31 July, 2006
"Marchmont Films is pleased to announce its 2006 feature film script invitation. Open to new and established writers from the UK and abroad, we're looking for exciting low budget projects with a strong commercial potential."
Deadline: 30 September 2006
Moonstone International will be holding its next Screenwriters’ Lab in November 2006.
"An exclusive week-long programme, the Screenwriters’ Lab gives participants the opportunity to develop their screenplays with the assistance of some of the world’s foremost screenwriters.
During the Lab the atmosphere is relaxed but focused, with participant-writers being encouraged to talk through their work at length with screenwriter-Advisors. Central to these discussions is a dynamic series of one-to-one meetings between writers and Advisors on the nature, structure and creative potential of the selected feature film projects.
Ideally, the projects chosen by Moonstone will be at an advanced draft stage, allowing for further development of screenplays following the Lab. Rewrites do not take place during the week. Leaving the Screenwriters’ Lab with a clear outline for their next draft, participants forward the post-Moonstone rewrite to a nominated Advisor, taking their projects a step closer to production."
The deadline for applications is 1 September 2006 .
For further information about the Screen Labs contact:
Holly Daniel, Programme Administrator, Moonstone International at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 0131 220 2080
They are looking for plays and new writers specifically for the Finborough Theatre, not just 'good' plays, so please carefully read the notes at the link below before sending work to them.
Deadline: 31 October 2006
For more information see:
28 July, 2006
When you're given the assignment of writing a given scene, what you're really being asked to do is deliver the emotional truth of a moment-to-moment experience. What I've found to be most helpful in getting me to that place, is to bring my actual, genuine emotions to bear on whatever beat I need to write. To create honest emotions on the page, I have to bring my present moment to that moment."
25 July, 2006
In Hard Candy, a girl meets someone she met online, but she's 14 and he's a suspected paedophile. This film has added poignancy as the day after I saw it, I found out a friend has been sacked for spending most of his work time accessing child pornography.
Of course certain things fell into place with my ex-friend like the penchant for the more misogynist Italian horror and the constant job-hopping. He was allowed to quietly leave a few jobs rather than be prosecuted for his online and offline behaviour. Unbelievably another cover-up was suggested this latest time as well but after further discussion the police were notified.
In terms of writing about big issues that concern us then Brian Nelson has done just that in Hard Candy. The film was released just as the government revisits a Megan's Law for the
Intellectually I know that vigilantism is wrong but there is a reactionary element in me that thinks child sex offenders do deserve to die. A couple of days after hearing about my friend’s imminent arrest, I saw him in Tesco. It was unexpected and just a hi and bye but, if I had the presence of mind, would I have landed him one? Stella Papamichael's ludicrous 4 stars for Hard Candy led me to believe the film would explore that dilemma. Not a bit of it.
This review contains serious spoilers. Please don't read on if you intend to see it.
The screenwriter created a rod for his own back in that he clearly had a rule which was to keep the girl’s moral high ground, she can’t mutilate and she can’t kill. So you have the first half where she pretends to mutilate and the second half where she has to, unconvincingly, convince the nonce to kill himself.
A two-hander thriller with limited locations is very difficult to do as you need to avoid contrivances and characters doing things out of character to keep the plot ‘exciting’. If, like Nelson, you don't bother to avoid doing that then it's a piece of piss.
Hard Candy starts off well but in order to avoid revealing that Jeff is a paedo too early, Nelson makes him very reluctant to let Haley go round to his house. And when she eventually persuades him to let her, he asks her to phone relatives so they know where she is and who’s she’s with. There's nothing wrong with giving false information to trick the audience but not at the expense of truthful characterisation.
We later find out that Jeff is a violent murdering paedophile but surely violent murdering paedophiles who go to the trouble of grooming girls for weeks and arranging meetings would do all they can to persuade them to go back to their house and do all they can to avoid the girl's relatives finding out about it? This attempt at mystery - “is he a baddie or not?” - is pointless as the reviews and trailer will give that much away anyway.
You don’t have to be psychic to guess that Nelson doesn’t outline and doesn’t re-write. OK, fair enough, don’t outline if you don't want to but at least go back and rewrite stuff to make it consistent and ensure it makes sense.
Nelson went the easy way out as the story's not really about a suspected nonce but a suspected murderer - there's no real ambiguity there. Everyone in the audience is pretty much going to be against murderers but thousands of people search for child porn each day in the
Haley drugging Jeff, tying him up and preparing to castrate him simply because he might be a paedophile, works very well as a sequence. Is it morally right for Haley to castrate someone? For grooming and having child porn? As a viewer I'm forced to think about my own beliefs and the film gets interesting.
However, by the end it's revealed that Haley knew from before the film starts that Jeff and his friend had raped and killed her missing friend because she has already dealt with Jeff's friend. This 14 year old girl has managed to do what all the police staff power and resources had been unable to do: find out what happened to the missing girl and find her killers. I bet her SATs are really good.
The simple story of a girl allowing herself to be groomed by a nonce so she can castrate him to stop him doing it again is brilliant. The complicated story that Hard Candy turns out to be is just plain stupid whichever way you look at it.
Bizarrely, Haley only pretends to castrate Jeff, going to the trouble of playing a castration video and pretending it’s a live feed. For half the movie she says she's castrating him because death is too good for him. For the second half she thinks death is just fine for him.
Haley's hold on Jeff is that if the woman he loved ever found out he was a nonce he couldn't live with himself and eventually that's why he kills himself. He killed himself over an ex-girlfriend he hadn't spoken to in years. An adult ex-girlfriend.
Jeff tried everything to escape before he was being 'castrated' but conveniently he manages to escape easily afterwards - where he discovers his tackle is, in fact, intact. Does he then destroy his child porn and any link to the murdered missing girl and thereby leaving Haley with no power over him whatsoever at all? No. He takes a knife and goes after Haley to kill her.
After a tedious chase through the house, they end up on the roof where Haley was expecting them to end up and has already prepared a rope for him to hang himself. She reminds him that she’s phoned his ex-girlfriend and she’s on her way and that she'll tell her he's a nonce. Not even then does Jeff say, “hang on a minute, all I have to do is go back down and destroy the evidence and I'm sweet".
I think it's fine to have twists and revelations but you also have to go back and make it consistent with what we already know. If Haley knows that this guy raped and killed her friend then why is she bothering to pretend to castrate him? Why is she trying to persuade him to kill himself ?
In a psychological thriller especially it's pretty crucial to have psychological truth. Actions for their own sake are pointless, the characters have to have motivation for the things they do. Simply ask 'If I was this character in this situation, what would I do?".
In looking for links to add to this blog, I've just read an interview where the first time British director says "the first draft of the script is pretty much what we shot" which confirms my earlier suspicions.
OK, that review's maybe a bit negative. Let me think of something positive to say. Nelson writes OK dialogue which is sometimes amusing.
As for my ex-friend, I've decided that if I see him again, I won't take any vigilante action. And so if something does happen to him - and I'm not saying it will - it definitely won't be me that did it.
Brian Nelson Moviehole interview
Brian Nelson Moviefreak interview
Brian Nelson YourMovies interview
23 July, 2006
One of the most talked about sitcoms in the US is actually a non-broadcast pilot for the WB network called Nobody's Watching that has ended up online at YouTube. The WB panicked, believing the audience would be too confused with the show's show within a show shenanagans, and dropped it from the schedule at the last moment.
However, now that it's heading for half a million downloads, NBC have given a six episode order. Kevin Reilly, the network’s entertainment president said: "I love the spirit of the experimentation, and I think if we can actually have something find an audience on the web, gravitate over to the network, continue with a web presence and have them feed each other, that could end up being a really cool thing."
The following from the New York Times:
'The man at the center of the story is Bill Lawrence, creator of "Spin City" and "Scrubs." Mr. Lawrence knows how insane the television business can be. For example, for a few years after "Scrubs" made its debut on NBC in 2001, all Mr. Lawrence heard from network executives was that the show would never be a hit because it was a single-camera filmed comedy. Only multi-camera taped comedies worked, he was told.
In the last two years Mr. Lawrence said, he has gotten into arguments with network program chiefs who have told him, "The multi-camera comedy genre is dead."
'Both stances struck Mr. Lawrence as ridiculous. "The challenge," he said in a telephone interview, "was to reinvent the genre." That was the goal of "Nobody's Watching," which Mr. Lawrence conceived with two writing partners, Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman, who had both worked on the Fox animated comedy "Family Guy."
'Their thought was that most traditional sitcoms had begun failing not because of form but because of quality: they were all bad. And so they created a couple of characters, Derek and Will, from Ohio, who believed the same thing, and they decided to let them try to make a show of their own.
'The gimmick is that the two characters come to California to make their own sitcom, but at the same time they are doing it in the form of a fake reality show conceived by some fictional network executives.'
Watch Nobody's Watching
"One bright afternoon last summer, I sat in a Chinese restaurant outside Regina, Saskatchewan, talking horror movies with Danny and Oxide Pang.
When it comes to horror, Danny was saying, Americans crave explanation. "Every detail has to be logical. Why is the ghost flying? Why is the ghost walking? Why does the ghost attack that guy and not the other guy? They keep asking." He shook his head slightly in frustration. "This is a ghost movie," Danny said. "Ghosts are already illogical."
21 July, 2006
20 July, 2006
17 July, 2006
16 July, 2006
There have been some interesting responses from the screenwriters of the film to the criticism on the Wordplay movie forum:
"I'm still trying to figure out what drives critics. They seem obsessed with running time (if Doctor Zhivago was released today, it would be 'overly long' or 'bloated' or 'overstays it's welcome', etc.) It's never the running time that's a problem with a movie, it's whether the amount of story fits the running time, and whether the film's pace is proper for the drama on screen.
(As an aside, Superman in fact should be shorter, but only because there are scenes where we get it already, move on, or the scene isn't needed, or the scenes are just bad, or Superman is just posing for an extra 5-10 seconds over and over ...)
And, critics love to complain that films are too simplistic, yet also seem to hate any sort of plot complexity. (Translation: when a critic says, 'convoluted' it means the critic had to spend an extra minute or two writing his own synopsis.)
On Pirates, we keep getting the same two questions, though never at the same time: They are, "Why is this one so much darker?" and, "Why is this one so much more light and slapstick?" Funny."
"Re: the pacing and structure of DMC:
We intentionally set aside the three-act structure in favor of something we (Terry, me and Gore) took to calling a "mosaic" structure (although that term is not entirely accurate): scattered scenes/information that, as the movie unfolds, merge into a larger picture. Relying a bit more on the fact that the fundamental requirement for dramatic structure is a determinate beginning and determinate ending in combination with the audience's pattern-seeking instinct and trust/faith in the storytellers. We know that works on a small scale -- say, two scenes right at the beginning of a movie that seem disconnected, but that the audience understands will prove significant later on (else, why would the filmmakers be showing us these things?). We wanted to see how far we could push that.
This goes hand-in-hand with something we played with on the first movie, and wanted to continue: communicating story information by means other than direct, front-loaded exposition. We're trying to take advantage of how video games are changing how people experience narrative, and so what they expect from narratives. When you play a new game for the first time, you don't spend much, if any time, finding out what the story is -- plot exposition is a function of the experience of the game itself. And, of course, if you fail to understand the story ... you die. But if you die, what do you do?
You experience the narrative again, adding new story knowledge to that which you gleaned the first time through. Although you're experiencing the same narrative, you're understanding of it, and so your perception of it, and so your experience of it is different ... and so the narrative, although familiar, is also different. There's the old saying about how you can never step in the same river twice -- because both the river and you have changed. But even if could go back in time so the river is identical, you still can't step in the same river twice -- because you're still different, if only by dint of remembering doing it before.
Really, all stories are interactive -- if they weren't, then it would not be possible for two people to have two different opinions and impressions of the same book or movie or etc. We're just trying to make movies that encourage/require a greater level of interactivity than usual.
Whether they arrived at it through the same thinking, the creators of Lost are doing much the same thing: the quality of the immediate experience of the unfolding narrative is enhanced by the cumulative remembered experience of what's come before, and invites repeated viewings. The greater attention the audience pays, the greater the quality of the experience; and the show encourages a communal experience for the audience that extends beyond the story itself, and further enhances the quality of the story experience."
I should say that it is probably about expectations. When I settle down to watch Lost I know full well I am getting episodic drama, I am familiar with it and it works on television as it lasts 20 hours over 6 months.
I am not expecting that when I see a movie. I am not expecting 5-10 loosely connected episodes over 2.5 hours. I go to the movies to see something with a three act structure. It's worked for quite a while and I expect will continue to do so.
Obviously, Ted and Terry know a great deal more about screenwriting than I do and have taught me a lot but as an audience member I do prefer proper stories.
By the way, I thought it was a big cheek for Terry to criticise Superman Returns considering his own film. Until I actually saw Superman Returns. It is dull and dreary and worse than Dead Man's Chest on every level.
13 July, 2006
09 July, 2006
The Irish Film Board (IFB) will encourage funding applicants to submit projects earlier in the development process, its executives announced at a presentation last week. James Morris, the Chairman, and Simon Perry, the new CEO, introduced a range of new policies and procedures that came into effect on 1 July.
The IFB said it will prefer that applicants (producers, writers or directors) apply earlier in a project's trajectory, "when the project exists only as an idea, an outline or a treatment". The IFB can then get on board for shared development and support a project through production. The board said it aims to support films that might not otherwise be made without its involvement and that it would make priorities for considerations on content, provenance or economic benefit to the industry.
Strong preference will be given to projects that are of ‘Irish initiation’, that is conceived, written and to be directed by Irish talents; that tell Irish stories, drawing on and depicting Ireland’s culture; and that entail new Irish filmmaking talent in key creative roles. The IFB will also give "serious attention" to submissions which propose a strongly Irish project that is to be directed by a non-Irish talent, only by directors with strong track records.
The funding body will consider films where an Irish producer is a minority co-producer but only on quality projects where IFB investment will be spent on Irish elements and the majority co-producer will be committed to act as a minority co-producer on a future Irish film.
IFB says it will be vigilant that it invests in films that will employ Irish personnel and sustain the Irish film industry. But the board noted that a film’s quality, not just its Irish hirings, would be a decisive factor.
The festival uses traditional and non-traditional venues to screen independently made short film created by emerging and established filmmakers alike. For the second year, the main festival venue and delegate centre is 01zero-one Creative Learning Lab. The Odeon Covent Garden Cinema is one of several new venues hosting screenings.
Like last year, the festival will show more than 300 films, which include drama, animation and documentary. Each film is of no longer than five minutes in length, an underlying theme of the film festival. This year, films have come from across the globe and many filmmakers will travel to London to be present for the festival. Films compete to be winner of a number of categories. Winners are announced at the awards ceremony on July 24.
FLASH FUNDING FOR FILMMAKERS
The Big Boost, UnLtd - the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs and Talent Circle will be running an event for filmmakers aged between 18-25. Fifty filmmakers will each be offered the opportunity to pitch their idea in two minutes to a panel of industry experts, similar to the format of the popular BBC2 television series, "Dragon's Den". £1000 will be awarded on the same day to each of the five filmmakers the panel decides is the most deserving.
Each day of the festival will have a theme that seminars, panel discussions, workshops and demonstrations will follow. Avid, the festival's founding sponsor, will run editing workshops and the London Film Academy is one of many non-profit making organisations contributing to the line up of industry events. High-Definition video, filmmaking, marketing and distribution play a significant part in the industry events programme.
The Talent Circle Mobile Competition 2006, sponsored by TLMH, is a search to find great films suitable for phones and handheld devices. The judges whittled down the festival's short-listed 36 films to the final five, which now compete to be the overall winner, as voted by the public. Audiences may vote by mobile phone from July 12 and receive the films on their mobile. Courtesy of FourDocs, a BlueTooth stand will be placed at one of the festival's venues to send short factual films to compatible mobile handsets. There will be a number of seminars and events relating to the advent of mobile phones and devices being used to deliver short films to audiences.
In addition to watching wonderful shorts from around the world, audiences will have the chance to win prizes if they take up Talent Circle 's Audience Challenge. Between Mon 17 - Fri 21 July, at some point during every screening, a different image will be shown each day. The images are clues that relate to the title of a feature film. The first person to tell the organisers the correct answer will win.
Olivia Bellas, the festival's director comments: "The overall aim of the festival is to be enjoyable and engaging and by being these things, we hope to introduce new audiences to the world of short film. We also hope to inspire those thinking about a career in the UK film industry. I'm sure it's going to be a wonderful eight days."
The festival's patron and director of Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back comments: " Talent Circle 's Super Shorts Film Festival is a great contribution to the development of film. Today, audiences do not see enough of new and creative filmmaking in the form of short films and only witness the feature length films that come largely from Hollywood . This festival gives young filmmakers a chance to exhibit their ideas and projects to to the public and gives audiences a chance to see new and refreshing films from the the undiscovered future filmmakers."
For further details please visit the web site www.supershorts.org.uk or e-mail email@example.com
She says that the biggest cinema audience is now women over 35 and not the kids.
Good luck with searching for the report, I couldn't find anyhing.
08 July, 2006
In the new film there is a lengthy threeway spectacular swordfight sequence but again I think it was totally pointless. There wasn't even the slightest suspicion that any of the three would be hurt during this, never mind killed. For me the problems of the first film were made bigger here as the budget was made bigger. It's even longer, even more complicated and even more bloated . It's strictly for fans of the actors and/or fans of special effects and action for its own sake unconnected to a coherent narrative. But on the positive side, there are millions of those fans and they will love it.
A new storyline developed after, what seemed like, several hours and I worked out that for it to be resolved I'd need to be stuck in the cinema for several more hours. Luckily, it was left unresolved as a cliffhanger which will be concluded in part 3 in May next year. It's going to flipping well take me that long to recover.
Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott interview by Sean Kennelly,
Creative Screenwriting magazine excerpt
You're known for taking the creative process very seriously. Can you walk us through your process for writing Dead Man's Chest? For instance, which comes first, concept or characters?
Terry Rossio: We try to not let anything come first, in the sense that nothing is defined until everything is defined. The danger is that you'll lock in something; like you'll lock in a story point or you lock in a particular characterization. But a particular characterization is useless unless it is working within the overall story. Sometimes to get the story to work the design of a character ideally should shift to create maximum impact. Or the story point has to give way to something else so the overall story works best. I guess our commitment initially is to an effective exploration of the story idea, if that makes any sense. We try not to let anything really come first. Let the rising tide raise all boats -- to use an expression.
Ted Elliott: It's really thinking about the character and plot in combination, and trying to get a real feel for "What is the story we're going to be dramatizing?" Maybe the way to describe what we're going for is this: after you've seen a movie, you're talking to a friend and he says, "What's the story about?" and you can go through and give a synopsis of the story as it unfolded for you to your friend. That's where we're trying to get to -- what is that story as it unfolds?
The step from there is to look at that story and say, "All right, how are we going to treat that for use in a movie as a dramatization?" That means thinking about scenes, how those scenes interrelate. Every once in a while you'll have something that has to occur in the story that you can think of no good way to dramatize. That story point can't be written as dramatic presentation. You say, "All right, we need to somehow reveal to the audience that this character is thinking about this." Basically, he's doing something in opposition to what he is really thinking. How do you demonstrate it to the audience?
For example, in the first movie we established that Jack had this compass and it's implied very strongly that the compass points to Isla De Muerta. In fact, we went back and looked at it and in no place in this movie do we state definitively that the compass points to Isla De Muerta. So in Dead Man's Chest we had a chance to redefine the compass -- whoever's holding it, the compass points to what you want most.
In the beginning of the story, Jack points it in one direction, he looks at it and says, "Okay, we're sailing in the completely opposite direction." And this way you're demonstrating to the audience that whatever Jack actually wants most is something he really doesn't want to have anything to do with. That's one way to demonstrate that Jack is a conflicted character. Because we're using props to reveal character, more naturalistic writers like John Sayles or Horton Foote might say we're cheating, because we're not telling the story through character behavior alone. Terry and I tend to go for a much more…well, I guess "artificial" is the opposite of "naturalistic," but let's say "stylized" instead. "Melodramatic?" Man, they're all pejorative. We write more "Golden Age of Hollywood" style, how's that? So, whatever, John [laughs].
How do you go about then developing your characters? You write a lot of genre films, how do you keep your characters human yet hew to the conventions of the genre?
Elliott: As you talk about the story, you explore all the different things about it. In a pirate movie you start by saying, "What do we know about pirates?" So you find out, "Oh hey, did you know that pirates invented democracy? Oh, did you know that in a lot of cases pirates were rebelling against their incredibly harsh treatment in the Royal Navy and just wanted the hell out? They actually lived in England and would go out for a couple months and then come back." Things like that. What sort of thematic material is being suggested here? Just so I can be clear -- theme, as I'm using it here, doesn't really refer to the moral of the story. That's something different. It's more -- what is the subject of the work itself? Beyond the narrative, beyond the specific techniques, beyond the story? What is the story about, in a subtextual way?
Read Sean Kennelly's full interview with Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott in the latest issue of Creative Screenwriting Magazine. Their current free weekly email has extra interesting interview stuff they couldn't fit into the mag. Sign up here, if you want.
Latino Review interview
06 July, 2006
"Arrested Development", FOX, Imagine Television and The Hurwitz Company in association with 20th Century, Fox Television
" Curb Your Enthusiasm", HBO, HBO Entertainment,
"The Office", NBC, Deedle Dee Productions, Reveille, LLC in association with NBC Universal Television Studios
"Scrubs", NBC, Touchstone Television
"Two And A Half Men", CBS, Chuck Lorre Productions,Inc., The Tannenbaum Company in association with Warner Bros. Television Productions, a Division of WB Studio Enterprises Inc.
It is a shame there’s no room for Extras and My Name is Earl but they’re all worthy nominees.DRAMA SERIES
"Grey’s Anatomy", ABC, Touchstone Television
"House", FOX, Heel and Toe Productions, Shorez Productions and Bad Hat Harry Productions in association with Universal Television Studios
"The Sopranos", HBO, Chase Films and Brad Grey Television in association with HBO Entertainment
"24", FOX, Imagine Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television in association with Real Time Productions
"The West Wing", NBC, John Wells Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television
I didn’t think this mistaken view that Grey’s Anatomy is better than ER would extend all the way up to the TV Academy. The show does have its moments but it’s too inconsistent for my tastes.
As someone who gave The West Wing a bad rap since Sorkin left I have to eat my words. Of course it's not as good as when Sorkin ran it and wrote most of it but new showrunner John Wells has maintained most of the quality.I am shocked that 24 is still good and still surprising so many years down the road. Although I'm beginning to spot how they do things which should help when I start writing a thriller.
House is notable in that the lead character is so unlikelable. We understand him, we laugh at his jokes and admire his skill but you wouldn't want him as a friend. The term 'relatable' can usually be substituted for 'likeable' but I think as long as we understand the character and their motivations we don't care if they are snarky.
"Bleak House" (Masterpiece Theatre), PBS, A BBC WGBH-Boston Co-production in association with Deep Indigo
"Elizabeth I", HBO, Company Pictures and Channel 4 in association with HBO Films
"Into The West", TNT, Dreamworks Television
"Sleeper Cell", Showtime, Showtime Presents in association with Cardboard Guru Productions
I abandoned Sleeper Cell (on FX) after a few episodes. It’s a great premise – Muslim FBI bloke goes undercover in Islamist terror cell - but there wasn't enough drama. As a one-off film it would have been fine but it struggled to fill a whole series. The truth of what Muslim terrorists are like and their beliefs was undermined by the fake unconvincing plotting.