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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Story Engine, Notes, Pt 3: Features, Training, Scriptreading, Simon Beaufoy

Here's the final instalment of the marvellous Helen's notes - some interesting realities about the industry here in particular. Read on...
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My First Feature (sponsored by Northern Lights Film Festival)

David Lemon discusses his experience of writing Faintheart with Brian Gordon, the director of NLFF.

David Lemon – writer of Faintheart

He won the myspace movie mashup competition.

He wrote it in 2005 and developed it through taps.org. Slingshot Studios had a £250-£500K microbudget but the Director got in touch with Vertigo Films and eventually Film 4, the Film Council were also involved. There were 12 producers, some had more input than others.

They did combine notes so he wasn’t being bombarded with contradictory notes!

David said that casting changes how things are delivered.

Music: He knew he wanted New Romantics. And Tenpole Tudor.

High Concept worked. It had to be succinctly expressed.

He suggested looking at who represents writers you admire.

Case Study: Comedy North

Katherine Beacon, BBC Writers Room

Your script has to express your ‘voice’.
The BBC website is updated regularly.
They get at least 10,000 scripts per year. Only 3% get past the first 10 page read.

The main reason is too much scene setting and exposition in the first few pages, with an inciting incident on page 15, rather than hurling audience into dramatic situation.

More people hear a radio drama go out than see dramas on BBC Three.

Sue Roberts runs the department
Charlottes Riches is the development manager.

College of Comedy – forthcoming opportunities. Keep an eye on the website.

Panel Discussion: Training, what’s it good for?

Chair: Claire Malcolm

Panel: David Edgar, Ludo Smolski, Katherine Beacon, Lisa Holdsworth

With more training opportunities available in the UK than ever before how do you find the one that’s right for you? Followed by Q+A.

Lisa Holdsworth – had no formal training. Had degree in film (dissertation comparing Warner Brothers cartoons with feature film Speed. She got a first). The course was entirely analysing films, not practical.

She’s a telly addict.

She landed a production job in factual TV which took the ‘glamour off it as she learned what was involved in production. Also gained ability to talk to anyone.

David Edgar, playwright.

Born into theatrical family. There was no ‘writing for performance’ training before 1989. It arose out of a writers self-help movement that David Hare,Trevor Griffiths and Howard Brenton began (now that’s a tutorial!)
David spent 3 years as a journalist on a local newspaper. His most useful training.

The Script Factory
Do script development, performed readings, feedback reports, training for script readers.

BEWARE CHARLATAN COURSES. Who is running it? What is their experience? Who do they know in the industry? Do due diligence before parting with hard-earned money.
Doing a course doesn’t make you a writer.

At The Top Of The Game: Simon Beaufoy

A unique opportunity to hear one of the country’s most sought-after screenwriters discuss his career and working methods. Followed by Q+A. Chaired by Ian Fenton.

Simon almost didn’t get into the Oscars as he’d had to leave the red carpet to nip to the loo and the security people didn’t want to let him back in… You have to spend two hours in a car before the two hours on the red carpet and the media really want actors or maybe a famous director, not writers…

Had documentary background – trained at Bournemouth.
Among Giants was his first screenplay (had done a couple of shorts).
The Italian producer of The Full Monty asked him to write The Fully Monty on the back of Among Giants script.

A sense of Place is really important. Be specific – not just ‘a town’.

He asked the inhabitants of Mumbai “If you had a camera what would you film?” The stories in Slumdog Millionaire came directly from this, not from the book the film was adapted from.

When he has writer’s block he finds physical activity kickstarts his writing.

He was offered things like Conan the Barbarian IV after The Full Monty but didn’t want to do big budget stuff so went back to small British films.

He learned he’s not a director. Likes to think about things, not answer hundreds of questions immediately.

The bigger the budget the more interference from the studios/backers.

“This is not a love story” came out of frustration and not getting things made. Everyone had two jobs eg script editor/sound woman. It was shot in 2 weeks and edited in 6 weeks.

The film was put on the web and supposed to be funded by £1.50 fee to view. Unfortunately a hacker repeatedly crashed the website, believing that everything on the internet should be free so all the money was lost.

He signed away his percentage on The Full Monty for £250 for a rewrite when broke. He said he was ‘badly advised’!!!

He recommends going down the guerrilla film making route as more people will see the film on YouTube than see a film pulled from the cinema after one week.

If you want the Leicester Square/red carpet stuff it is a one in a million chance.

Slumdog Millionaire – was it true it nearly went straight to DVD in the USA?

Warner had just fired anyone who knew anything about indie films. Fox wanted to buy it from Warner “Oh, is it any good?” so the wrangling went to and fro, it was going to go to DVD and then it got picked up at the last minute.

Simon said he has learned to husband his resources – at times all films look great/terrible etc. Has learned to step back a bit.

When adapting a book he said you should remain faithful to the soul of the book but everything else can change. Literal adaptations will fail. He is brutal with adaptations.

He’d love to work with director Ang Lee.
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Thanks Helen!! Brilliant notes there, defo the next best thing to going (*sob*).

2 comments:

Milli Thornton said...

Great notes, Helen. Thanks so much for doing this so the rest of us can benefit.

Fascinating stuff.

Antonia said...

I said thanks to Lucy, in an earlier post, so a big thank you to Helen for taking the trouble to share.