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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Final Draft 8 - Review

I've been writing so long now I started on a typewriter. Seems mad now; you can't delete typos, you don't get multiple copies (can't store them either) and maybe it was just me, but I always used to get my eight year old fingers stuck between the "s" and the "z", taking the skin off them. Ouch!

I never came across Final Draft until I became a script reader; at university I always used MS Word and manually formatted as I went along. God it was dull! And time consuming. Final Draft's price tag put me off at first; I thought, what could screenwriting software do that I couldn't?? Then I had a go on it and loved it, so had to eat my words: it really did take the stress out of formatting. But I didn't have a computer at this time and besides, I was a single Mum and had other stuff to buy, like food.

Anyway. Fast forward to 2005 and I had some spare money and I was gonna buy me Final Draft. Being a canny shopper I tried all the others as well, even the free ones, but they just didn't do it for me. There was something so much simpler to Final Draft; I could write on it without reading the instructions and it didn't explode or turn my scripts into gobbledy-gook. Naturally, being a technohoper not reading the instructions meant it took me most of the last four years to figure it out - I only found the "script notes" function about three months ago, lol - but basically: I was a Final Draft user and very happy generally with my lot. So when Final Draft revealed the much-anticipated Final Draft 8 and kindly offered me a copy to try, I have to admit I didn't see *how* they could improve it. Whilst Final Draft was by no means perfect, it had everything I wanted... Or thought I wanted.

First off, it looks different: in addition to the top tool bar "Final Draft/ File/ Edit/ View" etc, there's another tool bar directly underneath with picture icons to click on, making navigating to many functions A LOT easier and quicker. The title page is now one of those icons on the top tool bar as you write which I think is a great idea, since it took me AGES as a Final Draft newbie to figure out how to change it. What's more, the spelling/thesaurus function is easily on hand too, which is great cos I often access the latter and find it really irritating to keep having to select it from the Tools drop-down menu. Script Notes too are on there now and it's suddenly a function I use, unlike before when it was hidden away.

But the real advantage to Final Draft 8 over Final Draft 7 is the new "scene properties" button on the icon toolbar. Click it and a little window comes up where you can name or number the scene, make any notes on it that you want - or perhaps you want to "sum up" the scene or break it down - and you can colour code it too, one of seven colours including red, purple and grey. To help you do this there's a Navigator so you can find all the stuff you need at a glance.

Whilst this multi-coloured function might seem superfluous to some, I think it's a brilliant idea for those writers in need of help diagnosing structural issues in particular or other elements going "wrong" in their early drafts who don't respond to more manual methods like index cards. I read a lot about other writers using corkboards, whiteboards, coloured pens and whatnot and the whole thing leaves me cold; I like it just me and my Macbook, so the opportunity to do the multi-coloured thing in the actual software is brilliant for me. Just imagine how much easier it will be now to flag up those "gut feelings" on problematic scenes - you can write a note to yourself, highlight it, come back to it later... I had essentially been doing this manually myself on Final Draft 7 using the highlighter from the "Format/Elements" function, but this is a waaay easier and more time-efficient way of doing it, plus there's the room to make as many notes as you like without actually infringing on the text of your script like I was before.

I had just two criticisms: the "Assign Voices" function sounds as robotic as ever and they've put "save as pdf" under PRINT rather than FILE, which I think is a mistake as I've had several Twitter and email conversations with stressed writers believing there is no PDF function anymore when there most definitely is.

Overall however, Final Draft 8 has enough about it to feel like a much-improved Final Draft 7. I think if you're wondering about taking the plunge and buying some screenwriting software, Final Draft 8 is the way to go as you'll have a much easier time of it getting started. Final Draft 7 users can buy an upgrade to 8 which is considerably less than buying the whole thing; I'd recommend it if you feel like you're not getting *enough* from Final Draft, especially in the way of navigation and ease of use diagnosing issues, etc. If you can't decide, get them to send you a demo disc [visit site below].

LINKS

Buy/Upgrade to Final Draft 8 direct

Buy/Upgrade to Final Draft 8 at The Screenwriters' Store

Buy/Upgrade to Final Draft 8 at Amazon

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Slash Fund: The Hunt Down The Back Of The Sofa Campaign!

With our last film safely (arf) in the bag, Schu and I are throwing all our efforts at our new venture, a seven minute horror/comedy short called Slash. Slash follows the fates of mismatched couple Tom and Kimberley and their disastrous weekend camping trip in the woods (yeah, yeah, you *think* you know how it goes....!)

On this basis then, please consider donating to our "Slash Fund". I know there are lots of short films around, all begging for your cash, so here are my top 4 reasons for donating to SLASH:

1) You'll be keeping Schuman off the streets. He's a single male, kinda like a rogue lion or something, so will cause havoc with the laydeez wherever he goes if he is not occupied with a film to make. HURRY.

2) I need constant validation because of my childhood - my evil siblings used to wait for me to go into the treehouse, then take the ladder away and leave me stranded. I need to channel my pain into ART.

3) You'll get a copy of the script once the final draft is signed off.

3) No matter the size of the contribution, EVERYONE gets a 19 page PDF "Secrets of Script Reading" (all new articles, NOT on the blog or the old AOL one!), written by yours truly, based on my experiences of reading literally thousands of specs.

So.... Want to be a script reader? There's bags of advice here on how to go about it... Oh, you DON'T want to be a script reader? No matter - there's lots of great stuff here on how script readers think, what they look for and how they might judge your script. This PDF has something for everyone... C'mon!

There is NO minimum or maximum donation - every penny counts! So hunt down the back of the sofa, the bottom of your handbag, your spouse's moth-eaten wallet (already plundered mine). No donation too small!

Please click on the "Donate" button on the right hand sidebar of this blog and give whatever you can.

If you're waaaaaay poor, no worries, I won't kill you*, but please forward, blog, tweet and Facebook Safe Films and tell EVERYONE you know about our campaign to get "Slash" funded!

Thank you, you're all gems. MWAH.
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* I'm calling off the dogs... now.

** At time of writing, we had our very first donation from the FABULOUS Michelle Goode! Thanks Michelle, you totally rock.

Monday, May 25, 2009

WTF? ON FILM # 7: Wilderness

SPOILERS GALORESo at the weekend I found the Brit movie Wilderness in a bargain bin. I was surprised to see it, I'd never heard of it before - especially since it starred horror/gore fave Sean Pertwee and was directed by Michael J Bassett, who directed one of my fave Brit movies ever, Deathwatch. One of the critics on the back of the DVD box hailed it as "Dog Soldiers meets Scum with a side order of Lord Of The Flies". What's not to like there?! Add that to the fact The Hub has worked with young offenders, it seemed the perfect film for us on a saturday night with a load of beer and treats.

Of course, going out into the woods/desert/whatever and getting yourself killed is not a new premise by any stretch of the imagination. Whilst it's not *exactly* my favourite of all the horror premises, I see enough specs year on year with good variations on the theme to know there's more than one way to skin a cat (or kill Sean Pertwee, who seems to making a good living appearing in such films when he's not doing Shakespeare or voiceovers for ads and nature programmes). And certainly, there have been some interesting and even good produced woodland Killer movies of the last ten years, Severance and Bone Dry being just two.

So, anyway. We settled down to watch Wilderness and practically from the off it became apparent this was a seriously "undsercooked" screenplay in terms of structure and character. The protagonist, Callum, is passed off as a mysterious loner (when in actual fact he's just underwritten IMHO) and for the first Act especially we even forget about him a bit as we concentrate on the much more interesting (not to mention vile) Steve The Bully. Davie kills himself very early - the catalyst to get our offenders to the island - yet we're left wondering why when he has an ally in Lindsay, who is also bullied. Cue the obvious: Lindsay is going to make sure *somehow* all these boys PAY for what has been done to his friend. Yawn.

There are some nice moments horror-wise. Blue, our token Asian, gets his leg cut off in a bear trap, then his head stuck in another and Sean Pertwee goes out in his usual gory glory, first getting shot by crossbows, then disembowelled by Alsatians. Similarly, the Hunter's use of dogs - and the sinister whistle that precedes their every attack - is fantastic and something I've not seen before in a woodland-killer-story. The Hunter's use of camouflage too gives the notion it's the woods coming alive to kill them as well, another nice touch.

But a few nice moments doesn't a good film make. Pertwee hasn't got much to work with in terms of his character, youth offender team leader Jed: Alex Reid, previously seen in The Descent is similarly sketchy, appearing on the island at the same time with her girl offenders as a convenient excuse for some teenage rumpy-pumpy, rather than an organic part of the story. I was also left wondering why she had to come back to life after going over the cliff in a blaze of glory, taking one of the dogs with her - just to get her throat cut moments later by The Hunter. There's a tramp also who appears on the island for seemingly no reason other than getting killed and there's even a token Black character who is killed very early on in the story too. Egad! Have we not left those days behind?? At least Parker in Alien survives until the resolution - and that was 1979!

And that's the *real* issue in Wilderness really: we couldn't give a damn about these characters. Whilst Callum waxes lyrical about how he's "different" from the other boys because he is going to get out of the "system", we never really get behind him or believe he is as "different" as he claims. In fact, he seems more and more of a psycho as the narrative goes on, advocating eating dead Alsatians and sticking their heads on spikes in some sort of pissing contest with The Hunter that never really goes anywhere and is kinda predictable because we *just know* Callum will win somehow, despite The Hunter being ex-SAS. In comparison, Steve is also a psycho, but far more interesting, offing his best friend Lewis himself (rather than let one of the Girl Offenders have him) and then allowing her to die at the hands of The Hunter when he could have prevented it. His offering Lindsay on a plate to the Hunter too was a great moment, only undermined by the fact we must surely *know* Lindsay is in on it with The Hunter, for surprise, surprise, The Hunter is Davie's Dad, the boy who killed himself at the Young Offenders' Institution earlier - and a piece of exposition Lindsay even FED to the group when they are besieged by the dogs inside the scout hut in the beginning of Act 2.

Wilderness could have been a great film, but it registers on my WTF? radar as it could have so easily been "fixed". How?

More script development.

Wilderness was supported by Northern Ireland Screen and the UK Film Council and whilst Wilderness' potential is quite obvious, the fact it is, it was hopelessly underwritten in terms of character and structure. In fact, it could easily stand as a great learning curve for wannabe scriptwriters: THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON'T DEVELOP CHARACTER AND STRUCTURE ENOUGH! Yes, plot can *sort of* work, yes you can have plenty of gore, but your film is not going to be listed amongst the great horrors when character is flimsy and structure is lumpy. And the sad thing is, it's these two things that can be fixed relatively easy - with time and a few more drafts. Now, perhaps the filmmakers didn't have a lot of time; I don't know what happened. But if they weren't given much time and this is the result, then screen agencies have to take that on board when deciding funding for films, otherwise producing rubbish movies with public money will impact negatively on the British Film Industry. Of course, maybe the movie was just pants and it happened to be the best of a bad bunch when they decided on who to give the money to before the end of the tax year.

Have you seen Wilderness? I've been quite surprised by some of the favourable reviews I've found online, the average seems to be about 3/5, when I would probably give it a 1.5 at best. What do you think?


LINKS

Wilderness on IMDB

Wilderness - trailer

Wilderness Review On IndieLondon

Wilderness on Amazon, £3.98 [plus reviews]

Thursday, May 21, 2009

OPPORTUNITY: Feature Comedy Wanted Right Now

FEATURE LENGTH COMEDY SCRIPT WANTED

Completed Feature Length Script wanted – we're looking for the next generation to the Apatow comedy.

We have raised the budget for an Ultra Low Budget Comedy for one of our directors' next project. The money is in the bank, now all we need is a brilliant script.

In 1998 it was There's Something About Mary, in 2000 it was Chuck and Buck, then in 2004 Judd Apatow took over with The 40 Year Old Virgin and followed that with Knocked Up.

We're looking for the next phase in the comedy genre for guys and ladies. The next generation of hilarious, well written, timely, crazy stories for the mid to late 20s crowd.

The lead male character needs to be the lovechild of Paul Rudd, Michael Cera and Seth Rogen.

The lead female character could be an Anna Faris, Katherine Heigl, Kristen Bell, or Mila Kunis, Ellen Page lovechild…

I think you get the picture.

We don't want a rip off of any of the above movies. We want to take the whole genre to the next stage. Surprise us! Make us laugh! Make us reflect! Make us feel all fuzzy inside!

Requirements:

The story can only be shot in Southern California

It has to be able to be done in the SAG ultra low budget range (so no Gone With the Wind, Arabian Knights scenes)

No attachments (director, producer, mother, girlfriend, etc..,) to the script other than you -- the brilliant writer.

We would like to go into preproduction by July or August 2009, so the script has to be finished and ready to be bought. You also have to be available to do a rewrite if needed in the next couple of months.

Non-WGA writers welcome. It will be a SAG Ultra Low Budget – so this won't be your huge financial script sale… but the film will be produced and amazing - not sitting on the studio shelves like so many of our friends' terrific stories.

TO SUBMIT:

Be sure to mention you heard about this from Jeff Gund at INFOLIST, and email a LOGLINE and SYNOPSIS only, in the body of the email (NOT as an attachment, and NOT the whole script), to:

metaphorcomedy2009@gmail.com

If we laugh, cry and can't stop thinking about your pitch – we'll ask you for the script.

We will definitely delete all attachments before opening to not get out lawyers upset at us… so please put the pitch/synopsis in the body of the email.

EVEN IF YOU HAVE OUR PHONE NUMBER &/OR OTHER EMAILS – PLEASE DO NOT USE THEM REGARDING THIS PROJECT.

Thank you!!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

WTF? On Film 6: Mirrors

SPOILERS APLENTY When The Hub phoned me from the DVD store to report the only two recent movies we haven't seen were this week Max Payne starring Mark Wahlberg and Mirrors starring Kiefer Sutherland, there seemed to be no contest. I've long since loved Ol' Kief, since he's starred in such childhood faves of mine Flatliners, Lost Boys and Young Guns and since of course there has been the fabulous 24. Plus Mirrors is directed by Alexandre Aja and I liked his remake of The Hills Have Eyes. So I settled down with Hub, some crisps and beer for what I thought would be a fun film.

It wasn't.

I supposed it wasn't *all bad*: it looked fabulous. The set of the burnt down department store, the make up of the burned people, the eerie, blackened corridors with melted mannequins, was great. There was some excellent gore, with the film opening with one guy slashing his throat right open and later on, Kiefer's sister (Amy Smart) pulls her own jaw off: nice! And it's not like I expected it to be a masterpiece or anything. The idea of malevolent mirrors isn't exactly a new one, but it does have enough about it to be intriguing: I'm interested in psychology and there's a recognised condition in which people's personalities fracture, so they believe there is another world, another "them" inside the mirror - they even touch on it in the movie, though they never really explored the notion in my opinion.

However, it's like Aja spends so long making it look good he forgets there's actually supposed to be a script as well. The characterisation is so under-written, with dialogue so clunky, it's embarrassing. Kiefer's sister (played by Amy Smart, who usually sparkles on screen yet has the personality of a wet fish encased in concrete in this) was such an obvious facilitator to Kiefer's character, you *just know* the mirrors are gonna get her: "You should stop taking those pills," she advises; later on: "You're just feeling conflicted right now." Sage. Same with Kiefer himself, as he says to his estranged wife, seemingly a hundred times just in case we don't remember why he's such a mess: "I killed a man!!" The wife will soothe him with "It's not your fault", only to follow it with "I'm calling the police, get away from my children!" moments later. No wonder the poor guy's feeling "conflicted".

Yet all that would have done little to register on my WTF? radar; there are countless bad films around and if I wrote a WTF? post for every one of them, I would never be short of material for this blog. Plus, I am the first to concede that films don't always come out the way their makers might have wanted; studio interference for example can raise its ugly head and make even the best screenplays become the most unadulterated dross. And let's face it, Mirrors is not the first film I've seen with bad dialogue and characterisation this year - or in my life. No, what put Mirrors squarely on my WTF? radar - so much so I resurrected this post series for it - was its resolution.

I don't get offended by film often. I don't believe there are that many *dangerous* films around, where filmmakers (wittingly or not) present viewpoints that are downright repugnant, simply because I'm squarely of the belief that story is open to interpretation and what doesn't work for me, is more than likely to work for someone else. Also, because stories are open to interpretation in my view, I figure that there is a different way of looking at it, I actively try and find ways of seeing it another way, if you will. Yet try as I might, I could not find another way of looking at the notions presented in Mirrors' resolution:

The idea that mentally ill people are possessed by demons/evil. The mirrors in the dilapidated dept store Kiefer works in has already claimed many victims; they want something - or someone: "Esseker". Doing his research, Kiefer discovers the old dept store used to be a mental hospital (here we go) and a young girl, just 12 years old, was treated there *way back when*. There was a massacre in the hospital just after this girl left (it was said she died in that same massacre, but Kiefer realises she didn't) and goes looking for her. Kiefer ends up at the Esseker farm; the brother of the girl reveals the girl - his sister - was prone to terrible rages, so much so the family had to keep her in a subterranean room under the farm. A well-to-do doctor came, diagnosed schizophrenia and took her away to the hospital. There, he made her confront her reflection for hours and hours, even days -- until at one point, as the adult girl says (now a nun), "the demon left her" and passed into the mirror. Sorry, but I gotta stop the script there: schizophrenia akin to demonic possession? What decade are we living in here, what century?! This kind of crap went out with bathing so-called "hysterical" women and those with postnatal depression in ice baths, or zapping mental patients with squillions of vaults against their will! I felt sure I had to be overreacting, yet, once the nun returns to "confront" the mirrors, what happens?! She gets blasted, the mirrors break and hey presto: a demon appears! OH. MY. GOD. Also, if the "demon" loved her so much it spends fifty years torturing security guards working on the site, WHY did it go into the mirror in the first place and kill her the moment she returns?!?

The idea that mental illness is somehow their fault. When Kiefer makes his pilgrimage to the convent to try and persuade the nun to return with him to the dept store/mental hospital, he makes a big deal of making her look at a photo of his family - they will die if she doesn't return, he says. He asks her what his children have done to deserve this fate -- a fair point you might think until you factor in these others: the nun was just a girl of 12 when she got schizophrenia. How is that her fault? Her family LOCKED HER UNDERGROUND and this doctor subjected her to HORRENDOUS TORTURE that is not even legal in this day and age. She had to go through all that, THEN hide out at a convent for the rest of her life, avoiding mirrors - and then this guy comes and asks her to go on what can only be described as a suicide mission. Whilst it's very unfortunate Kiefer's family might die, why is it her responsibility? Presumably for being so crazy as to end up incarcerated in that mental hospital/torture house in the first place. That gives me THE RAGE, big style.

What did you think?

LINKS

Mirrors on IMDB

Mirrors - trailer

Alexandre Aja - interview about Mirrors [video]

Mirrors on Rotten Tomatoes

Friday, May 15, 2009

STOP PRESS: My Mum In Big Fib Shock

As I posted only recently and several other times, I love to tell fibs, especially to my kids. So imagine MY horror when I discovered the other day my own Mum has been lying to ME for a whopping TWENTY THREE YEARS.n (No, it's not some reverse Eastenders shock where I find out my "mother" is actually my sister, stay with me, I'll need to take you back in time for this one).

I'm six years old. I've just stepped on a snail. The snail is writhing, still alive, its poor cracked shell ruined. I'm crying my eyes out, big style. My Mum comes out to see what the ruckus is and soothes me with this little nugget:

"It's okay Luce, it'll just be a slug now."

ALL THESE YEARS I've thought snails who lose their shells become slugs! And it's not true. I'm sorry if I've just shattered your illusions now, but I have my own pain to deal with.

I'm retiring for the weekend - now - with a bottle of gin.

See you Monday... maybe.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SAFE - The Finished Film!

SAFE premiered on Facebook yesterday to the Safe Films group and other Facebookers, but if you're not my Facebook friend (why not? Mmmmm?), you won't have seen it yet... Obviously we had various constraints to deal with having zero money to make it and our actors were real troopers since it was FREEZING, plus the pathways and streets were actual ice rinks. Many thanks to them, my lovely boy Alf who plays Julie's son and The Hub for being our lighting manager/moral support/fixer of random things/caterer! For photos of the shoot back in February, check out here.

So without further ado, here's SAFE. Hope you like it. Enjoy!
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WARNING: CONTAINS FLASHING IMAGERY-----------------------------------------------------------------
What next for Safe Films, you ask? Well, at the mo Schu and I are drawing up a list of festivals we want to submit Safe to, then we will be shooting our next short, a horror-comedy called SLASH (maybe all our films should start with an "s"? There's a challenge) in the summer. Watch this space...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Exclusive: Jimmy McGovern's MOVING ON

Daytime TV is getting some top talent and some top writing next week, starting next Monday (May 18th) and continuing every day until friday: Jimmy McGovern's MOVING ON is airing five 45 minute episodes in which the central theme is moving on in your life. Even better, friend of the blog and Bang2writer Marc Pye's episode "Bully" is part of the series, airing on the Tuesday (19th May). As regular readers of the blog know, I think Marc is frighteningly talented and an all round top bloke, so I was only too happy to publicise Moving On here. Knowing however there were - shall we say - a few behind-the-scenes schenanigans to "Bully", I thought I would invite Marc to share his experiences with you first hand as it makes for very interesting reading. Enjoy...
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"I got asked to come down to Liverpool (my home town) for a meeting at LA Productions on a new commission they'd been given by Liam Keelan, head of daytime TV. It was for 5 x 45min dramas stripped over one week. Jimmy McGovern would exec produce and it was just a case of coming up with the idea for the series, what it would be about. This was a different way of working. Usually the idea would be in place before the commission. In this case it was the talent that was in place, some quite decent writers led by Jimmy and made by a producer and production company with an excellent track record. If the writing was good then, like The Street, it was bound to attract great cast, which it has. I think there were about 40 writers in the room and we all pitched in themes and stuff. It sailed dangerously close at times to a series I had in development with Coastal Productions, but ended up becoming Moving On, which was based on the central theme of how to move on and reach a turning point in your life.

I've always liked the play for today type idea so this really appealed to me. Years ago the opportunities were there for a lot of writers to make their mark by writing a stand alone drama. Bleasdale, McGovern, Peter McDougal, Alan Bennett, Willy Russell, to name just a few, have all done them in the past and I think this is something that's sadly missing in TV today, so it's great that Liam Keelan has decided to bring it back.

We were all asked to go away and write up a pitch or two and send them in. I did two. One was called Last Woman Standing. The names were taken off the pitches so Jimmy could select them purely on the story. Mine was chosen, as was Arthur Ellison's, who is a good mate of mine from The Street, so we were really happy to be working together and with Jimmy again. As Jimmy was busy on series 3 of The Street at the time the writers worked closely with the producer Colin McKeown and by the time the third draft was done Jimmy was ready to read them. When he read mine he didn't like it. I was gutted and so was Colin. It wasn't the reaction we'd expected at all. We'd spent a lot of time on it and expected Jimmy to feel the same way about it as we did. But if there's one thing Jimmy knows it's story and this one just wasn't working. As the shoot date was approaching and the script was so far off the mark panic set in, but Jimmy remembered that I'd written a script called Bully, which he'd read and as it fitted the theme he wanted to do that, as it was in really good shape.

But there was a bit of a problem. The pitch for Bully had originally been shortlisted for series 3 of The Street. I'd written on series one, 'The Flasher' and had come close on series two, but things had taken off for me after my ep came out so by the time series two came round, although we all wanted to work together the ideas from my already overstressed brain weren't cutting it, so I never got commissioned. I came back with all guns blazing on series 3 and Jimmy and the exec loved the Bully story and I left Granada that day convinced I was back on The Street, until it lost out at the selection process. The exec said, if they were making 7 it would be in there. Now some of my best stuff is written when I'm angry and missing out on series three of The Street I was well angry. I found myself with 5 days spare and wrestling with the self doubt and all the other emotions we writers experience I just had to get this script written because the way I saw it I believed in it even if they didn't. I had something to prove, if only to myself. I wrote it in three days and hit upon the idea of a common theme for a series, so I then started putting together a bible and story lines for the other episodes. I got Terry McDonough (who was my director on The Street) on board and he loved the pilot script, the series idea, and took it to Coastal Productions. So I now had a series bible and a pilot script, ready to go into the BBC through the makers of Wire in the Blood.

But there was one thing I wasn't counting on: this situation on Moving On and Jimmy wanting the Bully script. I tried explaining in the time since he'd read it it was now a pilot script for a series, in with another producer. But he stuck to his guns, saying the other script was too far off the mark to deal with in the time we had. It was either that or they would use one of the other stories. I had to make a decision. I spent the weekend ranting and raving "who does Jimmy McGovern think he is!" I felt like I was back at school and a bigger boy wanted and had taken my bike. By Monday I had gone through all the emotions and had calmed down. I weighed up all the odds. It was just a script at this stage. There were no guarantees it was ever going to get made. On the other hand the script was perfect for Moving On and it was guaranteed to get made. It wasn't a bigger boy taking my bike at all. It was a case of me getting real and stop being so precious about a script that might otherwise never see the light of day as a drama. It was time to make the call to Coastal. Sandra, the producer understood completely, telling me to get it made. At the time very little was getting commissioned, and as Sandra put it, we still had other stories that formed the series. I could always write another pilot. Plus, the script Last Woman Standing would fit in perfectly with my series with a rewrite, now that I knew what was wrong with it. She was great and totally took the pressure off. I emailed Jimmy, told him we were in business and he was really pleased and did a rough edit that afternoon, as it was written as a 60 min piece so needed 15 pages cut. We had a quick meeting in Liverpool, I did another draft, which was no more than a tweak really, and it filmed after Christmas. I've seen a cut of it and it's a great piece of work that I'm really happy with. The direction and performances are second to none. Oh, and I've still got a bike, albeit a different one."
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Thanks Marc, can't wait to see it - don't forget, if you're at work when Moving On is on, there's always the iPlayer!!! Definitely one not to be missed. I know a lot of Bang2write laydeez were "phwoaring" over the appearance of Lucas North in SPOOKS in the last series, so Richard Armitage fans may also be interested to hear he will be in, "Drowning Not Waving" by Sarah Deane during the week too. Excellente!

LINKS

Marc Pye on Imdb

Jimmy McGovern on Imdb

Jimmy McGovern on Wikipedia

Moving On press release

TV Throng Blog: New TV Series "Movng On" Attracts Top Talent

Friday, May 08, 2009

Children's TV Drama Specs: Common Mistakes

Thanks to thegodofallbens, I got my first Twitter-induced blog question! Apologies for taking so long, God. Please don't smite me.

The Great One asks:

What's the most common mistake writers make when writing for children's TV?

As you know, I get rather a lot of TV specs these days - and I'd venture at least half of them are aimed at the children/family market - the kind of slot Dr. Who, Primeval and Robin Hood inhabits (the rest is loosely made up of "grown up" sci fi and period drama. Interestingly, I very rarely get medical drama, cop dramas or crime-related drama without cops or family dramas with actual families in it. Weird).

Well you know me, why talk about ONE common mistake when I can talk about FIVE things that regularly afflict the children's TV series I see? Here ya go, whack your chops round these:

5. The Series That's Too Like Another Series. Yes, originality is overrated, but there is such a thing as being TOO like another series. Whatever you're dealing with, whether it's dinosaurs, demons, daleks or whatever, you need to bring something NEW to the table to get noticed. It can be anything. It's YOUR BRAIN my friends, pull *something* out of it. Though preferably not through your nose, snot on scripts *really winds me up*.

4. The Know-All Child. Everyone knows when the Apocalypse comes it won't be us grown ups who solves the crisis, but some kid: s/he will also be a loner, s/he probably wears glasses (but is *really* gorgeous), s/he probably does martial arts and s/he'll have a ragtag band of misfit friends as back up. S/he may even be an alien, monster or angel of some kind (or be descended from one). Whatevs, man. What s/he SHOULDN'T be is a complete know-all. That's not a "strong character", that's just obnoxious. Also, if they know everything, what are they fighting against? In the family-orientated spec, there will may be an adult of similar nature - a kind of hyped-up Dr. Who who's forgotten to take his Ritalin and has no manners whatsoever. Very often it'll be a divorced male who wants to get his kid and/or family back from another dimension, interestingly.

3. The Dangling Draft. Whether it's a kids' or family TV spec or some other genre, your "story of the week" needs resolving. Very often, everything will be its serial element - and with nothing being resolved and EVERYTHING being up in the air, it's hard to know what's important and thus, what is actually going on.

2. Plot Overload. Sometimes this will go hand-in-hand with the Dangling Draft; other times it will resolve its "Story of the Week" - somehow - with about five different stories going on at once. The good news with drafts like these is having too much means all a writer has to do is decide which two stories they want - and jettison the rest... Using it another week! Result.

AND FINALLY:

1. The Child Who Sounds Like An Adult. No matter how clever or outspoken a kid is, s/he is still a kid and cannot grasp abstract concepts like an adult, yet children in the specs I see often can. Children saving the world on television could be construed as a way for children to cope with broken homes, bereavement, bullying (the destruction of THEIR universe, in effect), so I think it can be argued sci-fi and fantasy elements are extremely important to children's worldview. Certainly, all the children I know put enormous stock in the likes of My Parents Are Aliens, Dr.Who and Primeval (Robin Hood & Merlin to a lesser extent). However it is worth remembering there are rarely any children actually IN the likes of Dr. Who and Primeval; the characters are adults. If you don't know what children are like, you really need to either a) write series where there are none (it is allowed) or b) find out, since there are many, many, many specs around that have children in that sound like adults which instantly alienates the reader.

Recognise any of them in your own scripts? I'm guilty of 2) and 5) recurrently it seems in my first-first drafts, though a 4) snuck into one once, DAMN ITS EYES. Over to you...
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TWITTER STUFF: Whilst we're on the subject of Twitter, one of my fab followers Stuff Bristol came up with the wicked idea of writing a spec synopsis in 140 or less characters (a logline really, but we all need practice at those!!). If you want to give it a go, you don't have to follow me (though why wouldn't you?!), you can either just put @Bang2write in front of the tweet or we're using the hash tag #140synopsis. I'll see what we come up with and see if I can copy and paste synopses here. It'd be a great way to test out a new idea or see if you can compress your existing spec right down. If you do want to follow me, click here. See you there!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sent!

Okay, my Writers' Academy application has FINALLY gone in time for the deadline. I only had to re-read my sample four times, check the application obsessively, cross my fingers, stand on my head and drink four beers to press "send" as well. Result.

Now, my minions, please join me in prayer:

"To The God of Screenwriters (Tony Jordan),

Please ensure my application gets to the top of the pile by any means necessary, fair or foul so I can go into the BBC Centre, be blessed by the Dalek of Good Fortune in the lobby and walk through the workshops and the interviews to victory, so I might one day become head writer on Eastenders.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamen."

Friday, May 01, 2009

Zombies!

What a week. We're not only all gonna get infected with Swine Flu, some wag has made a BBC page with "breaking news" that there is a new Zombie Strain! Excellent. It would seem the Aporkalypse really is here, arf. So in the meantime, I'm going to prepare for the Zombie outbreak over at cool site Lost Zombies, who are making a documentary about the End of Days and enter their 24 hour writing challenge, WHICH STARTS NOW. See you there!

UPDATE: Oh, and if a Zombie writing challenge is not your "thang", maybe a short story contest involving musical composers is??? Check out Radio 3's Short Story Comp here, deadline May 11!