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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Guest Post: The Importance Of Collaborating & Networking by Scott Baker

Here's a great story from Scott about how you MAKE your own opportunities by getting "out there" and never giving up - enjoy!

It was about August/September time last year where I logged into Talent Circle and found a job advert for a Scriptwriter, I thought to myself: “Am I good enough to apply for it?”

I still classified myself as a “novice” as I’ve been writing for just over a year now and in that time I was really struggling to discover my “VOICE” – what made me unique in my style of writing and storytelling. If you were to know me, (none of you do, I know) I’m a really shy person and would definitely lack the confidence to apply for anything like this opportunity over on Talent Circle. And then I thought to myself “What have I got to lose?” and the answer to that was NOTHING. Besides, we all got to start from somewhere.

So I applied and the surprising thing was that they liked me! I couldn’t believe it. I’m not someone who is familiar with collaboration but this was the first major step-up in my writing career since leaving college. This was also going to be my first attempt at a Feature film as well so that was really exciting. I was not writing an entire feature by myself (I struggled writing a TV Pilot and that was well documented with 50+ unfinished drafts of ONE episode) as there were two other writers with me. The three of us got on like a house on fire and we were right to schedule.

OK – even though this doesn’t have a happy ending as the plug was pulled and the film never progressed from there but what had I gained from this first experience?

Well, firstly, I have got to known and work with two brilliant like-minded people: Noel Rainford and Elinor Perry-Smith (@BrideofChrist.) We’ve just shot a short film entitled FOREVERTOGETHER in which we plan to enter it into the Sundance London Short Film Festival. We’re also planning our next project in which the script is completed, which we plan to develop further into a mini web series. I CANNOT wait to see the outcome of both of these projects and I sincerely hope that I never have a fall-out with either one of these two. I owe them a lot.

Then only last week I did something even more out of character. Over on Twitter, Jeanne Veillette Bowerman tweeted that the makers of BELOW ZERO, a new horror feature starring EDWARD FURLONG (T2: Judgement Day) and MICHEAL BERRYMAN (The Hills Have Eyes) were in need of an INTERN to help promote their film and their new film, BREAKDOWN LANE that will star KRISTIN BOOTH.
I WOULD HAVE NEVER APPLIED FOR THIS but now, I am so glad that I did as the guys are A-MAZ-ING! Signe Olynyk and Bob Schultz the masterminds behind BELOW ZERO as well as The Great American Pitchfest. I can’t wait to see them when they come to the UK as BELOW ZERO will be screening at the DEAD BY DAWN FESTIVAL up in Edinburgh on the 31st March.

The film is doing outstandingly well as it has been awarded with BEST HORROR FILM from the American International Film Festival and BEST HORROR FEATURE FILM from the Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film Festival along with many others. You can find all the details about where BELOW ZERO will be screening and to view the trailer over on its website and why not show your support and follow its official Twitter Page? (I run that page so I beg you, check the trailer out at least.)

I couldn’t possibly imagine that I would have met so many great people, both here in the UK and over in the US at such an early stage at my “career.” I’m a twenty-year-old lad from London who came out of college and into work, who aspires to be a scriptwriter. I was trying to do too much all by myself.

MYSELF is the key word here.

My point that I’m trying to make here is that COLLABORATION and BUILDING YOUR CONTACTS/NETWORK in these times can really help, regardless of the amount of experience you may have. In a space of six months or so, the amount of people that I’ve got to known/got to work with/swapped scripts with for peer-reviewing is unbelievable. To even reach out to filmmakers over in the States is what I class to be a great achievement as ultimately, that’s where I want to go.

I’m a strong believer that we all should set a goal for ourselves in which seems impossible when you set it. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE and there are ways of getting around closed doors when they are slammed constantly in your face. In this industry, we CANNOT CATEGORICALLY DO THIS BY OURSELVES.
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ABOUT SCOTT: Scott wrote his first ever script as apart of his A-Level coursework and hasn't stopped since. He's currently working on three high concept TV series: "Life & Death" which is the love child of THE WALKING DEAD and SUPERNATURAL; "Memory" which focuses on Dementia in Children, Teenagers and Young Adults and "B.I.O" set in a futuristic Ethopia. Find Scott on Twitter here and watch FOREVERTOGETHER here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Half Baked Ideas

Just a quick one today (oooh matron)... I read a lot of scripts where the craft might be good, but at its heart the premise feels "half-baked". For whatever reason, the seed of the story at its heart feels under-developed and as a result, undermines the whole screenplay.

When I ask writers *what* their story is, this often seems to be the issue... They haven't really IDENTIFIED what *makes* it "what it is". For example, a "fish out of water story" (as in the case of many comedies); a "David and Goliath" story (some Horrors, Thrillers and dramas, legal or otherwise) or a story of "Good vs evil" (pretty much any story you care to mention). In other words, they haven't thought about it at grass roots level.

Instead, those writers may put everything onto their character's motivation or goal. This is of course a good start, but without knowing exactly *what* your story is, you may not put across *why* your character wants something or is behaving the way s/he does.

My advice to writers struggling with "half-baked" ideas is this: don't just think about what your character WANTS, think about WHY you are writing the story. You may find this holds the key to "unlocking" many of those elements - especially tone and plot - you were struggling with.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Girls On Film - A Few Thoughts So Far

LSF's Girls On Film Initiative has been running a few weeks now. We've been off to a steady and pleasing start, with 5 scripts put through for a full read so far (though the reading is ongoing remember, so anyone with a script "in the system" who hasn't heard yet DO NOT FREAK OUT).

Here's a few thoughts on what's been going on so far:

Drama versus Genre. Several writers have not appeared to know the difference between drama and genre. It was GoF's "bad" in one sense not flagging up on the first page that we do NOT want drama features (though it is listed on the FAQ)... which writers are NOT checking (see next). However, lesson learnt by Team GoF: the fact we do NOT want drama is now flagged up right from the offset on page one of the GoF site now AND articles have been blogged/linked to to leave writers in no doubt what we are looking for when we say "genre".

Get your FAQs right. It's been quite surprising how few writers check the Frequently Asked Questions section. As a result, I've had a deluge of questions about things already listed. Similarly, I've had many submissions that aren't even VAGUELY right for GoF, including several 60 page TV pilots, two features that were MUCH shorter than the required length, one sitcom (!), a couple that weren't in English AND THREE SCRIPTS WITH MALE LEADS (both protag and antag). Please always make sure you familiarise yourself with regulations and submission guidelines, not just for GoF, but ALL scriptwriting opportunities.

Protagonist and/or Antagonist introduction. Most scripts have worked very hard on their hooks in the first ten pages, which is obviously good in terms of genre, BUT many have done this at the expense of character introduction. In other words, the reader is not sure who the protagonist OR antagonist is and since many of the scripts have featured men in the first instance, we've been left wondering who the "girls on film" are in various stories or seen them VERY late - page 6 or 7 or even beyond. Read about character introduction HERE and openers HERE.

Genre confusion. Interestingly, some writers have labelled their scripts as one genre, when it's been apparent to the reader it is a different genre altogether. Typically, what's happened is the writer is so keen to introduce his/her characters, in the first instance the script feels like a DRAMA, even if it's supposed to be genre fare "later". This happens the most with those scripts labelled Horror, Comedy and Thriller.

Mislabelling genre. Writers it would seem will do ANYTHING rather than label their spec the "normal" way! Thriller appears to be the main offender: we've had all sorts in its place, including "supernatural ghost story", "chase mystery" and my personal favourite, "splatterpunk action". Science Fiction brings up the rear, with the intriguing "alternate reality action". I can see why writers are anxious to "re-label genre" as it might seem cool and new, but think instead what the INDUSTRY does: they tend to stay with the same kind of labels (even for sub and cross genres), year in, year out. 9/10 I'd wager it's probably a good idea to try and aim for one ALREADY in existence.

Format. Format has mostly been okay, with just two in Arial. That said, there are still some weird variations creeping through, including a couple with pictures and maps. The three biggest offenders are underlining and bold. Underlining (especially of scene headings) doesn't bother me too much, but an excess of bold really does my swede in. It really does make the reader's eyes go funny. Why bother? If you're so worried the reader won't realise one scene has ended and another has begun, ask instead what you can do to make it more obvious in the story, rather than reach for that bold icon in your toolbox. Here's a full run-down of format issues seen in the spec pile and what you can do about them.

Last of all:

Loglines. I do the first sift and loglines have generally not been good, even those accompanying scripts that have gone on to get a full read. Of course, I'm a hard taskmaster, but then ALL industry people are - or should be. A logline is like the "first impression" of one's story, it's very often the first port of call in selling your script "off the page". It really can mean the difference, beyond initiatives like GoF, of an agent or producer picking your script up - OR NOT. Yet I rarely see the same care lavished on a logline as I do a screenplay. This seems madness.

Here are the common problems with the loglines I've been seeing at GoF:

- Not DRAMATIC enough. A good genre script should be high stakes, BIG, dramatic... Yet the loglines in circulation here at GoF (and incidentally, at the many other initiatives, schemes and contests I've read for) are usually damp squibs. Think about the vocabulary you're using in the first instance. What does it say about your story REALLY?

- Unclear genre. We're selling GENRE here... so why not give us a flavour of the story of the script? A comedy script - why not be funny? A Horror or Thriller - why not try and be scary or thrilling? Or if you feel you can't do that, why not give us a *sense* of what we're dealing with some other way? You can do anything.

- Unclear Story. Often a writer goes round the houses and appears to go out of his/her way to NOT describe the story they're trying to "sell off the page"... Why attempt to do yourself out of a read? The most issue with this is going on about character motivation or emotional issues, rather than describing an actual plot.

- Questions, Questions! Argh the dreaded questions... In other words, rather than describe the plot, the writer asks questions instead, ie. "Will Kate kill Tom? Will she escape into the night? And who is the mysterious stranger who has been tracking her every move?" NO PLEASE DON'T!

- Too much detail. Some writers put extraneous details in loglines - names, places, whatever - unless it's strictly necessary, CUT CUT CUT. We haven't read the script yet. Far better to nail it in terms of the overarching story, than the detail, make us WANT to read your ten pages!

- It's Too Rushed! You've just written a whacking great screenplay... and you're rushing the logline? REALLY? And don't think readers can't tell... 'COS WE CAN! The logline is one of the most of important selling items you have... It can get you through doors. So don't undersell yourself or your screenplay - far better to take a little extra time on your logline. Why not get some peer feedback on it?

Good luck with your submissions! Don't forget The Required Reading List has loads of articles by different authors on all things screenwriting and script-reading related and more that can help you with your GoF script.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Genre Vs Drama: The Difference Between Them

The word "genre" essentially means "category", so going on this basis alone, the notion of "drama" makes it a genre. However, the key here is not so much in the LITERAL words "drama" or "genre" but how the industry uses them.

Genre film generally describes *those* categories like Horror, Thriller, Comedy, Action, Science Fiction - and their many cross-genres (Rom-Com, Horror-Comedy) or sub-genres (slasher horror, creature feature, body swap comedy and the many, many others). Genre film is event-driven with high stakes; stylised storytelling; larger than life; often highly commercial with large audience appeal. Genre film is highly conventional, with many "expected" elements to it (ie. Final Girl, the Best Friend/Mentor, explosions, etc) but with enough surprises that it does not turn into "tick the box" screenwriting.

In contrast then, "drama" encapsulates just about everything else that's NOT the above. Drama films are frequently about the minutaie of life such as the private moments or tragedies of relationships between individuals; drama films are often highly personal and very emotional. Often dramas are for niche audiences, though of course many award-winning films (particularly Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes) are dramas, though critical acclaim is not always indicative of commercial success. Crucially, many dramas are producer-led, particularly when it comes to true stories and adaptations.

It's important to note NEITHER drama or genre is "better" than the other; both have their challenges. A good genre film is MUCH harder than it looks and a satisfying drama is difficult to achieve without alienating your audience.

The biggest difference however between drama and genre at the moment is the market-place. In short, genre sells better than drama. That's just a fact. Of course the market-place is subject to change, so this may turn on its head in the next few years. Certainly the unexpected commercial success of British films like THE KING'S SPEECH may have broken the ground for this, though we'll just have to wait and see.

Summing up then, next time you hear

"Genre" - think, "BIG stories; event-driven with high stakes; stylised storytelling; larger than life; often highly commercial with large audience appeal."

and

"Drama" - think, "SMALL stories; individuals; relationships; private moments; tragedies; relationships; personal; emotional; typically niche audience"

'Cos you can bet your bottom dollar that's how the industry person you want to target sees them.

LINKS

Genre Versus Drama: Master of None - what happens when your spec falls somewhere between drama and genre. Part One and Part Two

Aren't *All* Movies "Character-Led"? The difference between characters in dramas and genre movies

Writing Genre - a case study

The Required Reading List - check out the Genre section

Don't forget this blog has a labels section for "drama" and "genre" too - click on the bottom of the posts for them!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The @londonswf Girls On Film Screenplay Initiative

Got a FEATURE-LENGTH GENRE SCRIPT, with a female protagonist, antagonist, or both? Then The London Screenwriters Festival Girls on Film initiative is for you!

Endorsed by Women In Film In Television, The Underwire Festival and US site Women And Hollywood, LSF Girls on Film wants to find the best spec movie scripts with 3D, well-drawn female characters.

Top production companies and literary agents have signed up to check out the loglines of the scripts that get a GoF "Recommend" or "Consider", too. Best of all, it's COMPLETELY FREE and THERE IS NO DEADLINE, so no need to rush!!!

Check out all the details here and the how to submit HERE.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Writing From Life

About five or six times a year I get an email that goes *something* like this:

"I/my parents/my grandparents/my best friend/somebody I found in a book or newspaper had an amazing life! I really want to turn the story of my/their life into a screenplay. Can you help me?"

First off, well done for finding the story and being so inspired. Secondly, I absolutely CAN help - via my e-library, "The Required Reading List", where I have collected articles on everything writing-related I can think of, by many different authors, so you can get multiple perspectives on things like character, dialogue, format, structure and more. Bookmark it here.

A lot of the Bang2writers writing to me about this express concern they may not "do justice" to the true story they want to tell. Do not worry about this. Sometimes we have to sacrifice facts for drama and in essence "tell lies to tell the truth": this may mean fabricating certain events and omitting others in order to tell the most dramatic story possible. This is NOT disrespectful. If you really care about the people involved, this will shine through no matter what you end up doing in telling their story.

So, instead of worrying what you *might* do in telling this story, think on this instead:

Are my intentions good and honourable towards this story and its characters - and what it means for the audience (including those people who may have known those involved in the story)?

If they are, you're home free - and your "true story" spec is just the same as a totally fictional one. Give yourself a break and just do your best. You can't say fairer than that.

ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT TRUE STORIES:

How "true" can a true story be?


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shoreline Scripts: Q & A



The peeps from The Shoreline Scripts Contest have been in touch... Check it out!
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There's lots of paid-for screenwriting contests around... why should Bang2writers choose Shoreline?
A writer should look at not only the monetary prizes of a competition, but how that competition will help get his/her work out there. Shoreline Scripts has a great set of producers, industry judges, and production companies attached. The money and other prizes will help, but unlike many other competitions, our main goal is to get the best work into the right people's hands. We have over 50 production companies onboard to read the top scripts, not to mention agents from WMA and United Talent, and our judges with their industry expertise and connections.

What are the prizes?
The prizes for our top five winners are:
1st
reddot.jpg £2500 Cash. ($3870 approx)
reddot.jpg Final Draft Version 8 Software. (worth £160)
reddot.jpg Comprehensive Script Report/Coverage. (worth £120)
reddot.jpg Itsonthegrid.com Professional Membership. (worth £160)
reddot.jpg Free IMDB Pro Account (worth £120)
reddot.jpg VIP Package. (10 free pitches) VirtualPitchFest.com (worth £60)
reddot.jpg Script Consultant - Pilar Alessandra's 6 Steps E-WorkBook. (worth £65)
reddot.jpg Pro Lifetime Membership at Scripped.com. (worth £60)
2nd
reddot.jpg £500 Cash. ($775 approx)
reddot.jpg Final Draft Version 8 Software. (worth £160)
reddot.jpg Comprehensive Script Report/Coverage. (worth £120)
reddot.jpg Itsonthegrid.com Professional Membership. (worth £160)
reddot.jpg Free IMDB Pro Account (worth £120)
reddot.jpg (5 free pitches) VirtualPitchFest.com
reddot.jpg Script Consultant - Pilar Alessandra's 6 Steps E-WorkBook. (worth £65)
reddot.jpg Pro Lifetime Membership at Scripped.com. (worth £60)
3rd
reddot.jpg £250. ($380 approx)
reddot.jpg Final Draft Version 8 Software. (worth £160)
reddot.jpg Comprehensive Script Report/Coverage. (worth £120)
reddot.jpg Itsonthegrid.com Professional Membership. (worth £160)
reddot.jpg Free IMDB Pro Account (worth £120)
reddot.jpg Script Consultant - Pilar Alessandra's 6 Steps E-WorkBook. (worth £65)
reddot.jpg Pro Lifetime Membership at Scripped.com. (worth £60)
reddot.jpg (2 free pitches) VirtualPitchFest.com
4th
reddot.jpg Final Draft Version 8 Software. (worth £160)
reddot.jpg Itsonthegrid.com Professional Membership. (worth £160)
reddot.jpg Free IMDB Pro Account (worth £120)
reddot.jpg Script Consultant - Pilar Alessandra's 6 Steps E-WorkBook. (worth £65)
reddot.jpg Pro Lifetime Membership at Scripped.com. (worth £60)
reddot.jpg (2 free pitches) VirtualPitchFest.com
5th
reddot.jpg Final Draft Version 8 Software. (worth £160)
reddot.jpg Itsonthegrid.com Professional Membership. (worth £160)
reddot.jpg Free IMDB Pro Account (worth £120)
reddot.jpg Script Consultant - Pilar Alessandra's 6 Steps E-WorkBook. (worth £65)
reddot.jpg Pro Lifetime Membership at Scripped.com. (worth £60)
reddot.jpg (2 free pitches) VirtualPitchFest.com

Who are the judges?
Our judges to read the final three scripts include:
Oscar Nominated Writer Jeffrey Caine: (Constant Gardener, GoldenEye)
BAFTA Winning Writer Tony Grisoni: (Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, Tideland)
Cannes Palme d'Or Nominated Director Ray Lawrence: (Lantana & Jindabyne)
Producers: Andras Hamori, (Crash, The Sweet Hereafter, Big Nothing and Morvern Callar)
Christopher Figg, (We Need To Talk About Kevin, Dog Soldiers, Hellraiser)
James Simpson (The Merchant Of Venice and Beowulf & Grendel).


Why did you set up Shoreline scripts?
We set up Shoreline Scripts because it is extremely tough for talented screenwriters to get their work read by people in the industry. If you don’t an agent then producers won't read unsolicited work; yet, 9 times out of 10, you need to have had a piece of work produced before an agent will sign you. So, there's a catch 22 situation.

We work as a platform for writers, and as a free service for producers, production companies and agents. They know the screenplays we send through will be of the highest quality. It won't guarantee a writer a sale or representation, but it will guarantee that the scripts read by someone who can actually do something with it.

Are you looking for genre or drama scripts? (Or both)?

We don't discriminate genre-wise. Any genres are welcome. We love it all! :-)

What's the mark of a "good" 1) opener? 2) Screenplay as a whole in your view?
1) The key to a good opener is that a reader wants to keep reading after the first 10-15 pages.
That's a lot harder to do than it sounds and is half the battle.
A hook, inciting incident, the world the writer creates, dialogue and a million other things.
It's important to think about the latest point you can start your character's story. Start with a bang!
can help make that possible.
2) There's no set formula to creating a great screenplay. Taking as much action and dialogue
out of a script as possible really helps. Conflict = progression, and helps the page turn.
A great script comes from planning, then rewriting until it is as tight as possible!


I hear you send script out to producers before the contest has even finished... How come?

Why wait until the competition is over? A producer or production company might be looking for their next project now, and if we feel it’s there sitting in-front of us, why wait? The chance might go.
We will always consult the writer before any script is sent out. If interest arises, we put them directly in touch with that person. We never have any rights over the material.
-----------------

Wow, sounds a great contest with great prizes - and real chances to get your script in the right hands. Visit the official website to enter.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Guest Post: Free Writing by Sam Caine

I’d say the most important step in any writing related endeavour is the actual starting, but, like many writers, I often find this step to be the hardest. There’s something about staring at a blank page that makes doing something – anything – else seem extremely compelling. I often find that, after doing the laundry, washing the dishes and vacuuming every flat surface in the house, that ‘five hour writing session’ has dwindled to about 30 minutes.

I was talking about this fear of the blank page with some fellow writers recently, and the topic of free writing popped up, where it was likened to a ‘warm up for the brain’ : the pre-marathon stretches of the writing world. I was sceptical, but in the interest of science of writing (which might be an oxymoron), I decided to become my own Guinea pig.

For those of you who don’t know what free writing is, allow me to summarise:

- Set yourself a timer, for anywhere between 1 and 30 minutes.
- Paying no attention to spelling, grammar, neatness, etc., write whatever comes to your mind!
- Continue writing until the timer beeps.
- If, at any point, you find yourself unable to think of anything, write that you can’t think of anything. The most important point is to continue writing!

That is essentially all there is to it, in its purest form.

Now, it turns out that being a Guinea pig isn’t all that easy. Aside from becoming crazily anxious and making unusual squeaking noises, it actually involved altering routines. If you’re like me, and constantly have a script open on your desktop, there’s a real temptation to just dip in and out of it, without really committing to it (or anything else, for that matter). This is not good for you, your script or your productivity. Free writing, for all of my initial scepticism, forces you to focus on the task of actually writing. So, rather than sort of browsing social networking sites, sort of paying some bills and sort of writing a script, you can actually write a script.

The process of free writing is so bizarre – so unnatural – that, from my experience, when the timer finally beeps, it is actually a challenge to think about anything other than writing. Which I suppose is to be expected when you spend 10 minutes writing non-stop.

If you do fancy giving it a go (and I think you should!) here’s one final piece of advice: if, like me, you always seem to have a million things that need doing, I highly recommend you decide on a subject beforehand - something that has relevance to the writing you want to accomplish afterwards. For example, I recently did some free writing on the subject of the sea. It does give you less ‘freedom’, but it does ensure that you don’t spend 10 minutes writing about how should really do the laundry, wash the dishes and vacuum every flat surface in the house.
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Sam Caine is a scriptwriting student at Bournemouth University. He enjoys reading, writing and moaning. He doesn't enjoy mushrooms, spiders or talking about himself in the third person. You can follow him on his unloved Twitter account @samuelgcaine, on his blog of writing-related miscellanea, or subscribe to him on Facebook, if you're into that kind of stuff. He tries to refrain from judgement.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Deviation: The First Review Is In!


And the first review of DEVIATION is in from Screen Daily:

"Deviation is an impressively staged psychological thriller that makes the most of its nighttime London locations and features a fine central pair of performances from Danny Dyer (leaving his cheeky-chappie persona behind) and genre favourite Anna Walton."

Read the rest here.

Totally stoked by this review, the guys at Screen Daily have nailed what we were trying to do. Boom!

Follow Deviation:

On Twitter

Facebook

Website

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Putting Together A Writer's CV / Resume

Many thanks to the Bang2writers who've been asking various script-related questions over at the Facebook page today... If you have a burning writing-or-industry-related question, "Like" the page here and join in.

I was able to answer most of the questions very quickly on the FB page, but this one from Gail warrants a longer post:

How do you put together a writer's CV? What should go in, what should be left out, what counts as relevant experience?

First up, the usual disclaimer: this post is based on my experience of writing my own CVs and reading other people's ONLY. There is no *set* way of doing it. However I've seen some very good CVs and I've seen some very pants ones, so I think I can offer some help here, however small, especially for those who are having issues knowing where to start.

So, without further ado, my thoughts:

Presentation. We often hear presentation is everything in this biz, which is why CVs sometimes look surprisingly BAD on this front. Supposedly "eye-catching" fonts and colours are the biggest no-nos; jazzy layouts, extra space and justified text can also cause issues. I don't recommend putting your photo on them either, even if you are hot - you're not an actor. I recommend the following:

- A sans serif font (Minus that "squiggly" bit, ie. Arial)

- 12 pt size

- Black type on a white page

- One to two pages MAXIMUM

Of course, there is room for personal preference too. I like to put my name and jobs ("Script Editor and Novelist" at the top in larger type, putting my address, website and contact details in a little box on the right hand side. I then seperate each "section" with a line. Basically, lay it out HOWEVER YOU WANT as long as it is a) simple and b) does not affect "readability".

So that's the dull stuff out the way. So what else could go on your writer's CV?

- About you. A short intro about you is nearly always MISSING on CVs I see and I think it's a real shame, since this is a GREAT opportunity to really sell yourself off the page to whomever's reading. Give them an insight into WHO YOU ARE. Mine reads "Straight-talking, web savvy Script Editor with an eye for structure" as a sub heading and underneath there is a short paragraph about my various interests , such as challenging gender stereotypes, social media and event organising. I prefer to write in the third person because I'm BRITISH and saying it in the first feels like BOASTING to me, but if you're more sensible and don't have the same hang-up, either is fine.

- Online presence. Do you have one? If so (and you really should), put your website, your LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter idents here too. If you have a particularly popular blog, why not include something like its daily hit rate? Perhaps you're well known online for things like #scriptchat on Twitter - why not include that. Maybe you have a large FB group or participate in discussions online a lot - why not link to such an example, if appropriate? Basically you just want to show you're an active part of the online scriptwriting "community" and not afraid to get out there.

- Membership. If you belong to The WGGB, here is the place for it. Similarly, list here any other clubs or writing societies and make sure you say you organised the group if you did! You could also link to online profiles here, like your Talent Circle page.

- Education. If you have a BA or MA in scriptwriting, obviously that should go on. But so should short courses like Guerilla Filmmakers' Masterclass and yes, things like London Screenwriters Festival. A couple of lines about the course, listing elements you feel you did well in or have a particular interest in (ie. networking, speed pitching, TV writing, one page pitches, writing for radio, feature writing) and any relevant results (if appropriate) would be good here.

Other Education. With space at a premium, I would recommend not bothering including stuff from school, college or university unless it's RELEVANT. So, for example - if you did English Literature and Language and got a first class degree? That's impressive and shows you potentially have mad writing skillz. On the other hand, a degree in IT, whilst very useful, probably could do with being missed out. It is however up to you. BTW: Back in school, I remember the careers guidance people advising us to put our education on our CVs FIRST. This might be good when one is a "newbie" (screenwriter or otherwise), though it's probably a good idea to list experience first if you're more "seasoned" and have a few collaborations or credits under your belt.

- Agent. Do you have one? Make sure you put it somewhere on your CV. If not, just ignore this bit.

- Experience. Again, keep it relevant: this is your WRITER'S CV, not your "normal" CV. So here, I'd say don't bother listing your seasonal job at the cafe when you were a teenager or the fact you've spent the last ten years growing cultures in a lab in Borneo. If you have credits, great - stick 'em down. But equally, even if your collaborations, options, commissions and whatnot have come to nothing... STILL PUT THEM DOWN HERE. Do not hide your light under a bushel. If you worked on them, those projects EXISTED. Don't pretend they never happened. "Wait a sec... I have no experience of any of that." I wondered when you'd chime in with that! No problem... We all have to start somewhere. Miss this part out and move straight to the next bit...

- Projects. Here, make a list of your specs. I would recommend having at least three here. List title, genre, plus a short logline. If you have had any interest, contest placings/wins or good feedback, list that here too briefly.

- Contests. If you're a contest pro with MANY placings, you may want to create a whole section just for this. Things like getting through the second round of the BBC Writers' Academy, The Red Planet Prize, various rounds of The British Screenplay Competition and placing in US biggies like Bluecat, Scriptapolooza, Final Draft Big Break and Just Effin' Entertain Me could all go here.

- Other. "Normal" CVs say boring stuff like "clean driving licence, excellent telephone speaking voice, computer skills" - YAWN! Think outside the box on this one, give them a flavour of who you are, make them remember you. Have you ever been stuck in a lift with a celebrity? Perhaps you sat in a bath of beans for three days for Comic Relief? Whatever, just put something. Mine at the moment says that I'm related to the guy who pulled the longest tapeworm ever out of a cow (true story). If that doesn't appeal, maybe you could write about your SPECIAL KNOWLEDGE here... 'Cos we all have some. If you're a stay-at-home Mum or Dad of fifteen years' experience, you "know" kids and how they sound; if you were a policeman on the beat or a nurse in A&E, you *know* conflict; if you work in construction, IT or local government you also have a wealth of knowledge... As does every single person who's worked in a supermarket, a factory, a school or hair salon. Don't do yourself down, there's stuff you know that other people don't that HELPS your writing - so figure out what it is.

So hope that's of use, good luck with those CVs!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Writing The Low Budget Screenplay: Part 2

Carrying on from yesterday's post about genre, locations and characters in the low budget screenplay, here are some other factors you may want to consider when planning out and writing your low budget masterpiece. Enjoy!

Star Appeal. Great writing attracts great actors - and of course NAMES attract sales agents. Think of the Names you would like to target with your hot script... Can you write a role with them in mind (why not - if that Talent attaches, it may gain you a Director or Producer, plenty of films have done it that way round)? So... What is your dream actor known for? Will this appeal on that basis? Turning this notion on its head, would YOUR script be a change of direction for them? If for example you're filming in the UK, can you attract an American or European actor - and thus American or European interest/money? Of course, you may WANT to use a cast of Unknowns - and if you're not making a genre film, this can work particularly well; if you ARE however, what is the "hook" for the audience if it's *not* "Oh it's him/her out of that thing in this movie!" (And we ALL do it). Be aware: whilst some do cross over very successfully to features - I'm thinking Adele Silva here in particular - soap actors are not necessarily *enough* to get a distribution deal on their own, especially if their series is not "big" outside the UK.

SO: Make your script shine and the Names will come knocking - actors actively WANT challenging, interesting parts to play over crossing their fingers and thinking of the rent money. But DON'T cast Names "for the sake of it" - you MUST believe, 100%, that actor is the RIGHT WO/MAN FOR THE JOB. If you can't attract Names, then don't panic, but DO make sure you have access to the best talent available... NEVER, EVER "make do".

Health & Safety. It's obvious that things like stunt work, choreographed fights, explosions, fire, flood etc will all ratchet up your budget. However, did you know supposedly "small" actions like quickly running up and down stairs will, too? Basically any producer is obliged to perform a risk assessment, ie. the LIKELIHOOD of whether an actor - or crew!!! - will hurt themselves. The higher the risk, the higher the budget. Simples.

SO: If there is action in your low budget screenplay, think about how it plays out and where it is. Choreographed fights obviously carry some risk, but if the fight is on level ground, away from hazardous areas, overseen by a proper Stunt Choreographer, then the risk is minimal. Place the same fight in a moving car or on a flight of stairs and it's a different story. Similar with weaponry: do you NEED close ups of a weapon? If not, instead of using a knife, perhaps you could use a piece of wood or just the handle of the knife with no blade.

Actors' Ages/Animals. Children MUST be paid, chaperoned and can only work certain hours of the day, dependant on the council's policy where you're shooting. Animals must be accompanied by their wranglers and are subject to similar rules.

SO: Both can represent a massive headache to the low budget screenplay and are best avoided if you want a clear shot at being labelled "low budget". However there are various compromises: teenagers over 18 often look younger, yet are subject to the same rules as adults - use them instead. Animals are more difficult to compromise over, but perhaps you could use your own dog or iguana? Basically: think what you have access to!

Props/Set Dressing. Specially made or hard-to-find props can be expensive, especially when you consider The Art Dept will probably need multiples in case one gets broken. Set Dressing can be expensive if you're using one room to look like different places, but is A LOT cheaper than building multiple sets, plus there are many ways of sourcing items to make rooms look different. New curtains, different pictures on the wall, throws on the chairs, etc make a world of difference - as does shooting from different angles. Friends of mine swear by pound shops, charity shops and eBay, but the key is compromise: don't write something the story would fall apart over if it can't be found.

SO: Remember filmmakers may not find everything needed and may need to make substitutes - so try to deal with this in advance by ensuring the story does not depend on any single item in the script.

Costuming/Make Up. People immediately think "period drama = high budget" but it doesn't have to if you think outside the box. There are many musuems and historical societies that are very open to the idea of collaborating with filmmakers if they get credited in the final film, sometimes for free. Similarly, many costumes can be pieced together raiding charity shops. You will more than likely need a professional Make Up artist who will need supplies for his/her kit, but again eBay can come to the rescue there and I've even known filmmakers to barter: on one student film I worked on, a producer even said she'd look after one theatre supplier's kid for the afternoon if she gave her a vat of fake blood! in terms of cutting down a Make Up artist's time, actors can also put their OWN "normal" make up on, allowing the Make Up Artist to concentrate on more pressing matters like fake flesh wounds, broken teeth, scabs or Zombie and Vampire faces. The key when WRITING then is where you place them a) in the story and b) where it would "need" to be filmed. A selection of Zombies in a corridor? Probably going to work on a low budget. A selection of Zombies in the middle of the town square? Uh-oh.

SO: In writing the script, remember that pesky context again.

Genre convention/classification.Aka knowing your audience. A well-received film is one that KNOWS its audience and has given them enough of what they expected, without forgetting to SURPRISE them as well.

SO... what are you waiting for? Oh right: that discount code again... £50 off to Chris Jones' Guerilla Filmmakers' Masterclass with code BANG2WRITE. Go Go Go!