and I read a lot of research stuff about...stuff. Just recently I've developed an obsession with anacondas for example, though a few weeks ago it was Co2 ommissions. I also like to look at old black and white stills Google Images and read the accounts of survivors of WW2, a particular interest of mine. I never read about Big Brother, I never read Gossip Columns though I do take many online tests a day, ranging from between IS YOUR FENG SHUI MAKING YOU DEPRESSED? right through to HOW ADDICTED TO SMOKING ARE YOU? (Which incidentally my score was "not very", unsurprisingly, considering I don't smoke!). VERDICT: Not sure...BOTH?

So... What am I? Not entirely sure. But that's hardly surprising, considering this is an entirely unscientific testing process. But shows we're not as boxed-in as we might think, anyway. Interesting.

What are you?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Things To Do This Weekend

Well, it looks sunny today...which means it'll rain like hell tomorrow, 'cos it's the weekend, natch. So with this in mind, I have worked out a few things you can do this saturday and sunday:

Enter The Red Planet Prize. You have to have been living on Mars not to have heard of this, even if you didn't make it to The Screenwriters' Festival. The Lovely David and Helen have already blogged about it, so I won't repeat them, but deadline's not 'til September, it's email entry so no trees need die and there's 5000 squid up for grabs and a commission on...something. Cool. We also have Sir Daniel to thank for it too. Be aware that a new rule has been added: only one entry per person, so no multiple submissions. Got that? Make sure your entry is your best work then! Check it out here.

Sign Up For Info List. This is well-wicked, man, lovin' it, lovin' it, lovin' it. A kind of cross between SP and Inktip, this site gathers together jobs, opportunities, seminars, parties, the works and all sorts into one list. New registrations will cost soon, but if you get in on the act NOW, it'll be FREE - my fave price. Many thanks to the fabulous Fun Joel for the heads-up as they say across the pond. To register, click here.

Dream that you've won The Royal Tapes. Yes, the results come out on Monday. I would love to be a finalist in this, but since I've never written a radio play before it's highly doubtful. But we'll see. Gotta be in it to win it, etc etc.

Make big plans. There's a school of thought that says baby steps help you get to your destination. I say screw baby steps, take a giant leap forward - in your thinking. How can you get anywhere, if you tell yourself you're not good enough? So target that agent you want, go after that commission, start training to become a director... Whatever it is you want, go get it! It'll take more than a weekend, but you need to decide on your destination before programming it into the satnav baby.

Vote in The Bang2write Alternative Pitch Fever. We get 200 hits a day here... And there's been 40-odd votes total in both categories! Shame on those non-voting asses. And actually, shame on those voting who didn't vote for mine. After all I do for you ungrateful B*******, humpf... ; )

Submit Something to Someone, Anyone.
People always email me asking where to find producers who'll read their work and if it's it a good idea to cold call. Don't cold call, ever. There are loads of people, out on the internet - and even in real life (shock, horror!), actively looking for scripts. Honest! But if you don't have time to go to mass orgies where all the producers will naturally be, I think the internet was created FOR screenwriters to chase script opportunities. So use this fantastic tool and try looking at the lists here, here, here or here. Or you could try pitching or finding collaborators via a place like Shooting People or Talent Circle. Go on. If you don't show anyone yours... That sounds so wrong. But do it! (Ooops again).

Send your script to Bang2write. That's right, I am taking my mind off this hellish house move and collapsed chain by reading EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD. So, you need development notes or a script report? Send 'em over: you get a discount coming through this blog and mentioning this article. Need a recommendation before you spend your moolah? Feast your eyes on all of these. Email for more details or if you want to know how the hell Paypal works off eBay (I must send that email out 6 times a week).

Anyone doing anything exciting this weekend?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Alternative Pitch Fever

UPDATE 05/07: Many thanks to Lee for his help...The polls are now up! You've got one vote for pitches/synopses and one vote for the loglines on their own. Let voting commence!
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Well, here they all are folks... Your loglines and synopses in all their glory! I had to guess with a few re: genre btw because you forgot to tell me... Should be interesting to see if expectations "marry up". By all means leave feedback for the contestants, but please make sure it's constructive criticism. If you're not sure what constitutes criticism being constructive and are worried about treading on any toes, check out this very handy guide to giving good and apparently sexy, constructive criticism. I thank you!
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PITCHES WITH SYNOPSES

Please click on the titles and authors' name to view synopses in their entirety.

JESSICA LITTLE AND THE MANOR HOUSE SPY [Musical Comedy] By Julie Gribble, NYC, USA
In a musical adventure set in WWII England, an orphaned girl risks her life and future happiness to thwart a spy and save her friends.

RAGING GURRL [Action Thriller] by Julie Gribble, NYC, US
A shy reserved cartoonist becomes entangled in a political conspiracy when her superhero’s plotline stumbles onto real plans to take over the government.

KILLER LOOKS [Action Comedy] By Julie Gribble, NYC, US
A couture loving hitman dreams of becoming a clothing designer, but soon he must choose between his life of crime and his passion for fashion.

THE CORPORATE PARENTS by Clare Swift, UK
Can you care and make a profit? Abbey joins a reputable private fostering agency and discovers that exposing dark secrets is bad for business.

SHAKIN’ ALL OVER [Horror/Comedy] by Norman Revill, London, UK.
A hopeless band accidentally uncovers a daemon that makes them sensational. Only ‘Mr Lynne’ can save them, but they must sacrifice their newfound fame.

PENNY DREADFUL [Horror] by Elinor Perry-Smith, London, UK
A grieving prostitute turns killer in Victorian London. When her trail of blood implicates the Prince of Wales, the establishment sets out to destroy her.

ECLIPSE [Horror] By Lucy Hay, Devon, UK
A circus made up of flesh-eating shape shifters searches for its missing final member, only for a vengeful loner to stand in their way.

GIVING IT THE BIRD [Comedy] By Shell Wilbye, Cumbria, UK
Bonds, convertible bonds. But can Victor Bond turn ‘James’ enough in time to save a blind boy and his seeing eye parrot?

DAY OF THE DEVIL [Supernatural Crime Thriller] by Chris Smith, Chester, UK
The Guardian Angel of a group of students who are murdered by devil worshippers comes down from Heaven to avenge their deaths.

SEDITION [Political Thriller] By Pauline Kiernan, Oxfordshire, UK
The extraordinary untold story of the young radical Shakespeare who dared to oppose his Queen, risking execution to save his beloved country from bloody civil war.

SILENT SCREEN LOVER [Romantic Comedy] by Laura Reyna, California, US
An insecure TV actor gets career and love advice from the ghost of a famous silent screen actor haunting his mansion.

THE FEARLESS [SF Action Thriller] by Martin Adams, Dorset, UK
When aliens attack the spaceship he works on, a lowly kitchen worker has to save the world.

CLICK [Thriller] by Jackson Pillock, Devon, UK

A City trader buys a busted crack den cheap, but finds himself involved with a Ukranian mobster and his dangerous girlfriend.

PERSONAL ORGANISER [Black Comedy] by MJ, Edinburgh, UK
Anyone can set themselves up as a guru these days, but what if the one you choose has a devilish agenda all their own? [SHORT]

THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR MAN [Black Comedy] by MJ, Edinburgh, UK

It’s a hard lesson but we all have to learn it - never judge a book by its cover, even if it happens to be wearing full-length satin and a pair of Cleopatra earrings.

THE LIFE YOU MAKE [Supernatural Action-Adventure] by Lee Thomson
One boy and his grandad's ghost must save the world after cantankerous spirits accidentally threaten reality when they punish him for vandalising their graves.

THE VAMPIRE APOCALYPSE Articles By William The Bloody
In the first days of the vampire apocalypse, a human friendly vampire leads one pocket of resistance. But help could arrive from an unusual source.

WHERE'S MY DAD? [Tragic drama] by Kelly Potter, Romford, UKThis is a sad story of how far love can be challenged when someone is desperately lost in their body [SHORT].

A WOLF IN EDEN [Drama/Romance] By Lisa, UK.
Wolf conservationist Joel O’Neill is planning to re-introduce wolves back into Sullivan County. Thing is, the wolves never left and the good people of Eden, Sullivan’s biggest town, don’t want outsiders interfering in their lives...

BROKEN BIRD [Drama] by Laura Anderson, Edinburgh, UK.
A lonely girl develops a dangerous obsession for a woman with seemingly divine powers. In her strict, religious community, such reverence could have fatal consequences.

HEARTS OF IRON [Drama] by Steve The Wordsmith, www.land
A timid nurse is blackmailed into betraying a crippled inventor; she must liberate herself to redeem him and prevent world devastation from his stolen designs.


LOGLINES

BE MINE (Drama). When an adopted woman goes in search of her biological family, she discovers her teenage mother murdered her father. Anya Ricketts, NYC

THE HARVEST (sci-fi). Genetically-modified crops gain a consciousness of their own and attack a small farming community in the future. The Artiste, NYC

SHOTGUNS AND INCONTINENCE PANTS (comedy drama) Five pensioners, one zimmer frame, one cowardly son, shotguns, a container full of used Euros, and a plan. Robbery has never been so wrinkly. Dom Carver, Bournemouth, UK

A DOG'S LIFE (Comedy). 4 teens borrow a car to go on their first holiday together and end up knocking down a dog [Short]. Charlie who's a girl, York, UK

UNTITLED (B Movie-style Horror). A monstrous giant flying doughnut preys on size 0s. Twinkletoes, www.land (yeah I know it was a joke but it's funny!!)

TRIAL AND ERROR (Comedy). A bumbling assassin gets jury duty for a murder case where they killed the victim. But what happens when the assassin falls in love with the defendent? David Bishop, Scotland, UK

GUARDIAN DEVIL [Animated Comedy]. When jinx, Morty Jube, is struck by lightning he discovers that instead of a guardian angel he is accompanied by a devil, the source of his bad luck. But now Morty can see his devil - he can fight it! Gavin, UK.

BOLLYWOOD THRILLS. Two single parents fall in love while their children prepare for a Bollywood dance competition. However, their different social classes and opinionated families are determined to keep them apart and stop cupid’s arrow from striking. Niraj Kapur, Milton Keynes, UK.

And two from Gavin Boyter, UK:
REHAB [Action Comedy]. They've kicked the habit - now they're kicking ass! A motley crew of celebrities - actors, rock stars, heiresses and has-beens - have to team up to fight terrorist kidnappers who hold them all to ransom at their exclusive addiction rehabilitation centre deep in a forgotten LA canyon. All this whilst kicking their crack cocaine, gambling and shopping habits.

THE PACT [Romantic Comedy] - You made a marriage pact with your best friend - he's come to collect. Daniel adores Sarah... but Sarah just wants to be friends. Late one night she makes a pact with Daniel to become his wife if they're still single when they both turn 30. Sarah immediately forgets her drunken words. But lawyer Daniel has them on tape...

From the most prolific enterer of the competition, Ron Shears of Australia: since I couldn't make a google page for your synopses Ron (the site wouldn't respond that day unfortunately, so I've given you a few extra! Yes I know I said only 3 the rest of you, shows you don't get if you don't ask!! :)...

NAZI GOLD AND THE REINHARDT MEMORANDUM [Historical Action-Adventure] by Ron Shears and Aimeee Lamb
$2.5 billion vanishes without trace in the aftermath of WW2. What goes through a Swiss Bankers mind when questioned about ‘Nazi Gold’?

SADDLE THE WIND [Drama]
On October 21 1639, a great thunderstorm burst out of the sky, battering an isolated church located on an ancient road at Widecombe, Devonshire, England.

THE LETTER [Drama]
To return and marry his fiancĂ©e Christmas Eve 1943 means taking risks, but you ditch in the Channel. James’s 1943 letter arrives Christmas Eve 1993.

THE ADVENTURES OF TAE AND KWON [Action-adventure] Teenage martial artistes Princess Tae and Prince Kwon, are zapped down a ‘time-tunnel’ into the 21st century from ancient Asia, and Martial Arts changed forever. Ron Shears, Australia.

PENTAD [Supernatural Thriller] Five Wizards have been out of action for centuries. Until the charred remains of a leather bound book is discovered in a cobweb-strewn castle dungeon.

Three loglines from Laura Reyna, California, US

FAMILY WEDDING, Comedy. A failed businessman and a high class call girl have a fling while traveling to a wedding. Things get complicated when they discover his father is marrying her mother.

MR. WILSON'S MATINEE, Comedy/Drama. In 1950s London, a gay playwright desperate for a sponsor courts a lonely, rich widow. But he has second thoughts when she falls in love with him.

BURNSFIELD, Thriller. A man with a history of mental illness is in love with his cousin and suspects her fiance of being a killer. Despite the doubts of others, on the eve of the wedding, he sets out to prove it.

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WHAT NEXT? Well I had hoped to put a poll up, but couldn't find a free one online that would take on all you lot - the most options offered was 9, so I'm afraid you're going to have to make do with the old-fashioned way of my counting you lot actually saying which ones you like in the comments section. Remember you can keep your anonymity. Remember, extreme adoration is at stake here... May the best wo/man win!

Monday, July 02, 2007

More Stuff: Life, Contests, A Question and Naked Googlers

I had a rubbish week last week. If I hadn't lived it, I would have thought it was one of those bad rom-coms where everything goes wrong for the protagonist in Act 1, culminating in the ultimate cliche of getting home early from work and finding your wife in bed with another bloke. Luckily I was spared this, since I don't have a wife and I work from home, but hey ho.

But this week is another week and I have many plans. I got ten rejections last week, working out at approximately 2 a day (though I got 3 on wednesday), but I DID get a two script invites and two nice emails, proving that life does indeed go on... Besides, it can't be as bad as THE DAY OF SIX REJECTIONS. That was in my pre-blog days and three days before my wedding. Niiiice. As if I didn't have enough to worry about, like my husband jilting me at the altar... But of course he didn't, 'cos I am fabulous and now of course he knows I will hunt him down like a dog if he ever leaves so he's mine, mine forever!>EVIL LAUGH<

Where was I. Oh yes: you still have just over 24 hours to get your loglines and/or synopses in for our alternative to Fever Pitch. Remember, the aliens are watching and will steal your ideas anyway people (unless you wear a colander on your head of course, like I do), so you might as well put them to good use and post them here in the comments section or email me them. All the loglines will be posted this Wednesday, July 4th and voting will begin in earnest. We will then all worship you if you win. How can you resist???

Also: the top ten per cent of The Bluecat Screenplay Competition have been announced. Because it was last week, the week of evil (and obviously nothing to do with my writing talent), none of the three scripts I entered made it. Oh Gordy Hoffman, how can you do this to me? You're supposed to be my friend... Well, on Myspace anyway. Still, at least it proves there's no nepotism involved! If you want to see the list of those who did make it, you can check it out here.

The lovely Chris, whom I read for recently, has this question:

Right now I'm re-writing an obscure 70's Swedish revenge film. When it comes to the point where I want to register it and send it to a script doctor, do I need the original writer's permission? Obviously, I will be acknowledging them on the front of the script, do you know if that's ALL I have to do? Does the original writer's/owner's rights only come into it if the script is being optioned?

I read rewrites of other movies very infrequently; as far as I am aware, rewrites of this kind are *usually* commissioned by producers, as opposed to speculative in the way Chris describes. However, in short, I'm foxed. Has anyone out in www.land rewritten another movie speculatively, then got it optioned? If so, what did you do regarding that original writer's rights? Any thoughts greatly appreciated.

And finally: it's official. The word "naked" puts up your stats by approximately ten per cent as perverted Googlers search for naked stuff every single day. What I find more bizarre though is the average Googler who searches for naked stuff, finds this blog by accident - then stays for approximately 3.5 minutes!! Does this mean all the Googlers looking for naked stuff are secret screenwriters?? I'll leave you with that thought.