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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

SAFE Trailer

I've been maxxed out with scriptwriting and script reading in recent weeks and my director Schuman has been up to his eyes in it, but I'm proud to announce the official trailer for our DIY short SAFE is finally here. Won't be long now before the final edit is done and Schu and I can draw up a list of all the film fests we'd like to try for. Enjoy!



Don't forget SAFE Films members on Facebook get regular updates about our progress and see stuff like the trailer first! Just click on the pic of the bloody hand on the right or here to join.

Monday, March 30, 2009

What Makes A Strong Female Character?

We don't see a lot of *good* female characters, especially on the silver screen. I'm often tearing my eyes out with rage at the depiction of women as hapless victims - or conversely, super-hard, super-capable men with boobs. Where are all the real women??? The average movie might not know, but depressingly a lot of spec scripts don't either. Read my take on what makes a strong female character - it's over on Twelve Point right now. What do you mean, you haven't got a subscription?? No excuses! Get one now. You're missing out, buster.

Theme

Theme is something a reader is often asked to comment on in script reports. Sometimes it is very obvious: "good versus evil" for example is one of the oldest themes you care to mention and can be applied to hundreds, if not thousands, of stories whether they're movies, shorts, TV or novels. Sometimes a theme is a specific message the writer wants to communicate - and usually these can be applied to moral tales of where society is going; how women and/or children should be treated; how fortune favours the brave; how life is a triumph of hope over experience; how moral cowards, fascists or bullies will always get their comeuppance. Sometimes the very stories a writer chooses to write will communicate the theme that most concerns them; if you remember I call this re/presentation and believe it is part of your voice as a writer. However a reader will need the privilege of reading most, if not all of the body of a writer's work to really be sure of this idea - and even then, their own perception may colour this. For example, a loyal reader of mine believes the theme that "infects" my body of work is:

Life is shit. Get over it.

My take? Yes, there's a certain element of that through my work - regardless of genre. I've written (with varying degrees of "success") comedy, horror, thriller, supernatural thriller, psychological drama and action-adventure now and certainly, characters have to face a lot of crap to get what they want in my stories. But drama is conflict, as our old mate Syd is so fond of saying. I'm also from the school of "Get on with it"; I have no time for people who bleat about how terrible their lives are yet do nothing to help themselves. You don't want it this way? So change it. Yes it's hard: none of us live charmed lives. But sometimes the only person with the power to change your life is you. Cheesy, yes; a cliche, undoubtedly; but like all cheesy cliches there's truth there.

So what is my theme, according to me?

If I had known then what I know now, would I have done what I did?

Guilt, remorse, a wish to turn the clock back, a belief that future happiness is based on "undoing" past wrongs are all present in my stories, no matter the execution; no matter who the protagonist is - male, female; strong or weak; young or old. Interestingly, the antagonist is nearly always stronger than the protagonist; usually physically (and usually a male pitched against a female); I have one script in which twin boys are pitched against each other, identical in every way but for the fact the slightly younger brother is more academic, more sporty, better with words than his slightly older, nerdier twin. Even in the two scripts where I have a protagonist who is also THEIR OWN antagonist, their "dark side" is stronger than their goodness, which is more vulnerable and looks like it will be crushed in its wake.

Of course, it's all too easy to imagine we "know" the writer from the page or production. I've noticed in several of the blogosphere's very own James Moran's TV episodes, he has characters open their front door - AND SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS. In Torchwood, a character is killed by an alien sleeper agent with a spiky arm; in Spooks: Code 9 a character is killed in a similar way, only by a knife-wielding human. It would be very easy to suppose James himself has opened the door himself to something threatening, but in reality it's actually just a very effective, dramatic screenwriting device and nothing more. There is such a thing as reading between the lines TOO MUCH.

It does pay however to be aware of the theme of your story - and which themes preoccupy you as a writer AND a human being ('cos they're not always the same). Many writers resist the notion of communicating anything in their stories - "It's just a story" they'll insist - but a story is a communication in itself, no matter the medium. Whilst readers and viewers can take theme, symbolism and allusion too far, there is more than a good chance you will be asked what ideas concern you as a writer, whether it's in an interview or on a script report.

So I've told you mine: what do YOU want to write about?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Date Stamp 3 - 2pm, 21.03.09

So there's another Date Stamp up celebrating spring - I know what you're thinking, where's Date Stamp 2?! Well I went and FORGOT to take a picture when it was due: Friday 13th! Whoops. I even took the digital camera out in readiness in the morning (the time for the stamp was 1pm), then didn't even think about it til 7pm that evening!! Argh. You will remember that week I had three million trillion scripts to read; that's my story and I'm sticking to it, daft as it is.

So take a look at the lovely photos, all taken at the same time all around the world - fascinating stuff. Those of you who follow my blog regularly may be interested to see a rare sighting of my alien spawn, Alfie and Lilirose. Bring it on.

Check out the Date Stamp here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Special 600th Post: The Art of Consequence

Scribes often write to me and ask, based on my script reading, how I can recognise a "good" script. The answer? I'm not sure you can put it into words. If you have a relationship that works, think of that moment you knew you were going to spend the rest of your life with that person. You just know, right? Cheesy, but true. Sure they annoy the crap out of you by leaving the seat up or using your razor on their legs, but ultimately This Is It. That's not to say it won't go to Hell at some point of course (hey, I'm the cheery type) but the intention is there: you're in it for the long haul and will take most (we don't want any martyrs here, thank you) of what life throws at the pair of you.

Scripts are the same then. I rarely read scripts that are perfect; very often I will find myself writing recommendations for development, even on the excellent ones. In fact, I can think of about two scripts in the last five years where I have had to report back to the writer and say: "I can't think of anything", they were that good. In short, the likelihood of your script coming back to you without even the most minor of quibbles is practically zero. There's also the point you can't change everything to suit everyone. You have to weigh up the POVs and remember what YOU wanted to achieve. I've received excellent pointers which I have ignored every bit as much as the self-centered rubbish some twisted readers spout due to their frustrations at not getting anywhere themselves. It happens, suck it up and move on.

Yet despite those excellent scripts not being *perfect*, they still stand out. Very often readers will talk about writers or scripts just being a "unique voice" or "talented", but that doesn't actually tell the rest of us mere mortals how to get a piece of that action. Similarly, writers are often told "story is king", but we all know that not ALL stories appeal to all of us - and that very often telling a story isn't an exact science and how one person tells one is different to another. On top of that, everyone has different strengths: some writers find dialogue easy - but we know good dialogue is not enough to carry a story; equally, good characters can sometimes take up too much story space; good structure is always a good start, but it's not a miracle cure. And who is good at all of these things, all of the time? No one, that's who. And on top of THAT, everyone knows there are no rules. Oh yeah: as William Goldman rightly said, no one knows what the hell they're doing either.

So how the hell can we improve, get better and get that all-important option or deal???

Well, for this 600th post, I thought I would really try and nail what *makes* a "good" story (and thus, *presumably*, a good script), based not only on my script reading, but my own specs - the ones people have responded well to AND the ones people have not. I've been chewing it over for the last couple of weeks, watching movies, reading through past reports and for me, it's come down to one thing:

Consequence.

When I read or write a script or watch a film, I want, no NEED the feeling the events which transpire happen as a kind of "chain reaction". I've written about that before with reference to structure, but in actual fact, this chain reaction actually "infects" everything to do with storytelling - theme, pace, character, plot, dialogue, the works. If you can present a story in such a way the reader and/or viewer is left with the feeling one thing HAS to happen because of another, you may well have cracked how to tell that story.

Of course, the Greeks were masters at this. Sophocles’ story of “Electra” is besieged with issues of morality; it would have been easy for the play to have become hypocritical in its approach. Indeed, Electra’s brother Orestes' slaying of both their mother Clymenestra and her lover Aegisthus in revenge for their murderous plot against their father is one of betrayal and double standards. Sophocles does not wash over this and make it a discrepancy; instead he embraces the concept and calls forth the consequences that will surely follow Orestes’ actions:

“This house of Atreus must, it seems, behold
Death upon death; those now, and those to come."

Aegisthus

Just as Orestes and Electra avenged their own father’s death and exacted a bloody fate on their mother and Aegisthus, the nature of consequence alluded to by Sophocles is that life is a chain reaction: Orestes and Electra are not Clymenestra’s only children and she and Aegisthus have offspring of their own. By the very virtue of Orestes’ murder and Electra‘s rage, another event has been set in motion: Aegisthus and Clymenestra’s children avenging their parents by killing Orestes, their murderer… And so it goes on, a family history bathed in blood and murder throughout the generations.

It's this feeling of "consequence" then which is often missing from specs: the reader is left feeling that *anything* could have happened in an event's place instead of what is on the page. You can tell a story any way you like, of course - but tie it together tight. Make the reader feel as if the character is driving the narrative, lighting the touchpaper so your chain reaction can go off. Make us feel your way is the only way your story can go.

PERFECT CIRCLE - ORESTES

Monday, March 23, 2009

INFECTED

RUN, RUN FOR THE HILLS! Bang2write Towers has been infected with the dreaded pox. Well, actually just one of us: wee girl. She's fine; she's slightly more irritable than usual (how can we tell???) but otherwise has been getting on with her life causing as much havoc as possible, only with spots. It does mean the nursery won't take her however, so looks like I'll be script reading this week under the cover of darkness. Fantastic. So no more scripts please - if you need yours read, please book in for next week when she's back at the nursery covering THEIR walls in felt tip and threatening to fight them all. Ah, the joys of parenthood...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wading Through Maple Syrup

True story: I once fell in a vat of maple syrup. I was 15 and the guy who would later become my Hub was told by our then-boss at the castle we worked in to hose me down with the spray-thing they used to wash the cobbles of the courtyard.

Teaching English as a foreign language (which is what I"m doing this week), is akin to wading through maple syrup every single day, particularly when you're teaching people with very little or patchy English when you don't speak theirs either. Take yesterday for example:

STUDENT: Lucy, Lucy! I am in great pain.

LUCY: What is wrong with you?

STUDENT: Nothing is wrong, I am in pain.

LUCY: That's what's wrong... Never mind. What is the problem?

STUDENT: I have a bladder in my foot.

LUCY: I don't think you do. Your bladder is inside you.

STUDENT: Yes, inside my foot.

LUCY: Describe the "bladder" to me.

STUDENT: We go walking... Shoes hurt me.

LUCY: Ah. You have BLISTERS on your feet.

STUDENT: That's what I said.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Killing Time

I've lost count of the number of times scribes have described to me a need to "allow for time" in their story when I've suggested a need to cut various things, particularly in Set Up. Sometimes it's because they feel pace will be adversely affected if they don't and the story will become "too fast"; other times they worry it won't seem "realistic" since in real life a character will of course have to go to work, school, etc as well as deal with the situation they find themselves in.

First things first, there's no such thing as a story being too fast. The majority of scripts readers see are simply too SLOW, especially when dealing with The First Act. Very often specs in the pile will introduce a character THEN the situation, when the two should go hand in hand. The faster you are at introducing us to BOTH - regardless of genre! - the better received your spec will be. In short, most specs do not hit the ground running. Instead, the reader will be left wondering for five, ten, even fifteen pages or above, what the story is about. This is the MTV generation: we don't have the languid pace of the eighties anymore where protagonists can be introduced ten or even fifteen minutes in like Harrison Ford in WITNESS. Whilst there are always notable exceptions, 9 times out of 10 you want to be establishing your protagonist and the situation they are in as quickly as possible.

Secondly, we're not dealing with reality: a script is only ever a REPRESENTATION of reality. You can compress time then - and generally speaking, the quicker the better (though again there are notable exceptions and what this actually means is open to interpretation). From the scripts I've read and the genre movies I've seen, I would venture action movies, horror, thrillers and the like seem to work best when the story takes in approximately twelve hours to four days - anything else *feels* like a stretch to me and can sap the urgency, so jeopardy is threatened. Dramas can take in a lot more time, though I would never recommend being too specific about how long a space of time it's taking in. Biopics are a massive exception in that they can take in an entire lifetime, but of course it pays to play with truth in this genre, bending it at will to produce the most conflict and thus the most drama in a story.

In turn, you can compress and/or bend anything else you want. Yes, in reality your lead needs to go to school, college or work. But if they're dealing with an alien invasion, corporate takeover, army coup, apocalypse, the revelation their best friend is a Nazi, a homicidal spouse, vampires, siege or unplanned pregnancy, then the *general* rule of thumb is DEAL WITH THE STORY, NOT REALITY.

If you can tell the story well, I can guarantee the reader is not going to be asking, "Why isn't the lead at school/work?" They'll be asking instead, "What is this person going to do next to deal with the situation in this story?"

Monday, March 16, 2009

Oh. My. God.

You know you've had one of *those* weekends when you wake up first thing on Monday and wonder where it's gone. It's simply flashed by - and all I have to show for it is an aching head and a fuzzy tongue. Whoops.

The schenenigans kicked off about 4pm on Friday. You will remember I had to read four million trillion screenplays last week, so the moment I was done, I whizzed off down the pub to meet screenwriting sirs Martin, Tim and Lord Stackshire. I started off on pints of Guinness, always a bad mistake when one hasn't had any lunch - and even switching to halves didn't stop me from entertaining said fellas with a bout of hiccups and several meandering (not to mention dodgy) anecdotes.

I then got on the bus (still hiccuping): had a row with the bus driver who didn't believe he was stopping near my house when he BLATANTLY WAS and I ended up practically jumping Indiana Jones-style off the bus at my stop. On the way home I bought chips, some more beer and weirdly, cigarettes even though I don't actually smoke (they're still in the cutlery drawer, sorry Mum). I continued drinking when I got home to the bemusement of Hub - and ranted at Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares before falling asleep on the sofa. Hub then had to carry me upstairs but tripped over the cat so we fell UP the stairs. I'm now sporting an impressive bruise on my left elbow from the sticky-out bit that hangs down from the ceiling that holds upstairs in place (does it even have a name??).

Saturday, Hub and I both needed grease, so we took Girl Kid out for a fry up with us. She decided she doesn't eat fry ups and threw a sausage the length of Wetherspoons, an impressive feat since the Wetherspoons near us is MASSIVE. Luckily the guy whose paper it landed on was very understanding and even gave it back (I hadn't had a clue where it landed). One day that child will keep us in the manner we'd like to become accostomed no doubt by being an Olympic javelin thrower, but until then we will have to put up with the enormous - and creative - amounts of projectiles she likes to lob about whenever the feeling takes her.

We decided to take her to the park to run off some energy afterwards and upon our return we discovered THE ENTIRE INTERNET WAS GONE. Luckily it just turned out my ISP-router-thing-wotsit needed resetting (or something), but unfortunately I had completely forgotten the password. I tried every combination I could think of for about three hours, swearing all the way, before giving up and swearing some more whilst Hub calmly called his techy brother and managed to reset the password and the ISP-router-thing-wotsit in about five minutes.

Anyway. We had a Mother Hubbard situation - our cupboards were bare! - so we went food shopping and prompty lost Girl Kid who climbed into a bargain bin to hide from us. She then ran up and down the length of the pet food aisle being chased by her father whilst I finished the shopping. Later on, we made the mistake of taking our eye off Girl Kid for approximately 14 seconds to watch Ant n' Dec, so despite being newly bathed, she presents herself covered in felt tip pen, including some lovely green and purple stripes on her face because she's apparently a cat, miaow. By this point of course I needed more beer, so the cycle began again. I ended up going to help out at Sunday School yesterday with a hangover; even the vicar laughed at me.

I am a true sinner, Amen.

What did you get up to?

Friday, March 13, 2009

WATCHMEN: Mini Text Review

NO REAL SPOILERSAs you know, my spies are everywhere, reporting back to me all things of screenwriterly/movie interest. This week alone I have received reports of Keira Knightley (or someone who looks rather like her) in a coffee shop in Soho and someone off Eastenders having an argument on their mobile in the middle of the street.

However, my favourite has to be this mini review of the film WATCHMEN I received last night:

Hey, I rmbr [your lad] saying he couldn't wait to see the film Watchmen. Well I've just seen it - don't let him!! Apart from it being one of the shittest films I've ever seen, it contains medium core sex and ridiculously gory violence, ya know bones bein pushed thru skin, arms being sawn off, etc... It ain't your average super hero flick! Even Dr. Manhattan spends the whole film with his flaccid cock swinging all over the shop!

So now you know. Arf.

I'm hearing mixed reviews from the people I know who've seen Watchmen - it appears to be one of those movies you either LOVE or HATE. I haven't seen it yet and am largely ambivalent about it, one of those I'll catch on DVD no doubt, though I can't say I care for the uber-kinky sex kitten outfit the lady Watchman wears... Though if Dr. Manhattan is actually full-on nude, I guess that evens up the score a little (don't they worry about their bits getting roasted or chopped off when fighting crime??).

So - what do people out in www.land reckon? Let us know what you think: remember - if you're going to spoil, label it as such in the comments section. I don't care about spoilers, but a huge amount of people do. Bring it on...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

SPECIAL OFFER: Movie Jigsaw Printing & Binding

I always like to source deals for my Bang2writers, so I thought I'd share this link with you:

Movie Jigsaw: For All Your Printing and Binding Needs

If you need to send a hard copy of a script to a producer, contest or opportunity - STAT - but don't have time to stand in the Post Office queue (or perhaps you've got a piece of shit printer like mine that likes to have nervous breakdowns *whenever* I need to print a script but never when I need to print a LOST CAT poster), then Movie Jigsaw is the service for you. It will print, bind AND send, first class, to any destination YOU specify. This service uses the best, industry standard materials - there are no newbie presentation mistakes here, like the dreaded butterfly pins which can cut script readers' fingers, no sir.

Movie Jigsaw is run by Ian Noakes, whom some of you may remember from the first incarnation of the Movie Jigsaw site, which was a screenplay co-operative where writers all got together to create and write screenplays. It was a great site and I read many of the screenplays which came out of it, meaning I've known Ian for years. I've always found him to be honest and reliable and think this new venture will be no different.

I think this is a great idea - one writers consistently make is not sending scripts THE MOMENT they are asked for them. They'll dilly and dally, say they need to do a "polish" on this or that - or perhaps they need to buy more ink or get more paper, you get my drift. Now, you'll never catch me suggesting early drafts *should* be sent to anyone, but if you're in a position to be touting your wares and are asked to send a script to someone, SEND IT THAT VERY DAY, while the person has you in mind. Let nothing stand in your way -like lack of time or a crappy printer. On this basis, Movie Jigsaw could very well be for you.

Similarly, those of you who like to enter scripts in US contests which demand hard copies like Scriptapolooza or The Nicholl may be very interested to hear Ian can send to the US for you and obtain the mystical THREE BRADS, so hard to obtain here in the UK. US writers wanting to send to Europe too are very welcome.

Best of all, I have negotiated an automatic ten per cent off for ALL Bang2writers who use this service. Just let Ian know you saw this on the blog and you'll get your discount.

Movie Jigsaw site

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*).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How To Fund Your Web Show

Many thanks to Colin Donald who wants to alert all Bang2writers to his site Futurescape which examines web shows - and is currently running a series of posts on how to fund your web show. Check out the site here.

The Story Engine, Notes, Pt 2: Agents & Pitches

Here's Helen's excellent insights again - this time featuring the Blogosphere's very own James Moran and some VERY interesting stuff about agents and pitching. Enjoy!
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Screening: TORCHWOOD - SLEEPER

Writer James Moran gives a live commentary to his episode of the popular sci-fi series. Followed by Q+A.

Has carved out a niche in horror/sci fi

He wrote Severance but got pigeonholed after this. However then Dr Who was relaunched. He wrote the Fires of Pompeii episode. Sleeper for Torchwood as well as writing for Primeval, Spooks Code 9 and Spooks.

It’s cheaper to blow up a car than have several driving in a street (have to hire drivers etc.)

Exploding light bulb shards hard to do (dangerous!)

In Sleeper having Captain Jack ‘know’ who she is saved 5 pages. Burying exposition is necessary.

He wanted to blow a hole in the car for an aerial but it was too expensive.

Panel Discussion: Working With An Agent

Chair: Claire Malcolm

Panel: Amanda Davis, James Moran, Lisa Holdsworth

How does this crucial relationship work? When’s the right time to approach an agent? How do you find the right one? Followed by Q+A.

[If you’ve got your Adrian Mead stuff you have most of this already!]

Look at agency websites. Who do they represent? Where would you fit? Do they specialise in comedy? Drama?

Alternatively get a job in the industry and get some contacts.

Speed Pitching Workshop

with Lisa Holdsworth, David Lemon, James Moran, Ian Fenton

A practical opportunity for delegates to hone their skills in a lively speed-pitching session – just like speed-dating but without the romance.

Workshops To be booked at registration on day one on a first-come-first-served basis. Delegates choose from one of the following:

Make it Happen: DIY Filmmaking with James Harris

Bitesize Drama: Creating Narratives for Online with David Lemon

Sell The Sizzle: Creating Pitch Documents with Lisa Holdsworth

Spontaneous Combustion: Creative Thinking with Ian McLaughlin

Approaches to Adaptation with Steve Chambers

Please note I chose Lisa’s workshop, Sell the sizzle.

Lisa Holdsworth

40 episodes Emmerdale, Fat Friends, New Tricks, Robin Hood


Sell the Sizzle… not the steak.

For TV should be one or two pages.
Don’t have sub headings.
Don’t have reams of story
Make it very conversational
Sell yourself.

Don’t tell us:

The entire story in minute detail.
Be longer than 2 pages.
About every minor character.
Have clich├ęd characters: eg feisty single mum.
Emphasize characters – why would we want to spend 6 hours with them?
Don’t say where the show should be scheduled.
Don’t’ say how it will be shot.
Don’t say ‘a bit like The Wire’ No no no!
Don’t say who you intend to cast (unless someone attached)

Do

Communicate how excited you are about your idea
Explain why this project right now (first question at Channel 4)
Make us love or hate your main characters.
Tell us why people will watch your show (perhaps should be top of list)
Pack a punch
Leave them wanting more
Hold back the ending (unless a one off)

Structure (the Holdsworth way)

1. A grabbing title
Heroes and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are great. Firefly is a great show but not a great title.

2. Logline to create intrigue

3. Summary paragraph that sells the central premise of the show

4. 1.5 pages of blistering prose that sets up the story/style, tone of show

Lisa writes 3 pages and edits down.

4. Final para explains why this is the show telly was made for.

Don’t include personal credits – it detracts from this idea (will be in CV or covering letter)

THIS IS GOING TO BE BRILLIANT!

They are always looking for a reason to say no. Don’t give them one.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Story Engine, Notes, Pt 1: Internet

I've had a huge pile of scripts dumped on me from a great height plus my usual Bang2writers' fare, so I won't be coming up for air for at least a week... Luckily, Bang2writer and blog reader Helen (whose surname, aptly, is "Bang" - for real!) went to The Story Engine the other week and has composed some comprehensive notes on the events there for us. I was GUTTED to not have time to go to this, so was very grateful to Helen for taking the time to write it up for us. First, we have how the internet can work for screenwriters. Enjoy!
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Panel Discussion: New Horizons

Chair: Malcolm Wright, ITV plc

Panel includes: David Lemon, Warren Harrison

How is the internet changing the way we consume drama, and what are the opportunities for writers? Followed by Q+A.

The Internet.

Coronation Street began in 1960. It still pulls in 8.8 million viewers. 25 of top 50 programmes are dramas or soaps. But it is changing.

Channel 4 Monday programme Roots began on the web.

Web based dramas include: I love Chief Towns (?), Sofia’s Diary and Kate Modern.

Average adult spends 12 hours per week on the web.
12-24 year olds have doubled web use over last few years.

All of it is still first person to camera which has problems of suspense as the audience is never ahead of the story.

Financing (monetising) still a mystery. There are no repeat fees, for instance. No scheduling. Production is completely different.
Marketing is through community websites – viral.

But Commissions are still King.

Timeslots are rigid at 5 minutes. Advertising intrudes on content. There are budget restrictions. Who can determine ratings, numbers, type of people, loyalty?

However, it’s changing daily – ITV and Channels 4 and 5 may merge.

David Lemon

Sofia’s Diary. 3-5 min webisodes. Updated daily. Bebo teenage social website.

Financing – through product placement and ads. Before drama. Sofia works at a fashion house, hence product opportunity.

Warren Harrison

15 hours of content are uploaded every minute onto YouTube.

The Guild is entirely fan funded. By subscription. 9-10 million watching. People talking about real lives when not playing games.

Bite sized stuff works. But viewer could be doing several things at once. It is fan led.

MSN. Orange mobile ?Vista paid huge sums to be associated with the brand.

Production values – not so important to 16-25 age group.

Older generation? Nothing aimed at them (yet).

53% of population value user generated content as highly as broadcast content.

Younger people value it more.

Lonely Girl 15: teenage confessional. 1,867,813 views (1 min 35 sects) but people keep coming to it all the time.

How to write very short things – be succinct. Pose a question, answer the question.

Similar to radiodrama in terms of paychecks.

360 degree commisioning – want something which can have a life on TV, mobiles, download, print etc.

Tom Thurloe was a Hollyoaks fan. Put stuff on Bebo. Talked to young fans. Channel 4/Endemol/Big Brother, MTV.. now works there.

Sony have Crackle – short form comedy/drama web based TV channel.

The advertising/funding model collapsing in the UK but web based drama can target specific groups.

Buzzcocks – a group in Blythe making film getting BBC Comedy knocking on the door.

Case Study: Ali In Wonderland

Tina Gharavi outlines the unique development of her first feature film through community work, both in the real world and in the virtual one.

Tina Had documentary background. Not waiting for permission to do work.

Returning from Iran, shared the asylum seekers experience. These were writers and journalists in exile.

She worked on the first draft with an adult group – it’s a teen coming of age film.

For phase 2 having got a producer involved had to develop script and worked with young people.

Minority stories are now more viable business option then ever before.

On line animated comic book, a Wikki, a story arc they could change, a forum and blogs.

Intended to market the film to schools as a National curriculum citizenship project for Key Stage 3. This will be a resource inspiring social change. Migrants in the community will relate to the characters in the story.

No ‘film’ money was used to make the film.

She found resources from different sources. £100,000 budget. Got ‘in kind’ support from the BBC, ie technology, questions, etc.

Thanks to the Facebook site the BBC asked for a meeting.

Interactive consultant – finding new ways groups can make their own version of the story. Possible support from business link for social enterprise projects.

The Ali In Wonderland Site

Friday, March 06, 2009

Date Stamp 1 - 21.02.09

Friend of the blog Pamela Schott asked me to take part in her Date Stamp experiment - basically, people across the world (and she's done a great job assembling people right across it!) all take a picture at the time she specifies and provide a little commentary to go with it. I thought this sounded interesting, so agreed to give it a go.

The first Date Stamp took place on February 21st, 2009 at 12pm GMT. I was actually at my parents' in Devon that weekend rather than Dorset. Their house has a big wall at the bottom of the garden so I wasn't feeling particularly inspired - I had hoped to be travelling across somewhere like Exmoor and finding some lovely ponies or something. Alas, it wasn't to be.

I did, however, find something suitably gruesome and yukily interesting to photograph out near my Dad's car parking space. Thought it summed me up to a tee.

Go check it out.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Sacrificing Facts For Drama

Sacrificing facts for drama is a difficult balance. After all, all of us want our reader (and thus our audience) to suspend their disbelief; the last thing we want them to do is splutter, "As if!" Here's a list of why we might sacrifice facts for drama:

Drama. Really obvious, but writers consistently duck away from really engaging with the dramatic, myself included. They'll write a good scene, but refuse to take it as far as they possibly can in order to squeeze the most drama out of it. Often this will be because they won't want to put their characters through a particular trauma - or they feel fraudulent, making something up in order to do that (this is very often the case in biopics or stories that draw on autobiographical elements). It's okay to make stuff up; it's what we do.

Accurate doesn't mean interesting. Even if you're a policeman, doctor or scientist, I bet you three million squid, plus tentacles, you'd sooner have quality drama than accurate drama. Yes this doctor *might* not be treating that patient exactly "right" and okay, that crime scene's not been secured properly - but what is the actual storyline like? Similarly, all the jargon should add to the arena, not get in the way of understanding what the hell the characters are on about - hence characters often translating for the audience not-so-subtly: "I found an embryo embedded in the uterine wall"/"She's pregnant?" (CSI this week). When it comes to science, we want the L'oreal version: "Here comes the science part!", NOT an in-depth, blow-by-blow, highly accurate version. Think Jurassic Park here - dinosaurs come from DNA in mosquitoes encased in amber! Really??? Yeah, whatever. BRING ON THE DINOSAURS.

Character distraction. Sometimes we let the TV shows and movies we love take gigantic liberties because it's the character we love, rather than the plot. HOUSE is a good example of this: diagnostic medicine?? I think not -- his methods are nuts and so is he. But we love him for it, we are captivated by him, the character; we want to know what he will do next. Of course, it's a dangerous one because if you DON'T love House himself, you probably hate the show because it's nuts in the realism stakes. Swings and roundabouts.

Jeopardy 1: desperate measures. We've all heard the stories about the woman who somehow lifted a car off their child who was being crushed by it. Basically, we can believe a character will do most things to preserve their own life or that of their child's. This is why I believed Children of Men, as detailed in the last post. She had just gone to all this trouble to have this baby - she would go to any measure to protect it. There must be women in war zones today who have had to do something similar. The reason then I couldn't believe in the script I read was I didn't feel as if the girl was desperate enough to run up four flights of stairs to escape being found: I just wondered why she didn't just give herself up. By contrast, Children of Men made me believe there was enough jeopardy, there was no way in hell they were going to give themselves up.

Jeopardy 2: rage. Sometimes characters are very logical in their approaches in the scripts I read, particularly in revenge or fighting back - sometimes they don't get angry at all, even in survival situations where they will say stuff like, "We have to remain calm". Characters can do illogical, ridiculous, even out-and-out stupid things - if we can follow their motivations for doing them: they needn't only be sensible. Sometimes the bigger, more stupid risk a character takes - particularly when it comes to the big Hollywood-style stunts, though not always - the bigger the drama: the likes of John McClane are angry - you want a piece of me? HAVE IT RIGHT BACK.

And finally, perhaps the weirdest of all:

Sometimes "reality" seems unreal. I have lost count of the number of times I've read a script and thought "yeah right", only to check Wikipedia or ask the writer and discover, actually, that thing/event/whatever *does happen*. Weirdly, though some things are in fact true and wonderfully researched, if your average audience member is unaware of such a thing or event happening, is it worth including it if they may not believe it? Only you as the writer can decide - based on the feedback of others. I'd venture if your readers consistently don't believe it, then you need to do some fabricating to make them.

What are the best/worst examples you've seen of writers sacrificing facts for drama?

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Importance Of Research

BEWARE: SPOILERS (CHILDREN OF MEN)

Thanks to Jill, who asked me recently about research and where she can find various stuff to do with hospital treatment and accents.

The internet, I think, was made especially for screenwriters: Google is God. In fact, this was the inspiration for my Research or Die series last summer - anyone interested will find links to useful sites on stuff like language, events, disasters, heroes, villains, times, medical, crime, money right there... In fact, if an obvious thing/person/ isn't there, let me know - better still, send me the link and I'll add it. Check out the entire series here.

Thee's no doubt getting your facts right aids stories... There's nothing worse than seeing something *completely wrong* in a story -- it takes you right out of it, even destroys the read or watch at times. I got a script on a blind read recently for a company that had a young girl give birth to a baby, then run UP four flights of stairs. WTF? As any mother knows, you ain't going nowhere after giving birth. As a result, I just couldn't believe in it.

Yet -- CHILDREN OF MEN of course had a young mother doing exactly this. In fact, she's running WHILST in labour, up stairs and through war zones; she has the baby and then legs it again with good ol' Clive Owen. And I believed in this story absolutely, despite the misgivings I had of the blind script. So what's the difference??

Well, that's for the next post - but in the meantime, how important is research to YOUR stories? What kind of research do you do? How do you think research impacts on stories? Over to you...

NEXT:
Sacrificing facts for drama...