Click the Pic N' Mix - past blog posts from Bang2write (click & scroll down for articles)

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Pay Close Attention

If you're wondering what you should do with your life, then you must take heed of this call to action that popped into my inbox this morning:

The Fundamentaloids now must know, speaking in the vulgar argot of this planet. I was told that Jim and we shall talk of far more interesting things. Music. You must friend. Somewhere underground so my jaw radio probably wouldn't work.

Go forth friends: we must travel underground.

Just don't bother taking your jaw radios.

Have a fab weekend!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Agents, Pt 3: When An Agent Is Not Really An Agent

In a business like scriptwriting, when there are so many writers (new and more experienced) desperate to attract the eyes of agents, producers, managers et al, it's not surprising there are nasty people out there wanting to cash in on this.

Knowing how agents work can be the difference between getting scammed or not, quite literally. More than once I have been contacted by Bang2writers wanting to engage my services as a reader after being asked by a so-called agent to get coverage to ensure their script is "ready for market". Why would this be a problem, you might ask? After all, the Bang2writer is offering to pay ME money, not them. That's certainly true - and if the Bang2writer wanted coverage for their own ends - say, a redraft for a competition entry - then I would have no problem with that. But I would never knowingly become party to a scenario that sees a writer misled and disappointed like this because real agents don't want writers to get their own feedback at their own cost. Agents have their own readers, plus they read stuff themselves. That's THEIR job. Similarly, any writer under the belief that an agent would want a report from an unconnected reader like me is mistaken. Agents do their own thing. That's how it works. If the agent wanted a report on a particular work from me (and they have done), then they would engage my services themselves.

That's only the thin end of the wedge however: a writer that signs a contract with one of these so-called agencies will often be asked to pay for editors and for further reads too, all to get the script "ready for market". I've heard of writers do this... Only to never hear anything again. We've all heard of the scam artist who asks the model to pay for the photographs... Well this is the scriptwriting equivalent. Avoid these so-called agencies like the plague. Here's a few things that should alert you to whether you have a genuine agent interested in you or not:

Their reputation is recognisable and accountable. A good agent is known, either as the agency or personally. They may be affiliated to The Authors' Agents Association; a member of a particular Committee like BAFTA; a patron of a writing-related association, magazine or The Writers' Guild. The agent him or herself may appear at things like The Screenwriters' Festival in Cheltenham or at Writers' Guild events. They may have a website that is updated regularly with their clients' news or even a blog. A simple Google search can throw up these aspects for you if you have not heard of them before. If you cannot find them ANYWHERE or if you read bad reports about them that are not simply sour grapes, then beware.

You approach them. An agent only goes looking for a writer when they REALLY want them and that usually means that particular writer is already the thing of the moment. If you're NOT a big thing, then a sudden letter or email from an agency you've never heard of asking for a submission should be treated with caution.

They won't want you to get your own script report. As in the article.

They charge no reading fee. They'll probably take three million years (at least three months) to get back to you as well. This is because they have three million other scripts to get through.

It's as simple as that, really. Chances are, you'll get a rejection letter; if you're lucky, you may get a few lines of feedback. They usually won't return your script unless you send an SAE with it by the way, so if you want it back, do this.

If however you don't get rejected, here's what happens next:

They will want to see more work. This is a good sign, but you shouldn't be popping the cork on the champers yet. They're checking to see if the script they liked was a fluke, if you're a one trick pony. Sometimes they will request a third script too. This can take ages with the reading times taking such a long time. The record for me was four over about fourteen months - then the bloody agent left and disappeared into the ether (apparently she is now a full-time Mum), damn her hide.

You will be invited in for a meeting. Generally speaking this is AFTER they've read several of your scripts (though there's always the odd writer who's written something so on the ball the agent has them in immediately). Bear in mind then that this meeting may be at least six months AFTER your initial submission, so make sure you remember what your script was about, especially if you've redrafted. I'll never forget talking animatedly to one agent about my character Beth only to see his eyes cloud over: in the draft he had, she was called Melissa.

They will want you to sign a contract. Unlike the scam agency then, the contract comes LAST, not first. What's more, there is no "you have fourteen days before this offer expires". You can talk it over with your spouse, solicitor, your dog as much as you like, though I would imagine your average agent wouldn't want to be kept waiting months and months! In the contract there is no clause saying you have to pay ANYTHING - it details how much commission you will be paying for any sales or commissions, what you have to do if you want to go to another agent, that sort of thing.

A few other things to remember too:

Managers are not the same as agents. I don't have much authority on this subject, since having a manager rather than an agent seems to be more of a US thing than over here; I've certainly never met a Manager like this or had one myself. From what I understand, they are similar to the managers bands have, which I suppose means there are good managers and bad managers, just like in that world. Best to have a contract there I should think, a solicitor would best advise you on how to proceed or whether it's a good idea. There's also an Association of Personal Managers I understand too, so check with them.

Services are not scams. InkTip is a great resource for screenwriters without agents. InkTip is NOT a scam, it is a well-designed and well-run service. You pay your money - you get your chance to showcase your work, you can't say fairer than that. They make no pretence at being an agency and nor do they GUARANTEE success or anything like that: they DO give you free tips, articles and even email help on how to best present your work. All you pay for essentially is your listing or anything else you CHOOSE - like their magazine or Preferred newsletter subscription. Same goes for other such showcasing websites as My Visual Pitch. I've used both of these sites myself and found their service and ethos to be exemplary.

Look out for number one, but share your info. Everyone has to keep their eye on the ball in this game, but that doesn't mean you can't pass it occasionally. If you have a bad experience, don't get bitter about it - tell others, help them avoid what you went through. Chances are, others will warn you about what has happened to them too. The worst thing you can do is to keep your cards close to your chest, since all that will happen is you get left out in the cold. Be generous and not only can you hopefully avoid the crap, you can harvest some good opportunities that others pass on too!

LINKS

Writer Beware's List of Bad Practices (inc. list of "Twenty Worst Agencies")

Writer Beware Blog on "Literary Agent Scams"

Literary Scams and How to Avoid Them

Thread on John August's Blog about The WL Literary Agency's practices

Forum Postings on Writers' Net about The ST Agency and The New York Literary Agency

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Agents, Part 2: What Do They Do?

Agents are much maligned: you don't have to go far to find a professional writer who will say all theirs does is take their commission, leaving the writer to do all the donkeywork. I know one guy who insists that he hasn't heard from or even met with his in fifteen years except at Christmas where she sends him a card... And spells his name wrong every year without fail.

So why have an agent, if you have to find your own work? Not only are you in the same position you were previously, you're now actually WORSE OFF: if you get the work, you're signing between 10 and 15% each time too. At least before as a non-represented writer you could keep all of it. There's also the inevitable waits for your agent to get round to reading your latest spec or pitch, or approve a particular reference or whatever. I mean, what do these guys actually do to deserve this?

Quite a lot, in reality. Just as a new writer, you're not actually party to it... since you're not playing in that pond yet. If I was a writer commissioned on a TV show as opposed to the bits and bobs I do now, my agent would be far more involved. This is not because his cut would be bigger, it's because I would have strayed off the beaten track of corporate work and into Writers' Guild Rates.

This is a big deal. Whilst corporate contracts and collaboration opportunities for jobbing writers on things like website copy, CD-Roms and short film and features can vary wildly according to what individual producers can afford on very low-to-no budgets, there are minimums what the "bigger" companies and networks MUST pay. Very often these bigger companies and networks don't want to deal with writers. Writers have a very poor reputation when it comes to money. One bloke told me recently, "I'd end up offering to pay them." I don't doubt it. It's embarrassing talking about money with reference to your ability and what you consider is taking the mick; it's embarrassing to say something like, "I'm worth more than that, thanks, give me a bit more." I know, because I have done that before with my fingers crossed behind my back: once I got slightly more, the other time I got told to like it or lump it, the budget just would not stretch any further. I liked it. Of course.

But that's what agents are all about: money. As the comments thread in the previous post points out, the agent is not a God-like creature who will bestow jobs and opportunities upon you. They are the money guys and gals, the ones who will negotiate on your behalf and get you the best deal they possibly can once YOU have found the job yourself.

Yet this "best deal" does not refer JUST to getting the right fee for a certain job. Until I spoke to actual agents of the realities of their job, I had no idea what an involved job it actually was:

* contract writing and/or checking
* translation rights of published novels and screenplays
* movie rights
* Updating information on repeat fees, satellite broadcasts, changing media etc - an agent has have up to the minute knowledge on this
* legal issues to do with libel & blasphemy
* legal issues to do with dead writers' estates
* legal issues to do with infringed copyright
* book fairs and signings
* conferences and seminars - attending and speaking
* meetings and phone calls with networks, prodcos and sometimes attached actors
* welfare of existing clients - even if an agent only responds to the emails and calls of his/her writers who email him/her FIRST, that's still a lot of people

That's just ELEVEN things there, I'm sure there's a lot more - and not all agents will deal with all of those things (some only deal with scripts for example), but that's ELEVEN very involved aspects of the job - BEFORE they sit down and deal with potential clients' work. Some agents do other work ON TOP OF THIS, like Julian Friedman with his Scriptwriter Magazine. In other words, your average agent has a massive workload.

Is it any wonder then your spec might slip the net?

Agents are not cash cows or golden tickets. They're are surrounded in myth it seems: once you've got one, you've made it! You are a REAL writer! Newsflash: you'll never feel like a "real" writer, since I don't think anyone can quite believe they make money at doing something they actually like. I've heard professional writers, when asked what they do, say stuff like: "I write... A little." WTF...a LITTLE? I heard Tony Jordan speak at a seminar in 2006 and one thing he said really stuck in my head: he said that before you are paid to write, you always introduce yourself as a writer. Once you are actually earning as a writer, you say you're anything but; it's as if you are apologising to others for having a job you love when others are stuck grafting at jobs they hate. Interesting psychology there.

I guess it boils down to an agent is not your guarantee of success; they have so much to do, you have to catch their eye and even then you have to still catch everyone else's. Your only guarantee of success is you.

PART THREE: When is an agent not an agent?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Agents, Part 1: Not The Destination

One thing I hear more than any other from new writers in particular is how much they want an agent. It is, without any doubt in my mind, the single most important thing to them: above contest placings or even wins; above collaboration; above getting the respect of their peers even. And why not? When I first started, there was one single objective in my mind that counted above all others and that too was getting an agent. How else was I to know whether I was any “good” or not? Getting representation was proof of my ability if you like. It was, quite literally, the be all and end all to me.

Now I have an agent? I realise it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong. Having an agent is vastly better than not having one. Being represented means certain opportunities are open to you when they weren’t before: the “bigger” production companies are more likely to read your work; certain courses and competitions are more likely to take you; maybe a producer here or there is more “approachable” if you have an agent. But that’s the thing you see: the operative words there are more likely. Nothing is for certain in this game. It's just that now I realise having an agent does not equal automatic success as I might have once upon a time.

It seems agents are much misunderstood by new writers. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had non-represented writers by the dozen express disbelief to me that their spec (which really is good) has been rejected YET AGAIN by a particular agent or agents. The draft went through three million rewrites! It’s going to be the next big thing! Plus so much worse gets to screen! Is this place INSANE?

But there’s another thing. A good spec is *generally* not your golden ticket to success either – not in the sense you might think, in that it gets an option, gets made, makes it onto screen and hits the top ten movies of the year, that is. It may get optioned and that’s all well and good and an achievement in itself, but is it likely to make it to screen? Not hugely (though not impossible, look at James Moran’s SEVERANCE). But you only hear about the successes, not what goes on behind the scenes. Many writers though have had LOADS of their specs optioned, yet have seen just one or two of their specs actually made. These aren’t your average new writer either, but guys and gals who’ve had loads of commissions on shows and projects that you and I would recognise. Take Marc Pye as your example here: he is a pretty “safe bet” to any investor, having had literally hundreds of hours of TV made, yet he was still told by potential investors that they could not see his film “Act of Grace” actually “working”! Same goes with Adrian Mead and NIGHT PEOPLE. They had to quite literally resort to DIY filmmaking to ensure their projects made it to screen, regardless of them both having agents AND a big track record.

What hope then do you and I have, you might say: if they can’t get something made, we’re DOOMED. Certainly this realisation has “picked off” many a newer writer – they can’t see a way round their lack of credits or representation and they give up. I might say that’s a shame, but if they give up so readily, perhaps it was not meant for them. I don’t hold with this notion “I’ll give it five years, then I’ll give up...” Would you approach any other facet of your life like this if it was meant to be your vocation? I can just see that with something like Parenthood: “I’ll give the kid til it’s five, then if we’re not getting on, I’ll send it back...” I don’t see quitting as an option: writing is for life, not just for Christmas... Or something. Joking aside though, maybe I’ll never get further than I am now: so be it. I’ve had fun and I’ve learned a lot – and really would not rather be doing anything else. That’s a success in itself as far as I’m concerned.

Agents don’t take on writers with good specs just to sell those specs generally; they take on writers who could get work using those great specs as samples. Who will make my TV Drama Pilot? I’ve had loads of great feedback about it and some interesting meetings and opportunities because of it. Yet no one will make it. I’m untried and untested. But that’s not what that Pilot is about: it’s an advertisement if you like of what I can do. My agent believed it was a good enough advertisement, which is why he wanted me to sign with him. Same goes for my supernatural thriller. But at the end of the day, I’ve made him no money. Yet.

And there’s the final thing. The reason it’s such a struggle to get an agent is because they are preoccupied with the clients who DO make them money – and lots of it. Why should they give you the time of day, especially when there are SO MANY writers vying for it? Even a small agent will receive in the region of thirty submissions a week. We hear all the fairy stories: this author or this screenwriter took a sample script into one agent, blew them away, had two agents competing for them, blah blah blah, got it sold, made a million pounds etc etc. I’ve never heard of that happening in reality. In reality you’ve got a squillion new writers sending their scripts off, crossing their fingers and a squillion scripts being sent back unread or gathering dust in a vault somewhere for months. I recall one place asking me to simply put scripts back in the return envelopes because they “didn’t have the time to flick through them, let alone read them”.

Yet there are ways you can avoid this happening to your script; we’ve talked about all the ways to impress the reader regarding format and scene description and scenario, yet until now we’ve not talked about what impresses an agent. Now I have no great authority on this, I’ve never been an agent, but I have talked to plenty and I believe there is a secret ingredient to getting on to their radar and stop being ignored--

--Getting on with it. Write, write and write some more. Stop using agents for free feedback and concentrate instead on collaboration. You’ll undoubtedly end up doing it for free at first, but as your experience and craft increases, you might get on shorts courses run by your regional screen agency and The Film Council (always a great start); maybe you’ll meet a young up and coming producer or director who will always come back to you because you’re a great writer , fast and easy to work with. You’ll be making pocket change at first, but then you’ll be making more substantial chunks of money and working on different projects from website copy through to computer games and eventually IPTV and beyond.

In short, get your own work. Get better at what you do. Be proactive. Stop targetting people, companies, agencies etc who are being targetted by everyone else in the known universe at the same time: the "big name" companies and individuals might be great to have on your Facebook Friends or Myspace page, but can they really help you get started? Should they, when they already have loyalties to writers who've "grown up" with them through the ranks? Instead forge relationships with people at the same level as you, make a network of contacts, create a world for yourself and squeeze yourself in through the key hole of bigger worlds with those "big names", quite literally! From small acorns and all that.

Getting an agent is not the be all and end all, it’s just the beginning. Make it part of your journey, not your destination and it will all fall into place. Write it and they will come (oo er).

PART TWO: What do agents actually do?

Read English Dave’s thoughts on agents here.

Read Danny Stack’s thoughts on how to get an agent here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Just Passing Through...

Well, I have a telephone line installed but apparently it's going to take 20 EFFING DAYS for my ISP to move my broadband. WTF? I wouldn't mind so much if I say, moved from Devon to Dorset, that's a pretty long way so I could imagine my Broadband struggling to catch up with us... But no: I have moved LITERALLY ACROSS THE ROAD. How hard is it to move broadband from one side of the road to the other, hmmmmmm? Is my broadband still sitting in the old house, its feet up, watching porn (it'd have enough access). Maybe it's getting an honourary degree from some online college or better still, enjoying the three trillion pounds sent by Nigerian Spammers. Whatever the case, I'm stuck with the horrors of dial-up for the next few weeks. Joy. To think I thought this was the norm! How foolish. Cybermen and women, I salute you: I know you said I would like it if I tried it (broadband that is, dirty buggers), but I didn't believe you. I stand corrected.

Meanwhile then, many thanks to the marvellous Philippa who emailed me with this little gem of a course. Some details below or visit the website. Anyone who is anyone is going to be speaking it seems, but because of that the price tag is HIGH. As always, if you go, let us know what you think!
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BROADCAST'S TV FORUM

Broadcast’s forward-thinking TV Drama Forum will bring together a wealth of talent and expertise to inform and inspire.

Drama is the lifeblood of British television, uniting audiences and attracting the attention of broadcasters and viewers all over the world. Yet the landscape for TV Drama is shifting. How will you need to adapt and evolve in order to take full advantage of what the future holds for TV drama?

Top speakers include:

• Andrew Davies , Screenwriter
• Russell T Davies , Writer and Executive Producer
• Luke Alkin, Acting Head of Drama, Channel 4
• Eileen Gallagher, Chief Executive, Shed Media plc
• Sally Haynes, Controller of Drama Commissioning, ITV
• Dominic Minghella, Founder, plainvanilla
• Ashley Pharoah, Joint MD, Monastic Productions
• Nicola Shindler, Chief Executive, Red Production Company
• Ben Stephenson, Head of Drama Commissioning, BBC Vision

Broadcast’s TV Drama event has already captured the industry’s imagination. We have over 100 delegates confirmed, representing the cream of the television universe. Join them today!

Places are now extremely limited at this pioneering event. If you’re serious about your future in TV drama, please book now to avoid disappointment.

The TV Drama Forum will:

Examine what is working creatively and commercially for TV drama and how this impacts on your future projects
Provide insight into what the broadcasters are looking for from TV drama
Identify the potential for multi-platform drama and how to successfully adapt TV dramas to work across platforms
Uncover ways in which digital media is being used to maximum advantage in support of TV drama
Investigate methods for overcoming budgetary challenges
Explore opportunities for co-production
Highlight the experiences of those who have achieved international success with British drama and examine future possibilities for international distribution
Understand what the future holds for drama outside the M25
With on stage interviews, panel sessions and case studies featuring some of the most influential figures in TV Drama, and ample opportunity for discussion and debate, the Broadcast TV Drama Forum provides a comprehensive look at key opportunities and challenges in the TV Drama industry.

Who should attend:

Executive Producers, Producers, Heads of Drama, Commissioners, Heads of Development and Creative Directors from production companies and broadcasters; freelance Producers, Writers and Directors; senior representatives from post-production companies and distributors, and all those passionate about TV drama and TV drama’s future.

Book online here.
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Got me sold! pity there's a whacking great hole in my pocket where my wallet should be thanks to this house move. Everybody else though, if you fancy it - don't forget about Skillset's Screen Bursaries. They HAVE to give money to people like you and me to go on these courses. I got a bursary to attend Adrian Mead's adaptation course next month, so why shouldn't you get some money too? Find out more about applying for one of these bursaries yourself here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Please Hold... This? Don't Mind If I Do...

Turns out my phone line won't be switched on for ages at the new house (at least three days!! THREE DAYS!!!!!! How will I actually cope??), so you won't be seeing my cyber ass around for a while. Shame. Guess you'll just have to console yourself with this neat little video - if you're a laydee or of that persuasion anyway, else you'll just have to look elsewhere. Punk.

Right: everyone ready for blatant objectification of a fit male? You are?

Press Play.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Word On The Street

So I'm walking down the street just now - my son's trailing after me and the buggy with his sister in it since everything is VERY EMBARRASSING these days, most of all me and Lil. To be fair this is probably because we sing everywhere we go and when he asks us not to, we sing louder (revenge for Lil because she's the second born, revenge for me because my son spent most of his first year crying).

Anyway: we started a particularly loud and screwy rendition of the Code Lyoko theme tune and Alf yells in the middle of the street to make us stop: "Mum, Please! I will go and live with the freaks if I have to!"

Interesting.

Well I'm moving next week, plus it's half term, so I probably won't be hanging around this cyber gaff much since real stuff needs some of my attention.

In the meantime I would like your thoughts on Ashes To Ashes Versus Life On Mars - is it better? Worse? Different? Why? - since that will be the subject of one of my posts when I get back.

Also, here's a couple of things that may be of interest to you. Ciao my pretties. I'll miss you. This is not a goodbye, but a "see you soon"... Oh this is so hard - eh? What was that at the back??

Dirty boy.
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GET 2 FREE DVDS WHEN YOU SIGN UP FOR CLASS


Jim Mercurio is inviting people to apply for his Killer Screenwriting Course. Limited to just twenty participants and an entire week, the course covers Concept, Structure, Dialogue, Genre, Action Description, Prose, Style, Character Orchestration, Dilemma,Character Arc, How to Get an Agent, Managing Your Own Career, Succeeding Without Representation, Pitching and many other things. There's even optional activities in the evenings. Pretty comprehensive stuff!

Now I haven't done this course obviously with it being over The Pond, but Jim's a great guy and regular readers will remember how much I loved his production Hard Scrambled. He's got some fab knowledge to impart and I for one would love to go. Also, if you mention thia blog or Bang2write when you sign up, Jim will give you two DVDs - "Theme" and "Killer Endings".

Watch free tutorials by Jim Mercurio here.
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THE END OF THE PIER FILM FESTIVAL (UK) ANNOUNCES NEW FEATURE FILM INITIATIVE

The End for the Pier International Film Festival is doubling its efforts to promote UK and other independent features submitted to the main annual event.

The Event Director Bryan Gartside anticipates a quadrupling of feature submissions for 2009 and will be actively looking to premirer more commercially viable films in the future.

The EotP has over the last five years focused strongly on short independent films made by young and new film makers. However, the festival’s ‘participants’ and ‘audience’ have grown and moved on, creating a greater demand for feature presentation exposure.

What does the Festival Offer?

Under the current terms and conditions of submitting any content to the festival, the festival organisers reserve the right to use that content to further promote the aims and objectives of the festival. This is achieved by creating compilation DVDs of the ‘Best of the Fest which go out to a wide range of press, industry professionals and broadcasters. Sponsors are also given complimentary DVDs to demonstrate the ethos of the festival. Unless a Film Maker states otherwise,
content maybe used in this manner. However, the festival does not undertake in any way shape or form to derive income from such, or to offer material to third parties for re-sale. It is not within the festival brief to attempt to distribute content commercially. However, the organisers would assist with and support any Film Maker in endeavouring to find commercial markets for his or her content – subject to negotiation and agreement. This is not and never has been an automatic undertaking by the event organisers.

The new initiative will however move towards a deeper working relationship between the Film Makers, the event organisers and potential buyers. In the future features will have a stronger and more positive promotion behind them, be that as part of the annual UK based festival, or any satellite events or special premiere screenings.

"Our aim", states Festival Director Bryan Gartside, "will be to bring more commercial buyers into the feature screenings, with a view to close distribution deals with Film Makers and or their agents. The role of the eotp is not going to be one of buyer or distributor negotiators, that is up to the people behind the film. The festival will however offer the most attractive setting and environment it can possibly achieve within budget restraints to make such commercial interaction possible."

In general terms the festival will not sell or promote your film for you, outside that is, of the festival confines. What this means is the festival will screen the content and invite as many of the appropriate people along as guests to watch it. The festival also offers a limited reception experience to those guests to enhance the occasion. However, there are always exceptions and cases where a film may not have an international sales agent, or representation in the UK or other regions. Or the Director/producer is unable to attend the event. Subject to promotional budgets the festival can in certain circumstances assist any Film Maker gain wider exposure for his or her feature film. This of course costs money and therefore productions need to take this into account before committing to that production.

Subject to budgets, it is possible to assist Feature Film presentations gain wider exposure through a number of practical undertakings. Such as: exhibition exposure through limited distribution via UK independent theatrical circuits. Placing of content on IPTV sites. Sites vary from free viewing access used for promotional reasons only, or specialised sites where content is screened together with advertising content to derive revenue. Films can also gain wider audiences through the eotp network of European Film Festivals, or through the festival’s new initiative of creating an eotp presence in a variety of other nations. It will be possible in the future to have a feature premiering in the UK at the main eotp event, then premiering in other nations, such as the USA, Australia, China and India as well. The theory here is bringing the mountain to the prophet, not every buyer in the USA can fly over to Bognor Regis in May – so we will take the content to the buyer! 2009 will also see a strong representation from the eopt at major world markets and other top festivals.

‘We have the old chicken and egg situation – to go out into the market place we need something of value to sell, to pull in that valuable commodity we need to have a presence in the top markets. The EotP in time will, I believe, become one of those ‘top‘ markets where buyers will come because they will know we have an extensive range of products and film representatives also in attendance.’ Concludes Festival Director Bryan Gartside.

What do filmmakers have to do?

Firstly there seems to be a great deal of feature content being produced without due consideration to its commercial potential. Film Makers obviously want to exercise their creative skills. However, many go ahead without considering their product’s position in the market place. Before committing to a script it is wise to talk to people in the industry who can create distribution and other openings for content. Internet broadcasting has clearly begun to redefine the way in which content is consumed, which in turn has created more openings than ever before for content exposure.

Film Makers must be prepared then to ‘get behind’ their product and sell it in the market place through exposure, public exhibition, press interviews and so forth. The entire crew and cast of any feature must all act as ambassadors for their handiwork. Budget considerations must include promotion and publicity – the levels of which need to be a much as, or to exceed that of total production budgets. More money needs to be spent on PR and advertising a film than the actual production costs. This should be obvious to all concerned, you only need to look around at the publicity behind a latest dollar backed movie – billboards, buses, the subway promotions, it all adds up to millions of $. UK and indeed European Film Makers may be purists and make films for the sake of art, or their burdened conscience. However, if they want people to view their work out in the wider world then more consideration must be made to, not just content, but how that content is promoted.

Of course this is a tall order if you do not have millions to spend on your PR and promotional budgets. Which brings us round nicely to a further development by the End of the Pier’s parent Company 3P Media. For sometime 3P have been actively looking for partners to work with in both source funding for feature film productions, and the Film Makers behind such. To date their efforts have been both limited and fairly exclusive to a small number of mainly in-house projects. However, with the co-operation and support from a major European funding source 3P will in the near future be in a stronger position to promote their funding streams through the eotp festival and other film related initiatives. This will it is anticipated, enable UK based Film Makers to access source funding for a range of production requirements, from simple lease purchase agreements, to the setting up on Companies, the acquisition of commercial properties, and the funding of feature and television productions. The consequences of such could mean that the 3P Media Group, of which the eotp festival is party to, will be able to source funding for UK productions, whilst also premiering through its UK and other festival outlets, arrange limited theatrical release, place on commercial IPTV and other broadcast platforms, whilst also committing to DVD reproduction to direct sell to consumers - everything will be in one neat and tidy package…
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Thanks Bryan! Some interesting stuff there for you filmmakers out in www.land. If you go to the End Of The Pier Festival this year, let us know what you think.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Obviously my romantic life is over now I'm married, but wishing you, my Blogging Pretties, the very best in lurve and general sauciness. Hope you're doing something special?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mr. Vista

Mad-busy at the mo packing to move house AGAIN and do a stupid amount of work at the same time, so here's a few words from my fellow Bournemouthian and top bloke Tim Clague... Check it out.
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An invitation for everyone to check out my new comedy web series - Mr Vista. It's hosted here.

The Dailymotion guys are giving it great support and it strikes me that the portal editors are now as important as festival programmers in the success of a film.

Each episode features the silent clown style buffoonary of Mr Vista whose struggle with life is symbolised by a computer progress bar over his head. Who doesn't feel like life is being sliced away, one pixel at a time???

Hope you enjoy the first 3 episodes and any writers out there who are inspired with some good ideas, let me know.

Lastly worthy of mention to all film makers is the funding for this project. It all came out of advertising on the blog!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Writing & Ethics Part 2: Images, Influences & Childhood

There has long been a school of thought that watching television and films harms children; only last week a report was published by some UK Watchdog suggesting that Under-5s should not be exposed at all and that under-14s should have their television watching, particularly in school, reduced radically. Whilst I *sort of* agree on one level - Ofsted's increasing desire to put a screen and/or technology in-between children and their learning instead of books was a bugbear of mine so severe I actually left teaching because of it - I have to wonder what the world is coming to when so-called experts actually question stimulation of any kind as being "harmful". Whilst I would never have a child of mine watching TV all day, every day (and yes, I'm aware some parents do), I do happen to think that TV and film actually aid learning and understanding of the world. How can I not? If I didn't, as a writer I couldn't in any conscience do what I do without feeling like a fraud at best and a kind of a pusher at worst.

Besides which, I was a total telly addict as a child: this not only did not harm me in my opinion, it has actually aided me. My parents always insisted we go outside, play in fields, rolls in mud etc etc but if given the choice, I would watch a film. I LOVED films. Had there been the internet readily available back in the 80s when I was growing up, I'm sure I would have loved that too. But what's more, I was not a passive receiver of these images: I incorporated elements of these stories into my own games and my own stories - I still have a notebook in which, aged 9, I wrote a story imaginatively (if not weirdly) called THE BROKEN ZODIAC which is basically a re-telling of Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, a Ying/Yang tale of good versus evil.

Like all kids growing up in the 80s, the muppet content of my TV and film diet was high. God how I loved those things. I was going to be a Muppeteer when I grew up, I could think of no better career at this point. My love of muppets encouraged me to make my "own" out of toilet rolls, lolly sticks and bits of Laura Ashley wallpaper my Mum had left over from particularly questionable bedroom suite; it also made me realise that actually, acting and performance was not my forte: but writing was. So I had my many sisters and brother doing the performance side whilst I wrote and organised a show that we called DEMON DANCING, loosely inspired by Labyrinth and using the music of the delightfully moody Thompson Twins on cassette. My parents had friends over to watch us. We got a standing ovation. Niiice. My love of muppets extended as I reached the fabled "double figures" my Dad would always bang on about, but my expectations of them grew too. I've written before that as a teen I loved Farscape probably because of them, but it was The Company of Wolves that showed me just how dark Jim Henson's creature shop could be...And I loved it. I don't recall how I managed to end up watching this in the middle of the night, on my own, age 10: I strongly suspect I had got up to sneak around the house alone as I was prone to, simply because I wasn't supposed to. I do remember the first time I saw it the sound was off. This made it seem all the more mesmerising to my ten year old brain and when Stephen Rea makes his hideous transformation, I remember being truly frightened.

Of course, in this age of CGI it looks dated and even a bit shaky: I found my son watching my special edition DVD only the other day and like a *responsible parent* I turned it off, telling him that he shouldn't watch that until he was older. He raises a cynical eyebrow and says, "Mum. It's hardly Alien, is it?" I say, "When the hell did you watch Alien!" and he says, as if I'M crazy, "All the time." How silly of me. Note to self: get a lock for the DVD cabinet. Or should I, if he's going to be a writer himself one day??

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

PREVIEW: Act of Grace

UPDATE: Here is an article from The Liverpool Echo about how Alan got the film up and running!

Here's the synopsis for Act of Grace - don't forget to check out my Q&A with one of the writers Marc Pye, scroll down to the next post or click here.

ACT OF GRACE by Marc Pye, Alan Field and Max Kinnings
STARRING: Leo Gregory, Jody Latham, David Yip, Chan Chike, Jennifer Lim, Crissy Rock, Andrew Schofield and Ciaran Griffiths. Directed by Noreen Kershaw. Embrace Productions.

In a secret world a family’s code of honour is under threat, and an ancient way of life is knocked off its axis by one small boy’s act of grace…

Dezzie needs respect, but more than that he needs his father’s love and a reprieve from the beatings he dishes out to him on a daily basis. But Dezzie is a skinny snot-nosed kid from the back streets of Salford and like hundreds of others before him his life is already mapped out… and it’s not looking good.

Yasin needs an identity. Unexpectedly orphaned and plucked from the stability of life in Hong Kong he now finds himself in an alien environment, a world full of hostile strangers, where the only links to his culture lie hidden amongst the hundreds of fourth generation faces in Manchester’s Chinatown.

Tommy Lau wants it all. As lieutenant of the new wave of hard-edged Hong Kong immigrants he believes the Chang family have gone soft, lost their edge, lost their identity… lost respect. The time is right for a takeover and he’s set his sights on becoming Grand Dragon. No one, but no one is going to stand in his way.


Kai Chang wants to protect his Godson: the only remaining boy in the Chang dynasty. Ensuring the child’s protection above all else is paramount. Will Manchester provide him with the shelter he needs or will the tentacles of the rising Lau family squeeze the life not only from the boy, but also from a code of honour that goes back for centuries?

When Dezzie befriends new boy Yasin at his school, little does he know his life will take an unexpected turn that will ultimately shape his future. Having witnessed the perpetual racist taunts and bullying to the quiet Chinese newcomer, Dezzie - no stranger to beatings himself - stands up to Yasin’s persecutors and wins the respect, not only of his tormentors, but more importantly of Yasin. Dezzie takes Yasin under his protective wing and they become firm and loyal friends for years until Yasin’s Godfather Kai Chang arrives to take the teenage Yasin back to Hong Kong. Five years pass without a word until Yasin, aged twenty, comes back to Manchester to find his friend Dezzie and offers him an envious position at his side within the family firm. But this is a firm with a difference: Dezzie, the only white man to do so this side of the Atlantic is to be a Triad member and run the family business in Manchester and Liverpool.

And here our story begins. Just as Yasin was once thrust into the weird and wonderful culture of Manchester Dezzie quickly rises through the ranks to becomes a linchpin in the world of the Chinese Triads, a world of family values and feuds, legal and illegal activities of the underworld, but also a world of beauty, love and above all… respect. But as the friends journey progresses side by side a firm wedge of hate and betrayal is soon to drive them apart… and against each other.
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And here's the trailer Alan had put together to get people interested that Marc talks about in the Q & A - this is a great idea for indie filmmakers to emulate in approaching people for funding, crew and whatnot:


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All images in the above post are protected by copyright and courtesy of Kellie Owens Stills Photography.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Q&A: Marc Pye, "Act Of Grace" Movie

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt recognise the name Marc Pye from this, this and this post. As he's a prolific Bang2writer, I've read lots of Marc's work now and as a veteran of UK TV drama, Marc has written on numerous shows like River City, The Street, Holby Blue and Echo Beach.

In fact, he's so busy all the time (damn him), it's wonder Marc has time for anything but writing TV... But he manages it somehow and I'm pleased to announce that Marc, along with co-writers Max Kinnings and Alan Field, have managed to get their very own feature ACT OF GRACE shot and in the can!

I was pleased to read a couple of incarnations of AoG for the boys and can tell you it's a cracking story; I can't wait to see it! Starring Leo Gregory (Stoned), Jody Latham (Shameless) and the legendary David Yip (Indiana Jones, Temple of Doom right through to Brookside, Casualty, Liverpool Nativity... You name it, David's been in it!).

Act of Grace is a really visual piece and a epic story of love and betrayal across a clash of cultures. I asked Marc to provide the blog with some background on Act of Grace and how it came about... Enjoy!
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How did you, Max and Alan came to work together?

I've been working with Max for about 6 years now. I first met him at a reading we did. I had Lollipop published and Max had Hitman and our publishers booked us to do a reading at Filthy McNasties in London. We just kind of got on, shared the same sense of humour and we kept in touch. A couple of years later Scallies got optioned as a film and I was in need of fresh eyes, so I got the script to Max and asked him if he'd be interested in doing a rewrite. He loved the script and did another draft. The finance fell through so I took it to Granada. They took it on and we've been developing it as a pilot for series with them for over a year.

I met Alan on The Street. He wrote episode 4, the one with Jody Latham playing a footballer. It was the last day of the shoot on my ep, so I went down to see it. The Producer Ken Horn said "Oh there's Alan Field who wrote ep 4, do you want to meet him?" So he introduced us and we got talking about what else we were working on... As usual I was on about 10 different things, but he told me he was concentrating on just this one thing. I asked him what it was and he told me the story about this Chinese kid (Yasin) who arrives from Hong Kong, hardly speaks any English, gets picked on by these kids in school, gets protected by another kid (Dezzie), they become the best of mates and then one day Yasin is taken back to Hong Kong. Dezzie grows up, has a life of petty crime, then one day this Chinese guy appears and it turns out to be Yasin. He offers Dezzie a job working with the family firm, but Dezzie soon realises that he'll be working as Yasin's right hand man as a triad. And then the fun begins. It's basically a gangster film set in Manchester amongst the Chinese community, so it's quite different.

What was the inspiration behind the story?

I don't know if it was an urban legend or what. Basically Alan just pitched me it in a couple of lines that day and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I was like, "That sounds great. I wish I'd thought of that." So he asked me did I want to write it with him.

We started writing a treatment, just batting it back and forth by email. I wrote up a pitch and took it round a load of meetings. After The Street I was doing 5 meetings a day in London, so people were keen to see what I was on next and I was buzzing about Act of Grace. Their reactions varied. Some were interested but didn't want to pursue it, some said they "couldn't see it working". Actually I must remember to send them tickets for the premiere ha ha.

How did you get funding to make Act of Grace?

Alan dealt with the whole thing. I'm still amazed how he pulled it together - he's a natural producer, even having never done the job before. He approached a load of people he knew with money, got Jody, Leo, Jennifer on board, then Noreen our director and put together a business plan. He sold his house and put money from the sale into getting it started and to pay for shooting a trailer, then he had a load of booklets made up with the attached cast and crew, copies of the trailer and he held funding nights for the investors and sold them on the film. We didn't even have a script in place, as I was too busy working on other stuff and we kept changing the story, as something wasn't right. Before we knew it the money started coming in and the shoot date was approaching.

There was something still not right with the story but we'd been living and breathing it for over a year, so I asked Alan if I could show it to Max, as he's always great at coming at things from a different angle. Every time I was in London I'd get talking to Max about Act of Grace and he was really interested, always coming back with loads of ideas, so Alan said he'd trust my judgement and while he was busy with the finance and production side of things, I worked with Max on the existing treatment and we did another draft and came up with the story we have now. Then I gave it to you for your thoughts and asked you be ruthless with it, which was exactly what it needed a that stage and the notes and suggestions you had for improving it were great - everyone was really pleased with them.

We took them on board then, met up with Alan and Noreen Kershaw the director and made more changes, did another draft and then I suggested we write an act each. Alan did the first, I did the second and Max did the third, but as lead writer (I think that's their nice way of saying 'oldest') I then did a polish. Even through the shoot I was rewriting scenes because of location changes and stuff. I'd get a phone call from Alan around 11pm, scribble down a load of stuff and have the scenes turned round for the following morning. In fact even though we wrapped on Saturday Max has just emailed me some voiceovers we need for Leo to do!
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There you have it: proof that if you want something badly enough, you make it happen? Quite possibly. Thanks Marc!

TMW: The logline and synopsis, plus links, photo and the trailer!!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I'm F****** Matt Damon

'Cos I really need a laugh today... Though maybe not 'cos I have knackered my ribs in a freak cat-and-toy-train incident resulting in me falling UP the stairs. Whatever the case, thanks to Good Dog for the links.

Guillermo in THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM.

Sarah Silverman's Confession to Jimmy Kimmell about Matt Damon:



Enjoy!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Speakers Confirmed for Mead Kerr Course

THE ART AND BUSINESS OF ADAPTATION

As 80% of last year's new film and TV projects were adaptations this course is a must for all writers and producers.

For those of you’ve who’ve already booked, and those of you still thinking about it...here are the speakers and panel members we have lined up so far – more to be confirmed later this week.

BASED ON A TRUE STORY. Peter Broughan (Bronco Films) Producer of "Rob Roy" and "The Flying Scotsman" on working with true stories and real characters.

MAKING THE PERFECT SQUARE. Hugh Taylor - MD of Birlinn Publishers and Jan Rutherford, Publicist - represents novelist Alexander McCall Smith, "The No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency". The author, publisher, producer and screenwriter all want the adaptation of a popular work to be a success. How can they best work together?

SCREENWRITER AT WORK. Bernard MacLaverty - award winning novelist, broadcaster and screenwriter of “Lamb” and “Cal”. Currently adapting "The Cone Gatherers" for an A list Hollywood director. Bernard will talk about his award winning adaptation of the Seamus Heaney poem "Bye, Child" and the techniques he employs when adapting material.

We are still in the process of lining up more speakers and this promises to be a hugely informative couple of days. All our previous courses have sold out, and we already have bookings from the throughout the UK. Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to boost your career prospects.

DON'T FORGET: You may be able to claim up to 80% of the costs of attending the course from Skillset’s Screen Bursaries. If you're based in Scotland already, click here.

You can also see praise for our courses from previous attendees at our website.

THE ART AND BUSINESS Of ADAPTATION
Sat 15th and Sun 16th March
At the Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh.
£120.00 inc. VAT and lunch

For more info or to book a place please e-mail or call us on the number below.

Kind regards
Clare

Clare Kerr
Producer
E: info@meadkerr.com
T: 44 (0) 131 554 4539
Website
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Check out the links in the article for more details about the speakers. Some fab people so far, can't wait to see who else is lined up. Anyone else going to this course or thinking of going? Let me know!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Writing & Ethics, Part 1

In UK Law (and I would imagine many other countries, including the US), if you instigate, persuade or tell someone to enact a crime and they do it, this is called incitement. This is why someone like Charles Manson, who never actually murdered anyone, will spend the rest of his life in jail for inciting his minions to do it for him. (I understand the exception to this rule is when you hire a hitman to kill someone: then you are as guilty of murder as the person who does the actual murdering).

This is not a post about law, crime or suitable punishment however. This is more about the responsibility we have as writers and what exactly constitutes "incitement" with regard to media - and whether it even has a place at all. I'll explain.

Last September, I touched on the notion of responsibility on this blog and the results were intriguing: some writers complained of censorship, that we should write whatever we like; others said that we DO have a responsibility and should ensure those watching/reading our work do not suffer from or because of our point of view; others still entreated other writers that it wasn't anyone's fault if people copy your work - if people are unhinged, they will do whatever they want regardless. There were some insults and cross words bandied about, ladeled with more than a soupcon of sarcasm and/or desperation that others could not see it the way the poster saw it (and I was no exception btw).

The conversation thread ran to 97, the longest I've ever seen on the Bang2write blog: feelings ran extremely high, very few people saw eye-to-eye and there was no resolution as such (that I could see, anyway). It was exactly what great debates are about as far as I'm concerned: those difficult things that AREN'T black and white and ARE difficult to put your finger on. Read it here if you haven't already. whilst I don't agree with what all the commenters say and some I downright disagree with, I've always believed what Malcom X once said, "I have more respect for the man who tells me his position...even if he's wrong." A bit of solipsism there of course, but then we are all guilty of that I should think.

So with this notion of incitement in mind - this idea that you tell someone to do something (and they do it), you are GUILTY of inciting them and should be punished for that - I have a few questions for you today. I'm keeping my thoughts under wraps for the minute, but I think it would be really interesting to hear what you guys out in www.land think:

1) If a writer writes a movie in which a murder (or similar) occurs and someone copies that in REAL LIFE, is that movie "incitement"?

2) If the movie DOES qualify as incitement, who should be punished in accordance with the law: the screenwriter? The Producer? The Director? The person who came up with the idea in the first place (I suppose it being a spec/commissioned would come into play here). All of them??

3) If the movie DOES NOT qualify as incitement, then how FAR does a movie have to go to qualify as such? Or can a movie NEVER manage this? Why not?

Your thoughts please...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Weekend Round Up

I'm working like a beeatch at the moment and feel like one of those wobbly head dolls you get in tacky souvenir gift shops... Only if I stand still long enough, I think my head will actually fall off and go rolling down the street like Vivien's in The Young Ones, so better make this quick.

First off, there is a winner of The Red Planet Prize - A Miss Joanna Leigh! Well chuffed a laydee has claimed the prize and beaten all those fellas back with a pen in the eye and a high heel on the back of the head (well, metaphorically, I'm sure she didn't kill anyone... Or is that where I went wrong, I didn't spill enough blood??? If you're reading Joanna, get in touch and tell us! ;)

Secondly well done to our very own Sir Daniel for placing in the times/Chicken House Children's book prize with long term writing partner Sam Morrison. They're in the top 5 out of a whopping 2000 entries! It's a cutting edge read I hear, about children enslaved by monster chickens in a time not far from now - spookee. Wait a minute, the doorbell's ringing...

...Oh it's Danny (what? We both live in sunny Bournemouth...). He says there are no monster chickens. Well then, I'm copyrighting that one since that is clearly a terrible oversight on his part, the briefly *clearly* calls for some. Tut. It's a great achievement regardless of the lack of gigantic poultry, so get over to Danny's place and give him a big fat virtual kiss. Avoid his virtual beard however. Scratchy.

In the blogsophere, peeps are mighty busy of late I note: James Moran's career continues to skyrocket and he has done his very first podcast ever and is jetting off to bi-mon-sci-fi-con soon (or something like it). He is so successful now you do realise that soon we will have to address him as "sir" whilst rubbing ourselves with his beloved marmalade just to access his blog page. Quite frankly he must be stopped, the man's a maniac: only last week he confessed to having monkey sex in his mind with all of those who enjoyed his episode of Torchwood. I feel used, used and dirty Moran! You said you would respect me in the morning!

On a slightly more educational note then, Lianne's adaptation group will reconvene on Feb 26th to discuss the novella and movie Stand By Me. This is a very worthy adaptation and is a fantastic exercise for you scribes out there, so I do hope you will be taking full advantage of our Lianne. Ooo er. But anyway: click here for more details if you want to get involved.

Similarly Sheikspear has some rather marvellous educational links up that may prove some use, one's by some bird called Lucy Vee, you'll want to skip that bit due to deja vus, but check out the others. similarly, The Potdoll has some good ones too about online writing courses.

Finally, News Sluice has described little ol' me as "svelte" and "effervescent" which must mean it's well, news. And probably news to you, 'cos it certainly was to me...

Have a good weekend!