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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Exposition

Here's the dictionary definition of "exposition" that's relevant to writers:

ex·po·si·tion (ksp-zshn)
n.
1. A setting forth of meaning or intent.
2. The part of a play that provides the background information needed to understand the characters and the action.

In other words then: YOUR STORY AND WHAT IT'S DOING NEEDS TO BE CLEAR TO THE READER.

Pretty simple and obvious, right? Except loads of scripts in the pile don't do this. Why not?

Writers want "mystery". Loads of writers, especially in science fiction & thriller, want to hold something back in order to make a BIG REVEAL at the end. And why not? Twists in the tale are cool. The problem occurs when the writer holds EVERYTHING back, so the story feels "back ended", thus the reader spends 75% of the script wondering what the hell is going on.

Writers want "ambiguity". Sometimes scripts are *too* cut and dried, especially when it comes to character motivation: we have goodies and baddies doing stuff for very specific reasons and it all becomes a little pedestrian. Ambiguity can be desirable, but it's a delicate balance: how much is too much, ie. where is the line drawn between a vengeful hero and a complete psycho we can't empathise with 'cos he's as bad, or even worse, than the antagonist?

Writers don't want to patronise the fans. When writing genre pieces writers often confess they don't want to alienate the die hard fans. This is particularly problematic with science fiction and horror. It happens one of two ways I've noticed generally: writers either invest in convention TOO MUCH or TOO LITTLE, so the reader is either yawning, 'cos it's too predictable (uber-exposition, if you will) or completely confused (what IS this story?).

Writers don't want to USE exposition. That's right. We've heard so much now about the notion of "expositional dialogue" in particular, there appears to be a generation of writers who believe exposition is actually A BAD THING. But if we look back to that dictionary definition, we can see it's actually not - we NEED it.

There are of course more individual issues too when redrafting that occur because of exposition, but speaking generally over the years, I've noticed it tends to fall into one of those four camps above. So how to fix each one?

Well actually, there's ONE way to fix ALL OF THEM.

Mete your exposition out, piece by piece THROUGHOUT the script.

Remember the story of Hansel & Gretel? One of the reasons it's such an enduring fairy tale is because it is so clear in its intent: it's basically a "curiosity killed the cat" story... They followed the breadcrumbs and ended up where they were not supposed to be. They had to vanquish the beast - the Witch - in order to get out of the gingerbread house.

So: utilise the idea of your exposition being "bread crumbs", leading us to your very own gingerbread house - the resolution.

It really is as simple as that.

Most exposition becomes OBVIOUS because it comes *all at once* at a particular point in the script; similarly, exposition becomes CONSPICUOUS BY ITS ABSENCE, too. If you dose your exposition out, little and often like those breadcrumbs, you'll be surprised by what you can get past not only the reader, but the audience too. What's more, they most likely will WANT it, too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The End Is Just The Beginning: Adventures In Self Publishing by EJ Mack

"Why?” Surely the most common question of them all. We ask it constantly as a child and continue to do so right throughout our adult life. As humans we are constantly asking why things are as they are and why people do what they do. But little did I know that I'd be asked this question myself time and time again when people discovered I'd made the choice to self-publish.

I'm not sure it was a conscious decision as such, more one of those organic, grows-on-its-own, kind of things. One minute I was happily taking my first baby steps as a screenwriter, the next I'd dug up an old, unpublished novel called '25 Random Facts' and thought, "I know, I'll blog it and see if people actually think I can write." It was a no-brainer; the thing was already written so demanded no effort from me. I could carry on with my screenplays whilst also finally finding out whether or not I was barking up the right tree when it came to my new career post babies. I'd been writing since I was 20 but always lacked enough self-belief to do anything with it; pursuing agents and publishers was simply too daunting for me. Yet finally, here I was, brave enough to put myself out there and see what came of it. For once I was serious about something.

There were two things I didn't expect however:

1. That pride would force me to re-edit and in some cases re-write each chapter before I released it onto the blog, one chapter a week.

2. That people would actually like it and tell me so. Some of them even got frustrated when I was a day or two late posting the next chapter.

And that's all it took to plant the seed. Oh, and I guess the fact that the media was full of stories of self-published authors making a tonne of money on Amazon might have had some small bearing on it...
Getting it published online took a little patience - it is actually a very simple process once you understand the formatting issues but these can be enough to send you to an early grave. To date I have now published to Amazon (Kindle), Smashwords (all readers) and Lulu and each time I've had to reformat my files and scan them religiously for formatting issues (and there are ALWAYS some hiding in there somewhere). Then of course I had to find a cover image. At this stage I was not aware that you could purchase licenses for images online so I merely doctored a personal photograph. I was just desperate to get it out there and selling as fast as possible.

So finally it was up, out there in the marketplace, ready to be snapped up by all those discerning readers. Except no one was snapping. No one even knew it existed and I was fighting for attention alongside hundreds of thousands of other authors. Suddenly I realised the true benefits of having an agent and publisher on side. Marketing and publicising the book has got to be the hardest, most soul-destroying part of all. The writing was a breeze in comparison to the brick walls I've come up against. I've sent it out to online reviewers, those that I could find, with successful results - the reviews have been fantastic - however I still need to rustle up even more if my book is to have that 'must read' air about it. I've tweeted (what feels like endlessly) about it, I've driven everyone mad on facebook about it. I have a Facebook 'page' and have joined Goodreads. I've even blogged about it whenever I can find the time and have something to report.

But even after all that I began to feel like I was stalling and so decided in the end that what I needed was paperbacks. Once again I went through the formatting process and had promo copies printed. Then I trawled through every publication I could think of that might review it only to discover the same adage - they will not review self-published books. And contrary to popular belief, I don't believe it's anything to do with snobbery about us 'Indie Authors' (sounds so much nicer than 'self-published' don't you think?). Now that I know just how many of us there are out there, I quite appreciate that reviewers need some kind of quality filter to avoid being absolutely inundated with books that they would never find the time to read.

From my experience, what it all amounts to is that the act of self-publishing does not signify the end. Rather it is the beginning of a whole new chapter of roller-coaster highs and lows. The fantastic reviews, the sudden, unexpected sales followed by days, sometimes weeks of nothing. My time now is filled with scouring the web for promotional ideas, playing around with cover art and rewriting blurb to see if it sparks further interest. But most of all I'm back to writing the next book as the more and more I read, the more I understand that in self-publishing, to sell your book the first thing you need to do is write another.
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BIO: An author and screenwriter from South West London, E J Mack recently self-published her first novel, '25 Random Facts', online and in paperback. She is now busy working on a follow up for release by the end of the year whilst also putting the finishing touches to two screenplays. Find her on Twitter here and read her own blog, here. Finally - Buy 25 Random Facts: what you waiting for!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How Do I Become A Script Reader And/Or Script Editor?

One question I get asked all the time is, "How do I become a script reader or script editor?"

As I've said before, I never SET OUT to become a script reader. I did the BA (Hons) Scriptwriting for Film & TV course at Bournemouth University and part of the course covered it. As I detail in this post, when work experience came around (which you HAD to do, to pass), it made sense to script read; I was a single Mum with no childcare at the time and I was told I could do it largely from home. I never dreamt it could be - or would be - the start of my media career, though I'm very glad it was.

From script reading, it made sense to make the move into script editing. For those who don't know the difference, it's a subtle one, since yes, both involve actually - you guessed it! - READING THE SCRIPT! In script reading, you'll usually be reading scripts FOR an agency, prodco or initiative; you'll read a script just the once & compose a report on whether said script deserves a second look or not (and eventually, the agent representation and/or the filmmakers the money to make it, though that's usually out of the reader's hands). In comparison then, when you script edit a project, you're much more INVOLVED in the process not only of the writing/revising, but sometimes getting the film made too, like I was with Deviation.

To sum up: script reading is about ASSESSMENT; script editing is about DEVELOPMENT.

But *how* do you become either of these two jobs?

Well first off, I'd recommend being a script reader BEFORE being a script editor. It's not compulsory and I'm sure lots of people will probably think the total opposite, but I happen to think people are much better at script editing if they happen to have read a loooooooooooooooooot of scripts. It not only helps you assess where scripts go wrong on the page, but looking at the slush pile on a regular basis can give you a unique insight of the marketplace from the *inside*.

In the old days, when I started, interning was the sure-fire way "in" to script reading and this has not changed. Getting a few weeks' work experience at a literary agent's or production companies and being given a free rein on their mountain of scripts is a GREAT way to get started, even if it means being thrown in the deep end. I'll never forget one guy opening a door and I saw pile after pile of scripts, stacked up, like tall, Leaning Tower of Pisa formations in a room about the size of a medium kitchen. Eager to impress, I told him I'd get them all read by the end of the summer. "You won't get them all read by the END OF YOUR LIFE," he retorted "... And always plenty more where they came from!"

How the world of interning works HAS changed however since I started. Though university students are exempt, the average intern now requires paying by law. Whilst proper and good that people are not exploited - of course - this DOES mean the opportunities to intern, especially at small companies, have dwindled away. This then has the knock-on effect of work experience opportunities at the bigger companies being FIERCELY competitive. Then of course interning is not for everyone, especially if you have responsibilities and rent, bills etc to pay.

So if you're not a university student but want the necessary script reading training (but can't intern), then there's always a script reading course. These have sprung up in the last decade or so, starting first with The Script Factory, but now including Industrial Scripts and other related courses at Euroscript, London Script Consultancy, Straight Curve and no doubt many others. [PLEASE NOTE: Though I hear many good things about those places I mention from my Bang2writers, I have not done any of the courses so cannot formally recommend... If you can, please add your thoughts to the comments section of this post!].

But maybe for whatever reason you can't do a course, either. Script reading *is* one of those jobs you can do "on the side" and "build up" whilst you "learn on the job". If this is what you want or have to do, there's no reason in the world you can't. Join Peer Review sites and directories, like my Feedback Exchange. Check out sites like Talent Circle. Use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to find filmmakers who need your help. So help them. Learn with them. All build your credits together. Yes, getting that first job will be difficult - but perhaps you can utilise skills from other jobs or education to get "in" with the filmmaker: working with kids at other creative endeavours perhaps, or a degree in English could go a long way. You could try approaching people to help read for contests and initiatives. From there, the world is your oyster. These days I do far more script editing than script reading - and I love it!

So, to conclude:

There's many, many ways in and if you want to create and build your career this way, go for it. Do be aware it can be just as much a slog establishing yourself as actual scriptwriting, this is no "quick fix" or easy route. And don't think you'll earn megabucks, 'cos you won't! ; )

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

#scriptchat Stephen Gallagher Q & A with Eleanor Ball - Ellie's last post!

This is Ellie signing off! I've had a great time interning for Lucy over the last few months, meeting people I'd never usually have the chance to meet and learning things I'd never usually have the chance to learn, and I'll consider myself a bona fide Bang2writer for years to come.

For my final blog post I've been given the wriggle-worthy chance to pick the brains of Stephen Gallagher. He's the screenwriter, novelist, director, and all-round Man of Many Bowstrings who created and wrote ITV's Eleventh Hour and NBC's Crusoe. He's also written Doctor Who episodes from the Tom Baker and Peter Davison eras, as well as for Rosemary & Thyme, Bugs, and The Forgotten, which aired last year on ABC. His thrilling back catalogue of bookage includes short story collections Out of His Mind and Plots and Misadventures, and novels he has adapted for TV: Chimera, Oktober, and The Kingdom of Bones.Stephen enjoys long walks and Bovril (but I made that part up).

Stephen has been extremely kind to answer my questions, with very thought-provoking results, rife with great advice. Read on or fight me.

Which is more important to you: writing to entertain, or writing to make people think?

No distinction. All play has purpose, it's wired into the species. Some people have this notion that high art is the only culture and entertainment is 'mere entertainment' and I don't think either's fair. I'm for popular cuture that respects intelligence. Maybe I can explain it this way; when my daughter was small we got onto various mailing lists for toy catalogues. There were the dull ones full of 'educational toys' and then there was the Hawkin catalogue -- full of glorious crap and it read like THE BEANO. But the stuff you found in there did exactly the same things for a kid's mind as the toys designed by a committee of psychologists, with real imagination and without the dull air of State Approval. Thinking is entertainment. The point of art is to make it effortless. You can talk about 'getting the audience to do the work' but you've failed if you don't make them want to. Of course, in making your audience think, you don't want the thought to be, "This is a waste of my time."

Books, television, radio, articles: it seems you've done the whole kaboodle, and then some extra kaboodle on the side. In what medium do you feel most at home?

I feel like an outsider in every medium, if I'm honest, and that may be part of the reason why I've never thrown my lot in with just one. There's also a big element of 'kid in a candy store' about it. Wanting to try your hand at everything.

Radio was at the root of it all, I think, and I'd recommend it to anyone as a grounding for all dramatic writing, whether it's for the page or the screen. I'd done the odd competition story and some amateur work for the theatre but that first radio script was like building your first wall. Get it right or see it fall down. Your basic tools are dialogue and structure -- structure first, really, structure comes before everything -- and what you learn there can be taken onward into prose fiction or screenwriting with equal usefulness.

What do you think makes British dramas like Eleventh Hour so ripe for American adaptation?

The upside of the American network ethos is that they'll try anything that looks as if it might draw them a crowd. They'll buy a pitch, pour money into it, test it, air it, tweak it, drop it, try something else, all in the space of a year. It's brutal but there are plenty of chances to get up and have another go. I got my first real glimpse of the system at a MediaXchange event in London a few years back. Two days of panels and screenings with showrunners, producers and staffers from LA, basically talking you through the system, the practice, the way of putting series together. It was a couple of hundred quid for the weekend, some of the best money I ever spent. Most people there were sent by their production companies. I saw Simon Crawford-Collins and the Spooks writers, and Shefali Malhoutra from Granada. Simon had been my location manager on Oktober, and Shefali would be the development producer on Eleventh Hour. One of the panelists was Luke Reiter, with whom I'd later work on The Forgotten.

One of the things that stuck with me was an improv exercise on the Saturday afternoon where the US writers took unpromising elements yelled out by the audience and turned them into a workable franchise. I began to see the difference between the thinking for a story and the thinking for a show. I put that into practice when I started work on Eleventh Hour but didn't get too far with it on the UK version where I didn't even get to meet the other writers, let alone brief or supervise them. But as one of the JBTV execs later told me, when she picked the pilot script off a pile she spotted my intentions straight away. As British writers start to think more like executive producers we'll find the US taking more interest in our stuff. Then maybe our own broadcasters will be a little more adventurous as they realise they're no longer the only game in town.

Definitions of “science-fiction” are becoming increasingly convoluted – just look at Wikipedia with its measured approach to plausibility within the genre. How do YOU define science-fiction, and what's your attraction to it?

Oh, Jeez. Bear in mind I'm a dinosaur and my conception of what makes sf was formed pre-Star Wars, and by magazine stories and novels rather than by anything on the screen. The heart of sf to me is a surprising idea pushed to its logical conclusion, which can require the creation of an alternate but plausible narrative reality to contain it. Not sf tropes in a bog-standard adventure plot.

You were lead writer on Crusoe (but hang on, that isn't my question). My question is, what exactly is a lead writer? As a lead writer how much influence do you have over the other scripts, and how do you go about finding other scriptwriters for the series?

A lead writer is Britain's gelded version of a showrunner. Both write show-defining scripts, set the series arcs, brief the other writers and take a final pass on the scripts for consistency. But generally speaking, a lead writer has no producing power. If you can fire a director, you're a showrunner. If a director's giving you notes, that's a lead writer. The Crusoe job was an odd hybrid, for two reasons -- time was so short that the production company bought my take in its entirety and let me crack on with it, and then I was working day-to-day with an American producer and network. They expect you to own problems and solve them, not just offer suggestions. The other writers were people known to Power TV in one way or another. NBC brought in Rohan Gavin, and Avrum Jacobson came in from Canada.

Ever sat in Starbucks with a script...?

Nah. See? I told you I wasn't a proper writer.
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LAST WORD FROM LUCY: Thanks Stephen, you're a star. And as for you Ellie, I can safely say it's been a PLEASURE to have had you on board here and at the Facebook site and I know my Bang2writers think so too... Thanks so much for your time and I'm glad you got something out of it 'cos we certainly did: your articles have been insightful, informative, interesting and most importantly, fun to read! Best of luck creating and building your career and see you in the blogosphere and hopefully, "real life" too!

Connect with Ellie here on Facebook and find her own blog here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Am Not A Lucky Person

You don't have to go far to hear writers, filmmakers, actors etc expressing RAGE when told however hard they've worked, they're "lucky". Hell, I include myself on that.

I am not a lucky person.

Name any given situation, even something as small as picking one outcome **or the other** - left or right? Heads or tails? Red or black? - I WILL PICK THE WRONG ONE. 100% true factoid. I've ended up in enough wrong places and lost enough bets and money to know this.

I am a hard working person.

Hell yeah. We all are. I know lots of people think media stuff arrives by magic and/or that we're all rolling in cash after taking a dosser course at uni and/or being in the "right place at the right time", but we all know that actually, getting somewhere in this industry is A LOT harder than it looks.

If I can do it, anyone can.

And I believe this. If you want something badly enough - in my case, to be a writer, but WHATEVER is it is you want - you can do it, if you put your mind to it. If you don't take no for an answer. If you don't let worries (like no money) grind you down. If you keep going in the face of adversity. If you believe hard enough and long enough and NEVER STOP MOVING and KEEP LEARNING and LISTENING.

Except...

It's not automatically as easy as that.

Everything I've just said I believe in 100%, but I also accept a lot of life is luck.

Yes, luck.

A lot of people seem to think the equation is "hard work = everything you deserve", whereas "laziness = everything you deserve" in the same way, only with the reverse outcome. Yet it's possible to work hard and take the luck where we can get it; the latter does not cancel out our previous efforts. And in the same way, those lucky people who we envy as they breeze through life do not make our efforts crud, either.

Then of course there's everything in the middle, 'cos life is rarely about those opposite ends of the scale anyway. Most of us work hard; not all of us get what we deserve. There are hard working people breaking their backs in jobs some (inadvisably) sneer at and people doing all they can to find work, to no avail. Equally, sometimes things - inheritances from estranged relatives; the dream job; the perfect partner - FALL INTO OUR LAPS with minimum effort. We'll accept those things and call it luck and get on with our lives. And why not. We deserve it; we work hard.

But:

No one gave me anything... and yet I've been given everything.

I think life is a paradox. I might work hard now, but I was given a rare gift as a child: a mother who saw my interest and talent in the creative arts and encouraged it. She never said wanting to write was a ridiculous idea. When I wrote stories, she read them and talked about them with me. When I said I wanted to do Media Studies, she never said it was a pointless dosser course or tried to steer me towards a more "acceptable" subject. She never tried to live through me or mould me into something she thought I should be. And one time - a real strong memory of mine, when I was aged about 8 - she took me into a bookstore and said I could have as many books as I wanted. I remember coming out with about a HUNDRED (though I think it was probably more like 10-15) and having the biggest smile on my face, sure I must have the BEST MUM IN THE WORLD. And of course I did.

But again - that was just luck. I could have been born into a completely different family: perhaps one with a matriarch who thought writers were - God Forbid - wasters or liars. Or one where the only "respectable" jobs were those where you could do something TANGIBLE, like being a lawyer, doctor or teacher. Or maybe just one where education was something where time was marked until OF COURSE you left school at 16 and went out to work - wherever, who cares, a job is a job - what *else* would you do??

Don't forget where you came from... or what it took to get here.

OK, that line's from ROCKY IV. Doesn't make it any less true. All of us started somewhere. Some of us are lucky and our personalities, talents and whims are nurtured. For some of us, we grow up in spite of our backgrounds - family, financial, whatever. Wherever we began, we can pat ourselves on the back and say, "If I can do it, anyone can" - OR we can also accept Lady Luck, The Gods, Fate, Dr Who or whomever has smiled on us and given us a break SOMEWHERE, even if we can't pinpoint exactly when or how that was.

I am not a lucky person.

Except I'm doing what I always wanted to be doing. It's hard work. But I'd rather be doing this than anything else in the world.

So I AM lucky after all.

ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT LUCK:

How Do I Become A Professional Scriptwriter?

It's Not About Luck... And It Totally Is

Submissions, Rejections & Relationships

Are We There Yet? (Making It As A Writer)

Good Luck (A Post On Making Your Own)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sitcom: Friends Vs Seinfeld by Eleanor Ball

You know TV programmes used for whimsical padding? Those you watch without scheduling, and when you're exhausted; like Deal or No Deal or Family Guy, the TV equivalents of toast and jam? Those type of programmes take up a significant portion of my life (oh what a busy girl), so I was one of the loudest mourners as repeats of Friends ended last week. I was hammering tearfully on its already well-pummelled gravestone.

Friends has to be the ultimate whimsical padding. For most it doesn't result in any great frenzy of emotion; it doesn't abuse the tear ducts or evacuate the stomach. It earns titters from some, and eye rolls from others. And because the episodes were repeated on E4 and Channel 4 in endless loops of stupid New York skylines and twanging incidental music, it could pop into your day and night at any time. At different points in my life over the last few years I've watched it with dinner at 7PM, then again at 7AM after struggling home and trying to stay awake in the hour before lectures began. Those six creamy New Yorkers followed me wherever I went.


Usually I watch sitcoms instead of listening to music, when packing or dressing or cooking (hah! I don't cook) or getting up in the morning (hah! I don't get up in the morning) – or even writing. With its pre-chewed mouthfuls of humour and warmth Friends was ideal for background fodder, so what will I use now that the repeats are finished?

As I write this I'm watching Seinfeld. Season 7, episode 9. Titled The Sponge. In which Elaine stockpiles her favourite birth control product when the pharmacist stops selling them. Given her finite supply, she has to decide whether or not her boyfriend is “Spongeworthy”.

I can't find Seinfeld on TV but I found it online, and it's the perfect Friends replacement. In fact, compare the first season with the first season of Friends and you'll find out where Friends got its ideas from. Seinfeld is very funny and very easy to watch, though it can be difficult to use as background fodder given that the show often provides us with excruciating scenarios and we want to find out who ends up on top. It's especially fun if you watch it in the knowledge that George is based on co-creator Larry David, of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame. Seinfeld is scripted and Curb Your Enthusiasm unscripted, but it's amazing how the quality of ridiculous social observations don't differ much between the two.

British audiences seem to love social observations (just look at our stand-up comedians in contrast to the “yo momma” norms of Stateside comedy gigs), but somehow Seinfeld just wasn't as big a hit over here as Friends was. Yes Seinfeld appeals less to kids, but most adults prefer Chandler to Jerry any day. You'd expect British audiences to lap up Seinfeld's liberal anti-prude agenda and long-lasting decision to have no sentiment or messages at the end of episodes.

So E4 should show repeats of Seinfeld instead, then. But it won't. So if you find yourself with 22 minutes to put your feet up on the coffee table, and you're confronted with Friends' sudden lack of omnipresence, don't despair! Put on Seinfeld instead. It's funnier, cleverer, and, unlike Friends, it's not a guilty pleasure – it's just a pleasure.


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Eleanor just finished the MA Scriptwriting degree at Goldsmith's, specialising in comedy drama. Join her on Facebook here and read her own blog, here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Guest Post - Sex & Drugs & Filter Rolls: Is Punk Cinema Possible? By Dylan Spicer

Many thanks to Step2Inspire writer and all round good guy Dylan Spicer who has stepped into the blog breach this week as I wrestle with London Screenwriters' Festival stuff, including our recent Tweetfest. Connect with Dylan on Twitter here and read other articles by him here. Enjoy!
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Last week I watched the Ian Dury 2010 biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. Andy Serkis was superb in the main role, and it really managed to capture the feel of Dury’s music and life. But what I found interesting is that although the movie may contain “punk” themes, production wise a film of this nature doesn’t live up to these ideals. It is a massive financial undertaking, especially when advertising and promotion are considered. Each shot would have been carefully thought out, each role both in acting and costume meticulously worked on. This is not even to mention the sheer amount of organisation, logistics, and bacon sandwiches that must have been required to make the shoot a possibility.

And in terms of the success of the movie, fair enough. Also the makers of Sex & Drugs were never actually trying to make a punk movie, rather a movie about a punk. However, is it possible to make a movie within the notion of “punk”- something truly innovative, without ever selling out, whilst at the same time having a bloody good time? Turning to the lower echelons of indie cinema may provide an answer.

For example, Pink Flamingos, John Water’s 1972 look at the most offensive family in the world, is a disgusting array of various shocking scenes. Be it unsimulated coprophagia, or references to chid abduction, the content is still genuinely controversial to this day. Shot as it was by Waters and his friends at the weekend, despite low production values the movie challenges social norms, whilst clearly the crew are having a great time filming it.

However, it was still shot on film, and the cost of stock and processing will mount up regardless. Waters came from a rich background, fortunate enough to be able to shoot in such a reckless style, and reshoot should the contents be unusable. Should another artist in a different financial position want to try a similar thing, he would need some kind of financial backing that might well veto the project.

So can decent cinema be done on a low budget? The digital revolution provides an alternative. This is certainly not movies like The Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, which still requires the weight of Hollywood distribution behind them to succeed. Rather, something like Youtube or Blip that allows users to upload their content for free seemingly can allow features or serials to be shot for nothing across the world. And yet even here we have the stipulations of a big company. Be it nudity clauses, certain rules on decency and taste, and even then, the technical and financial know how that the internet brings. It seems even this, the closest we can get to a punk movie, is still stuck in bureaucracy.

So it may seem as if Sex & Drugs & Rock &Roll is nothing more than a classic example of how any attempt to portray an alternative lifestyle in cinema can never actually live up to the ideals shown. Yet perhaps this shows the fallacy of the whole notion of “punk” art. Is it any different from the distribution of the real Ian Dury’s work? All his hits are freely available on iTunes or in HMV, and often used in various adverts and campaigns. But does that really detract from the original message of the music?

Film is such an expensive and logistical nightmare that to create it within a truly alternative set of rules is virtually impossible. But film is such a powerful medium capable of stirring such a different range of emotions,ultimately what the film is trying to achieve with its message is vastly more important than a vague of notion of not selling out.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

"Four Nights In August" - One Page Scriptwriting Contest from @londonswf

FOUR NIGHTS IN AUGUST: A one page screenwriting contest from the London Screenwriters’ Festival – enter a one page script, based around the theme of the London Riots 2011, to win a ticket to London Screenwriters Festival 2011.

Three nights of rioting in London, Birmingham and Manchester shocked the nation this August and stirred high feelings about the state of the UK and the people within it.

Condemnation, criticism and finger pointing was rife from politicians and the public alike, with even celebrities taking to social networks to voice their disapproval and beliefs about why it happened and what should be done with the perpetrators.

LSF’s own Chris Jones witnessed rioting on his very own doorstep in Ealing and blogged about his feelings on the matter, READ HERE.

But what do YOU feel about the riots? We want to know – in the form of a one page script. Consider what happened before the events, what happened during them, and afterward? Who was involved and how? Why were they involved? What was the impact on their lives and of the lives of the people around them? And what does it mean to them, to you and to us all?

We want to read your stories!

As ever, the challenge will be to say the most with the least, this is why we have imposed the one page limit.

The winner will get a free ticket to the festival, October 28-30th 2011, other goodies and his/her script will be showcased and made available so that ANY film maker can produce the screenplay and upload the film to YouTube in a separate contest.

The deadline for the contest is Friday, September 30th, MIDDAY GMT – so get scribbling!

To enter, send your one page screenplay, along with your email and phone number and name to...

contests@londonswf.com

Accepted format

PDF ONLY

FAQs and Terms and Conditions below.

1. Does it have to be DURING the actual riots, or can it be just *about* the riots?
The riots are the theme, not the location/time. We want to know what you/your characters think of the riots or how they coped – interpret that as you wish.

2. Can my script be about fictional riots?
No, we want the script to be about the actual riots that struck the UK in August, 2011.

3. If I win, will my script definitely get made?
No – it will be made available on the website for others to read, and should filmmakers wish to, make – in a perfect world, several film making teams may produce the winning screenplay and you will be able to see how one script ends up interpreted by different people! But if that does not appeal and you do not want your script to made available like this, please do not enter.

2. Can I use dialogue?
It’s totally up to you: use dialogue, don’t use dialogue, whatever you want!

3. Is there a fee for this contest?
No, it’s 100% free. So please tell ALL your writery friends.

4. Can I use alternative formatting to fit my script on one page?
No. Please use standard spec script format, otherwise we will have no choice but to disqualify your script (just so it’s fair for everyone). If you’re not sure what the standard for spec scripts is, CHECK OUT THIS 1 PG REF GUIDE.

5. Can I go over the one page *just a tiny bit*?
Nope, sorry. And don’t try any tricks like over-widening the margins, ‘cos our crack team of readers will find you out and hunt you down like the dogs you are. Or disqualify you, whichever is quicker.

6. My script HAS to be more than one page in order to make sense. Can I enter it anyway?
No, sorry. This is a one page script competition, so not the place for your script. Any scripts longer than one page will have to be disqualified.

7. Can I enter more than once?
No, sorry. Just the one entry this time.

8. But I’ve already bought a ticket to the festival!
Fantastic – in that case, if you win, we will refund you so you’d still be coming for free.

9. Can writers from overseas enter?
Yes of course – though please note getting to the festival and accommodation to take advantage of the prize ticket is the winner’s responsibility, not ours.

10. Where do I send my script?
Please send your script to contests@londonswf.com PDF ONLY. Please ensure you have a TITLE PAGE attached to your one pager, complete with the title of the script, your name and a valid email address. If we don’t know what it’s called or whom it’s by, we won’t enter the script into the contest. And if we don’t know how to contact you, we can’t tell you if you’ve won!

Terms and Conditions
• The screenplay must be no more than 1 page and correctly formed as per the
following guidelines POSTED HERE. Anything over one page will be disqualified.
• Only one entry per individual and or writing team. However, an individual can enter a script once and again with NEW script with a writing partner.
• Deadline for submissions are FRIDAY , SEPTEMBER 30TH 2011, Midday GMT.
• The winner receives one free ticket to the 2011 London Screenwriters Festival. Winners who previously purchase tickets to the festival (highly recommended) will receive full refund of their ticket price.
• Winners will be notified before the festival.
• By submitting your script to the competition you agree that you hold harmless ScriptPlus Limited, London Screenwriters Festival, Comedy Writers Festival and any of its affiliates and or sponsors from and against any and all claims, liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including but not limited to attorney's fees, and costs of the court) which may be incurred by reason of any claim involving copyright, trademark, credits, publicity, screening, and loss of or damage to the screening videos entered.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

BUT WHAT NEXT? My Novel & The Current Abortion Debate

As anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter knows, this last week I have been imploring my friends and followers to email their MP regarding Nadine Dorries' and Frank Field's proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill regarding abortion.

For anyone who may have missed it, Dorries and Field believe women seeking abortions should be offered counselling "independently", as they think charities who perform abortions such as Marie Stopes and BPAS, have a "financial conflict of interest" - in other words, those organisations are too "pro-abortion" to be "trusted" to give women impartial advice as those £s apparently come into play.

There have been many arguments against the above notion and the amendments themselves this past week and I can't put mine any better than the array of links I have composed below this blog post. Certainly, the government has already performed a massive U-turn on its support for the proposals, though it's unclear at the time of writing whether the vote will be taken or not next week.

I hope not. I am vehemently Pro-Choice. So much so, I wrote a whole novel about it aimed at teen girls 14 - 20, which recently sold in Germany to Rowohlt Publishing and is currently being considered by a number of British publishers.

BUT WHAT NEXT? is a Pro-Choice book, exploring the phenomenon of teenage pregnancy from the protagonist Elizabeth's angle, where she literally LIVES all the ways her life could turn out: the Sliding Doors effect if you like. I became frustrated with depictions of unplanned pregnancy in soap, movies and books a long time ago. Always, teens are confronted with unexpected pregnancy and after a short period of freaking out - and perhaps visiting an abortion clinic and then running out - they opt to keep the baby. From there they are frequently bad mothers or slide into post natal depression and various other things go wrong for them. I read this character frequently in spec scripts and in recent years, I've spotted only Diablo Cody's Juno as even **attempting** to offer another side to the teen Mum.

In one sense, the story requires drama and conflict, so writers cannot be blamed for opting characters keeping babies - had the character had an abortion, the story would be over pretty quickly. Or would it? I'm not convinced - which is why I included a section on abortion in BUT WHAT NEXT? And guess what: it was as long as all the other chapters! Showing depictions of abortion *can* be part of stories, as long as we let it. And I think we must.

Many people express surprise at my beliefs on the importance of society being Pro-Choice. I have, essentially, lived my own life the Pro-Life way: I got pregnant as a teen (unplanned) and kept the baby, with no consideration of abortion. That's not to say I wasn't scared way back then, or I had everything I needed even, least of all the support and love of the baby's father. Having the baby was just something I HAD to do.

And that's just it. I believe absolutely in women's rights to CHOOSE and to be TRUSTED to make those decisions. I don't believe for a moment these amendments are really about counselling, but access to abortion. We don't live in an age where getting information is difficult. You need only Google the word "abortion procedure" to receive a plethora of results on how it is carried out. These amendments make the supposition a woman doesn't have the wit or maturity to understand what she is doing and must be "guided". Do we honestly believe women have been so busy playing with kittens Harry Enfield-style they've never even THOUGHT about such things as abortion in advance of needing one, or spoken to OTHER WOMEN about their experiences? As Suzanne Moore writes in the Guardian: "... Beware [these amendments'] language of care. This is not about care but about control."

I might be Pro-Life personally and always see a pregnancy through to its natural conclusion, but that is MY choice. I am Pro-Choice politically because my life and circumstances are not the same as other women's. When I decided, aged just fourteen (really!), I would never have an abortion, I made that decision knowing full well that though my parents were not well off, they would NEVER outcast me for it. They would welcome a grandchild, even in less than ideal circumstances - which they ended up doing. Again, that's not to say all was easy 'cos it wasn't for any of us, but they never wavered in their support and respect of my decision.

Think now about how different my decision might have ended up because I wasn't as lucky to have parents as great as that. What if they had told me to get an abortion or never darken their doors again? What if I had been in care? Consider medical problems I may have had, which might have made it difficult to carry through a pregnancy: is something like diabetes more "allowable" than say, having mental health issues? There are other, more "grey" areas too: what if I had been at university, studying for a career where single parenthood cannot be combined with it as "easily" as becoming a writer - ie. becoming a doctor? Philosophically, is one life - the potential child's - worth "more" than those other people I may have saved during the course of my career? And then let's not forget the endless finger-pointing at single mothers, especially those who must claim support from the state. Are women selfish for wanting an abortion, or selfish for wanting to keep the child when they have no money? Is having money the only barrier or ticket into parenthood??? The list goes go on and on because there are SO MANY differing individual circumstances. It can even change in an individual woman, depending what "stage" she is in her life!

Being Pro-Choice recognises a "one size fits all" approach to abortion access cannot work, because every woman is different. This blog post by Gia, 19 Weeks, sums up exactly why - not from a writer like me musing about it - but from a nurse on the front line. (Be warned those of a delicate disposition are advised not to read).

This is why I hope Dorries' and Field's proposals don't go through next week - and why I hope you'll take a moment to email your MP about them.

LINKS

Abortion Rights website - email your MP about Dorries' & Field's amendments

FACT CHECK: Cutting Through The Rhetoric On Abortion - a neutral examination of Nadine Dorries' and Frank Field's proposals

The Costs And Consequences of Dorries' Proposals - let's cut through the emotive stuff and break down the FIGURES and what they mean

How The Abortion Amendments Pose A Health Risk To Women - As it says on the tin

The Latest Abortion Statistics For England And Wales - this makes surprising reading as to *who* is having abortions and in which age groups abortion is actually DOWN. We must turn the usual lazy stereotypes on their head

Interview With The Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) Anne Furedi - why a Pro-Choice society is needed

Tory MP And Novelist Louise Mensch's attempt at an Amendment - make sure you read the comments for Dr Evan Harris' view on why it's STILL fundamentally flawed

What The Conservative Women's Organisation Thinks Of The Amendments - Dorries cannot count on her fellow women's support

Is It Possible To Be Pro-Life AND Pro-Choice? - A fascinating essay about the limitations of following one "side" OR the other

Georgia Law Could Give Death Penalty For Miscarriages - unbelievable, hey? This bill was actually proposed in February of THIS YEAR in the US... Let's not let the UK get this far!!!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Terrifying Tweetfest: The First @londonswf Contest Launches

Want to win a FREE ticket to London Screenwriters Festival? Then get yourself to Twitter my friend! We're reviving our twitter logline competition, this time called The Terrifying Tweetfest: in honour of Halloween (LSF 2011 takes place just before it) we want your HORROR loglines!!

Simply write a tweet of 140 characters incorporating the hashtag #LSFhorror to be in with your chance of winning.

Not sure what a logline is? Then check out The Required Reading List, there's a whole section on them. Remember a logline is NOT a tagline!

But HURRY UP - the Tweetfest closes next Friday (Sept 9th) at 5pm GMT.

ENTER NOW - Go Go Go!

Here are all the terms and conditions - please check the FAQ below before contacting LondonSWF or Bang2write on Twitter.

FAQ

What do I get if I win?
You get a 3 day pass to the London Screenwriters’ Festival 2011, worth £300, 28th to 30th October 2011. If you have already bought a ticket, we will give you a refund.

It’s not a Horror Festival, why have you chosen a horror logline contest this time?
‘Cos it’s Halloween the Monday after the festival … And ‘cos Judy, the festival manager, needs some inspiration about what she’s going to do to unwind… Some SAW booby-trap-type antics? Sucking unsuspecting victims’ blood? Terrorising some people in the woods?

How many times can I enter this one?
You can enter three times. Any seen after the third will be disregarded.

What’s the deadline?
The deadline is Friday, September 9th, 5pm GMT.

What if I forget the #LSFHorror hashtag in my tweet?
Then you won’t get entered into the contest! The hashtag is to help us with our searches and make sure no one gets missed, so make sure you include it.

Can people from overseas enter?
Yes.

How will you pick the winner?
Team LSF will pool its opinions and pick its favourite 10 from the tweets (after Sept 9th). We will then rank the top ten in order of preference. The top ten will be published to the LSF site at London Screenwriters’ Festival 2011.

Can I post my logline on the LSF Facebook page?
No, sorry – the twitfest is Twitter only, any loglines written on the FB page will be disregarded.

I’m not sure what a logline is, can you help?
Sure. Check out The Required Reading List – Loglines has its own section! Find it here.

Can I enter a hybrid genre logline, ie. Horror-comedy, Horror-SF, etc?
Of course you can. But do make sure we can know what it is from the *tone* of the logline!

I’m not on Twitter. Can you post my logline for me?

No, sorry – we’ve got loads of admin on at the moment and we’d hate to go and forget your loglines, so this is a Twitter contest ONLY. Why not join Twitter though? It’s free and offers loads of great contacts and info for writers, especially if you follow the #scriptchat hashtag. A guide to getting started on Twitter.

140 Characters minus #LSFhorror, are you kidding? That’s totally not enough space to write my logline.
You’d be surprised how much you can squeeze into a tweet, even with a hashtag! It’s certainly a handy exercise for writers, give it a go!

Hmmmm…. I dunno. If I post my logline online like this, how do I know Team LSF won’t try to nick my idea? Or one of the delegates??
You can’t copyright an idea anyway. Plus script readers see the same ideas ALL THE TIME, it’s the execution of that idea that counts. Really! So why not give our contest a go? You’ve REALLY got nothing to lose… Check out this post about WHY people don’t nick scripts or ideas.

GOOD LUCK!!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Q & A: Eleanor Ball asks Industrial Scripts about Talent Connector

The friendly souls over at Industrial Scripts have recently launched a new service: Talent Connector. So I pinned them to a wall and asked them what it's all about.

1. Hello! Who are you?

We are Industrial Scripts, a London-based script consultancy comprised of some of the UK’s leading script editors and backed by Paramount Pictures and the Curtis Brown talent agency.

2. What makes Talent Connector different from other script development services?

There are a number of script development services open to UK writers but ours is the first free talent promotion service backed by major companies. As the name implies, Talent Connector allows us to act as an intermediary between unrepresented talent and interested parties. We don’t do the work of an agent and we don’t take a fee if a project sells or if a writer attracts an agent, but instead we deliver a verdict on scripts of a certain quality and, due to our industry credentials, our opinion is taken seriously.

3. Do I need to have scriptwriting experience or qualifications to submit my script?

Anyone who signs up for one of our selected feedback services is eligible. Experience isn’t required – talent is the key!

4. Are you more likely to recommend my script if it's broad and familiar, or do you have a stronger taste for the weird stuff?

The straightforward answer is we’ll promote a script irrespective of genre so long as it demonstrates ability. Different companies in the film and TV industries are looking for different types of material and we’ll promote any project provided we think the writing is of a high enough standard.

5. Will I find an agent through Talent Connector?

If we find your script to be outstanding then it is very unlikely that agents won’t show an interest in you on the back of our recommendation. We can facilitate those scripts with potential but we’re not the Corleone family: we can’t strong-arm agents and producers into taking on scripts which are lacking in promise or expertise. Our service is most suited to talented writers who lack connections – something which we can offer them.

6. If you recommend my script, what are the chances that it will go all the way to the screen?

Film and TV are notoriously unpredictable industries, with all kinds of variables beyond a writer’s control. Unless you are a ‘name’ writer – and even then – you’ll have to jump over a lot of hurdles to get your project to the screen. Our goal with Talent Connector is to help with that first, absolutely crucial step for people with abundant talent but few contacts.

The Official Press Release for Talent Connector - all the details

-----------------------------
Thanks Ellie! I'm sure lots of writers will find this spotlight on Talent Connector very useful. Have you used Industrial Scripts or been recommended by Talent Connector? Let other Bang2writers know your thoughts over on the Facebook page.

Industrial Scripts, Talent Connector Service - Press Release

Industrial Scripts launches 1st UK script promotion programme, backed by Curtis Brown Group

The ongoing programme assesses film & TV scripts and champions the best unrepped talent to come through the company’s coverage system, using Industrial Scripts’ experience and network. It is the first of its kind in the UK and Industrial Scripts neither charges writers fees to market projects, nor takes a fee if projects sell or attract the representation of an agent.

Industrial Scripts is the London-based script consultancy founded by some of the UK’s leading script editors, hosting the broadest range of script development services in Europe.

The company, active in script development, training and the education sector since January 2010, also recently launched a successful script doctoring/re-write service through two ex-UK Film Council Executives: THE KING’S SPEECH Creative Editor Aaron Anderson and THE IRON LADY Story Editor Jon Croker. Its script editors all have high-end industry experience, consulting for companies including the UK Film Council, Paramount Pictures, BBC Films, Ealing Studios, Scott Free, Working Title and Warner Bros.

Talent Connector is continuously open for submissions, all year round, and will culminate each December with the announcement of the Industrial Scripts Gold List – when the best 10 scripts to pass through the coverage system will be revealed, and prizes awarded.

Evan Leighton-Davis of Industrial Scripts said: “5 years ago the first line on the script filter was the agencies. Now, however, many agents can’t even accept unsolicited material due to the volume of submissions, leaving new writers scratching their heads as to where to turn. We’re confident we’ve created an everyone-wins filtration system with Talent Connector: writers receive industry-standard script feedback from vastly experienced development professionals, and the opportunity to have their work championed at no extra cost; while execs, agents and producers can access already-vetted scripts without exposing themselves to an unmanageable surfeit of material. Similar programmes have been highly successful in America and we are confident we’ll unearth great talent in the UK too”.

Nick Marston, MD of The Curtis Brown Group said: “As an agency time-management is becoming increasingly important in the crowded digital landscape we all now inhabit. As the volume of scripts and writers grows year-on-year it’s important to think of innovative ways of assessing and tracking new talent, and we are delighted to be backing the respected script consultants within Industrial Scripts and their Talent Connector programme, which we think will become the main access and entry point for new talent in the industry”.

The first set of qualifying film & TV projects was released to agents, execs and producers on 20th July 2011, and further releases will occur once a month thereafter.

Bona fide agents, executives, producers and directors across the industry can subscribe to Industrial Scripts’ once-a-month newsletter containing details of qualifying film & TV projects by emailing info@industrialscripts.co.uk with their CV attached, and “Talent Connector Opt-In” in the subject line.

A comprehensive FAQ about Talent Connector can be found here: http://industrialscripts.co.uk/talent-connector-public/

All information about Industrial Scripts and its script consultants can be found here: http://industrialscripts.co.uk/