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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

25 Words Or Less... LOST contest!

Hey, guess what... I have a place at the amazing SWF LOST workshop this Friday, Jul 3rd at BAFTA!! But bad news for me (I can't go!!) is GOOD news for you -- because this contest is for anyone who wants to take the ticket off my hands!!!!

WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO BE IN WITH A CHANCE OF WINNING:

1. Compose a way of getting off the Lost island in 25 words or less. It can be as serious or as silly as you like.

2. Leave your idea/s in the comments section of THIS POST ON THIS BLOG. Not on your own blog. Not on Twitter. Not on Facebook or any other site. Don't email me. Leave it HERE. I'm afraid I'm too busy to go trawling all the sites, it has to be here or bust. (If you don't have a google account to leave a comment, get one, it's not difficult and doesn't take long -- honest! If I can do it, anyone can).

3. DON'T FORGET: Leave your email address with your comment so I can tell you if you've won (If you're worried about spammers, do it like this: Bang2write"at"aol"dot"com).

4. DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES: Tmw (July 1st, midnight)

The winner will be contacted on Thursday, Jul 2nd by 10am and will be announced on the blog after this.

THE SMALL PRINT:

4. The winner MUST be able to go on Friday, Jul 3rd - if you're at work, obviously don't enter please.

5. Travel to and from the workshop is up to the winner.

6. Enter as many times as you like.

7. The winner agrees to take notes and send them to me so I can post them on the blog for everyone to read.

8. I'm afraid I can't email everyone if there's loads of entries. I know, I'm a cow. Sorry.

9. The contest is open to everyone who can go, including my mates, because I won't be judging the entries myself - the Hub and my Boy will be since they don't know you lot.

10. This is a UK-based contest, which means it's open to people who can be in the UK on Jul Fri 3rd. That doesn't mean I'm excluding anyone on purpose, it just probably doesn't make much sense to fly/boat in specially for a workshop in London. But if you're willing to do that, hey: knock yourself out. It's your time and cash! : )

Good luck!

Friday, June 26, 2009

SWF Scriptmarket: An Insider's View

I was a reader for the Screenwriters' Festival's Scriptmarket initiative this year. It was open to all those who purchased a four day ticket and thirty places were up for grabs. I was very happy to read for the SWF and for Kenny (who delivered everything he said he would, & on time - thanks!) and the scripts I read had some interesting ideas and even some excellent elements, including arena, character and dialogue above others.

For the thirty lucky participants, they received a free 5 page script report from a reader like myself (I didn't read all thirty!), plus they got to attend a Scriptmarket workshop on June 11th before the BAFTA launch; they will also be going to other meetings actually at the SWF in October. Not bad for an entry fee of £0!!

Here's what one of the participant scribes (who wishes to stay anonymous) had to say about the process:

"The script I sent in was written in 5 days .... Yep, read that again - 5 days!!! So I didn't think it would get anywhere in the comp, but hey-ho, it got chosen on its logline and synopsis ... Oh shit! Therefore, my meeting about it followed the Orange Ad, ie "You've written this, when it should be this/ Err no, that wasn't what the story was about, that wasn't what moved me to tell it ....." You know how the scene goes .... I found myself having *that* conversation: "You have to write for a long running series to get a job as a screenwriter in this country and the likelihood of this single drama getting taken up is pretty small..." They mentioned BBC Scotland for it, which was who I wrote it for in the first place, lol. My score for the script was dreadful (each script was scored out of 50 - L), but hell, what do you expect for 5 days' work? Once they knew about the 5 day thing the meeting was v. quickly concluded. I felt I was wasting their time and of course, I was.

So, my biggest piece of advice for the Scriptmarket is you must send in a script you have developed over a long period of time and got to a place where it will achieve a minimum of the 40+ score out of 50 in the reader's report because the meetings you get at Scriptmarket are based solely on that report - they do not read the script. So the commandment for the Scriptmarket goeth like this - 'if your reader's report is shite, so will thy meeting be.'

However, in saying this those that got the big scores got pretty tough meetings too in the sense of reality checks - a reflection of how our industry is. The 3 scripts that are most developed with me at the mo I couldn't send in: 2 didn't fit the criteria and 1 is with a Producer who is considering optioning it and asked me not to send it in .... So it was the 5 day script or nowt.

However, one area where Scriptmarket succeeded for me was in the talks from the industry bods in the afternoon. Great stuff. Some of it was so brutally honest it was beautiful. Paul Ashton - BBC - told us that they get 2 kinds of scripts into the beeb - those from the writers they know and work with (have been produced), and those from aspiring / new writers (the unproduced masses) and they read them in 2 totally different ways. The first group gets a read in the sense of 'will this work', the 2nd group gets a minute, detailed craft read - can they even write? Bish up on anything in the 2nd group and the script is immediately filed under b for 'bin'.

Ashton then went on to tell us about the first draft of Shameless from Paul Abbot - it was the worst script he had EVER read. All over the place, crap dialogue, no characterisation ..... BUT it was from Paul Abbot so they stuck with it, began to develop it. One of its saving graces was that Paul had done such a great job in pitching it to them (well before they got the script) that they hung onto that forever and ever ..... Paul's pitch for Shameless was 'The Waltons on acid' .... Eventually they gave it up cos it wasn't getting anywhere (after years of developing the script!) and C4 picked it up - changed it around - and bingo Shameless was born. Would we get anywhere near this process, even if our script is a corker ....??

One other MAJOR success of the Scriptmarket was the scoring system for the scripts. Bloody marvellous. You could see at a single stroke where the script was weak, what you needed to work on. As a writer I would LOVE all my feedback to be itemised this way, makes it so bloody easy!!"

Thanks for the honest account O Mysterious one! Bad luck on the meeting, but then I know only too well the sometime horrors of script meetings as I've mentioned before on this blog... Very enlightening stuff on the afternoon seshs, particularly interested to hear about Paul Ashton's thoughts on that original Shameless script. If you were there too, let us know what you thought.
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UPDATE: Thanks to another Scriptmarketer, who just emailed me this:

"I concur with 'mysterious'. Fortunately my script got a great report and I have high hopes of the meetings they're hoping to organise for me in Cheltenham.

Other points: on pitching, it was pointed out that in the UK this bears no resemblance to the Hollywood OTT pitch performances as parodied in 'The Player'. We were told it's much more like having a conversation - you get two sentences... "my script is about this character in this situation", hopefully enticing the listener to ask a question, you feed them a bit more with another hook, get another question and so on. "You have to get very good at TALKING about your story - too many writers are too close to it and can't verbalise the key elements clearly." So - pitch it to anyone who'll stand still. Bus queues if necessary. (No, no one is going to steal your idea.)

The other exercise I found very revealing was we had to pair up and pitch our film to our partner in two minutes, then swap, and then pitch THEIR script to the group. It soon became very apparent that no one can retain nitty gritty detail, you have to have very clear, broad strokes.

Also, the speaker from the distributors was very clear that you have to know your market or the film will never get made in the first place. Who is the audience? (NB cinema still mainly 15-25 year olds) How are they going to sell it? Does it have international appeal? Will it attract stars? Genre is King - where would it sit on the Blockbuster shelf?

Re sending in work which isn't really up to scratch - be really careful about this. I met someone recently who's judged lots of competitions and he said if you send in substandard work people will remember your name and it's a small world out there."

Fantastic stuff -- especially the "no one is going to steal your idea": I am so bored of that conversation - "I can't tell you", blah blah blah. Fair enough if you're NDA'd because it's in development and/or you've signed contracts or even if you're superstitious and believe it's "tempting fate" putting it on blogs etc (guilty of that myself), etc but if you REALLY THINK you have to keep it to yourself *just in case* of theft?? It's just amateur IMHO, since it basically sends the signal you're suspicious of others' motives. What's more, I have never heard a credible case of this happening, even after all these years of script reading. Really good advice too about telling your story in "broad strokes" so others retain it. Excellent.

Anyone else?

UPDATE: Here we go...

"I was also lucky enough to have a very good reader's report, so when it came to my meeting there was zero chat about improving the script - it was all about getting it sold. Give it another quick pass and get it out there, was the message from my two interviewers. They both had very useful contacts that they were more than willing to offer up, we've stayed in touch and it looks like doors will be opened as a result of my participation.

A couple of observations: I was stunned at how few people put in for this. Just 45! Where was everyone? I know entry was restricted to four-day ticket holders - but there were 30 places up for grabs. That's thirty writers 'winning' industry meetings tailor-made to progressing their work. Meanwhile, script calls from Red Planet and the BBC attract hundreds of entrants.

I also agree with the previous comments about submitting work that's been through the wringer a few times. My script had been worked on for a good eighteen months, and I think the clue is in the title of this initiative: it's about getting work market-ready. Be honest with yourself - if your script needs another twelve months graft you could well be wasting your time."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hopeless New Screenwriters

The Scribefather aka Adrian Mead has asked me to post this on the blog about his latest class on July 4th... I'll be there! Will you? Let us know in the comments, via Twitter or email me.
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Okay, here's a confession. I'm busy putting the final touches to the class I'm teaching next week and incredibly excited about sharing all this new material for the first time. However, I'm certain that for some of you this will be a day of uncomfortable truths... as I intend to crush any hope you have of a career in the film and TV industry.

Why? Because I've set myself the challenge of taking a room full of aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers and presenting them with a blueprint for achieving success, in one of the world's most competitive industries and in the midst of a recession.

At the end of the class I can guarantee at least one or more of you will come up to me and say, "Thank you Adrian, I'm certain now that I don't want to be a screenwriter or filmmaker". (I know you're thinking, "this is one weird sales pitch", but stick with me.)

I'll be really pleased to hear this. It means I've shared exactly what it takes to make it as a professional screenwriter or filmmaker. You have decided you are either not ready or willing to do the work involved. I have saved you from ending up miserable and frustrated - not due to a lack of talent, but because your career strategy would have fallen far short of what is required.

Often that moment of realisation comes when I start talking about what I consider to be the most obscene four letter word in the English language.

That word is HOPE.

It’s a word that sits deep in the psyche of many people and poisons their potential.

Ask yourself, just how much of your future is actually based on hope?

You hope someone will introduce you to a fairy godmother that will take you under their wing, magically open doors to your new career.

You hope NEXT YEAR things will somehow be different.

You hope that sending out yet another script or manuscript around the same small circle of contacts will do it.

If the truth is that hope plays a major part in your plans, then next week I'm going to crush hope, make it a dirty and destructive secret that you are no longer willing to have in your life, and replace it with the tools you need to build the career you want.

Here's what some of De Montfort's MA students had to say about just a few of the new career building strategies we are going to explore.

Adrian's class was the last of our MA in Television Scriptwriting at Demontfort (May 2009) and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
Clair Chapwell

The session was fantastically motivational, and the techniques make a whole lot of sense - it's been easily the most useful day of the course so far.
Michael Davies

Adrian is a true inspiration. The morning after his course I got up at 6am and contacted 4 production companies. Two of which had replied by 9.30 requesting sample scripts.
Ruth Symes

... Having attended one of Adrian’s talks, I realised that no matter how on top of things you feel you are, there is always room for improvement and it’s not always necessarily about working harder... just smarter.
Sinead Fagan

These are exciting times for those of you who are ready and motivated. If you want to throw out hope and take control of your future join me for a whole day dedicated to creating the simple and highly effective career strategy you need in order to succeed right now. Learn how to access opportunities that most people don't even know exist and hear straight talk from industry professionals about what your next step should be. There are only a few places left so book now. Details below.

Best wishes,
Adrian Mead

THE SCREENWRITER'S CAREER GUIDE

When and Where?
Saturday 4th July from 10am - 5pm in Central London

For more info and bookings please visit Initialize Films
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Don't forget Adrian encourages networking at his classes - what are you waiting for? DO IT NOW and see you there!

Monday, June 22, 2009

How To Write Great Characters

The ledge that is The Unknown Screenwriter posted this fabulous link about great character profiles to Twitter recently (follow him here) and many, many thanks to the brilliant Filmmaker IQ for providing us with the post).

Great characterisation is a tough one. When I read specs, I often find one of two things happen: a spec might have a great character, but they're kind of aimless or maybe they have an incomprehensible plot to follow. If that doesn't happen, then a script might have a fab plot or tight structure, yet I don't give a toss about the characters and what happens to them. Getting the balance between the two *just so* is a toughie for everyone it seems.

I'm writing a script at the moment that is one of those a-load-of-people-in-one-room-and-everybody-dies horrors. It's pretty much a subgenre in itself within horror, much like the everyone-goes-down-to-the-woods-and-gets-slaughtered one (hey, I come up with catchy names, alright?!). Anyway: as a horror fan, I haven't found the structure of it *that* hard: I know what I want to do with the film, I know what the director wants - it's a question of delievering enough thrills and spills in the right places. Having watched literally hundreds of hours of horror in this vein, I think I have a fairly good idea of how to do that - and certainly feedback for the most part has been positive about the structure, anyway.

What I'm struggling with then is the characterisation of this script. There's a certain element of judgement and supposition attached to the characters in the situation regarding the entire premise of the film, so it's rather hard not to make them a bunch of losers and haters. In fact, at the moment, I pretty much hate all of them (though I have a certain grudging respect for at least one, since she says and does whatever she likes, whenever she likes. How much do I wish I could do that?!?). Also, it's hard to pour all your efforts into characters who you know are there to die. You end up thinking more about how to despatch them than how to create them and make them whole (or at least I do).

So, how do you write a great character, especially one whom may be deemed *unlikable*? I threw this question open to my Twitter legion, here's a rough round up of what was tweeted, DM'd and emailed back to me:

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You don't have to sympathise with the unlikable, just identify with their situation.

Find the good things they can find out about themselves, or make them conflicted/vulnerable.

No one thinks they are bad.

Great characters are those characters who stir an emotional reaction in the viewer - and that *can* be hate. Just make sure it's not your characters' default setting and/or can be applied to ALL of them.

In the antagonist's view, they are not the antagonist - the protagonist is; else they end up the comic book villain.

There is no such thing as the "unlikable" person: just the person we don't understand. Ask yourself why you don't understand him/her: is it because they have different experiences, values, understanding of the world?

It's all in the details - broad strokes provide stereotypes and 2D characterisation, not great characters.

Understand your character, why they do what they do - even if you hate them.

See it from their perspective, walk in their shoes - have them believe what they're doing is the right thing, even if it's the wrong thing... And make the audience see that.

Have them believe one thing, but contradict themselves with their actions.

Great characters are complex and full of contradictions.

The great character is the universal character: the man/woman on screen who makes the man/woman in the audience say, "I know him/her: s/he is ME."

They might have a hard shell... But a gooey centre.

Great characters like Ripley and John Book stay with us because they feel real - they have real emotions, real responses and make a real change in how they understand the world they find themselves in. They make us believe in them and why they are doing what they're doing - even if they do terrible things.

"Ask" characters questions; through what you learn about them, you understand their history, how it informs their thinking in day to day life.

However unlikable they are, they need one tiny virtue - or a terrible pain for us to excuse them/or feel they are redeemed.
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Brilliant stuff, thanks guys.

So... What do you think? Agree/disagree with any of those? Do you have any to add? Over to you...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Virgin Media Shorts: Ask Last Year's Winners A Question!!

Matt from Virgin Media Shorts has been in touch with the blog and asks if any Bang2writers out there have questions for the winners of last year's contest, Phil Sansom and Olly Williams, who won with their short The Black Hole.

So: if you’re interested in what winning a competition like Virgin Media Shorts can do, then Matt would be delighted to pass on any questions you might have about how they spent their money (all £30k of it!) , what help and opportunities the UK Film Council have provided them, or maybe even what approach they take to scripting? Below is a note written by Phil and Olly giving an overview of what their year has entailed... Thanks guys!
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Since winning last year's Virgin Media Shorts Competition, we have been busy working on our next film. Supported by the UK Film Council and Virgin Media we have been developing numerous ideas and discussing the best type of film to try and achieve second time round. The Black Hole was pretty much a silent movie so this time we really wanted to tackle some dialogue.

Initially we spent some time just thinking about what kind of films we actually enjoy and the kind of movies we would eventually want to make as features. Its harder than you think to try and decipher all the influences, themes and interests that inform the work you do, but eventually we knew it would have to involve something surreal and dark that allows deeper character / relationship exploration with a slightly twisted sense of humour in it.

After preliminarily drafting seven different ideas as short, single paragraph synopses, we slimmed the list down to three that everyone liked and from there spent a few more weeks in a coffee shop hammering out the finer points, eventually settling on one. It’s hard to develop several ideas at once, as you become deeply involved in every detail of the plot and characters in order to keep the action believable and the story watertight.

We found we naturally began to gravitate towards one film in particular and have let that become the focus of our attention over the last couple of weeks. We have written the first draft of our script and will be picking through it with the Film Council and Virgin over the next week or so. Getting other people's point of view is an important part of the process, especially as we have never written dialogue before.

Although £30k is a lot of money, we still need to have a tight rein on the purse strings as crew, cast and location costs can mount up pretty quickly and we need to be clever about maximising the production value... One location, only a couple of characters, that kind of thing – we find that setting limits on what you are working with often forces you to focus more on the quality of what’s on screen as opposed to how much.

We never really imagined The Black Hole would do so well, or notch up quite so many hits on youtube - it was our first ever film attempt and it was all done so quickly. It’s great this time to know we have time and money sorted, so the focus is really on the writing. It’s a great opportunity so thank you to all of you who voted for us, we hope you’ll enjoy our next offering.
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Watch The Black Hole here

Thanks Matt - if you have a question for Phil and Olly, please leave it in the comments section, tweet me on @Bang2write or email it to me on Bang2write"at"aol.com.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

C-C-Check 'Em Out

It's filmmaking-tastic in the Blogosphere right now, probably accounting for the slowdown in posts here and elsewhere... But c'mon: let's not just talk about it, LET'S DO IT.

First off, check out the lovely Lara's entry for the Virgin Media Shorts contest, Hostile. It's all about those people who walk the line between creative genius and madness - so, writers then! : ) You can watch it here.

Secondly, the marvellous (and prolific) Phill Barron's new film, Just For The Record, has a trailer out. All about how NOT to produce a feature film for £50K, Just For The Record is a mockumentary which boasts an amazing cast including my personal fave Sean Pertwee (though he appears not to get eaten/BBQ'd alive in this one! Phill - FAIL! ; ) Watch the trailer (below) and/or join the Facebook group here.

Whilst we're on the subject, thanks so much to everyone and their generosity regarding the Slash Fund and our call for donations. A super-quick update: we're hoping to film in August (it's a nightmare getting mine and Schu's schedules to match!) and crew/cast calls will go out very soon. As far as SAFE goes, that's going through the Withoutabox system this very day and has already been submitted to SW Screen's open call for content for the Glastonbury Festival's big screens, though we're yet to hear. In addition, we've been brainstorming feature ideas and I've starting writing a treatment - watch this space! Don't forget you can join Safe Films, my Facebook group too.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Screenwriters Vs Viewers: Dramatic Satisfaction

SPOILERS: Memento & Jurassic Park As screenwriters, we often fall so in love with the craft and all it entails we forget about good old fashioned story. Instead of dramatic satisfaction, we fall back on what would look or seem "cool" - usually relying on short cuts or one of the many maligned screenwriting devices to do this (hence them becoming so maligned).

Spec screenwriters are not alone in this either; produced movies can do this too. The only problem is, once you have *any* screenwriting craft knowledge at all, stories are perceived very differently. You may find yourself being more harsh or more forgiving of certain elements of a certain movie; you may even like something as a SCREENWRITER but not as a VIEWER or vice versa. Confused? Let me explain.

Memento is a good screenplay and crafted really well IMHO. As a screenwriter, I think it's excellent. As a viewer? If it's possible to split myself in two (and I think it is), I think Memento ROYALLY SUCKS. Where is the dramatic satisfaction in finding out AT THE END he's been killing lots of John Gs we've never seen and paying it all off in dialogue? Why are we not privy to Natalie's motivation in going along with Leonard when she must know full well he murdered her boyfriend Jimmy, since he's driving his car and wearing his suit? Are we really expected to believe she wanted rid of Dodge SO BADLY she will entertain her boyfriend's murderer, even get in bed with him - and not go to the police?! So, as controversial as it is, Memento is a well crafted story, but not a good old fashioned GREAT STORY. Yes it's clever. Too clever by half - and they've missed the most crucial stuff out that will make the layperson really *connect* with the story, like character motivation. Instead it relies on its clever structure as the "wow factor" -- and why not... It was a marketing tool that worked for it and catapulted Christopher Nolan into Hollywood big style. But surely a weird structure is the sort of thing that appeals more to film students and screenwriters than your average wo/man on the street?

One movie that really illustrates this notion of screenwriter vs. viewer for me is Jurassic Park. I was about thirteen when this movie came out; my Dad took me and all my brothers and sisters to see it at the cinema. We were way poor, so trips to the cinema for five kids and an adult (My Mum never sets foot in cinemas, she hates them) was an OFFICIAL BIG DEAL. My Dad is a big movie buff and he wanted to see these *new* special effects for the dinosaurs everyone was going on about at the time, now known as CGI. So it was a big treat for us and I for one was really looking forward to it; at the time, to me at least, it felt like cinema history in the making - in the same way Toy Story was a few years later.

Yet I was desperately disappointed by Jurassic Park. I have always been very interested in dinosaurs, an interest that has passed down to my own children, so even aged thirteen I could see the many, rather flagrant errors in Jurassic Park, not least the fact most of the creatures are actually part of the Cretaceous Period (more dinosaur-related errors recounted here). However, I recall my biggest issue aged thirteen involved the velociraptors and though I didn't know I was doing it, it was their place in the narrative that threw me out of the story: the fact one opened the door I could *just about* go along with, but by the time Laura Dern has locked one in the electricity place, that leaves two ("She killed all but two of the others" = three velociraptors, thanks Bob Peck), yet if I recall correctly, in that resolution scene in the big hallway, three appear to corner them all, leaving us to assume the first raptor must have opened the door again. But I could have forgiven even that, if it wasn't for the fact the T Rex saves them all by eating said velociraptors. I didn't know the term Deus Ex Machina when I was a kid, but if I had, I'm sure that's what I would have used to write in my Day book about the movie I had seen at the weekend.

So a whopping sixteen years pass (where did it go??) and I didn't watch Jurassic Park again until last week; it happened to be on television [ITV2 I believe]. My son revealed an ardent LOVE for the film (much to my surprise and chagrin) and because I couldn't find anything else worth watching, I reluctantly sat down with him and the girl to watch. So imagine my surprise when I found myself actually enjoying it. It suddenly occurred to me, as I was watching, that the reason I was enjoying it was because I wasn't watching the film with the expectation a non-screenwriter puts on a film. A non-screenwriter wants to be entertained; they want the story to be "good", though they may not know how to express whether a story is "good", it's just a feeling. I wasn't putting any "feelings" on the line then in watching Jurassic Park this time; I was appreciating the well-differentiated characters and the clever dialogue, if not the idea that velociraptors can open doors.

Part of screenwriting is ripping your script down to its individual parts; scripts are like jigsaw puzzles of dialogue, structure, character, description, whatever. Ideally these should all work together symbiotically in creating the best story, but sometimes they don't. Jurassic Park shows very obviously you can take giant leaps of faith in terms of the narrative "hanging together" and the audience will stay with you -- they were quite literally looking at other stuff, like THE BIG DINOSAURS. That was what they came for; that was what they got. For every person like me who was disappointed in the story, I'm willing to bet there was at least a hundred who went away thrilled. Similarly, there are many people out there who watched Memento and thought it was the coolest story in the world, never wondering for a moment about Natalie's odd characterisation or that talky pay off.

Basically: sometimes screenwriters (or the producers holding the purse strings) make short cuts and sacrifice even entire beats or elements AND get away with it.

But should they?

Over to you...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Watch It, Vote For It, Pass It On...

Hello All,

My filmmaking partner Carolina and I have once again entered the Virgin Media Shorts competition, and once I again I'm inviting you all to check it out, leave some comments, vote for it and pass it on. Your help and support will be very much appreciated! The films are only 2m20secs long so won't take up too much of your time, and hopefully you'll enjoy it anyway.

Last year our film 'Not Coming In' didn't win, but since the competition it's been nominated for two awards and been picked up for distribution - hopefully we'll do the same with these new films (although winning would be nice also)!

We have two films in competition this year; the first is called 'Ornamental' and you can check it out here.

The second will be up in a few days and is called 'Time of the Month'. I'll send you all another email when it's ready.

In the meantime, please enjoy 'Ornamental', and any feedback (good OR bad) will be very welcome.

Thank you all!

Schuman

Monday, June 08, 2009

NOT IN MY NAME

Two BNP members in the European Parliament? No thanks! As the ever-eloquent Charlton Brooker tweeted today, "BNP voters have ruined anniversary of D-Day by metaphorically pissing on the graves of all who died fighting the Nazis." Amen.

I cannot believe that apathy and so-called "protest votes" against the MPs expenses scandal have allowed a racist, fascist organisation like the BNP through the back door. And make no mistake: that is what they are - "voluntary repatriation for ethnic minorities"? Puh-lease. But then you know this, I'm preaching to the converted.

So do something about it: sign your name to the "Hope Not Hate" campaign's petition that will be delivered the first time these cretins sit as MEPs, show your defiance, give the BNP two fingers, say NOT IN MY NAME. Do it now.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Shock, Horror: THE SHINING

What makes affecting horror? What scares you more than anything in the world - and more crucially, stays with you, makes you shudder AFTER watching it? Seems to me as if horror these days is all about the scare whilst you're watching, then it's easily forgotten. There have been numerous times I have shrieked whilst watching a horror in recent times, yet if you asked me the story of the last film that freaked me out recently beyond those 90/120 minutes, I'd have think hard.

I haven't watched The Shining in years, yet I remember so much of it, I could have watched it yesterday. Yes, certain aspects of it are a bit dated - that awful 70s carpet for one - but as far as I'm concerned, it's as fresh now as it was back in 1980. It's pretty different from the source material; Stephen King's book places the blame squarely at The Overlook's feet, with even the topiary attacking Danny; whereas the film (to me, at least) blames Jack's growing insanity with a side order of The Overlook being built on an Native American Burial Ground. After all, his wife and child aren't affected by the *evil* there - Jack is a channel for it - it's even hinted that his male "weakness" makes it so, given his quick temper and self indulgence.

I first saw The Shining when I was approximately eight years old. Of course I wasn't allowed, but as I've mentioned before on this blog I had a tendency to creep around the house at night and watch television with the sound turned down. So when I first saw The Shining, I literally just "saw" it; I heard nothing. If anything, it made it far scarier. I recall sitting in my bed after watching it, shaking with fear. There was a large built-in wardrobe in my room and I became convinced a deluge of blood would cascade out (as it had done from the elevator in the film) and soak me in my sleep. It was around this time my mother gave me a book about growing up, so when I read about periods and the like, I totally freaked, much to my Mum's puzzlement. I became obsessed with blood in general for approximately the next ten years, writing cascades of blood into just about every short story I came up with and having nightmares in which the river outside our house ran thick with it. I even made a photography project at school about blood, photographing plugholes Psycho-style, re-enacting the famous shower scene (which I thought needed more: she'd just been stabbed to death for God's sake!). As my Mother said to my Father at the time: "Where did we go wrong?"

I might have been only eight, but good horror has power. If I look at The shining and compare it to Saw or even tripe like Alien Versus Predator, *technically* there is far less "horror" in terms of a body count, torture or beasts feasting on your entrails. I didn't know it at the time because I was such a little girl, but what is so terrifying about The Shining is its plausibility. How many women have had to face a violent, half-mad spouse, with nowhere left to run and a child in tow? You can't run far when carrying a kid; add geographical isolation and a ton of snow and it's official: you're totally screwed. As unpopular as it is to say it, women are at a disadvantage when it comes to the men in their lives: if he turns on you, what can you do? There's a good chance you're not as strong as him and even if you are, there are the children to protect from him as well. Are you all going to make it out? The number of men who manage to kill their wives and/or families is testament to the fact that women can't always win when pitted against a man. And THAT is why The Shining is so terrifying as far as I am concerned.

What about you... What makes a great horror film?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Self Publicity

So I got an email last night from the Mighty Adrian Mead, telling me I've gone a little TOO FAR in trying to publicise this blog:



Okay, Adrian: you got me. But since everyone's defected to Twitter, it's too damn quiet around these parts [start subliminal message: FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER : end subliminal message]. But check my legs out! Woooooh. It's a hard job looking so fantastic but someone's gotta do it.

Oh: and don't forget - Adrian's new course The Screenwriter's Career Guide is on July 4th in London. Book now! I'll see you there.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Looking for Eric (No Spoilers), Slash & Other Stuff

Just passing through... Mega busy this week reading and trying to get a rewrite AND a treatment done, so here goes:

NO SPOILERS. As my Twitter legion and Facebookers already know, I went to see Ken Loach's latest LOOKING FOR ERIC on a free showing yesterday. It's written by the mighty Paul Laverty, Loach's long time screenwriter partner and yet again they've produced a thought-provoking drama, with plenty of laughs and pathos. "Ken Loach" and the word "depressing" often feature heavily in reviews, but I can tell you there's nothing remotely depressing about Looking For Eric, even though it's actually about a man who is depressed. Intrigued? You should be. This is easily one of the most impressive Brit Flicks I've seen since Slumdog. It opens June 12 here in the UK, so make sure you go and see it. Check out the official website here.

A big thank to all who have donated to SLASH so far - we've had an awesome response and people have been really kind, you're all fab!!! Schuman and I met recently to discuss various things and there will be a casting call very soon, so all you actors out there keep your eyes peeled! If you would like to donate to SLASH, that would be brilliant, thanks - and you'll get my 19 page, all-new PDF "Script Reading Secrets" in return for your generosity. Cheers!

In other news, it would appear I've made it through the first sift of the Writers' Academy applications, which is a relief. Apparently I did last year too, though I never knew because they weren't blogging about it like they are now. The pile has been reduced from nearly 500 to 150, with 30 going through to the workshops in July, making it a 1 in 5 chance for me. I'd really like it to be this year, I feel ready to at least get to the next stage, if not the final few. We'll have to see, anyway. I've done all I can. Ceri Meyrick has offered some interesting insights over at the Writersroom blog about this year's entries, well worth a look, click here.

Also, I'm dead chuffed Diversity won Britain's Got Talent. My sad love of talent shows is legendary in my house, not so much on here, but I really relate to people trying to get their break because that's what we're all trying to do with this writing lark. I've been to a couple of pitching sessions/ workshops/ opportunities etc that have been rather stressful and in-your-face like X Factor or BGT and can even see why they burst into tears like big Jessies. I think I would too. No, I DEFINITELY would. Must remember to take some tissues if I get through to the Workshop!

Now. Back to work...