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Friday, March 30, 2012

Guest Post: How To Work From Home by Kate Croston

Bang2writer Kate reminds us freelancers and those of working on projects like the upcoming Script Frenzy of some simple tricks to ensure we get all we need done. Some of these are simple, yet hard to do - like "leave"! Broken that one many times... And whilst I don't have the room for my own office, I think it's important everyone has their own space that's JUST theirs. Thanks Kate!
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When working from home it is really easy to fall into a lazy routine: waking up later, not getting dressed, work scattered over the entire home. Being able to work from home is a blessing for many, but can be difficult to maintain and balance your work and personal life from home. Working from home can be a great advantage, just as long as you know *how* to work from home. Here are some simple tricks to follow:

Have an Office: It is very important to have an office at home to keep organized and be successful when working from home. Too many times we get lazy and set up camp at the kitchen table, in bed or on the living room sofa. Having an office set for your work will keep you focused and on task. It automatically sets the mode for work mode and not TV time.

Leave: When you work from home it is good to get out of the house on a daily basis, whether you choose to run to the grocery store, grab lunch or take a walk. You spend every 7 days a week in the same environment and eventually it will take a toll on your mood. A change of scenery is good for your productivity levels when you start to feel confined to your home.

Get up early, Get dressed: Treat working at home just like you would if you were working in an office environment. Getting up at a reasonable time in the morning will set your day for a good schedule. Once you get up, get dressed. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie but getting out of your pajamas and into everyday clothes well help prepare your mindset for the work day at home.

Make a schedule: Before you start your work day or your task, clear your mind and get ready to prioritize. Take a look at your calendar and email for any appointments, calls or meetings you might have set up. Look at the work you want to accomplish from start to finish. Be sure you put your lunch or coffee breaks into your list.

Working from home can work! You just have to be aware of the distractions and things that can waiver you from completing your tasks. Follow these guidelines and start working! Good luck and enjoy working from home!

ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT WORKING FROM HOME:

When Do I Give Up My Day Job?

Writing With Kids 1: Getting The Spec Done

Writing With Kids 2: Working From Home

Time Management
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ABOUT KATE: Kate Croston is a freelance writer and holds a bachelors degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. She writes guest posts for different sites and loves contributing home internet service related topics. Questions or comments can be sent to: katecroston.croston09ATgmailDOTcom.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Feature-Length FEAR

Over the last few years I've seen a considerable reduction in feature-length screenplays in the spec pile. Instead, there seems to be a plethora of TV pilots - nearly always 60 minute returning dramas, though the odd sitcom too.

Now when I started over ten years ago, I hardly ever saw TV scripts at all. If I did, they were usually "feature-length", movie-of-the-week type scripts, rather than 60 page TV pilots. Generally speaking, the pile was made up of 90-120 page movie scripts, with the odd short film (often quite long for shorts, in the range of 20-30 pages) thrown in for good measure (the short films I see now are generally MUCH shorter, 10 pages or less).

Of course, much has changed in the last ten years or so - and not just in terms of the internet and social media, which are chockfull of information and help for screenwriters. When I started, there seemed to be quite a lot of hostility directed towards writing for television, especially continuing drama by up and coming writers; this has changed the most sharply it would seem, with many many new writers DESPERATE to make it into the hallowed world of soaps, especially since the launch of such schemes as The BBC Writers' Academy. It would seem many have realised continuing drama to be a "training ground" for those wanting to write their own TV series eventually, with many others wanting simply to write for favourite shows, which are now heavily celebrated in a way they didn't seem to be before.

Similarly, genre film has risen to the top of the pile, whereas low budget drama was very much the name of the game a decade or so ago. Potential film festival acclaim it would seem has been eclipsed by the pull of potential commercial success: Brit genre successes of the last decade like 28 DAYS LATER, SHAUN OF THE DEAD and ATTACK THE BLOCK are just the tips of the iceberg. The advent of digital filmmaking has meant production companies can make films on very low budgets in ways they couldn't before - and audiences have voted with their feet, getting behind many indie productions.

Yet in comparison to a growth of TV scripts, feature scripts - even dramas - seem at a premium in comparison to their huge numbers ten years ago. Why?

Feature scripts have great currency in the industry. Whilst TV producers may well look at feature scripts when considering writers for TV jobs, Film producers don't *tend* to look at TV pilots when considering writers for film jobs in the same way. And why should they? A TV pilot proves the writer can get to 60 pages, fine - but a whopping potential 30 pages is "missing". You can see the psychology. How does that Film Producer "know" the writer can handle the much larger (not better) plot construction of a feature?

When I ask Bang2writers why they are not writing features, some common responses are:

"My ideas are better suited for television" (really? TV is increasingly high concept. With series like THE FADES, ASHES TO ASHES, DR WHO, HUSTLE, SPOOKS et al Is there that "much" of a difference in subject matter now? I would argue it's a structural difference in how they play out more).

"I just love television so much." (Fair dos: if television is your medium of CHOICE, then go for it... Though *could* one of your ideas get you *in* to television via film? Could be worth a thought).

"I'm scared of 60+pages".

And this final one is the one that affects writers the most I would wager. The Three Act structure over 90-120 pages TERRIFIES many of the writers I've asked. Many describe Act 2 as a "wasteland" or fear that not having a very obvious main plot/sub plot (or even three or four strands as in continuing drama) will mean their story will "dry up".

Yet fear is all it is - and yes, if you write a feature perhaps in the first instance you will make mistakes with structure and story. But you will have done the same with your early TV pilots - and you didn't let that put you off! So why not do what you did back when you started those - your research, into structure? There's a whole section on it in The Required Reading List and plenty else on this blog... Google "movie structure" and you will find loads more. Go for it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How Do I Make New Contacts?

One thing Bang2writers always ask me is "How do I make new contacts?" Annoyingly, my answer is always the same: "By meeting them."

But where do you start?

This seems to be one of the things that freak writers out the most. I'm often told at the seminars, talks and workshops I do that the industry is a "closed shop" and that "no one wants to know".

Yet this has NEVER been my experience. It's not that I am somehow more "lucky" or "better" at making contacts, either.

Writers starting out - and indeed those more seasoned wanting to "step up a gear" in their career - now have more ways of making contacts than EVER before. All a writer has to do is REALISE and ENGAGE with the plethora of opportunities on offer, via:

- Short courses (The Script Factory, Euroscript, London Script Consultancy)

- Festivals (London Screenwriters' Festival, Film Festivals)

- Networking events (Stellar Network, WGGB, BBC Writers' Room)

- University courses (MAs, BAs in scriptwriting, creative writing, etc)

- Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, et al)

- Internet forums and bulletins (Talent Circle, Shooting People, Mandy)

- Creating their own meet ups in real life/online

- Initiatives and contests (free like NanoWrimo, ScriptFrenzy) or paid for (Bluecat, Scriptapolooza, etc)

Phoning, emailing, tweeting & meeting other writers, directors, producers and agents and JOINING IN is the absolute LIFEBLOOD of our writing. Without this, our scripts wither away and die on our desktops. Sure, you can stick a pin in the Artist's Yearbook, but just think if you had already MET that agent, producer, actor or whatever - how much MORE of a chance could your work have in *their* hands if they could picture your FACE or the many amusing tweet conversations you've had BEFORE? If you've had a good relationship, there's every chance they will come to your script WANTING to like it.

Can't say better than that. FACT.

So reach out. Doesn't matter how you do it (as long as you don't paint yourself a weirdo). Doesn't matter how much or how little money you spend.

Just do it.

LINKS

Connect to other Bang2writers online

Why you SHOULD do a university course in screenwriting by Eleanor Ball

Creating Your Career

Resource section from The Required Reading List

Friday, March 16, 2012

Guest Post: Preparation, Preparation, Preparation by Hina Malik

Many thanks to Hina for a VERY honest post on what NOT to do when pitching... Enjoy!

Why the obvious topic? I’m gonna tell you a story about an enthusiastic writer who had all the ideas in the world, but only one of them written. That idiot was me.

ANNOYING FLASHBACK

2010, and it was the London Screenwriters’ Festival. It was a fantastic experience. I learnt a lot... which is the worst thing that can happen. Don’t know about you, but for me a ‘learning experience’ is geek speak for "I wasted an opportunity because I didn’t know any better, so shoot me now and keep my DVD collection"...

... So, I signed myself up for the pitching sessions, which are a brilliant opportunity... for people who are prepared. I turned up, cocky, not fussed about preparation. I pitched to a production company, an established agent and an indie prodco. The problem was I had one completed short script, of the horror-thriller genre. My other stuff was all ‘in the works’ and far from ready. The first draft of that stuff was yet to grace the painfully blank pages of Final Draft.

And so it began, with us writers cooped up in a room, most of them waited awkwardly and others anxiously. I was relaxed, not a care in the world (you see, ignorance really is bliss). It came to my first pitch and it was a relatively big production company whose focus was features: Hollywood level features. I had nothing, but instead of staring blankly and "umming", I kept my cool and played it by ear... Then a script idea I had conceived a while back (but was yet to actually write) sprung to mind. I pitched it, the prodco seemed unsure initially, but I sold it well enough for the prodco-man to give me his email address and request to read my material. I was elated. Absolutely smug.

Then came pitch number two, the TV agent. I stalled for a beat then pitched some ridiculous procedural which was a mash up of a medical drama and a cop show I had watched, and frankly, I was improvising badly, yet once again, my confidence got me a request to read my material. Score.

For my third pitch, confidence and creativity just wasn’t enough, nor was smiling the appropriate amount so not to frighten or freak out the other person (really, you’d be surprised how easily you can over-smile). I came clean and told her I had nothing. So instead, she kindly gave me feedback on the idea of my short and what kinds of things I should consider when pitching it. As her team dealt with documentaries and not horror-thrillers, I was out of luck.

As I emerged from the pitching room, it began to occur to me that maybe, just MAYBE, the read-requests weren’t so great for me, what with my TOTAL LACK OF PREPARATION.

I submitted a terrible, horrible, embarrassment-to-writers kind of script, with underdeveloped characters and ridiculously contrived plot. A great idea that was poorly executed. And for what? All in the name of sending it off to a prodco who would inevitably reject it. But me being me, I sent it anyway.

BAD DECISION.

For obvious reasons, the script was rejected. As for the TV agent, I didn’t have the pilot script of the amazing show I had pitched to send: another wasted opportunity.

There are two words I hate the most in life and I was thinking them constantly at this point:

‘If only I had been prepared, IF ONLY’.

Being a writer, I expect you want to have material that is decent and ready to show to agents, and submit to Prodcos. You may even want to have scripts ready for competition season (April), that’s why in our career more than any other preparation is the KEY. Preparation is VITAL to getting anywhere in your career as a writer.

‘That’s a nice speech, but what are you going to do about it?’ -Anon.

Be prepared.

Have those drafts tweaked and ready for submission, have your pitches thoroughly practiced and know your projects inside out. So that when the moment comes, you play your cards right, you wow that company or agent and they recognise the talent as it emanates from your script. Our entire career is one big preparation. There is no such thing as the perfect script. There never will be. There is only ‘I am happy with this draft.’ That is all that exists in the form of closure in our world.

‘He who fails to prepare, prepares to fail.’ Remember this. Engrave it onto your forehead backwards so you see it whenever you look in the mirror...or not (if you do, I want pics).

My point is, preparation can save a lot of writers from wasting opportunities. In our line of work opportunities are hard to come by and opportunities that could actually pan out are an even rarer occurrence. I kick myself whenever I think of that ruined opportunity, who knows where I’d be if I had been prepared. Now, cross this page off and WRITE, so when opportunity knocks, you let it in and rock its world.
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ABOUT HINA: Hina's short supernatural horror script, titled ‘The Unfamiliar’ will be shot this summer in the US. She is also penning a feature film with a female protagonist that turns the heist genre on its head, along with two television pilots in the works and a novel in development. You can read her blog here and find her on Twitter as Dodgyjammer.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Trouble With Taglines

One of the most viewed posts on this entire blog is this one:

Loglines Are Not Taglines

Yet writers still continue to mix them up.

Interestingly, some writers are beginning to hit back with "So what?" these days when challenged at pitches, etc. Their tagline is cool, they might say - or it gives a "flavour" of the tone of the story.

Both of the above may well be true. But there's one thing a tagline does NOT do - and that's TELL US WHAT THE STORY IS.

When you pitch or submit your screenplay to a producer, agent or initiative like Girls on Film, the logline is your first impression. This means it's your first chance to tell us what your story is. If you do not do that, you may well lose that producer, agent's or reader's interest. Yes, they may still request your script. But I bet you it won't be with the enthusiasm they might had you really "wowed" them with your logline. It also means that, if a reader wants to check back from your script and try and assess what *your* story intentions are, they can't do this if you haven't included a proper logline. It's a double whammy of missed opportunities.

If you really love taglines, there's no reason you can't include one as well. But don't do it INSTEAD OF the logline.

If you don't know the difference between loglines and taglines or want to double-check/see examples, here you go again.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Guest Post: Raising the game - How Fluid Descriptions Can Fuel Your Script

Here's a guest post by the lovely Michelle Goode of Writesofluid – helping you write so fluidly!


Since launching proofreading services alongside script reading services, I've begun to appreciate format and style on a whole new level. It's about more than just spotting a few typos and correcting a few misplaced apostrophes; proofreading your script can highlight some really interesting issues.Repetition. For example, you may not be aware that you are repeating words or phrases throughout your entire script. Your characters may have a penchant for picking up their bag or sitting down. Sure, picking up a bag may be essential to an individual who is off out shopping and sitting down is something we all do. But do they inform the plot? The fact is that, unless that bag is going to end up being used to kill someone or sitting down has an emotional impact; such as it may after a bereavement, they're useless pieces of information.

Raising the game. The more scripts I read, the more impressed I become with the standard of format and style these days. With such great advice so widely available in books and on the internet, there really is no excuse. Now, however, it's a case of raising the game; are your descriptions and dialogues a cut above the rest? More to the point, will your style get you noticed?

Fluidity. Cut out the simple movement descriptions (those pesky obvious ones like opening doors and walking across a room), bland – unless essential to plot - character descriptions (height, colour of jumper) and eliminate any repetitions. You should be left with short, snappy, essential action descriptions... But are they fluid to read?

Visualisations. Some of the best descriptions I've read combine essential info with glorious visualisations, quirky character descriptions and the occasional inner-character thoughts, too. We're talking descriptions which paint the mood of the setting, such as “chalk-like smog drawing a trail across the sky”. Descriptions that tell us character X approaches the job centre, “shoulders hunched with the weight of a poverty-stricken family”. Descriptions that strike a chord or make us laugh/stress along with the characters.

Economising. Put thought into your descriptions; economising needn't mean lifeless sentences but ones which are rich with clues about the location, the ambiance and the characters. However, it is important to remember that interesting descriptions should contribute tone and add to the reader's understanding of the character/situation. They're not a substitute for showing/conveying information – if X has a poor family we'll likely need to see them or at least have a clear understanding through active representation.

Slush pile gunk. Time and time again I read scripts of 120 pages (or more!) with unnecessarily lengthy descriptions, dialogue exchanges and even whole scenes which don't help to progress the plot. Whilst it can be tempting to leave a script as it is after writing, a ruthless cull of any unessential elements will help you sift the gold from the gunk.

Daunting task. It's not easy; much like clearing out well-loved clothes or sentimental objects can be a daunting task for those emotionally attached. Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to look over your work and to highlight the issues. Writesofluid offers an annotation service for this; I correct those spelling/grammatical errors and spot those repetitions and unnecessary additions for you.

Dressing the story. Story/plot is our golden element and good style dresses a story in its finest. You'll often hear people say that “as long as the idea is good, it doesn't matter what it's written like”. But it does. Story is king, but unless you're being commissioned on the off and have an editor perching on the edge of their seat in anticipation, you'll have to get past the king's guards first.

The gatekeepers. Readers, like directors and producers, will need to be sucked into the world you have created and taken on a journey; a journey to a fulfilling destination. We want that journey to be pleasant with plenty to see and entertain us, but we don't want boring views or delays. Any sign of traffic congestion and the the vehicle – the script – may just run out of momentum.

Don't let your script end up on the scrap heap!
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ABOUT MICHELLE: Michelle Goode is a writer, script reader & editor. Michelle reads for the London Screenwriter's Festival, Girls on Film, New Writing South, Screenplayreaders and private clients via her Writesofluid script reading and editing service. Trained in proofreading and copy-editing by Chapterhouse Publishing, Michelle now offers a range of script and manuscript proofreading services alongside critiquing services. CHECK OUT HER WEBSITE HERE.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Guest Post: Beating Writers' Block by Lucy Pilkington

If you're feeling "blocked", Bang2writer Lucy Pilkington has some exercises she learnt on her screenwriting MA... Enjoy!
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Many writers suffer from this affliction from time to time. As a student I find this happens more often than I wish to admit and it always strikes at the worst times, usually before a deadline. Then panic ensues and I always end up writing drivel. Every time I do this I swear (like many of us do) to myself that next time I will section off more time to write and this time I will stop blaming writers block.

These are some of the ideas I have been given to generate ideas and get your creative juices flowing.

"Animal that wants to become another animal" – This was used as an exercise on my Masters course that I have found useful. Pick three animals. Your ultimate favourite animal, then use the next two of your top ten. For example Jaguar, Dolphin and Cat. Then remove the middle animal so you have just two remaining, the first animal wants to become the third animal using the example the Jaguar wants to be a Cat. Once you have the two animals you can begin free-writing.

Object story – Create a list of random household objects on little pieces of paper fold them up and mix them. Select four out of the mix and use them to create a little narrative, give the character an everyday task to do, washing the dishes or walking the dog. This gives your character a reason to move around and perhaps even change rooms to see all of the objects. This is usually easier to do in the first person but it can work in the third person.

Character pictures – Find a picture of a person, any person, on the internet or in a magazine. Think of a scenario to put this person into this can be as adventurous or mundane as you want. How do they react to this situation? For the first time with this it’s useful to use a situation that you are familiar with so I tend to think leaning to the mundane is more appropriate. If you find it difficult to pick your own picture, or think that you will choose one that will make your life easier it may be better to get an outside party to pick one for you.

Use an object to describe a room – Another exercise used on the Masters degree. Pick an object in a room you remember from your childhood or a later point in your life. Describe the object without stating exactly what it is, then radiate out around the object, where is it in the room? What other objects are next to it? Keep going outwards until you run out of room.

These can be used to stimulate ideas for scripts, novels or poetry. Some of the characters I have generated from these short stories I have developed into characters for scripts or have become a background character. Whatever the outcome they get me writing and hitting my word counts.

ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT WRITERS' BLOCK/WRITING EXERCISES:

Avoiding Writer's Block by Me

Free Writing by Sam Caine

Gordy Hoffman's Bluecat Workshop Writing Exercises

Monday, March 05, 2012

How To Write A Script Report

A couple of people asked me recently about "templates" for script reports.

In my experience, there is no definitive script report template. When working for script initiatives, screen agencies and some literary agents and production companies I have been supplied with *their* template, sure - but every single one has been quite different. Some are quite short and an "overview"; others are very detailed, with many different sections, some running as long as EIGHT pages when I've filled them in. Some look SOLELY at the story and craft of the screenplay; others look at things "beyond" like potentials for marketing, budget considerations and even Health and Safety issues.

Typically, rounding up what I've seen, *any* script report will *generally* look at the following:

STORY/PREMISE (structure may come under here too)

CHARACTERS (particularly protagonist and antagonist)

DIALOGUE

ARENA

And anything else that warrants attention - most typically things like grammar, spelling, format, etc but also other things that don't fit under the other headings I've already mentioned if appropriate. HOW an individual place does this is another matter. Don't panic - if you get chance to do a script report or intern for a company, they will give you their own report template or tell you what they want.

For those wanting to practice on their own, it may be of interest to know some universities and courses teach script reporting in one thousand words (Bournemouth did, when I was there). Basically the student will be asked to do a 500 words synopsis of the story as it plays out ("a blow by blow account"), then follow it by a 500 word critique of what is/what isn't working. The student could do this for a screenplay or a produced movie.

I think this is a very useful exercise for any writer to take on, even if they don't want to *be* a script reader as it gives them a really good perspective of how a story might play out and how it may be critiqued. As with anything, practice makes perfect.

Here is some sample feedback from The Girls On Film initiative for anyone wanting to see our script reports.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Studiovox

You may have seen Studiovox's invite over on the Bang2writers Facebook page at the beginning of the week, but if not, here it is again. Have a great weekend!
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We’d like to introduce you to StudioVox – The professional social network for creative professionals – and offer Bang2Write readers a private invitation. StudioVox is built from the ground up for creative professionals. It’s not just another profile site. It’s the only social community that encompasses creatives, agencies, industry and fans on a single platform.

Whether you want to promote your work, connect and collaborate with peers, schedule events, send out press releases, or sell your material, StudioVox is the place for you. In fact, StudioVox offers unlimited image and file uploads, so you can express your creativity without restrictions. Watch the intro video here.

Head over to www.studiovox.com and enter this beta code: STVX-bang2writers. We're excited to meet you!