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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

She Shall Go To The Ball!

Mega Congrats to long term Bang2writer, the gloriously named Helen Bang, who has won the Combined Mind Genre Busting Competition.

The competition was to find the most original/out-there genre-busting film concept in 100 words or less. Here it is, which Helen sees as Pixar-style animation:

H2O!

Genre: atomic satire.

Water is life – but what about the life of water?

All the water is on Earth that ever was or will be. It’s highly likely that a molecule of water in your glass has been through the bladder of Oliver Cromwell…

AQUA, a peace-loving water molecule, keeps ending up inside dictators; Pontius Pilate, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden… Despite everything he maintains great faith in humanity until he is threatened with being turned into heavy water to make a nuclear bomb.

A satirical, mind-bending political comedy about an underdog’s fight to save the world.


About Helen - I write swashbuckling period adventure stories, anti-romcoms and I'm currently working on a comedy about global warming and a family sci/fi film. I love gardening and joined-up dancing.

Helen's prize is a ticket to the London Screenwriters Festival. Well done Helen and see you there!!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The LSWF Short Script Contest: A Look In The Spec Pile

Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a contest or script call? Well, over on the LSWF blog I give a general overview of the types of things my readers and I saw in the ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN SUBMISSIONS. Check it out here.

If you're feeling suitably inspired or want to put your LSWF script into another contest, check out the Sequel To Cannes Short Scriptwriting Contest.

This year it is an OPEN contest - that's right, you can write about anything you like, there is NO BRIEF. There is an entry fee, but in addition to cash prizes for the winners and runners up, EVERY entrant gets feedback and SW-based prodco Level Films is sifting the WHOLE LOT. How cool is that? Best of luck!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: "Inspired By Science" got a whopping 238 entries!

Knowing What You're Doing

It's well-known *just* writing a script doesn't "cut it" when it comes to "making it" as a writer. If you are to have any chance at all in this overcrowded, under-fished pool, I believe there are certain things you MUST do to get a whiff of attention from the producer casting his or her net... Now I've overdone the fishing analogies, let's take a look at those things:

WHO - is this for? Remember, knowing your audience is key. If you don't know who your spec is for or where it could go on the schedule/DVD shelf, you can be dang sure your reader/s won't either - and no one is going to fill the blanks in for you.

WHAT - is this? Sounds obvious, but with many scripts it's hard to tell things like its genre, or even whether it's a TV or Film script. Don't be one of those writers who think it's about trying to make it fit *later*, figure it out NOW. Preferably do all your preparation in advance or if you find yourself returning to page 1 again and again, ask yourself WHY this story is not working... and be HONEST with yourself. Is this spec *worth* your valuable time?

WHERE - is this spec going? This can be as narrow or broad as you like, from deciding which channel or company it's destined, through to deciding your *aims*: is this a sample or calling card? Is this for contests only? Is this to find others to collaborate with, maybe make yourselves? Is this a "practice" or "learning" draft, just for you? Whatever you decide is best for your spec, decide and the SOONER THE BETTER. Otherwise what is the point of writing it?

WHEN - is it going to be finished/sent off? Setting goals is different to setting cut off point. If you say stuff like, "If this spec or I haven't got any attention by [THIS DATE] I'm packing it in", you're destined for disappointment my friends cos chances are, you will reach that hallowed date and your spec or you are done for and it's YOU who has made it so. Why do this to yourself?? However, setting a GOAL is different - because even unreached goals can tell us a few things about ourselves and our works. When I decided two years ago I was going to get a telly commission BY HOOK OR BY CROOK, behind the scenes here at Bang2write Towers I went through all sorts of Hell to try and get one. I came close a couple of times, but in doing so, I had an epiphany: for me, it was simply not worth it in the long run. And GUESS WHAT: I actually LIKE writing features WAY MORE. I didn't know this before I embarked on my TV journey. Now I can continue in my features journey and I am FREE of any doubts I had re: TV... I'm not ruling it out altogether and have a couple of promising leads, but I'm not pursuing it aggressively like I was. I learnt LOADS and it was a very steep learning curve, but now I'm on another path altogether. And it suits me just fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine, for the first time in AGES. But I needed to do it. What do you NEED to do?

WHY - am I writing this? Are you writing this spec for YOU or for an audience? Yes, we've come full circle and we're back to our first point again, THAT'S how important audience is... And yet STILL it is massively underestimated in the spec pile. If you want to draw on your personal experience, please be my guest: there have been BRILLIANT stories in which writers have successfully combined elements of their own lives with fiction... But there's the important thing, right there. It can't be ALL you - 9/10 it doesn't work. Even biopics and autobiographies get fictionalised to make them "flow", to make them "more interesting" or make them "more relevant" to an audience: it's all about sacrificing facts for drama. Making it all about you and what YOU want to see or read is one of the most surefire ways of killing off interest in your spec.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Guest Post: Script Factory Development Scheme by Trudie Shutler

Big congratulations to my fellow Dorset-dweller and Athena Screenwriters 08/9 graduate, Trudie Shutler who won The Script Factory's recent Development Scheme. Here's a few words from Trudie about her thoughts... Enjoy!
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"I’ve spent the last few days worrying that it’s all been a terrible mistake: that I’ll get another phone call from Lucy Scher at The Script Factory telling me that my script hadn’t been selected for development, I won’t be getting a £1000 and I won’t be having lunch with Peter Morgan at a top London restaurant. As you can tell, I’m used to disappointment. But not today! I got up this morning, logged in and found an email from Lucy informing me that the agreement was posted last night. I can’t tell you how excited I am.

I was at the beach last Friday (really - it was a beautiful day and Hengisbury Head on the Dorset coast is one of the loveliest places in England). Lucy Scher rang me to tell me that my script had been chosen as the winner in a new scheme being run by the Script Factory culminating with the script being submitted to BBC Films.

Lucy caught me completely by surprise that for a moment I couldn’t even remember which script I had sent in. I’m pleased to tell you that it was a script I’d worked bloody hard on and that, with their help and support, will be developed and packaged ready to be marketed. I feel like all that effort has been worthwhile. “The Boy Without a Heart” is a noir/rites of passage story about an unrepentant teenager released from detention into the care of an exclusive boarding school where he discovers that he is the star lab rat in a dangerous experiment aimed at stopping him from reoffending. I look forward to meeting and working with Lucy Scher and the other members of the development team at the Script Factory.

Sorry if I sound a trifle smug. I just can’t help myself! And whilst I’m showing off, I also found out yesterday that the short film I wrote and produced for the 2 Days Later competition (“A Boy’s Best Friend”) has been shortlisted for best film. You wait years for a bus, then 2 come along at once.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend the 2 Days Later screenings in Margate as I’ll be working as a volunteer at The London Screenwriters Festival at the end of the month (I was a volunteer at Cheltenham last year) so look forward to seeing lots of familiar faces again. And if we haven’t met, be sure to say hello (check out the photo!)."
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Thanks Trudie! And there's nothing wrong or "smug" about sharing the good news AT ALL - I think more writers should, in fact, which is why I always encourage writers to share their contest placings in the guest posts. But we've also had guest posts about screenwriting craft, music, seminars, opinions on the industry, novel writing and even rescuing ducks! (Check them all out here). If you have a guest post idea for "Write Here, Write Now" please do contact me on Bang2writeATaolDOTcom.

Monday, October 11, 2010

In at #2, from my "screenplay tips" series - a look at the dreaded/much maligned voiceover: http://ping.fm/Dw0gr

140 Film: THE TOOTH FAIRY

Knowing, yet amusing "learn to be good" story w/ pleasing plethora of puns. "How will u manage?/I'll WING it!" Gd family fun. 4/5

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Fingerspellers World Premiere On A TV Near You!

Here's some news about a project I script edited last year called The Fingerspellers - I loved it, so am delighted at William and Charlie's success with it. Make sure you watch - I will be!
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Tomorrow morning is the world premiere of The Fingerspellers, special feature version - 27 minutes long! The film is being shown on Film 4 at 8.45am.

It's also online in full at http://www.bslbt.co.uk/ from 9.15am tomorrow, and on the Community Channel through the week - see the same link for the times!

When a rival mafia family try to start selling Textphones, Deaffather and the Fingerspeller family attempt to defend their territory with their bare hands! Leading to a dodgy moustache, a major drinking problem and a huge sign language shoot out!

The film stars Ilan Dwek, Matt Kirby, Rebecca-Anne Withey, Stephen Collins, Diana Martin, David Hirshman and Matthew Gurney. It was directed by William Mager and written by Charlie Swinbourne.

For cast & crew profiles, plus trivia and photos, click here.

The PREMIERE is tomorrow morning on Film 4 at 8.45am, and on the Community Channel through the week - click here for the BSLBT website with specific times: http://www.facebook.com/l/1ffb59bChId0v_sTDHo9syfL3WA;bslbt.co.uk/

Don't miss it!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Your Audience: Who Is Your Script FOR?

Dawn asks the excellent question:

As screenwriters, how do we rate our scripts for sexual content, language, violence, gore?

Before I begin, it should be noted this is NOT a post about the potential rights/wrongs of censorship. Rather, this is a post about AUDIENCE - something often disregarded by scripts in the spec pile.

Knowing *where* your script *could* go in the schedule or what rating it would receive is highly desirable and is something a producer or agent may ask you. Why? Because without a sense of audience, scripts often lack a sense of identity.

Let's look at a fictional case study, based on many, many sci-fi scripts I have read:

Lead character is male and an adult or child (sometimes both).

Our protagonist must save his world/universe - literally or figuratively or both.

Lead character has a nemesis of some kind who will try and stop him from saving the world/universe - and has a vast, evil empire.

In comparison, our protagonist has just a bunch of rag-tag friends and not much equipment.


Sounds like it's in the DR WHO vein so far, right? And why not -- I get A LOT of scripts like it.

But wait, in the script there is also:

Some objectification of women, particularly alien women - though some men, too

Fight scenes with some graphic violence - particularly stabbing or impaling

Some swearing, use of the "F" word (no C word)

Some sexual references/nudity


Suddenly the goal posts have changed ENTIRELY -- and it's more in the TORCHWOOD vein.

These goal posts shifting mean the scheduling is completely different: Dr Who is a primetime family show, typically going out on a saturday night around 6-7pm. In comparison, Torchwood is more of a week-time show, post-watershed (9pm). If we were to buy either show on DVD then, Dr Who would typically be a PG, whereas Torchwood would be a 15.

I'm always surprised when writers tell me their script is prime time, when it clearly is a post-watershed show (and vice versa) or that it's a PG when it's an 18 - largely because it's SO EASY to find out what *type* of script your TV pilot or feature REALLY is.

How? By looking to what has already been created and those films/TV series your script is LIKE:

Swearing. I've written about swearing on this blog before and it's definitely one of the easiest markers for finding out *where* your script would settle audience-wise. Little kids (ie. under 10s)? No swearing please, end of - even "bloody" or "bitch" is questionable. PGs generally have no swearing, though sometimes surprise elements get through like ET's "PENIS BREATH!" (which my Dad always told me was "peanut breath", LOL). Post PG, the 12A certificate can get away with "fuck" as long as it's not a sexual reference and used for comedy effect; the most obvious that comes to mind is BRUCE ALMIGHTY's "Over to you... FUCKERS!" when Bruce has the meltdown on the boat. At 15, you can have quite a few fucks, motherfuckers, assholes, etc - in film; TV is a different ball game, where even the likes of SPOOKS only seem to have two or three "fucks" a season (ooo er). Note 15s in general DO NOT have the word "cunt" in, UNLESS it's in extreme circumstances, ie. a character is about to die and/or in a life-or-death situation. Casual use of the word "cunt" - ie. SEXY BEAST - is usually reserved for 18s.

Violence. Extreme violence and gore usually garner an 18 rating - but what is "extreme"? Well, look to what has gone before. Extended torture scenes in the likes of SAW are obvious, but I was surprised to find UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS was an 18, when the previous two films had been classified 15, for example. I can only conclude the reason for this was because at one point in the film, the escaping werewolves are IMPALED by huge spikes crashing in through the windows. When I went to a conference held by the BBFC years ago, they said impaling and stabbing are seen as *worse* than hails of bullets. What's more, audience tolerance is very much part of the agenda when it comes to violence: when ALIEN came out, it was an automatic 18, as was PREDATOR and ALIENS five or six years later. Jump forward to 2003 and ALIEN VERSUS PREDATOR is a 15, simply because the whole chestburst thing is something we're *used* to (quite a plausible argument for the impact of media images, in fact). Fantasy violence like supernatural powers (ie. telekinesis) apparently tends to depend on the context of how it is used. The first X MEN film apparently received a 15 rating simply because of Wolverine's claws and (accidental) stabbing of Rogue and the military men who stormed the school. After this, the precedence was set and Wolverine stabs a looooooooot of people!

Consequences of Violence. I was an A Level Film student when Tarantino was at his peak with the likes of RESERVOIR DOGS and to some degree, the likes of NATURAL BORN KILLERS and TRUE ROMANCE and screen violence was a real buzz word in the 1990s. We'd of course see extreme violence in the 80s thanks to Arnie and his mates, but people died so quickly it was hard to really take it seriously. Tim Roth's performance in Reservoir Dogs then shocked a lot of people, including me, because I for one had never truly thought about the real impact of a gunshot to the belly: I had until that point thought, "Bang, you're dead". So whether you like Tarantino or not, we now have *some* consequences to violence in films now - ie. victims writhing around, taking ages to die horribly etc - and that usually seems to garner an 18 rating.

Sex/Sexual Violence. It's kind of depressing that images of torture and violence are tolerated more over sex scenes, but there you go: if you have a LOT of sex scenes in a script - even between consenting adult characters - it's probably going to be an 18. Sexual violence is a different ball game altogether again and most of the time this is the right call I think, but even responsible films dealing with the real horrors of rape have been given an 18 rating like THE ACCUSED and given the fact the more recent THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER got one too, it looks like this is not set to change.

Crime. Much of what we see on television and film in terms of crime is highly fictionalised, but occasionally you will see *true* crime in action, like how to break into a house with the use of a credit card. I don't recall which film first showed us this, but I remember there was a massive hoo-hah about it and it was demanded showing "real" crime techniques should be an automatic 18. Since producers are keen to get a 15 rating in order to tap the teen market better then, we rarely see such techniques in full anymore. The big exception of course is drug use: generally it's an automatic 15, especially for heroin or cocaine use, though some films like PULP FICTION get an 18 for close ups of syringes, etc (though that wasn't the only reason it got an 18 rating, of course!).

Danger/jeopardy. Another way of looking at what audience your script is for is looking at the TYPE of danger/jeopardy your characters are in. Even movies and TV shows aimed at children include threats of violence/death - but who it is FOR depends HOW it is handled. The child dying because the world is going to blow up? Probably a PG. A child dying in a terrible accident? Probably a 12A. A child being eaten/threatened by a monster? Probably a 15. A child being murdered by a paedophile? Probably an 18. It really is as simple as that.

Destination. Where do you plan on sending your script? If it's for television, you should know if your script is post-watershed or not and what qualifies it for after 9pm showing. Also, knowing which CHANNEL you would be targetting has a massive effect on audience: knowing the difference between BBC1, BBC2 and BBC3 is key. ITV has its own standards, as does Channel 4 and its selection of channels like E4. If your script is for film, knowing what *type* of film it is in terms of genre means knowing your audience - and having a fair idea of who would be making it: an indie prodco (how big/small)? A prodco with TV tie-ins like Film 4? A prodco that specialises in the American idea of "Movie of the Week"? Format plays a part too - would this script be live-action or animated? If animated - 2D or 3D? And so it goes on.

So in conclusion: know WHAT produced films/shows your script is LIKE - and know WHERE it is going... Then your script has an audience and an identity, one of the most overlooked things in the spec pile.