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Monday, December 20, 2010

Playwriting Opportunities

Thanks to Katie at Blake Friedmann for sending me these... For you theatre writers out there, there's quite a treat in store! Lots of opportunities here for you. But hurry, some of the deadlines are 31st December 2010.

Not a theatre writer... yet? On this blog before about theatre "Research Or Die: Writing Plays". Get going!
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New Vision Theatre Free Playwriting Course

Are you over 25 and living in the London Borough of Lewisham? Do you want to write your first play?

New Vision Theatre will deliver an introduction to playwriting course for over 25's within the London borough of Lewisham. This is an opportunity to be supported in writing your first play, beginning in January 2011.

The course will comprise of weekly evening classes run over a 6-9 week period. You will be guided through ways to develop your creative ideas, and will learn the basics of dialogue, character development and setting scenes. You will also build your skills through writing exercises and developing your first short play. At the end of the course scripts will be selected for readings which will be performed in a Lewisham venue.

For further information, visit http://newvisiontheatre.weebly.com/

Creative Assistant Bursary Scheme

The Federation of Scottish Theatre is a membership and development body which advances the interests of professional Scottish theatre and dance at home in Scotland and abroad. Their Creative Assistant Bursary Scheme is designed to support and nurture the professional creative development of emerging individual theatre artists by supporting an attachment to an established Scottish theatre company or Director.

Applications for an attachment for a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 12 weeks full-time equivalent are jointly submitted by applicant and host.

More information is available from www.scottishtheatre.org or by contacting Kirsty Bailey, FST Training Officer attrainingATscottishtheatreDOTorg or by calling 0131 248 4842. The deadline for applications is 21st January 2011.

COMMISSIONS, COMPETITIONS, AND CALLS FOR SUBMISSIONS

Soho Theatre: Verity Bargate Award 2011

The Verity Bargate Award is Soho Theatre's national competition for the best new play by an emerging writer. Soho Theatre are looking for a new play that will stand out from the crowd - it might be your first script, it might be set in a kitchen or on the moon. The only limit is your imagination. Be bold, brave, and entertaining.

Recent VBA winners have included In-Sook Chappell for This Isn’t Romance, Matt Charman for A Night at the Dogs and Shan Khan for Office. Writers may submit one unproduced, unpublished full-length play (not shorter than 70 minutes). There is no restriction to subject matter. The winner of this year’s award will receive £5000 and a residency at Soho Theatre. The prize money is in respect of an exclusive option for Soho Theatre to produce the winning play according to the Company’s standard license agreement.

The following are not eligible: playwrights with three or more professional productions to their credit (defined as those produced under ITC/TMA/WGGB contracts), plays commissioned by Soho, previous Verity Bargate Award winners, plays that have already been rejected by Soho ’s literary department.

Please send submissions to: Verity Bargate Award, Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street , London W1D 3NE . The deadline is 11th March 2011.

For more information, and full details on how to enter, visit the Soho Theatre website.

Call For Scripts for 24:7 2011

The 24:7 Theatre Festival is a showcase for original and stimulating theatre. Season 8 of 24:7 will run from 21st – 29th July 2011 in severalManchester city centre venues. There will be nine days of productions, including a full-to-bursting Big Weekend.

Submissions should be be less than 60 minutes long, never produced before, in the English language, and capable of being staged in a non-theatre space. A non-refundable fee of £30 (incl VAT) will be charged for each individual submission. This year you can submit your script online, if you wish, and pay by bank transfer.

You can read information on all aspects of the 24:7 process on the website and in the updated online application area. Please email any enquiries to: info@247theatrefestival.co.uk. Scripts will be accepted until 10th January 2011.

Re:play Festival 2011: Pitch Party

Re:play Festival are offering one artist in Greater Manchester the chance to bring their idea for a great piece of theatre to life with the help of Contact and Library Theatre Company.

This year Library Theatre are joining forces with Contact to create their most diverse and interesting re:play Festival to date. Building on the festival’s history of showcasing and developing new playwrights throughout Greater Manchester, the Pitch Party will be an opportunity for theatre makers of alternative artistic backgrounds, based in Greater Manchester, to showcase and develop their work.

Six artists will be selected to pitch live at Contact on January 28th, 2011 to a live audience and Contact, Library Theatre Company, Northwest Playwrights and BBC Writersroom. The winner will receive artistic support and development from Contact and Library Theatre Company.

For more information and to submit an idea visit www.replaypitchparty.com.

Deadline for submissions is January 7th 2011.

Theatre Trail Writers Competition

The Arundel Festival Theatre Trail, conceived and presented by Drip Action Theatre Company, is now in its eleventh year. It performs at the end of August, on each of the Festival’s eight days, eight short plays at eight different venues all over Arundel – last year, for example, in a living room, a kitchen, an art gallery and a pub.

Writers are invited to submit plays for next year’s Trail. Plays should be about 30 minutes long, suitable for day-time performance, with practicable casting and props. One play only per entrant, in hard copy (not e-mail). Please enclose SAE if you’d like your play returned. A reading committee will select the plays that will be performed, with the best submitted script receiving the Joy Goun award of £200 at the Theatre Trail launch in May 2011. Each successful playwright will receive a £150 writer’s fee.
All entries should be submitted to:

Drip Action Theatre Trail 2010
1 Norfolk House
28 High Street
Arundel
West Sussex
BN18 9AB

For further information call 01903 885250 or e-mail dripactioninfoATbtinternetDOTcom. The deadline for entries is 31st December 2010.

Red Bull Theatre: New Short Play Festival

Red Bull Theatre, New York, seeks new 10-minute plays for their Spring short play reading day.

New plays of no more than ten pages, written in heightened language, in verse, with classic themes, adaptations of classics, or that otherwise fit their mission and history are welcome. The deadline for entries is 31st December 2010.

For submission guidelines, visit www.redbulltheater.com/Collaborate or email wendyATredbulltheaterDOTcom.

The Last Frontier Theatre Conference - Call for Plays

The Last Frontier Theatre Conference has released a call for plays for the 2011 Play Lab. The Conference takes place in June 2011 inAlaska . Selected plays receive public readings at the Conference, with both public and private feedback sessions led by theatre professionals. Authors must register for the Conference and be in attendance for their reading.

This Play Lab will feature plays from twenty minutes to two hours in length. Accepted writers will also have an additional opportunity to present their work in the 10-Page Play Slam, the Monologue Workshop, and the late-night Fringe Festival. The deadline for submissions is31st December 2010.

For further details, visit www.pwscc.edu/conference

To submit applications, please contact Dawson Moore at dmooreATpwsccDOTedu

ScriptSpace - New Writing Workshops

ScriptSpace is a new writing initiative brought to you by SpaceWorks, the resident theatre company at The Space, Mudchute, London . Writers are invited to submit their new work to be read by professional actors and receive valuable feedback from fellow writers and other industry professionals.

ScriptSpace offers an opportunity to hear your work out loud and network within the theatre community as well as accessing advice on how to proceed both on the page and in the practical world of theatre.

Interested parties should email their work to Lucy Fredrick at info@space.org.uk marked SCRIPTSPACE. For more information about Spaceworks, visit http://space.org.uk/?page_id=37

Script This - Call for Script Extracts

The Broadway are looking for ten pages of your script - whether you're a new writer, established playwright or looking for some invaluable feedback on your script. Script This... is the bi-monthly new writing event held at the Broadway providing a platform for London 's writers, giving them feedback from audiences and an opportunity to see their work developed.

A panel selects four scripts and these are given a professional, rehearsed reading by actors and a director in front of a live audience. The audience vote for the script they would like to see more of. The writer of the winning script will have the opportunity to come back to the following Script This evening and show a longer developed piece of their play to the always eager audience.

Send 10 pages (about ten minutes worth) to scriptthisATthebroadwaybarkingDOTcom

For more details, visit http://www.thebroadwaybarking.com/joinin/artists/script-this/

The Script Readers

The Script Readers aim to connect talented writers with professional actors, and invite talented writers to submit scripts to their reading panel. The panel assess these submissions and then invite selected writers to hear their work at one of their monthly sessions. After the reading, members, who include actors, writers and directors, share their feedback in an open discussion.
For more information on The Script Readers and to submit your work: www.thescriptreaders.co.uk

The Good Ear Review: Call for Monologue Submissions

The Good Ear Review, a dramatist's literary journal, is a website dedicated to publishing stand-alone monologues that share a moment in time with the reader (and, eventually, the audience). They are committed to posting original and quality writing from both established writers and emerging playwrights.

Monologue submissions should be sent, in the body of the email, to: submitATthegoodearreviewDOTcom by 31st December 2010. Visitwww.TheGoodEarReview.com to read posted monologues and get a sense of the layout and the work that The Good Ear Review publish. For submission guidelines, visit http://thegoodearreview.com/submission-guidelines/

Second Round of TippingPoint Commissions

With a focus on the performing arts, artists are invited to submit projects that stimulate audiences towards the radical and imaginative thinking necessary to comprehend and successfully navigate a world shaped by climate change.

There are up to seven awards on offer this year, with one commission for outdoor work on offer as a co-commission between TippingPoint and Without Walls.

Visit www.tippingpoint.org.uk for more information and to download an application form. The deadline for applications is 31st December 2010.

Fuse Script Reading Service

Fuse is a unique Scotland wide initiative that makes information about new plays available to the artistic directors at the country's top theatre venues. Plays submitted to Fuse will be read and critiqued anonymously by theatre professionals. This feedback is made available free of charge to the playwright.

For more information on how to submit a play to Fuse please visit www.playwrightsstudio.co.uk/fuse.html

The Drama Association of Wales : One Act Playwriting Competition

The Drama Association of Wales Playwriting Competition is now launched. The competition aims to encourage the writing of plays for amateur theatre in English and Welsh. In addition to cash awards, prize-winning plays will be considered for publication.

Plays must be 20-50 minutes in length, with a minimum cast of two. Entries will be accepted from anywhere – they do not have to be from Wales.

Prizes will be awarded for Best Play for a Youth Cast (16-25 years), £250; Best Play in the Open Category, £250; and Best Play in the Welsh Language, £250.

More information can be found at http://www.dramawales.org.uk/showArticle.php?ArticleID=53 and for application forms, please contact Teresa on Cardiff +44 (0) 29 2045 2200 or email teresa@dramawales.org.uk.

The deadline for applications is 31st January 2011.

The First 20 Minutes - Scripts Wanted

Every two months Writer’s Avenue will choose three contrasting plays by new writers, to be shown as works in progress in a fringe venue in central London. The first twenty minutes of each play will be performed in front of an audience that will give written feedback which will be given to the writer. The plays with positive feedback will go on to have a rehearsed reading.

In 2011 Writer’s Avenue will select up to six writers from the 2010 series of The First 20 Minutes to compete for the chance to have their full length play produced at a London fringe venue. This will be another chance for the writer to receive feedback from the audience and gain industry exposure. Script submissions are accepted throughout the year.

Send submissions to submissionsATwritersavenueDOTcoDOTuk with your name and the name of your play in the subject heading. For more information, visit http://www.writersavenue.co.uk/The-First-20-Minutes.php

Sunday, December 19, 2010

WTF? On Film # 10 - Splice

MEGA SPOILERS Okay, we all knew this day would come and I would write another WTF? On Film post. Regular followers of this blog or me on Twitter or Facebook know I'm a hard taskmaster when it comes to films - very rarely do they register on my LOVE IT scale, but just as rarely do they figure on my SCALE OF RAGE. As a screenwriter myself, I'm always willing to believe that various things could have gone wrong or perhaps the script didn't translate to the film version; it's only occasional I believe films to be so DEEPLY FLAWED that they end up on this list (hence there being only ten articles over the last eighteen months - two years or so, instead of hundreds).

And it's a shame I feel I have to add Splice to this list, because writer/director Vincent Natali is responsible for the awesome Cube, one of the few movies I actually do LOVE. But since I believe all films should be considered on a "case by case" basis (no "get out of jail free" cards here - or equally, automatic condemnation on the basis of a previously crap film), I'm going to have to lay out my case for not liking Splice even one little bit:

It's really predictable. You know that classic story, Frankenstein? Well Splice is it, updated. Only not even half as good. Which is a shame, cos you would have thought with decades and decades of new technology, the writers could have come up with some *new* element to play with here, y'know that whole "same but different" thing. Instead, all that's substituted is animal genes for body parts. They even name the characters Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) after characters in The Bride of Frankenstein. Yawn. But even so, this would not have been enough to add it to my WTF? List, so let's look at the rest of the evidence.

The characters are really two dimensional. Clive's the peace-loving hippy who wants to change the world; Elsa's the hard ass who wants to get there first. They have a hysterical male boss and a hard ass female boss. Clive's brother handily works in the same lab and knows about everything, but just as handily keeps his mouth shut until the very end when he gets himself - and the hysterical male boss killed. Dren - the creature they create - is sweet and innocent and serene when she's female; when she turns into a male she wants to kill and shag everybody.

For 2D characters, Clive and Elsa are hardly consistent. Considering Clive is such a peace-loving hippy and Elsa is such a hard ass then, they handily swap entire personalities in the first half after the "birth" of Dren: Clive wants to kill the specimen Dren, whereas Elsa - always resistant to Clive's desire for a child of their own - suddenly turns into a nurturing mother. This abruptly changes AGAIN when Clive begins to empathise with Dren's plight when she's locked in the barn alone from prying eyes - and Elsa suddenly turns abusive, cutting off Dren's tail after provoking her, by taking her beloved cat away. Whilst there is some allusion to a back story of Elsa's whose own mother was abusive - and the troubles between Clive and Elsa's relationship they attempt to fill with science - it felt too me far too little, too late and all rather contradictory - and not in a good way.

But again, poor characterisation is too often the nature of the game in films, so really it was these two elements that gave me THE RAGE:

She was asking for it # 1. The underlying theme of Splice appears to be thus: Men are weak - and successful women will always have to put up with them cheating. Yes, that's right. Despite the fact Clive has raised Dren practically as his daughter - and claims to love her when she wants to jump from the barn roof - he has absolutely no moral trouble sticking it to her, despite the fact she has only ever exhibited the faculties of an adolescent girl, which borders on paedophilia to my mind. But hey! The girl's a genetic freak so fair game! She came ONTO HIM - it's not statuary rape at all, but perfectly understandable, 'cos the GIRL IS HOT. Of course Elsa walks in at *exactly the wrong time* and sees them at it. And of course, she's horrified - but not by Clive's appalling breach of trust, but by the effect it will have on their relationship. Later Clive even attempts to justify himself by pointing out Elsa has done lots of horrible things to Dren herself: never mind poor Dren, who hasn't a clue whether she's coming or going - let's play the blame game instead.

She was asking for it # 2. At the end of the movie the female Dren "dies" and becomes a male, something to do with her lizardy gene splicing I suspect and more than half borrowed off Jurassic Park. In comparison to the female Dren who was sweet and serene then, male Dren is a HARBINGER OF DEATH AND DESTRUCTION. Oh, and rape. That's right: pissed that his "mother" Elsa abused him, the male Dren makes sure he despatches the males and then RAPES ELSA. I'd like to point out this film is a 15, not an 18 - and the way in which the rape is dealt with is both gratuitous and graphic, with Elsa screaming and crying, her head bobbing back and forwards as he fucks her. Whilst the back of the DVD box promises "strong violence, sex and sexual violence", the latter can mean anything between sexual intimidation, groping and actual rape, so it seems to come right out of the left field in comparison with the tone of the rest of the movie; this was not a film in which I had expected to deal with images like that. And it pissed me RIGHT OFF because it didn't strike me as even vaguely necessary to tell this story... oh but wait! There's an epilogue and OF COURSE Elsa is pregnant by the male Dren (despite having had sex with Clive during the course of the movie as well, btw) and she's signing the baby over to her sciencey colleagues in the name of "progress" for squillions of dollars. Ground breaking? Um, predictable. Again.

In conclusion:

I think the real tragedy of Splice is, that as a sci fi/drama, it could have worked really well; forcing Clive and Elsa to face up to the consequences of their playing God to the female Dren could have produced some strong pathos and even a little comedy along the way. What's more, had Clive and Elsa been more consistent in their motivations, we could have got more of a "feel" for their positions on how far science should go and where lines should be drawn between what's possible and what should stay in the imagination. A stand out moment had to be when Clive attempted to drown the child Dren, only for them to discover she had aqua lungs, with Elsa saying, "How did you know... You did know, right?" But with Clive swapping back from wanting to kill Dren just as quickly, impact felt lost to me. At the end of the day, it felt like all the "action" had been "back ended" into the resolution - most notably the last fifteen minutes - for sensationalism's sake.

LINKS

Splice on IMDB

Splice on Rotten Tomatoes

Splice Trailer

Splice - the website

Monday, December 13, 2010

Only The Beginning

As everyone knows, being a script reader/editor turns you twisted and well, like this:

(Don't be fooled by the serene Script Angel that is Hayley McKenzie or the chilled out dudes that are Danny Stack or Jez Freedman, people - inside them beats the same dark heart as I or the scarily furnacey Industrial Scripts, mark my words... By the way, some of them might have slots before Xmas if you're quick - word to the wise: I haven't! Unless it's a short short or shorter, ie. a pitch). Where was I? Oh yeah - we're all evil. It's one of the hazards of the job. We've all got psychological problems from the ill-focused scenes and 2D characters, sexual problems from all the ill-advised sex and rape scenes, concentration problems from the... what was I talking about again??

OK, OK I'm playing to stereotype. Really we're all average Joes/Jos who WANT to pick up a script and find it to be good, great even. But no one would be surprised to hear this happens very infrequently. Sometimes, there will be craft issues preventing us from making that judgement; other times, it will be issues to do with character or story "I don't believe someone would do that/it would happen that way because [of this experience I've had]". Other times a story will simply not touch us like it would another reader. One (wo)man's meat is another man's poison and all that.

So, imagine this scene:

We pick up a script and we.... LOVE IT.

Against all odds, we love you story, your hook, your characters, whatever. Maybe we love ALL of it, full stop. Maybe it needs some development [on this element] or to make it work for production we'd need to [do this or that or the other], but ultimately THIS IS A GOOD SCRIPT. PROCEED TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

But what is the next level?

Well, annoyingly this depends. Getting a great script report doesn't necessarily mean proceeding anywhere.

Yes, you read that right: you can get an enthusiastic script report praising your script to the high hilt, but that DOESN'T mean 100% that producer, screen agency or initiative is going to get you in for a meeting, never mind option your script and/or make it.

Why? Well, let's put this into perspective and check out the language of script reports: RECOMMEND, CONSIDER, PASS.

Recommend. I write RECOMMEND roughly 3-5 times a year on script reports average; usually on the lower end of the scale. This year, I've written it only once. RECOMMEND basically means this:

I think this script is great. It's got good characters, relatively few craft issues and I think with some development, could represent a viable potential project for this company/agency/initiative.

Check out the language here. "I think..." to start with. Getting an enthusiastic report from the likes of me might be a good start, but a script reader NEVER holds the purse strings. I've lost count of the number of times I've recommended a script only to be met by "meh" by the next guy or gal up the chain. Check out the idea too that all scripts need *some* development, there are no scripts that are so brilliant they are produced *as is*. Last of all, no project is a "dead cert", only ever potential - until the money crosses your palm, you can count on nothing. Even then, great films have ended up languishing in the can forever.

Consider. I probably write CONSIDER a further 5-6 times a year. CONSIDER roughly means this:

This script has some issues, particularly craft. However there is enough about it - particularly character-wise - to make me think it *could* have *something*.

ISSUES is the big word here - how much is too much? Sometimes a script's idea is SO FAB a producer can look at a really shitty script and say, "Wow, this has something. Why not give this writer an option, a "story by" credit and get someone else to actually write it?" Other times, a producer sees something in a character or moment that "sells" the writer to them, if not the actual script - that elusive "je ne se quois". But notice here how GIANT a leap this is - anything is possible, but is it likely any of that can happen. Probably not. (Note: the "Weak Consider" seems to be an American script report verdict, I've never been asked to rate any script as "weak consider" here in the UK).

Pass. The rest of my reads (that AREN'T for private clients via Bang2write) all receive the verdict of PASS. Pass roughly means this:

This script has some good things about it, but ultimately is not for the company/agency/initiative because of [these logistical/budgetary/genre/style/etc elements.]

Or it could mean:

A good idea, but too many craft issues for further development at this time.

Or it could mean:

An otherwise well-crafted script that unfortunately is too similar to stuff we already have in development/has missed the boat premise-wise/has a confused central concept.

Or it could mean:

I hated this script and I wanted to shoot the writer in the head.

In other words then, a PASS does NOT automatically mean your script is rubbish. There are so many reasons scripts get rejected; whilst craft issues are far and away the BIGGEST reason, if that were the ONLY one, those professional, experienced writers would get everything they ever wrote greenlit which of course just does not happen.

So, rejoice if you get an enthusiastic script report from somewhere. Tell everyone you know. Why not? It's a big step up the ladder. But it might also be your only one for that project at that place - so take it and run with it and build on it. You're your own biggest fan, remember.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

From Page To Screen

One thing I hear over and over from writers is the belief *their* script has been *ruined* by some director/producer/whatever getting their grubby paws on it and turning it into something far different to what the writer originally envisaged.

In some cases, this will be indubitably true. After all, no one wants their hardcore horror rendered from the page to screen as a comedy, or their thought-provoking kitchen sink drama turned into a musical. But barring perceptions of the material that are totally at odds like this (or half-baked visions of plot points, character motivations and so on), the viewpoints of directors, producers and the rest of the team are absolutely invaluable in taking your script from the page to the screen. As writers, I think it's a really important insight for us to learn: other people's suggestions and thoughts do not automatically screw up our projects. Also, with the exception of super low budget shorts (possibly movies if in one room), it's not possible for us to cover every aspect of production: the collaborative nature of filmmaking means we HAVE to let others in and accept they won't want to be dictated to.

The marvellous William Martell has the great idea of calling movies the "film version" of his script - and I think this is a brilliant way of looking at it. Your script will always be what you started with; but even if it ends up signed off as the shooting version, there will be surprising and even interesting changes that need to be made along the journey of turning your words into image. Sometimes the "film version" will disappoint you; other times, you will be pleasantly surprised - but the likelihood of being disappointed increases if *your* vision of the script as image is the only one you will accept.

Some of those changes will be for logistical or budgetary reasons; others will be because all human beings have experiences and thought processes of their own and will bring that to the production process. to illustrate my point, I want to draw your attention to the Deviation Blog, which carries the story behind *that* tattoo on Frankie's back (above) - what it looked like on the page and how it ended up in the film. Check it out here.

LINKS

Deviation - official website

Deviation blog

Deviation on Twitter

Deviation on Facebook

Monday, December 06, 2010

Guest Post: Writing for Soaps and Television Drama Series by Yvonne Grace

NO SPOILERS PRESENT It's the 50th Anniversary of Corrie tonight - and *that* infamous tram crash is coming! I for one CANNOT WAIT... Coronation Street has been my favourite soap since I was a little child - and it's possibly my favourite TV programme, full stop. The brilliance of Corrie is it's all about the characters - nowhere on television can I find characters, esepcially women, I identify with as much. Can't wait to see what the response of the current cast - Rita, Emily, Molly, Deirdre, Leanne, Carla and especially the fabulous Becky. On this basis then, when the marvellous Yvonne Grace of Script Advice Writers Room (who even used to work on Corrie! JEALOUS) offered this blog a post about soap writing, I jumped at the chance... Enjoy!
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I cut my teeth on Soaps. They are a fabulous place to learn, develop and grow your skill base. They are definitely not a training ground; you have to know your stuff before you hit the ground running, but Soaps continue to nurture some of the best writers and Producers working in the industry today.

Many of the leading show runners who started writing Soaps and series television see Soap writing as an invaluable experience. Yet the snob-factor still remains regarding this particular drama genre. Here I will attempt to take the mystery out of writing for Soaps.

Very few programmes ever reach the Olympian ratings-heights of our much-loved, much-discussed Soaps. Having spent a large proportion of my career as a Script Editor and Producer making them, I can honestly say that apart from a memorable shopping frenzy in Marylebone High Street back when I had an empty new flat to fill and a concrete credit rating, I have rarely enjoyed myself more.

However, Soap land can be an unforgiving place and an inadequately-prepared, wet-behind-the-ears writer can come a proper cropper if he or she is not careful

Some tips on how to be a good Soap writer:

* Watch a lot of television
It may sound obvious to say this but I would recommend you watch a lot of television before honing in on a Soap-writing career. Most people engaged in the all-consuming task of making Soaps are usually pretty much addicted to the whole process of storytelling and cannot get enough of television drama across all genres.

It’s a highly competitive business, generating storylines, and a producer worth their salt is aware of the storylines being covered by their rivals and are obsessed with the task of generating better storylines to appeal to more people. They will love you to bits if you can aid them in this process.

* Have strong opinions about the characters
It’s hard to be a shrinking violet in Soap land. As a writer, you will be expected to have strong opinions about the characters that populate this world and as a result, you will have to prove you can create stories for them. Be prepared to fight your corner (preferably without shedding blood or resorting to name-calling) and nurture your favourite characters like you would your real-life friendships; it’s always more fun spending time with people you like. This makes for better results and a more enjoyable experience all round.

* Look ahead as much as possible
Generating story and scripts that fill a year of television drama output is no easy feat. The producer and the script team need all the help they can get from writers who not only understand the size of the task in hand, but can clearly help solve some of the problems inherent therein.

The show will need both short- and long-term storylines to keep the audience happy and the character groupings productive. I have found that writers do not come to the story table with long-term storylines as easily as they do the shorter variety. If possible, don’t fall into this trap. If you can get used to seeing the bigger picture and generate material that arcs across a body of episodes and not just one or two, you will be making a vital contribution to the story bank and providing the script team with a firm foundation on which to build a strong through-line of stories across a healthy number of episodes – thus lightening their burden. If you can take the attention, they will all fall in love with you.

* Have strong story ideas
On a Soap, stories are like oxygen to the production process. It is vital, therefore, that you make sure the stories with which you arm yourself at your first Story Conference are not just one-note wonders. They could be anecdotes that sounded good in the pub but in fact fall apart horribly when pitched to a room of fellow writers and a story-savvy script team. Many ideas turn out to be turkey twizlers when spoken out loud.

Your story will need a clear shape and in the telling, you should explore the characters involved and reveal something interesting about them to your audience. If you can’t succinctly summarise your story to yourself in the privacy of your bathroom at home, spare your own blushes - the story needs clarification and talking it up in front of your fellow writers will only highlight its flaws.

* Familiarise yourself with the script team
Forearmed is forewarned. Do your homework. Find out, before you get in the lift up to the Production Office, the names of the key players and especially those on the script team who will be able - should you make it a pleasant experience for them to work with you - to make your life positively marvellous on the show. Conversely, the opposite can also apply.

* Find out as much as you can about the production process
Not all Soaps are run on the same lines. Show interest and ask questions (when appropriate) about the process of production without being in the way or a burden. If you understand something of the pressures your script editor, for example, may be under to deliver your script to deadline, it’ll go a long way to creating a harmonious partnership and that editor will want to work with you again.

* Be positive and helpful to work with
Script editors are your friends as are the story liners. These fabulously creative people are here to help your labours run more easily and smoothly. Use them, don’t fight them, they speak on behalf of the producer and so keeping them on side and not fighting every script point because you feel protective about your work will get you a regular slot on the writing team. Being open-minded to script changes, collaborative in your approach to your writing task and even though it may smart, saying yes and doing the rewrites without having a mini breakdown about the time frame they have given you will ensure you are invited back again.

* Embrace the fast turnaround and keep at it
Like pretty much everything in life, Soap writing becomes easier with practice.

Be organised. You are about to enter a story factory with very fast script turnaround and an ever-hungry camera team wanting to shoot on time with an ever-demanding producer wanting great scripts on time and on budget and an ever-urgent cast wanting their scripts on time and an ever-ready director wanting your script changes to be on time and to make the script better to boot.

Everything is about timing on a Soap. There is never enough time but you have to work within the deadlines you are given. Don’t panic. The structure and rigours of Soap writing are put in place to help you generate an amazing number of drama hours in very little time.

* Be collaborative
Show respect and listen to the opinions and ideas of your fellow writers. You will have to top and tail their scripts and having your colleagues on side and encouraging them, especially at Script Conference, will make your life easier when you pitch a storyline you think is a winner and it receives the thumbs down.

* A word about rejection …
Take the rejection of your storyline as you would the acceptance of it. Both reactions are from the same Soap family and one will more than likely follow the other in rapid succession.

… and last but not least
Keep your interest fresh and true in the show by taking time out to watch it. When you feel jaded, write a radio play, or do something entirely different and come back to the show refreshed.

Remember, good Soaps need good writers. If that means you, get out there, get in touch, give it a go and HAPPY SOAP WRITING!

BIO: Yvonne Grace is an award-winning Television Drama Producer who runs a training/mentoring company called Script Advice for writers in need of a second opinion, editorial help or a script reading and treatment writing service. Join Script Advice Writers Room on Facebook.

Yvonne is currently designing a Summer short course in Writing For Soaps for The National Film and Television School. If you are interested in receiving details of this course, please send an email to yvonnegraceATscriptadviceDOTcoDOTuk and Yvonne will be in touch.

(This article originally appeared in The Script Writer Magazine; created and edited by Julian Friedmann)
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Thanks Yvonne!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DEVIATION update

DEVIATION is shooting right now!

For those of you hiding under a rock for the last twelve days since my last announcement here, there and everywhere: DEVIATION is a dark, feature-length thriller starring Danny Dyer and Anna Walton (Hellboy 2: The Golden Army). The movie tells the story of a young nurse, Amber (Walton), who is kidnapped and held hostage in her own car by Frankie (Dyer), an escaped convict desperate to leave the country. Think women in peril thrillers like RED EYE and PANIC ROOM (with a British slant/twist) and you can't go far wrong.

It's written and directed by the fab JK Amalou and produced by the tenacious Lara Greenway (fresh off the awesome CRIKEY VILLAINS), as well as JK and Michael Riley of Sterling Pictures.

What am I to this picture? I am the associate producer. A few people have asked me what this entails, so a quick rundown. I started off as the script editor, but this role has snowballed as time's gone on to inevitably include other stuff that needs doing - and there's always stuff that needs doing on a low budget movie!! At the moment I'm running the online campaign for the film as well as dealing with PR and Publicity in general, so I'm making a LOT of calls and liaising with a lot of people! It's been a massive learning curve and I can definitely say it's a big privilege to be working on this. I really believe in this script and feel it's going to make a fantastic film.

What's particularly interesting about Deviation however - and what drew me to the project in the first place - is its characterisation. It would be very easy to resort to stereotype in this scenario (and plenty of mediocre movies have): "oh, little girl kidnapped/overcome by the bad man" -- noooooo thanks.

Frankie might be one of the most dangerous men a woman would ever have the misfortune to run into, but he's no 2D nutter licking knives and threatening rape against his hapless captive. Even more importantly, he's not the type of antagonist Amber will "fall for" or try and help get away either!!

Instead, Amber she wants to get away and take back the power WHATEVER WAY SHE CAN. She's no victim, she's a real woman with real problems (even before she's kidnapped); but crucially Amber isn't going to go up against Frankie with martial arts skillz or sexysexy seduction techniques, but rather her own wits.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

5 Pitching Tips

It must be *that* time of year again when Screenwriting students have to pitch projects, because I've had a bunch of emails, tweets and messages asking about my "top tips" - and it suddenly occurred to me I have not actually written a formal post about this, which is a tad remiss of me.

First off, I should say that I'm at best, a competent pitcher and like everyone else, have had some triumphs and some UNBELIEVABLE DISASTERS THAT WILL CAUSE ME EMBARRASSMENT FOREVER. Like the time I arrived at a well-known theme park for a script meeting (yes really) and before I even got through the door (never mind pitch), I had beheaded a dummy/statue of an equally well-known figure by hooking my bag on him and basically THROWING him down the stairs ahead of me. Ground - swallowed. Though I did get the gig.

My friends and Bang2writers frequently pitch me via email, my pages, by calling me etc in a "what do you think of this?" way and of course I've heard other people's pitches at various meetings before. And I've READ stacks and stacks, especially one pagers, though also query letters on occasion too. Reading scripts and trying to "boil down" a script's concept to a logline too is a handy reverse way of looking at work and their central concepts too, I'd say.

However, just recently I was lucky enough to listen to other people's pitches in a more formal, timed setting during the speed pitching event at London Screenwriters Festival. If you've never speed pitched (putched? ; ), basically it's just like this - producer/agent/script editors etc at tables; you plonk down in front of them and pitch; once your five minutes is up, you move on to the next one. If you're lucky, that last person you've pitched to might invite you to send them your script or at least a one pager. A nice, simple set up but of course terrifying for the pitchers (and occasionally for the pitchees too, I would imagine).

So, based on this experience - which is mine, not anyone else's - I'd say:

1) Know your logline inside out. Knowing the central concept yourself and relaying it as clearly as possible is an absolute must, don't make the person you're pitching to have to guess. What's more, you can relay your logline as formally or informally as you like, it really doesn't matter; no one is ever going to jump on you for being prepared, so if you have to read out your logline 'cos of nerves, where's the harm? Remember though: a logline is not a tagline.

2. Don't forget to tell your pitchee what your project IS. Really obvious here, but I often finding myself asking things like, "Is it for television or film?" Occasionally people will say, "Both", but I think that's a bit of a cop out as knowing exactly *what* your project is gives us clues about its identity, which remember is not to be underrated. From here you might get asked a bit about the project's genre or its audience - so if it's for TV, what sort of slot are we looking at? Is it a returning drama, continuing drama or serial? If it's a film, what kind of certificate do you envisage and why? Who is your audience? What types of things have they watched before? Why would they like your project? BUT I've heard people don't like hearing stuff like "JAWS MEETS PITCH BLACK". This might be true, though to be honest I don't think I've knowingly met people who absolutely hate using this device. One note of caution I would issue with it - just sticking two movies/shows together does not necessarily "inform" us what your movie/show is "like", who its audience is or why they might like your project. I would be more inclined to say something like, "The audience who might like this movie are the types who may have watched the likes of [two or three similar movies], are in this [age range] and may have read books like [1 or 2 books]", plus any other useful demographical information that can illustrate the interests of this audience - ie. you have done your research.

3. Do I bring any extras with me? I think this depends on the context. As I mentioned on the London Screenwriters Blog, don't ever press scripts or USBs into the hands of others, unsolicited. If a speed pitching session, I don't see anything wrong with giving your pitchee a one pager, though I think it's polite to ask first. If you're doing a more formal pitch and have been told you can bring props, one pagers, mood boards or powerpoint, then ALWAYS DO SO, because such things can make you less self conscious and thus feed into helping your confidence and focus; they also help others to "visualise" your project better. But keep it as simple as possible and don't overload people. Oh - and if in doubt, ask what you can bring.

4. Don't get caught up in the plot. Remember, you're pitching a project your pitchee has NOT READ YET. Whilst this is mindnumbingly obvious, it's VERY easy to lapse into "and this happens... and then this happens... and then this happens..." as part of your pitch. The pitchee is more than likely going to zone out, because it's difficult to focus on the comings and goings of a story you haven't got the "bigger picture" on, if that makes sense. Instead of going for the smaller details then, give us a "sense" of the WHOLE. Lots of pitching people recommend "selling the sizzle, not the steak" - and this is what they mean by this: logline, characters, goals, genre, audience, *that* type of stuff, not the ins and outs of the plot.

5. Calm down. It's very easy to get het up when pitching and unexpected things *do* happen; once at a pitching event I shook someone's hand as I was sitting down, missed my chair, fell to the floor AND pulled them over the table so the (rather rickety!) table collapsed. It was very, very embarrassing. But hey, the producer in question will always remember me. But hopefully this kind of calamity will not befall you and all you'll get is a case of chronic nerves. If this happens, don't panic. If your mind goes blank or you start stuttering or whatever, just be truthful and say you need a moment to compose yourself. No one's going to think any the less of you.

For anyone who wants it, here is the model pitch I often provide for those who ask me:

Hi, I'm [name, a little bit of relevant b.g - one/two sentences max]. I'm here today to pitch a [genre of project/title of project], it's a [TV script/Film script/web series/whatever]. The logine is [logline] and it's aimed at [audience + why].

Obviously depending on the context/time you have (and whether you have props or other people with you), you can expand or reduce it to fit. I think it encapsulates those burning questions a pitchee *might* have about your project, which means in the questions/feedback part you can talk in more detail about the project, rather than chase after any important, yet missing elements you didn't cover in the first instance.

GOOD LUCK!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Film Shorts Club

So, in response to the YES votes I got here, on Facebook, Twitter and even on email, I can announce this is *the* place to list yourself as a short film writer, producer or director wanting to collaborate (or indeed anyone else interested in making short films - actors, DoPs, music people, art designers and other crew welcome too).

PLEASE NOTE:

a) Please list your REAL NAME as well as your online handle, plus email address; suggested format for email addresses yournameATproviderDOTcom, to avoid those pesky bots. Please make sure you say what your title is WRITER, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER, etc, what GENRES or "types" of story you're interested in AND whether you're looking to expand your horizons - ie. if you're a writer who wants to produce. Please also include anything else that may be helpful - ie. if you've been shortlisted or made UKFC funded films before, etc.

b) As with The Feedback Exchange, please list yourself in the comments section of THIS POST ONLY. This is to ensure we have an easily searchable database, linked to on the right hand sidebar of this blog. If for any reason you can't log in to Blogger, please email me on Bang2writeATaolDOTcom with your details and I'll add you.

A FEW THINGS:

1) The first rule of Shorts Club - EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT SHORTS CLUB. I daresay many writers will join in the first instance and we will outnumber the producers and directors. These things take time to build up. It's no good saying, "Oooooh, there's only writers on there", we ALL have a responsibility to make sure this gets as wide as possible. So tell all your filmmaking friends. Post on filmmaking forums, FB pages and websites. Put on your own Facebook and Twitter. Tell people at that *event* you're at. And don't just do it ONCE, remind people about Shorts Club too. Let's make this the best, most diverse pool of short filmmaking on the interwebs, it benefits all of us!

2) Occasionally you will find projects go belly up or you have to walk away for whatever reason. These things happen. Take it on the chin and DON'T slag off the people on this list, or this list. Be professional.

3) If you successfully put a short together with people from this list, make sure I know about it - let me help share the good news! Equally, if you have any other stories about short filmmaking to share that will inspire others, please consider writing a guest post for this blog or let me know the link from yours.

Now go forth, my short filmmaking friends and MAKE SOME FILMS!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We Luv Short Shorts

Many thanks to Dave Herman, who asks about the business of finding a producer/director for your short film. So let's fast forward the writing part. You've got a short: it's amazing. Now what?

As Dave rightly points out on my Facebook group Bang2writers (join here), there is a well trodden path into TV and Film (FYI, "well trodden" doesn't mean "easy"), yet short film *feels* a lot more like a free-for-all. Where do you even start getting that film OFF the page and rendered as image?

First off, I can only tell you how I've done it and what's happened. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments section, too. So let's go:

Meeting as many people as possible. One of my very first paid gigs was a short film. It was called The Design and I think it's fair to say it didn't even vaguely turn out the way we planned for a variety of very involved reasons. However, it was a really interesting learning curve, the guy who put up the money was pleased with it, so it's all good. But how did I get that gig? After all, it's unusual to be paid actual money for a short film. It went like this...

I knew someone who worked for someone who was looking for a writer who nominated me; we worked on a project that didn't work out, but we didn't burn any bridges and that other person nominated me to another friend who ended up working on a project with no writer and needed someone who could deliver a draft in a week.

Phew. Got all that? It happened so organically I'm not even sure *I* did, even at the time. But basically, it boils down to this: knowing as many people as possible and making sure your reach EXTENDS TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE is absolutely imperative in getting people to believe they can work with you.

My story was early noughties, so there was no Twitter or Facebook or even blogs really, so how did I get my reach to those people? It was as basic as this: LET EVERYONE READ YOUR WORK. And I mean, EVERYONE. I know some writers only want actual directors or producers to read their work, but I think this is shortsighted - you never know who *that* person who's just asked to read your work is *going* to be five years from now... Or who they know RIGHT NOW. So, whenever anyone wants to ask to read my work, shorts or otherwise, my answer? "Yes." Where's the harm? Remember, no one's going to steal your work anyway... and you have everything to gain, potentially. It's even easier to do this now, with the likes of Power of Three so popular, you can join The Feedback Exchange here, for free even.

Use Twitter and Facebook. At the end of last year, I decided the time was ripe to start a new short film. I made two shorts last year with Studio Schoque, Safe and Slash (still in post production, hopefully some news soon). Safe was a supernatural drama; Slash was a spoof horror. I decided I needed a new direction: I fancied something "arty", something deliberately "short filmy" - and figured SW Screen's Digital Shorts might be worth another punt. So I posted on Twitter something along the lines of:

Going for SW Screen Digital Shorts as a writer... Any directors out there who want to come in with me?

I got a fair few replies - but the one that stood out was Guy Ducker. He was already a Facebook friend, but had always been on the peripheral of my social network as a "friend of a friend", rather than someone I'd met in real life at that time. He ended up reading Slash and I watched his showreel - and we both liked what we saw. I pitched him a couple of ideas and we ended up developing a short about a magic mirror. Of course, SW Screen passed on it, but with a bit of luck we'll shoot it next year, regardless. Guy brought on the producer, Matt - and what I love about Guy is his commitment to the script itself - it's had at least seven drafts now (a few of them quite involved rewrites), he's not rushing it. Just the way directors should be, I reckon.

DON'T Use Twitter and Facebook like this. So many people use social networking purely to vent: "I'm so busy I have no life", "I hate parents with buggies", "I am so exhausted", "I have a terrible hangover/cold/life" blah blah blah BORING. If you want to vent, then at least be evil and twisted enough to be INTERESTING FFS. And for God's sake, stop telling everyone how depressed you are about the state of filmmaking/your career/whatever, save those moments for your real friends or your psychiatrist. It sucks for EVERYONE at some point, sometimes you will feel as if you're putting one foot forward only to slide twenty back. Plus you'd be surprised too who's REALLY having a shit time: it's very often the people you admire the most for being positive, proactive or successful in ways you're not. Why? It boils down to this: the MORE you do, the MORE rejection you get. So suck it up and keep moving. Get a name for yourself as a whiner and you're doooooooooooomed! Dooooooomed I tell you!!!! Not sure how Twitter works? A Twit's Guide To Twitter.

Find crew and cast even before you have a script. Writers are much more "up" for helping each other out these days and I think that's great. But as I often say to my Bang2writers, other writers can only help you so much. At the end of the day, writers NEED the input of producers, directors, actors, DoPs, whatever to "complete" that puzzle and make that short film. So don't just hide out in the writers' pool - dip a toe into the different aspects of the filmmaking community. Learn about what's important to them, what they like, who they're interested in. If you can, do a bit of running and experience a real set. Help out as many directors and producers as you can in whatever ways you can. Basically: BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. Then, when you have a short film to shoot - suddenly you have a whole list of people to approach and say, "Do you fancy making this WITH me?" Even if people in your network can't, they might point you in the direction of someone who can... Relationships and recommendations go a long way in this business, especially when you're asking people to work for free as shorts often do.

Know what you want. If you want to write a short about magicians and rabbits, but the producer you've met online or at a party wants to make one about tower blocks and child abuse, WALK AWAY. Find the RIGHT person to work with. No producer *can* be better than *any* producer. Besides anything, you want to keep that Ken Loach-style producer in your pocket for ANOTHER project, when you DO want to write a short like that (and who can say you NEVER will? Or that you won't want to hook them up with someone else?). Don't burn bridges for a reason like this, it's daft. No one is EVER going to mind you saying, "To be honest, I don't think we're on the same page". Unless of course you punch them in the face and/or set fire to their trousers at the same time, that's just antisocial.

Maintain your contacts properly. People hate it when you only contact them because you WANT something. Try and take an interest in ALL your contacts in some small way - yes, it's time consuming, but the internet has made it easier than ever; I remember back in the noughties mailing piles and piles of Christmas Cards by SNAIL MAIL! Now I can write on people's Facebook walls for their birthdays, wish them well for shoots; comment on their blog posts and statuses; join their groups and pages; chat about important life stuff on occasion, too. And it's NOT just cos I *might* want something off them in the future either - I actually enjoy building and maintaining these relationships, some of my most trusted friends in REAL life started off hiring me as a Bang2writer or in a script meeting about some project that's long since dead in the water. It enhances your life not just as a writer, but as a person.

Finally, Dave makes the suggestion I should have a SHORT FILM EXCHANGE, where writers, directors and producers can meet up on here to actively collaborate, just like the Script Exchange. If I get ten votes for YES, I'll set that up. Be sure to comment here though.... GO!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Media Parents Meeting In Bristol

Amy Walker joined me on a panel about parenthood and flexible working at London Screenwriters Festival, so I was only too happy to pass this message along from her - I think Media Parents is a fab idea and could really open up flexible working for everyone, not just parents. If you live in Bristol or the surrounding areas, please give Media Parents your support!
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Media Parents is a jobs and social networking website for parents and others who want to work flexibly in TV. 5000 women and 750 men left TV over the last 3 years - Media Parents is hoping to stem this talent drain and keep talented people working in media.

Media Parents is currently organising a meeting : Can TVWork More Flexibly in the South West? which will take place on Tuesday
November 23rd at 6:00pm at BBC Bristo
l.The simple aim of this meeting is to share information on best practice of flexible working as a partial and positive solution to some of the problems we are facing in TV, as outlined by Skillset’s
recent data. We hope that the meeting will result in more media employers and freelancers being open to the idea of job sharing and flexible working, and seeing a way to make this happen.

Attendees include: representatives from BBC Bristol, Bristol Anchor Partnership, SWScreen, and employers and freelancers from across the South West and Wales. It would be great to see you there too.

If you are an employer or freelancer in the South West or Cardiff, and would like to attend this event please send an email entitled MEDIA PARENTS BRISTOL and detailing your full name and job title and any comment you would
like to make about your experience of flexible working to admin@mediaparents.co.uk.

Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in coming along.
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If you go, let us know!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Spectre of T2's Sarah Connor

First off, let me just say: there's nothing inherently wrong with liking Terminator 2: Judgement Day. There are some great set pieces, Arnie is in fine form (even if the internal logic of the piece is completely screwy: he's a good guy now? It was THAT easy? Then why did John send back Kyle in the first place FFS??) but I do recall as a child being blown away by the melting guy and *that* vision of the nuclear strike. So yeah. As action pieces go: why not.

But as regular readers of this blog know, I effing hate Sarah Connor in this version. Not because she's a *bad* character per se, but because I hear, time and time again, what a fantastic example of STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERISATION she is, especially from men. Again: nothing *wrong* with liking women kicking ass - if forced to choose, I'd choose that over the princess tied to the railway tracks by the villain with the enormous moustache.

But let's not pretend Sarah Connor in T2 (and her multiple replicants in the almost two decades to follow) are anything other than the flipside of the SAME COIN. Holding her up as an ICON, *the* way to do it, is what grieves me - especially when her spectre LOOMS over the spec pile and produced movies SO frequently.

So let's break it down:

Motherhood. This is a woman who's conceived a child from ONE night of passion by a now dead lover who came from the future. She's managed to ensure her pregnancy has gone smoothly, she's given birth, she's managed to drop off the grid, she's managed to raise a child in a nomadic fashion. That's pretty difficult, I grant you. What's more, she has the knowledge her child will SAVE MANKIND. Wow! That's quite a privilege and a huge responsibility. Lots has been made of Sarah's likeness to Mary here, but I have one problem with this. To me, Mary is a loving, protective mother who not only adores her son, but backs Jesus up in his mission, even though she must know it will end badly for him (and indeed, for her), but she puts him first as good mothers are wont to do. In direct contrast, Sarah treats John as a commodity throughout the duration of T2, even checking him for DAMAGE as if he was like the machines coming after him and IGNORING his pleading cries for affection. This means her ludicrous rant about maternity in the Skynet guy's kitchen has very little impact, because just *what* is this character supposed to be - a loving mother or a hard-faced mercenary/bodyguard? Because it seems the latter to me, every time. So why did we need Arnie, then?

Military training. Let's remember for a moment Sarah Connor was plunged into this living nightmare through no fault of her own. In Terminator she was just a young, good time girl with no military aspirations. A decade later, she's so hardcore she's almost unrecognisable. Now, much has been said of the idea Sarah WOULD bulk up, become fantastic with weaponry, whatever - there's an apocalypse coming FFS, who wouldn't want to BE PREPARED??? But there's two issues here. 1) Sarah knows Skynet will go NUCLEAR to destroy the world. What the hell use is advanced weaponry on the ground? 2) There's being prepared - and there's being prepared. Sarah knows full well she CAN defeat a Terminator with very few weapons, even none: in the first film she did not kill Arnie with a big-ass gun, she OUT-WITTED HIM, by drawing him into the big presser thing in the factory and crushing him. What's more, Sarah and Kyle spent most of the film RUNNING from Arnie - that's the most effective thing you can do from an unstoppable killing machine against which bullets are INEFFECTIVE. Why didn't Sarah work solely on keeping John OUT of the spotlight and close to her at ALL TIMES, instead of BOTHERING with all this military training that isolates her from her child?? To make herself feel better? No wonder John thinks she's so selfish - she is.

Her insanity. There's no value judgement here about people with mental health issues, let's just get that straight first: I'm NOT saying someone who loses their sanity is weak. No way. However, I have consistently heard how Sarah's insanity is a "fantastic" and even "realistic", because WHO WOULDN'T GO INSANE IF THEY KNEW THE END OF THE WORLD WAS COMING? But let's just rewind that. There's an apocalypse coming, you know this for a FACT. Your kid needs to be protected AT ALL COSTS 'cos he is the new Messiah. And Sarah - who's supposed to be a good mother, remember - not only doesn't have a back up plan of who will look after John if she's indisposed (ie. in the asylum) so he ends up fostered by God-knows-who, she doesn't even remember to KEEP HER MOUTH SHUT ABOUT THE APOCALYPSE?? Really??? When we have such a rich history of imprisoning and abusing people who claim the apacalypse is coming, but Sarah conveniently forgets this EVEN WHEN HER SON NEEDS HER MORE. Tsk. Oh, but but! You say: she's insane, she doesn't know what she's saying!!! Then that's either pretty lazy writing or a PLOT MANOEUVRE to make sure she's out the way and John is on his own, not "great characterisation".

So like Sarah Connor all you want: be my guest. But DON'T tell me she's a "great female character".

LINKS

Unsung Movie Heroines by me

Why Sarah from Jurrassic Park: The Lost World Is A Good Female Character by me

A Breakdown of "Typical" Female Roles by Me on Twelve Point (Free Article)

Why "Strong Female Characters" Are Bad For Women

The Female Character Roles Flow Chart

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Exciting News

I have a little announcement.

Because I haven't got enough to do, raising children, cats and African Land Snails whilst writing my arse off, I figured it might be fun to be Associate Producer on a feature called Deviation. (As you do).

You can find out the movie via its blog, here. And please join the fanpage on Facebook here. And read the synopsis here. And follow Deviation via Twitter, here --->@devmov.

Plenty more announcements re: cast, crew, the shoot, etc coming soon. Sign up now and PLEASE tell all your friends and followers about us!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Streetdance 3D: More Please

SPOILERS So I watched Streetdance 3D recently. Actually I watched the 2D version, cos 3D gives me migraines, but you catch my drift: I watched *that* UK Dance Movie; the first one ever, apparently.

The US in particular has a rich history of dance movies going back to the age of Fred Astaire and the Goldigger movies, so I've always wondered why the UK doesn't do them. Certainly as a young kid/teenager I watched all of the usual suspects - Dirty Dancing, Fame, Footloose, Strictly Ballroom, Saturday Night Fever, Stayin' Alive, even Coyote Ugly, Step Up and Save The Last Dance. So did my friends, both male and female - my brother, my sisters, their friends and so it goes on. In short: there's a big market there. So why has the UK chosen to ignore this phenomenon until now?

Well, it's easy to point the finger at Streetdance 3D. The acting is mostly abysmal for one; plus there's more shots of the boyfriend and the lead female in bed together than I deemed strictly necessary (Dirty Dancing it ain't). There's nothing here we haven't *really* seen before either - a culture clash of streetdance and ballet might be "the same, but different", but in all honesty it's mostly the same as *the* young woman or man who *learns something about life through dance* just like all the rest of them.

But then that's the appeal of dance movies: they ARE mostly the same. These are essentially extended pop videos with a bit "extra" thrown in. And that "extra" is what Streetdance 3D does really well:

- London looks FANTASTIC in Streetdance 3D. We've seen so many shots of LA, San Francisco, Miami, wherever in this sort of way, but I'm struggling to think of a movie that makes OUR Capital somewhere to be proud of like this. Instead, we've been concentrating on making our major conurbations look like miserable places to live, so this was an especially welcome change.

- The script might be let down by some poor acting, but it's better than you might think. The structure is smooth and allows for extended dance sequences without feeling lumpy or confused or as if you're waiting for the next one to start. Characters are differentiated enough to be interesting, but not so much it's a mad melee of faces and names too (no mean feat when you consider just how MANY dancers are in Streetdance 3D, never mind the supporting cast of dance teachers and examiners).

- Breaking the rules and challenging tradition is placed at the heart of this narrative and is never better than when everyone at the Streetdance competition at the end actually BOO *our* dancers, but they (inevitably) turn it around. Throughout the whole piece, there is the notion that "as long as you work hard and are honest and decent, you get your reward". This is highlighted by the traitor Jay, the original leader of the crew, who defects to champion group The Surge, doing his friend and girlfriend over to be in with a chance of winning. Which of course he doesn't, so he gets what HE deserves.

- Streetdance 3D never once forgets who its audience is. Young people watch hours and hours of MTV; they love dancing and they love storytelling - but as I've said before on this blog, simplicity is key in the pop video, thus it must be here as well to allow for those extended dance sequences. But simplicity does not mean "dumbed down": not once does Streetdance 3D treat its core audience like idiots and even provides a fantastic reversal at the mid point dance battle when it reveals Jay as a traitor.

Finally:

- The choreography is truly jaw-droppingly good in every single scene dancing appears, I didn't see one bad or cheesy move. Don't believe me? Check out the links below. And what is the name of this movie again??

Lots of writers get very het up about COMMERCIAL films - it's almost a dirty word these days, it seems to me. But why? Streetdance 3D is exactly the type of movie young people WANT to watch - and why not? It has a healthy message, looks fantastic and appeals. We spend a lot of time talking down our youth in this country and it seems to me the more movies we can give them where us *old* people say, "You know what? You lot aren't half bad at all; you can do what you want, so go for it", the better. I would have LOVED to have seen a movie like this when I was younger - instead I had to make do with movies where people thousands of miles away filled in for my UK contemporaries. There's nothing wrong with American movies of course, but Media Imperialism casts such a vast shadow over young people's lives in this country, is it any wonder they flocked in droves to see Streetdance 3D and groups like Diversity and Flawless THEY had voted in on shows like Britain's Got Talent?

LINKS

Streetdance 3D trailer

Streetdance 3D - "The Surge" (played by Flawless)

Streetdance 3D - Dance Battle Scene - where Jay is unmasked as a traitor

Streetdance 3D - Diversity's cameo role

Streetdance 3D - "Breaking Pointe" End Dance

Friday, November 05, 2010

Guest Post: Vamps, Vixens & Feminists 2010 - Notes by Carla Grauls

Many thanks to super Bang2writer Carla Grauls for providing us with some notes on the Vamps, Vixens & Feminists event at the Sphinx Theatre last thursday (Oct 28). About Carla: Carla Grauls is a writer of screen, theatre, fiction and non-fiction. She is working on writing more feminist sci fi. Note: For additional notes on this event. check out the lovely Carmel Shortall's blog, here. Enjoy!
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Beatrix Campbell kicked off proceedings with an inspiring talk about how the paradigms have shifted. Women and men have started questioning people's behaviour, and call them to account - like bankers, a working class woman challenging the pope, even Wayne Rooney can't get away with the typically footballer behavior anymore. Beatrix said this was a new kind of courage to challenge and question what it means to be a man and challenge old perceptions of masculinity. She said gender has become an argument and patriarchy has lost its legitmacy. people are at last questioning issues of money and power - which are traditionally a man's domain. It's the first time in history that capitalism is being judged not celebrated and the macho culture that goes with it.

Then we had Bidisha talk about The Token Woman in the arts (on panels, female playwrights (esp at the national theatre) book award lists etc). She likened the absence or minority of women in the arts as a cultural femicide, with women being erased from public life.

The third panel was about 'creating the roles and expanding the boundaries' about how to keep women in the arts in a sustainable way. Guy Hibbert, screenwriter, said that the change has to come from the writer and the writer should make a conscious decision to write more female protagonists and finding the female stories in traditionally 'male' stories like the war/ banking etc. We need to make women mainstream not marginal.

Glen Walford, who used to run a theatre, added that women need to continue to campaign for their creativity by creating female friendly environments, challenging venues that continue to have a majority of male written work (with the new Gender Duty and outline suggestions/ action points) and not colluding with victimisation.

Maggie Steed (actress) said that you need to make alliances with others in order to survive in a competitive industry and be a feminist by example. And it needs to start with the writers who need to honour their female experiences.

Then there was a panel about sustaining the network and Kate Kinninmont from WFTV talked about launching a new mentoring scheme for older women to tackle ageism.

There was also talk about other initiatives for female actors and technicians.

What came out of the conference was a need to build a network of women who will actively challenge/ campaign for change across the arts and cite the new Gender Duty as a way to make people sit up, take notice and do something about it. This could be a letter signed by 50 women to encourage the National Theatre to have more female playwrights showcased or challenging stereotypical depictions of women in Film & TV.

All inspiring stuff - I was particularly interested in what Bea Campbell said about the change in our times and the potential this has for people to really start listening to a female point of view.
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Thanks Carla and Carmel!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Guest Post - Fidelity Criticism: Good Book, Bad Movie... Bad Book? GREAT Movie

 Many thanks to A. Hall for writing this post ... Enjoy!
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A friend of mine at some point in the last year and a half asked me if I'd seen Twilight yet. I said no, because I hadn't (and still haven't), and asked her what she thought of it. She said it was bad, but that it was way better than the book, which she found utterly insufferable. As such, there was a case made for one medium proving a superior means to tell a story. Twilight's failings as a work of literature were turned, at least partially, into successes.

One definition of fidelity criticism reads as "The criticism of translation which depends on the notion of the text as having a single correct and permanent meaning, which must be respected by the translator, instead of the polysemous creation which the text in fact is." This goes for adaptations as much as it does translations; a bad book can become a good (or at least better) movie, and a bad movie can come from a very good book.

This isn't so cut and dry, though. Consider the Harry Potter franchise, for example, and how Chris Columbus's straightforward treatments of Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets were vastly inferior films to Alfonso Cuaron's Prisoner of Azkaban. Columbus presented his films as mere sequences of events and they suffered as a consequence; Cuaron privileged the storytelling potential of cinema over accuracy and yielded a better standalone feature. There's also Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films, which cut down on the backstory and history in favor of a much faster pace, making Tolkien's story considerably more accessible than it is as a novel (not that the novels are bad, per se, but their appeal doesn't necessarily transcend genre as well as the adaptations do).

There's also cases like Mike Winterbottom's treatment of Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (a novel described many times as "unfilmable") as A Cock and Bull Story. Instead of presenting the narrative of Tristram Shandy verbatim (which would be borderline impossible), Winterbottom instead captures the spirit of the work's digressive, sometimes almost incoherent style by weaving the Tristram Shandy story in and out of a story of the making of the movie. He captures the metafictional elements of the work in a way that could only be achieved by choosing not to make a straightforward adaptation, which would have been an aggressively bad, painfully unpleasant film to watch, devoid of the pleasure of either the novel or the film.

For more straightforward examples consider Alan Rudolph's adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, described by the author as "painful to watch," or Zack Snyder's ponderous, overlong treatment of Watchmen (though its author, Alan Moore, refuses to have his name attached to any adaptation of his work after a dreadful reworking of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003). Breakfast of Champions tries too hard to push the social commentary that Vonnegut got away with in the space of his novel, and he renders the characters unbelievable and unpleasant to watch in the process without benefiting in any way from doing so. Watchmen was described by its detractors as being too loyal to its source material to be effective or to find a mass audience, and thus bombed terribly at the box office.

It's not as clear as a good book making a bad movie or vice-versa. It's much more a question of taste, of the source material's accessibility, and whether or not it's designed to succeed more clearly in one form or another. Straightforward adaptations, however, almost always hurt far more than they help.
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ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT ADAPTATION:

Notes On A Scandal: A Case Study

War of The Worlds: A Case Study

The Art And Business of Adaptation - notes (5 posts)

5 Films That Didn't Get The Book

Show Me the Money: Adaptation

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

London Screenwriters' Festival 2010

Wow. Just WOW. Words can't describe the fantastic experience I had at London Screenwriters' Festival but as we all know I'm not going to let a little *thing* like that try and stop me, so I'll have a go.

Regent's College was amazing. The production staff, volunteers and helper-outers were amazing. The delegates were amazing! Everything was amazing! Oh, you want more? Okay:

Friday. I didn't have any sessions of my own on the Friday so I was tweeting and Facebooking like a mad thing. Leilani was the official blogger for the festival, you can check out all her amazing posts here. Hayley McKenzie of Script Angel pitched in too and we managed to splurge out a selection of soundbites from a variety of sessions, though in hindsight perhaps Hayley and I should have met up so we weren't both at Tony Jordan's session at the same time, haha. BUT IT'S TONY JORDAN, scriptwriting GOD, so of course we both had to be there. Nicola Schindler too provided some really interesting insights, as did Tim Bevan and all the speakers at the Should You Write A Spec Script? Session. NOTE: If you have written up a review of the festival or any of the sessions, please do send me the links and I'll list them all here.

Panel 1. Saturday was my majorly busy day - I was moderating no less than two panels and handling a seminar added to the bill at the last minute, "How to Cope With Rejection". The first panel was on being a parent and a freelancer." It was on at 10am and due to some tube disruptions and a heavy night in the bar before, it was inevitably a small session but one that was really worthwhile. Amy Walker of flexible jobsite Media Parents was there, talking through the difficulties her clients and members face in working freelance and juggling their families and how flexible working can actually benefit us all. Then we heard from Director Rebecca Gatward and TV screenwriter Marc Pye about some of the realities of their working lives and what they've had to do to sustain their careers and their family life. It was truly fascinating and lots of the people who came told me later the session had been a real "eye opener", so I'm hoping the panel will play its part in helping get this very important subject on the media map of discussion for once and for all.

Panel 2. My second panel was "Writing for Soaps", again with Marc Pye but also Danny Stack and Lisa Holdsworth. All are at varying stages of thier TV writing careers and were able to offer fantastic insights into the changing face of continuing drama. I chose all three specifically because they HADN'T been through The BBC Writer's Academy - not because I have anything against the academy, it's a fab initiative - but because writers often seem to hold the erroneous belief that getting in via the Academy is the only way "in". Danny, Lisa and Marc showed delegates there are other ways and amongst other things, discussed their favourite soap storylines they were involved in or had seen.

Rejection. On to 4pm and I ran a small but lively seminar on coping with rejection. Like many writers I used to be CRUSHED by rejection; every single one felt like a nail in my writing career's coffin. I will never forget *someone* telling me, "Once you get 100 rejections, you should give up" - so I would count each letter or email as they came in! How mad is that? Of course I got to 100 relatively quickly and ended up languishing in a writerly-depression of some months until I met I met the mighty JK Amalou who is the most rejection-proof writer I have EVER met. At first I thought he was some kind of alien but five years on I totally get it when he says, "Fuck them all!!!" You gotta do what you gotta do and develop strategies for coping with those inevitable rejections. My personal strategy is "translating" what rejection REALLY means because handily, I am able to see BOTH sides of the coin, being a writer AND script reader. So I talked the delegates who came through a variety of the best known rejections - "Your script is not cinematic enough", anyone? - and exposed some of them for the "get out of jail free" cards they really are and explained why others are sometimes given.

Sunday. Sunday I was tweeting and Facebooking again in the morning, mostly from Janice Day's awesome "Effective Networking" session, then I was asked to participate in the Pitching Sessions in the afternoon so I could give delegates feedback from a script editor's POV. All the writers had passion for their projects which was great to see, but many spent a long time describing the ins and outs of the story itself, rather than putting the actual STORY CONCEPT "upfront", which would be my main advice. It was fascinating to be on the other side of the table. Sunday afternoon I took part in another panel, this time moderated by Evan Leighton-Davis of Industrial Scripts, "Meet The Gatekeepers". Script Consultant Sarah Olley, Alex Mandell of Paramount Pictures, Danny Stack and Jamie Wolpert, who wasn't actually on our bill but Danny randomly found him wandering about and discovered Jamie has worked with none other than the mighty Paul Abbott! The session was packed - something I hadn't expected with Barbara Machin's crime writing panel on at the same time - but went really well, with loads of great feedback.

Can't wait for next year!!!