30 June, 2006

The Alfred Fagon Award

BBC - Entertainment - Writers Room - Opportunity:

"10th Anniversary Alfred Fagon Award

Deadline: 31 August 2006

Celebrating nine successful years as a presence in Black British Theatre, the Award is dedicated to providing inspiration and validation for playwrights of Caribbean descent, who are resident in the UK. "

Ignite Playwriting Competition - Scotland

BBC - Entertainment - Writers Room - Opportunity:

"Ignite Playwriting Competition

Deadline: 31 August 2006

Scotland's Playwrights' Studio have launched Ignite, a national playwriting competition aiming to find undiscovered voices for the Scottish Stage.

Entrants must be Scottish, living in Scotland, over 18 and must not previously have had their work professionally produced. "

World Cup Tapes

BBC - Entertainment - Writers Room - Opportunity: "World Cup Tapes
Deadline: July 7 2006

The first seven have been chosen but the competition is still running.

Please keep sending in your fresh stories in response to the unfolding drama of the current World Cup.

The competition

Capture the magic, the mystery and the mayhem of the World Cup in a 2-3 minute monologue and win the chance to have it broadcast on BBC Radio Five Live with a star actor. "

Open Page script readings - London

BBC - Entertainment - Writers Room - Opportunity: "Writers. Here’s the chance to test out your work with an informal industry group. Come along to an Open Page evening – hosted by Stellar Network in association with the Hospital - and you can hear your work read by actors cast on the spot."

Traverse Theatre Residency - Scotland

BBC - Entertainment - Writers Room - Opportunity: "The Traverse Theatre is looking for up to 20 of the most promising writers, based in the UK, to take part in a 10 day residency as part of the inaugural emerging artists season at the Traverse Theatre."

Brave New Roles

BBC - Entertainment - Writers Room - Opportunity: "Sphinx Theatre Company is pleased to announce a new award for the playwright who creates the most interesting role for a woman in a new play. "

BBC New Film Makers Award

BBC - New Talent - New Film Makers

"BBC Three are looking for original and contemporary films from new directors who can tell stories in a visually exciting and entertaining way. The films should appeal to the channel's young, discerning audience who know what they like and expect only the best in cutting edge content."

Radio Free Javi

Radio Free Javi: "welcome to radio free javi, virtual home of javier grillo-marxuach, writer and producer of television, comic books and other stuff too dorky to mention."

29 June, 2006

Richard Curtis wins award for G8-set film

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Curtis wins award for G8-set film

Superman Returns - Behind the Scene

New York Times Interactive Feature: 'Superman Returns'

"The director Bryan Singer describes the creation of a scene from the new film, with exclusive video, storyboards and photographs from the set."

27 June, 2006

Rom-Com Project #6

Never has the term "progress bar" seemed so ironic. It just sits there on the right at 25%; ever unchanging. Mocking me. Taking the piss. Calling me cruel, cruel names.

I finished my pre-writing stage - or so I thought - but I just couldn't carry on. I decided to listen to my sub-conscious and not force it. Was my hesitancy fear of it being rubbish? Was it simply that my football will always be more important than my writing? Or was I simply glossing over major story problems? All of the above, to a certain extent, but the biggie was the story.

The midpoint in my outline was all to do with the external conflict and it left Ziggy and Amanda just going along happily. If I was bored writing it then I'm pretty much sure that the audience would be bored watching it. I needed a threat to the relationship before the end of act 2. I needed to make it less cosy and make Ziggy have to actively choose Amanda. The obvious solution is another character who can try and tempt him away. Vix. She's a fox and his ex.

While I have talked about a vague three act structure being OK, it's only because I've been told that. Personally, I've been unable to be so casual. For security, I've needed to fit my story into that structure and know the exact right act breaks and turning points. However, this fit can be like a square peg into a round hole when maybe square holes can be good stories too.

I've recently found articles by Alex Epstein and Craig Mazin which have made me think more about being more flexible and to try flying without such a huge safety net. They're very persuasive arguments.

22 June, 2006

Rom-Com Project #5

While I thank Matt and the 14 Day Screenplay for the kick up the arse to get my first rom-com screenplay off the ground, I dropped out before the end as I wasn’t fully prepared before starting. And that is the reason why the vast majority of attempted screenplays lie in drawers unfinished - although that’s no consolation. I will try again in October but hopefully by then I’ll have two or three complete treatments to choose from.

I am still writing that rom-com, however, as you can see by my brand spanking new progress bar on the right with the percentage. I am aiming for a page count of 100 pages rather than 90. I could say it’s because I want my screenplay to be more substantial but the real reason is it makes the percentages easier to work out. (Although with my maths skills that’s still going to be a struggle.)

I am now at the end of the pre-writing stage of my rom-com. And yes, ideally the pre-writing stage should occur before you start writing. Luckily, I don’t have to lose any of what I’ve written so far but the main thing I did was to re-focus on the genre as there was a danger that the romance would be just a minor sub-plot. To quote Billy Mernit’s excellent book Writing Romantic Comedy, “A romantic comedy is a comedy whose central plot is embodied in a romantic relationship.”

While I had a vague conscious theme as I started writing, this has become much clearer now and will be helpful in developing sub-plots, as ideally those sub-plots will be variations and discussions on that theme.

I also needed to look at the characters again. I mentioned before that I was worried about Amanda’s lack of depth but now I am more clear on the theme I want to explore I am more clear on her characterisation. Rather than putting her on a pedestal as some idealised prize, I have made her in some part complicit in the ‘crisis climax’. That makes it a bit more adult and truthful.

One of the primary perils for procrastination is research. I could happily research all day. It’s fun learning about architecture, the legal system or erotic photography but there’s a danger of research being just a security blanket; something proven and factual to re-assure us if we don’t have the self-belief in our own voice and imagination.

While researching and never writing is something that should be avoided so is the vice versa to that. If your story is based on your life and you have had an unusual job or hobby then you’re well away. But if like most people you work in an office or a factory and have fairly common hobbies then you might have to work a bit harder and research a scenario less stale for your story and characters.

For my story I needed to know about warehouses and security and although I could have made something up, I felt better doing the hour or two research on the Interweb. It gives me more confidence going forward as the plot based solely on my imagination is not as good as the plot based on what really goes on in warehouses and security. Billy Mernit tells of how comedy legend Billy Wilder’s highest accolade of praise was “realistic”. Now Billy Wilder is not Ken Loach but it shows that whatever the genre of story, you still need enough truth and realism to carry the audience with you.

Of course that’s all fine in theory (and theory is easy) but I need to try and put it into practice. I now have no excuses worth mentioning and will get cracking on completing that first draft.

By the way, a big “shout out” and huge “props” to Lee who has not only finished his 14 Day Screenplay but has put his script up for everyone to read.

19 June, 2006

i-Blink Screenwriting Competition

i-Blink Screenwriting Competition

" i-blink is a truly innovative international scriptwriting competition and film festival aimed at people who want to produce cutting edge short films from their scripts in 2006. The new deadline is 19th July 2006.

We're giving ten winners the chance to win 'everything' you need to turn your scripts into professional short films. Prizes for the ten winners will include loan of cameras, edit suite and accessories, training at Pinewood Studios and a copy of professional scriptwriting software FinalDraft 7. The three top films will also win...
  • 1st Prize - €5000
  • 2nd Prize - €2000
  • 3rd Prize - €1000


(Thanks to Danny for the link)

15 June, 2006

14 June, 2006

Jimmy McGovern radio interview

BBC - Radio 4 Front Row - Past Programmes: "

On Monday's show Mark Lawson talked to Jimmy McGovern, the writer of 'Cracker' and 'Hillsborough', about his television drama series. It will be available for a week.

Thanks to Danny for the link.

The Screenwriter's Challenge 2006

The Screenwriter's Challenge 2006

Very interesting genre competition. Thanks to Ops for the link.

12 June, 2006

14 Day Screenplay: Progress Report #4

I have a confession to make. I lied about my page count. Not only did I include the title page but I added an extra page. OK, so it’s not exactly war crimes but it does show the other side of this kind of challenge.

The benefit is sharing experiences and realising that, as Ops said, we can’t even make original mistakes as every screenwriter has gone through the same learning process. It is also great for mutual support and encouragement. The disadvantage is that I treated it like a competition and wanted to be seen as doing better than I really am. I just couldn’t let my ego go, and thought I’d better confess now before I added even more phantom pages to my total.

I would really like to finish as much of the 90 pages before the end but if I don’t, my ego will just have to cope. The main thing is that I have started my first rom-com screenplay and I will finish it eventually, hopefully by the end of the month. While 6-8 pages a day is asking a lot, 3-5 pages is a reasonable pace for me and for anyone, I rcckon. Heck, one page a day is better than nothing.

The pace of work depends not only on the individual writer’s style, experience, the genre chosen, how good the initial idea was and how much free time we have but much more importantly on how solid the story outline was and how much we knew our characters before we started. If all we get out of this is a reminder of how crucial the pre-writing stage is then that would still make the challenge well worth it.

With the best will in the world, an experienced talented writer starting with a weak idea and a poor outline will not do as well as a new talented writer with a good idea and a great outline.

I’ve now reached the scary second act which makes up half the script. Sure we generally know how to start a story and end a story but what about the development of story, themes and character in the middle? I think the easiest way of coping with it is to simply split that second act into three acts. On a basic level it’s just making sure the middle has its own beginning, middle and end.

For instance, in the second act of my rom-com Ziggy gets a new job (set-up) but there are complications in that he has lied about his criminal past, Amanda got him the job and the boss hates him and wants him sacked as Amanda prefers Ziggy to him. Plus there's the on-going conflict in Ziggy and Amanda's relationship and with Ziggy and his sister (middle). Finally the boss fits up Ziggy and the police are after him (climax). Dull second acts are usually about lack of conflict. Hopefully I have enough conflicts and complications to keep an audience (and myself) interested but if not I can always add some more. I can think of my theme and try and come up with things that enhance it.

I really like Ziggy as a character but I’m going to give him hell. My theory about dull screenplays without conflict is that the main character is usually a version of the screenwriter and so they tend to be passive and aren’t involved in conflict as in real life we tend to avoid conflict. But we can’t avoid conflict in our screenplays.

The one problem I have is that I've listened to the great interview with Josann McGibbon Temkin, co-writer of the hit movie “Runaway Bride”, regarding romantic comedy and she says she hates the "betrayal moment" where one character lies and then is found out by their partner and they split up before coming back together again at the end. She calls it contrived, annoying and tedious. As my screenplay is constructed on just such a moment it's a little bit worrying but I'll just have to carry on and try and twist it if I can.

09 June, 2006

Scriptwriting & Script Reading in the UK: Weekend Noticeboard

Scriptwriting & Script Reading in the UK: Weekend Noticeboard

14 Day Screenplay: Progress Report #3

Smoother sailing now everything's set up and I can just concentrate on dialogue which is much easier. Amanda, as a character, is getting there but she isn’t naturally funny, I might need to exaggerate her personality.

I’m having to remember my genre as I’ve got a domestic violence and child abuse sub-plot. On the one hand it does explain Ziggy and his sister’s psychology but on the other hand if done badly it could be a bit of a downer. But as I said at the beginning I was just going to write what I want to write about so I’ll just need to make it work. If it does morph into a romantic drama I won’t fight it as that would be where I am at.

One thing I've noticed is how on-the-nose some of the dialogue is. I need to set the scene and give exposition – which is the purpose of the scene – but in the re-writes I will need to change bad exposition to good exposition and make the obvious more subtle. At the moment the characters are speaking subtext - saying what they’re thinking when in reality we rarely say exactly what we’re thinking. Usually only when we’re stressed or angry.

08 June, 2006

Romantic comedy article

Romantic comedy

Billy Mernit's Writers' Guild of GB article

14 Day Screenplay: Progress Report #2

12 pages. Looking on the bright side, if it was the 28 Day Screenplay I’d be doing really well.

In my rom-com I had arrived at the cute meet between Ziggy and Amanda but it was too early according to the 14 Day Screenplay beat sheet. That doesn’t necessarily mean it was too early for my script but, actually, it was. Looking back, I hadn’t really introduced Ziggy properly and I hadn’t introduced his sister and her family properly. I had written light funny introductions but was missing a bit of emotional depth, showing what made them tick. So I went back and wrote a couple more scenes and the problem was solved.

On another blog, can’t remember which, the writer talked about doing scenes out of order. I try and avoid writing out of order and if I get stuck I just stay at that place until I solve the problem. However, now I’m seeing that if I am struggling with a difficult scene then as long as the structure is sound then there’s maybe nothing wrong with just writing an easy scene later on in the beat sheet instead. At least that way you keep going.

My page count also reflects the difference between a very rough beat sheet and a proper outline or treatment. So while I’ve put time aside to actually write, I’m going to have to find some extra time to work up my beat sheet properly. The beauty of it is, as I said before, this can be done while you’re doing other things as it’s just thinking and solving puzzles.

I am regretting not heeding my own advice and doing more character work in the pre-write so I’m having to do it on the fly. Character work, like questionnaires, makes sure you put in as much effort with all the characters as you do with your favourites.

I love Ziggy and can see him quite clearly. However, Amanda’s a bit of a blur at the moment. I suspect she may be just a cipher, only in my rom-com as a prize for Ziggy being good. Which would be a bad thing, obviously. So I need to make sure that she’s more than a pretty bait with a comedy trait. I’ll do that by emphasising her own arc and making her a bit more rounded.

It's worth it because the better written Amanda is the more likely a big-name actor will want to play her. Can Scarlett Johansson do a Brummie accent? Just imagine. Spielberg will encourage me to visit the set during filming and ask me for advice on camera angles, I’ll chat with Scarlett and she’ll compliment me on the best written script she has ever read, we’ll do it in her trailer like wild raging beasts, we’ll get married and live happily ever after. They’ll be none of this Notting Hill, “Oh, she’s too famous, I can’t”, floppy-hair, whinging bollocks. I’ll be right in there.

OK, I think I may have gotten ahead of myself a little there as I’m only on page 12, after all. But that possible scenario is certainly an incentive to keep going and finish.

07 June, 2006

Manchester Comedy Writers Meeting - 10th June 1-4pm

"We'll be avoiding the world cup mania this Saturday and meeting at the usual venue - upstairs in the Town Hall Tavern, Tib Lane, Manchester.

For more info, see http://www.nucleon.co.uk/comedy/

Dave B"

My Take

My Take

Competition - Write a short film using provided dialogue only. It seems like an interesting exercise to try. It's free to enter.

06 June, 2006

14 Day Screenplay: Progress Report #1

I admit I was a bit too casual and so I'm behind. I wasn't happy with my beat sheet until Sunday and so didn’t start writing until Monday.

I was dithering because although I like my story, I didn't have a name for the main character I was happy with (it's particularly important in this story) and I was unsure my second act was interesting enough. Legitimate things to think about, certainly. Pointless pathetic procrastination, most definitely.

Once I started typing and my character spoke, a better name came to me, as if by magic. Yes, those fifty or so pages you have to fill in the middle is certainly not easy but it's a lot easier if the characters are real and their story is sound enough. Anyway, should it come in under time, and drag more than a female impersonator on 60 ciggies a day, then that's what re-writes are for. It’s way too early to worry about things like that.

You're not supposed to look back and revise and I haven’t but there's one particular gag, I just couldn’t help going back from time to time to tweak and try and make funnier.

I also started without doing full biographies of the characters just knowing their function in the story, what makes them tick psychologically and having something fresh about them. My hero's window/reflective character has gone from being his probation officer in the beat sheet to his married sister with a kid in the script. That last version actually fits the story so much better on so many levels but was a decision I made while writing.

I’ve got my cute-meet scene coming up and I can’t wait. It’s a good sign if the comic idea in the beat makes you laugh rather than needing to desperately wring laughs from it. I know you’re not supposed to laugh at your own jokes and you should be modest about your talents but it’s flipping hilarious and I’m a blooming genius. And I’ll believe that until the day I die. Or until several script readers tell me otherwise. Whichever comes first.

OK, I don't want to get too cocky, I've only done 7 pages and I'm two days behind and the World Cup starts on Friday but, like Sven, I'm quietly confident my preparation will result in triumph.

14 Day Screenplay Advice:

Dave Anaxagoras

Joel Haber